God Help The Atheist Politician
There was a time, not so long ago, when the USA pondered the idea of a Catholic in the White House. Would Kennedy take his orders from Rome? That was the question on the lips of the populace. He won, and he didn’t.
Now 95% of Americans say they’d vote for an ‘appropriately qualified’ candidate of the Catholic persuasion. And 92% say they’d vote in a Jew. 72% of the population, according to Gallup’s poll, would even vote a Mormon into the White House – and Mormons have some pretty weird ideas, not just about underwear. (Did you know, for example, that the word ‘Mormon’ has been trademarked by a front company for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints?)
Religious tolerance has obviously come a long way.
In fact, a majority of Americans would support almost ANY candidate from any background. Hispanic? Sure, 87% in favor! A woman? Absolutely, 88% in favor. Three times divorced? Come on in! 67% in favor! A homosexual? Well… ok, we guess: 55% in favor!
How about an atheist?
No. You see, irreligious intolerance is increasing.
Gallup says that 53% of Americans would not vote for a qualified candidate for the White House who was an atheist. According to Newsweek figures in 2006, only 37% would vote for an atheist – down from 49% in 1999.
We have religious folks by the dozen in the US Congress… Roman Catholic (28.8%), Baptist (14.1%), Methodist (11.4%) Presbyterian (9.7%), Episcopalian (7.9%) and Jewish (6.9%). We’ve got Mormons, Lutherans… we have a Sikh… two Buddhists… a Muslim… and we even have a freakin’ Scientologist, for crying out loud. (Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida.)
But there is only one self-identified atheist in the entire Legislative branch of our government, Rep. Pete Stark of CA. That’s one atheist, out of 535 legislative members. (Obviously there are none in the highest echelons of the Executive branch – Mr. Bush, who has been quoted by Mahmoud Abbas as saying that God told him to go to war in Iraq, would hardly condone that.)
Atheists, therefore, make up approximate 0.2% of our bicameral legislature, and approximately 0% of the highest levels of our executive branch. The Supreme Court, with five Catholics, two Jews, an Episcopalian and a Protestant, has zero representation for the atheist population.
Now, many of you people of faith out there will think this is perfectly reasonable and acceptable. After all, the majority of the population is in some manner theistic.
But atheists are, in fact, the most under-represented minority in modern American history.
Look at the stats: 7% of the adult population does not believe in God or any kind of universal spirit, (Gallup) and the US Census (quoted in Wiki here) claims that 15% of Americans are either atheist or agnostic. That’s 29.4 million people.
But every one of the Republican and Democratic contenders for the White House is, naturally, religious – and their piety is evidently increasing daily, as exemplified by Hillary Clinton’s revelation (pun intended) that only her ‘faith’ got her through her marriage difficulties, and the almost daily proclamations of religious fervor by every major candidate.
We are presented every election with a choice: the religious candidate, or the religious candidate. At the Federal level, there is one atheist to represent the views of my 15 million fellow non-believers. There are virtually no atheists at the state level, either – no great surprise, since Arkansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas all include language in their constitutions proclaiming that an official may be "excluded from holding office" if she/he does not "acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being”.
We are 15 million people without representation, without a legislative, judicial or policy-shaping voice.
And this is more than an ‘issue’ like gun control, gay marriage, the environment or abortion. Each of those issues has its advocates, its opponents, its successes and its failures. We don't have a Susan Anthony, or a Martin Luther King Jr. - shoot, we don't even have an Ellen Degeneres. We're quiet, because the majority of the population believes that we have no right to govern, at any level.
No, this is a fundamental worldview. And there is nobody out there representing it. The entire triumvirate of legislature, executive and judiciary is – with the exception of one man – utterly at odds with my personal understanding of the universe, and is out of step with 15 million of my compatriots.
Were this any other group, the country would be in uproar. No blacks in the executive branch?? Get some in there, quick! No women in the Supreme Court? Get on that, right away!! No atheists in the legislature? Bleh… whatever.
So I for one will find myself constantly cringing during this long, long election campaign as candidate after candidate tries to outdo his or her fellows by wearing their religion ever-more prominently on their sleeve. I will shudder at their proclamations of guidance from their invisible friend (my five-year old has one, but she’ll outgrow hers). I will grit my teeth as the candidates who seem to have some kind of moral or ethical relevance attribute it not to their own integrity, but to some spirit or series of fables whose instructions they are to follow.
Watch out, America. We fifteen million may be meek now. But you know what the Bible says about the meek.
Posted by Jon Rice at June 7, 2007 7:42 AM
Do you have a source for state Constitutions allowing those who do not profess faith in a supreme being from being barred from office? I’ve always heard that was true of my home state, Texas, but I’ve never confirmed it.
I suspect that there are more atheists/agnostics in government than we know. Being an agnostic, a word coined by Thomas Huxley in the 19th Century, merely means one is uncertain about the existence of God. It’s an intellectually tenable position that acknowledges both the absence of empirical proof (or why is faith necessary?) and the impossibility of proving the negative (God does not exist). It’s a rational position, and I suspect it’s in fact the position of more than the polls detect. Atheism, the denial of the existence of God, is less rational (imo), because how does one prove God does not exist?
Regardless, atheism/agnosticism seems to be the political kiss of death, and I suspect many in government either don’t profess what are essentially intellectual positions or, frankly, lie.
“Don’t pray, don’t tell” appears to be the official policy.
The Gallup poll you cite is interesting. Far more people are satisfied with the current religious influence in this country than profess to believe in God. That means many of the atheists/agnostics believe religion has value even though they don’t believe in a Supreme Being.
Opps, I meant to type “‘Don’t pray, don’t tell’ appears to be the unofficial policy.”
Atheism, the denial of the existence of God, is less rational (imo), because how does one prove God does not exist?
I disagree with this perspective, because it’s equivalent to telling a believer that it’s irrational to believe that his or her religion is right and all other religions are wrong.
After all, a Christian is an atheist with respect to all Gods except the God of the Bible. A Muslim is an atheist with respect to all Gods except Allah. If you say it’s not possible for an Atheist to prove that the Christian God doesn’t exist or that Allah doesn’t exist, then how do you believe that it’s possible for a Christian or a Muslim to prove that Zeus doesn’t exist?
Any believer in a particular religion is almost completely atheist, with the one exception for the deity he or she prefers. How is it so much less tenable to go to the next step?
You make an interesting point. In fact, Christians and Jews in Rome were often called atheistic because they denied the existence of all other gods except their own God. However, let me phrase this without using the word “rational” or “irrational.” It is a matter of belief that one’s own God exists but others don’t. And I don’t believe it is possible for a Christian or anyone else to prove Zeus doesn’t exist. Do you? What would such a proof look like?
The move from polytheism to monotheism is fascinating history, but not really relevant, I think, to my point.
All I’m saying is that religion is a matter of faith and that, from a logical point of view, admitting there is no way to prove the nonexistence of gods or God is logically valid. Therefore, agnosticism makes more sense to me than atheism.
With the way they act you couldn’t prove it to me that any of our politicians believe in God. If they did they’d sure act a whole heap different than they do.
Anyone can profess to believe anything. But as the old saying goes. The proof is in the pudding. If any of our politicians really believed in any kind of supreme being (Bush included) they wouldn’t be the lying crooks they are.
I agree in principle. I’m far more concerned with how people behave than what they believe. As far as religion goes, I approve of it insofar as it helps people behave better, and disaprove of it insofar as it empowers people to behave poorly.
If the ACLU were to put up a candidate you would have a voice. But, they’re too busy denying religious freedoms contained in the founding documents. They scare the hell out of believers and don’t bode well for non-believers or ?-believers.
As a Christian I believe the God I worship is the same God that Muslims worship and the very same God that Jews worship. It is how they mis-use the writing of their prophet Mohammed that is so perverse. Being a Christian Politican doesn’t mean that one always follows the tennents of their faith. Don’t atheists and agnostics betray their ideals and integrity from time to time? The very mention of holding Christians to different standards implys a belief by the critic that our standards and morals come from God.
I think the thrust of Jon’s article concerns how difficult it is for someone who doesn’t profess religious beliefs to gain political office. In some cases, according to Jon’s information, one can be barred from office if he or she doesn’t profess such beliefs. What you are talking about is the prohibition against using state resources to promulgate religious belief.
A quick Google search came up with this listing of state Constitutions that discriminate against atheists or agnostics.
Let me add, though, that these such provisions in state Constitutions may no longer have legal effect because of Supreme Court rulings invoking the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
Gerrold - I don’t believe any of those state restrictions would ever seriously deprive an atheist of state office, there’s no way they could possibly hold up. But the fact that they’re there at all - even if only symbolically - clarifies my point. (Which, as you recognize, is that the atheist is essentially barred from office by the general population, rather than by specific law.)
What are the odds if you are a gay atheist?
It’s probably like camel through the eye of a needle or something.
Have “faith”, someday an atheist will be elected president.
Where is the equal representation for
red haired people?
I don’t feel represented by my congressman or senators right now…I just gut it out…you should do the same or decide to be gay, whichever is easier.
When the ACLU goes into our courts to ban religious symbols on the graves of our armed forces in national cemeteries, is seeking to ban those in the military from wearing religious symbols on their person, and is trying to prevent public meetings from opening with a prayer I say they are the ones who are violating our constitutional rights. Jon Rice above has it exactly right, an atheist will be elected to office when the voters want it. Personally, I would have no problem with an athiest as President or anything else. But, I do perceive some ackward moments when consoling victims of disasters and familys of slain warriors. What is he or she to say? Gee, I am sorry but since there is no God they’re just dead with no prospect of life everlasting. I would be a much different person if it were not for the morality and ethical behavior instilled from my religious training.
The ACLU never tried to ban religious symbols on the graves in national cemeteries. That’s an urban myth that apparently has its origins in a parody chain letter. I don’t believe the ACLU ever tried to ban individual militarymen from wearing religious symbols; please cite a source.
James Madison ” We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”
Patrick Henry “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ”.
John Jay (the first supreme court justice) “Americans should select and prefer Christians as their rulers.”
When you enter the Supreme Court courtroom the Ten Commandments are engraved into the oak doors.
I’m a Catholic and am very tolerant. I find anti-religous people to be the most intolerant. If you’all think you’re going to redefine America lets go. I am tolerate but if you think Fallwell was anything you have no idea. This countries backbone is decent, middle class Christian families. I want you guys to get more aggressive, you will not win and it would be the end of liberalism.
Real atheists are hard to find. Ask yourself this, if a true believer believes that all atheists are going to hell (not an illogical assumption), but doesn’t do anything about it, does the atheist has any reason to feel insulted? If yes, why? I have been cursed by gypsies on many occasions. I know they have no powers, so I just don’t care. If you are insulted that someone thinks your are going to hell, you probably suspect it might be true.
To our atheist friends, we might say, “See you later … or not”
Interesting idea, Jack. The idea that logically one only takes offense at insulting ideas if one thinks there might be a kernel of truth to the insult.
Mindbogglingly inane, but interesting.
i would consider myself an atheist b/c i don’t believe there is a higher being. the way i see it when you die you just go back into the ground. but it think humans are all born good and their environment then will mold that person. i wish it wasn’t such a taboo to be atheist but alas that is the religious nature of the USA.
jon, i’m with you i think we are not represented appropriately and i hope and work for the day it won’t be such a taboo to be an atheist.
What bothers me the most, as an ‘athiest’ (sorry, but I stopped believing Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny too when I grew up), is that people think that because you don’t believe in an afterlife or a higher power that you can’t be moral. That you cannot have genuine compassion for your fellow man, not the scared forced compassion that religion gives us. If an athiest is compassionate and moral, then he is truly that way of his own person, not because he is afraid of what might happen to him after he dies. In my book, that’s a stronger and more just person than any religious individual.
It also explains why so many who claim or profess to be ‘christian’ are usually the most evil and dirty individuals I’ve met to date. Just take a look at all the ‘christians’ ruining our lives in congress and the White House?
Personally, I would like to see a truly just man run for President, not a phoney who calls himself a christian out of fear or personal advancement…
you should do the same or decide to be gay, whichever is easier.
I didn’t knew that becoming gay could turn atheists into theists.
Stacking minorities doesn’t make you less minor.
This may be ‘off thread’, but I tink it is ironic that the most morally reprehensable people are those who profess christianity as their moral compass, and the least morally reprehensable are athiests who don’t believe in sin.
Perhaps it is because those who think we are responsible for our own actions and deeds know that we must be that way or parish, while those who are ‘forgiven’ take that forgiveness as license to commit immoral acts.
That’s the whole idea…
There are numerous groups of people who are not represented…If you think you are not being represented, join a group that is…
Don’t get me wrong…I really was just poking fun at a pretense that states that all types of groups should have equal representation. It’s just moronic to think that way, yet people do.
If all are equal, it’s a moot point. All this does is continue to divide.
Will we ever as a nation think this way?…NO…People are just too self-centered.
Sooo…We will continue to have more and more different groups that want their own special rights. We will continue to pass more unenforcable laws to placate these groups.
Maybe…just maybe…the nation as a whole will have the collective guts to say, enough…
Real atheists are hard to find.
True. Very few are strong atheists actually. Most, me included, are pratical atheists.
Agnostics are among these. By opposition to “strong” atheists, these large part of all atheists are also called “weak” atheists.
As one, I think there is no point to deny *and* claim god(s) existence, as both can’t be proved. And I’m lucky to born french, as french are among developed societies one of the most atheist ones, making me part of a majority, not a minority.
Which make french politicians religious background irrevelant. We don’t care that much about private life of politicians, and their spiritual life is in their private circle, as their romantic one.
We only care when one private life overlap with his public/politic nehavior, which by french constitution, *must* be secular.
To our atheist friends, we might say, “See you later … or not”
Shouldn’t be “See you later in hell… or not”?
In both case, believers should not hope to see their atheists friends in after-life…
Not “nehavior”, whatever it could means if anything, but “behavior”.
It should read:
“See you later…NOT.”
What I find frightening is that at least two Rep contenders for president have stated that they do not believe in evolution. That means they do not believe in the science of biology,paleontology,zoology etc and empirical evidence has no place in their world view. I am not an atheist but I do not believe that God requires ignorance and denial as virtues necessary for public service.
What bothers me the most, as an ‘athiest’ (sorry, but I stopped believing Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny too when I grew up), is that people think that because you don’t believe in an afterlife or a higher power that you can’t be moral.
Totally agreed with you here.
Which also means that we could find an agreement ;-)
That you cannot have genuine compassion for your fellow man, not the scared forced compassion that religion gives us. If an athiest is compassionate and moral, then he is truly that way of his own person, not because he is afraid of what might happen to him after he dies. In my book, that’s a stronger and more just person than any religious individual.
Or just maybe people are compassionate and moral because they’re afraid to not be enough?
Compassion and moral have very volatile definition. What is compassionate for one is altruism for another and psychological egoism for other. Same goes for moral.
Saying some are stronger than other at it because their motivation are not fear of after-life but “good feeling”, sense of satisfaction, self-esteem or irreligious fulfillment of duty seems a little weak to me.
After all, who are we to speculate on the motives. Very often, people doing it can’t even.
Nice to see such a civilized thread!
One thing that I take strong exception to from the religious community (at least, from some of them) is that as an atheist I cannot have morals or ethics.
I disagree. I teach my kids respect for others. I practice it myself. I do not discriminate against others, I welcome others’ opinions and thoughts, and I consider myself open-minded enough to absorb and ponder those thoughts on the whole. For instance, Jack recently persuaded my of a contrary viewpoint to the one I had recently held.
I am kind to animals. I feel I’m generous. I praise my employees and respect their right to grow and develop under my tutelage.
In short, I try - with lapses, naturally - to live a life of which I can be proud.
I didn’t need instruction, except for that of my parents, my experience, and my observance of the failures and successes of others.
The teachings of Jesus, Mohammed, or Buddha fall into that category. Teachings, instructions, call them what you will - I see why people draw on them for inspiration in how to live life.
Personally I learned more from Nigel Mansell (ex- Formula One world champion) ;)
Seriously though, I see the value in learning from smart and compassionate people. I do question whether every lesson they taught is still valid today, but “love thy neighbor” seems a reasonable philosophy to me.
So, yes, I see the value of religion. I do not see the value in dogma, and THAT is what I see primarily in our politicians. In fact, pandering to the population’s adherence to dogma is almost worse.
I think it’s hard to see George Bush or Donald Rumsfeld as moral, ethical people according to the teachings of Jesus. How could an atheist in the White House be any worse than a warmonger who seems bent on creating irreparable rifts between the various belief-sets of mankind?
Religion is fine. Justifying war in the name of religion is, to my mind, hypocrisy of an unforgivable magnitude.
Jon, I agree with a number of comments on here, one being the tone set in your post that has encouraged some open dialogue. I guess Agnostic best describes my beliefs ( or lack of ), and I’ve found it increasingly difficult with the passage of time and the rise of the Evangelical despotic factions, to freely admit that. Others have also pointed out that just living by the Golden Rule, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethic_of_reciprocity
which has some basis in religious beliefs, is a good way to live ones’ life. I agree with that also, and try to remember often that has been my choice.
We can go back into any number of posts through time on here and read some vitriolic statements by those who purport to being “religious” which should follow the tone of acceptance, tolereance and kindness.
The pointing to Bush and Co. is one of the most telling at this time, and to try and determine how the unconscionable decsions they have made can be supported by “God”, is beyond credibility.
Sorry to have strayed, but the bottom line is that it would be difficult to get any worse in the White House, so yes, an Atheist or Agnostic would be a breath of fresh air!
Professing a religion dos not make someone moral, good, or otherwise useful to the human race, if they believe that the end justifies the means in their political life. No religion supports it, and any members of the various religions mentioned are not faithful if they do so. For reference read Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary, which expresses the religious views of our founding fathers pretty well, but denies the usual historical view of polytheism.
Think Article 6 section 3 of the Constitution then ask yourself if the issue of discussion should even be brought up.
There is just reason for the lack of atheists in representation. People vote for those who are most like-minded with them. Most Americans are so far from the views of an atheist in their own views that they would not even consider voting for one. It goes the same with those on the far left and the far right. Most in these groups would not even consider switching parties with their votes. That is why the candidates think they have to work so hard to win the centrists, and there is some truth to that political philosophy. That is the reason you see Hillary having Democratic tent revivals in her town hall formats, Jon. She really thinks people are going to forget her and Bill’s past and buy that stuff. Jon, you are like a third party. You have little to no representation because the majority of people do not think or believe like you do. At this time, you have the choice of having no representation, or changing your beliefs to match those of the majority, simply because that is the way of Democracy and a Representative Republic. The only other choice is to convince as many people as you can to think like you do, and form the American Atheist Party. However, considering the core beliefs of atheists, I can’t say the AAP would have a platform much different than that of the Democratic Party at this time.
Yes, though I would quibble with your statement that we must change our beliefs. When we vote for a candidate, we have to look at the whole picture. The good news for agnostics like me is that our values are not substantially different from those of anyone else. We abhor murder, we don’t want to be mugged, we believe in free speech, etc., etc. One can doubt the foundational grounding of various values yet still hold the values themselves.
For my part, I don’t want to necessarily change the religious views of people. I’ve like many of us have had family pass away, and I have no interest in taking away the comfort of religion to those dying or to the survivors. This is not to say that I won’t object to policies that I think are wrongheaded such as teaching creationism is the science classroom.
I would just like to point out that organized religion is just like any other human endeavor. It is flawed and filled with flawed people. It is also riddled with people who seek to clothe their horrendous behavior in sheep’s clothing. All manner of atrocities are done in the name of God and God’s name is profaned by those who claim to be doing God’s will. This may lead one to believe that God is just a way to control people or curry their favor: that God is a man made invention to exert influence over the masses of people. The problem with this is that God exists whether or not you believe in him or how people misuse his name. If God reveals himself to you then you will know without a doubt of his existence. I know without a doubts and I was once an outspoken atheist.
To those who consider themselves moral atheists I would have to agree that by worldly standards you could be a great guy.. in fact better than a lot of Christians. It is very possible indeed that you could be the most moral person on the planet in terms of how you treat your fellow man but the problem lies in that you are not perfect. So many atheists I have talked to take such huge offense that they are supposedly condemned to hell by Christians but the truth is that a Holy and perfect God cannot abide even the slightest wrong or sinfulness and that is why he offered us a way to be justified in his sight. If you choose not to take him up on the offer then who is really to blame if you end up in hell? If in your arrogance you determine that God does not exist then whose fault is that? I’m sure you have all heard the gospel message.
I realize I can never hope to compete with the literary masterpiece that was rtert’s comment, but I would like to point out Article VI of the US constitution, which contains this little gem:
“but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
So while a state can write anti-nontheistic rhetoric over and over until they run out of ink, that single line trumps all.
If, in fact, professed atheists/agnostics lead considerably more moral/less hypocritical lives than those that live and die by Christian scripture, I think that speaks volumes. And, frankly, based on my own personal experience, I find this to be true.
I would like to start out by saying that I am a Strong Atheist and I am not afraid to tell anyone. I would also like to make it clear that I “Do Not” profess to know whether or not a “God” does or does not exist for you, I just choose to accept in “My Life” (some 50 years young) that based on empirical evidence through the years that there is no “God” for me. If someone else chooses to believe that one does exist that is their “Right” (See first admendment).
As for Agnostisism, It is my opinion that this is just an excuse for not having the guts to face your Atheistic beliefs. You are afraid of what society or family will say. That you will be shund from social circles. You can always fall back on “Well i might believe if someone proves to me”. That is just my opinion, and you know what opinions are like.
As for the “Holding public office” this is the whole Article 6 section 3.
The senators and representatives before-mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers , both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
It does state that “ALL” states are bound by this right.
Now for the “coup de gras”, if you have any question as to which one has the best moral and ethical behavior, all you have to do is look at who fills our prisons and political offices.
We (Atheist’s) are not trying to do away with anyones right to believe in what ever they choose to believe in. We are just fighting for our right to not have it shoved in our face everyday. You have your Churches (tax exempt I might add), your homes & you have the right to speak in public (Just not at government establishments IE. public schools), I will fight for your right to pray at private or public events (I just won’t pray with you).
And last but not least “rtert” says it all, this is a perfect example of the intolerance & lack of exceptance by the religions be it Christians blowing up federal buildings & clinics in the name of jesus or muslims blowing up innocent women & children in the name of alah that I have witnessed in the course of my life.
If this is what it means to be “Religious” I do believe that I have made the right choice.
I just looked up Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and she is not a scientologist. She may have been sympathetic to them in legislation but she is a Christian. Just thought I’d help with this inaccuracy.
We, the atheists, are also to blame for our lack of representation in government. We need to be more involed instead of hiding in the shadows and blaming the Christian. It is easy to pass the blame, it is more difficult to take action. We are all individuals of different beliefs and so are Christians, Muslims and Jews. Take action.
I am the only Atheist that i know and i am constantly at odds with theisms of all sorts. This is not ( in my mind ) an excuse to alienate ourselves and/or others. Let us work together, not agianst eachother. We can be much more constructive by working together.
I find the first comment - “Atheism, the denial of the existence of God, is less rational (imo), because how does one prove God does not exist” is rather simplistic.
One cannot prove the non-existance of green two headed martians either, but that is no reason for accepting the possiblity of their existance.
My view is that since there is no rational cause for a belief in a deity, I see no reason to make room for one by declaring myself “agnostic”. This seems to be sitting on the fence….hedging your bets as it were.
JD, people don’t just vote for what they believe in. Mostly, they vote against what they disagree with. That’s why 95% would vote Catholic, 92% Jewish, etc. but only 37% would vote Atheist. We are the most hated people in America (although the second and third are Muslim and Middle Eastern, respectively… much harder to hide).
Rallying atheists is like herding cats. We simply aren’t a unified front. After years of argument, most of us just stop confronting people about their religious nonsense.
Tobaila, I entirely agree. It is IMPOSSIBLE to prove that ANYTHING does not exist, short of scouring the entire universe instantaneously. One can, however, analyze the how and why such beliefs were created and persist. Catholic policies are the perfect example; priests can’t marry, children must be baptized (and you have to have lots of them!), and suicide is unacceptable. Therefore, church money does not pass to priests’ families, and the catholic population stays large.
Once you realize WHY such a belief exists, it is a simple matter of analyzing for oneself if this belief has any merit. Either these policies exist because a god really told a church official this was the way to go, OR they are blatant (and successful) attempts at increasing and maintaining church power. Miracles are like aliens: lots of people claim to have seen them, but they never have any evidence. Except, of course, for Jesus toast.
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