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Damn, you come up with some great questions! I like you.
Of course, if given the option, I would push neither button. However, I'm guessing I'm not allowed that particular cop-out. Obviously, I have friends and family on either side of the spectrum, making the choice quite difficult.
A few points to consider:
If there exists no memory or record of the individuals that wave disappeared, is this a total erasure from existence, as though we have stepped into an alternate reality where these individuals never existed in the first place? If so, is this actually murder? If redistribution of civilization from the top down is involved, then removal of the larger population would of course be better for those in lesser developed nations. Holy wars would end, as would their potential for nuclear catastrophe (not to say that the potential for nuclear catastrophe in general is eliminated, just by that one significant cause). I think it is inarguable that the remaining population would be much better off if I were to press the blue button, both by virtue of the fact that there would be fewer people to mess up the planet (and each other's lives), the wealth would be better distributed, and people wouldn't be focusing time, effort and money on the great placebo of religion, but more fulfilling and tangible endeavors.
However-before I convince myself otherwise- I do not think that this justifies the erasure of the remaining 6 billion lives. Sadly, I think this would be not only a dark day for secularists, but the entire world, as religion has an uncanny tendency to be used in such a way for people to get away with whatever injustice they can, claiming a greater good. Holy wars would roll on. Secularism would very likely be effectively removed from government; basic human rights would be trampled the world over. Scientific progress would be dealt a major blow, not only because there would no longer be a voice to counter those who oppose certain advancements on religious grounds, but also because quite simply, many if not most of our most brilliant scientists are nonbelievers. It is, however, comforting to think that this would not be an end to the end of religion, but a setback. A rejection of the claim of the existence of a god is simply logical. It will inevitably occur organically and spontaneously after the event of the removal of their unknown predecessors, and that idea will spread. Meme theory will win out eventually, and religion will inevitably become just as obsolete, it will only take longer.
So, ultimately, I would like to think that in that situation I would sacrifice few for many, and press the red button. Which would you push?
Again, that would be an action. A person can believe rape is moral, and not partake in it for reasons of legality or whatever the case may be. Of course, the action would be immoral. But what goes on between your ears- as long as it stays there- is not immoral, even if it is revolting.
Good question- quite simply, because I find the idea of a creator or god, especially an ultraspecific god such as the Christian god, to be unlikely enough that I can say with a high degree of confidence that it does not exist. Now, of course, I can't say it with certainty, as such a being by its nature would be largely unknowable or at least currently undetectable. One hundred years ago, it was though with certainty that we would never know the composition of stars- today we're proving them wrong. Now I doubt that in another hundred years (or ever) we'll build any kind of genuine 'god detector', but I don't have a time machine. That said, based on what perspective I have, I find it extremely unlikely that any deity exists. If it does, I find no reason to assume there is only one, no reason to assume that it created us, notices us, or cares. I do not know for certain, but I'm confident enough that I neither bother with a lifestyle around the possibility that a god exists nor is my default position "I don't know." Rather, my default position is more along the lines of "There's probably no god, so stop worrying about it".
Removing satanic symbolism can be justified on the grounds that it is not a religion, but merely a religious opposition. Satanism is not in the same realm as Hinduism, Islam, etc.
Whether or not Satanism is a 'real' religion is irrelevant. We have people licensed to marry in certain states because they filled out a form online and are registered Dudeist priests. Dudeism, if you are not aware, is a religion based on the movie The Big Lebowski (why someone bothered making a religion out of that, I couldn't tell you.) Is this any more or less ridiculous than people kneeling in front of an ancient device of torture and public execution for symbolic cannibalism, to seek their own forgiveness for the actions of a woman 6 thousand years ago who supposedly wanted to be smarter and took the advice of a talking snake?
Don't know, don't care, not my problem. How ridiculous a religion may be from the outside does not make it any less a religion, even if one of the principles of that that religion is to tear down someone else's religion. Just because the Steelers may try to oppose the patriots does not mean either is not a football team; just because one religion tries to oppose another does not make it any less a religion.
Even if it can be argued that Satanism isn't a religion, it cannot be argued that it isn't a religious perspective- one which they are every bit as entitled to as any Christian.
God is not by itself a religious word.
It is not a specific religious word, but it is a religious word to exclude anyone who is not a monotheist. Even if it's intent is not specifically Christian, the main problem is that it is too often paraded as evidence that we live in a Christian nation. Often this is for the sake of whichever Christian is holding the microphone to argue that your freedom of religion means the freedom to follow their religion, While their freedom of religion means that they have the legal and moral high ground to make you follow their religion.
An elegant distinction, I agree. What's dangerous is not so much the symbols themselves but why they are placed on government property, and the fact that exclusive rights to do so are often fought for all for the sake of attempting to establish religious dominance in government. While the simple image of a nativity scene does not motivate me either to petition that it be taken down or to attempt to establish an Atheistic symbol of my own, there is a significant problem in society when I simply am not allowed to do so based on governmental religious preference.
Ultimately, no. A nativity scene on public property or Themis on a courthouse doesn't bother me in and of itself. However, Excon brings up several good points.
If one religious display is allowed on public property, this does not necessarily mean that the city must immediately spend the funds to represent any possible religious belief and put it on display next to the nativity scene. However, it should be every bit as easy for a Satanist, Buddhist, Hindu, or Atheist to obtain permission from the city to put up a similar display and have identical funds allocated for same. If they are able to do so, whether or not the group or individual that put up the setting of the nativity scene is offended by the statue that says 'Satan loves you' is a non-issue; they have no say over whether or not it comes down. The authority to remove the Satanic display rests on the city council, and if they are to remove the Satanic display for religious reasons then they are under lawful obligation to remove the nativity scene for same.
I do not mind Themis on courthouses, because by and large, it is no longer a religious symbol. Yes, Themis refers to the Greek titan, which of course is religious in origin. However, people give power to symbols, and the meaning of that symbol in this day and age is not so much religious, as there are so few people left who believe in the Greek gods (or any people left, to my knowledge). Therefore, it's extremely unlikely that Themis is put on courthouses to flaunt Greek mythology. Rather, Themis has adopted a new meaning of blind justice, which while our courts do not represent this ideal very well, it's still something we should strive for. This phenomenon of symbols changing their meanings based on the attitude of which it is displayed is not uncommon, think of the Swastika- for thousands of years, a symbol of balance and peace, until the Nazis came along and ruined it for everybody.
I also agree with Excon that we should remove the phrases of "under god" and "in god we trust" from our pledge of allegiance and paper money, too. Not only do I find this a violation of separation of church and state, but the circumstances under which we implemented these phrases into common use were rather ridiculous. If you're not aware, we made these changes in the 1950s as we became more and more scared of communist Russia, and wanted to distance ourselves ideologically as much as we could from godless commies. And yes, I understand that this may seem as if I'm creating the double standard of endorsing the image of offensive presidents on our paper money but condemning the history behind a seemingly innocuous phrase; the difference is that religious endorsements of any kind made officially by our government is a violation of constitutional law. Is it one that affects my day-to-day life, or is any real inconvenience to anyone? Not really, but that doesn't make it right.
Briefly revisiting the topic of Chaplains, I should note that we supposedly have Buddhist, Jewish, and Muslim Chaplains in the Navy. I've never seen one, not that I've ever gone out of my way to find one, and they're definitely not on every installation. However, as it is unrealistic to expect a chaplain representing any particular religion to be widely available, I must reiterate the importance of secular chaplains for confidential spiritual/emotional support to cover as broad a spectrum as can be logistically expected.
It was actually a long process, but there were specific moments that were especially important. I was raised in a protestant household. Both my mother and father were very religious, we attended church almost every Sunday, I prayed before bed, the whole nine yards.
When I was seven, my parents split and I went to go live with my grandparents. My grandfather was still a practicing minister at the time, so I attended his services. I remember, one Sunday, people bowing their heads in prayer and proclaiming that the gods of other religions were idols, and I remember wondering, how can you assert that? What makes our god any more valid than anyone else's? If there were evidence to support one god over another, wouldn't everyone be worshiping the same god? The last question certainly sheds light on my naivety at the time, and admittedly, I probably didn't think all of this in as many words. It would take some time for the importance of this moment to fully become apparent, but I tucked it away for further contemplation, and I'm glad I did. I think it was from that moment that faith required a conscious effort to maintain. In a way, I was questioning the existence of god before I was questioning the existence of Santa Clause. That's not a joke; I was absolutely certain there was no way my parents would have got me an N64 for Christmas.
Another important moment in eroding my faith would come when I was fourteen, no longer living with my grandparents or attending their church, and attending protestant confirmation classes. To this day I can't believe the pastor sat us all down and told us this, but he told us about the history of the bible, something I had not bothered to consider before: how it had been passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation, how it had finally been transcribed, translated, edited, had untold amounts of context added and omitted. This was not the end of my belief in a god- not yet- but it certainly marked the end of my ability to take the bible seriously.
I would later go on to reject confirmation, more out of rebellion against my parents than for any intellectual reason, but it's a decision I have never regretted. Over the years that followed, I simply stopped caring about religion, but the subject was briefly revisited when I read Under the Dome by Stephen King, which would reignite my interest in pondering what, exactly, a higher power might be. I eventually concluded that if a higher power existed, there was no reason to assume there was only one, no reason to assume that they created us, that they noticed us, or cared about us any more than we cared about the individual lives of ants. It is thanks largely to Mr. King that if you had asked me six years ago, I would have told you I was agnostic. But, it is thanks to my devoutly Catholic wife that the final nail in the coffin that contained my faith was driven, and that I finally began to call myself an Atheist.
When we met, I made the attempt to reconsider religion. I tried praying, I tried not just going to church but actually listening (which was possibly the first time I had done so for an hour straight under a church roof). Frankly, it just didn't take. Having been forced to take religion and the concept of a god seriously for the first time, not just because I was dragged to church every week as a child, I realized I could not do so and remain intellectually honest with myself. it was then that I finally came to terms with Atheism.
Of course, this didn't stop us from continuing our relationship and eventually getting married- not without a few rough patches- but that's another story.
I think the question assumes that I'm actively seeking anything from the Christian faith. I am not actively seeking to have my mind changed, at least, not anymore. In fact (to make a long story short) what convinced me to embrace Atheism was attempting to give Catholicism a serious chance for the sake of my devoutly religious wife.
Yes, I'm an Atheist happily married to a Catholic, believe it or not.
However, it's still a good and relevant question. What would I consider supporting evidence of a deity, furthermore a specific deity? That's a big list, but I'll try to consolidate it.
First of all, if convincing, credible evidence existed, it would not be found in the bible or any other holy text. Holy text cannot self-verify, nor can any other source of information. If, however, a test were developed to prove or disprove an entity that could be called 'god' in accordance with the scientific method, said test had positive results that were quantifiable, observable, objective and repeatable, and it were independently verified by another party- preferably, one that wanted to prove you wrong- the subject of that god would be worth further study, but your work would only be getting started. To my knowledge, all tests concerning the effect of prayer have yielded negative results; if there exists another way to quantifiably test a deity then I certainly wouldn't mind hearing it. However, as stated, this would only be the beginning. Would these results be the conscious work of an entity on some kind of plane of existence that we are not capable yet of understanding, or some other driving force of nature? If it is a conscious entity, is there only one, or many? Did it create us? Does it even notice us? Does it care about us? These individual questions and many more would have to be asked, tested and answered before one could even consider calling it 'god', much less the ultra-specific god of any particular religion. Furthermore, depending on the specific religion, the findings from studying this entity would have to overturn and explain mountains of tested scientific theory.
But, just for the sake of having a little fun, let's skip all of that. Let's pretend for a moment that a god suddenly appeared out of the sky, demonstrated that it was the creator of the universe and the Alpha and the Omega and specifically pointed to you and said, "YesuaBought got it right."
Well, the first thing I would do is make sure I wasn't the only one seeing this. Many people have hallucinated about a god in some form or another, there's a good chance my doctor would prescribe me anti-psychotics without even considering my case to be particularly interesting.
But, assuming that this would not be a hallucination, this god would certainly have some explaining to do about a lot of different subjects. Why go to all the trouble of creating so much evidence that does not indicate necessity of a creator, to cover your tracks? Why children with cancer and people starving to death while outright bastards die rich of old age? Why reveal yourself now, instead of stopping the holocaust? What's the verdict on homosexuals and people who wear two types of cloth, are they all in hell? It would be a long list of questions.
But! Assuming that all of these were somehow answered in a satisfactory manner, and I were faced with proof in the flesh of the existence of the Christian god, at this point, would I worship it?
No. Now, don't get me wrong, I'd be grateful. Hey! God would have made beer, which as Benjamin Franklin said, is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy. I would thank god every day for beer, and pizza, and smokeless gunpowder. But I wouldn't worship it because, well, what is the point of creating a life but to eventually let it go, to make yourself obsolete? What is the point of being given life if you are not allowed to experience it for yourself, on your own terms? So, if that god wanted me to get on bended knee and sing praises, they would be disappointed. They'd just have to settle for me being grateful.