Where was God?


305 Responses to “Where was God?”

  1. jere7my says:

    Wow. This is really, really tasteless.

    • timquinn says:

      I think you are incorrectly re-contextualizing.

    • ldobe says:

       I think shoving religion into the faces of non-religious people, and screaming that “god hates f*gs” is really tasteless.

      Can I get a couple of like for that?

      • jere7my says:

        Well, I’m surely with you there, but I’m not sure I see the relevance.

      • polymathus says:

        I think shoving atheism in the faces of religious people, and screaming “how dare you try to make SENSE of this tragedy!” is really tasteless.

        Maybe the original, tasteless article warranted an equally tasteless response (I could care less what CNN’s blogs have to say).  Reposting that response is unnecessary and smacks of soapbox rhetoric at a rather inopportune moment.

        • Chris Lee says:

           The problem is that using religious tools to comprehend events such as this is the wrong approach. We, as human beings, have the ability to actively choose the tools with which we wrestle with our place in the universe. Religion is not a tool that leads to better comprehension – it just encourages seeing the world around us as a just-so story where everything ends up okay in the end. It shuts down comprehension. To those who see truth as important, soothing lies are the worst kind of waste.

          • Quiche de Resistance says:

            Oh Christ this whole thing is so stupid.  This is the age old question of “why do bad things happen?”  It’s somehow relevant AND dumb for religious people to bring it up, because yeah it might provide some solace to other religious folks, but there is no damn answer.

            If you are an atheist of course it doesn’t matter to you and the question is ridiculous but does everything have to be some weapon to attack people with spiritual beliefs?  Do you go to funerals and start making wise ass comments about people’s non-existent bearded space father.


          • Quiche de Resistance says:

            To those who see truth as important, soothing lies are the worst kind of waste.

            Truthseekers in your mold see themselves as brutally honest when they are more interested in brutality than honesty.

          • Chris Lee says:

            “Truthseekers in your mold see themselves as brutally honest when they are more interested in brutality than honesty.”

            This really isn’t the case. It is my personal belief that whether or not something is true is a valuable thing. Every person should be able to decide for themselves if they share that value. I don’t look down on people that choose differently, but I reserve the right to feel that people like that are less worthy of trust.

            I would love if everyone felt that life is fleeting, and because of that, infinitely valuable. Every man and every woman is a Star (as a very wise man once said) – when a person dies, it’s the end of an entire universe of experience and love and the world diminishes for the rest of us. How much better would the world work if we understood and deeply felt that principle, if we valued as a culture the idea that we are not servants to an invisible power, not wretches or slaves to born to glorify and worship our master, but limited and special and powerful points of being?

            When my mother died, I was privileged to be there with her, and I felt her removal from life as a great tragedy. Thinking of her keeps her memory alive – I fail to see how that would be enriched by the idea that her spirit (which wouldn’t really be her with all of her flaws and foibles) was spending an eternity bending herself to the will of  cosmic tyrant. Her husband was a Pentecostal minister; I made no effort to convince him of a different way of grieving. He dealt with it in his way and me in mine. Were he to speak in a public forum of his way as being the only correct one, I would absolutely engage him on this.

        • wysinwyg says:

          The (implicit) sentiment that atheists aren’t allowed to make sense of this in their own way is part of the reason a lot of atheists are getting pissed off about the automatic respect and deference to religion.

          No one would blink if someone said “we’re praying for the souls of the victims and we’re sure they’re in a better place” — somehow that expression of simple-minded piety and just-worldism isn’t in any way, shape, or form, tasteless but a completely symmetrical sentiment from an atheist is indeed tasteless:
          “There is no sense to make of this tragedy except to learn what we can do to prevent such a thing from happening again.”

          Next time you’re offended by some up-front expression of atheism ask yourself whether you’re really offended by the content of the message or whether you’re actually offended that one of those terrible, soul-killing atheists would dare to intrude on Happy Fun Religion Time.  In my experience, something like 90% of offense concerning atheism is the latter.

          This is ignoring the fact that many atheists find many aspects of religion to be outright immoral.  The “tastelessness” you perceive may very well be outright anger at the notion that “it’s part of God’s plan,” “God called these people back to him,” and dozens of similar sentiments.

          • jere7my says:

            Your quote from an atheist would not have been tasteless. Absolutely, everybody should be free to find their own way to make sense of tragedy. We agree. What’s tasteless is the jaunty, mocking tone in the post here.

            It’s also tasteless when something terrible happens and asshole Christians jump in with “Ha! Looks like there is a God, and he hates the gay marriage law you just passed!”

          • wysinwyg says:

             That’s false equivalence.  There’s only a handful of assholes saying that stuff like Katrina and 9/11 are punishments by an angry God, and I don’t blame all Christians for their opinions.

            But I do blame more mainstream Christians for the endless public displays of piety — something Jesus of Nazareth allegedly discouraged by the way — that is the inevitable response to any sort of tragedy.  I find it tiresome that the public discourse is flooded with rationalizations, comforting pablum, and assertions about the nature of God that could not possibly be factually known to the speaker every time something like this happens.

            Respectfully pointing out that this is obnoxious doesn’t work so we have to be more forceful, actually write what we mean instead of censoring it to demonstrate to you that public piety is actually pretty fucking annoying.  Tone it down and watch the sarcastic op eds drop right off.

          • jere7my says:

            Wysiwig, that sounds more like a justification of tasteless behavior than a refutation of it. Which is fine — I never said Cory shouldn’t post what he wants. But I don’t see a problem with pointing out tastelessness.

          • “The (implicit) sentiment that atheists aren’t allowed to make sense of this in their own way is part of the reason a lot of atheists are getting pissed off about the automatic respect and deference to religion.”

            Thing is, I can’t see any real indication of that in the pastor’s piece at all – if it’s there, it’s EXTREMELY implicit.  I think its slightly weird that a dude clearly states in a opinion piece that this is what HE THINKS about the problem of evil – and a bunch of people go (without any caveat) God is not real, you are wrong.
            Which would seem like a fairly EXPLICIT way of saying to someone “You can’t deal with this in your own way, because God doesn’t  exist, and you are being sanctimonious/exploitative/making noodles, ect.”  So how exactly is this about atheists being told they can’t deal with grief in their own way?  seems like the opposite to me.

        • redesigned says:

          religion to make sense.   good one.

      • Kevin Crivelli says:

         YES YOU CAN

      • Aloisius says:

        I don’t understand why some atheists insist on mocking religious people when they are doing something completely harmless like trying to find solace in tragedy.

        I am an atheist, but honestly, as long as it doesn’t harm me or other people, I don’t have a problem with people believing in gods. It often makes them better people and I’m not sure everyone can live without some belief in a higher power. Knowing that what exists is all that exists is pretty terrifying when you get down to it and while it does encourage me to live life to the fullest, it certainly isn’t something that I feel everyone needs to believe in.

        Now if you want to use your religion to justify harming others, then it is fair game, but mocking this? It is senseless.

        • TWX says:

          It’s not senseless when those same individuals place the bad things their religion does into the same field of justification and acceptance.  I do not see a whole lot of good coming from religions, especially when powerful people in those religions use their positions to manipulate their believers into doing what they want.

      • albert says:

        if you are so sure that God doesn’t exist, why do you waste so much trying to convince yourself & others that this is so? I do not believe in Santa, and therefor I expend no time thinking about that fact.

        • TimmoWarner says:

          If a believer were to tell a hypothetical child of yours that Santa is certainly real and she is sure to receive many presents this year as long as she’s good, you might find yourself forced to think about it in order to deal with that situation.
          Without that aspect, Santa and God aren’t an equivalent analogy.

        • Grahamers2002 says:

          Because no one is trying to restrict the rights of others or violate the Constitution in the name of Santa.  Conversely, we have things such as  Senator Inhofe reading the Bible into the record of during a global warming committee meeting to prove that God will not let global warming take pace so we need not worry about it.
          That you don’t understand this simple logical truth further demonstrates why religion is such a problem.

    • Cory Doctorow says:

       More tasteless than running an editorial which sanctimoniously explains how a beneficent, omnipotent God is compatible with horrific atrocities? Treating the ghastly death of dozens as an excuse to try out one’s late-night theological noodles?

      • jere7my says:

        I don’t read CNN’s belief blog, so I don’t really care whether what they post is more or less tasteless than what I read here. What I see here on BoingBoing is someone exploiting the ghastly deaths of a dozen people to wave a snarky, sassy flag for the cause of Richard Dawkins. Religion can take all the slings and arrows you might care to throw, and I enjoy me some Tim Minchin pope song and Life of Brian, but this particular example of opportunism twists my stomach.

        Go ahead and post whatever you want; it’s your blog. I’m standing by my label.

        • Benjamin Terry says:

          This person was replying to an opinion piece on CNN that took the 1st shot on this “using the tragedy” business.  Such opinions pieces are more likely to be written in response to a tragedy.
          A non-believer is often portrayed as smug or without compassion or emotion.  It never crosses a many believers’ minds that a non-believer has to grieve as well, and that their praising of God for saving their child, or insisting there is a God that has a reason for letting things like this happen might come across as hurtful and disrespectful as well.  No, instead non-believers just need to suck it up and let people spout whatever BS they would like without reaction, because to do otherwise is disrespectful.  Sure, a religious person might say something you think is silly, but don’t let it get to you, after all, you think you’re smarter than them anyway, right?  

          If this were a church site this was posted on, then I would agree that this person was invading turf not meant for him and being a bit of a jerk, but this was on CNN.  If someone is telling me my wife dying is OK because it is part of the Greys’ plan for us to reach eternal salvation and joyful light in the grand saucer in the sky, it might not be my best moment, but if I told you to shut the hell up about it, that might be understandable.

          • jere7my says:

            Not on CNN, per se, but on CNN’s Belief Blog. And the pastor’s piece wasn’t the “first shot” but a response to the Belief Blog’s request for input from their readers. As you can see, they got a number of responses from atheists: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/26/my-take-cnn-readers-7-answers-to-where-was-god-in-aurora/

            In the context of a back-and-forth on the subject, Colin’s post isn’t objectionable. Plucking it from that context and offering it up, solo, on BoingBoing strikes me as exploiting a tragedy to promote an unrelated agenda. It’s editorial promotion of a position agreeable to the editor. (Granted, CNN is probably doing the same thing by posting the pastor’s piece…but CNN are a bunch of dinguses, which is one of many reasons I don’t hang out on their site.)

          • Benjamin Terry says:

            Thanks for the additional context on the CNN side.  I didn’t see that the editorial was part of a larger series like that.

        • Shopping Account says:


          What would be “tasteful”?

          To wait a while after the Aurora shootings?

          How long should we wait before we can make a well-reasoned argument about the obvious non-existence of God?

          A week? A month? Two months?

          Do tell, please.

          • mongolikescandy says:

            If it had been only on his own blog, no problem. But it was a response to a pastor’s article on dealing with the tragedy. This really is as bad as protesting a funeral

          • wysinwyg says:

            If it had been only on his own blog, no problem. But it was a response to a pastor’s article on dealing with the tragedy. This really is as bad as protesting a funeral

            Bull.  Shit.

            Unless the pastor in question was the pastor overseeing the funeral of the victims (all of them at once, because they’re probably all Christians amirite?) and the thing he wrote was actually the sermon he gave at the funeral and unless the response was made by someone actually picketing the funeral, this is nothing at all like protesting a funeral.

            This is some religious shmuck deciding to exploit the tragedy for his own purposes and some atheist shmuck sarcastically pointing this out.  Are atheists now allowed to participate in these kinds of public conversations?  I mean, I know there’s a long tradition of excluding us, but then there’s a long tradition of making us recant under threat of torture as well, and we seem to have gotten over that one.

          • RedShirt77 says:

             Lots of people die everyday, so it is always too early to burst the bubble of religious belief.  Please invent real immortality before any talk of the imagined afterlife not being a real thing.   Thanks, Red

      • Bottle Imp says:

        How does the fact that the editorial was tasteless absolve you of any tastelessness? How is that a logical statement made by someone attempting to actually deal with the argument? Hell, normally I’d just assume that someone making that argument thinks they’ve already lost. You and CNN can both be tasteless. It’s not either or. You’ll beat jere7my in the battle of who’s comments draw more likes, but that’s just because you’ve given people something they can be sanctimonious about.

        Of course, so have I.

        • jere7my says:

          Secret behind-the-scenes info: I’m reading this on an iPad, and can’t actually see how many likes any given post gets. But that’s well said, Imp.

          • Bottle Imp says:

            Yeah, I often wish I didn’t notice the likes. I’d be better off not knowing how many people supported certain things out there on the internet.

            In truth, I don’t feel as strongly as you about the tastelessness. I just really hate arguments that x is worse than y, therefore y is totally fine.

            Increasingly, what passes for discourse is the idea that the first person to say “oh snap” wins.

        • RedShirt77 says:

           God is not real, but sarcasm is, even if you refuse to believe. 

          When an absurd religions discussion is posted in say your chosen news source, you respond with a joke that lets the posters understand you can do without their dismissing of supernatural contradiction mixed in with what is supposed to be the dissemination of  information.

          • jere7my says:

            Why would an atheist choose CNN’s “belief blog” as their news source?

          • RedShirt77 says:

             More then likely they use CNN and the belief section ends up in the stream.

          • Bottle Imp says:

            Oh! It was sarcasm! Well that explains it. I had totally missed the sarcasm. If I had known it was sarcasm I would never have posted, as sarcasm is a 100% effective tool for dismissing the thoughts and arguments of others in all situations. It’s also very useful when assuming that the other person is simply too stupid or naif to notice it.

            As to paragraph 2, my issue was with Cory’s response, which was rhetorically weak in a way that is a pet peeve of mine. I should get over this problem with public figures on the internet using formally weak arguments. It’s the internet, quality discussion is rarely found in comment threads, yet I never learn. 

            I don’t care whether it was tasteless for an atheist to post that response on CNN’s belief blog because they felt like the blog’s fumbling attempts at theology got all up in their non-belief. It seems like the kind of thing you have to go looking to pick a fight about in the first place. That’s almost as big a waste of time as my continued responses in this thread.

      • Tay Boy says:

        You mean an op/ed that, perhaps unskillfully, responds to the way that people who are anti-religion routinely use horrific atrocities as “gotcha” evidence that other people’s chosen deity doesn’t exist? 

        I’m not pro or anti religion. I haven’t had much opinion on the subject since my mom joined a cult when I was 11 and I realized that I just didn’t care what people choose to believe or disbelieve. I do however find it interesting that the confrontational, generally unpleasant behavior that I most associated with religious zealots when I was a kid is now S.O.P. for avowed atheists AND YET it’s only bad when the religious nuts do it. 

        Most of my friends, coworkers, and people I associate with in my daily life are confirmed atheists of some stripe. In the last few years I’ve noticed this pattern in which as comparatively superior as they seem to find their (non)belief system this cross-section of atheists is singularly incapable of truly rising above the people they so gleefully look down on and letting it go. Listening to you guys go at each other is just as bad as listening to my Catholic and Lutheran grandparents bitch at each other, only none of you has the excuse of being senile.

        • EeyoreX says:

          “..I do however find it interesting that the confrontational, generally unpleasant behavior that I most associated with religious zealots when I was a kid is now S.O.P. for avowed atheists AND YET it’s only bad when the religious nuts do it…”

          THIS, like a million times this. 
          The way many self-proclaimed atheists carry themselves these days has driven me to label myself “agnostic” in debates just to distance myself from their conduct. 

          • Navin_Johnson says:

            Why not go whole hog and label yourself Christian, or Muslim, or Hindu…..  That would really stick it to em’…

        • wysinwyg says:

          You mean an op/ed that, perhaps unskillfully, responds to the way that people who are anti-religion routinely use horrific atrocities as “gotcha” evidence that other people’s chosen deity doesn’t exist?

          Are you telling me religious folks never use horrific atrocities to hawk their feel-good bullshit?  Every big tragedy is followed by weeks of prayer and religious mourning.  Maybe you have it backwards — maybe the atheist is responding to the opportunistic assclown.

          You’ve decided religion isn’t an active force for bad in the world.  Many atheists disagree with you.  They’re not entitled to their opinions?

          • jere7my says:

            Here’s something my hokey religion taught me: “They do it too!” isn’t a good excuse for crappy behavior.

          • wysinwyg says:

            Here’s something my hokey religion taught me: “They do it too!” isn’t a good excuse for crappy behavior.

            How about “They do it too and unless we do it to point out to them what it’s like to be on the other side they will continue to do it without realizing they are doing anything wrong”?  Because I think that’s actually more representative.  Religious language about stuff like Aurora or Katrina is the default.  The only way to change that is to push back.

            Edit: “Then push back without being a dick about it.”
            Wha? When you push back, there is always some entitled ass who insists that the mere pushing back constitutes being a dick. There are people offended by the existence of atheists. So who exactly are atheists supposed to consult to find out whether their opinions are sufficiently orthodox? The Pope? Khomeini? You? Do we need to open an “atheist opinion clearinghouse” where folks like yourself get to decide whether atheists are entitled to particular opinions?

          • jere7my says:

            Then push back without being a dick about it. Adopting the persona of someone who’s important to a lot of people and writing a mocking, hectoring essay seems dickish to me. If Richard Dawkins got shot at Aurora, I’d label it tasteless to write “Hi, I’m Richard Dawkins, writing from the afterlife. Guess I was wrong about God — and He got me for it!”

            A thoughtful essay on atheism after Aurora — how it’s difficult to be an atheist in the face of the constant barrage of “in God’s hands” you hear on TV — wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow (from me, anyway), and possibly would’ve been quite interesting.

            Edit: I think it’s up to you, and to a lesser extent the people you’re interacting with, to decide when you’re being a dick. If you have no standards for your own dickishness…well, that seems kinda bad to me. Your argument sounds like “We don’t have a central authority, so we can say whatever we like without getting called on it!” Which is not, I must say, a ringing endorsement of atheism.

          • Tay Boy says:

            I’d like to refer you to the end of the 2nd paragraph of my original response. I’m not saying that atheists are not entitled to their opinions. I’m saying that it seems like these days they’re very, very prone to being confrontational about it. 

            And for the record no, I haven’t decided that religion isn’t used for bad. I’m a historian, I know better. I also know the difference between having an opinion and looking for the merest hint of an excuse to start an argument. 

            It’s the tit-for-tat that I don’t understand. Both sides represent themselves as morally superior to the other and yet when it comes to any form of dialog they’re equally petty and apparently oblivious to the similarities in their behavior.

          • mongolikescandy says:

            A pastor’s op-piece on how God weighs into tragic circumstances is not a place to start a debate on whether God exists or not. Its in poor taste. And worse yet – for a journalist – off-topic. You shanghai’ing the discussion. 

            Now if you guys want to start flaming the Christians Support Chick-Fil-A Day boards, be my guest. They are just asking for it. 

        • chgoliz says:

          Perhaps you just don’t notice the quiet, minding-our-own-business ones.

          I hear all Americans are horribly rude when they visit other countries.

        • Navin_Johnson says:

          You mean an op/ed that, perhaps unskillfully, responds to the way that people who are anti-religion routinely use horrific atrocities as “gotcha” evidence that other people’s chosen deity doesn’t exist?

          This is something I’ve never noticed before, I have noticed a high level of religiosity around such events though, and a habit of  suggesting it was “God’s plan” , or that “God thought it was their time” or other such things. Things that non-religious people are supposed to just smile and nod to…..

          • Tay Boy says:

            You should probably go to more mixed parties. The “bad things happen therefore your god is false” argument is a pretty common one, especially over drinks.

            You know how annoying it is when a deeply religious person overhears that you don’t believe in god and they immediately start preaching at you in their ham-fisted “imunna convert you right here in the checkout line” way? When you allow yourself to be baited by every little thing, when you seize every opportunity to confront people about their personally held beliefs there’s really very little difference between you. You might believe different things but you’re being equally sanctimonious and obnoxious. That’s the point I was trying to convey. 

            (also bonus like for using the word “religiosity”, which is my personal favorite friendly dig at my Catholic relatives)

          • Navin_Johnson says:

            Tay Boy: When you allow yourself to be baited by every little thing, when you seize every opportunity to confront people about their personally held beliefs there’s really very little difference between you

            By “every opportunity” you mean:  In an actual article discussing the topic of belief?  

            Persecution complex much?  Ever wonder why non-religious people see religious fanatics as hysterical or incapable of criticism or rational discussion?

          • Tay Boy says:

            Navin, did you happen to catch the part of my original post in which I specifically addressed the fact that I’m not religious? You’re completely misreading me.  There’s no “persecution complex” here. It’s observation. 

            It’s interesting that because I call out the antisocial tendencies of atheists you automatically assume I must be some kind of true believer with a chip on my shoulder. It would probably be much more convenient to your worldview if I sat solidly on the bible-thumpin’ side of the fence but… nah. Sorry to disappoint you. I’m just another one of those “quietly minding my own business” types who doesn’t understand my peers compulsion to get in other people’s faces.

      • MachineElf says:

        More tasteless than running an editorial which sanctimoniously explains how a beneficent, omnipotent God is [not] compatible with horrific atrocities? Treating the ghastly death of dozens as an excuse to try out one’s late-night theological noodles?

        Hey, works both ways!

      • Phil Fot says:

        Now, now, Cory. Don’t try to interject logic into superstition. You know how the little ones react when their reality is challenged.

      • I don’t know about you, but I consider anyone who’s rants about how smart he is and how stupid everyone else is to be a jerk, and it doesn’t matter if he’s an atheist, a theist, or a guy in the bar.

        The problem isn’t religion; it’s too many jerks.

        • RevWubby says:

          I would disagree here. Jerk or not, both should be held to the same standard: justification. Can they provide some reason for a position? If no, they shouldn’t be trying to convince people until they can.

          Saying they are being “jerks” is just a way to get them to stop talking when you get uncomfortable with the topic. Sure, they may be off-putting, but expecting the world to find a nicer way to tell you that you may be wrong is a completely unreasonable expectation.  It’s called “political correctness”.

          We should respect people, NOT beliefs and ideas.  In that way, treating other people as if they are children who should be gently coddled when new and different things are present is about as condescending and disrespectful as it gets.

      • Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston says:

        So your version of a “beneficent, omnipotent God” is a universe in which God doesn’t actually allow any human being free will, but that we are all in fact inhuman cogs in the giant holy God machine? What kind of sense does that make? And because the simple truth is that we are free actors in our own lives, it’s concluded that there is no God? 

        That isn’t an argument that makes any sense on any level other than a childish sort of petulance. 

        “Bad things happen, therefore there is no God?” I realize you figure yourself a public intellectual, but there is two thousand years of recorded thought out there in the world, and one of the first questions ever asked by human beings is “why do bad things happen?”. That question has been gone over and over by people in history with brilliant, capable minds. And everyone might be able to benefit by doing a little poking around in those archives once in a while. It gives you perspective if nothing else, and maybe allows you to say things that have some substance to them.

        • Both belief and non-belief are paradoxical. And all is vanity.

        • Chris Lee says:

          “That question has been gone over and over by people in history with brilliant, capable minds.”

          …and theodicy has defeated every single theologian that has tackled it. The problem of evil is simply incompatible with an omniscient, omnipotent, merciful deity. There simply has never been a solution to this problem that can’t be destroyed in two sentences or less.

          • Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston says:

            That’s absolutely, unequivocally not true. To say “theodicy has defeated every theologian” is a vast and very ignorant statement, and says more about your bias on the subject than it says about the subject.

          • wysinwyg says:

            That’s absolutely, unequivocally not true.

            Actually, it’s arguably true.  What’s the successful defense against theodicy?  Has there ever been one?  Preferably one that did not consist of ex post facto rationalization (so far, every argument I have ever heard against theodicy is ex post facto rationalization).

        • Just as there is no such thing as an unlimited right, there does not have to be complete free will.  If there was a god, that entity could allow quite a bit of free will, while still limiting the evil in the world.  Epicurious’ riddle still holds as solidly today as it did in 270 BCE.

          Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

          • Jonathan Roberts says:

            I’d say our definition of a good god is in question here. Contrary to many people’s ideas of the Judeo-Christian god, he really isn’t presented as the sort of loving deity that would care for each individual to the extent that nothing bad could happen to them. He seems much more interested in his own glory than whether individual people live or die, or whether they have happy and comfortable lives. On the other hand, having his people starving would reflect badly on him as their god. I’d say we’re dealing with a god who is presented as a generous feudal lord rather than someone who will intervene to make sure nothing bad happens. He’s also presented as a father, but that is more from the perspective of Israel as a nation, rather than each person individually.

            In defense of this idea, looking at the fate of people from the perspective of an eternal deity has to be very different than looking at it from our perspective. I know some people claim that the Judeo-Christian god is a war criminal, but this would basically be as meaningless as considering us the same for wiping out a colony of ants. Unlike a human observer, he is under no obligation to rescue people or to do what he can to stop evil things from happening.

          • Guido says:

            If I created a colony of sentient ants, programmed to have urges that I would punish, then I would extract their consciousness and torture them forever, I’d be a psycho.

          • Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston says:

            No, Epicurus (epicurious is a website) riddle was most definitely solved. Any interference by god removes from humanity the free will which is the one thing that makes us what we are. Free actors. If you were to remove that through interference, then we would no longer be fundamentally free.

            Also, there’s a bunch of Aristotelian and Christian doctrine stuff about God existing as a perfect substance out of time, but since there are tons of answers to Epicurus’ riddle, let’s just go with one answer at a time. 

          • chenille says:

            @google-5869a4ba031213383a1df3752aff1ae0:disqus : meanwhile, people are routinely left with no choice not to die of hunger or exposure, because apparently those choices aren’t important to provide, unlike the chance to be evil.

            The problem is that when someone with a projectile decides to rip you apart, your free will is lost. So this answer is only good if you think his freedom to do so is as important as your freedom to do anything else. It’s a stupid notion of free with no value.

            I hope everyone would recognize that in other contexts. This is why I hate these apologies so much: in trying to exculpate god, people adopt all sorts of horrible reasons why simply leaving others to their deaths can be ok. It never should be.

        • Jonathan Roberts says:

          Two thousand years? I could have sworn recorded history was longer than that. 

        • wysinwyg says:

          Free will is incompatible with an omnipotent, omniscient God.  Think about it for a second.  If God knew everything you were going to do throughout your entire life in the first instant God created the universe (and He must, because he is omniscient) then it stands to reason God could have elicited different reactions by creating the universe differently.  But then, your life is simply a function of how God chose to create the universe — and since God knows this and knows which universes lead to which actions, it stands to reason God is the only entity with any moral responsibility or free will in the universe.

          Omniscience and omnipotence imply a much more stifling, robotic sort of determinism than we see coming out of modern physics these days.  The main difference is that there’s some actual evidence for the truth of modern physics.

          • Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston says:

            No, free will an omniscience are not incompatible. The fact that you think so just shows that there’s a lot on the subject you haven’t read. 

            God exists as an omniscient being, but not an omniscient present being who predicts the future. God stands outside of time and so is wholly present at beginning and end. He doesn’t have to adjust anything to accord for human actions, because the total action of the universe from beginning to end has already happened for him. The “alpha and omega” isn’t just an attractive sentence. The bible is likely giving shout outs to Greek philosophy by referencing their letters, letting them know that in an aristotelian way, God is that perfect substance who is unaffected by time.

          • wysinwyg says:

            The fact that you think so just shows that there’s a lot on the subject you haven’t read.

            Interesting that you don’t mention anything specific.  Fact is, you don’t know what I’ve read or haven’t read. You seemed to be assuming if I just read the right stuff I would automatically see the light and become a devout Christian (yes, I’ve heard this argument before — you’d believe if only you’d believe!). Not the case. I can read things and disagree with them — especially pure logical argument which is one of the worst ways to establish truth of any kind. Citations please.

            God exists as an omniscient being, but not an omniscient present being who predicts the future.

            I don’t see how an omniscient being could fail to predict the future and still be “omniscient”.  I’ll give you a hint: according to relativity theory there is no absolute time, so God cannot know “everything at once.”  There is no “at once.”  For God to be omniscient, God must know the future.

            God stands outside of time and so is wholly present at beginning and end.

            Nonsensical bullshit, but it actually supports my contention that God must know the future.  You’re contradicting yourself within two sentences and I’m the one who needs remedial reading?
            A person — a “who” — cannot stand outside of time.  Part of being a person is being time-bound.  Memories of the past, experience of the present, and ignorance of the future — that is the human condition.  Concepts such as “choice,” “will,” “desire” — all concepts attributed to the mind of God, by the way — are impossible outside of this time-bound structure.

            If you want to talk about some non-person divine entity, that’s fine, but that’s not really theism.

            And if you want to make more arguments from authority, can it.  There’s no theologian who ever lived who had more access to the mind of God than I have right now at this moment.

          • Your argument is as weak as Pee Wee Herman in a gale force wind.

            “If God knew everything you were going to do throughout your entire life in the first instant God created the universe (and He must, because he is omniscient) then it stands to reason God could have elicited different reactions by creating the universe differently”.

            If God fashioned the universe deliberately in order to achieve a desirable result for you, then he would be removing your free-will – however, if he fashioned the universe in a such way whereby you – in your specific temporal position and it’s  resultant knowledge state -  exercise a free choice owing to the uncertainty or ignorance of outcomes attendant on that knowledge state – then that would be granting, rather than removing free will in so far as that it is possible.  God’s foreknowledge of what choice you will  make doesn’t actually affect your freedom when making the choice, any more than your knowledge after the fact that a choice was wrong can meaningfully change the freedom you actually had to choose when in the temporal position/knowledge state of actually making the choice in the first place.  That the rules of poker set out the inevitable and utterly non-negotiable results of any two hands clashing does not remove the ability of the players to make choices – it is the differing knowledge states of the players at different times that facilitates the freedom to choose whether or not to play a hand  – within the parameters established by the rules of game (god or the laws of physics or whathaveyou).  God’s superior knowledge state does not impose any necessity on your choice within your temporal knowledge state.

          • Gyrofrog says:

             Free will’s great!  I’m going to freely will that a chocolate sundae materialize right next to where I’m typing.

            Mmm-mmmm! Thanks, free will!

      • putay says:

        I don’t get why intelligent people waste time and energy debating theology and/or calling out dissenting opinion on a forum as wide-reaching (and in this case, pointless) as the internet. The blog post was in a section of CNN’s website devoted to ‘religion.’ News websites like CNN or Fox or whatever have all of these sub genre news categories that are chock full of stories presumptively analyzing and speculating about all sorts of things. It’s endless and pointless. If you don’t like the content, don’t read it, don’t lose your mind over it, and certainly don’t launch into a counter argument over who was more tasteless first.

      • RedShirt77 says:

         Thanks for posting.  Going on and reading the full comment which is much longer would probably help most folks.  It seems to have received a more positive response than your post here.  Some folks get offended at the first sign of snark.

    • slayer1 says:

      No, it is not.

  2. timquinn says:

    Isn’t Santa Claus a big clue?

  3. Kibo says:

    A zillion years from now, Venusian archaeologists will find that comment amid the ruins of our civilization, and they will take it as incontrovertible proof that God once existed — after all, he wrote that comment about how he didn’t exist!

    Then the Venusians will assume that we must’ve killed him. Possibly outside a theater showing “Bruce Almighty”.

  4. Matthew Stone says:

    Ehhhhhhhhh… I can’t help but note that all the pleas for God to come in and fix everything are coming from a world that has made it quite clear that it doesn’t want God interfering in its affairs in the first place.  The whole thing reeks of a have-your-cake-and-eat-it dilemma.

    • chenille says:

      …a world that has made it quite clear that it doesn’t want God interfering in its affairs in the first place.

      This is why I hate the idea the world is just; it sounds good, but without power to make it so, seems always to turn to victim blaming. If you think the world deserves everything it gets, or wouldn’t be worth helping, you’ve become terribly misanthropic.

      You know, I clicked here sort of agreeing that it was tasteless using a shooting to evangelize for or against religion. If people are actually going to explain why the victims weren’t worthy of divine help, though, I’ll have to set a much higher baseline.

      • Matthew Stone says:

        Well, think of it this way. The polar ice caps are melting, the world nations are spying on their citizens, the global economy is tanking, the world’s games have been reduced to Roman coliseum spectacles, and there are a bunch of other events I could describe that might justify your point about me being misanthropic, but would also testify to the dubious legacy of this planet’s dominant species.  What kind of creature consistently and repeatedly screws itself over, then begs for divine deliverance from consequences?  Do we do that because that’s what it will freaking take to keep us from driving ourselves to extinction?

        I honestly don’t mean any ill will toward the victims in this latest tragedy, and if I had been there, I would have done everything I could to help because it’s the little pockets of good in this world that make it worthwhile.  Yet it’s hard to look at this shooting and be surprised that disasters like these are STILL happening.  It really does get jading after a while.

        • timquinn says:

          The olympics have always been lame.

        • chenille says:

          What kind of creature consistently and repeatedly screws itself over, then begs for divine deliverance from consequences?

          The kind of creature that isn’t one thing, but lots of different individuals. I don’t beg for divine deliverance, because I don’t believe in it; but you’re saying that a god would be fair to withhold it based on collective justice. Well, collective justice itself is a concept worth reviling.

  5. Daemonworks says:

    He was busy putting mary’s face onto a tortilla somewhere.

  6. Cherish Hellfire says:

    Which one?

  7. Neuron says:

    “I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.” – A. Einstein

    • AnthonyC says:

      That’s fine, but a more deist god is emphatically *not* what the vast majority of believers believe in.

      But really, given the nature of Einstein’s and Spinoza’s god, the world would look the same whether it (not he, this is an impersonal god) exists or not. So what does it even mean to hold a belief that has no consequences? What would such an existence entail?

      • Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston says:

        No responsible person of Christian or Catholic faith holds any belief that God intercedes in the world on their behalf. Catholicism has a structure of saints to pray to, but those are supposed to be for spiritual intercession. Saints don’t find your lost socks or let you win the lottery. New Testament doctrine is supposed to be firmly on the “my kingdom is not of this world” flavour. Any deviation from that is done out of the personal needs of the supplicant. Personally, I find praying to God for everyday events to be extremely tasteless. God has made it pretty clear that the Universe is for us, and that we are free to do what we want. 

        • Cobwebs says:

          Hey, look–a No True Scotsman argument.
          Actually, anybody who wants to call themselves Christian gets to do so, as long as they’re following whatever their own interpretation of the Bible happens to be.  Just because your particular flavor of god doesn’t intercede on your behalf, that doesn’t mean that some other Christian can’t believe every bit as strongly that god intercedes all over the place.

        • AnthonyC says:

          That’s possible (depending on what you mean by “responsible”), but I still maintain that the majority (or at least an extremely vocal fraction) of believers do not believe in a god who never intercedes. Consider how many reports there are of miracles, even today. More importantly, the Catholic church still requires 2 documented miracles resulting from a person’s intercession before that person can be canonized (look at Mother Theresa).

          And if you’re right, then what the Christian God has done is put humans in an unjust world, demand fealty from them even when he occasionally tries to destroy their lives on a whim or because of the actions of others, and condemn them to eternal torment if they fail to abide by a code that was dispensed orally one time to a small group and then not written down for decades, and never reinforced with additional evidence to weigh against the similar claims made by many other religions.

        • wysinwyg says:

          No responsible person of Christian or Catholic faith holds any belief that God intercedes in the world on their behalf.

          Demonstrably false.  Have you actually read any recent Catholic theology?  There’s been a lot of work on how to reconcile an intercessory God with biological evolution given the evidence against directedness of mutations.

          Catholicism has a structure of saints to pray to, but those are supposed to be for spiritual intercession. Saints don’t find your lost socks or let you win the lottery.

          “Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, look around/there’s something lost that can’t be found.”  Never heard that one?  Parishioners DO believe in intercessory prayer to saints and clergy never go out of their way to disabuse them of this notion. Do you even know any Catholics?

          • wysinwyg says:

            And frankly, for a majority of Catholics that live in North America, it generally doesn’t exist. The rhyme you mention is a very old rhyme from a very old folk custom of praying to saints for miracles.

            Citation please. I’d guess a majority of Catholics I’ve known believe in an intercessory form of religion, and I’ve heard the rhyme recited by members of my parents’ generation.

            The Vatican still believes that miracles happen and that God intercedes, but most Catholics certainly don’t, and that kind of intercession is never really taught in Catechism anymore.

            The Vatican decided what qualifies as Catholic theology, so stop blowing smoke. Also, citation on the “most Catholics.” Please stop citing “facts” that are not in evidence.
            Specifically, theologians have been arguing:

            . And i’ve certainly never, EVER heard of a priest of clergy member of any kind advocating intercessory prayer to anybody for any purpose.

            I never claimed they did. I claimed they failed to explain to their parishioners that their superstitions contradict Catholic theology.

            And as for whatever you’re talking about regarding Biology, I don’t know WHERE that is coming from, because I haven’t heard the Vatican comment on anything but the social and spiritual side of genetics.

            “Today, the Church’s unofficial position is an example of theistic evolution, also known as evolutionary creation, stating that faith and scientific findings regarding human evolution are not in conflict, though humans are regarded as a special creation, and that the existence of God is required to explain both monogenism and the spiritual component of human origins.” From wikipedia.
            1. Adam and Eve were not literally the only two human beings, but they were spiritually the only two human beings (because of a special intervention by God, preserving the “special creation” concept).
            2. When scientists say mutations are “undirected” they mean only in a statistical sense; it cannot be proved that God does not interfere in specific mutations below the level of statistical noise (yes, this argument is as bad as it sounds).

            I am a Catholic. And thanks for being a tool. What a surprise. A self-righteous dick on the internet.

            Look, buddy, you’re blowing a lot of smoke about what “every Catholic” believes, and what “most Catholics” believe. And you’re contradicting my own personal knowledge about the Catholic community in which I grew up. I find it hard to believe that a practicing Catholic could actually ignore the amount of superstition in a typical Catholic parish, or for that matter ignoring the stated theological position of the Vatican as you’ve been doing.

            So my question was born of real incredulity, not self-righteousness and not being a dick. You sound too ignorant of what I have experienced as Catholic culture and Catholic belief for me to really believe at first blush that you’re a Catholic. It gets very suspicious when you decide, as you have, that you speak for all (or at least most) Catholics.

            I have as much claim to Catholic traditions as you do. Don’t tell me I’m the one being self-righteous here.

        • Petzl says:

          No responsible person of Christian or Catholic faith holds any belief that God intercedes in the world on their behalf.

          What are you talking about?  The only way someone become a saint is through miracles, intercession, that are attributed to the person after his/her death.

      • sarahnocal says:

         Any reference to god as “he” is completely ridiculous to me. To believe that god is like man and that woman is not like god is the basis for the rampant abuse and less than human approach to women throughout history.
        Men are god like and women are not. That’s an easy way to put women down and make them believe that they are lesser humans.
        God is not a he, there’s no way.  Whenever I hear god referred to as a he, the argument loses any credibility it might have had.
        I can see god as a power, as life force, as the universe; but a “he”? No way. Not possible.
        Like electricity and gravity which have no gender, god has none either.
        Only if you believe that god is santa claus in the sky can you think that god is a he.

        • AnthonyC says:

          I completely agree with your reasoning. However, the god you describe bears no relation to Christianity. And once you let go of anthropomorphism, there is no longer any reason to expect god to be benevolent in this life or otherwise, no reason why it should want to be worshiped, or create an afterlife at all, and so on. Also, no reason to expect it had any role in human evolution (including the psychological evolution that resulted in the concept we now call “good”).

          • Petzl says:

            Christianity tries to have it both ways.  Either god is a man-like super hero.  Or, he’s an incorporeal space alien. But he cannot be both.  I choose neither.  Of course, 300-1900 years ago, thought-crime like that would get you killed.

  8. Ben Hull says:

    Biggest surprise for me: God’s name is Colin. Who’d have thought?

  9. Louis Brown says:

    Where was God?
    At his ‘desk’ making notes about which persons to keep in the Crystal Palace, and which ones to toss into the  Lake of Eternal Fire.  That’s His job.

  10. tonbo says:

    Ah, so it’s better to point at this horrible tragedy and say “HA! THERE IS NO GOD!” than attempt to rationalize an event and to comfort the mourning. I see.

    To me, to use this tragedy to say “There is no god!” is the same as saying something like “There is a God, AND HE HATES PEOPLE THAT WATCH BATMAN (God loves Superman)” It’s hurtful, disrespectful and above all, useless.

    • nixiebunny says:

      This was a comment in reply to an article posted by a religious person, who was attempting to explain the tragedy in terms of God. What’s wrong with presenting another take on the same event? I don’t find one explanation to be more or less comforting than the other. I just find one to be more believable than the other.

      • Cefeida says:

        Well, for starters, the article was posted in a section of a website devoted specifically to religion (Belief Blog), so a reply like that, while funny, is really nothing better than trolling.

        Secondly, the reply wasn’t a thoughtful, respectful explanation of the tragedy excluding the existence of deities. It wasn’t an attempt at discussing the event from an atheist perspective. It was snark. Its sole purpose was to make fun of the original poster’s beliefs. 
        Funny, but, Christ, what an asshole.

        • Jonathan Roberts says:

          Why should a blog devoted to belief limit itself to religion? It’s not like atheists don’t believe anything (or even that theists feel their belief has no basis in science, and therefore should be segregated from the rest of the world).
          Granted, the reply was a bit flippant, but it was relevant and it’s refreshing at least to see the same old arguments being presented in a new way. It’s a good question why we feel the god who created the universe would be so concerned with events that (from his perspective, at least) would probably have very little significance.

          • Adam Coe says:

            Yeah cause a blog about believing in God should NEVER have any alternative viewpoints. Otherwise Vesuvius might erupt or we’d have plagues or…what is it that happens when people stop believing in Santa Claus?

          • Cefeida says:

            @facebook-507894702:disqus , you consider that comment a proper alternative viewpoint? You must be used to really low standards of conversation.

            @mfux5jr2:disqus , I don’t know, I keep hearing from atheists that they don’t believe in anything and that that is the very point of atheism. 

          • chenille says:

            @boingboing-5e751896e527c862bf67251a474b3819:disqus You must not have listened very well. Atheists believe in lots: the value of humans, of science, pleasure, charity, art, the free market, the proletariat, all sorts of things depending on who you ask. Just not religion.

        • wysinwyg says:

          Atheists don’t have beliefs now?

          Also, I see a purpose to it beyond making fun of the original poster’s beliefs…or maybe I should say that I find the original poster’s beliefs detestable enough that it is good to criticize them.

          • Cefeida says:

            That’s what atheists keep telling me, very angrily. I daren’t disagree :P

            No, but seriously- I don’t see a point other than to mock in that reply. That’s not the language of a person interested in an intelligent discussion about belief, it’s just rude. The message of the original article is another story.

          • wysinwyg says:


            I agree that it’s rude but I disagree that it’s “just” rude.  I think the rudeness serves a purpose (several actually).  Also, what the atheists were angrily trying to explain to you is that there is a difference between “not believing in God” and “believing there is no God.”  The former represents a suspension of belief pending certain reasonable demands for evidence of such a thing while the latter represents an active belief in a premise with no real evidence either for or against it (similar to “believing there is a God”).

    • pointing out horribly tragedies and saying “HA! THERE IS NO GOD!” has a very long history. It’s called theodicy. And it continues to be a fatal argument that no theist has coughed up an answer to.

      • cameronhorsburgh says:

        There are plenty of theists who deal with theodicy. Open theology and process theology are two schools of thought within Christianity that account for it. Philip Clayton, Thomas Jay Oord, Greg Boyd and John Cobb are fairly representative thinkers in those traditions.

        That’s not to say I necessarily agree with their approaches, but simply that theologians are aware of the obvious problems theodicy creates for theology and they’re not completely insurmountable.

        • wysinwyg says:

          That’s not to say I necessarily agree with their approaches, but simply that theologians are aware of the obvious problems theodicy creates for theology and they’re not completely insurmountable.

          Nothing’s insurmountable when you play tennis without a net.  All approaches to theodicy ever have been ex post facto rationalization.  Even William Lane Craig admitted in a debate (with Stephen Prothero maybe?) that his own justifications for theodicy are completely consistent with the idea that God is maximally evil but allows good through the power of free will, and that this is “the worst of all possible worlds,” i.e. if any good were removed more good would end up replacing it.

          Theodicy works the way every argument for God does: assume the existence of God, then rationalize your assumption.  I eagerly await any counterexamples.  (Seriously, is there even one person in history who actually did some mathematics or logic and then concluded on the basis of his work that his initial assumptions about God were wrong?)

          • “mypalmike is right, dark matter and dark energy are both empirical results rather than theoretical, and so “at present imaginary” doesn’t apply. We only ever considered these concepts because they poked physicists in the face. “At present real” is more like it, since it is fairly likely that changes to theory could account for these measurements without introducing whole new substances.

            If you want an example of “at present imaginary” that would be superstrings. AFAIK, they’re the only theoretical entity with no direct empirical evidence that is seriously considered within the physics community. But note there’s a lot of criticism of string theory within the physics community, and it’s nowhere near “consensus” as some mysterians like to argue — quantum field theory seems to have a lot more support.

            It’s not clear what you mean by “multiverse theory.” If you’re talking about the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics, then it’s a terrible example because it’s a philosophical interpretation, not a physical entity or constraint that is being supposed to exist. If you’re talking about e.g. Sean Carroll’s multiverse model of cosmological origins then you have to acknowledge that it doesn’t have much currency within the physics community, although he does have some really interesting conceptual arguments about why a multiverse is actually more “simple” than a single universe with an arrow of time.

            Your argument works on unicorns as well as it does on God, by the way. Just thought I’d point that out since most theists have a real problem with arguments that support the existence of Zeus as much as they do Yahweh”.

            What precisely do you mean by “empirical results”? My (admittedly limited) understanding is that dark energy and matter are entities which have been hypothesized to account for separate empirical observations, but which have never been directly observed or verified themselves. Am I wrong in this? Has the existence of dark matter/energy been empirically proven/confirmed? Or do they merely agree in theory with a variety of other observations, and in general with a model which is also to some degree theoretical in nature? Note that my point was not to argue that these things are “imaginary”, but rather that it is not consistent to label one type of hypothetical “imaginary”, and another, well, hypothetical.

            By multiverse theory, I mean the belief I have seen espoused by Carrol, David Deutsch, and a variety of others, which in general states that our universe is one of a multitude of others which have never (and may never) be directly observed. Again my point is that I have never seen anyone compelled to call this idea “imaginary”, merely “speculative”.

            Unicorns! What is it with you guys and unicorns? I think my argument is a little different form what you are suggesting here, but here goes: to satisfy oneself that unicorns almost certainly don’t exist, one merely needs to a have a good knowledge of the earth’s surface and its fossil record. There isn’t much compulsion to be agnostic about the existence of unicorns. One would require a far greater degree of knowledge to be sure that alien life almost certainly doesn’t exist elsewhere in the universe – hence most people are agnostic about the existence of life elsewhere in the universe. Now, to be almost certain that no type of creator/deity exists would require an immense amount of knowledge regarding the whole of the universe and what or whether anything exists outside of it, and how precisely and why and if there is a why it began and is composed of the things it is composed and not entirely different things. Hence, there is a vastly greater compulsion to be agnostic about the existence of a god than there is of unicorns. Give up the unicorns, man! Those poor beasts are so exhausted from getting trotted out as exemplums by atheists!

          • cameronhorsburgh says:

            I don’t disagree. My point is that there are approaches to theology that recognise the problem of evil. The ones I mention deny God’s omnipotence and show how its not antithetical to historic Christianity. 

            Interestingly, (and this isn’t really intended as a counter example, more a data point that seems to be relevant, maybe)  process theology (and its denial of God’s omnipotence) is largely based on the metaphysical work of Alfred North Whitehead. It does seem a little loopy, but his mathematical and logical chops can’t be denied.

  11. lsamsa says:

    No clever snark here…Colin pretty much laid out what I’ve always thought.
    God is talked about, analyzed, praised & believed in by humans.
    Let’s talk about humans…I rest my case.
    My opinion…I don’t pretend to know…nor can anyone else.

  12. Jem Sweeney says:

    The internet: We’ll validate anyone’s opinion. 

  13.  Well, this is a bit bloody sad.  Is anybody going to crack out the flying spaghetti monster to really raise the tone of this?  This is really something.

  14. sdmikev says:

    Then there are the comments that just make you laugh:
    “It is always stunning to read people expand passionately on the color of the Easter bunnies shorts or whether he hops or runs more. You cannot be a sane rational human and do such things.”

  15. Aeron says:

    It’s one thing to disagree with a belief, it’s another to use a very recent tragedy to punctuate that disagreement.

    • Genre Slur says:

       Tragedy is an aspect of Greek drama, not 21st century human stupidity. Just sayin’.

    • That_Anonymous_Coward says:

      And it is another thing to use a tragedy to prop up your beliefs.

      • Jonathan Roberts says:

        I don’t think a lot of people are actually propping up their beliefs through this tragedy. In my experience, the question of why something like this happened is moot for an atheist; for a theist (at least one who believes in a loving god who cares about the individuals concerned) it is a challenge to their faith in that god.

        If you believe in the goodness of human beings, each mass murder, war, genocide etc. will rock that belief. If you believe that we’re basically amoral, you will grieve with everyone else, but it won’t fundamentally challenge your world view. I think in both cases, belief seems ridiculous in the face of each tragedy, so believers tackle these important questions to examine the basis of their faith.

        This is where it’s important that atheists also have a voice, at least when it comes to a public forum like this one. Theists also need to honestly examine their beliefs in order to come out with answers that are not trite. For a start, it makes belief in a god who would stop any tragedy like this very hard to support, but that isn’t really the god presented in the Bible in the first place. It’s not as if these questions are anything new either; Judeo-Christian history is full of the tension between belief in a loving god (who incidentally is not ‘loving’ in the sense that we would prefer) and the reality that they see around them.

        • sarahnocal says:

           Really? You think that atheists aren’t wondering why this happened? Does the question only involve mythical beliefs? You are wrong.
          I would like to know why this happened, without magical explanation.

          • Jonathan Roberts says:

            Sorry, what I meant was that there’s no need to ask “how could a loving god allow something like this to happen?”. We may be shocked and confused that something like this could have taken place (and there are definitely questions we can ask about what would make the shooter want to do this), but it’s not fundamentally against the character of the world as we see it.

        • That_Anonymous_Coward says:

          I have problems finding the goodness in those that espouse love one another, and tell me I am going to hell. 
          Who follow leaders who say I have sex with children and animals.
          Who without knowing anything about me have made their judgement of me, clearly ignoring them there red letter words.
          People who feel they have a right to treat me like a second class citizen based on a rule in the middle of a long set of rules they violate themselves.

          I have a problem with people who want to tell me how loving and forgiving their god is, and they are among the most judgmental and vile things that they claim everyone else is.

          I have a problem with them trying to use this horrible act to bolster their flock, by selling the imaginary ideals that if you just let god take control everything is better. 

          Then trying to explain why an all powerful being who takes all sorts of interest in your life, does nothing in times of trouble.  He won’t intercede to stop horrific things, but you have to live your life how he says…. or else.

          • Jonathan Roberts says:

            I have a problem with all of those things too, but I don’t see why that’s relevant – I have no reason to believe the the writer of the blog post was doing any of those things. He didn’t claim some special knowledge of god’s reasons for this, or that everything would be better if people believed more, and he didn’t plug his church (although he did share a relevant anecdote from a previous church) or even share any opinion on non-Christians.

            What I understood from his message  was something like “We don’t know why God lets these things happen, but here are a couple of things people have said in the past. The important thing to come away with is that God doesn’t promise safety in this life and his response is most clearly seen in a Christian response to suffering, rather than in the divine intervention that we might wish for.”

            I don’t agree with the guy, but he was merely posting a fairly standard evangelical response to a question that is very difficult to answer from that perspective, as part of a regular series of posts on current topics that are relevant to belief.

  16. mennonot says:

    BoingBoing commenters, you disappoint me. I always click through to the comments looking forward to some cogent commentary. I’m surprised to see all the tossing outrage back and forth with gloms of likes jumping on board. I think there’s some interesting things to unpack in this comment.

    For my part, as a Christian, I think the particularities of the incarnation are what make it interesting. As a thought experiment, one could ask: what was happening in that time and place that Jesus spoke or lived into? What catalyzed around him? Of course you can ask that question about other holy men and women as well.

    The whole idea of a god that suffers and dies is pretty absurd when it comes down to it. So what’s underneath that foolishness? In a world obsessed with progress, growth, eternal youth and plastic surgery, what happens if we come together in shared brokenness? Unfortunately, Christians in the US are probably worse at this than average. Ever since Constantine we’ve been having a love affair with empire.

    But I digress. My point is there’s a lot more interesting stuff that could be said here besides throwing around accusations of whose less tasteless than who. Let’s all be tasty mutants!

    • OgilvyTheAstronomer says:

      The whole idea of a god that suffers and dies is pretty absurd when it comes down to it.

      Particularly the big deal that Christians make of it. The “suffering” was considerably less than other criminals executed by the Romans, and as for the “dying”, what makes dying terrifying is its permanence: if people knew they also could go “just kidding, LOL” after three days, they would probably do it for kicks.

      The Resurrection robs the Incarnation of all significance, and I’m surprised more Christians aren’t bothered by this.

      • Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston says:

        The point of the crucifixion wasn’t that he died, the point was that Jesus failed and was fallible in a spiritual sense. He doubted God and wanted to avoid his fate, he wanted out and it took him a while to come around to dealing with the world as it was for him, and to not hate God.

        It’s why the Crucifixion isn’t really called the Crucifixion, but is called the Passion of Christ, of which the Crucifixion is one station in a process that chronicles Christ’s suffering in mental, spiritual and finally physical way. 

        The point of the Passion is that Christ became human and vulnerable and in those moments of doubt and unhappiness knew what it was to be human. That allows his willing sacrifice to mean something, and allows him to redeem those sins and weaknesses that he finally understands. 

      • lorq says:

        Thanks for this.  I’ve long felt that the Resurrection (and indeed the whole notion of an afterlife) is basically a moral disaster inhabiting the heart of the religion.  

        As for the initial comment, statements like “I think the particularities of the Incarnation are what make it interesting,” and “there’s a lot more interesting stuff that could be said here besdies throwing around accusations of whose less tasteless than who” are themselves statements about taste.  About aesthetic pleasure, really.  (I mean, I think the particularities of Tolkien’s “The Silmarillion” are what make it interesting.)

        This emphasis on “interest” is a bit off-point in the context of this thread.  

  17. Genre Slur says:

     Not trolling there, what happened in the states was a terrible thing. Almost like what those Swedes dealt with recently, or what people connected with that Greyhound bus in Manitoba had to experience… I could go on, but we humans see the pattern. I just think that if people are going to attempt to discuss the moral boundaries of a discussion, they should acknowledge the critical nature of doing so. Equating recent folly with the experience of Greek gods, intentional or not, is the kind of irony that one wishes not to be party to in a such a discussion.

  18. gabichi23 says:

    Isn’t it funny that the people who believe in some god imagine themselves to be some form of soldiers, someone says something derogatory about their imaginary god and they immediately jump in defense of it? Lol

    • Genre Slur says:

       That’s kind of what the monotheistic reality-models have going for them. One Sun-Monkey to serve and protect. The ultimate Dad, dispensing infinite bananas to the worthy for ever and ever. As long as you give Him a hug when He asks, or look out…

    • jere7my says:

      As far as I’m concerned, God can handle all the satire we can come up with without blinking. I like to think He finds a lot of it as funny as I do. (Here’s my favorite Jesus joke: [Pose like Jesus on the cross.] “Mary, Mary, take the nails from my left hand!” [Drop left hand.] “Mary, Mary, take the nails from my right hand!” [Drop right hand. Begin falling forward.] “THE FEET! THE FEET!”)

      I’m sure not a soldier — I’m a Quaker and a pacifist. I jumped in because digging into a raw wound to promote an agenda strikes me as tasteless, with possible exceptions for agendas directly related — gun control and censoring violent movies, say, to pick one agenda I agree with and one I don’t. In the context of a back-and-forth discussion on a religious blog that explicitly asked for opinions from its readers, Colin’s post would probably be unremarkable, but Cory plucked it from its context and offered it up neat. That struck me as flag-waving.

      Anyway, I could say just what you do about atheists: someone takes a potshot at some atheist snark, and atheists in their ranks line up to shoot back. Do you really think that behavior is unique to religious believers?

      • gabichi23 says:

        Your tit for tat answear does not let anymore credense to your imaginary god, i dont call myself anything im just a human being that reasons.

        • Genre Slur says:

           If you ‘reason’ then why do you say ‘imaginary’ when describing the entity that he claims? Seriously. I don’t believe in any gods, but I reasonably can’t declare that his god is imaginary. I have no idea, empirically. To claim otherwise is unreasonable folly. If you pick a program, you should follow it, lol.

          • heng says:

             That’s nonsense. We have plenty of evidence of non intervention.

          • atimoshenko says:

            Anything that cannot reasonably be declared real (at present) is (at present) imaginary. A presently imaginary thing may, in time, acquire sufficient evidence to be reasonably declared real, but that would just be an instance of a guess proving lucky.

            There might be a great civilisation of pan-dimensional purple parakeets around HE 1523-0901, but until we have some evidence for it, it is just the product of my imagination. 

          • kiptw says:

            Okay, then he’s omnipotent and all-knowing and chooses to use his powers only for athletic teams and lottery winners. That’s logical.

        • jere7my says:

          The what now? Nothing in my post was arguing for the existence of God. I’m not concerned with lending “credense” to religion; I’m concerned with double standards. And spelling.

      • Genre Slur says:

        Such behaviour is not confined to deist reality-models in particular, but rather is an indication that someone is being ‘held’ by reality-model, it seems to me. Atheists and scientists (aka skeptics, debunkers, etc.) are sadly the most frequently respected abusers of such behaviour, as of recently. Holding a reality model is of course different than being held by one.

        • atimoshenko
          “Anything that cannot reasonably be declared real (at present) is (at present) imaginary. A presently imaginary thing may, in time, acquire sufficient evidence to be reasonably declared  real, but that would just be an instance of a guess proving lucky.”

          You’re just using the formulation “(at present) imaginary” to avoid saying “possible”.   They are the same thing.  If something is currently imaginary with the potential either to become or be found to be real, then it is possible.  If God were unequivocally imaginary as the first poster suggested, then there would be no need for the “at present” qualifier.  I have never heard the formulation “(at present) imaginary” applied to the multiverse theory or dark matter, although neither have any more direct observational evidence than god.  Hypothesized entities which are unproven which we like we call theoretical or possible; hypothesized entities which we don’t like we call “imaginary” if we are blowhards, and “(at present) imaginary” if we are slightly more weaselish with our words.

          • mypalmike says:

            Dark matter is a theory proposed to explain a discrepancy in an otherwise accurate mathematical model. It may turn out to be wrong or right. Another theory may come along to displace it. But importantly, it exists entirely as a result of observation and measurement.

            The god belief is not a theory. It’s a amalgam of millions of peoples’ thoughts over the millenia, unobstructed by measurement or testing.

          • wysinwyg says:

             mypalmike is right, dark matter and dark energy are both empirical results rather than theoretical, and so “at present imaginary” doesn’t apply.  We only ever considered these concepts because they poked physicists in the face. “At present real” is more like it, since it is fairly likely that changes to theory could account for these measurements without introducing whole new substances.

            If you want an example of “at present imaginary” that would be superstrings.  AFAIK, they’re the only theoretical entity with no direct empirical evidence that is seriously considered within the physics community.  But note there’s a lot of criticism of string theory within the physics community, and it’s nowhere near “consensus” as some mysterians like to argue — quantum field theory seems to have a lot more support.

            It’s not clear what you mean by “multiverse theory.”  If you’re talking about the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics, then it’s a terrible example because it’s a philosophical interpretation, not a physical entity or constraint that is being supposed to exist.  If you’re talking about e.g. Sean Carroll’s multiverse model of cosmological origins then you have to acknowledge that it doesn’t have much currency within the physics community, although he does have some really interesting conceptual arguments about why a multiverse is actually more “simple” than a single universe with an arrow of time. 

            Your argument works on unicorns as well as it does on God, by the way.  Just thought I’d point that out since most theists have a real problem with arguments that support the existence of Zeus as much as they do Yahweh.

      • slayer1 says:

        That joke is extremely lame. just sayin’.

    • Yep. There’s a great story in the Bible (somewhere in Judges) on this topic. A character basically explains that if Baal were real, he should be able to defend himself. Makes a great deal of sense; I wish people would actually read the book they claim to believe in.

    • Bloodboiler says:

      Isn’t it funny that the people who don’t believe in some god imagine
      themselves to be some form of soldiers of rationality. Someone says something about god existing and they immediately jump to defend his non-existence. Lol

      LALALALA Logic says you can’t prove negative, therefore I can’t prove I’m right, but I am right. LALALALALALA NOT LISTEING

      LALALALA Faith by definition means I don’t need proof, but I believe I’m right.. LALALALALALA NOT LISTEING

      I’m not seeing a big difference here.

      • jetfx says:

        Few atheists try to prove a negative. That would be silly, because all they do is debunk the ridiculous claims about the existence of god, and without convincing proof of the existence of something, it basically does not exist. And the positions between atheists and theists are not so equivalent as you make them out to be.

        LALALALA I’m wrapping a straw man in a false equivalency. LALALALALALA NOT LISTEING

  19. fauxscot says:

    I think it’s legit to call out god as a concept that doesn’t work.  It explains nothing and affects nothing.  It just doesn’t work.

    It IS profoundly insulting to human effort to give god credit for a person’s work.  It IS profoundly uncaring to explain human evil as an artifact of some divine plan where tragedy is good for us, and our loved ones brains on the wall are to be accepted meekly.  It IS profoundly silly to base public policy on teachings from 2000 years ago or before that were useful then, but which have lost their currency in light of progress.  And finally, it is wrong to allow criminals (shysters, pedophiles, thieves, hypocrites, etc.) to hide behind a shield of piety and godliness when their acts affect other people.

    On the whole, god obviously doesn’t work.  It’s a useless concept that can’t affect the healing rate of a cut, let alone put the brains back inside a skull or heal a gunshot wound or fix an amputation.    Sometimes, tough love is needed.  Weaker brains who have to see causality in randomness and who are too afraid of the dark to confront the fact of their imminent mortality CAN derive positive benefits by herding them into growing up.   In effect, they can be saved, but only if they give up the fantasy parts.  

    Science works.  God doesn’t.  Accept it.  Preach it. Live it.  It’s hard being the adult, but our fellow man needs to move beyond the limits of the primitive and into the scary land of adulthood.   We might want to do it as kindly as possible, but we have to do it.

    Tragedies like Colorado present opportunities to confront this silliness.  If the religious can trot out their platitudes and fantasies, the a-religious should unroll reason, fact, and firm opposition to fantasy interpretations of events.  God just doesn’t work.

    • Genre Slur says:

       Again, if you’re going to declare a bunch of ‘enlightened’ stuff, at least acknowledge that ‘tragedy’ doesn’t happen to humans, lol. It’s a Greek god thing! Call it a Damn Shame, or a travesty, or a mass killing, anything but that!

      • Genre Slur says:

         The irony is killing me!

      • fauxscot says:

        OK.  (Tragedy = order to disorder.  Comedy = disorder to order.  That was my theatre training.  I’m all for a better schema if you have one!)  

        I kinda like “damned shame”.   In the South, we call the Civil War “The Recent Unpleasantness.”  Maybe we should call Colorado something like that….  “Cosplay gone terribly awry” comes to mind.  CGTA for an acronym.  

      • Philip Elliott says:

        Tragedy has two definitions. Is that so hard to figure out? And travesty just doesn’t fit at all. Is this “a false, absurd, or distorted representation of something”?

      • Timothy Krause says:

        Of course tragedy happens to humans. Aristotle defines the protagonist of a tragedy as a human who’s sort of better than we: neither a god nor a churl, but someone above the average, heroic even, someone who’s supra-human enough to do cool shit, human enough to be fallible whilst doing said cool shit.

        An example of ancient Greek tragedy would be Sophocles’ Ajax, where the insane protagonist murders a number of innocents. Sound familiar? 

      • stuck411 says:

        You seem to be having issues with language, sticking to one strict definition of a word while the rest of the English speaking world accepts other meanings as well. You’ll be happier if you just let it go.

    • AllyPally says:

      Well put. 

      People tend to think the world should be fair, that it should work according to rules.

      When something colossally unfair happens, like the shootings, they try to work out how it really IS fair if you take the long view / wide view / religious view.

      I’m sad that people can’t just accept the unfairness and grieve.

      • AnthonyC says:

        Side comment: 
        The world does work according to rules. We call those rules “physics.” The trouble you point out is for people who want *additional* rules based on human psychology. And that really is tragic, because if we accept that the world is unfair (which may make grieving harder) we could actually, in time, *do* something about it, and make the world less unfair, little by little.

    • sdmikev says:

       best thing I’ve read all week –
      “It IS profoundly uncaring to explain human evil as an artifact of some divine plan”

  20. Stephan says:

    Aren’t most believers that are left today only believers out of pure spite?

    • Genre Slur says:

       hahahahahaha! TY, Stephan. Your point made my evening so much better.

    • Crashproof says:

      That seems to be what evangelical atheists believe.  Which is why they’ll never get it.

      I can respect atheism just fine.  I can’t respect the kind of atheism that goes door to door and gives you little pamphlets about why God doesn’t exist and why you are stupid if you don’t believe the same things they believe.  I can’t respect the kind of atheism that has a twisted, distorted view of what religion is or what purpose it serves and attempts to tar all believers with the same brush.

      I can respect religion just fine.  I can’t respect the kind of religion that goes door to door and gives you little pamphlets about why (only their) God(s) exist(s) and why you are damned if you don’t believe the same things they believe.  I can’t respect the kind of religion that has a twisted, distorted view of what religion (or science) is or what purpose it serves and attempts to tar all unbelievers with the same brush.

      • IronEdithKidd says:

        I’ve had Jehovahs and weird evangelical Christians attempt to foist their special publications upon me to feed my recycling box, but never an atheist.  Has someone claiming to be an atheist actually knocked on your door with the intent to deliver an anti-god pamphlet?  Pray thee, scan and post a link to such a thing.

        • jere7my says:

          Actually, I have gotten pamphlets from atheists (or secular humanists) on the street, here in Boston. Didn’t mind it, but it does happen.

          • IronEdithKidd says:

            Pics or it didn’t happen.  This is the internet, dammit.

          • jere7my says:

            Edith, next time I get one, I’ll snap a picture. (I don’t think I saved any, but I can check when I get home.)

            Edit: Nope. I save a lot of random flyers and postcards, but not from the secular humanists.

      • wysinwyg says:

        I can respect atheism just fine.  I can’t respect the kind of atheism that goes door to door and gives you little pamphlets about why God doesn’t exist and why you are stupid if you don’t believe the same things they believe.

        Out of curiosity, how many times has this actually happened to you?  I’ve gotten Jehovah’s witnesses dropping by to give me Paley’s argument by design but I’ve never had any atheists drop by to tell me how freakin’ cool evolution is.

        • stuck411 says:

          Maybe he’s just upset when an atheist loudly claims his beliefs within ear shot, after the atheist has been accosted by some religious zealotry. 

  21. Absense? I thought the official line was that these things are part of ‘gods plan’.

    You know that post the other day about Madona brandishing plastic guns several thousand miles away from an event you described as ‘national’ in the context of an international story and event? And how you asserted that it was somehow bad taste even though from that locations perspective it was as significant as any of the many gun deaths that day?

    Well it wasn’t. This is though!

  22. al1020 says:

    You seem to be reacting to a stage 2 “mythical-literal” conception of what god could be on the Fowler scale – and so you should ‘cos you’re no longer a school kid.

  23. Peetuurr says:

    The whole thing comes down to semantics really. Using words you cannot define is the problem. All words are labels. Having a label for something does not necessarily  mean you know what it is. Spinoza showed us the way out of this semantic mess, he earned his self, death threats and was excommunicated by his people for doing so. Basically what he said was “God did not create the universe, God IS the universe” Basically what he was saying was, God has a language and it is science.


    • atimoshenko says:

      But if “god” and “universe” are synonyms, why do we need to use both words, especially with one (“god”) having historically very different connotations of “über-powerful wizard” (as in the OT, Hindu mythology, etc.)?

      • Peetuurr says:

        The only thing I believe in is evidence. Emotion is not evidence, all it is, is evidence for existence.

        Descartes got it wrong, we don’t think therefore we are, we feel therefore we are.

        Emotion sometimes causes erroneous logic, which is why the Pope had Galileo placed under house arrest for 30 years and Bruno burnt at the stake, for trying to spread the idea that the Earth goes around the Sun instead of the other way around.

  24. peterblue11 says:

    what a first world issue… a dozen people died, and a few more dozen hurt. its terrible and ghastly and senseless but for years we have watched on as hundreds and thousands got strategically killed in genocides like rwanda, somalia or cambodia… 

    do you not think those people were in religious despair? some were probably in deep hatred of a god that seemed to have forsaken them…

    my point is if you believed before aurora, you should be able to believe after it as well. its not just you getting confused by senseless violence and death.

    • stuck411 says:

      That’s the whole definition of faith, isn’t it? You believe without evidence and without the need to have a ‘perfect’ life to justify that belief. “I’m filthy rich & happy because I believe,” some use as an argument for the existence of their just and true religion. But throw a monkey-wrench into all of that. . .

      I blame the religion for money people who put out the idea that you must believe the way we do, or your life is going to be crap. Early Christianity and Judaism never alluded that your life would be wine and roses on earth for your belief. Your reward would always be in the after life. Not here on earth.

      Oh, and good point about pointing out that all if this is 1st world angst.

  25. Whether or not this comment was merited or in poor taste is, to me, irrelevant. I think that the very question of “Where was God?” is an important one and speaks to a shift we are making as a society.  In the past, even asking the question may have been seen as out of line- after all, who are we to question the divine will?  Today, this is a question even the most faithful are permitted not only to ask, but to receive some sort of an answer to. As we move away from God the omnipotent and his(or her, or its) grand schemes, I think we are finding ourselves moving toward a middle ground- a no man’s land where we have nothing to believe in.  

    Science, I think, makes a poor proxy for God and the suggestion that it can somehow be a replacement for a benevolent being who is concerned with your personal welfare, is silly.  At its best, in its most ideal and pure form, science is nothing but a process. Cold, indifferent, oblivious, it cares as much for the world as any other process- that is, not at all. Faith(in the religious sense) in science is like faith in the macarena or internal combustion. Yes, you can see all of these happen, you can learn the steps inside and out, but they will not comfort you when you grieve, they will not help you make sense of tragedy.  That is because, like God, you cannot touch them, you cannot embrace them, and they do not hear you when you cry out in pain. 

    I am, myself, a non-believer.  That said, I believe that belief is an integral part of being human.  Whether it’s in God, or science, or a crushed-up Coke can off the Jersey turnpike named Ted, belief is core to our existence.  If we do not kill ourselves off either by active or passive means, I think we will have to find something else to believe in order to go on.  The only thing I can think of to believe in is Us.  Science, wonderful as it is(and it is quite wonderful), did not spring forth, ready-made, a gift from the universe. We created it.  It is the continuing collection of our knowledge and wonder, our curiosity.  But still, it is only our tool.  As far as I know, few people worship fire today, and I suspect that worshiping science will seem just as silly a few centuries from now.

    As we move into the no man’s land of disbelief, we will still have tragedy to deal with,  questions of right and wrong, and I suspect we’ll find ourselves looking across the divide for something else.  Then, instead of “Where was God,” we might ask “What do we believe in now,” or even “Where were we?”  If we are to find our way, I believe we must ultimately place our faith in ourselves.  

    Then again,  maybe a faith in humanity is what people really mean when they profess a love for science and pit it against religion.  If so, the really sad thing is that their antagonizing simply drives the object of their reverence further away. 

    • awjt says:

      I will gladly worship God as soon as he/she/it shows up demanding fealty. No prob, God.

      • My point wasn’t that people should believe in God- I don’t.  It was simply that science, as an idea, makes a poor substitute and that we should look to ourselves and to each other to solve our problems and better our conditions.

        • Philip Elliott says:

          ” science, as an idea, makes a poor substitute ”

          You got something better?

          • stuck411 says:

            Maybe he’s alluding to a code of behavior that all religions offer. Science is wonderful for unraveling mysteries, making things, helping society, and all of that. But religion — right or wrong — is what has given us a code of behavior to follow. It can be the oil that smooths out the interactions between us or it can be the match that ignites our fights.

            But it’s the various religions that have always given man a code on how to treat one another.

        • awjt says:

           What’s the difference between what you suggest and science?  That IS science.

    • heng says:

       Well, the important thing is that you’ve found a way to feel superior to both.

    • atimoshenko says:

      How do you differentiate between belief and (various kinds of) knowledge? To me, belief (/faith) is the non-provisional assignment to a statement of a probability that is much higher than the present empirical evidence supports. I see it as closely related to hope, which to me seems to be “worry + invention of favourable/suppression of unfavourable evidence”.

      If used in this sense, I do not see how belief is a good or necessary thing. Are you using it differently somehow? What does “belief in us” mean exactly? Is it equivalent the more explicitly stated “belief in our ability to overcome challenges”? If so, would it not be counterproductive? After all, if we’re certain to overcome challenges, why bother trying?

      • llamaspit says:

        My definition of faith is…hope which is magically transformed into certainty.

        • lorq says:

          Nicely put, and captures what I find emotionally and ethically weird about the whole notion of faith.  If hope isn’t enough, how does magically “upping the ante” into certainty help?  Doesn’t this make faith even more brittle than hope, since it’s on shakier ground than the hope it’s replacing?  Where’s the gain?

          And what about that “certainty,” anyway?  It doesn’t fit any definition of the term I know.  It seems more like the transformation of a reasonable statement (“Gee, I sure hope this is all for the best…”) into a dubious assertion (“This *is* all for the best”).  Again, where’s the gain?  It seems more like a serious loss — rationally, emotionally, and ethically.

          Similarly, when someone says “I believe that Christ is risen,” they don’t seem to mean “believe” in the sense of being “convinced” (by evidence or argument).  They seem to be saying, “I *affirm* that…” or “I assert that…” or “I stubbornly repeat that…”  Not only does this confusing use of the word make it easier for religious people and atheists to talk right past each other (since they’re using the word in different ways), but it makes it easier for religious people to confuse themselves (by conflating being *convinced* by an argument and making a stubborn assertion in *spite* of an argument — a confusion behind a lot of Creationism, I think).

          And then taking all these moves — which seem to me to be a denaturing of hope, and of language itself — and calling them *the* center of all morality… well, that just seems like a second moral disaster on top of the first one. 

    • fauxscot says:

      Science isn’t a replacement for god, Mr. Davis.    In comprehending the nuts and bolts of the universe, it is simply superior to fantasy.  There’s really no sense in arguing that Newton is better than Jesus when it comes to actually getting something accomplished.

      In the matter of the inspection, refinement, improvement, and nurturing of the human ‘spirit’,  philosophy will have to do.  It’s not the loving father figure some long for, but we just can’t invent an invisible friend who loves us to calm our fears and hurts.  When that happens with a child, we move the child away from it because it’s non-adaptive and not growth producing.  Why should it be any different when a fully grown adult comes to you and suggests your soul will be saved with a wafer, some wine, and magic words or underwear?   It’s just superstition.  Who advocates superstition?  Not even the church, which condemns it if it falls outside THEIR superstition.

      No, I am afraid science, knowledge, inquiry, reason, philosophy and art will have to do for a palette of choices to replace god.  God doesn’t work.  It explains nothing and alters nothing.  It just doesn’t work.

  26. Just_Ok says:

    belief in GOD = belief in irrational, imaginary and infinite numbers.

  27. Hi,
    I dont really post much and english is not my native tong. But let me just try and give you my thought on the God matter. Lets say God did exist and you ask why didnt he intervene. Well the answer is simple. The deal we have with God is Free will. If we want Free will (and I think we do) then the consequence is that God is NOT ALLOWED to intervene. If he did intervene it would abolish and render useless our free will. The responsibility lies with us. Everything we do (everything we write) has consequences on us and on our fellow human brothers and sisters. 

    • heng says:

       And by extension, the world is as though god doesn’t exist.

    • cameronhorsburgh says:

      Then how do we explain the times when we claim that God does, in fact, intervene? 

      • IamInnocent says:

        Then that’s the problem of those who claim that such a thing happened or is even possible. The atheist discourse is very limited, unsophisticated, goes always after the easiest targets. You’d think, hearing it, that it has been redacted by a retired Hollywood screenwriter.

      • slayer1 says:

        Examples? There has not been any pillars of fire in the sky or splitting of seas in quite some time. At least since cameras were invented. Tortillas dont count.

        • cameronhorsburgh says:

          Which is sort of my point (notice I said ‘claim’). We can’t blame bad things on God so we invoke free will. We’re pretty happy to thank him when a parking space comes up at a big shopping centre the day before Christmas.

          Either God intervenes or God doesn’t intervene. We can’t pick and choose which is which.

    • Chris Lee says:

       …and if god is ompnipotent and omniscient, free will is an illusion – the script is written and we are puppets, simply playing a role with lines written an eternity ago. If god knows exactly what we will do, how can we do any differently?

    • Petzl says:

      So can we stop praying to him and thanking him constantly and putting his dumb name on our money?  He’s obviously useless and a waste of our time.

  28. ImmutableMichael says:

    Or better still, as the Onion vox pop had it “I don’t think scientists should be allowed to play god. Brian Blessed – he’d be much better.”. Because even atheists can believe in Brian Blessed.


  29. Boundegar says:

    Oh good.  People arguing about religion on the internet.

  30. Nell Anvoid says:

    Wow. Nothing beats the old “Where is God?” issue for getting folks worked up.

    As a believer who is also a perpetual questioner, I can only add this to the kerfuffle:  many of us strongly believe that God — whoever, whatever God may be — is not so much interested in the good and bad things that happen in the world/universe/reality that we see…as much as what we — as conscious, free-willed beings — do in response. On an individual, soul-by-soul basis…or an aggregate unified basis?  That’s the real question.

    I would also like to add my voice to the chorus of people who think atheism is, in fact, a religion of sorts. From the secular view, no better, no worse, no more right or wrong than Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Cargo Cultism, Great spaghetti monsterism …. whatever.  

    Not believing in God is as much a belief system as believing in God.  It seems to carry the same silly human foible baggage as the others.

    • llamaspit says:

      We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further. – Richard Dawkins

      • Crashproof says:

        Not so.

        I believe that every deity that was ever worshipped exists… as a meme.

        • RedShirt77 says:

           It’s like the Justice League or the Avengers.  Nobody ever mentions the mutants in the spider-man back story but for some reason he can hang out with wolverine.  And nobody tells batman he should call batman in every time he gets in trouble, but then they join a club together….

    • 666beast1 says:

      “Not believing in God is as much a belief system as believing in God.”
      In the same way that not eating a sandwich is the same as eating a sandwich when you are hungry?

      • llamaspit says:

        Or,“Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby.” 
        ― Penn Jillette

        • 666beast1 says:


        • Antinous / Moderator says:

          When you find someone who never stops talking about how he doesn’t collect stamps, you might have a point.  Until then, you’re just parroting an illogical and foolish meme.

          • llamaspit says:

            Interesting conclusion. My non-collecting of stamps hobby never comes up until someone announces that it is my religion.

            Do you get extra internet points for using the word “meme”?

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            I don’t need to collect internet points.

          • RedShirt77 says:

             When faced with a stamp collector, lots of people are non stamp collectors…  but the non-stamp collector is just reacting to the stamp collector, they aren’t filling their time thnking about not collecting stamps.

            Atheists all have belief systems but what they do not believe is not the central defining point of that believe system is.

            It sort of a nasty prejudice way to talk about ones belief system to say they are primarly their reaction to others.  It would be like calling Muslims, Anti-Christians, like their actual beliefs are irrelevant.

            Keep it classy moderator.

          • chenille says:

            I’ve never talked much about things I don’t collect, but I have had to spend some time explaining that I don’t follow football, know that particular TV series, or want mayo on my sandwich.

          • agreenster says:

            If you lived in a society where the majority of people tell you that not collecting stamps is immoral and that you’re awful if you dont collect stamps, I think you’d find quite a few people endlessly talking about how they dont collect stamps.

            For many people (myself included), when you conclude that the god of your parents and society is most likely fabricated, you feel compelled to speak out about it.  Its a pretty huge deal, and in my opinion, discussion is warranted.

            But all that doesnt change the fact that not collecting stamps still isnt a hobby. Thats irrefutable, and is a great analogy.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            If you lived in a society where the majority of people tell you that not collecting stamps is immoral and that you’re awful if you dont collect stamps

            Somehow, I’ve managed to live to almost 55 without suffering this barrage of religious harassment that seems to plague so many other commenters. And that’s despite being openly queer, an avowed communist and a vocal proponent of free sex, drugs and eyeliner. Maybe God’s just creating a miraculous bubble of protection around me that keeps the religious nuts away.

          • agreenster says:

             You’re lucky.  Honestly.  Maybe it’s where you live.  Im from the midwest, and I can tell you from first hand experience (after living in SF, NYC, and now LA) that certain parts of the US (bible belt, south, midwest) is inundated with aggressive, judgemental, and consistent evangelizing.  Mention you’re an atheist in the wrong crowd, you could find yourself in a fight really quick.

          • BillGlover says:

            I believe the example you’re looking for is: “I don’t even own a TV!”  Perhaps we can start calling these people “atubists.”

            an atubist – (refomed)

        • RedShirt77 says:

           “Saying atheism is a belief system is like saying not going skiing is a hobby.” – Ricky Gervais

          • Argument for atheism being a belief system – atheism is predicated on the belief that no deity/creator of any kind exists, and by extension, that the existence of the universe is adequately and completely explained by the existence of matter/energy/atoms and the tendency of matter/energy/atoms to behave in a certain manner as determined by its intrinsic nature – neither of these statements have been proven, are potentially unprovable, and hence have to be regarded as beliefs, however reasonable.  (Atheists seem to also believe a variety of other things, such as The world would be better without religion, which are incontestably beliefs.)

            Argument for saying atheism is a belief system is like saying not going skiing is a hobby – ?  Some comedian said it?

            How are subjective aesthetic choices/hobbies like beliefs regarding the nature of the universe/or things that we cannot speak about with certainty?  What’s the analogy here?

          • RedShirt77 says:

            Greetings  tristan

            Hobbies are things that you do.

            Beliefs systems are things that you believe.

            Hobbies are not all the things you do not do and beliefs systems are not all the things you do not believe.

            Atheism, as a term only designates the lack of a belief in any god.  Atheist don’t go around telling people the know that god doesn’t exist, only that they don’t believe it.  IT is a significant distinction which is lost on those that use know, believe, faith, and think interchangeably.  There are religions that do not have an anthropomorphic god.  There are lots of people that have varying philosophies and spirituality that can call themselves atheists.  Its those other things that they believe that define them, not the one thing they don’t believe that constitutes their belief systems, that they may or may not believe with a religious fervor. 

          • RedShirt77 says:

             Greetings  tristan
            “universe is adequately and completely explained by the existence of matter/energy/atoms and the tendency of matter/energy/atoms”

            No, you are wrong.

            Also matter energy and atoms are the same thing, and not the only thing according to scientific theories.  May I introduce you to space and time?

          • “Hobbies are not all the things you do not do and beliefs systems are not all the things you do not believe”.

            What?  “Hobbies are not all the things you do not do” –
            Okay, so the things you do not do are not your hobbies?   Fair enough, but shouldn’t it be pointed out that there are an infinity of things you do not do, and an infinity of different reasons you do not do them, and a comparatively small subset of human activities that are classified as hobbies which you can either do or not?  Just to rein things in a little?  And if I dislike one hobby, it doesn’t mean that I don’t believe that that hobby actually exists, or that I reject the fact that other people derive a subjective pleasure from it.  I don’t go around saying “Oh, you enjoy snowboarding, you idiot!   I suppose you enjoy unicorns/Santa Clause/Tooth Fairy/spagball monster as well!”  My hobbies imply nothing about the nature of the objective world, other than that I derive a subjective pleasure from certain activities that exist, and not from others.  The difference between the subjective aesthetic enjoyment of certain things, and beliefs regarding the nature of the objective world should be pretty obvious.

            “Atheists don’t go around telling people they know that god doesn’t exist, only that they don’t believe it.  IT is a  significant distinction which is lost on those that use know, believe, faith, and think interchangeably.”

            I think maybe you should be telling this to the guy quoted at the top of the page saying “I am god/I DO NOT EXIST”, and Cory for quoting him with obvious approval, rather than me, no?

            “Also matter energy and atoms are the same thing, and not the only thing according to scientific theories.”

            Yeah, hence the use of /s instead of commas to suggest inter-changability.  And you’re kind of avoiding my point: ruling out the existence of a creator of any kind necessitates a belief in some kind of blind, undirected physical determinism as a sufficient explanation for the existence and specific nature of the universe.  This is a positive belief that arises out the absence of a belief in a creator – I think its a perfectly rational, PROBABLY TRUE belief, but it is belief nevertheless, and trying to spin atheism as a non-belief system/not going skiing/collecting stamps is a linguistic canard.

          • RedShirt77 says:

            tristan eldritch-
            “ruling out the existence of a creator of any kind necessitates a belief in some kind of blind, undirected physical determinism as a sufficient explanation for the existence and specific nature of the universe.”

            Yes and no.  Any level of awareness requires people to come up with some system to understand the universe.  Atheism just limits your option by eliminating one possibility.  Where the universe gets, direction, determinism, etc is not consistent among even those that deny all of the supernatural, and not everyone that calls themselves an atheist denies all of the supernatural.

            “I think maybe you should be telling this to the guy quoted at the top of the page saying “I am god/I DO NOT EXIST”, and Cory for quoting him with obvious approval, rather than me, no?”

            See, that is where the humor was in his response.  Mocking the author for not developing doubt in occasions that clearly fly in the face of the anthropomorphic god.  Mocking the stupidity of the rationalizing gymnastics and the idea that the only evidence these folks would ever except would be God appearing before them to tell them he doesn’t exist.  These are the Jokes.   You should use your Edwardian Sleuthing skills on that.

        • Or, a group that defines itself by virtue of possessing and aggressively promoting a non-verified and possibly non-verifiable belief about the nature of the universe is kinda like a religion and that has absolutely nothing to do with stamp collection.
           - Not Penn Jillette
          In fact, I actually don’t think atheism is like a religion – I just have an absence of belief in the dissimilarity between atheism and religion!

          • RedShirt77 says:

            Atheism is a word, not a group.  It has a definition and people do apply that word to themselves and it does describe a belief.  But that belief does not have a dogma, an institution, a tradition, and it is not anyone’s central organizing philosophy. Lacking a belief in god and other supernatural mythologies can have a big effect on what you do believe and people can react to those that assert the opposite belief, but it ain’t the same, it really isn’t. 

    • Chris Lee says:

       Yet, strangely enough, I don’t need to call myself an Aunicornist. The reason for that: unicornists aren’t screwing up the world.

    • Boundegar says:

      It just amuses me that people who think the latest tragedy “proves” that God isn’t real always feel terribly original.  The Black Death may have killed millions in Europe, but MY pain and suffering upon watching the evening news is so unique that it trumps the last few millennia of history.

      Kind of the way every generation of teens thinks they invented sex.  But with death instead.

      • agreenster says:

        “trumps the last few millennia of history”

        Thats what is called the  Argumentum ad populum fallacy

  31. Cefeida says:

    I’m not an atheist, nor do I feel any inclination to become one, but that is the first good argument against the existence of the Judeo-Christian God* I’ve ever seen.

    Even if adding it to that article was rude and dickish. Not the time nor the place.

    *Although…once he became a Christian God, he stopped ignoring everyone else, so…

  32. Russ McClay says:

    As one who believes in God, as a spiritual creator, I am amused at those who don’t and who rely on antiquated anthropomorphic conceptualizations of Deity to bolster their argument against such divinity. 

    • llamaspit says:

      Aren’t those “antiquated anthropomorphic conceptualizations of Deity” the ones that the vast majority of believers, in fact, believe to be true?

      I don’t see a lot of high concept Deism being tossed around in most churches.

    • slayer1 says:

      So happy to have amused you.

    • RedShirt77 says:

       Yeah, what is sillier, Believing god talked to random nomadic tribes and helped them write books, or believing that all that is false but for some reason there must be a god anyway without any evidence or even any ancient story of ancient evidence to support it.

      I think if you have made up your own religion because others don’t make sense to you, you have to be self absorbed not to realize that if you make something up on your own its 100% unlikely to be true. 

    • agreenster says:

      There’s no evidence of a non-anthropomorphic spiritual creator, either.  So, I’m amused by that.

  33. toenail blog says:

    This reminds me that everytime I have a question regarding God, I go to the Official God FAQ :

  34. chris jimson says:

    I’m impressed that the comment on CNN’s blog got so many approving replies.

    Look, I can’t see any other way to describe the Aurora shootings other than “senseless”, and all the over-analyzing the media does in its wake (to glean ad revenue, no less) is far more offensive than one atheist speaking his mind.  For some of us “snark” is a defense mechanism against the obvious cruelties of existence, and chances are anyone offended by that comment would be offended whether there were shootings or not.  Saying it’s tasteless so soon after the tragedy is self serving, since there is always someone getting shot in America.  “Where is God?” is an important question, this guy answered the question pretty forcefully, and some people just don’t like the answer.

    Let us say that god exists, and this god created the entire universe (known and unknown), galaxies larger than we can comprehend, that stretch out farther than our best telescopes can see, as well as the minutiae of subatomic particles that exist for nanoseconds before disappearing– do you think you can actually KNOW what god wants?  This is like a bacterium on the surface of my computer claiming it understands how the computer works.  I’m very sorry if your ego is hurt, but we are tiny.

  35. Crashproof says:

    Blah blah internet atheism blah blah.  Amirite?

  36. Ms. Anne Thrope says:

    The comment in question was a response to an opinion piece asking “Where was God in the Aurora shootings?” Comment aside, look at the piece’s question. So many times throughout history, man has sought answers to the unknown. Enough questions were unanswered that religion and other belief systems were developed to address these “unknowables”. At first the questions related to the weather, the seasons, death’s finality. So humans created systems that created answers and today we still have seasonal festivals, afterlife stories, and origin myths which remain. As man advanced, gaining knowledge, beliefs evolved allowing for a heliocentric universe, lightning rods, and weather prediction. As we continue to evolve, discovering the answers to scientific questions, there remain unanswered questions.

    In Aurora, something so seemingly meaningless, so horrific happened that we revert to the old questions of Why and How. We try to apply meaning to the seemingly meaningless. We ask how someone could be so cold hearted to act against his fellow man in this manner. And so religion steps in again to fill the void, the unanswered, the “unknowables”. Is it any surprise? No. Is it right? Well, no because we should have reached a point where we have seen so much horror from the Holocaust to tsunamis and earthquakes, that this is yet another horror we must face. Techtonic plates move, wave action occurs, hatred prevails, genocide results. So many answers, yet we still ask “Why?”

    Unfortunately religion may be a feel-good salve for the moment, but the long term results of religion prevent us from exploring the science behind the issues. (See the evolution “debate” and global warming “debate” in the US to understand religion’s opposition to scientific inquiry.) Maybe there isn’t an easily explainable scientific explanation at hand for Aurora, there may never be, so we seek answers elsewhere, but religion shouldn’t be at play as a viable answer. It (Gods and religion) is not quantifiable; it can not be tested and tried. Yet it is understandable that there remain those who use it. It’s time for humans to move forward, past religion, accept that the unknown is a cause for exploration not meaningless, empty explanations: leave the superstitions behind.

    • Quiche de Resistance says:

      You lump all religions together incorrectly.  Look into Gregor Mendel, Augustinian Brother and father of modern genetics.  He and his monastery specifically did this research to learn more about our universe and the wonder of God’s creation.

      You may also want to check out Monsignor Georges Lemaitre.  He originated the Big Bang theory, amongst other pioneering concepts of astrophysics.

      And these are not exceptions, but rather examples of the great history of scientific contributions of the faithful and the catholic faithful in particular.

      Don’t get blinded by the modern science fearing christian knuckleheads.

      Religion done right does not discourage scientific inquiry, but encourages it.

      • Ms. Anne Thrope says:

        The same Catholics who don’t “allow” birth control and condom use currently? I won’t even begin to list all the other problems-Galileo- and the way they have dealt with those. Since Catholics are a religious group then, yes, I am lumping them all together with the other mythologies.

        As a species it’s time for us to move forward and leave superstition behind and address the facts, explore the unanswered and work towards improving ourselves.

        As for “religion done right”, lying to ones’s self is still lying. There is no truth in religion, just platitudes, empty meaningless hokum. Stop blaming God, yours or the other ones. Take responsibility. Own up. My 15 year old can see through the BS: http://missannethropesblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/from-mouths-of-babes.html

        • Quiche de Resistance says:

          You claimed  “…the long term results of religion prevent us from exploring the science behind the issues. ”  This is clearly not the case, as religion can indeed encourage scientific inquiry.

          • Ms. Anne Thrope says:

            Yes, the long term results from 6 million dying because the collective whole was viewed as responsible for the death of their Messiah figure.  Yes, the long term results of millenia of women subjected to secondary citizenship, denied education and opportunity to enter the educated realm and the lost potential of equal treatment.  Yes, the long term results of slavery validated by Old Testament and Koranic teachings.  All the lost potential of these people and the possibility of betterment of society thus adding to human knowledge is attributable to the negative effects of religion.  The destruction of Library of Alexandria.  The mass slaughter of centers of learning during the Crusades. The slaughter of the heathen or mass conversions in the Americas and the loss of their culture’s knowledge. The Taliban prohibitions in Afghanistan.  I could go on all night. And the few examples you offer are so little compared to the mass slaughter and destruction of people, cultures, arenas of learning.  
            Religion is destructive.   People  are taught not to question the powers that be.  Education has been doled out through a major part of history based on the religious power base, which generally denied that knowledge to women.  Please.  I could go on a religious eternity.  Any system which discourages free thought and inquiry is a negative. And religion does that. Religion stifles inquiry, scientific or otherwise, by its very nature.  It is a primitive means of controlling the masses.  The overall effect is a negative one.

  37. bokorbokor says:

    Usual confusion between ‘God’ and ‘old testament’.

    Ultimately God equates to ‘fundamental all’. As an atheist I choose to call that ‘energy’, but they’re two words for the same inexplicable essence of everything.What kind of God/Energy would step in and contradict a human being’s free will anyway? That’d fly in the face of the universe endlessly experiencing itself in all possible permutations.

  38. Bonedoggie says:

    Hi Guys, God here again.

    PS – I also want you to know that I’m really happy that you won’t let couples that have brown skin (like my son JC) get married in a church in Mississippi.  Well done humans.

  39. rocketjam says:

    “I am the LORD, and there is none else.  I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things”

    (Is. 45:6-7).

  40. kiptw says:

    A man in clerical garb is walking with a little boy, explaining something.
    “…and that’s why God threw your parents in front of that bus.”

    (Ed Bluestone, art by Shary Flenikin, from “How to Tell a Kid His Parents are Dead”, in National Lampoon, early 70s)

  41. chestnutt says:

    To the question, “Where was God?”, what would you accept as an answer?  Would you accept anything short of “this event never happening?” or are you looking for a guy in a cape and a giant “G” on his chest springing into action and saving everyone in the last minute.  If that is the only proof you will accept, nothing I say will cause you to pause.  Personally, I think God was in the fact more people weren’t killed.  God was in the fact that boyfriends shielded their girlfriends from the attack.  God was in the fact one woman is making an amazing recovery due to a birth defect.  I’m sure, on top of this, there are more stories directly and indirectly related to this tragedy we will never know about.  Things like a community coming together to support a family who lost a loved one.  Food being delivered to peoples homes to feed a family who has someone in the hospital.  People taking kids to baseball games so their parents can take a break from child care to grieve.

    But that’s where I see God.  As the song goes, “we are the hands and feet of God”.  We find the strength to do what we do by what we believe.  That doesn’t make it any better or worse than the reason someone else does something good.  It’s just my reason. 

    Yes, I would have preferred this not happen.  But I see God at work.  Of course, I’m a christian, so that’s the lenses I view the world through.  I can also see why someone else would wonder where God is.

    • kiptw says:

       So God wasn’t in Afghanistan, then, or else God is the reason a thousand million people weren’t killed in Afghanistan. Good old God!

    • lorq says:

      So to my friend who was raped by a stranger who broke into her apartment one night, I should say, “It’s all good, because God was there in the fact that that stranger didn’t rape *another* person that same night!”


  42. agonist says:

    So God does exist elsewise how could he have posted this?

  43. Paul says:

    Man. Where am I, r/atheism? Tasteless or not we can do better than this, Boing Boing.

    As a Christian, of course suffering is an issue of deep tension. You want to see some real accusations of God, go read the book of Job. But the whole point of the Christ-story is God silently answering these indictments by taking them upon himself. We see a broken, heart-rending, unresolved answer to the “where was God when” in the person of Christ crucified. We see that as God taking upon himself the entire body of human suffering; not only the pain of the victims, but the crimes of the violent. He becomes the slaughtered innocent, as well as the guilty killer.

    In my tradition’s theology, God not only submits to OP’s accusations, but adds infinitely to them, to bear away our wounds, to redeem those who kill and maim, to claim the full, composite guilt of humanity as his own.

    Comments like this reflect a profound lack of understanding of, or unwillingness to listen to, the best Christian responses to the difficulties of suffering. They are of the same category as young earth creationists posting pictures of 20 year old “fossils” to the web and caps-locking “CHECKMATE ATHIETS!”

    You’re shouting something that will convince the convinced nicely. Everyone else will just roll their eyes.

    Of course you’re entitled to your opinion, Cory, et al. But please retire these exhausted tirades, or at least acknowledge that they span the divides of belief and doubt. We’ve heard them all. We’ve felt them all. We’re all in this together.

    • RedShirt77 says:

       In the great debate that has no doubt lasted almost as long as humanities existence…  Humor has no doubt been used once and a while.  Mockery does not necessarily mean the individual doing it is ignorant to all the facts, but overwhelmed by the absurdity of the moment.  Perhaps a failing, but I am sure a good bible reading would fix that for him.  We can only hope.

      • kiptw says:

         Mockery’s only okay if you’re Christian! ‘Cause the fool hath said in his heart, there is no God, and that proves it.

        • RedShirt77 says:

          Telling people they deserve to be tortured in a fiery dungeon for infinity is ok if you’re christian.  Atheists at least try to be funny.

          • kiptw says:

             When CS Lewis or GK Chesterton broadly lampoon empirical rationalists, they’re hailed as great intellectuals by the leaders of the church. Do the same unto them and see where it gets you. (And if you answered “Back to being told you deserve eternity in a fiery dungeon,” Bingo.)

    • AnthonyC says:

      So your claim is that the story of Christ is partly about God denying that he is omnibenevolent? If that is so, then why do so many theologians defend theodicy?

      • Paul says:

        Good question.

        In my view there’s a difference between being all good and appearing all good. By representatively bearing all evil and brokenness, it can be said that God in Christ became evil and broken. But for me, that action is utterly loving, redemptive, and life giving. Thus Jesus of Nazareth becomes a holy contradiction: simultaneously pure and filthy, pure because of his nature, filthy because of what we/he place upon that nature.

        Why do theologians defend theodicy? I wish I knew. Maybe because so many people struggle with tension. We want clean resolution. Make God good, or make him/her/it evil, or make divinity not exist at all, but make it clean. Make it neat. My problem is that taking any of these at face value doesn’t do justice (for me) to the experience of living. With that said, I believe in the goodness and justice of God. I believe that we wouldn’t care so much about any of this if God wasn’t that way.

        I think that all possible rational/irrational arguments about the being and goodness of God (s) have been thoroughly exhausted. For me, Jesus is God with us now, in our struggle.

    • lorq says:

      Well that was a pretty exhausted tirade right there.

    • agreenster says:

       “You’re shouting something that will convince the convinced nicely”

      Then what is the role of debate? 

      I would posit that it’s to challenge assumptions and preconceptions and change minds slowly over time.  There is no compelling evidence for god, and in our current society, that is becoming more and more unacceptable.  Therefore, debate.

  44. oneswellfoop says:

    After browsing most of the comments I have this to say: 

    Christians, get over it.  The most vocal of you, notably jere7my, are just all pissy because you got kicked while you were down.  Perhaps it’s the law school that’s affecting me, but when someone uses a ridiculous coping mechanism, which just so happens to have been the inspiration for the perpetration of so much injustice and suffering, I will absolutely point out how ridiculous it is.

    No, I will not be nice to you and pretend that you aren’t a bigot, a fool, or both.  No, I will not pretend that the redeeming factors of your beliefs, which mostly serve to make you feel better and feed a few kids in Africa as long as they read your book, contribute more good than the harm you people have done.  I will not pretend that you don’t think that a woman should have to die from complications of pregnancy so that there will be a chance that a fetus might be viable.  I will not pretend that you don’t think that homosexuals and transgendered people are not entitled to the same basic rights and civil liberties that every human should be entitled to.

    You talk about tasteless. Right.

    • jere7my says:

      Well, I’m pro-choice and a gay rights activist. But apart from that you nailed me. JUST LIKE JESUS, AMIRITE?

      I’m “pissy” because anyone, Christian or atheist or anything else, exploiting a tragedy to further their unrelated agenda is tasteless. But hey, your personal insults have started to convince me — keep going!

      • oneswellfoop says:

        I noted that you were very vocal, I did not address all of those statements to you personally, but as part of a group.  If you want to take them personally, I’ll have smile and enjoy myself a little more.

        In regards to exploiting an agenda: I wouldn’t have said anything if the religious community hadn’t come out publicly and promoted religion as a way to cope with or explain what happened, which could be considered, by the way, promoting their agenda.
        We can go tit for tat on this.  I very much preferred it when I lived in the Pac NW and discussion of religion was kept private.  If you want to love you some Jesus, go for it, but if you don’t keep it to yourself don’t get mad when I lump you in with the rest of them.

        • jere7my says:

          Really? You’re actually making the argument that it’s okay to stereotype people if they don’t keep their beliefs to themselves? Do you also want a shoehorn, the kind with teeth? Me, I think liberal Christians like myself need to be more vocal, to counterbalance the wingnuts, but…well, wow.

      • RedShirt77 says:

         I see little evidence that anyone did that….   read the article and the full comment.  Put the bible down for a sec.

        • jere7my says:

          “Put the Bible down for a sec”? Do you own a mirror?

          • RedShirt77 says:

             I do, but I am a vampire.

          • jere7my says:

            On further reflection (ha ha!) I can see I was being a bit opaque. The idea was that “put the Bible” down says that you think my only possible objection to the original post was that I was leaping to the defense of religion. You saw me self-identify as a Christian, which slotted me into a narrow range of possible responses in your head. I think your own atheism is causing you to do exactly what you accused me of doing — but instead of holding your Bible, you’re holding your Dawkins, or whatever. So, like, put that down for a sec. Hence irony.

            But I’m going to leave it at that. I’ve said what I wanted to say — using a raw tragedy to promote a belief system through snark and mockery is tasteless, and I’d call out a Christian for doing the same thing. Whether it’s justifiably tasteless is another question; if you think it is, be proud of it, and don’t pay attention to people like me who call you out.

            I’m headed to a lecture on bioluminescence at Harvard after work, and don’t want my head filled with internet flames. So I’m all done. Peace out.

            Point of clarification: If I’d seen the post in its natural habitat, as part of a spirited discussion, I doubt I’d’ve blinked. If Cory had posted something like, “A pastor on CNN tried to explain Aurora in terms of God, and it really cheesed me off [excerpt], but this response cheered me back up [excerpt]” I might’ve gotten enough context to appreciate it. As it is, it comes across as editorial promotion of a particular agenda through the use of snide mockery and rooting around in the raw wound of a recent tragedy, which ain’t kosher in my Leviticus. Generally, snark about my faith is, by me, not only tolerated but paid good money for. (Tim Minchin live in concert is awwwwesome.)

          • RedShirt77 says:

             Later J,

            For the record, I was a non-believer long before I ever read any book on the subject.  I never believed in anything supernatural.  I wished my cat was in cat heaven once…

            I think it is terribly tasteless to take advantage of suffering to push potentially unrelated action and I think both sides of the gun debate always do that in these occasions, most commentary is pretty disgusting.

            That said, all I saw here was a preacher trying to somehow logic out how random suffering fits into the religious view of an orderly and created universe.  An atheist gave a snarky but well thought out response as to why that twisted religious logic is pointless and self serving.

            Neither side was using the tragedy.  both were simply having a debate inspired by current events.  That really only leaves you with one reason to be offended.  Someone was snarky about your faith.

  45. joel says:

    the only thing completely inValidating the caustic brilliance of this sh*t comment/critique of life on Earth is that there is an author.

  46. mesocosm says:

    I am certain that a rational conversation on this topic will not be possible, but I’m going to weigh in in spite of myself.

    Since this snarky rejection of God’s existence is putatively rational, I’d like to make two suggestions.

    The first is that the scientific study of religion in psychology, sociology, anthropology and archaeology is well into its second century. Given that there is a massive amount of scientific data on the character of diverse religious beliefs, it strikes me as odd that so many of the assertions that I see by scientifically-oriented atheists are manifestly ignorant of the entire literature, as if the facts of an enormously complex and diverse human phenomenon are perfectly self-evident.

    My second suggestion is that the concept of an anthropomorphic, interventionalist deity is a crude option among available alternatives. In that light, saying that the Aurora shooting establishes the non-existence of God is like saying the platypus disproves evolution by selective descent, because there’s no way that THAT thing is competitively optimized. 

    • RedShirt77 says:

      Well, No one actually believes in the entire “enormously complex and diverse human phenomenon”  the article was written from a rather narrow perspective of the supernatural I assume, and the comment section of CNN probably has a character limit.  So it really isn’t every atheists job to refute all religions all at once.  And really, the No true Scotsman logical fallacy is regularly employed as a defence, so its really not a good strategy to invoke it.

      Also, the commenter was not using the Shooting to establish the non existence of god.  He was mocking the absurdity of the twisted logic it takes to have god and random pointless acts of evil coexisting.  His argument against god was about the pure absurdity of the anthrophilic supernatural being given the scope of the universe, which, along with the anthropology, psychology, and archeology amounts to an overwhelming amount of evidence that human belief in a creator is most certainly a human creation….

    • atimoshenko says:

      My second suggestion is that the concept of an anthropomorphic, interventionalist deity is a crude option among available alternatives.

      And yet it is one of the more (if not by far the most) widespread alternatives. Any sort of asking for things or expression of gratitude requires an “anthropomorphic, interventionist deity”. A religious person who rejects the option you call “crude” is a religious person who never prays.

  47. Greg says:

    Our collective energy may be better spent asking Where Was Man? 
    James Holmes wasn’t a bus accident or a natural disaster. He did not spontaneously materialize from the ether. Is it that easy for an individual to methodically and purposefully execute a plan on the scale Holmes did without ANYONE noticing?

  48. lesbianjesus says:

    the answer is simple, the same place he/she was for the 283 other people murdered every week in the U.S.  Or all the people raped, tortured and murdered every day around the world, he’s trapped in a 2000 year old book and can’t get out.

  49. toronto says:

     I think CNN is just trolling for free content, and doesn’t really care what anyone actually thinks.

  50. pox says:

    Question asked and answered. Why ask the question in an open forum if you don’ t want answers? There are a lot of different answers on that page, but this one is “tasteless” because it makes some people uncomfortable, people who are used to having their religious feelings validated and opinions deferred-to. It also happens to be the one that answers the question completely without raising any more questions.

  51. OrchestraSpy says:

    Bad shit happens. Bad Karma happens. Evil exists on the other side of death with black fingernails, and God is your life. Love is a dream. Do trees have spirits? Do fish have souls? Yeah sure. Were any organs of the Aurora shooting victims harvested and transplanted into other sick or dying people? Soul swapping is a numbers game when you’re God. What happens when the world is purged of religion? More religion. Just add drugs. Just add evolution. Love is a dream. Evil exists. Is this mystic and poetic hyperbole a minimal contribution? Pretty much.

  52. Charles Céleste Hutchins says:

    There are some things you just can’t know. I have no evidence in existence, but I have to admit it’s possible. Ergo, I’m agnostic about unicorns. I mean, they’re only visible to virgins and I didn’t do much looking back in the day….

  53. Funk Daddy says:

    “Where was God?”

    God was in the primer cap when the pin struck.


  54. lorq says:

    Not humor. You’re just trying to change the subject. By hiding behind semantics. We’ll take that as a concession.

  55. John Clavis says:

    Atheists wouldn’t get frustrated and lash out quite so often if they were 90% of the population. Feeling wholly confident that you’re surrounded by people who think just like you — a situation many Christians enjoy here in the US of A — gives you a very warm, “small town values” glow that allows you to come across as magnanimous and kindly. (You notice that attitude wither the moment they feel their “way of life” is threatened.) If and when, on the other hand, you realize that most of the people around you don’t think like you think at all, it tends to make you feel a little ill at ease. So maybe that comes out sometimes, in that we sound defensive or hostile. But really, if you were surrounded by nothing but people who seemed to think that the sky was green, no matter what you said or showed them, you’d end up sounding like an asshole sooner or later, too!

  56. jimbuck says:

    Started out reading the comments hoping for clear-cut definitive answers to all things god related.  Sorely disappointed.  I guess I’ll have to google “is god real” and see what comes up.  Or maybe just go to wikipedia.

  57. Mister says:

    Have you ever thought for a moment that our beautiful little continent, on our pale blue speck of planet, in our insignificant galaxy within the incomprehensible enormity of the universe- that we are just a thought; a mere notion in the mind of the grand creator.  That only a divine entity could have the sense of humor to dream up a sentient being, with the mental capacity of even doubting his own creators existence. 

  58. Sean Dabkowski says:

    Sit this one out, my God-fearing friends. You know your God did.

  59. redesigned says:

    of course there is no god, why is this even a discussion?

    every culture on this planet has had its superstitions and those superstitions have all changed over time and are different culture to culture.  they can’t all be right, but they can all be wrong.

    thinking your superstition is correct is painfully myopic even in the context of this planet and its people, let alone in the context of the universe as a whole.

    “Did it really make sense to you that I would create an entire Universe with billions of billions of planets and wait about 13,700,000,000 years just so I could focus on a few Jews from Palestine about 2,000 years ago while ignoring the rest of the 200,000,000 people on the planet at the time?”


  60. jere7my says:

    Being proud of who you are and who you love is a basic human expression of selfhood. Difference is awesome. Revel in it.

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