Even the Dalai Lama Hates Atheists??!!?

In a shocking op-ed piece entitled Many Faiths, One Truth, the 14th Dalai Lama, thankfully writing as Tenzin Gyatso rather than under the title of Dalai Lama, the only mention of people of no faith is:

Radical atheists issue blanket condemnations of those who hold to religious beliefs.

Actually Mr. Gyatso, the correct term is antitheist, not atheist or radical atheist. As an antitheist, I would at least prefer that you use the correct term rather than making up a deliberately derogatory one. Further, as Christians often claim to hate the sin but love the sinner, some antitheists may hate religion without hating the religious. I know I do.

In this article, Mr. Gyatso makes no mention of humanists, nontheists, agnostics, or any other group of people who have no faith. A message of unity? Not from this article.

Further, the condemnation of atheists in an editorial ostensibly preaching unity of all people on earth is highly offensive and objectionable. It also points to an even more shocking lack of knowledge on the part of the Dalai Lama that the original awakened one, Siddhārtha Gautama, was actually, dare I say it, an atheist!! Here is a quote from Siddhārtha Gautama, the first Buddha, on his deathbed, his final words.

All composite things pass away. Strive for your own liberation with diligence.

If that doesn’t convince you, try reading his Four Noble Truths and search for any mention of anything supernatural.

So, the Dalai Lama, by not including atheists in his editorial of unity, may actually be excluding the first and most important of the Buddhas, a man who preached a form of atheism and a rejection of all gods.

Nice work Mr. Gyatso. You have shown me yet another reason to oppose religion. Previously, I had nothing against Buddhism thinking it not in conflict with atheism and certainly not providing a message of sectarianism (literally dividing people by sect rather than unifying people as being basically the same).

What a disappointment from one of the few religious posts that I actually had previously respected. OK, I still do respect the post; I’ve just lost a chunk of respect for the current individual in the post.

Will atheists ever get respect from the religious? I don’t know. Right now, atheists are the most hated group in the U.S., far more so than the LBGT community, Muslims, or any other group against which you think there may be prejudice.

Is it any wonder that some of us have begun to oppose faith? Faith does not allow us to live in peace, even when the faithful speak of unity. Let me know when you find the symbol for atheism in the coexist bumper sticker, for example.

The military uses a symbol of the atom for atheists. It was not included on that sticker. Even Obama mentioned that we are a nation that includes those of no faith at all … and then increased funding for faith based initiatives, which is simply code for religious discrimination since faith based charities were always able to get federal funding as long as they proved themselves non-discriminatory. What faith based initiatives did was to remove the non-discrimination restriction for federal funding.

It really is time for atheists to come out of the closet and demand respect as the LBGT community has done so effectively and admirably.

Thanks to Derek for sending the article my way.

42 Responses to Even the Dalai Lama Hates Atheists??!!?

  1. Greg says:

    You seem to be drawing an awfully long bow from a single out-of-context quote. IMHO Mr Gyatso’s point in that paragraph was that lots of people are intolerant, regardless of their belief system. Deliberately derogatory? How do you know his intentions? Since by your own words you subscribe to neither the title “radical atheist” nor the condemnation of “those who hold to religious beliefs”, perhaps you are not someone to whom he is referring.

    I take no issue with your other observations, but the title and flavour of this entire post is drawn from an interpretation which I think is inflammatory. Sure, atheism, antitheism, and agnosticism don’t get a lot of coverage, but neither do hundreds of relatively minor belief systems. If the above three aren’t “relatively minor”, I have no problem with slowly learning that fact by people around me (err, in the virtual sense) talking about them. I do have a problem with quotes taken out of context; attempting to create disharmony using a post which is attempting to promote harmony; and with trying to say that Mr Gyatso has singled out everyone who doesn’t believe in a God.

    Note: I’m in Australia. IMHO non-theists have a very different experience here compared to the USA. In fact as far as I’m aware, they make up the largest or second largest grouping of people I know (alongside a large number of Christians and a handful of Muslims).

  2. Hi Greg,

    You’re probably correct that I’m making a much stronger statement out of his comment than he intended. However, I would still point out that there are over a billion nontheists in the world. That’s a rather large group to ignore.


    And, yes, among the developed democratic world, the U.S. stands out as being by far the most religiose. I’m sure your experience in Australia is different. Here in the U.S. atheists are the most hated and least respected group in the nation.

    So, being from a nation where the federal government funds discrimination, people want to teach creationism in school, text books are being modified to state that the U.S. has always been a Christian nation, we’ve got god on our money and in our pledge of allegiance, I get very emotional over the topic.

    I would have expected the Dalai Lama to be more inclusive of the world’s people in his unity article than to ignore or even deride 16% of the world’s population.

  3. Actually Greg,

    I’d like to retract a bit of my prior statement. I may not be overstating this. Consider a hypothetical case where he wrote this same essay and left out the entire paragraph he devoted to Judaism (14 million people, 0.22% of world population).

    Imagine the discussions around the dinner tables of Jewish families around the world, and especially in New York given that this op ed was in the NY Times. This is easy for me having been raised Jewish in the New York area.

    At every table, there would be discussions of whether the Dalai Lama were an anti-Semite. If the table had 7 adults engaged in the discussion, one would expect at least 9 opinions on this simple yes or no question.

    So, perhaps that is why Mr. Gyatso chose to include a whole paragraph on Judaism even mentioning both the Talmud and the Bible.

    However, we know that he did not forget the secular world since he mentions “radical atheists” in a very negative way. And, yet, he does not mention non-radical atheists, agnostics, humanists, or other nontheists, a group of 1.1 billion with a B and 16% of world population (as compared with Buddhisms 376 million and 6% of world population).

    So, actually, it is pretty clear that Mr. Gyatso does not wish to include secular individuals in his message of unity. Why do you consider it OK that he explicitly, without even the defense of forgetfulness or thoughtlessness, omitted the entire secular world?

    So, I recant my prior statement. This is a slight to secular individuals. The Buddha would not approve.

  4. Jaclyn says:

    I believe in Jesus but I don’t hate Atheists. Atheists are some of the nicest people I’ve met. It’s hard to understand Jesus when you have had bad experiences, but everyone has bad experiences. I like your site design. It’s very well done.

  5. Hi Jaclyn,

    It’s good to know there are religious folks out there who don’t hate atheists, something I did already know from having worked with quite a few over the years.

    Unfortunately, polls do still show atheists to be the most hated group in the U.S. And, we have just one congressman who is openly an atheist. However, he did not admit it until after he was re-re-re-elected and had decided not to run again. At that point, he responded to a poll from the Secular Coalition stating that he was an atheist.

  6. Joyce says:

    Hi Greg:
    I believe you have misunderstood His Holiness comments. What he trying to do is to get people to have some degree of tolerance so that they can find a common ground. He is and has always been a promoter of peace and compassion.

    He will point out areas where he sees people being hypocrites. All belief systems have some sort of statement about love or compassion but individual believers chose to behave as they want.

    I don’t know if you are aware of this or not. But atheists and Buddhists have one thing in common. Buddhist do NOT believe in a creator deity. The whole approach to Buddhism is to fix “yourself” through various practices and to show compassion to others.

    We all know that fanatics of any belief system “demonize” others in order to stir up hatred and get people fired up to fight wars. This is a very old technique. While you were focused on his comment about atheists, you failed to notice that he also criticized people for painting Islam as a militant faith and for those in Islam, Christianity and the Jewish who fanned the flames of war in the Middle East against those who hold a different faith.

    What is key in his message is the last paragraph.

    “Harmony among the major faiths has become an essential ingredient of peaceful coexistence in our world. From this perspective, mutual understanding among these traditions is not merely the business of religious believers — it matters for the welfare of humanity as a whole.”

    To the commenter above pointing out that he left out secularists, please notice the title of the article, Many Faiths, One Truth.

    The whole purpose of the article His Holiness wrote is to point out that religious faith should be something that brings people together and not divides them. He is talking to people who misuse religion to gain power by sowing distrust and causing wars. Secular people by definition do not have a belief in a religion so they don’t go around preaching God said this or God said that. If they want to start trouble they alienate people by creating classes and then instigating that one class of people is trying to get the upper-hand over the other like Hitler did during WWII by using the Jews.

  7. Joyce says:

    PS. Sorry I think I misunderstood the name of the author of the article. I meant to direct it to Scott and not Greg. However at the end of my post I do have a small response to Greg’s comment. Since I am also a Buddhist I understand His Holiness’s belief system and can hopefully put into more of a context. Over the years that I have followed him, I have noted he is very consistent.

  8. Hi Joyce,

    Thanks for some interesting insight.

    However, first, in talking about Buddhism, you must specify the sub-sect. Zen Buddhism is indeed an atheist practice with no gods or supernatural presences. Some other forms of Buddhism do claim a belief that there is an afterlife and that the various Buddhas, generally not the original Buddha, can help one attain some form of paradise/enlightenment.

    However, this is not the important point. The important point, as you have noted is that the whole paper is titled “Many Faiths, One Truth” and explicitly ignores and even condemns those of no faith at all.

    Where is his tolerance for those of no faith?

    Why are people of no faith excluded from his message of unity?

    Consistency is not the issue here; inclusion is. Many who are consistent are consistently bigoted. Is Mr. Gyatso one of the consistently bigoted reserving his bigotry for those of no faith? It would appear from this article to be the case.

    I have not followed what he has stated at other times. So, I cannot say whether this article is an aberration or a consistent viewpoint on his part. It would be nice to think that he normally does not exclude people from his vision of unity. It would certainly be against any hope of oneness with the universe to fail to achieve oneness with all human beings.

    The original Buddha would not have approved of being personally excluded in this way.

    I think your point that his message is to those who have faith because faith can cause violence is actually a tad short on follow through of the logic. By excluding atheists and explicitly disparaging us, he has left those of faith to behave as the Scouts of America do in accepting all who have faith, but not those who have none. Such a message merely deflects the hatred that some religious groups feel towards each other at those who have no religion instead.

    Atheists have been targeted repeatedly throughout history, including being burned at the stake during inquisitions. Let’s try to avoid stirring up such feelings again.

    As a minor point, please also read up on Godwin’s Law. I’ll let the infraction slip this time.

  9. Cole says:

    Why do you need the Dalai Lama’s recognition or the acknowledgment of government or anyone else? If you were comfortable in your belief’s, you would live your live and be happy.

    [ed. note: I fixed the URL so that people who click on it do not attempt to log into your site as you. I hope you don’t mind. I found the warning a tad disconcerting. Beautiful photos, BTW. – Scott]

    • I am comfortable in my beliefs. What I am not comfortable with is the repercussions of expressing my beliefs. Non-theists are the most hated minority in the U.S. We are not accepted in many places. People think we have no morals.

      It’s about respect.

      Why does the LBGT community care what people think? It’s for the same reason. Did you know that there are state constitutions that explicitly deny rights to non-theists?


      Did you know that “none of the above” is not an option for children who want to join the Scouts of America (Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts)? Did you know that even those of us who do not believe are subjected to government sponsored godvertisements everyday on our money and in our pledge of allegiance?

      Did you know that the federal government, through Faith Based Initiatives, explicitly sponsors religious discrimination? It’s true. Faith based charities have always been able to get federal funding provided that they prove that they are non-discriminatory in the use of the money. Since W. instituted Faith Based Initiatives, that requirement was removed, the only real change in the program. Obama has increased funding for this discrimination.


      So, it matters what others think, especially as others legislate their religions upon the rest of us and assert that freedom of religion does not include the choice of none of the above.

  10. Lots of page views for this page today. Would someone let me know what facebook page linked to me? If it’s someone’s personal page, just say that without the person’s name. If it’s a public facebook group, I’d be curious what group. If you don’t want to use a real email address to post, just enter something like a@b.c. It’s not checked.


  11. Greg says:

    (WordPress subscription failed, sorry for slow follow up)

    Scott I appreciate your self awareness that you get emotional over the topic. Being in the minority (glancing about the office and noting one Muslim and six non-theists of indeterminate flavour), I can identify with you in this instance. Christians are derided in the media about as much as any other group (or perhaps more *shrug*), and it’s easy to get fired up. It’s probably why I noticed you getting fired up! I guess the difference is that after invasion, Australia (like the USA) was founded as a ‘Christian nation’ (another hot topic entirely!) and as such old laws and bureaucratic principles and processes don’t hurt us nearly as badly as non-theists in the USA.

    I understand your reference to the paragraph about Judaism, and agree that its absence could easily cause outcry. Mr Gyatsu has clearly fallen victim to the problem of listing without listing exhaustively, and I don’t think you’re wrong to point out his omission, especially in its statistical significance. Thanks for the adherents.com URL.

    I disagree however, that it is “clear that Mr. Gyatso does not wish to include secular individuals” and therefore “This is a slight to secular individuals.” As I asked earlier, how do you know his intentions? Of course you may draw your own conclusions, but I try to hold to an approach whereby if someone appears to be speaking or acting offensively toward me, I give them an opportunity to confirm it or demonstrate otherwise. I guess there would be a difficulty here in giving Mr Gyatsu that opportunity!

    • Difficult indeed to give him the opportunity. So, all we have is his negative words regarding atheists, which is an actual statement, and no positive words for any flavor of non-theist. This from a man whose religion is supposedly following Buddha, an early and vehement atheist.

      Regarding negative press towards Christians in the media, you’ll have to pardon me for neither acknowledging that the majority of press is negative or for caring overmuch about the majority. Your office is a very small sample size and does not really reflect a negativity toward you each and every day from the actual people in power in your government.

      My situation is a bit different as my society is constantly attempting to put up crosses on public property, 10 commandments displays in courtrooms and post offices, more godvertisements on our money or in our pledge, and the completely mistaken assertion everywhere that the United States was founded as a Christian nation.

      • Greg says:

        You describe the “negative words … vehement atheist” paradox well, which to me suggests there has been a misunderstanding of Mr Gyatsu’s intent. I think this is a combination of both his choice of words, and your choice of interpretation. Given his apparent inaccessibility, perhaps the best option is indeed a blog post. I still don’t think that it is helpful to suggest he hates atheists.

        I don’t attempt to identify myself as in the same situation as yourself, just similar in a somewhat reversed way. I’m merely throwing anecdotes at you because I’m not interested in deconstructing what I perceive as the strong and growing secularity (as opposed to pluralism) in Australia. I recognise my office is a small sample size, but it is indicative.

  12. Greg,

    Clearly you’re reading the words through your own lens at least as much as I am.

    Regarding “secularization”, I wasn’t aware that Australia was formed with an official religion any more than the United States was. More important though, the alternative to secular society is theocracy.

    Is your desire really to create a Christian Iran down under?

    • Greg says:

      Agreed about our respective lens (:

      I am opposed to theocracy. I am equally opposed to secular humanism, or the legal or instituted supremacy of any one set of beliefs. From what I’ve read, secular pluralism seems about what I’d favour, given the choice.

  13. From wikipedia:

    Secular Humanism is a secular philosophy that espouses reason, ethics, and the search for human fulfillment, and specifically rejects supernatural and religious dogma as the basis of morality and decision-making. Secular Humanism is a life stance that focuses on the way human beings can lead happy and functional lives.

    That does sound like a scary bunch, ethical AND reasonable??!!? I’d run like hell from them.

    Are you really claiming that these are the folks trying to take over your society and force you out? C’mon, Oz was founded as a penal colony. You can be tougher than that. What happened to that Mick Dundee type? You’re scared of a reasonable ethical person who doesn’t get their morals from a book instructing him/her to stone folks to death for working over the weekend?

    Seriously, what is secular pluralism as opposed to merely a secular society? There’s not even a wikipedia page for that yet. I’m going to need more to go on.

    • Greg says:

      “… specifically rejects …” is a key feature, and is my problem. Lack of pluralism in an institution (say, government) leads to bigotry, be it theistic or non-theistic. If would-be theocratic overlords are worth fearing, so are would-be atheist overlords. The former seem to have been more successful in history, but that’s no reason to instate the latter. The oppressed quickly become the oppressors, power corrupts, etc.

      That said, the wikipedia article differs from my understanding of the term. Let’s skip the two terms to avoid semantic issues, because a bit of reading has revealed some disagreement out there. I was trying to abbreviate my comments by their use – probably a poor decision. Suffice to say, I don’t want to be told what to believe by a government, regardless of whether they are led by theistic or non-theistic beliefs.

      • Greg,

        They specifically reject supernatural and religious dogma as the basis of morality and decision-making. Don’t cut the quote so short that you lose the meaning. It also doesn’t mean they expect you to do so. Now who’s reading too much into someone else’s words?

        Besides, do you really believe the Bible is the source of your morals? How many people have you stoned to death for working on the sabbath? What stops you from doing so in spite of the explicit instruction from the Bible?

        Your own morals don’t come from religion. Rather you read the Bible in the light of your existing morals and throw out the junk. As I recently said to someone else on another blog, good thing too, else you’d soon run out of rocks. And, then where would you be?

        As for being told what to believe by your government, you’ll have to provide some examples of that.

  14. Greg says:

    I chose to cut the quote for brevity, and emphasise my point of concern. You say the theocrats are overlords (my words), and I am not disagreeing. I do say secularists should not be automatically trusted to do any better. History shows it is human nature to make villains[1] out of those who are different. Pluralism, tolerance, and strong anti-discrimination laws are some measures we need to address that.

    Jesus said “whoever is without sin should cast the first stone”. The triune God and the bible are a rock solid foundation for my morals and decision making. That I don’t understand either of those fully is but a part of the mystery of faith. I will know in entirety, in eternity. For now, I am content with knowing but a small, growing fraction of truth.

    [1] I read the other night that a wing of the co-called Christian church (actually just yet another ‘religious’ power block) made out the Churls and the Vilains to be such maligned people groups that we now have the words churlish and villain!

  15. I agree that no humans should be automatically trusted and that we are an inherently xenophobic species. However, I would point out that the term sectarian has at its root the word sect. Dividing people up into even smaller sects than might otherwise be natural can only increase our xenophobia.

    Take as a prime example the Semitic race. Israelis and Palestinians are of the same genetic stock. The only reason they are divided is the sectarianism of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religion. It is my opinion that the primary purpose of religion is indeed to divide rather than to unite. Thou shalt not kill Us. It is always OK to kill Them. And what better way to divide us and them when we’re all the same than religion?!

    BTW, it’s also all too often OK to kill Us as well, especially when Us are homosexuals … or work on the sabbath … or wear a garment made from a mix of linen and wool. But, still, killing Them is generally more encouraged than killing Us.

    The real problem stems from the fact that the human species went through a bottle neck around 70-80,000 years ago when there were around 2,000 – 7,000 people on the planet, probably closer to the low end of the estimate. This means that our gene pool is actually quite small. We’re all very closely related no matter how much difference we see in superficial things like skin color.

    The point is that we are all Us. There is no Them.

    Until we realize that, we will always have issues of xenophobia. And, religion is just one more way to divide people up and forget our oneness. As a Buddhist, the Dalai Lama should know that better than anyone. But, instead, he forgot atheists.

  16. Mechelle says:

    This is the second time I’ve addressed this “taken out of context” quote and inaccurate generalization of what the Dali Lama said. He said….RADICAL atheists. And as an atheist and a buddhist, I agree with him. There are radical atheists that are nasty pieces of work. They’re just as bad as any extremist or radical [insert religion] xtian. Just as vile and just as nasty. He never said ALL atheists or atheists, in general. Secondly, so he didn’t mention nontheist, agnostic, etc, that’s waxing drama and nit-picking, there.

    • Easy for you to say since you agree with him. For my part, he mentioned a much smaller group, Jews, but not atheists, other than in a derogatory way. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.

      And, as for “radical atheists”, the correct term is antitheist. And, why not include them? I thought Buddhists were supposed to become one with everything and everyone in the universe. That includes antitheists.

      I hope one day that you and the Dalai Lama can reach enlightenment on this point.

  17. bveling says:

    Greg, do you really think that the Dalai Lama is unfamiliar with the dying words of Siddhartha Guatama? That’s just ludacris!

    • bveling,

      Thanks. I had to google what those last words were.

      “All compounded things are ephemeral; work diligently on your salvation.” With these words on his lips, he passes into the state of Pari-Nirvana.

      Now all I can say is that I have not yet reached the state of enlightenment where I really understand the message or its implication on this thread. In case I’m not the only one, please explain.

      What are compounded versus non-compounded things? More importantly, what is salvation? From what? By whom?

  18. Cerberus says:

    Great job with the article Scott. It’s very direct, and to the point which some of ‘just another faith’ are unwilling to comprehend.

    You said:
    “Will atheists ever get respect from the religious?”

    That’s an interesting question.
    Although I take delight in knowing that Christianity is in its decline, I’m also well aware of the fact that the so-called ‘religous leaders’ are frantic and do not wish to give up their money and power, nor are they willing to share it. Why else would they be looking for new recruits to brainwash?
    And they will demolish any one who gets in the way of their beloved and holy dollar.
    That’s all they care about.

    They’ve always hated us. But then again, they’ve always hated anyone who comes between those religious leaders and their money.
    It’s all in the name of profit, and they’ll even kill for it.

    “Help is always for those with the biggest donations”

    • Greg says:

      Wow, this post has an epic tail off on comments (:

      I often see the term Christendom used to describe what you’re saying is in decline. The state of Christianity itself as a faith is much more debatable because it is so incredibly diverse, and it is that diversity which Christendom at various points in history has attempted (with apparent success) to quash.

      Cerberus I ask of you the same as anyone (including Scott earlier): If you want harmony and respect, I suggest you choose words which engender it. I too have difficulty respecting people who are in (religious or other) organisations simply to chase money and power, but tossing around the idea that they brainwash, hate and have murderous intentions achieves little.


  19. Cerberus says:

    Hello Greg.
    Harmony and respect? Really?
    And you suggest that I choose words which engender it?

    It’s self-evident that you have no idea of what you’re talking about.
    Lets deal with respect. Um…I think that is something earned, isn’t it?
    Tell you what, why don’t you come to the’bible belt’, declare your atheism, and then we’ll see how those loving christians treat you. Please.
    You have no idea of what I went through in my youth, and only because I declared myself agnostic. But they fuck with me no more.
    Hell, even better, why don’t you go to a country like ‘ Saudi Arabia ‘ and declare you’re an atheist, I’m quite sure they’ll treat you with respect, and a great deal of hospitality.

    And most children, while an infant, who’s parents will take them to church to partake in their parents religious indoctrination, what do you think that means? And the child quite simply has no choice.
    A child’s mind is pliable, and they trust their parent is telling them the truth.

    Here you go.
    “And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the lord your god …”
    Deuteronomy 13:5
    From the book of hate and corruption.

    Ye though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear, nor want, any superstition until my last breath; for thou are not with me, no rod nor staff to comfort me. I am alone, to face that which is unknown.

    Good day Greg

  20. Greg,

    Please try this exercise. Think about the term sectarian for a moment. What does it really mean to say that religions are sectarian? Well, religions divide people into sects, Us and Them. Certainly all subsects of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religion, deliberately singular, do so.

    You say that Christianity is diverse. Well, sort of. Though all but one of the sects of which I’m aware follow exactly the same text, and half of that is exactly the same text Judaism follows.

    And yet, despite this commonality of faith, or even more likely, because of it, Christians often end up not only killing non-Christians, but also Christians as well. Consider the IRA, a nice bunch of Catholics who seem to have a problem with one or more flavors of protestantism and until very recently had a penchant for high explosives.

    Consider those who bombed abortion clinics and killed doctors. Many of the victims were Christian and simply believed that since the Bible does not prohibit abortion, it is not a sin. Yes, that’s right. The Bible, does not prohibit abortion. Read that again and again and again until it sinks in.

    Abortion was practiced 1550 years before Jesus. And yet, either Jesus never heard of it, or had nothing against it. But, Jesus is God and is therefore all knowing, as God is. So, Jesus thinks abortion is fine. (Or, at least he did when he was alive, if he ever really lived at all.)

    Yet, His followers will murder in the name of Jesus because they think that their murder is OK because it prevents other murders that Jesus never ever said were murders. Wait. What? Yup. It’s true.

    Lastly Greg, I would suggest that you read the Bible. There are numerous places where the Bible, far from prohibiting killing, actually demands it. For example, the breaking of any commandment is cause for death; those who work on the sabbath should be stoned to death, and not in a good way.

    The old testament, in particular, is the original and best instruction manual for genocide ever written. (e.g. Leave nothing alive that breatheth.) And, it is still part of Christianity. Jesus himself said he was here not to replace the old law but to fulfill it.

    So, yes. The Judeo-Christian-Islamic religion deliberately divides people up into sects and then instructs us to kill Them.

    Here’s the catch though. In reality, there is no Us and Them. There is only Us. The human gene pool, despite the billions of humans, is actually quite small. It was only 70-80,000 years ago that we went through a genetic bottle neck where only about 2-7,000 humans survived. We are all very closely related. We are all Us. But, the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religion does not see it that way and never will.

  21. Greg says:

    I agree that many people of faith have done great harm by their words and actions, but I disagree that faith is the problem. I continue to ask for respect and careful language, because I believe that inflammatory language and broad brush generalisations yield no progress toward fair treatment for everyone.
    Regarding specific lines pulled from the bible: You’re welcome to read it however you wish, and you too could come up with interpretations which go so far as to yield such horrible historical events as the crusades. The Christian community (church in a broader sense) which informs my faith holds that the bible as a whole is the story of God’s reconciliation of all of humanity and Earth. Noone is to be excluded (I suppose unless they wish it), maltreated or maligned. Therefore I am a counterexample to your claim of a whole swathe of religions being effectively the same. I am pretty sure there are many of a similar view.
    This is not take take away from your treatment by people who do think and act the way you’re describing. I am sad, frustrated, and feel helpless to change them, but I guess that is the nature of people – you can’t change them, only learn to understand them better. If they have done such harm to you, then perhaps that is impossible without some sort of resolution to the wrongs.

  22. Greg,

    Regarding lines from the bible, it is true that most reasonable people who believe in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religion believe that the bible is open to interpretation. But, where does it say that it is OK to do so in the book? The book does not allow any interpretation. It is literal.

    Further, there is a big difference between characterizing one or more religions and characterizing the religious people who follow those religions.

    Most people are not evil.

    This is not a function of the bible. This is a function of our evolution as a moral species. This is why you are even capable of interpreting the bible. Were your morals to come from the bible, you would, by definition be completely incapable of doing so. After all, were your morals to come from the bible, how could you decide, for one example among many, that it is suddenly no longer OK to kill people who work on the sabbath?

    More importantly though, you are missing the purpose of religion.

    Religion is not a force of peace. Religion is not a source of morals. The fundamental purpose of all religion is to unite and subjugate a group of people, often with the deliberate intent to help convince people that fighting a war against their neighbors is a good idea. Onward Christian soldiers.

    The very purpose of religion is to control the masses.

    Religion from its core has a purpose. Peace is not that purpose. Living in a larger society without killing too many members of your in-group? That’s important. But, so is killing members of the out-group(s). Read the bible with this in mind and all of those chapters detailing genocides ordained by God suddenly make sense. Without an understanding of the core purpose of religion, you will never be able to sufficiently explain why Moses and followers killed entire races of people during the 40 years murdering in the desert. You will never understand why Moses ordered the killing of the Jews who made a golden calf.

    They subjugated themselves to the wrong religion. Therefore, they must be killed. It makes perfect sense when you realize that subjugation is the purpose of the religion, not peace. Think the new testament is better? Read it again with this in mind. Slaves, obey your earthly masters. It could just as easily say “Sheeple, obey your priests.” (Yes, sheeple, for those who would say “the lord is my shepherd” are indeed sheep. Good sheep? Perhaps. But, sheep nonetheless.)

    True, most religious (and non-religious) people are quite decent human beings. This is not because of religion, but in spite of it. It is because of our evolution as a social species. It is also because our morals are still evolving rather than stuck in an iron-age instruction manual of murder.

    “Thy will be done.” — Never has a more willing and obedient slave been born than one who could truthfully speak these words.

    Free yourself. Become an adult. Take responsibility for your own actions and inactions. Do not look to God for the answers. Look inside yourself. An honest world view rather than fairy tales will lead you to moral behavior far more surely than any interpretation of a book written by iron age shepherds. They had no knowledge of what it takes to live in a world with 7 billion people and high technology. They can’t help you with your life today. They are dead. Their system of rules may have been good for its time, though I doubt it. It has, or should have, little or no relevance to modern society.

    • Greg says:

      If most people are reasonable, then what is the source of this ‘religion’ of which you speak? The few unreasonable people who made it up with fairy tales as a basis, to control the masses? Then let us both agree – that is no religion worth following. I believe in an actual, real God who physically revealed himself in Old Testament times, then in the birth, life, death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, who created and loves every human being (and through them, all of creation), and who through the Holy Spirit guided the authorship, canonisation and ongoing translation of the bible. I believe that becoming more Christ-like is precisely what it is to become a more ‘decent human being’ (created in God’s image, no less) – a journey that will never complete in this life, but eternity is waiting.

      I don’t engage in Christian apologetics (for time, interest, knowledge and skill-related reasons), but the difference between us is clear: You are a materialist, while I am a theist. Our fundamental views of the universe are different. I will start to disengage from this comment thread, since throwing words at one another is unlikely to change those views, and really, it’s probably gone on long enough (:

      I will respond to the start of your comment, since the rest stems from it: “But, where does it say that it is OK to do so in the book? The book does not allow any interpretation. It is literal.”
      The 66 books of the bible are so much more than ‘a literal book’. They were written by different authors from different cultures in different styles, over a long time period (certainly hundreds, if not thousands of years). They are stories, poems, laws, letters, and analogies. To take a poem literally is to ignore its nature – one cliche example is God creating the world over 6-7 literal days as we use the word in modern terms. Another broader example is that Hebrew writing has a rhythm that I have learnt a little about, which helps uncover more depth in the writings. In short, the bible is an amazing tome.


      • Greg,

        First, you twisted my words. I didn’t not say most people are reasonable. I said most reasonable religious people interpret the bible rather than reading it literally. Note my blog moniker. I’m a misanthrope. While I find many individuals smart and likeable and reasonable, I do not feel that this is a majority of the human population. Else, whence cometh war?

        Second, you did not respond to my question. Or, rather you did, but chose not to answer the question. Please cite chapter and verse of the bible where is says that interpretation of the bible is acceptable.

        It isn’t.

        The good book isn’t good. Nor can you make a case that any of its authors intended that the book be interpreted. The old testament, or torah, in particular is the self-proclaimed law of God. If God says to kill people who work on the sabbath, that is His Law. If God says to kill homosexuals, that is His law. If God says to kill rape victims (if the rape was within city limits), that is His law.

        You say the bible is an amazing tome?

        I say, the bible is the book of genocide. Deuteronomy 20:16-18:

        Howbeit of the cities of these peoples, that the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth, but thou shalt utterly destroy them: the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods, and so ye sin against the LORD your God.

        How can this possibly interpreted as anything positive? Ask any Hittite, Amorite, Canaanite, Perizzite, Hivite, or Jebusite that you meet what they think of this passage. Oh wait. You can’t. There are none of these people left.

        An amazing tome? I think not!

      • Greg says:

        On reading back, yes I did twist your words – and for that I apologise: it was a mistake. I still think a religion made up with fairy tales as a basis, to control the masses is one I don’t follow – but perhaps that’s irrelevant since it’s a fairly obvious statement, and it’s what constitutes “made up” and “fairy tales” that you and I are contesting, among other things.

        I say that the absence of a fore-word (or any other -word) saying something akin to “the following books are to be treated faithfully in the literary form they were composed” is not a reason to avoid doing so. You say that it is. We disagree. In fact there is no part of the bible that is ‘outside’ of the books that is still considered ‘the bible’, but commentary and analysis have been added by people in various versions through history and ongoing today, plus there’s the history of the bible’s canonisation which gives further insight.

        Re Deut 20: and many other bizarre passages: I have no direct answer. There are horrible things written about in the bible. Whether God ordered them (and why), or whether the author(s) believed God ordered them, or something else entirely – well that’s down to the level of detail where a lot of time can be spent even on fairly small sections. One thing that is clear is that most of the hardest passages to comprehend are in the Old Testament, which has a curious relationship with the New Testament. It is clear from many pointers in the OT that Jesus is the central pivot upon which the story of the bible turns, and certainly the NT reflects back on him a lot.

        The Torah was indeed the Law handed to the Israelites. Jesus said he came to ‘fulfill’ the Law, which yielded some very interesting situations with the religious leaders of his day. Mark 2:23-28 comes to mind as one example.

      • I should state strongly that I vastly prefer that people interpret the bible rather than reading it literally … and literally killing me.

        But, there is still, to my knowledge, nothing in the bible that indicates that it is OK to do so, including the Mark passage you cite above.

        Jewish law has always always always made exceptions for health. That’s why Jewish diabetics did not die of their disease, the way that Christian Scientists still do, just because for many years insulin was only available as a beef and pork product. In fact, I believe Jews have always been allowed and even required to eat non-kosher food when that was all that was available. Health first, always. (It’s one of the short list of things I like about the Jewish flavor of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religion. There are other things I prefer in other subsects. But, still, I prefer none of the above. A close personal relationship with reality makes for a very liberating and empowering feeling while at the same time causing one to take responsibility for one’s own actions. Imagine being good just because it’s the right thing to do, not because of fear of some psychotic desert war god’s retribution.)

        For my taste, while I agree that interpreting the bible is better than not, I would strongly state that throwing the bathwater out with the dirty baby is a good idea in this case. (Yes, I’m deliberately getting the metaphor wrong; it’s more fun that way, especially when the dirty baby is either the baby Y’shua or the baby Moshe.)

        Interpreting the bible in such a way as to twist it beyond all recognition into something that may actually have some good points in it is better than taking it literally. In reality, however, the good bits are few and far between in the actual book, most of which is filled with a whole bunch of rather boring descriptions of begetting. So, chuck your bible in the garbage. There’s much better porn out there than the bible, especially if one’s sexual tastes do not include screwing one’s daughters. (Gen 19:30-36)

        Pretending that the bible is good lends a lot of credibility to the wacko fundamentalists who truly follow the damned book to their graves. They are much more self-consistent than religious moderates … and much much more scary. Consider this guy. He reads the book. Look at his conclusions. This is what you get when you truly get your morals from the bible rather than filtering the bible through a well developed set of preconceived morals and skipping all the bad bits, as you do.


      • Greg says:

        And so we part ways (for now) Scott, having talked at one another at some length, finding a few things which (I think) we agree upon, but on the very basis of our existence we continue to disagree utterly. Be well, and may you go in peace.

      • Yes Greg. We disagree on much and also probably a agree on many things not stated here. Debates are often about the points of disagreement more than points of agreement which get glossed over. Believe it or not, I can respect your views and especially your willingness to discuss them even where we disagree. Peace to you too.

  23. Cerberus says:

    I’m not trying to be an asshole, I’m only speaking from experience.
    You have a good philosophical view, and I myself once thought as you do, but later in life I had to awaken myself to the realities or life. And reality always shows something quite different from the philosophical view you hold.

    And yes, faith and the bible are the problem.
    Most people of faith do not question nor ask for proof. So you take what they tell you as literal truth. I’m quite sure you take what your priest tells you as literal truth, and the bible is to be taken in the same manor. It’s not open to interpretation as your priest would have you believe because it was already interpreted – in English.
    You’re only following your priests philosophical view, but others have a different view, and some are quite hateful.

    Please Greg, if you’re going to follow any religion, at all, then at least follow one that’s consistent, otherwise the book is lying, thus it isn’t the word of a desert king, but only one of men.

    “Consistency is always the best policy”

    • Cerberus,

      I’ve agreed with most of what you’ve said on this thread. However, I must take exception to your view on consistency.

      Extremists fundamentalists are the most self-consistent. They believe morality comes from the bible. They believe the bible literally and in its entirety. The fact that the bible is not self-consistent does not change the fact that the fundamentalists are. They are truly unable to ignore the very worst the bible has to offer on violence against others.

      They are willing to follow the bible to their deaths or the deaths of their children.

      Christian scientists and other extremist fundamentalists are among the most self-consistent in the bunch. They are flat dead wrong on a great many issues. They are murdering children with treatable illnesses by praying instead of using medicine. But, they are self-consistent. You must grant them that.

      No. Consistency is not necessarily the best policy. All of us are guilty of small hypocrisies. This is the nature of having a complex and compartmentalized brain. Some are guilty of larger hypocrisies, like making full use of modern medicine while denying that evolution took place. The hypocrisy here is that modern medicine is built on knowledge of evolution. All animal testing works because the animals chosen are related to us. Whatever you (or I) think of animal testing, it works because evolution is a fact.

      So, are those who disbelieve evolution but make use of medicine developed based on a knowledge of evolution worse than those who disbelieve evolution and refuse medical treatment for themselves and their children? I think not.

      Those who believe evolution but believe that one or more gods guided the process are even more deluded. They think they understand evolution but miss the key fact that it is not predictable and that if played again from millions of years ago would not produce the same results. These people at least recognize a fact when they see one, however. Therefore, their world view is closer to reality though less self-consistent than either those who deny evolution and use its products or those who deny evolution and refuse its products.

      So, self-consistency is really not the whole goal here.

      The real goal is to gain an adult understanding of the world to the best of one’s ability, to take responsibility for one’s actions, and to behave in a moral and ethical way. The most self-consistent of the religiose fail the most miserably at this. Not only are these folks the ones who let their children die of medically treatable illnesses, they are also the ones who engage in violence against homosexuals and doctors and who seek to legislate their views on others.

      True, you must admire their self-consistency. Still though, any moral human being must reject and condemn their behavior as unconscionable.

      We agree on so much more than we disagree on. However, I just couldn’t let this point slide.

      • Cerberus says:

        Agreed. Perhaps I should have said honesty is the best policy?

        I agree that they are very self- consistent in their views, but I was trying to show some respect for a person who doesn’t take the bible so literally, so that I might understand him better.
        In meeting people such as Greg I do try to show a little respect because in my youth there were a few who understood me even though they were theistic.
        There were even a few that, while debating me, said that I had made them think a little about their religion.
        And as for myself, this was all that was necessary.

        Although Greg said that I was dancing around the issue, and pretending as if I had provoked my own interpretation to his books literal passage, he couldn’t have been further from the truth. Thusly, yes, he had shown his own inconsistency.

        And Greg, I wasn’t saying this in disrespect. I’m only showing you the literal truth.

        Peace, and long life my friend.


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