What If?

We went with Scott and Carina, and a huge group of friends, to the Whetstone Park fireworks last night. We showed up late because of our own party, but it was just in time to start the 1.5 mile walk to the park.

Along the way, we passed by the Calvary Bible Church. Members of the church (I assume) were handing out bottles of water for the small price of accepting their pamphlet.

whatif-small.jpg

I glanced at the pamphlet momentarily as I accepted what I would later call my
“Jesus Water”.

At this point, my beliefs are somewhere between agnosticism and weak atheism, and I’ve been somewhat critical of religion in general recently. But I hate to argue against “strawmen” or examples that I make up in my head only to be easily beaten down. There are plenty of examples of idiots on the Internet, but that doesn’t necessarily represent official church doctrine. Here I have an “official” church outreach document which they are clearly hoping will a) increase their membership, and b) will save souls.

What if there really is a creator-god?

That would be absolutely fascinating. If I had an opportunity to meet this being, I’d be really curious as to how it came about all sorts of decisions: why are there vast reaches of total emptiness? have you tried this whole creation thing before? what have you been up to since you created this universe? are there other creations like this one? do you know what created you?

What implications does this have for me, His creation?

Um, why is the creator gender specific? Anyway, I’m not sure there are any implications. Just because the creator created me (and billions of other people, and planets and suns, and moons, and rocks, and viruses, and Hitler, and Polpot), I’m not sure what the implications are.

What if that creator will hold man, his creation, accountable in a day of judgment?

What if it won’t? What if the creator doesn’t really care? And accountable for what? What if we are accountable to hold all squirrels sacred, providing them shelter, food, and loving care? Crap. I see one in my back yard right now. I better go help him out.

What if the creator-god really loves man, his creation?

Love is an action. Dead-beat dads may claim they love their children, but it is the actions that speak louder than words. The claim that this creator loves us is like saying I love squirrels. If I don’t demonstrate that love, and there is no evidence of that love, then I have not loved that squirrel. Time for me to go make a squirrel chapel.

What if the creator-god has a son named Jesus?

I dunno. Father-son duos aren’t always the best thing. Sometimes the nut does fall far from the tree. Maybe Jesus is a little pissed–his dad gets to create entire universes, and he just gets to visit one itty-bitty planet for 30ish years. What if Jesus had a son, the creator’s grandson? Wow, procreation really works.

What if Jesus is who the bible claims he is? Eternal God, Virgin-born, Sinless, Savior, Resurrected lord.

So, let me get this straight. What if the creator has a son, who is the creator, who killed himself so that he could be brought back to life? If Jesus was born to a virgin, then his mother must not be human, because humans procreate through sexual intercourse. That’s how the creator created us, right? So the creator sets up all these rules for how things are done, but when he wants a son, he can’t just “poof” him into existence, he has to “poof” his sperm into some poor woman in order to create the boy? I’m afraid the sinless and savior pieces don’t really mean much to me…

What if he really is the only way to god, as he claimed to be?

Wait, Jesus is god and the only way to god? I don’t understand. Is he the finger pointing at the moon, or is he the moon? Perhaps this is some sort of cruel treasure hunt: follow the map to the treasure only to find another map, which leads to another map.

What if I arrive at heaven’s door with misplaced hope of entering in?

What if there is no heaven? Indeed, what if you were supposed to have been building squirrel chapels all along? What evidence of heaven do we have? What do the doors look like? Is it really someplace we want to be?

What if I haven’t met god’s requirement for entering in (to heaven)?

From the pamphlet, the requirement is “He that hath the son hath life; and he that hath not the son of god hath not life.” Um, could you make that requirement a bit clearer, please? Even translated to modern English, I still don’t get it “He that has the son has life.” How would I have the son? Like a cupie doll? Like an action figure? Oh! I’ve seen those in toy/novelty stores. I get it now. I must have a Jesus action figure. Maybe the squirrels would like it in their chapel!

So, I’m completely tired of this, and don’t feel like answering any more of these questions. What they gave me is essentially a pamphlet of Pascals Wager: believe because the risk of non-belief is too great. The pamphlet moves from deism in the first question (where we simply postulate that something might have created the universe) to a judgmental, demanding, multiple personality being. And the only source of information to support their presumed answers to the “What if” questions are a bunch of ancient stories.

I don’t think its likely, but it just might be possible that the universe was created by some being. However, it is a HUGE step to suggest that we should worship that being.

35 thoughts on “What If?”

  1. Fine analysis. Typical pamphlet. I’ve seen it’s sort often enough that I wonder if many churches buy them from a single common provider, with optional choice of color scheme and a few customizable phrases and paragraphs.

  2. Please tell us more of this new church of squirrel worship! Are you its prophet? Do we get rewarded with nuts and berries in the afterlife if we take good care of our little rodent idols in this one? Are those who worship chipmunks to be derided as heretics (and perhaps stoned, perhaps with acorns)? Shall we know them by their nuts?

    Seekers need to know!

  3. I’d join the Church of the Gopher, aka Richardson’s Ground Squirrel where I interested in animal worship. Given how many of them there are here in Saskatchewan these days they are clearly God’s chosen creature.

  4. A lot of times people will make of fun of something they do not understand or do not really get. I just think it is not that hard to understand or believe.

    Many people have died and have been tortured in early Christianity and I seriously do not believe they died and went through all of that because they liked it.

    We have seen many people die and were revived because of modern medical science and they have said that they were alive when they were dead and can tell you what happened when they were dead.

    You don’t have to believe, but you should respect others that do. I personally don’t like George W Bush, but I respect the office of the president.

  5. Kenny, lots of people have been tortured and have died for religions other than or contradictory to Christianity. Y’all don’t have a corner on “it must be true since we were persecuted.”

    Anyway, I guess I better stop my neighbor from shooting the squirrels off his bird feeders.

  6. Kenny,

    Plenty of religions can boast torturous martyrdoms of sincere believers. But that in no way indicates that these religions are true.

    There are satisfactory scientific explanations of near-death experiences that don’t invoke any mythological realm of the dead.

    Respecting believers makes sense in the sense of courtesy and consideration, which is owed to just about anybody. But when the beliefs are stupid or pernicious, as they often are, they certainly shouldn’t be respected.

  7. Don’t bother responding to Kenny with logic.

    He has heard it all before scores and scores of times. He chooses not to listen, and then makes the same claims again to the same people. He posts not to convince others but rather to reassure himself.

  8. The only true squirrel is the Red Squirrel; I hope for your sake that you are not worshipping the evil Grey Squirrels!

  9. Kenny-

    If you want to explain “near death expriences” you should try judo or some other grapling. When one gets choked out you get the tunnel and light thing with lots of color some times the refs go all black and look gostlike. That is just what happens when the brain shuts down. As for respecting people with faith I will respect them as soon as they quit tring to control my government and quit harassing me on the street when I am trying to go to the bar.

    God did not create man, Man created god befor he figured out Quantum Phisics

  10. Near death experiences from a biblical perceptive, doesn’t mean the “soul” left the body…I have read cases of near death experiences from those who rejected God, were not church goers, and yet were claiming to have seen angels as though they thought they were going to heaven’s gates.

    As far as Dave’s comment; “But when the beliefs are stupid or pernicious, as they often are, they certainly shouldn’t be respected.”

    Logic just means a system of reasoning in any branch or study…The lack of toleration in which Dave practices is; unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect contrary opinions or beliefs, persons of different races or backgrounds…This one of the reasons why many rejected the idea of godlessness and why many militant atheists tend to sing only to the choir.

  11. I hope this new squirrel sect you’ve come up with is not intended to challenge the authority of His Heavenly Mightiness the Flying Spaghetti Monster? (All praise to His noodlely appendages, all obedience to his Pasterian will.)

    Be warned that Pastafarians the world over are keeping a close watch on your heretical activities. If need be, we will invoke his mighty wrath to quash this schism.

  12. “You don’t have to believe, but you should respect others that do.”

    Actually, I agree with this, and suspect Dave2 would if he spotted his own nuance; the subtle textual but major practical difference between respecting beliefs and respecting believers. Treat all people with respect is a good principle, but beliefs simply aren’t people.

    Similarly Michael is muddling tolerance with respect in an attempt to taint atheists as “militant” (I recently posted about my own opinion of that term). I am tolerant of most beliefs, but I do not admire them in the way the word “respect” would seem to indicate.

    Religious groups don’t have particularly good track records for tolerating beliefs or respecting believers. Kenny reminds us that many suffered torture for their beliefs. Typically, this was at the hands of some other rival believer—even another rival Christian sect, or a non-Christian at the hands of a Christian. According to Bible legend, Jesus requested his disciples engage in a ministry work, converting Jews and other believers to Christianity, an act that is by definition intolerant of those people’s existing beliefs.

  13. Michael – what warped definitions of tolerance and respect are you using? First – disagreeing with and arguing with people is not a lack of tolerance. The word ‘tolerance’ automatically implies the existence of something you disagree with, otherwise why would tolerance be required? A lack of tolerance would be refusing to listen, refusing to associate or refusal of legal rights. Tolerating something means allowing it to be – it doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to voice an opinion on it.

    As for respect, there are two parts to this. Do we respect the person’s right to hold his or her views, or do we have to respect the views themselves? Does ‘respect’ mean ‘agree with’? It seems that more and more often, appeals to ‘respect’ for the views of others translate into calls that people who disagree just shut up.

    ‘Militant atheists’ – does anyone else think it’s odd that for a christian to be considered militant they have to shoot an abortion doctor, for a muslim to be considered militant they have to blow themselves up in a crowded place, but for an atheist to be considered militant all they have to do is voice disagreement and present arguments? Yeah, that label is really showing ‘respect’ to those you disgree with, Michael.

  14. Kenny, for those of you old enough to have used a phonograph, is a record with the needle stuck in the groove, repeating itself over and over.

    Attempting a conversation with him has so far always produced the same results as talking to the record player. Even when he replies to someone, he repeats himself without considering any part of their input.

  15. Christians have long held themselves to be soldiers, fighting evil and false religions. Onward Christian Soldiers, anyone?

    All it takes to make them start projecting their own characteristics onto us is to put our foot down and refuse to allow them the unearned privileges they demand for their religion.

    Actually, singing to the atheist choir is nowhere near as much fun as getting foolish reactions from the perpetually privileged and offended. You make yourself an object of pity when you preach at us, Michael.

    Stop Lying For Jesus, and you can start to earn back our respect.

  16. Zeno, You can’t stone a heretic with acorns. You acorn him. And those of us who truly worship the one True Rodent worship the Guinea Pig. They’re delicious!

  17. I am hoping that there was a garbage can nearby filled with empty water bottles and unread pamphlets.

    As far as respecting Christians, of course I do, if only for their humility. I mean you have to be impressed by the humble Christian who considers him or herself created in the image of a god and possessing immortality.

    Maybe I am just mad because I like to hedge my bets, and now along with praying towards Mecca, accepting Jesus, honoring Vishnu, and eating lots of spaghetti, now I have to be nice to squirrels. Damn.

  18. Michael, I didn’t have time to properly respond… There’s another point I want to make. You wrote:

    “…unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect contrary opinions or beliefs, persons of different races or backgrounds…This one of the reasons why many rejected the idea of godlessness…”

    That is an enormous non-sequitur. There may be some who choose their beliefs based on copying role models, but I certainly don’t respect that as an argument for or against god-belief.

    I didn’t reject or embrace “godlessness” because someone was nice or mean or tolerant or intolerant. I rejected religion *because I thought it was false*.

    Look around the world and I think you’ll find that no worldview has cornered the market on jerks or morons or intolerant sob’s.

    The reason I’m an atheist doesn’t have to do with who I think is nicer. I’m an atheist because I don’t think there’s a god. To be a bit more detailed, I’m an atheist because the burden of proof is on the person who says that there’s an invisible man in the sky… and I’ve yet to see evidence sufficient to compel me to believe the supernatural claims of the various religions of the world.

    I do care about things like “niceness” and “respect” and “tolerance.” I also care about seeing those things extended to atheists… which is something this society is still earning barely passing grades at.

    But for myself, from a philosophical standpoint, I care about what is true. If the world hated me tomorrow for what I believed to be true, it wouldn’t change that belief… though I might be cowed into silence about it… as atheists have been cowed in large numbers today. But we are becoming vocal, and out, and we are a bit more noticeable these days for it.

    No religionist was particularly mean to me to make me reject religion. I just didn’t think any of it was true.

  19. I love the squirrel chapel angle! A couple times, I almost did one of those saturday night live “spit takes” while reading this. Luckily, I wasn’t drinking anything at the same time. Oh, and just to be on the safe side, a corner of my room now has several dedicatory icons (along with an assortment of nuts) as an
    offering to Sciurus Noster. The squirrel god is a fickle master, but easily placated.

  20. Michael,

    Your charge against me, I think, is that I am militantly intolerant of anyone who disagrees with me or comes from a different background. But I think the charge is mistaken in two ways.

    My first point has been more or less anticipated by ‘falterer’. I have never endorsed intolerance — much less militant intolerance — of fellow human beings. On the contrary, I said that just about anybody should be treated courteously and considerately. What I did endorse and still do endorse is not having respect for stupid and/or pernicious beliefs.

    I suspect that you and I agree on this point. I’ll illustrate with an extreme and therefore clear example. I presume that you do not respect Holocaust denial, and further, that you expect of others that they share your lack of respect. I personally would find it hard to be close friends with a Holocaust denier, or even with a non-Holocaust denier who nevertheless respected the beliefs of Holocaust deniers. This is not to say that you or I would be militantly intolerant of peaceful Holocaust deniers. On the contrary, we would hopefully treat them with the same basic level of courtesy and consideration owed to just about anybody.

    As I said, this is an extreme example. But a general lesson can be extracted from it and applied, with more or less modification, to other less extreme cases. Some people believe they have been abducted by extraterrestrials. A great many believe that God forbids interracial couples and families. Roughly half the United States believes that the universe is only several thousand years old. On the ‘stupid and/or pernicious’ scale, these beliefs don’t come too close to Holocaust denial. But they certainly are stupid and/or pernicious, and I certainly don’t have any respect for these beliefs. And, as in the case of Holocaust denial, this is no militant intolerance on my part. It’s simply a matter of having standards: distinguishing reasonable and healthy beliefs from stupid and pernicious beliefs.

    My second point is just that my lack of respect does not kick in at the slightest disagreement. On the contrary, I quite often have respect for the beliefs of those who disagree with me, because quite often there is much to be said for the opposing view. Reasonable people (even brilliant well-informed people) can reach different conclusions and it would be quite arrogant to withhold one’s respect for a belief simply because one has arrived at the contrary conclusion. But of course, there are cases where there isn’t anything to be said for the opposing view (e.g., Holocaust denial, young-earth creationism), and then (as I’ve said) lack of respect is simply a matter of having standards.

  21. From the link at Michael’s name, I don’t think you’ll make much headway on the YEC front, Dave. He’s got a website that disproves all that sciencey stuff.

    It’s a treasure-trove of stupid.

  22. To be fair, the Bible doesn’t actually say that Jesus is God. That’s one of those many wacky beliefs that the church made up over the years that isn’t actually based in their holy text.

  23. Andrew: the red squirrels are in deed very cute, and seem to be worthy of praise, but they were clearly placed on Earth as a temptation. I was inspired to write by the sight of a gray squirrel, so therefore I believe they are the chosen squirrel. All other squirrels are simply diversions.

    Kenny: “You don’t have to believe, but you should respect others that do.” I’ll have to second what Lee said: I respect the person and treat them with politeness (even kindness) while I disagree with their beliefs. That’s why I took the pamphlet (and the water) without any negative response to the people handing them out. Even my blog post (I think) shows nothing but respect for the people. Its their beliefs that I think are the problem.

    Writzer: I believe there are multiple paths to his noodliness. We do not worship squirrels, we simply take care of them as a way to serve.

  24. Aha! I knew the chipmunk cultists would eventually show up! They spread the acorns of dissension everywhere! Hey, Leslie, I don’t believe in Chip and Dale. So there!

  25. Chipmunk heretics, red squirrel splitters, gray squirrel scoundrels, FOLLOW THE GUINEA PIG! the One TRUE Rodent.

  26. Now I feel soooo much better that I didn’t get around to evicting the squirrels from my attic this weekend. Is there a way I can get them to stop gnawing on the framing without getting God mad at me?

  27. My fifteen-year-old sister’s English teacher told her that if she didn’t believe in God she was going to go to Hell.

    I can only assume her teacher means the Catholic Hell. My sister’s an agnostic. I say she’s hedging her bets :P.

  28. My 10 year old son was looking at the project to make a hard drive into a clock for a scout project. He then showed me the post and responses “What If?” My son said “Don’t these people have jobs? I think they all have way too much free time.” What a waste of brain power. I tend to agree. What If you all did something positive with your time.

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