Rewards and Justice

I really appreciate that everyone who comments here, regardless of what she or he believes, is so supportive and respectful of each other. I know we don’t always agree, and that’s a good thing, but in a forum like this where you could hide and say some awful sh*t, people have been so gentle with each other. (That includes you, too, Joe K.) Thank you for giving me faith in my fellow man over and over again.

If you’ve sent me an idea to write about, I really appreciate all your suggestions and will address your questions or issues as soon as possible (if you’ve asked me to do so publicly). I think that it makes for much more interesting discussions when topics and questions—and answers– come from readers.

Molly, who is Catholic and is a regular here, asked about the atheist perspective on tragedies. The deaths of the firefighters in Arizona were a terrible loss of life, and Molly wonders this:

 “…How [do] atheists deal with this type of sacrifice or death? Now, I am not claiming that atheists can’t be sacrificial or selfless or don’t “do the right thing”… but I mean in an extreme instance where someone has given their life for someone else or died for a worthy cause… how is that person’s life (and death) “rewarded”? (I don’t like the word “rewarded” here but I couldn’t think of an alternative…)

Giving your life for another is the ultimate human sacrifice.  Both believers and non-believers can probably agree on that.  But if the end result for these men is the same as another guy who, lets say, committed suicide after a life of crime, abuse, murder, rape, and addiction…. then how is there any “justice” in that?  What’s the point?  (Again, don’t love the word “justice” but couldn’t think of an alternative…)”

If you don’t believe in God, what is the point in giving your life for another person or higher cause? If you’ve lived your life in service to others, yet you suffer and die the same as a serial killer, what’s the point?

I once read this short story—years ago when I was a teenager—about a man who was riding on a train, eager to get to his destination. Along the way, he passed so many beautiful things: bucolic scenery, charming towns, children playing, couples kissing. Yet he was so engrossed in his destination that he missed all of the life between his journey’s beginning and end.

For us who don’t believe in God or an afterlife, the reward is here, now. Doing nice things for others is rewarding, and it can be contagious, too.  We won’t receive any sort of prize in return, but the act itself feeds our idea of who we are (yes, LT, I see that’s ego there). It makes us feel good–well, most of us–so “doing good” is, in a way, both a beneficial act for society and a selfish act for ourselves.

But there is no ultimate justice. Some times life is just not fair. That’s a fact. There is no one Judge to right all wrongs at the end of our lives. As much and as often as we can, we have to make sure justice is served for each other. We will always fall short.

I think that people who do dangerous jobs, such as firefighting, do so because they like the fact that it is risky (there is an adrenaline rush there) and because they like the social rewards these jobs bring. Our communities look at firefighters as heroes. That’s a reward in and of itself. Little boys (and sometimes girls) dream of one day being a firefighter. They play dress up and wear fire hats and clothes during Halloween.

It was an awful loss to society in losing these men, but they didn’t suffer long. Their survivors are the ones who will suffer for a long time. Although the firefighters are dead and have reached the same end as a rapist or murderer—they chose the life they wanted, and they knew how it could possibly end. Their destination came sooner than expected, but I suspect—and hope–that they were enjoying their journey.

The reward was their life–to live it as they wanted. There is no point to life. Nature’s goal for us is simply to propagate the species. We’re free to design our own lives and define our own meaning. We can choose to do good deeds. Or bad. The universe is indifferent—only man cares.

What about you guys? What are your thoughts? What’s the point in doing good deeds if your life ends in the same way that a criminal’s does?

Thanks, again, Molly, for the interesting question.

I hope everyone has a safe and fun 4th of July.

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98 responses to “Rewards and Justice

  1. The way you live on in other people’s minds is a big difference. The firefighter who sacrifices his life for another lives on positively in other’s thoughts. The serial killer is hated.

  2. I like the way you think, Jen.

    “What is the point in giving your life for another person or higher cause? ”

    This is the only life we’ll ever have. There are no second chances. I think there’s a lot of meaning to be found in making it as pleasant as possible for everyone you meet.

    Here is one example of how an act of kindness is still affecting people 130 years later: http://pinholesofgrace.blogspot.com.br/2013/06/i-believe-i-will.html.

    I find that kind of thing to be incredibly inspirational.

  3. peter belowski

    Deb,

    Nice post. In the blog I recently started to chronicle a new journey in my life (post-“retirement” exploration in various ways), I use the tagline “first your are. Then you aren’t. Everything in-between counts.” Right now, I am in Estonia, where the people suffered through the Soviet occupation for too many years. They endured — and eventually regained their indepenpdence through a dogged determination to make the now matter. They showed incredible courage in the now……versus waiting for the afterlife. Great documentary….the Singing revolution.

  4. I never had a belief in God nor did my family yet, integrity and being kind just because it is the right thing to do was our family mantra. How many crooks and thieves are true believers? I suspect the bankers and wall street moguls are regular church goers!

  5. I honestly believe that living life without skydaddy is ultimately more rewarding – this is our one shot and all we can do is to try and contribute as much as we can. Tragedies are unjust, always. Heroes are heroes, always.
    As said earlier, how we are remembered is reward enough. We do not expect rewards for carrying croceries for the elderly lady next door or for walking the dog for a neighbour who cannot for some reason. The magnitude is different but I do not think a firefighter or a policeman doing his/her job really expects something in return.
    Nice writing once again Deb and thnx Molly for suggesting.

    Cheers,
    Konsta

    • Konsta, I really appreciate all your comments, this one is so good. Thank you.

      • Thank you!
        I’ll be heading to Tuscany with my family so you guys have to do without me for a week and a half. I am confident that you are quite able to :-)

        • Konsta, I am so jealous, I have always wanted to go to Florence! Please enjoy the art and history of your surroundings there for me. I hope you enjoy some yummy ice cream, wine, chocolate, and coffee as well. Be safe, my friend, and may you and your family have a great holiday!

        • Konsta–Have a great vacation in Tuscany! I guess we’ll have to manage without our foreign correspondent….

  6. I haven’t commented in a while but I always read:) LOVE your columns.
    I think I get a clearer picture of “truth” when I approach life with the view that humans are just animals, too. So, in regard to sacrifice — I ask: what will happen to a dog who dies as road kill versus a dog who dies saving his master from an attacker? Why is human life more valuable, more precious than an animal’s life? I don’t have the answers, but I’ve asked enough questions to see that we often accept or take for granted certain fundamental “beliefs” that just aren’t true — they are ideologies handed down by society (often to keep the masses in control).

    • @Trishia Jacobs Good to hear from you. It certainly is humbling to know that, in the end, we’re no different than the dog who dies on the road or that is put down with cancer….I agree–because we have awareness and wants and desires, we needed to be reined in by those in control.

  7. As I read this, I kept thinking of a slogan put up at Christmas time by an atheist group that said, “Be Good for Goodness Sake.” For me, being “good” right now, is just the “right” thing to do. I’m not waiting for some pay off later in heaven.

    • LanceThruster

      @Lori – There was a comic who did a dark take on that. He kept hitting two low notes on a piano like you might hear in a tense scene in a horror movie and ominously warned —

      You’d better watch out!

      You’d better not cry!

      SANTA CLAUS is coming to town!

      xD

      • I really really like the Springsteen version of Santa’s Coming to Town. As you all do know, Santa comes from Finland and the version Bruce threw in his gig here was nothing short of amazing.

    • I totally agree with you, Lori. Every person should live life like that, heaven or no heaven.

  8. I believe that I only exist to help other people, not to rack up tickets so when I die I turn in my tickets at the prize counter to cash in on my eternal life’s possessions. I do good things every day to make my self and others around me feel good and try to give off a positive vibe and not bring people down. I want to be REMEMBERED and talked about as a positive member of my family/society, etc.. If I am ever given the opportunity to give my life for someone else, I am ready and waiting. I dont 100% believe that giving your life (dying) is truly the ultimate sacrifice. People give up their own lives everyday without killing themselves. After I am dead and gone, I hope that when I am talked about or thought about, the memories are nothing but positive and forever will give joy to others. :)

  9. First, I have a brother-in-law who is a fire fighter and has been the better part of 25 years. He states flat-out that he is a thrill junkie. He used to specialize in water rescue, received to commendations, and had to quit that part due to excessive water in the lungs from people who didn’t know how to get rescued. I can honestly say his is not an altruistic pursuit. Don’t get me (or him wrong), he feels good about saving lives, but it is not the primary motivation. My brother-in-law is what I call a “free-form Baptist.”

    I don’t really believe anyone is altruistic. We act out a need to get something, even it just means we get to feel good about ourselves. This is a form of what I think is “positive selfishness.” In the same right, I think most atheists live in way they would want others to live. Most of us are all about the Social Contract because, as Deborah stated in her piece, we are rewarded in the here and now. We do things for others because we want the same treatment. We live in a “give-get” kind of mentality… I think.

    Morality is often brought up in a topic like this. Morality is rather non-existant in my book. We live by a set of rules that will best keep us alive. Don’t kill so you won’t be killed. Don’t steal so you won’t be the victim of theft. Don’t lie so others won’t lie to you. Don’t lie about others so others won’t like about you. This is not a “karma” approach, either. Morality, then, in this regard does nothing more than ensure as much peaceful coexistance as possible.

    For atheists, this is the only world and life we have, so we’d better make it the best we can while we live. It will reward us every day.

    Happy 4th to all us Yanks! LET FREEDOM RING!

    • In my experience — friends and families in similar fields — this is spot on. Some people are wired for the thrill they get from these jobs; yes, they are happy to help — but they are also driven by what makes them feel alive. Firefighting doesn’t do it for me; I am very happy it’s important to other people. I agree, we all — if being true to ourselves — choose a role that makes us personally fulfilled. Usually we contribute to the world in our own ways. Sometimes people have what i call broken desires/needs. I don’t know why? Somw would say it s the work of “the enemy.” I figure it’s bad wiring.

    • @Derrick I believe the same thing: “I don’t really believe anyone is altruistic. We act out a need to get something, even it just means we get to feel good about ourselves. This is a form of what I think is “positive selfishness.”

      “Morality” or “doing the right thing” seems to have evolved–as you said–because people started to realize they had a better chance of surviving by being helpful and working to support their clan.

  10. “…but I mean in an extreme instance where someone has given their life for someone else or died for a worthy cause… how is that person’s life (and death) “rewarded” ”

    The person who gives the ultimate sacrifice for others is obviously not around to accept a reward of any kind. But in a way, they may have a reward. They will live on in the minds of those they saved. The lives they changed for the better will make the world a better place. Giving your life, in such a self-less way, will always impact the world in some way, big or small. And true sacrifice doesn’t expect anything in return. Whether that be money, power, Heaven, or worship.

  11. It’s a pay-it-forward life. If you do a kindness for someone, they’ll do it for someone else. You shouldn’t expect a quid pro quo because then it’s not a genuine, selfless act. I can’t believe people who give their lives for others do it for the ultimate reward of heaven, because that takes away from the action, in my mind. If your only reason to do good for others is to get into heaven, then that seems to me like a very shallow way to live. I prefer to believe that humans are inherently good and will choose to be selfless over selfish if the chance arrives–at least more often than not.

    My reward is a good life. Making others smile, makes me happy. Doing simple things like taking in a grocery cart to the corral for a lady, or paying for the person’s breakfast behind me in line, makes me feel good because I know it’s making someone else feel good. And hopefully, they will pay it forward, until everyone feels good.

    I don’t need to look forward to eternal life or worry about eternal damnation. I just live in the moment. And I prefer to believe the firefighters lived in the moment, and died in the moment–while they were trying to save others. I believe the idea of God is only for the living. To ease their comfort in a time of loss. Sometimes I wish I could believe in a god so I could just “give it all up” to him. But that’s not a comforting thought to me. I prefer to feel and live. Now.

    • @Oatmellow…I know what you mean. Sometimes I wish I could give my fears and worry to someone else. Maybe the next best thing is to talk through your fears and worries with those around you. (And having a drink in hand and some fireworks to blow things up helps…. ;)

  12. I have often said the same about Power, or Wealth and the pursuit of each. I told my kids years ago that the greatest emperors and their lowliest slaves are all buried in the same ground today. Seeking Power or Wealth just for the sake of being Powerful or Wealthy leaves those so obsessed, with little time to live the life around them. It is more important to live happily and in the company of those you care for than it is to lay on one’s death bed and look back at how “successful” you were. If my wife, my kids and I are warm when it’s cold out, and cool when it’s hot out and we don’t worry day to day about starvation, dehydration or violence, then I consider what we possess to be “enough” and we can get on with the business of enjoying our journey.
    Those who don’t know the meaning of “enough” will never be satisfied.

  13. Brilliant! I have been trying to figure put a way to say this that was concise and clear. Now, I just have to direct people to you. Thanks for saying this.

  14. LanceThruster

    Don’t take life seriously. No one gets out of here alive.

    We are all mortal. We live on in the memory of others and by our deeds.
    Our acts of self-sacrifice are so much more profound than the alleged sacrifice of Jesus. If he really was God, then he knew that this was all for show no matter what pain he was suffering. He knew it was not the end of his existence. He was no more than a stage actor pretending to get killed because he *knew* the true nature of his reality. Humans do not have that certainty.

    Since none of are assured anything in this life, we must make the best of the relatively short time we have. I was watching a show on the Discovery Channel (“How the Universe Works”) on how the universe will die out when the stars run out of fuel and everything goes dark. I laughed at myself for having a tinge of sadness for our ultimate demise even though we’ll be long, long gone. We are living in the Stelliferous Era ( see- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Future_of_an_expanding_universe#Stelliferous_Era ) and the life of our own sun is just a blip in the cosmic time scale; our lives all the more so. People worry about what their lives will be like after their death. It will be exactly the same level of awareness as before their birth (i.e. none), yet people fret over the notion of the universe carrying on without them.

    The untimely deaths of those firefighters was intensely painful, yet some humans tragically do not live past childhood. They died doing what they loved. They reached adulthood, and knew that life has no guarantees. We must make our own meaning, and help others find it. Our existence, though often nasty, brutish, and short, is made bearable by the bonds we form with our fellow human beings. We are social creatures. There’s a bit of pop philosophy that says, “Love isn’t what makes the world go round, but it makes the ride worthwhile.”

    I also like Kurt Vonnegut’s sardonic wit when questioned on what life all about. He replied with trademark humility, “Don’t ask me. I just got here myself.”

    —-

    “Life is a tale told by an idiot — full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” ~ William Shakespeare

    The meaning of life, is that it ends. ~ Franz Kafka

    Carpe diem ~ Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65 BC – 8 BC),

    Don’t ask (it’s forbidden to know) what end the gods have granted to me or you, Leuconoe. Don’t play with Babylonian fortune-telling either. How much better it is to endure whatever will be! Whether Jupiter has allotted to sink you many more winters or this final one which even now wears out the Tyrrhenian sea on the rocks placed opposite — be wise, be truthful, strain the wine, and scale back your long hopes to a short period. While we speak, envious time will have {already} fled: seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the next day.

    • @LT Every species has it’s cycle, and it’s highly unlikely that will fare any better than the rest of them. Maybe the universe is currently in the process of creating God. So, really, we’ve been looking at God as the beginning when he/she/it is really the end. Look at how we’ve evolved from nothing…to awareness….to creatining species….

  15. Since we don’t believe in any kind of God and have no evidence for an afterlife, all we can say at this point is that the firefighters are in the same situation right now as Mother Theresa, , John F. Kennedy, Hitler, and Elvis; that is to say they’re dead, and that’s it. No eternal reward or punishment involved, apart from the way each of those people are remembered for their deeds by the the world. The firefighters’ sacrifice will be remembered and their names will be honored for trying to keep other people from harm. As far as ways in which you’re remembered, I’d say that’s pretty damned good. Without the prospect of God, it’s entirely up to us in order to make the world a better place, and the kind we’d want to leave for the next generation.

    • @Senator Jason–Most of us will only be remembered for a generation or two, even the firefighters. It’s probably most significant that we’ve just helped set the world on a better path.

      I can see where Epicurus was coming from…

      • Thanks … I forgot to add that caveat. I also don’t want to suggest that even without an afterlife, we only do things for praise by those who remember us. However in the context of Molly’s perspective, that’s really the only “reward” or “justice” one could envision without an afterlife. I agree in that ultimately, no matter who remembers us – even if it’s no one, and it’s a sacrifice we made alone and in the dark – it’s the good that we did for its own sake that is the most important.

  16. LanceThruster

    “We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.” ~ Mark Vonnegut

  17. This goes along the same vein when I asked a true believer how he could accept the fact that a person could be “bad” – i.e. murderer, rapist, etc. – all their lives and then at the very end before they die, ask for forgiveness and get it from God and be accepted into heaven as a believer. He said that was what Jesus died for. That really is not fair either.

    I have a sign on my wall. It says “Believe there is good in the world.” Most of the letters are white but some are blue. The blue ones spell “Be the Good”. How we live in the here and now matters way more than some perceived “reward” after we die. It is what we do and how we treat others while we are alive that truly defines what kind of person we were.

  18. I was always taught to do the right thing, not to be recognized or rewarded, but because it is the right thing to do. In fact, bragging about what a good thing you did, or looking for a reward for your behavior, cheapens the act.

  19. Even when we did attend church, I still couldn’t get on the “God loves you, so anything that happens is good” bandwagon. What I mean is, I believe people can convince themselves that they can have it both ways. God has my best interest, so anything that happens to me can be seen in that light, good or bad. When something good happened when we attended church people would say it happened because God loves you. If something bad happened it was either it’s Satan’s fault or God is trying to test you to be a better person. Now that we no longer believe and attend church, those same people say the reverse. As if we are such different people than a few years ago. Our christian friends, whom we have known for years, believe that because we don’t attend church that all bad things are caused by not believing, (like they are waiting for something bad to happen so they can say “see, you should have stayed in church).

    I believe now and I think have always believed that “stuff” happens. Like the “it can never happen to me” syndrome, clouds people’s perception of the negative events. Humans make good and bad decisions that effect the world as a whole and individuals. I think people, myself included, would rather believe that they could somehow control what happens to them and those they love. You can only control certain things that happen to you.
    If you are worried about earthquakes, don’t live near a fault line. But that doesn’t mean that there is no chance of there being an earthquake where you live anyway. There is no real joy in living if you are paranoid to really live it.

    I choose to love and support those that I am capable of helping. Doing good for others or the world at large, I believe, aids us in making this life more healthy and productive for all who live here. If my kids only love others and contribute to society because we or God tells them they should, I wonder seriously about their character as humans. And their ability to truly love others. Fear of punishment or unseen reward doesn’t prove character.
    Sorry for the long post

    • @Amy B There is no word limit here. It is interesting that your xtian friends are waiting for something to happen as a sort of affirmation to stay a believer. I know they don’t say this, but it seems this way…

  20. I’ve been an atheist almost two years now and I still struggle with this topic a bit. I’m not afraid to die, per se; just still figuring out how best to live, knowing I’ve only got one go-’round. I can no longer relate to the idea of an afterlife where one receives some sort of reward or justice. Who gets to decide my eternal reward or punishment? A god that no one has ever seen or met? Other religions aside, even Xians can’t form a consensus on the topic, so who should I believe? As rough and unfair as life can be at times, I’d rather make the best of it here and now (for myself and others) than to worry about the sweet bye and bye.

  21. Thought this was an interesting and relevant article:
    http://www.zimbio.com/Atheism/articles/3km96rvr3Ut/Atheism+study+authors+Congratulations+non
    Especially the last line: “Most of the non-believers we researched,” added Coleman, “they’re looking to affect the world, to make the world better. They do care, and they care about everyone.”

    • LanceThruster

      If it is to be, it’s up to me.

      In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

      ~ Carl Sagan

  22. I’m trying not to be snide and judgmental about Molly’s question, but I gotta say, it irks me. But I am assuming it was asked in all good faith and desire to know.

    I feel her question is partly based on a premise that one is “good” on earth to be rewarded in heaven, no? And that is the same as telling your kids to be good or Santa won’t come (heh, and when it works, I say, milk that one, but I digress.) I’m “good” or moral or whatever you call it for my OWN sake, because I feel like a horrible person otherwise. Also because I believe it’s part of what keeps a society together.

    Molly’s question also presupposes that those who put themselves in harms way for others are themselves Good People. But this isn’t and can’t always be the case. Remember when Charles Kuralt died and folks were upset at the loss of such a good human being? But then we learned he had a secret other family. Where did he then fall on the good continuum? There are good odds that among those 19 firefighters there were some who were selfish, maybe an adulterer, maybe an abuser. As has also been said, they were likely in that profession for the thrill, not because it was a higher calling.

    I counter Molly’s question and her example of the firefighters with the myriad of teachers who have been killed in a profession not known for being on the front lines of danger. The “reward” for them would be in their final actions, and that it goes a small way to healing the hearts of their families (that they died trying to help others.)

  23. I think relating the notions taught in holy books, such as heaven and hell, to the condition of one’s current living is an accurate depiction. Athiests are personally responsible for their behavior and actions and I would think it is why there are lower crime rates and more stable relationships among this group. Doing the ethical thing is its own reward and many skeptics work in operating rooms, saving the lives of many; in colleges teaching our children or in a laboratories creating innovative ways to make the human experience much greater. All these professions feature personal sacrifice of time, energy and purpose as those in them use their lives for the betterment of all (a very Christian philosophy incidentally).

  24. @Deb thank you for covering this topic. I really enjoy your blog. Even though I am a practicing Catholic, its interesting to see the perspective of people with different beliefs (or lack thereof). There is so much to gain from having an understanding of life outside of “the way I do things”. I don’t think I’m at risk of converting any non-believers on this page, nor do I feel like I’m at risk of losing my faith. But if we don’t have the discussions, then all we have is irrational fear or a false idea of that which is different. This is why I was curious on what you – and other non-believers- would have to say on the topic. I am going to try to address several things thrown out to the discussion by both Deb and commenters.

    Like many commenters in this blog, I, too, believe in the innate goodness of humans. I want to think that in the face of an “opportunity” to sacrifice my life for another, that I would have the courage to do it. And I don’t think all believers “do the right thing” to “store up tickets for rewards of eternal life”, as some commenters said. I really think some believers, just like some non-believers, do the right thing just because it is the right thing to do. I think genuine Xtians know that you don’t do good things for the reward. You do them because it is the right thing to do; you do them without bragging; you do them without expectation; you don’t even “let your right hand know what your left hand is doing”. And yes, some Xtians of course do not follow this protocol, and then they are the worst of hypocrites.

    Also, even though I do believe, I would never attempt to decide someone’s eternal reward or punishment, or even if someone deserves their lot of luck or misfortune in this life. I don’t know people’s internal struggles so I would never say “that person is going to hell”. (And I certainly don’t think “bad things happen to people who don’t go to church”. Thats just silly, and a true Xtian wouldn’t WANT bad things to happen to someone b/c they didn’t go to church.) In fact I don’t even feel qualified to say these firefighters went to heaven. I don’t know what kind of people they were, and I’m not sure one act at the end of life, or “begging for forgiveness” at the point of death, is enough. But again, that is not for me to decide.

    That said, if I was the widow of one of these firefighters, left to be a single mother of 4 children, I would like to think my husband was rewarded for his sacrifice and for his service. And I’m sorry, but “being highly thought of” by his peers and family wouldn’t be good enough for me. I mean, you wouldn’t be a self-proclaimed atheist if you REALLY cared about what other people think about you, right? So most people here would agree that’s not much of a reward.

    Yes, these men chose this job freely. And yes, they were being paid to do this job. But how can you come to terms with something as untimely and unjust as the death of a 29-year-old husband and father without some belief in the afterlife? Obviously the people on this blog CAN come to terms with that, and that is everyone’s own choice. I just think for me, the thought of not being able to reunite with my husband with whom my time was cut so short would leave me in a state of despair. Maybe that’s “weakness”, as a lot of non-believers might think. But for me its just faith, and hope. 15-20 years, even 50 years, isn’t enough time for me to be with my sister, my husband, my children, my mother. I’m hoping I get to spend eternity with them too. Maybe thats greedy. And that doesn’t mean I’m not “enjoying the moment” or “cherishing what I’ve got”, although like most people I could probably do better at that!

    And, when I see people who are suffering, who are making sacrifices, who are doing the right thing and not being rewarded for it in THIS world, I hope those people are rewarded when this life ends. That is just my hope, and my belief. I don’t know that I want to live in a world where the only difference between Hitler and Mother Theresa at the end of their lives is “what the public opinion of them was”. That just isn’t good enough for me. How very American of me to be so justice-driven ;-)

    Thanks again for all the responses and insight. Here’s hoping the families of these firefighters find healing and peace. I’m sure we can all agree on that.

    • @Molly Thanks for your thoughtful reply. Just wondering what gives you certainty of an afterlife and how you can be sure you or a loved one will both be there to reunite someday. I’m not being flippant; I believed in a heaven most of my life. But even when I did, the idea ultimately gave me more angst than comfort. Not only was I always secretly worried whether or not I would “make it”, I hated wondering whether loved ones would someday make it (or if those who died had made it). There’s really no way to ever be sure, especially since, as you say, it’s not up to us to decide. What if I got to heaven and found out my best friend who I thought would be there wasn’t? That would be awful.

      That being said, I’m glad your belief gives you comfort and I would never want to take that away from someone. Appreciate the conversation.

    • LanceThruster

      @Molly – With many religions, one of these selfless firefighters could have been a wonderful person, helping humanity and his or her community…but by picking the “wrong god,” still face the eternal torments of Hell.

      I think I’d prefer non-existence. At least one can hope that death would be the permanent end to one’s own suffering.

    • LanceThruster

      That said, if I was the widow of one of these firefighters, left to be a single mother of 4 children, I would like to think my husband was rewarded for his sacrifice and for his service. And I’m sorry, but “being highly thought of” by his peers and family wouldn’t be good enough for me. I mean, you wouldn’t be a self-proclaimed atheist if you REALLY cared about what other people think about you, right? So most people here would agree that’s not much of a reward.

      I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But as much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking. ~ Carl Sagan

      A hurtful truth is always better than a soothing lie.

      Reality just *is*, despite what you may wish it to be.

    • @Molly I do hear what you’re saying about why sacrifice your life for the greater good if you believe this is it. I don’t think, even if you believe, that this is an easy thing to do. More importantly, most people do not choose to be heroes. They become so accidentally, usually by making a choice on impulse or without realizing the dangers. (Didn’t Aristotle address this?)

      You ask: “But how can you come to terms with something as untimely and unjust as the death of a 29-year-old husband and father without some belief in the afterlife?” When you look at how many unjust, untimely and unfair things happen in life–children with cancer, innocent people caught in the crossfire of political wars, a woman raped and killed–then my conclusion is that, if there is a God, he doesn’t give a sh*t about his children. The whole idea of suffer now and you’ll be rewarded later was an idea (I believe from what I’ve read and reasoned) that became popular because of all the suffering of the common man–the hunger, poverty, disease, even filth in some of the larger cities.

      To me, Mother Theresa was not altruistic. She did good things that helped others(and from what I’ve read, some questionable things), but she did all of this with the belief she was working for god, her heavenly husband, even though, at times, she doubted his presence and felt abandoned.

      IMHO, when you do something good for another, when you donate money or help people out in some way, bringing attention to yourself or expecting some sort of reward just lessens the good deed.

      As MichaelB said-I’m glad your faith gives you comfort and hope. It is never my intention to talk anyone out of their faith, only to gain acceptance and to have our schools, courtrooms, public places, free of god.

      Thanks for the great discussion, everyone.

      • Deb, you said ” if there is a God, he doesn’t give a sh*t about his children. ” I say that, as well. Here is my story of where my final clinging bit of belief in that Christian god fell away.

        I had a child who was older than a year, and he was happy and healthy though in the 15th percentile for weight (though 95th for height) so he was little, not even 20# at a year. In the news was yet another horrible case of a child so abused by her mother she had finally died at the age of 5 or so. The child had resembled her father, who had left the mother, so the mother had taken it out on the child by keeping her like a dog, not feeding her (while taking care of older children!) The child at death was 15 pounds. That is where I decided there can be no god, not this supposed caring Christian one, where a child can be so abused. I could hold my own toddler and know that he was heavier than this older child who had died, and I could not fathom how it could be allowed (by the Sky Daddy, I mean) to happen. And repeatedly, because this type of thing comes into the news again and again.

        Humans do extraordinary things to each other, both bad AND good, and it’s up to us to do more good to outweigh the bad. I try do do that good, to live honorably for my own sake and that of my family, not because I’ll be rewarded later with a harp and a fluffy cloud.

        • @MelissaM I had a similar experience, and when you have young children and realize how vulnerable they are, it’s just heartbreaking to hear how horrible people can be. But as you said–they can also be incredible, too.

      • @Deb thanks for the response. And thanks for letting this subject be featured on your blog. Non-believer or believer, death is hard to swallow – especially a sacrificial death and/or the premature death of someone who is young and healthy. And you’re right, many become “heros” by accident, moreso by choice. Suffering in this world, unfortunately, exists. I wish I had the answer on this but I don’t. I don’t think suffering discriminates based on beliefs or even goodness; we all bear our own burdens.

        I guess I feel like in some ways the sacrificial death of a non-believer is more meaningful than that of a believer. Because when you don’t believe in an afterlife, the value of your mortal life on earth increases. As someone commented earlier, because this is “it”, you want to live! Believers want to live too of course, but are able to find more comfort or “purpose” in death.

        • @Molly

          I just realized that the picture I used for the CNN article was one I took in the Granite Dells in Prescott, AZ. I wonder if that grave is still there.

          Here’s an interesting article I read this morning about the firefighters: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/03/us/arizona-firefighters.html?nl=todayshead lines&emc=edit_ae_20130703

          I thought what one of the wives texted her husband as he headed out to fight the fire was interesting. She said, “”Have fun,” Juliann replied. “We’ll miss you.”

          Not, “Be careful.” But have fun–as if she knew that this was something he enjoyed. Hopefully–and I guess we can only hope, that he loved what he did and did not suffer long….

          • @Deb thanks for sharing that article. Sad but touching. Sometimes grief, despair, tragedy, sadness, abuse in this world – its so overwhelming you wonder why you even decided to bring children into it. But then like you said, people surprise you also with their kindness, selflessness, generosity, compassion, and love. So here’s hoping the good always outweighs the bad.

  25. I think we get to “live forever” by being remembered fondly by those we leave behind. Being included in family stories and oral history is our eternal life.

    Personally, it’s my mission to make those stories as rollicking and fun as possible!

  26. LanceThruster

    Alan Watts does a lecture on “The Eternal Now” ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22JI1naB2Sk ) based on theologian Paul Tillich’s essay of the same name. (http://www.religion-online.org/showbook.asp?title=1630 ).

    As I remember, the point by Watts was that our connection with eternity is that it is always *now*, has always been now, and will always be now. Much like the flow of a river, we are part of that ever-changing expression of the now, so in that sense, we *are* eternal.

    • @LT Thanks for the links. I didn’t read Tillich’s book, but I think I have read him before. As for Alan Watts, I like the idea of the “eternal present.” However, that is something that’s kept me up a night or two. There is really only the past, which is as Watts said, an illusion, and the future. The past is pliable, so it gives us an opportunity to recreate ourselves. The future gives us a chance to hope for good outcomes. There is no present because we are constantly moving–time is movement.

      What is the present? This moment? No, it just passed. The present is nonexistent–it’s either the future or the past. No matter how much you divide the moment, it always falls to one side or the other. So none of us are really here.

    • @LT I read some Tillich near the end of my deconversion journey. He was sort of a last ditch effort on my part to hold on to some form of faith but in the end it all wound up seeming like too much woo. Panentheism is something I could almost get behind but I wondered, “If this is all God is, what’s the point of following him?” I couldn’t believe in the evangelical God anymore, and none of the more appealing versions seemed worth the time or effort. At the very end I basically went from apophatic theology to apatheism.

  27. LanceThruster

    Speaking of “survival,” I thought I’d offer this —

    All civilizations become either spacefaring or extinct. ~ CARL SAGAN,

  28. LanceThruster

    “Why should I fear death? If I am, death is not. If death is, I am not. Why should I fear that which can only exist when I do not?”

    ~ Epicurus

  29. It’s not how we die; it’s how we live. It’s what kind of legacy we leave behind. We do what we do and live how we live because it’s the right thing to do and because it enhances our lives and the lives of others, not because it will earn us some reward or favor when we die. Our reward is in doing the best we can and being the best we can be — right here, right now. Leaving the world a better place, contributing to the best of our ability, raising responsible children to carry on after we are gone — these things are their own reward. Doing them in anticipation of some reward after death assigns a sort of ulterior motive and reduces them to acts of self-interest.

    Of course we feel despair when a loved one dies. Of course we’d like the comfort of knowing we’d see that person again someday. But we cannot will ourselves to believe just so that comfort will be there when we need it. Belief doesn’t work that way. I wish it did.

  30. I think the idea of a heaven appeals because it is very difficult to wrap our minds around not being. The idea that we live our lives and then one day are gone is sort of upsetting, but that doesn’t mean that there really is a place that we go afterward and where we will be reunited with our loved ones. (Along those lines, I’ve always wondered what would happen in the case of people who were widowed several times – do all the spouses meet up in heaven and how awkward must that be! Also, are we reunited with our not so loved ones too?)

    I grew up in a Christian home, but to be honest the idea of being good to please god or to get the reward of going to heaven really never had any meaning to me. I behaved so that my parents would not be mad or disappointed or take away my TV privileges. Over time I learned that if you behaved properly, things went well for you. If I treated others well, they generally treated me well. If I worked hard, I would be rewarded with the boss’s trust in my abilities, etc. As a parent I want my children to learn over time to do the right thing because it’s the right thing, not because they are going to get in trouble from me or a supernatural being.

    Anyway, I was thinking about this today and my thoughts were much like MelissaM’s. There is no doubt that these men died doing something heroic and something that I would never volunteer to do. Whatever their motivation, it takes a lot of guts to put yourself in that position. But does that mean they should have a special reward in an afterlife if there is one? We really don’t know who they were as people? What if someone dies doing something truly heroic, but abused his wife on a regular basis? Conversely, what if someone lived an exemplary life and in one moment of anger or fear caused great harm to someone? Does that person lose their reward? Who decides?

    Also, maybe I don’t understand Christian doctrine, but does it even matter whether someone was a hero or not? As long as the person believed that Jesus was the son of god, died for their sins, etc. aren’t their sins absolved and they can go to heaven? Doesn’t that mean that the murderer and the hero both end up in heaven if they both believed and asked forgiveness for their sins?

    I too think that our reward is what we do here and now, and hopefully how we are remembered. It would give me no end of pleasure to hear someone speak well of my husband, for example, years after he was gone.

    • @Karen For some forms of Christianity, I think that it doesn’t matter what you do (as you said) as long as you accept Jesus as your savior, you get to board the plane to heaven. There are a lot of jailhouse converts, prisoners who claimed to “be saved.” For Presbyterians, it doesn’t matter. You’re either saved or you’re not. God’s already decided before you’re born.

      I agree with you here and think it makes for much more moral children: “As a parent I want my children to learn over time to do the right thing because it’s the right thing, not because they are going to get in trouble from me or a supernatural being.”

      • My mother was a very strong believer, but definitely a member of the “Church of Good Works.” (I’m pretty certain she never read the Bible or thought much about church doctrine. Her god was definitely a construct of her own.) She always told me that as long as you were a good person you would go to heaven. Even if you had never heard of Jesus, you would go. Imagine my shock when I went to catechetical classes at our church (Lutheran so hardly fire and brimstone) and learned that no matter how good you were, if you didn’t believe in Jesus you were not getting into heaven!

  31. Thanks for the responses. @MichaelB in response to your question, I don’t *know* there is a heaven or an afterlife via having physical proof or a scientific experiment which yielded a result (and I am a Chemistry major, so I adhere to the scientific procedure as much as the next nerd!). I just have faith that these things do exist, and maybe that is not a good enough answer. (Its obviously not a good enough answer for some people or this blog wouldn’t exist. :-) ) And maybe I believe it simply because that is what I want to believe, because that is what I hope is true. But I agree @MichaelB, the thought of heaven and an afterlife can cause both comfort AND angst. I totally agree with what you said about worrying about whether you or your family would “make it”… I’ve been there. And yes, I too wonder about all the intricacies and “logistics” of how heaven exactly would work, like @Karen mentioned. What if you had two husbands? What if I want to be 25 in heaven and my husband wants to be 18? I think that is one of the hardest things about being a knowledge-seeker AND a believer… its hard to accept that there are things I just don’t get, or just can’t prove, or just can’t comprehend. But that is just a part of my faith that I have learned to accept.

    @Michael, I appreciated your earlier comment about saying how this was a hard topic for you as an Atheist. I think that is why I asked the question of Deb, because I think if I were an Atheist this would be a hard topic for me too. I think what I am ultimately wondering is, if this is REALLY “it” – this mortal life here on earth is all we get- then doesn’t that make it difficult for a person to justify sacrificing their life for another person or for a just cause? “Oh, this is IT? Then I’m just going to let that wildfire burn and stay here in safety with my wife and kids”. “Oh, its all over after this? Then I’m not going to France to fight the Nazis, I’m staying here with my mom and brothers”. “Oh this is all I get? Then I’m not going to go march in that violent civil rights rally, I’ll just stay home”. I think that is what I’m ultimately wondering. And I’m not accusing non-believers of being less self-less, or less sacrificial than believers. I know that isn’t true. I’m just saying I think it would make it harder (harder, not impossible) for me to justify sacrificing my life for another person or another cause if I didn’t think there was life after this one.

    • As a middle-aged adult who was raised without religion, I feel “blessed” to not have the angst of worrying about the “afterlife”. I see living today, in this world as the most important aspect of my life. And I cherish, (well almost all the time ;>) ) the moments, and look forward to the future. As a non-believer/atheist, or one who has no religious background whatsoever, to think of death and afterlife seems to be cheating on the life you are living now.

    • @Molly I think people willing to die for something are just that – people willing to die for something. Religious beliefs are tangential. Who’s to say that a person who supposedly died for a cause *wasn’t* doing it for selfish reasons, believer or non? Maybe they felt they were never highly thought of in life but would be if they died for a worthy cause. We can never really know their thoughts or motivations.

      I’m reminded of a story my friend told me. He and his wife went through a missionary training course and as part of it they were “held hostage” in a room. At one point the “terrorists” came in and said someone had to volunteer to be executed or else everyone else would be. Even though it was staged, my friend couldn’t do it. He froze. And he’s one of the strongest believers I know. So I guess my point is, in all those scenarios you gave, who’s to say that a promise of heaven is really enough of a reward to make someone who normally wouldn’t sacrifice themselves do so?

      As far as faith is concerned, maybe that’s a topic for another day because it’s such a big one, but I just wanted to say this: I didn’t set out to become an atheist a few years ago. It just sort of happened over time when I chose to quit accepting things on faith and start challenging the beliefs I was most afraid to scrutinize. It’s not a easy thing to do, but always worth it in the end. People have a right to believe what they want, but I no longer see faith as a virtue; I see it as a way to avoid things we’d rather not examine more closely.

      • @MichaelB thanks for the responses. Interesting story about your friend. I don’t think any of us know what we are really made of until we are in the moment where we have to make a life-or-death choice. Its easy to sit here in my safe office and say “yes I would die for justice! I would die for another!” But who knows if I actually would when the rubber meets the road. Tough stuff, and hopefully I don’t ever have to face that choice.

        Re faith, yes, a discussion for another day. As is often said on this page, I am fine with your unbelief as it seems you are fine with my belief. As long as neither of us cause the other harm, then live and let live. I will say from the stories you have shared on this blog about your past it sounds like you were very hard on yourself as a believer. So if becoming an atheist has given you some release from what seemed to be a burden and a weight on you, then who am I to judge that decision.

        • @Molly Yes, I have often said I made a lousy Xian, at least in my mind (I even blogged about that specific topic once). Leaving it behind has definitely been a release of sorts, but the journey since then, although worth it, hasn’t been easy either. Some people leave their faith behind more easily than others, I’m sure, but I never assume it is an easy thing to do and I generally discourage it. I have no desire to move someone else’s cheese, as it were. Do I like to make them think and maybe question? Sure, but we all need that. I was never much of a Xian apologist and I’m certainly not an atheist one. I just enjoy sharing and hearing life experiences and trying to better understand one another. Humans are pretty cool.

        • @ Molly I don’t know why there isn’t a “LIKE” button in WordPress–I would “like” this: ” So if becoming an atheist has given you some release from what seemed to be a burden and a weight on you, then who am I to judge that decision.”

      • @MicahelB Interesting insight:

        “It just sort of happened over time when I chose to quit accepting things on faith and start challenging the beliefs I was most afraid to scrutinize. It’s not a easy thing to do, but always worth it in the end. People have a right to believe what they want, but I no longer see faith as a virtue; I see it as a way to avoid things we’d rather not examine more closely.”

  32. Totally agree with you!!! It has taken me awhile to appreciate the here and now. Our heaven and hell is right here everyday on earth dictated by the choices we make including the way we choose to view events throughout our lifetime. We all have good/bad days, weeks, years. It is all part of the ebb and flow of live.

  33. @Molly – I think for many atheists, it’s really just the opposite of thinking “if this is all there is, why should I care?” We should care BECAUSE this is all there is. Why not do your part to make this world better – it could be really big things, of course, or just everyday things. You can smile at someone or hold the door. If someone is rude to you you can think about what they might be going through to make them act that way and not fire back. I think this is what motivates most people, religious or not. I can’t imagine that firefighters or soldiers or whatever do what they do only because they believe in god and think there will be an afterlife. What about members of other faiths that might not have the belief in an afterlife? Surely members of those religions make such sacrifices without the thought of an afterlife.

    For me it’s hard to understand just accepting something because I want to have faith in it. And if so, why Christianity? Why not choose another faith that believes in rebirth, for example. That could be cool too, to come back in another life (depending on what you come back as).

    Of course, the afterlife reward also motivates people to do acts that we condemn. I’m thinking of suicide bombers who believe that by blowing themselves and others up for the cause they will be granted entrance to some afterlife paradise.

  34. @Anonymous – and I should be clear, I don’t mean in general “if this is all there is, why should I care?” Its easy to be “good” in the small things like holding open a door or biting your tongue when someone is rude – believer or non-believer. I’m talking about the life-and-death decisions. If there is no afterlife, what gain comes from me dying to save some random person on the street? Yes, their life is saved. That is one gain. But my children are left motherless, my husband is left spouseless, and since I am the bread winner they are left in a terrible financial situation. My siblings and parents lost me too early. My children will never even remember me. For ME, the only consolation those people can find is “she sacrificed her life, she was a good person, hopefully she is happy in the afterlife and we will see her again”. Maybe the memory of my valiance in that situation should be enough. But I don’t know if it would be. And I hope I’m never in this situation :-)

  35. @Molly – the last Anonymous is Karen – I don’t know why that didn’t show. Anyway, I guess my response would be that even if there is an afterlife, your survivors are still stuck for now. They are still in a bad financial situation, your children still won’t remember you. They will still grieve. If they cannot find some consolation in the fact that you died doing a good thing and the only thing that will bring them peace is knowing you are in an afterlife, then I think that’s a problem. To me it seems like saying that the person died for nothing because they didn’t get anything out of it.

    Just as it’s difficult for you to imagine how there could be any consolation without believing the person was in a better place, it is difficult for me to understand having faith in something because that will make me feel better. Well, guess I can understand that it brings comfort, but it does not make it true. I’m not sure if that makes sense.

  36. @Karen – what you said at the end makes sense, yes. I understood what you meant. Like I said in my very first comment though, I have no agenda to convince you or anyone else on this page that heaven is real. I don’t think I would be successful even if I tried. ;-)

  37. I find this blog and its comments to be very intriguing. I was raised without religion. And I also reside in one of the least religious states in the country, so religion is not “in my face” all the time. The one thing that strikes me from reading this blog and the comments the past 3 months is the amount of angst it generates. My question: is this because (being raised with religion) of having that religious knowledge? (Ignorance is bliss.) I for one never think about the “afterlife.” And when I do ponder philosophically, it comes down to living THIS life fully…because TODAY in this world on THIS planet is my LIFE or being, my family. When I am dead, I am dead. There is no consciousness. And because of that, I don’t want to die, I want to live. So afterlife has no meaning to me.
    Also, why does an atheist or non-believer have to tip-toe around religious folks? I find that to be incredibly annoying.

    • @Anonymous “Also, why does an atheist or non-believer have to tip-toe around religious folks? I find that to be incredibly annoying.”
      I’ve lived all along the east coast and in Texas. It is much different here, although similar to the southeast. I worked for someone for several years who is very religious. I feel certain, after listening to her comments, that I would not have had a job with her if I came out. When I’ve told people in the past, No, thanks, I’m agnostic, they either try to convert me or just ignore. I’ve been called an idiot and unappreciative for not believing. My younger kid learned from the older one what happens when you tell people, and now he plays along.

      Things are changing, though.

      • One of the reasons this blog has attracted my interest is because I have a six year old son. Currently I am “ignoring” the whole religion thing with him because: how do I explain to him that there are some who believe in god, and some that don’t (me) when he ABSOLUTELY believes there is a Santa Claus? I love this innocence and the conviction he has in his belief of Santa and I am not ready to take that away from him yet. Telling him that I don’t believe there’s a man flying around in the sky, yet I believe there’s a man who flys around in a sleigh is a big contradiction. And the smart kid that he is, I KNOW he’ll ask that question of why one is and why one isn’t.

        • @Anonymous When you sit down and talk with him about Santa, that will be a good time to tell him that some people, when they get older, believe in other myths. (God, Bigfoot, Lochness Monster, Ghosts)…. You don’t, but others do.

        • @Anonymous Kids are generally more perceptive than we give them credit for. I remember when we quit going to church I was worried about all the questions that would come.

          There weren’t any.

          In fact, the two older ones said they were kinda glad we quit going because they didn’t really believe that stuff anyway. They were just doing it for us.

  38. Maybe a reading of “The Bonobo And The Atheist” (Frans De Waal) would shed light this subject. Science is proving that we (humans) can be moral, thoughtful, compassiopnate, caring, etc. beings without god. We don’t do things for reward (or fear of punishment), we do them because we believe it’s the right thing to do.

  39. I wish I had more time to be on here commenting. I see I have missed some really good topics. Deb, I think you pretty much summed it all up as to what I was going to say on this particular topic.

    Anytime I hear of tragic deaths such as what happened to these firefighters I am saddened at the thought that they were all in their prime years of life, but also they chose that path. Yes it is self sacrificing and I truly commend those that risk their lives for others. We as a non-believers knowing this is our only life I feel either try to live it cautiously by choosing not to take certain risks thus maybe not really living the life or those that feel since this is it they are willing to take risks and truly live a life. Just not sure how many of those would be involved in something self sacrificing maybe more of something that is self enjoyment like skydiving. Since I do feel this is the only life I am given I wouldn’t risk mine over someone else’s unless it was that of family or someone who was much younger than I, but then again who knows if ever I am faced with a situation of helping someone even if it meant risking my life I think in all actuality human instincts would kick in and I would just react without thinking.

    Happy Independence Day!

    • @LT In all fairness, this wasn’t murder. I think sensationalizing these things does more harm than good.

      And in all fairness, the parents should be committed to a psychiatric hospital and, in case they have other children, parental rights should be revoked. (They should not be allowed to have children until–if–they are rehabilitated.) Yes?

  40. LanceThruster

    It’s where I found the story but I think you’re right – negligent homicide and murder are too different acts.

    Should the parents feel comforted in the “knowledge” that their child is with the Lord, despite the fact that they were instrumental for putting her there, or should they feel troubled that the Lord did not deliver, either for their lack of faith, or a God that does not keep promises?

  41. @LT That story about the twisted parents is much like the one I posted awhile back about the Schaible couple from Philadelphia who tried to “faith heal” 2 of their children in separate incidences a couple years apart and sadly both died. After the first child died they were put on probation and told to seek medical attention next time one of their children becomes ill. This time they are being prosecuted for murder!

    • @Juls @LT. I remember that one. You gotta wonder if there is a loose screw somewhere in the minds of parents who allow their kids to die. Perhaps if we took their Bibles and wrote in an 11th commandment, it would help: “Doctors have my proxy. Seek the assistance of trained professional when necessary. “

  42. From a biological point of view, there’s a hypothesis that altruism arose as a way of ensuring your “group” survived. Early humans lived in groups of 30 or so closely related people, so if you sacrificed yourself for the group, your genes would still be carried on. Since all humans on the planet are related to some degree, sacrificing oneself for others still makes sense on a larger scale.
    On another topic (i.e. being reunited with loved ones in the afterlife), one of my early questions about religion came from visiting a cemetery with my folks (for genealogical research) and noticing a headstone of a man and his 3 wives. I wondered which wife he ended up with in heaven. Fistfights don’t seem to be part of the religious view of the afterlife…

  43. LanceThruster

    FYI —

    Atheism study authors: Congratulations, non-believers, you’re just like everybody else

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/07/02/atheism-study-authors-congratulations-non-believers-youre-just-like-everybody-else/

  44. LanceThruster

    “Ignorance is preferable to error, and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing than he who believes what is wrong.” ~ Thomas Jefferson (Notes on Virginia, 1782)

    THOMAS JEFFERSON ON CHRISTIANITY & RELIGION

    from: http://www.nobeliefs.com/jefferson.htm

  45. What also makes no sense is the church’s reluctant acceptance of the fact that homosexuality is a fact of life. Surely, if God says it’s a sin then that’s the church’s position and always shoud be. God is infallible etc, isn’t he? It also makes no sense that women bishops are not allowed…but gay male ones are as long as they’re celibate. Aren’t women just as capable of being ‘holy’ as men?

  46. What follows is a lifelong journey of change and growth as you get to know God better through Bible reading, prayer and interaction with other Christians.

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