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    From: J. Michael Straczynski <>
 Subject: Joe an atheist?
      To: CIS  
    Date: 5/11/1996 3:59:00 PM  

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(36 messages)

Daniel M. Upton <> asks:
> In other words, who's challenge will you accept, Mark Twain's or
> Pascal's?

"This is a discussion that *has* to take place on two different
levels. One is the purely empirical where saying "there is a God" and
"There is no God" are both statements of nonsense devoid of real
meaning because they both claim to describe some aspect of reality yet
no test can be devised (again short of dying) that can falsify either
of them."

Once again, your knowledge of logic is faulty. The attempt in logic,
debate or science is not to "falsify" or disprove anything; the goal is
to PROVE something. Repeat after me: you cannot prove a negative. The
burden of proof of any statement belongs with the person making the
assertion, NOT the person receiving it to disprove it. You are simply
misstating how science and logic work in order to make a debating point
that doesn't hold up under scrutiny.

"Without a transcendent God imposing a transcendent morality upon man
there is no basis for rights save the state. Without a source of right
and wrong that exists outside of the human race there is no basis,
except for fickle human opinion, to say that Mother Teresa is better
than Adolf Hitler."

Another debating trick that also doesn't hold up to close inspection.

The notion of a monotheistic god -- *GOD* -- is fairly recent in human
terms. The Greeks managed to build an entire civilization that was
known for its arts, its philosophy, its advancement in all areas
(military included) using a host of household and minor deities who
were in NO way ANY kind of guide to what was right and wrong; half of
them were capricious and just plain nuts, the the other half were off
mating with human women and then writing off their kids.

Yes, in time Greece fell. But so did Rome, the spearhead
(figuratively and literally) for Christian propagation worldwide in its
early history, so I wouldn't necessarily throw *that* into the mix.

Very, very, very few people decide not to murder because God wouldn't
like it. They don't murder (assuming they choose that) because they're
afraid of being apprehended and sentenced under the laws made by humans
in order to facilitate cooperation and progress and safety. (If
anything, people have proped up the notion of god as rationale for
murder for centuries on all sides of the theological coin.)

I'm not saying that religion is per se bad, it's like any other human
artifact, including technology, it's what humans make of it. But at
the same time it's self-indulgent in the extreme for folks who believe
to write off the whole of human history and say that if it weren't for
their particular deity, we wouldn't know right from wrong, or positive
from negative, that we'd just be staggering around blindly...when the
notion of that sort of god is extremely recent in human consciousness,
and prior to then we did okay; not perfect, we had wars and bloodshed
and the like...and we still do. Most of it by believers in one thing
or another.

When was the last time you heard of an atheist car bombing an embassy
because he thought it would bring him closer to the void? When was the
last time you heard of an atheist murdering his entire family because
he *didn't* hear the voice of god talking in his head? When was the
last time you heard of an atheist declaring a crusade or a jihad or a
pogrom? (And don't even try to bring the old soviet union into this;
that was a political madness that had less to do with belief systems
and more to do with the accumulation of personal power at the expense
of EVERYthing, that wouldn't allow for ANY divergence from what they
considered the norm.)

You can write off "fickle human opinion" all you want, but from where
I sit we haven't done too badly, all things considered.

If my tone seems to imply I took some small offense...the operative
word is "small," because I'm used to this. On the one hand, I pretty
much don't have a problem with anything anybody believes so long as
nobody's hurt by it. On the other, religionists tend to mutter darkly
that if it weren't for some god-inspired notion of right and wrong, if
we don't have that, well, we're just anchorless, as prone to murder a
child as give somebody a gift. That it's all caprice.

Well, I happen to be an atheist, and I *can* tell the difference
between Mother Theresa and Hitler. And your inference that one can't
is simply wrong and condescending. As an atheist, I view every life as
*incredibly* valuable because we only get one turn around the merry go
round, and then it's over; no backsies, no second chances, no heavenly
choir to sing one into the pearly gates no matter how terrible or
abusive a life one's led as long as at the end one chooses to Believe.
Every life is rarer than the rarest diamond, and since the only future
we have is that which we make, the only signs we were here are that
which we create, life must be preserved, nourished and given the chance
to grow.

Because those Greeks -- you remember, the ones who didn't believe in
your particular god, with its rules for right and wrong -- actually had
the audacity to once define happiness. Not in terms of right and
wrong, but in even larger terms. I noted them at Macon. To wit: "The
exercise of vital powers along lines of excellence in a life affording
them scope." It's about the only creed I live by.

Not bad. Bet they could even figure out this whole Mother
Theresa/Hitler thing, too....


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