Robert Ingersoll produced the following Christmas list over one hundred years ago…………
If I had the power to produce exactly what I want for next Christmas, I would have all the kings and emperors resign and allow the people to govern themselves.
I would have all the nobility crop their titles and give their lands back to the people. I would have the Pope throw away his tiara, take off his sacred vestments, and admit that he is not acting for God—is not infallible—but is just an ordinary Italian. I would have all the cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests and clergymen admit that they know nothing about theology, nothing about hell or heaven, nothing about the destiny of the human race, nothing about devils or ghosts, gods or angels. I would have them tell all their “flocks” to think for themselves, to be manly men and womanly women, and to do all in their power to increase the sum of human happiness.
I would have all the professors in colleges, all the teachers in schools of every kind, including those in Sunday schools, agree that they would teach only what they know, that they would not palm off guesses as demonstrated truths.
I would like to see all the politicians changed to statesmen,—to men who long to make their country great and free,—to men who care more for public good than private gain—men who long to be of use.
I would like to see all the editors of papers and magazines agree to print the truth and nothing but the truth, to avoid all slander and misrepresentation, and to let the private affairs of the people alone.
I would like to see drunkenness and prohibition both abolished.
I would like to see corporal punishment done away with in every home, in every school, in every asylum, reformatory, and prison. Cruelty hardens and degrades, kindness reforms and ennobles.
I would like to see the millionaires unite and form a trust for the public good.
I would like to see a fair division of profits between capital and labor, so that the toiler could save enough to mingle a little June with the December of his life.
I would like to see an international court established in which to settle disputes between nations, so that armies could be disbanded and the great navies allowed to rust and rot in perfect peace.
I would like to see the whole world free—free from injustice—free from superstition.
This will do for next Christmas. The following Christmas, I may want more.
The Arena, Boston, December 1897.
Recently I was asked 2 questions on my Facebook page.
1. Why I am “evangelistic” with respect to atheism?
2. What are the ramifications of believing in Christ if he doesn’t exist? Or if he does exist?
Both are good questions and I’ll try to answer them in this post.
Why I am “evangelistic” about atheism?
Well, why are Christians evangelistic about their beliefs? Anyone who has a Facebook page and has Christian friends are bombarded daily with Christian wall posts, bible verses, thoughts of the day, prayer requests, bible study links, etc. I’m just a drop in the bucket compared to all of them. Why do they feel the need to do this? I suspect there are 2 major reasons:
1. It is so part of their life that they don’t even realize there is a whole non-Christian world out there.
2. It is done on purpose as a witness.
My atheist posts are obviously on purpose.
- I do it for balance.
- I do it because I care about truth.
- I do it because I believe it’s about time we move out of the dark ages and into the realm of reality and rationalism.
- I do it so people can see that you can be an atheist and not go out and rape, pillage and murder. (Christianity and god are not the basis for morality – far from it!)
- I do it show that there is morality and life outside of religion.
- I do it to make people think.
- I do it because I believe religion imposes a system of bondage on it’s believers, where thought crimes are punishable and every thought must be held captive to Christ (2 Cor 10:5).
- I do it because I believe the scientific method is the best way to determine reality. Belief in an invisible spiritual world, without empirical evidence, is just wishful thinking.
- And, yes, I do it with the hopes that someone might see that worshipping an invisible sky god is really no different than worshipping Thor or Zeus or pink unicorns for that matter.
I’m really not trying to be condescending. I don’t think Christians or other religious people are stupid – wrong but, for the most part, not stupid. However, I am well aware that most Christians will piously look at me as ill-guided and foolish. After all, scripture does say the “the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God” (I Cor 3:19). I may not think of Christians as foolish, in that I have a good understanding of where they are coming from and the hold religion has on them; however, I’m pretty sure that they think me foolish. (At least if they read and believe their bibles.)
What are the ramifications? Really, what harm comes from belief?
I don’t know what ramifications there are for any particular believer, but in general the ramifications can be devastating if someone really believes their holy book. (Thankfully, most people don’t.) What’s the harm? Well, just for starters:
- Non-believers can be marginalized and/or persecuted.
- People can be condemned for the “crime” of loving someone of the same sex.
- Parents can watch their children die of curable illnesses because they prefer prayer over medical treatment.
- Parents can actually kill their children because of fear that they might, if they choose against Christ when they grow older, go to hell.
- Abortion doctors have been killed by those that thought they were doing god’s will.
- It is unknown how many people have died and will die because of religious opposition to stem cell research.
- In the political realm, we have Christians who somehow have been convinced that the poor and downtrodden are there because of their own fault and should not be helped but the rich should be given more. This apart from fairly clear commands to the contrary in the bible (see Compassion).
- We have schools constantly trying to teach religious myths instead of evolution & science in their classrooms, the impact of which is the declining technological and scientific leadership of the US.
- It can impact/limit the jobs you take, the friends you have, the way you treat your children (spoil the rod?) and how you treat your spouse.
- Genocide is often based on religious belief.
All of these things have happened and do happen. Even if you, as a believer, would never do any of the above, your support of religious belief lends support to those that do.
As for personal ramifications? I spent 25+ years as a Christian. This means, on average, I spent at least 3 hours a week in church (probably much more). So I’ve “wasted” a minimum 4056 hrs of my life (not including prayer times, seminary, reading “approved” Christian literature, etc.) worshipping a non-existent deity. Never mind the money I gave to the “cause”! If I wasted that much time worshipping Santa, you would think me crazy. This is time & money you can’t get back.
What are the ramifications? What if Christianity is real?
But there are other ramifications too. For me, if I’m wrong, I’m toast. However, I believe the odds are slim and some of those reasons can be found on other pages of this blog. But what about the believer? Is it the safe path, as Pascal’s Wager suggests (see Pascal’s Wager)? Nope. A believer is probably not much safer than me. If this deity cares at all about truth, believers are in a precarious situation. What if Islam has it right? Christians are toast. What if another religion has it right and Christianity is wrong? Christian – you’re toast. Remember believer, you are an atheist when it comes to all other gods. If they exist, they may not be happy about that! But even if you make the big assumption that of all the religions in the world Christianity is the one true one, is the Christian then safe? Many Catholics think protestants have it wrong and are going to hell. The reverse is also true with many fundamentalists even seeing the pope as the anti-Christ. Within some protestant groups, a person’s faith would be seriously questioned if he smoked cigars, drank alcoholic beverages, danced, watched movies, used electricity or play cards. Even Jesus said these haunting words:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matt 7:21-23)
All these people thinking they served God only to get the back-hand of eternal punishment. So, if Christ is your chosen deity, belief in him (whatever that may mean and there are many views on that) may not be enough. Which of the 39,000 Christian denominations are the safe ones? They can’t all be correct. This fact alone, tells me that if this god exists and cares about what his people believe, he is incompetent in communicating with his creation.
There are ramifications for what you believe. Belief is not benign.