Sunday, February 24, 2008


[Another weekend non-medical rant. Warning: may be offensive to some, but not all, believers, in that it is generally anti-religious. It does represent how I feel; questions I've asked myself and answered over the years. In the same way that my religious views never affected my practice, or devotion to my patients (except in those rare instances when people said they thought God was working through me and I responded, "I'll do my very best" or something similar) I hope readers will be able to separate this sort of post from my writings about surgery and medicine. Or will bail now before going further.]

I offer a comment on a TV show I didn't watch: having seen a preview is quite enough. The show "In God's Name" presents interviews with several heavy-hitting religious leaders, including the Pope, The Dali Lama (maybe it's unfair to lump him in, since Buddhism is about spirituality and not about deity), the Chief Rabbi of Somewhere, an Ayatollah, and a few others who aimed to address the problem of god and violence, and murder, and hatred. All were men, of course, and they spoke with the confident certitude that comes from being in direct contact with God, while likely ignoring the fact that the others were just as confident of their connection. In the preview I heard a quote from one of them which exploded inside my head and made my ears bleed.

"God must have a wonderful sense of humor," the guy said, grinning beatifically. It was in the context of someone becoming a religious spokesperson who'd formerly been a nay-sayer, or a bad person, or something. That a cleric -- or anyone, for that matter -- could look at the world and conclude that god is a jokester is what fried my brain. On the other hand, much religious thought -- especially the brands that we see becoming more and more a part of the political process -- is about seeing the world as it is not.

The mind reels. It's like walking into a crime scene, wading through body parts, and, because the perpetrator wrote "Hah hah" in blood on the wall, saying he must have a humorous streak.

God talked to George Bush and told him to invade Iraq, which has, among other hilarious things, led to the murder or displacement of most of the Christians there. Good one! He (God, not George) grants some prayers, which by definition means he chooses not to grant others. Because of him -- in his omnipotence he surely could have chosen otherwise -- children starve, or are maimed, or orphaned, by the thousands, every day, all over the world. (Stop me if you've heard this one.) He pits people against one another; he makes floods and tsunamis and earthquakes and wipes out innocents by the tens of thousands. Or, if they're not innocents, as we hear from the likes of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell (may peace be upon him), it can only be god the omni-powerful that made them that way, only to wipe them out. Then, we are told with certainty, he burns them in hell for a trillion billion gazillion years. Because, in addition to being a laugh-riot, nothing happen but that he wishes it so. (There is no logical middle ground: he chooses everything, or nothing.) Oh: but he loves us. That's the good news.

What a comedian! He makes mankind imperfect, sets up some rules to follow, knowing (by definition) that billions of people will be unable to follow them, and then sees to it that in their failure they suffer eternal punishment. Eternal. To infinity and beyond, hallelujah. (Although according to those who build the churches and collect the cash, you can live a life of sin and crime and have a deathbed conversion; or drop a dollar in a dish; or, like Jimmy Swaggart, weep and declaim, and be fine, poof, it goes away. On planet Earth some killers get off after a couple of decades. But god's "vengeance is mine" jones doesn't get satisfied after a million years or two? Pretty harsh.) And for what? Well, murder, I suppose, except when it's in his name; whacking off, I'm pretty sure; but for most, just not accepting him as their savior. Even if you live an exemplary life by all other measures, if you don't kiss his... ring, you boil and blister forever. FOREVER. Life is short, eternity is quite a bit longer. It's like giving a first-grader the SAT and jailing her for the rest of her life if she fails. This particular picture of god, which seems to place many beside themselves with self-satisfied delight -- by any reasonable criteria is one of a child abuser. If you heard of a guy who had a bunch of kids, starved them, and then threw them in a hole when they reached for food (god made rules he knows we'll break, gave us hungers he knows most can't resist), you'd call the cops for sure. Good for you, by the way. And even if you found cartoons on his hard drive, I'm thinking you wouldn't say with a chuckle (did I mention the chuckle in the preview?) what a funny guy he is.

Remember this post about a beautiful girl dying of cancer? Many honest and heartfelt and absolutely sincere comments indicated how god-loved and humbled people felt in her presence. But consider this scenario: A man tells his youngest child, "In your pain, the others will know my love. In your suffering, they will feel enriched. This honor I give to you." And then he breaks her leg. She screams in pain, but says "I know you love me, Daddy, and I know you'll stop." Then he breaks another. "I love you, Daddy," the girl shouts. "Your love is boundless, I must try to understand." And he cracks her arm. "Daddy," the girl cries, "I'll be better, your love is great, I'll always love you." The other arm goes. If you were to witness such a thing, what else would you call it but despicable and inexcusable? Wouldn't the girl's professed love pain you to your soul; make your heart break? Would you not rush in to rescue the her? Dial 911? Shoot the guy, lodge an axe in the back of his head? Surely you'd not feel privileged to have stumbled upon it; or blessed. You'd have nightmares for years. But isn't the situation exactly the same as with Gloria? Yet in the one, people are filled with love of God, and in the other -- quite properly -- they'd be enraged and sickened. Now there's a punchline!

No, whatever is true about the god of those men of god, a kidder he ain't, contumelious he is, if his hands are on the levers. Either that, or he's incompetent. Intelligent designer? Gimme a break! Cancer, diabetes, Crohn's disease, asthma. The heartbreak of psoriasis, cold sores. My mom's Alzheimer's. It would seem we're under the thumb of a pretty nasty and capricious guy, and I hope I'd have the moral fortitude to tell him so if I ever saw him. But if he's not calling those shots, then either he's disengaged, or a blunderer; in which case what are we doing worshiping him? "God works in mysterious ways," those scions say. But wait: wouldn't they agree he gave us brains? When some things are plainly nonsensical, ought we not feel empowered to say so? To find meaning and joy based on concepts that aren't contradictory and impossible on their face?

As I've said in other posts, I've witnessed as a physician the ability of belief to give comfort. (For the reasons above, it's hard to understand how the prevalent -- or at least most publicly preached -- view of god provides comfort, but belief is rarely about consistency.) In the privacy of one's thoughts, when religion assuages that "sickness unto death," I don't doubt it's a good thing. But for too many, in order to protect those impossible beliefs from being shaken, there's a need to demonize -- not to mention murder and maim -- those who don't share them. Sadly, it's the religious of that sort who are on the world stage, here and abroad.

If religion has value, I'd think it ought to be central that it maintains some connection to reality. Allows one to deal with life as it is, to give flight to our spirituality without the need simply to make stuff up and ignore the contradictions. If it gets you to look at the world and chortle at what a wiseacre god is, it's leading you too far into unreality. Religion requires one to believe in things that are disbelieved by billions of other-believers (and not to find that fact at all disquieting.) But why must it also require one to reject that which is known to be true? Like, oh, the age of the earth. Carbon dating. Science, evolution. Stuff like that.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like the old problem of evil. How can an all powerful all good God allow evil in his creation. Some religions answer the question with duality, one good and one bad God that compete. Christanity isn't a dualistic religion in the strict sense since God created the devil, so that dosen't work. Another thing to think about is the concept of omnipotence, it logically dosen't make sense that God could microwave a burrito so hot that he couldn't eat it(to paraphrase Homer Simpson), but if so then he isn't omnipotent.

Anonymous said...

I so appreciate this post. I'm a sort of agnostic in the making myself, having grown up in the traditions of the Methodist Church. But my relatives came from many points on the Judeo-Christian spectrum - from old order Mennonite (modern Amish), through Dutch Reform, Roman Catholic to conservative Jew, and when I went off to college and was exposed to people with beliefs farther afield from my knowledge base and familiarity, I began to question my beliefs in much more depth.

What I am left with is a much greater appreciation for the classic virtues, which seem to be fairly universally accepted in some iteration by most forms of organized religion. I also believe that religions served utilitarian pruposes over time - from public health proscriptions (dietary laws, hygiene), agricultural practices, education and the arts - where would we be without Catholic church-sponsored musicians and artists, and health care.

But the critical degree of lutility is probably long gone now. We have enough scientific foundation by which to adequately proscribe health practices, agricultural practices and technology development. University-based education alows for rigor in thought, research and public discussion.

If we chose to embrace the classic virtues in public government, we probably would go a lot further in advancing the common good.

I've been exploring the papers of the founders and framers, and it is extraordinary to me that they were such generous free-thinkers at a time when it would have seemed expeditious to be greedy and self-serving as oppressed British subjects. However, they were keenly aware of the importance of the social contract and social justice, and to the extent that they argued in favor of inclusion, acceptance and tolerance, I am awed at their achievements.

I hope for another age of enlightenment and restoration. I think it's important to note the use of light in those terms and in the symbolism of religions and in history.

In the meantime, I will continue to support patients' in being able to practice their religion and express their personal beliefs as they struggle to heal and recover. But I don't have to like or respect those beliefs when they are rooted in bigotry, the rejection of science and in the oppression of people.

Again, many thanks for writing this and giving voice to a prickly, yet critical, subject.

Anonymous said...

This is a very good rant, Dr. Schwab. As a past host of The Carnival of the Godless, it is the sort of post I would have killed to include. Would you consider submitting it for the next one, coming out March 2nd?

And, Annie, it takes some time and thought to move away from religion. I dream of a resurgence of the Enlightenment, but I am not optimistic that it will come quickly. We most likely will not see it in our generation as there are forces fighting it tooth and nail.

Patrick Bageant said...

My undergraduate studies were something of a 'trip and a stagger' through the humanities: first music, then political science, then english, before I finally graduated with a degree in philosophy. Philosophy's attraction was that it gave me a forum to bring my (meager) intellect to bear on what I then thought were THE genuine questions ALL humans should be asking. A lot of the material and thinkers resonated with where I was in my life at that time. I've since moved on to focus my energy on more touchable, smellable, tastable, things, but that 4-5 years of borderline-pathological obsession with figuring "it" out was a formative time. It was also a time when I was zealous as a street preacher, although a little less formal and much more harmless. Luckily, I seem to have escaped unscathed.

You are very insightful to point out that many religious theories are about seeing the world as it is NOT. They are designed to put your mind in a false reality that coincides with real-reality just enough for the believer to get by. But (for me) getting bogged down in religion, or Existentialism, or Stoicism, or (I am finding) Law, or any other belief system which says "here is how things are," chances are excellent I'll be missing out on living my life.

And that's the only religious position I feel like defending. If there is a God, He favors atheists. Why? Because they are cruising around in His world, doing the best they can and coming to the only workable conclusion with the tools He gave them. They don't snivel and whine when things don't work out, they don't ask for handouts or guidance, and they don't go around trying to speak in his name. When God made atheists, dammit if they didn't hit the ground running!

Sid Schwab said...

anonymous: yeah, that "god created the devil" thing seems like the greatest fudge in the history of religion. And the only way Christianity could be consistent would be to say god is NOT omnipotent.

annie: thanks for a very thoughtful comment

patrick: I love that last paragraph! I've always thought the highest moral ground is occupied by those who do right by the world because it's right, and not because of belief in eternal reward or fear of endless torture. Your way of saying it is perfect

mike: ok, I did.

Anonymous said...

As a frequent reader, who's going for their doctorate in psychology and one who is religious (what religion I am has no barring on this comment), I think it was interesting to hear your take on religion and the concept of omnipotence, and the "God has a sense of humour" take on it all. Some people are just morons.

I couldn't help but read because of the "DON'T READ" part. (Sorry, it's like telling someone NOT to hit the big red shiny button! It has to be done then.) It was an interesting take and I'm thankful for your post. Hasn't swayed me to go out and denounce my faith, nor has it swayed me to go out and proclaim a revolution against the atheists, but it's interesting to hear one's concept of religion in a different context, and it has been interesting to read the comments in response to this post.

Patrick---Interesting thought, atheists hitting the ground running. I never thought of it that way. Good take on the matter.

It's been an interesting read. What I believe, I do hold sacred and for me it's life giving. But ultimately, it's more important that we pay it forward, continue on the circle of good deeds and just be good people to one another. *Shrugs.* Or something.

RiddleMeThis said...

Patrick: I copy and pasted that last paragraph and emailed it to some friends because, like Dr. Schwab already stated, it is so perfectly stated.

Patrick Bageant said...

The only religious position I feel like defending doesn't even have to be defended! What a relief!

Seriously, thanks guys (and gals, as applicable) for the compliments. If you ever actually met me I'm afraid you would find I am much less insightful or quotable than I may seem. Trust me on that.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, everybody.

egomosperficio said...

great post, sid. keep fighting the good fight, i am loving your weekend blogs.

Anonymous said...

luckily we are rejecting God and religion for good hard science now and everyone is very happy. especially the people who market anti-depressants and anti-psychotics.

Sid Schwab said...

anon: interesting take. Are there data that show depression and psychosis are higher in non-believers? David Koresh? Jim Jones? The guy on the street corner telling us to repent? The fact is this country has a higher percentage of people self-identified as believers than any other Western country.

Larry said...

What an impassioned and well-written rant, Sid! Of course I say that because I agree with you! A surgeon is in a good position to see every day the manifold and tragically unfair fates of certain people in this world.

Anonymous said...

wow, those two were pretty screwed up guys. i guess you've proved your point about religious people.

one thing I don't agree with:"I've always thought the highest moral ground is occupied by those who do right by the world because it's right, and not because of belief in eternal reward or fear of endless torture."

i actually think like D Hoffman says in wag the dog- it doesn't matter how the hell you get there as long as you get there.

Sid Schwab said...

If Dustin Hoffman said it, I have to agree. In terms of result, it's certainly true. In terms of motivation, I still go with what I said.

Patrick Bageant said...

Dr. Schwab:

Off topic here. Apologies for that up front.

As you may or may not know, a California arbitrator just delivered a high profile decision in favor of an older hairdresser/mother/grandmother whose breast cancer had been treated for five years while she had to keep working. She was lured away from her insurance by a sleazy salesman who cornered her at work . . . only to have coverage subsequently revoked by the new company based on alleged discrepancies in the agent's (not her) data reporting. The discrepancies were cuaght by an insurance company employee whose bonus schedule was tied to the number of claims she could deny in a year.

The insurance company's defense was essentially, "All insurance companies do this, so it can't be that bad." It didn't fly very far: the hairdresser was awarded over nine million dollars after a finding of bad faith breach of contract.

I found the arbitration decision a rather gripping read. I think a lot of people on both sides of the admitting desk, so to speak, fail to understand what health insurance really "is" or how any insurance company maintains operations in the black. It ain't always pretty. I'm not holding the company in this decision as an example of the entire industry, but I do consider it a pretty good peek under the hood . . . . there may be differences in brand, but I'll wager an engine is an engine is an engine . . .

If you have time, the decision, which I have liked below, is a sobering look at (what I consider) a predatory relationship between insurance providers and the working poor.

Linked here.

Take care, have a good week up there,

Patrick Bageant said...

Hmmm . . . and also linked here if you are having trouble. The campus server is acting screwy . . .

scalpel said...

I don't think God interferes with free will. I believe that he created the universe, for lack of a better answer, so I have no argument with the carbon dating. Humans evolved, some were fortunate to be healthy and happy, others were destined for brief, tragic, painful, or otherwise unfortunate lives. God didn't cause the tsunami, he created the Earth which unfortunately features tsunamis occasionally. If someone is afraid of tsunamis, they would be better served by moving away from the shore than praying that a tsunami doesn't wash them away.

Just because some humans choose to justify their actions with the tacit approval of their deity of choice doesn't make religion bad or good, it just is, and on the whole it is probably more good than bad. And if some choose to blame their misfortune on the will of their deity or to be thankful to him for their good fortune, I don't see why that should bother anyone. Who knows, maybe they're right.

It's the belief that one's own religion (or lack thereof) is better than all of the others that seems to cause so many problems. I personally don't care if people shroud their women in ghostlike costumes, kneel and chant incantations, avoid certain foods, sacrifice goats on an alter, or bitch about those who do... as long as they leave me the heck alone.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to see how embittered some folks are about God. I can always sense a broken hearted pain for a disappointment they believe God has authored. If He really doesn't exist, why are they so angry, spending so much of their personal lives trying to claim He doesn't exist? Afterall, to an atheist, since this life is all there is, why waste any of it in a miserable failure-bound effort to convince others of God's non-existence? I personally have forever to live joyfully free of this imperfect earth, this life being but a mist that exists for a while and evaporates. God told us in Micah 6:8 what the whole duty of mankind was and yet our fellow men still act as if totally unmoved and disinterested in His plan. 400 years following Micah's pronouncement, God emptied Him/Herself of God-privilege to become one with us in the form of the most helpless of all humans, a squirming, totally dependent infant boy born to lowly parents in an animal cave. He grew in stature and truth, walking among us simply so He could intimately relate to mankind and then show Perfect, Sacrificial Love, only able to come from His implanted-in a-virgin-Perfect-Body, revealing to us our depravity toward each other and especially the innocent. It is quite easy to look for others to blame for our selfish, depraved thoughts, actions and diseased world. In the end we all have to face the same decision...physical death quickly followed by meeting our Maker, whether we deny Him on earth or not. The very nature around us shows us glimpses of the Lord's intended beauty for us....we are the stewards of it so it is no wonder there has been much deterioration even if you don't believe we humans were responsible for bringing rebellion and sin into the world. We cannot earn our way to an eternal spiritual reward following physical death but since sin pays an enormously painful paycheck both here and on the other side of physical death, I'm putting my faith and trust in the only One who could pay my spiritual debt for me. This isn't through blind faith since there were many witnesses documented to His resurrected life around 33AD. There are documented countless followers who have willingly been martyred for the sake of His Name and trust in His Power....mind you, those humble martyrs did not kill others along with them in some perverted last ditch effort to become a smarmy, smalltime hero but instead blessed their own murderers as they were burned and maimed. There is a contemporary author you may care to read, if only to see if you can disprove him, an MU J-school educated investigative reporter formerly with the Chicago Tribune, Lee Stroebel. He was the classic atheist that made as his goal the denial and humiliation of those he believed were weak-willed-illogical Christians. The Case for Christ is but one of his books to date. May godly Wisdom have her delight in you!

Anonymous said...

Anon: "If He really doesn't exist, why are they so angry, spending so much of their personal lives trying to claim He doesn't exist?"

I think you're seeing something that's not really there.

A very very large contingent of Christians believes it is their life's duty to convince every person they can that without a full and sincere belief in God one will suffer for eternity.

It would appear that agnostics and atheists are essentially answering such statements by suggesting that this conceptual God that is being thrust upon them throughout their lives is some sort of a sick joke.

I don't think this is out of anger toward the God, nor out of a sense of betrayal, but rather a smack back at the humans who would tell us we are worthless and damned for not believing as they do.


Sid Schwab said...

scalpel: The problem -- and the reason I've gone from decades of "to each his own" to this sort of rant, is that currently believers of the most vehement type are not "leaving me the heck alone." They are trying to foist their beliefs into our schools; they would dumb down (even further) our educational standards in favor of rejecting science that threatens their beliefs, which endangers our future; they conclude God tells them to invade other countries; they fly into towers.

anonymous 7:35 am: I appreciate your taking the time to comment. It's not inconsistent to be an atheist and angry, any more than to be a believer and full of hate. You mention martyrs. There was also the inquisition, the Crusades, the writings of Martin Luther about Jews. I'm angry because of what I pointed out in the comment addressed above to scalpel. Because certain obviously inconsistent and impossible beliefs are entering into the public square in increasingly dangerous ways. There's more than enough room in one's home and church for them... Your beliefs obviously give you comfort and help you get through life, and that's a good thing. It's also nice that if they are wrong, you'll never be troubled with having to find out.

Patrick: that story is known up here, too. It's a worthy subject and I appreciate the link. May even use it as post-fuel. Thanks.

MedStudentGod (MSG) said...

Often times I hear people say that "god will take care of me" and do nothing themselves. I wonder why they feel that something that they've never seen would give a crap about them. Others believe that everything wrong in their life is due to the devil. Of course, Satan was a child of God, cast down, but still a creation of God. Therefore, isn't it really God whose screwing with your life?

Religion is simply a means to control people through fear. Nothing more.

scalpel said...

It's a free country; nobody says we have to enroll our children in the public schools. I'm personally amused when the church of Christ battles the Church of secular socialists. And I'm personally thankful that we had a president who decided to kick the asses of those who would attack us. It was a refreshing change from the (in)actions of his predecessor, who obviously had other things on his, um, mind.

Sid Schwab said...

"It's a free country; nobody says we have to enroll our children in the public schools."

Wow. Pretty much says it all. Pretty much establishes the level of validation for what follows.

gay CME guy said...

Another great post Sid! I'm sorry I didn't log on this weekend. Last fall, I had an ongoing discourse with The Angry Medic, over this very issue. I don't think the link is worth posting.
Anecdotally, from various blog readings, I find it interesting the number of us former methodists who have become agnostic or atheist.
Just last week, I sent out a missive email to a number of family members, as one had sent out an email blast claiming that Barack Obama is Muslim. I blasted them for the ignorance of the issue first of all, and then identified the similarities between, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, as well as the hypocracy of the current administrations 'beliefs vs actions.
The people who know me the best, know that I don't 'believe' in prayer. IF someone asks me to 'pray for them', I tell them I will keep them in my thoughts and send good 'karma' their way, but that I cannot pray for them. I could go on, but won't as it's not my blog. Thanks for generating another provocative post Sid.

scalpel said...

I don't understand your comment, but I would add that I'm almost as disturbed by the liberal indoctrination at our universities as you are by, well, whatever it is you are disturbed about with our secondary schools. But really, none of that really matters. People eventually make up their own minds.

Sid Schwab said...

scalpel: I respect you and don't want to get into a major dustup. But what I meant was that the comment about people not having to go to public school was pretty stunning, given the fact that only people like you and me can afford the option; and it would seem to say that polluting schools with religion is just fine: people who don't like it can just leave. As to the liberal slant at universities: as Stephan Colbert said, "Facts have a well-known liberal bias. And I chose not, given the blantancy of the "choice" comment, to point out that Saddam never had the means to attack us. And those that did, and do even more now (by the gov'ts own statements), are not deterred by the Iraq debacle. Quite the opposite. Kick ass policy, indeed.

Not Important said...

Dr. Schwab,

Thanks again for another enlightening post. I kind of view religion like I view smoking - not in my house, and warn me ahead of time where it's going to be so I can avoid it.

scalpel said...

The dead ones have been deterred. I don't think al-Zarqawi, Saddam, or his sons are a threat to anyone anymore, except perhaps to those whose nasal passages might be offended by the stench of their rotting bodies. The captured ones have been deterred. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has plotted his last attack.

My kids go to public school, btw, and so did I. But everyone has choices. My sister homeschools her three sons, and her husband isn't monetarily wealthy. We all have choices, most of us just choose the easiest way to do things.

mark's tails said...

What has always fascinated me about religion is that most people interpret their religion in a way that suits them, meaning they may make concessions or rationalizations. For example birth control in Catholicism. Which is fine since it seems that the people who tend to interpret their religious books literally are the ones that tend to be extremists.

Scalpel, as an aside the predecessor did try to send a Cruise missile to Osama but the Republicans accused him of detracting from the more important 'national crisis', his encounter with an intern. So who's really to blame?

scalpel said...

Are you saying those awful Republicans prevented President Clinton from exercising the duties of his office? How dare they!

mark's tails said...

not in the least. all I'm saying is that there are two sides to every story but so often we get so locked into our own beliefs and biases that we forget or ignore the other side.

True of religion, true of politics.

Anonymous said...

In the big God debate instead of saying "I disagree" one should say "I don't understand" and try and get good reasoning from the other side. Reading through these posts there are no good arguments on either side. It's nice to know a surgeon is just as dopey as the rest of us when he is off topic. If it makes you mad, don't switch on the "God" channel.

COI: Practicing RC

Sid Schwab said...

anonymous: I think I made some pretty strong arguments in the post. If you disagree, why not take them on directly? Point out where I'm mistaken?

#1 Dinosaur said...

Whew! Lay low for one weekend and look at all the hoopla I miss.

If you want to see something about religion that really is funny, check out Mr. Deity. (Not taking sides here; just offering genuine laughs.)

Sid Schwab said...

dino: I've seen a couple of those. Genuinely funny and very witty. And, in a strange way, sorta non-partisan. Thanks for the link.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. I've been a "closet Atheist" for a long time now. I don't ever mention it publicly as it just seems to lead to trouble for myself and my children. I hope if more people are as outspoken about it as you that perhaps I will be able to "come out".

Anonymous said...

I'm a couple days behind. Last weekend it was politics, this weekend religion... can you take on the death penalty, spanking,etc. next?

I saw that show. I'm sorry that you did not see the entire show. It pointed out many interesting points from different religions. The filmakers (Naudet brothers) were asking questions after personally experiencing 9/11. I do remember the faith leader speaking that "God must have a sense of humor". I recall that the subject matter was not of evil that occurs yet the crazy things that just happen sometimes. I see it more like when I have my kids play pin-the-tail on the donkey or we watch American Funniest Home videos. You know the guys throwing a pitch to the little guy who hits it right back into that not so great area! We all laugh when someone falls from being a goofball. If you don't laugh at those times then you are lying!!

I'm a former atheist now a member of the United Methodist Church. My Muslim and Buddhist friend called it my moment of enlightenment and my Christian friend call it a revelation. Before my conversion I read the entire Bible. The thing that hit me was in the Old Testament God at times order everyone to be killed. I don't find that funny. Why? Was God laughing the day/year(s) of my own sexual abuse? I don't think so. Why did He allow it? I don't know. I don't have the answers. I don't claim to have the answers. I don't force my religion on individuals. Nor do I ask anyone to take it away from me. Me and my other Muslim, Buddist, Jewish, atheist friends all agree on that. To quote the Sunni Muslim leader (sorry can't remember his exact title) from that show, "I pray that God has the reasonable people outnumber the fools." ( I think he was referring to the terroist acts.)

I've enjoyed your blog and continue to enjoy it. I found your blog as my husband is a surgeon and I thought he might like it. His response, "I don't have the time. What surgeon has the time for a blog?" "He is retired." "Oh okay. But what about the people responding?" Pager goes off... "see, I don't have the time." I'm a stay-at-home mom who enjoys having someone make me think. Thanks!!

Sid Schwab said...

anonymous 8:58 am: I sympathize with your husband. There's absolutely no way I'd have the time or energy to do this if I were still working full time. There's one surgeon-blogger who posts daily, often more than once, and frequently with enormously long posts. I like his stuff. He happens to be a part clinical/part research university doc. I conclude it's a pretty soft life, his version of it, anyway.

I bet you and your friends must have some really interesting religious discussions. I'd like to listen in.

Anonymous said...

Sid: My mother taught me to always be respectful. In her words, "you can always make your point in a respectful manner". That is how I and my friends discuss... with respect.

CrimsonFrank said...

Fascinating and eloquent arguments Dr. Schwab. This has been a frequent topic of discussion recently. My wife noted few months ago, that the longer I am in surgical training (R4 now), the less faith I have. For various personal medical reasons here faith is very different than it was in the past as well, so this works out well in terms of less marital conflict.

I have to say that within the last few months I am identifying more and more as agnostic (this from a Southern Baptist upbringing). In much the same vein as this article I would HIGHLY recommend Christopher Hitchens' "God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything" as a powerful and extended reasoned discourse by one of the current great (if controversial) American/British intellectuals of our time. Dr. Schwab, I believe you especially would enjoy it; as a writer for the general public I think you enjoy his command of language and clever turns of phrases.

Sid Schwab said...

Frank: high praise indeed!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if he's up there with Hitchens, but there was a fellow called Doestovesky who wrote a book called "The Brothers Karamazov". Although some Jewish people have problems with D. it is worth a read.

Koresh and Jones represent religion about as well as Mugabe represents medicine.

Why are mild mannered believers tarred with the same brush as narrow fanatics?

Anonymous said...

sorry mengele!!! not mugabe. i wonder what the medical board thought of him. very high malpractice premiums

Sid Schwab said...

I mentioned Koresh and Jones in response to a commenter who implied that atheism is good for manufacturers of antipsychotics... It's quite typical of schizophrenia to have religious delusions. I don't think it's true of atheists. In any case, I don't have a problem at all with "mild mannered" believers, if by those you mean ones who don't feel the need to thrust their views on others and who don't like the thought of people who disagree burning in hell. Or dying on earth. I do have a problem with young-earthers and evolution-deniers, even if mild, because it suggests a need to reject what is known to be true, in order to hold on to their beliefs. That, mild mannered or not, threatens us all, to the extent that such ideas enter and get a foothold in the public square.

SeaSpray said...

What are young earthers?

I wrote a really long comment today(you know brevity with comments is not my strong suit)in response to your post and some of the comments here. Probably the longest comment I would have put anywhere ever. That is because so much has been said both in your post and by the commenters...all most interesting and some of it grieved me to think that certain opinions are held that just sheer logic and fairness would say the comments were inaccurate. I promise you all that I as a Christian do not fall into those generalizations. I never have, never would and never could.

I wanted to defend a couple of things and maybe explain a few others but I decided to shelve it for now because this is not my blog. I can do it on my own if I feel it is that important. Also people have their belief systems and it is not my intent to proselytize. Nor do I want to alienate you or your readers. I like, respect and enjoy you all.

Dr S...Your post did not offend me. Even though we have some differing view points I can appreciate where you are coming from and your anger because of how you perceive certain areas of faith. If I perceived things that way I would be angry too and I think it is great to question and not blindly accept something that doesn't make sense to you. Why should you? That would be strange and inappropriate.

There is one comment that I may come back to address because it escapes all logic and fairness. It jest ain't so I tell you! ;)

Theological discussions are my favorite kind and they can get really deep.

For can learn so much from just one biblical scripture. Of course you can learn by reading the entire bible, a chapter or a paragraph but even in just one scripture there can be so many layers of meaning to it and it will breathe life into you. One scripture can speak for the past, the present and the future. You can come back to that same scripture on another day and get a totally different god inspired revelation. Now multiply that times all the recorded scriptures in the Bible. It might be why they call it the Living Word. I heard Billy Graham say back in the 70s that he could study the bible for the next 40 years and he still wouldn't know everything there is to know. You would think since it is his life's work that he would have all the answers but no he doesn't because there is constantly new revelations. There is so much information that our finite minds have yet to's exciting. :)

I hope I didn't offend anyone with that ...just sharing a little of my awe and personal observation. That isn't what I wrote today or yesterday now.

Sid Schwab said...

seaspray: "young earthers" are people who believe, based on the bible, that the earth is only a few thousand years old -- rejecting very basic science in order to maintain that belief.

If you want a good example of why Billy Graham says he could study the bible for a lifetime and not know it, check this out.

Ros said...

"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."

Stephen Roberts

It's always very confusing to me that people can clearly see Scientology is a bunch of bunk, and even make fun of Tom Cruise, then proceed to their Church and eat Christ crackers or nod their heads about the boat that carried a billion life forms.

Still, if they'd leave me alone, I'd leave them alone, only their gods won't let them off that easy. Viral memes don't spread on their own, they have to be indoctrinated into children at the earliest possible age.

Enjoyed your post. :)

Sid Schwab said...

ros: that's an excellent and deceptively profound and comprehensive quote. I'd not heard it before. Thanks.

SeaSpray said...

Hahahaha! You GOT me!! At first I got sucked in... thinking -what the heck??? This guy's no Billy Graham and he's awful! Pisseth...LOL! didn't see my last post in January that explains why men can pee standing up and God said it was ok. ;)

I now have images of all men, particularly the German men... peeing sitting down. Lol!

Sid Schwab said...

actually, I think it's completely serious: the guy is preaching from the bible, and completely misunderstands the implication. It's not, in fact, a joke, other than the fact that it shows how reading the bible is subject to pretty much any interpretation you (or at least this nutcase) might choose.

SeaSpray said...

Even the popular Biblical belief is that Adam and Eve existed about 6000 years ago. About 4000 yrs old testament and 2000 new testament.

Here is where some people differ. Some things are to be taken literally but others figuratively.

Some people may disagree but one interpretation I heard and it was by an astrophysicist who at 16 set out to disprove the bible and by the time he got somewhere in Genesis he realized there was a God. His theory was that man most certainly existed priory to Adam and Eve but that he was more of a soulish creature but without spirit. In other words a dog has a soul but not a spirit. But at the time of Adam and Eve, God breathed his spirit into man and that is what makes us eternal beings. I have never heard anyone else say that but I do think it is feasible. i know even some people of faith might vigorously disagree with me.

But it comes down to faith in the end. I don't have to prove God's existence to believe in him. I know what you perceive as blind faith is what makes some of you crazy about all of this. But for anyone who has had a faith/God experience, you know that you know God is real. And it is not just one little thing...there are multiple things learned, witnessed, experienced. When something that powerful is internalized into your being which is where your spirit can't help to feel the connection and understanding.

There is a saying...that some people know of God but some other people know him. There are people that have gone to church all their lives but they don't know God. They learned all the lessons, they follow the rules, they go to Church every Sunday. They have comfort in that they are doing the "right" thing but they don't know him. Conversely, you could have someone that rarely or never goes to church but the developed a personal relationship with God and so not only do they have head knowledge but they have heart knowledge. That is the key. That is where someone seeking to know God will experience spiritual growth.

No one can force faith on a person. Well I guess they have tried and cruelly so...but that was ALWAYS wrong. Even if you imprison someone, you can't control his spirit. That is between man and God. God does not force himself on anyone...people do that.

So anyone...anyone...can know God "if" they want to. All they have to do is ask and sincerely look into information and he will open your spiritual eyes.

I would be curious to hear from atheists that have become believers in God and why.

One of my favorite ER docs of all time was an atheist. We had some stimulating conversations. I have also worked with doctors that do believe in God and one cardiologist I know very actively involved in his church and community. And there are docs on the web who believe in God.

These doctors had the same scientific training that you educated non believing folks have had.

I would be curious to know what the difference is. Why with all their science background do they still believe in God?

Please be patient with SeaSpray. She means no ill will. That is a sincere question.

SeaSpray said...

C' way is he real! ???

Yes you are right...subject to interpretation. I have heard the best of theologians disagree on some issues. But, there are still some basic truths that they would be in agreement with.

Humans are fallible.

You are a stellar surgeon. But let's say you have an assistant in the surgery that does something wrong and because of his mistake you get pulled into the accusation or mix -up because he is connected to you. Your name is now getting tarnished by association. Not fair and even wrong. And it doesn't negate the fact that you are a good surgeon who holds yourself to the highest standards. People are now associating you with the other surgeon. Maybe that isn't a good analogy. Every profession as their nut jobs but what is the real message or standard of the profession.

If he is real...sigh.

(This isn't what I wrote yesterday)
Mnaybe I will come back and address one comment to your post.

Sid Schwab said...

"Why with all their science background do they still believe in God?"

I posted my theory here.

Anonymous said...

Religion is the most powerful inspiration to lead a good life. Even more so than money in my opinion. Of course it depends what we mean by good.

The world would be better if more people went by "Treat others as you would like to be treated" instead of "Show me the money!".

Do you think we should ban religion like China and Russia? Or do you you believe in free speech only for the rational. Remember also Popper's graveyard of dead scientific theories. Many medical treatments are not proven effective. Have you read the book "Overtreated"?

If you argue that man is fallible, why do you get upset with religious people who fail sometimes?

mark's tails said...

Seaspray (and with all due respect to Sid, I hope you don't mind me jumping in here), as a physician and a scientist who has jumped between believing and not believing at various stages of my life.

"Why with all their science background do they still believe in God?"

Albert Einstein wrote:
"Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind."

This link
is to a national geographic article on science and religion.

"Like other scientists of faith, Primack, who is Jewish and reads the Bible regularly, argues that the Bible must not be taken literally, but should be read allegorically."

As I mentioned in an earlier comment on this post "..most people interpret their religion in a way that suits them, meaning they may make concessions or rationalizations. For example birth control in Catholicism. Which is fine since it seems that the people who tend to interpret their religious books literally are the ones that tend to be extremists.

I hope the above link provides some insight to your question Seaspray.

Sid Schwab said...

I would not ban religion. I believe in free speech. The reason some medical treatments are found ineffective is that they are subjected to testing and scientific analysis. The ones that weren't in the past, are now. That's a good thing. I get upset only at the religious failures who try to foist their beliefs on others, or who use their beliefs to harm others or deny them their rights. Or who use them to justify invading other countries. If a person needs to believe magical and contradictory things to get through life, it's fine by me; really and truly. As long as it's between them and their religion. It's when their certainty in their beliefs is threatened by the other beliefs of others that we get into problems. Big ones. Religion may well be a "powerful inspiration to lead a good life." It's also been a justification for some of the worst atrocities in the history of the world. That's not just "failing."

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I dislike religous fanatics who go round killing people as well. Can't say I've ever met any in real life though, and I've met a lot of people.

About the Iraq invasion thing: it didn't happen because of god's words. And if it did does this mean that Bush is insane and not responsible for his actions? Isn't that a medical problem.

Sid Schwab said...

Working in emergency rooms, I in fact have met a couple. And I've heard of some, too. Jim Jones; Osama bin Laden; the folks in Salem, MA; James C Kopp; the Crusaders; the Spanish Inquisitors. The KKK. The people who killed Matthew Shepherd...

And it was George Bush himself who said God spoke to him about invading Iraq.

Anonymous said...

Specifically then, what is your point?

If religion causes insanity surely we are ethically required to ban it.

And was Bush responsible if he was hearing voices?

Are ER fanatics typically religious or on meth benders?

Sid Schwab said...

My point was answering your comment about not knowing religious people who kill. The people to whom I referred in the ER were quoting the bible, even as they were being held down by the cops. I don't know that religion causes insanity, nor did I say that. It could well be the other way around: the belief in imaginary things, hearing voices, creating complex but incoherent belief-systems are characteristics of paranoid schizophrenia. And whaddya know? Of religion, too. I don't think we can ban insanity, much as it would be desirable. We can treat it, though. Similarly, if we can keep religion in the homes and churches, it might well be enough to protect our society.

Anonymous said...

OK freedom of speech only allowed in homes and churches. I won't taint this comments page any longer.

But I do very much enjoy reading your medical posts Doc. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

"Similarly, if we can keep religion in the homes and churches, it might well be enough to protect our society."

Please say you didn't say that. I've always valued and respected your opinion.But that statement lost value. Protect from what? Our founding fathers found the ability to pursue happiness was quite important. A major reason for our declaration of independence was freedom of speech. Now you taint it with a statement denying someone their ability to express their religion. I'm the former agnostic now Methodist that is speechless. I'm not trying to take away your rights please do not try to take away mine. I do understand where you come from as I've been there. I don't want someone to take away your, mine, anyone's ability to find truth. No matter what the outcome might be. Sorry, this gets me heated. I don't try to beat my religion into someone's head/heart but I want stand for people who don't allow me to expres myself. This is an area where me, and all my other religious and non-religious friends agree. I can play devil's advocate here and say well put your statement to your blog. This is a public domain so keep it out and I'm protected as well. Just depends on how you see it. No disrespect intended just my ability to vent.

Sid Schwab said...

The statement, if poorly worded, was in the context of several prior comments: my point was that it's when religion becomes part of the political process that it's dangerous: whether it's trying to get creationism into schools and evolution out, or wanting to amend the Constitution to keep some people from having rights, or when presidents think God tells them to invade Iraq, or people fly into buildings to carry out God's will. That's what I meant. The comment that followed mine, saying I was against free speech was gratuitous, and surely must have known what I actually meant. I'll say it again: I'm perfectly fine with religion and religious people. There's a minister in my family. I've said it seems to help face critical illness, etc. I'm not fine with people who need to force their religion onto others, or who use it as a reason to attack or degrade others. I bet you don't disagree with that.

Anonymous said...

Sid: Your right I don't disagree with that. I do believe that people have free will and the power of choice. I do think that creationism, the Big Bang Theory and evolution should all be taught. My kids know it. I believe in laying out all the options. I've never spoken with God directly. I can't say if someone did or didn't speak to Him since I have no experience in that. I do agree that politics should not use religion to force their ideals on others. That can get sticky. Ammending the Constitution is a very big thing. When do you draw the line? A dear friend of mind told me to each year read the Constitution, Bill of Rights as it will remind of the great nation that I live in (he is now a US citizen) Thank goodness for the first amendment that addresses the rights of freedom of religion that prohibits Congress to excercise the right over another religion to protect the freedom of religion. That is why you and I can say what we please.

Anonymous said...

Personally I believe that the religious have two rights. The right to go to church and the right to preach in their home. The moment they breach that into a public area I think they should be hospitalized. Not only for being a believer but for believing it's a great idea to bore the butt off of complete strangers. Only a delusional person believes that confronting and invading another persons private space is the definition of "good works".
We have to protect them from someone who cannot resist the urge to beat them senseless with their copy of the watchtower.
To those that come to your door spouting their delusions I believe we have the right to defend ourselves and shooting them should be legal. I think that should keep the Latter day saints and their jehovah witness friends at bay for a while.
See I don't believe you do have the right to come into public spouting your very own delusions...cause come on all you good christians tell us how you would feel if a Muslim knocked on your door and presented you with a copy of the Koran and rolled out their prayer rug on your front step...
I can just hear you all defending it as free speech hahahahahahaha. Scalpel would probably shoot them thinking he was being attacked by Osama.
The fact is all religious people are hypocrites. I haven't met a "good christian" yet. All the ones I have met are just like scalpel and his buddies.
There is no difference between a "good christian" and a radical muslim. Both groups hate and hate well. Hell, both groups have made hate an art form and both groups can justify their hate with bible verses.
That is the real reason people just love religion. Their books gives them backup when they go about the business of murdering. Their books explain oh so clearly who needs killing and why.
Religion is permission to hate.
And boy aren't we very, very good at hating anyone or anything that ain't us.
Too bad these books don't spend chapters and chapters talking about how important it is to love and accept, to be tolerant and kind, to understand...oh right..that's the part the fundamental believers always skip over.
And to scalpel I am so glad it thrills you that George Bush killed people, nothing like bombing children in their bed is there? Don't you just feel so damn safe? I mean it's really all about you isn't it? I would hate for you to feel uneasy about there anyone else who needs murdering so you can sleep easier? Just ask George, I am sure he would be happy to kill a few hundred thousand more. I mean it's only fair right? Those SAUDI men that killed three thousand Americans should equal killing a few hundred thousand Iraqi and Afghani woman and children and oh about four thousand young American men and women.
I mean it's an eye for an eye right? So what if they killed three thousand and we killed three hundred thousand. It's just to make the world a much safer place...well only for Americans. The rest of the world can cower in terror cause America is just so bad ass and God wants it that way.We know this because God told George.

And what makes it all even juicier is the fundamentals have infiltrated the medical system. Soon you wont be able to get an abortion anywhere, birth control will be impossible to find, how about getting your tubes tied? Nope..the list will be endless because God told your doctor and your nurse and your pharmacist they aren't allowed to provide care..God will soon be everyones doctor..isn't that great!!!Don't worry about those doctors who try to provide the care. The good christians will murder them in their own kitchens in front of their wives and children.That'll teach 'em.
Don't it just make you feel so safe.

SeaSpray said...

Hi Anonymous 12:16am- I am sorry to hear you feel that way about all people of faith.

Generalizations aren't fair or accurate and logically we know that everyone doesn't always do something or never does something.

My head was about to implode with all the things I wanted to share as I read through your statements. :)

In response to what you said here: "Too bad these books don't spend chapters and chapters talking about how important it is to love and accept, to be tolerant and kind, to understand...oh right..that's the part the fundamental believers always skip over."

Read about the things Jesus actually said and did. Read the new testament. The chapter of John is known as the love chapter. But read the new testament and then know that is the example people that profess their faith in Christ are supposed to follow. People make mistakes. His message was about love...his love for much so that he willingly sacrificed his own life even though he had done nothing wrong. He was given opportunity to get out of the situation and save his life but he did not defend himself at all. He also didn't take anyone with him. He died alone for the faith. He said he came to set the captives free (from legalism is my understanding)he said the greatest commandment was to love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. If someone strikes you..turn and give them the other cheek. if you have two coats, give one away. He healed the sick, fed the poor and hung out with the outcasts and unpopular. he encouraged the people to not worry or be afraid but in faith to know that God loves them and will look out for them. he never said there wouldn't be persecutions and problems but to know that through those times God was still with them and to know that there is hope. His message was love and that all people are valuable in God's sight. And yes he talked about the importance of salvation. BUT...he did not force it on anyone.

None of that is verbatim as I admittedly am being lazy right now in looking up exact quotes.

Also, If a Muslim came to my door to convert me...I would do what I always do with a Jehovah's Witness. I would thank them for their concern and time and wish them well. Respectfully and with a warm smile.

Somewhere either in the post or comments (being lazy again - just so much to read through now) someone commented on Christians try to convert people so they can earn rewards in heaven.

No...that is not the reason they evangelize and try to get the word out.

First of all if you interviewed various Christians you would find that some believe there is a hell and some don't. There are many denominations and degrees (not sure that is the word to use)of faith.

But for the ones who do believe the Teachings of Jesus when he warned people about it...THAT is why they do it.

They believe that if you don't ask Christ to be your savior, that you will miss out on eternal salvation and yes...spend eternity in hell.

Just remember..."I" didn't write the book...I am only explaining from my perspective. And boy oh boy...isn't that a line drawn in the sand and I believe why people are offended by this message. You can mention any other God and no one is offended but if you say the word Jesus and not as a swear word...people start backing out of the room and now days I guess you could even say it's not even PC. The latter is just an observation and not at all saying other people think that.

But I digress.

So the reason Christians who believe in both heaven and hell try to convert people is because to is akin to rescuing someone in a burning building. They care about there fellow man and are trying to save others and point the way to eternal life in heaven.

I am no expert...that is only my understanding. If anyone out there thinks I misrepresented something then please correct me. I would never want to perpetuate any thing that is not true or misrepresent Christians.

BTW...if anyone thinks I am a holier than thou type...LOL...suffice it to know I am as human as the next person and consider myself a work in progress. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for using the word "contumelious." For the first time in quite a while, I had to go to the dictionary to completely appreciate a blog post.

SeaSpray said...

*I just want to say first that I am in no way singling out the 2 people involved in the missions that I mention, over any of the other people of all faiths, past and present who have also helped people in need through various means and circumstances.
*I used quotes from an article (2002) on the 1st page I googled. I have a wicked sore throat brewing or I would’ve taken the time to search for something more current.
The following is a quote from a commenter to this post: "And that's the only religious position I feel like defending. If there is a God, He favors atheists. Why? Because they are cruising around in His world, doing the best they can and coming to the only workable conclusion with the tools He gave them. They don't snivel and whine when things don't work out, they don't ask for handouts or guidance, and they don't go around trying to speak in his name. When God made atheists, dammit if they didn't hit the ground running!"

First of all, God through his word states that he is "no respecter of persons." God loves us ALL equally...believer and nonbeliever.

There are many wonderful people of ALL faiths doing wonderful work in the name of God. They sacrifice their time, energy, money, and sometimes their lives for the purpose of helping other people.
One DOES NOT have to believe in God to do good...but certainly because one does believe in God does not preclude them from the ability to ever do good. Where is the logic in that?

As far as asking for handouts...those handouts help to feed, house and clothe the poor, bringing medicine and education to them as well as dig wells, build hospitals, schools and so much more. Even bringing shoe boxes of toys, tooth brushes and school supplies to poverty stricken children for Christmas.

One organization I am thinking of is Sumaritan’s Purse. The following is a quote from an article on the web: “Samaritan’s Purse, headed by Franklin Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham, works in more than 100 countries around the world, helping victims of disasters, war, poverty, disease, famine, and persecution. In 2000 and 2001, Samaritan’s Purse was recognized by SmartMoney magazine as the most efficient religious charity in the United States.”

Here is just one example of how people of faith risk their lives for the good of their fellow man: ”BOONE, N.C., Sept. 26, 2002—The Government of Sudan’s jet bombers killed 13 civilians—including four children—in an attack Saturday, Sept. 21, on Lui, a village in southern Sudan where Boone, N.C.-based Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief organization, operates a hospital." (Hasn’t our own government been remiss in getting involved here and yet these people are living it…risking their lives, everyday with the people in Sudan?)

(March 4th, 2000- the hospital was bombed along with 8 other targets in the village.)

“The 80-bed surgical hospital in Lui, opened by Samaritan’s Purse in 1997, is the only advanced medical care for the more than 400,000 people who live within a two-week walk of Lui. More than 40 international doctors have served there, including Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). Besides the hospital, the only other significant building in Lui is an Anglican church damaged by bombs during Christmas week of 2000.”

I did try to find something current about the hospital today but unable to find anything, but as I stated previously…I am feeling under the weather. Anyone interested could go directly to the Samaritan’s Purse site to learn more about the organization.

How about Mother Theresa who dedicated her life to helping the poor in India and was recognized for her efforts by being awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize?

These people are't/weren't atheists.

And yes...there has been corruption through the ages in the church, but you have that in every profession because you are dealing with fallible humans making wrong and greedy choices.

Church missions as well as individual faith based missions do a lot of good around the world and if they ever stopped...there would be millions and millions more people suffering. Atheists are in the minority as compared to the number of people of all faiths.

Since atheists are in the minority,even if every single atheist were to kick in their resources of time, money, talents and energy for charity,I don't see how they could possibly accomplish all the good that people of all faiths have accomplished, especially without ever ASKING for a donation in whatever form. We don't live in a vacuum and we need each other… regardless of chosen faiths or not.

I hope this didn’t offend anyone. As always I welcome correction or additional enlightenment if I have misunderstood or misrepresented anything here. :)

Anonymous said...


"And it is not just one little thing...there are multiple things learned, witnessed, experienced. When something that powerful is internalized into your being which is where your spirit can't help to feel the connection and understanding."

It's called "delusion".

Anonymous said...


"I do believe that people have free will and the power of choice. I do think that creationism, the Big Bang Theory and evolution should all be taught."

But that is _exactly_ the problem. Teaching creationism, which is most definitely _not_ science, not even in it's latest "ID" incarnation, in the science classroom amounts to nothing less than forced religious indoctrination.

This is precisely why we atheists are so angry at religious people. If they were content of preaching in their houses and churches, so be it. But when you try to pass your special brand of delusion for science, that's when we see red we have to say "STOP!" We don't want you to indoctrinate our children in stupidity and delusion. We don't want you to poison their minds.

Anonymous said...

To the first commentator: he could wait for the super hot burrito to cool down.

A word of support for our "Young Earthers": God can make something that has the quality of having always existed.

Q.Why do atheists always provoke rather than practice tolerance? A.Because they have inferior ethics.

Where did the big bang material come from? Consult Hitchens.

Sid Schwab said...

anonymous: I think I explained why I feel less tolerant of late. But I don't think it's true that atheists "provoke." They point out the obvious fallacies, and some find it too provocative. It's like Harry Truman said about the "give 'em hell" moniker: "I don't give them hell. I speak the truth, and they think it's hell." And I'd say (in fact, I did say) that it's superior ethics to behave properly only because it's right, rather than because of belief in eternal reward or perpetual punishment. Much superior. On the other hand, as another commenter said, if the result is the same, what's the difference? Well, not much, other than it's more ethical. And why do you need to invoke God if you accept that the universe could have always existed? To "create" something that always existed seems an oxymoron. Still, I'm happy to have believers believe whatever they need to believe to survive, as long as they don't insist that those beliefs become accepted by others.

SeaSpray said...'s called "faith".

Rebecca.Boardman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebecca.Boardman said...

HA - I removed the previous post because I had too many misspellings and I looked like an uneducated boob.

To sum it up:
I agree 100% with Dr. Schwab.

Whatever questions/concerns I have with religion/faith I will need to muddle through on my own. Our founding fathers had the foresight (God given or Inspired I might add) to write into our Constitution that we may all believe what we choose to believe - as long as we harm no one and as long as do not make a nuisance of ourselves. But - keep it out of government, keep it out of school, and keep it out of your neighbors face unless you are invited in for a discussion about the topic.

Agnostic - yes indeed. My personal beliefs are just that - personal. There is a God - but what my definition of God is and how He/She/It fits into things is as individual as my DNA.

Anonymous said...

I like the line from the movie the usual suspects, " The greatest trick the devil ever pulled, was convincing the world he didn't exist, and just like that, he's gone...."


Moving this post to the head of the list, I present a recently expanded sampling of what this blog has been about. Occasional rant aside, i...