Atheist James Kirk Wall replies to Christian T.C. Howitt

T.C. Howitt is a Bible-believing Christian who writes for a blog called Oil for Light. Howitt took issue with my article, A jealous God is insane and wrote the following reply "Christian T.C. Howitt strikes back at atheist James Kirk Wall." This is my response.

First I would like to begin by thanking T.C. Howitt for his formal response. Argumentation is a necessary process for finding truth. In the serious business of deciding verdicts in our court system, we use both the Socratic Method and the scientific method. Although not perfect as dishonesty, incompetence or corruption can cause any system to fail; our society believes that cross examination combined with empirical evidence is the best method of determining innocence or guilt. I hope that the readers enjoy reviewing both sides of the argument. Ultimately it is up to the audience to determine the winner.

The primary topic was whether or not the concept of a jealous god is insane. In his response, Howitt included other common subjects in theologian and atheist debates. I will respond to the main topic and the others.

My response will include the following sections:
A jealous God is like a jealous husband?
Good and evil from an atheist worldview
All good Christians are cafeteria Christians
Atheists are fast track Buddhists!

A jealous God is like a jealous husband?
T.C. Howitt makes an emotional plea that his God doesn’t have an ego and accuses me of using a strawman.

“Let’s tear apart this straw god who needs “a bunch of gnats stroking his ego” by comparing it to the true and living God.”

OK, so what’s the “true and living God?” After a dose of nonsensical gibberish Howitt repeats what I had originally stated about this deity being jealous. “God is jealous for His people as a dedicated husband is jealous for his serially adulterous wife (Ezekiel 16:35-43).” So after accusing me of using a strawman, Howitt admits the God of the Bible is jealous of humans!

I really don’t understand why Howitt got so upset with me in the first place. Where am I defining this God as jealous? From the same Bible that he claims is a divine source of truth. And then after complaining that I’m making up a different God, he admits that I’m not.

“God is jealous for His people as a dedicated husband is jealous for his serially adulterous wife.” Oh! Well it all makes sense now! Except a husband jealous for his wife would be a human jealous of another human. Are we seriously supposed to equate a human to human relationship with a God to human relationship and not think there’s something wrong with the logic?

A God that created trillions of stars and galaxies is jealous of apes who can barely get off of their own planet. What would be similar to a God to human relationship? My example was a human and a gnat. If there was an all-powerful creator of the universe, would we not be gnats in comparison? And would that God being jealous of a gnat not be insane?

And if such a God demanded to be worshipped, how is that not ego? And then the analogy gets even more absurd. As a husband is jealous for his adulterous wife. We’re supposed to equate emotional jealousy of human and human sexual relationships with a God and humans!

The God as described in the Bible is a God that needs his ego stroked by a bunch of gnats. Don’t blame me for this characterization, I didn’t write the Bible. And when it comes to ego, the New Testament gets even worse.

The God of the Old Testament will just kill you if you don’t bow down, pick up sticks on the wrong day, or fail to prove your virginity on your wedding night. But his vengeance ends at the grave. In the New Testament God won’t just kill you, he’ll burn you forever without mercy.

The New Testament contains the most egotistical statement in all of literature. "Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Mathew 10:37.) I challenge anyone to find anything more conceited!

But according to Howitt, God doesn’t have an ego and carries none of the human flaws of the ignorant bigots that created him. It’s all just an amazing coincidence they happen to think and act alike!

Good and evil from an atheist worldview
Without claiming allegiance to a book that condones slavery and murder, Howitt has no idea how atheists can possibly be moral. “The atheist worldview doesn’t account for what “good” even means.”

Atheism isn’t about a system of right and wrong. It’s simply a realization that men claiming to speak for God were nothing more than men claiming to speak for God. Atheism is seeing beyond the smoke and spotting the man behind the curtain.

Howitt tries to position Christianity as the only moral world view and accuses me of stealing from it. Apparently Howitt is ignorant of all the moral philosophy that existed before and exists outside the New Testament! Perhaps he should visit a library. Not understanding how people can have morals without the Bible is like not understanding how people can have a burger without McDonalds. And by comparing the Bible to McDonalds, I’m being extremely generous.

When it comes to right and wrong, don’t turn to religion, delve into philosophy. Study Confucius and Socrates, the Greatest Eastern and Western philosophers. What is the greatest virtue? What is the definition of an exemplary person? What does it mean to live an examined life and to know thyself?

That’s not to say that the Bible doesn’t contain some good moral philosophy. But the Bible mixes it in with God’s moral law giver slaughtering women and children. I prefer my moral guidance free of justified slavery and bloodshed. Guess I’m just picky that way.

Here’s a sample of God’s moral lawgiver Moses’s so called divine righteousness.
"So now kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man by lying with him. But keep alive for yourselves all the young girls who have not known a man by lying with him." (Numbers 31:17,18)

Not once have I read about Confucius or Socrates killing kids. Not once have I read “kill the little ones” in a fortune cookie. Never have I seen the butchering of people in Dr. Zeus stories. Does that mean these sources provide better moral guidance than what’s in the Bible? Yes, absolutely! If your book on moral guidance has the moral law giver killing kids, it’s time to get a different book.

How can people have convictions of right and wrong without believing that a jealous all powerful being sent himself to be sacrificed to himself in order to save us from himself because of the talking snake incident and only if you believe it? Howitt is stymied by the possibility of moral guidance outside of the Bible! He can’t see beyond his religious blinders.

There are many sources of morality. For atheism, it’s an individual choice as to what that guidance is. For many, it’s not a big deal. They are good, do the right things by others, and really aren’t concerned or think about why. Be good for goodness sake is good enough for them. No sky daddy required.

For me, morality is something I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about. I’ve written two books on secular philosophy that contained chapters on good vs. evil. As we don’t have religious text to claim as our moral guidance, atheists often turn to what’s referred to as secular humanism or secular moral philosophy to provide a moral foundation.

Secularism first and foremost is separation of church and state. No religious test for holding public office. Civil law is above religious law. The government doesn’t dictate how you pray or what you pray to. No persecution and no special privileges based on religious faith. No theocracy and no state atheism.

Being secular doesn’t mean being an atheist. In fact, the origin of secularism in the United States had nothing to do with atheism. It was to protect certain Christian sects from being persecuted by other Christian sects in certain colonies. Today the application of secularism has extended beyond Christian sects vs. other Christian sects to all religions and no religion. The application of “all men are created equal” has extended beyond white men who owned land to all men and all women.

Humanism means human solutions for human problems. Ex. Lightning rods and tornado shelters are valued higher than reliance on divine intervention. Preparation always comes before prayer. But if God is watching over us, why do we need to rely on human intervention? “God helps those who help themselves” or “God gave us brains to figure things out on our own” is often used by religious people to rationalize that despite a God, humans must directly intervene to control human destiny.

Besides human solutions for human problems, humanism also means caring about the safety and wellbeing of others. This applies to people today and future generations.

Believing in secular and humanist values doesn’t make someone an atheist or religious. It simply means that they have the philosophical foundation to be a good person.

A great example of secular humanism is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which has been translated into over 500 languages.

An “atheist worldview” doesn’t address morality, but it does open the doors to sources that are far superior to the Bible. And when it comes to this subject, fortune cookies and comic books are superior to the Bible. I consider “With great power comes great responsibility” superior to “kill the little ones” when it comes to standards of ethics.

All good Christians are cafeteria Christians
T.C. Howitt is a cafeteria Christian. His perception of morality comes from our society, not the Bible. We’ve obtained moral progress over centuries while the Bible has remained static. The Bible contains the ignorance of the past. Progress in the understanding of human rights, including the rights of free speech, religion, and peaceful assembly, cannot be attributed to it.

The progress of human rights and liberties as defined in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution is a result of the Enlightenment, not religion.

Does Howitt believe that it’s OK to beat your slaves unconscious? "If a man strikes his male servant or his female servant with a rod so that he or she dies at his hand, then he shall surely be punished. Nevertheless, if he survives for a day or two, then he shall not be punished, for it is his money." (Exodus 21:20,21)

Does Howitt believe that women who fail to prove virginity should be killed? "But if the accusation is true, and the evidence of virginity does not exist for the girl, then they shall bring the girl out to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones until she dies, because she has brought disgrace into Israel, to act like a whore in her father’s house. In this way you may purge the evil from among you." (Deuteronomy 22:20,21)

Does Howitt believe that women are to be silent in church? “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.” (1 Corinthians 14:34)

How do you know if slavery is wrong if your God is OK with slavery? How do you know that murder is wrong if your God is OK with murder? How do you know that rape is wrong if your God is OK with rape? How you know is simple. You don’t get your moral guidance from the Bible.

Atheists are fast track Buddhists!
“Buddhists spend multiple lives trying to escape the suffering of this world and reach a point of nirvana (total annihilation), and according to your worldview you could have it right now.” This is my favorite part of Howitt’s response! The atheist community should immediately use this to convert Buddhists!

Atheism is the fast track to Nirvana! No meditation or giving up all worldly desires required. For years I’ve always had this issue with Buddhism. We should embrace our passions, not abandon them! Grief is good, it means your relationship meant something. The pain is severe when we lose a loved one, but would you throw away the memories? The idea that life is painful and therefore we should be dedicated to ending the cycle of rebirth is nonsense.

The Buddhist men who at a certain age leave their families to become begging leaches of society in search of their inner peace I find to be irresponsible and pathetic. When we’re older we should have something to contribute! We should be actively involved in using our experience to help guide the next generation.

Howitt then follows that since we’re reaching Nirvana anyway, why not kill ourselves and everyone? Nirvana for everybody! Time for a little help from Ricky and Penn to address this “why live” and “why not kill people” if you’re an atheist gibberish.

“It’s a strange myth that atheists have nothing to live for. It’s the opposite. We have nothing to die for. We have everything to live for.” – Ricky Gervais

“The question I get asked by religious people all the time is, without God, what’s to stop me from raping all I want? And my answer is: I do rape all I want. And the amount I want is zero. And I do murder all I want, and the amount I want is zero. The fact that these people think that if they didn’t have this person watching over them that they would go on killing, raping rampages is the most self-damning thing I can imagine.” – Penn Jillette

Not sure why Howitt thinks atheists would be so big on Nirvana. When it comes to life after death, we have good evidence that it doesn’t exist. Everything that makes up our identity is in the physical brain. Our personality, sense of humor, mannerisms, memories, mood, cognitive ability and all our mental strengths and weaknesses are not eternal. Physical trauma and chemical imbalances within our skull can change us. There is no rational reason to believe that we exist after our physical brain shuts down.

This is not to say that the thought of immortality isn’t seductive. The ability to view the world 500 and 1,000 years from now would be amazing. Atheists don’t reject the afterlife because it’s not desired. We don’t reject having super powers because it’s not desired. Wanting something to be true simply doesn’t make it true.

We can realistically believe in the possibility of greatly extending life expectancy. We trust in science and technology which has doubled the average human life span over the past hundred years. As we learn more about aging we’ll have more ideas on how to stop it.

Best of luck to T.C. Howitt! Hopefully he’ll realize that the Bible doesn’t reflect who he really is. Hopefully he’ll embrace logic over superstition and reason over madness. Hopefully he can find a better path than claiming blind devotion to an archaic book written by feeble specimens of men claiming to speak for God.

-James Kirk Wall

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