May 19th, 2011
03:00 PM ET
My Take: Doomsdayers show what’s wrong with all religion
Editor's Note: David Silverman, an atheist since age 6, is president of American Atheists.
By David Silverman, Special to CNN
Let nobody doubt that religion hurts people. Good, intelligent, caring people suffer every day and everywhere at the hands of religion, the happy lie.
Religion is used by dishonest people who claim to know the way to the one thing humans want most: immortality. To combat fear of death, religious people ignore their intellect, believe the lie, and follow the preacher, usually blindly and sometimes to the point of insanity.
We are witnessing one very good example of this right now, as a group led by Christian ministry leader Harold Camping prepares for the end of the world this Saturday, May 21.
Of course, the weekend will pass without incident and thousands of Camping's followers, having spent or donated huge amounts of money on his behalf, will be gravely disappointed. Victims will be broken. Families will be damaged. Lives will be ruined. All because someone made a good pitch, and followers believed.
Opinion: May 21 Doomsday movement harms Christianity
I am not sure if Camping is a liar, but I think so. He realized that religion is a great way to make tax-free money off the backs of well-meaning people, through donations to his ministry, all without fearing eternal damnation. You see, I suspect that he, like many others of his ilk, doesn’t believe in God at all.
It may seem odd that I would accuse this man of being an atheist like me, but rest assured that he is nothing like me.
Like most atheists, I’m a pretty nice person and would never scam someone out of his or her life savings or convince someone to quit a job just to line my pockets. The truth is that religion and ethics are completely independent of one another.
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Consider how Newt Gingrich could campaign against President Bill Clinton's adultery as the darling of the Religious Right while actually being an adulterer himself. Consider how evangelical superstar Ted Haggard could preach against homosexuality, in God’s name, while hiding a gay lover. And consider Camping, who can get donors to cough up what appears to be a lot of money in God’s name while ruining his followers’ real lives on Earth.
These are not people who fear God or hell. In my opinion, they know very well that gods are myths. They are just bad people. Atheists have bad people, too, the worst of whom feign religion for their own personal gain.
Next week, Camping’s victims will ask our forgiveness for being so foolish, and we will forgive them, because we’ve all done stupid things. They will ask for money and we will help them, because most people are charitable.
And then Camping victims will ask us to forget all about this whole ugly scam. That is something we must never do.
We must remember that Camping, atheist or not, is no different from any other preacher. Religion thrives on fear–the constant threat of any-time-now Judgment Day coupled with eternal punishment in hell for those who don’t believe strongly enough.
Since rational minds question irrational things, believers constantly have doubts, and therefore fear that they don't have enough faith to pass muster during the eventual Rapture, when the righteous will be saved and the unrighteous will be damned. Fear of hell makes believers desperate to ease those doubts so they can be sure to get into heaven. It’s a recipe for fear-based obedience, which is exactly what religion craves.
It’s the method used by Camping, and by the rest of Christianity, too.
If we forget about Camping, this apocalyptic madness will happen again. Next year is 2012 and, just as was supposed to happen in 2011, 2004, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1997, 1994 and other years that the world is supposed to end, according to one religion or another.
What will we do in 2012? Will we sit still while preachers take advantage of the gullible again? Will we refrain from confronting the fools and continue to revere religion? Or will we, as a society, demand that people use their intellect and pay attention to their preachers, priests, rabbis or mullahs and see them as the scammers they really are?
This weekend, preachers from coast to coast will talk about why they are right and Camping is wrong, and I ask you all to listen closely. They will try to justify why one interpretation of the Bible (theirs) is right while the others are wrong. In the end, they are all interpreting the “perfect word of God” in their own imperfect way so that God agrees with their own agenda. It’s obvious if you look for it; no preacher ever says "God disagrees with me."
Yes, this weekend we will giggle at the fools who follow the preachers that earn their living spreading happy lies. Religion will have been proven wrong yet again.
But we all must remember that people have been hurt this weekend. We hope the victims of this year’s end-of-the-world will lift themselves back up, dust themselves off, and come out of this as better, less gullible people. Hopefully, they will use their experience to help others avoid future scams by shouting loudly at tomorrow’s victims, without fear of being irreverent about something which deserves no reverence at all.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David Silverman.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
What does God have anything to do with Camping, these cult religions, or the atheists?
None at all, because he doesn't exist. This article isn't about god – it's about the gullibility of humans and the true hope of atheists worldwide that the religious would "wake up" to the truth that their religious leaders are using them for money and fame, including the ones at every normal church, synagogue, and mosque etc, not just the doomsday frauds.
Everyday Christians, practicing Jews and Muslims, are only one short step behind the followers of the “doomsday prophets”.
Reading a lot of the comments on here it is clear that most have not read or at the very least are ignoring the blog. All the comments made by the religious I think can be summed up with "my way of interpreting the bible is the right way" and accept with out question that it is correct and that there is a god and Jesus Christ was more than just a well meaning hippy. Read the blog, it asks some very basic questions about belief. Why are you so sure your particular interpretation of bible is the right one? Why are you so sure that your particular god is the right one?
Beautifully stated Richard! My sentiments exactly!!!
Communists show what is wrong with all athiests. You have a lame argument man.
Wow. Find a mirror. Yours is the lamest argument imaginable.
Not all communists are atheists and not all atheists are communists. If you base your life on ignorant beliefs like that, you will spend that whole life being wrong. Jesus held some very communistic views, by the way.
Yo, Neil and Trubble! You missed Anna's point. She was making an intentionally lame argument that she feels is on a par with Silverman's, ie pick the worst members of a class and say they are representative of the whole class.
I don't know who I find more pitiable, the fools who believe Camping, or the fools who believe in god(s) at all. At least the Camping camp is putting their money, time, and energy where thier beliefs really are. You, yes you! No more shellfish! Besleeve yourself, strumpet! Satan didn't fall from grace, she was pushed! Crom laughs at you from his mountain!
Hilltop....just so I understand...your point of view is that these monsters were atheists so we can blame atheism for their deeds...btw it's intyeresting you don't mention Hitler who was a Christian...and actually if you take the Bible literally....it shouldn't matter if these gruesome people believed or not because it was all god's will anyway....and btw...according to the bible god committed greater mass murder than everyone you mentioned times 10 or doesn't the great flood count....innocent children, babies hard working and religious folk in addition to all those sinners wiped out in a big flood....sure want to know how big that boat was to get literally millions of species on there...I
Mr silverman fails to inform us that the biggest abusers of mankind in this past century have been avowed atheists. Stalin, mao, Pol Pot, etc. are more responsible for human destruction than any religion has ever been. The existence of religion in our world from as far back as we can remember is proof of an innate hunger within humanity for the mysterious. We are wired for eternity and our soul is crying out, "feed me". An honest response to that hunger will lead you to the truth. Its not simply a concept. Truth is a person. His name is Jesus Christ. Ask Him to fill in the gap.
Many of these people actually used to be religious although it is certainly true they eventually became atheist. But one does not imply the other. If it was so, you would expect criminals to have low religiosity. But it turns out that religiosity is actually highest in this group (source: prison surveys). My best friend is Russian and she always tells me how the Communism is no different from a religion. Effectively, these people just replaced one irrational belief system by another. Which brings up a good point: the real enemy to the common people is not religion but dogma.
The crusades and the witch trials trump all 3 combined. Evil people are evil people.....religion just didnt happen to be what they used to justify their genocide. Im sure if they were any kind of religious they would have used that to their advantage. Its just a tool to control the masses with fear. Stupid individuals like yourself are its biggest followers. Theres a reason most of the brilliant minds are not religious.
A wise man said "My people are failing because of lack of knowledge" Jesus Christ. Wrong behavior is a direct reflection of wrong thought. Wrong thought is a direct refliction of wrong state of mind. Wrong state of mind is a direct refliction of dead spirit. Dead spirit is a direct refliction of wrong values. Wrong values is a direct refliction of lack of knowledge. Lack of knowledge is a direct refliction of lack of education. Lack of education is a direct refliction of a failing people. "We the People" of America are a failing people. Failing people lack discernment,they are are unable to tell the difference between right thinking and behavior (Rightousness) and wrong thinking and behavior(Sin). Failing people can not predict the last days. Jesus Christ said He did not know when are the last days. He did not give an exact date!!! So, this "false prophet" knows more than Jesus Christ?.
I'm sorry but I don't get it. What exactly is all the fuss about? If there is a rapture, so be it , I'll have to deal with it. If there isn't a rapture of any kind, I'll get up the next morning and deal with a new day. Either way," let the blessings be".
Well THAT brought the nutters and the bots out…
Kahlil Gibran (1883 – 1931)
Arab American poet artist (Non Muslim).
JESUS THE SON OF MAN
His words and His deeds as told and recorded by those who knew Him
by Kahlil Gibran
The dooms day is to come I personally believe, as ^We all have a right to our own opinion. I also believe, if I live through Friday I know I will be here at least through Saturday. I Believe no man, science or technology can nor ever will predict the Coming of Christ or the end of this world. I also believe our souls will live forever in Heaven or hell and for those who don't believe will have to wait till they die. If the Bible isn't true, they have nothing to worry about living however they please; true then they have everything to worry about.
Actually, science can and has predicted a world-shattering event. In five billion years, the sun will consume all it's hydrogen, and then explode. The earth's atmosphere will vaporize, and the planet become so much space dust. It isn't prophecy, just chemistry and physics.
Janice, there is not a lick of proof that what you claim is true. There is no evidence of an afterlife and no evidence of a place people can go once they are dead. You guys can't even agree on what that afterlife is supposed to look like. No, I'm not believing in such nonsense until there is good proof to do so.
I just don't get why you people get so worked up about stuff there is absolutely no proof of.
This is a very special message from the one known as the Comforter in The End Times (John 14:16 and 14:26) to Harold Camping of Family Radio posted at http://merkaba.org/recent/052011.html
Harold Camping, Today is May 20, 2011
“The Comforter” would like to thank Harold Camping and his group for making people aware of the fact that the Rapture Energies are coming and soon there will be the Physical Body Ascensions of those who are ready.
You are special people who stood up for God during the End Times. Thus, you still have time to get ready for a Physical Body Ascension and learn how to consciously work with the sun’s Rapture Energies so you are prepared to Ascend at anytime, from anywhere.
We can teach you how to use Rapture Energies so you can be part of those who leave for the City of Gold in the prophesized Archangelic level Physical Body Ascension Process that will occur before December 21, 2012.
These 3 steps enable one to begin training at home with Rapture Energies and to partake each week in our Sabbath’s guided visits to the City of Gold.
· Step One: Free Techniques *
· Step Two: A Two Day Meditator Class
· Step three: A Two Day Activator Class
* Daily usage of our free techniques and a liberal’s lifestyle of properly helping others in need, will enable one to become ready for an Angelic level Ascension on Judgment Day, December 21, 2012.
Email Classes @ Merkaba.org for a calendar of our family’s Classes in your area of the world.
The Origin of Man
[32:7] He is the One who perfected everything He created, and started the creation of the human from clay.
[32:8] Then He continued his reproduction through a certain lowly liquid.
[32:9] He shaped him and blew into him from His spirit. And He gave you the hearing, the eyesight, and the brains; rarely are you thankful.
[40:15] Possessor of the highest ranks, and Ruler of the whole dominion. He sends inspiration, bearing His commands, to whomever He chooses from among His servants, to warn about the Day of Summoning.
[40:16] That is the day when everyone will be completely exposed; none of them will hide anything from GOD. To whom belongs all sovereignty on that day? To GOD, the One, the Supreme.
Prepare for the Big Day
[40:17] On that day, every soul will be requited for whatever it had earned. There will be no injustice on that day. GOD is most efficient in reckoning.
[40:18] Warn them about the imminent day, when the hearts will be terrified, and many will be remorseful. The transgressors will have no friend nor an intercessor to be obeyed.
[40:19] He is fully aware of what the eyes cannot see, and everything that the minds conceal.
Equality of Men and Women
[33:35] The submitting men, the submitting women, the believing men, the believing women, the obedient men, the obedient women, the truthful men, the truthful women, the steadfast men, the steadfast women, the reverent men, the reverent women, the charitable men, the charitable women, the fasting men, the fasting women, the chaste men, the chaste women, and the men who commemorate GOD frequently, and the commemorating women; GOD has prepared for them forgiveness and a great recompense.
[79:40] As for the one who reverenced the majesty of his Lord, and enjoined the self from sinful lusts.
[79:41] Paradise will be the abode.
[89:27] As for you, O content soul.
[89:28] Return to your Lord, pleased and pleasing.
[89:29] Welcome into My servants.
[89:30] Welcome into My Paradise.
LOL x 1000000!!!!
If god is willing to prevent evil but cannot, then he is not omnipotent.
If he is able to prevent evil but is not willing, then he is malevolent.
If he is both willing and able to prevent evil, then whence cometh evil?
If he is neither willing nor able to prevent evil, then why call him god?
Just because there are Atheists or other Intelletualand or delusional leaders taking advantage of the masses in 1000s of different ways...., it proves there is no God? Now thats a Quantum Leap.
How in a Completely Evolutionary Universe, which you obviously subscribe to, can there ever develope a universal morality? Who definds good? So weak is your argument. Its true that the false prophets are increasing and the teaching has become Apostate for sure, Oh wait, I read that it will be that way toward the end times....where was that....Oh yea, in a book that is nearly 2000 years old.....What was the name of that book....UMMM?
Its not that way everywhere, the third world is finding God and His Son JESUS and now this country is the mission field. Too rich, smart and technically advanced for God. When will we learn?? Lord have mercy on the proud.
Well, it would be difficult for a truly universal morality to arise, which goes away towards explaining why there IS no universally recognized, let alone heeded, morality. But humans are social organisms and therefore, like other social organisms, are constrained as to how they behave towards members of the same in group. To the extent that humans are slowly muddling towards something very roughly approximating a global morality (at least as far as interhuman acts are concerned), it's because people, largely due to pressure from secular humanists and other internationalists and universalists of the sort Christians tend to despise, have been pushing the idea that our in group consists of all of humanity, and not just our family or clan or tribe or gang or class or race or RELIGION or nation, etc
The Word from Jesus, "The Son of Man and The Son of God" says in Matthew 24:36 – No man knows the day and hour of the end of time, no not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
It is silly to profess and even try to predict the end of time, but Jesus admonishes us in Matthew 24:44 "Be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man comes." There are countless numbers of people that have died and met this Jesus mentioned in Revelation 1:18 that "has the keys of hell and of death". Jesus is the Light of the World. Often times there is a light that people see in a tunnel when they leave this Earth at death. Jesus is that light that every man will have to give an account for. He has the keys of death and hell, but has given the Keys of "life" to believers of Jesus Christ on this earth. Whoever calls on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved.. call on Him. E-mail me with any questions.. be blessed.
"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages." ~Shakespeare
"There's a sucker born every minute." ~~ P.T. Barnum
It's even sillier to believe that such a thing as the rapture will EVER occur.
Jason wrote: ""There's a sucker born every minute." ~~ P.T. Barnum"
Actually, it was his compet itor, David Hannum... still true, though...
Sad.....this is just too sad. Really people? Wake up. Live your life to it's fullest every day. Why worry about this issue? We can analyze when the end is near from all of these theories, dates, and times on the calendar til we are blue in the face, and try to make people see OUR points of view. Honestly, when it all comes down to it, we are all just blowing hot air. It's a good waste of time and energy (yes, you can include me in this" wasting my time" writing this). Whether a person is religious or not, what are we going to do about it anyway if/when the end does comes?
1) The "non-religious" are not completely innocent either. Stalin, Lenin, and Mao Zedong were "non-religious". Religious people are not all evil (in fact, very few are). MLK, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, etc. were all religious.
2) Atheists say that the violence in the Middle East is due to "religion", when in fact, that is only partially correct. It's due to radical Muslims who follow a twisted interpretation of the Qur'an. Just because one variation of one religion causes problems does not mean there should be NO religion.
3) Atheists who declare that Christianity is a violent/bloody religion only betray a complete ignorance of our faith. When Jesus was getting arrested, Peter, one of His friends and Disciples, came up and chopped a dude's ear off. Jesus told Peter to put the sword away (John 18:11). Jesus told people to turn the other cheek and not fight evil with evil (Matthew 5:39), and to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44).
4) Atheists like to think they are like innocent children at school getting picked on by bullies (religion). This isn't entirely true. It is true: there are a handful of people who claim to be Christians who do hate atheists. First off, these people are not really Christians, as they do not do what Christ told them to do (John 14:15). Second, there have been a handful of atheists who have been pretty rude of religious people.
5) C.S. Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters" goes over this subject best. Lewis warns of something called "Christianity and". "Christianity and" is when we treat God like a means to an end or a "cause". Eventually, we get to the point where we do evil things and convince ourselves we are doing good because we are convinced it is "for God". As Jesus Himself clearly said: if we really loved God, we would not do evil.
Now, most atheists are good people, just as most Christians are good people. Let's concentrate on being good people rather than hating each other.
You're right, most atheists and Christians (and Muslims, Jews, Taoists, Wiccans...) are good people, but isn't there some truth in the Steven Weinberg saying that, for a good person to do evil, that takes religion?
@Free I personally think Weinberg's statement is grossly inaccurate and therefore unfair. What is needed to inspire good people to do evil things is simply ANY ideology whose supposed ends are so grandiose that they justify extreme means in the minds of true believers. That's why atheistic communists just fell so easily in line with previous committers of pogroms and other terrors and why people of all stripes so easily go berserk in times of war. Organized religion has been a truly dreadful cultural accretion that we should continue to endeavor to rid ourselves of. But it isn't the only one.
That's my point exactly Steve.
Cool! Sorry I miss read you
Tick, tock there went the clock running out on all the old supersti-tions:
"The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "litany of disillusion" about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."
What are you defending Reality?? That no evidence is evidence?
Since you do not believe Exodus...would you care to say what you do believe and back it up? Or are you just a factless believer in something?
What's wrong with just saying that "no evidence is no evidence" and draw the logical conclusion from that fact that it likely didn't happen?
@Free- because last I checked...there was nothing logical from as*suming.
It is often said that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but that's not quite right. Absence of evidence where evidence can reasonably be expected to exist may not be PROOF, but is certainly EVIDENCE, of absence. Take a case that occurs all the time. There is a ra-pe. A particular guy is suspected. Se-men carrying someone's dna is found on the victim. But that dna does not match the suspect. The suspect is cleared. Here the absence of the suspect's dna is taken to be conclusive evidence that the suspect is innocent.
Anyway, there are a lot of logical "truisms" spouted on this and pretty much every other blog, message board, newsgroup or simply discussion. Is it illogical to assume? Well, we all know what Lycidas is alluding to here (and I trust than many and hopefully most recognize that what she is alluding to here is actually irrelevant to the discussion), but in point of terminological fact, the way to prove a conditional statement of the form 'if P then Q' is to ASSUME the antecedent P and derive from that assumption the consequent Q. I may be putting a rather fine point on things, but still ...
More seriously awry is the oft repeated "you can't prove a negative". That will come as a surprise to Pythagoras, who proved the infinitude of prime numbers by proving the negative statement "there is no largest prime number". Proofs of negatives are actually quite common in math, metamath and logic. (Indeed, Goedels famous theorem is the proof of the negation of the proposition that arithmetic is complete.)
Just thought I'd pitch these $.02 in here!
But what evidence is reasonably expected in this situation?
Nomadic peoples spending an extended period in an otherwise uninhabited desert would be expected to leave quite a few traces of their encampments. Many objects of material culture tend to survive quite well in such dry conditions, Indeed, even organic matter often preserves surprisingly well via a process of desiccation not unlike mummification.
I have no dog in this fight, btw. Of all the things in the old testament to doubt, the exodus story, at least the basics of leaving Egypt and spending a period of time as desert nomads before beginning the brutal conquest of Canaan, is by far less ludicrous than most.
Aesop's Fables are "not literally true" as well. If something is "not literally true", doesn't that mean it is literally false? I can extract more moral and ethical guidance from Aesop than any religious text I have ever encountered. So why believe in a literally false text that contains so many examples of horrific and morally repugnant examples of a "loving" god?
"because last I checked...there was nothing logical from as*suming."
Sure there is. Everyone as.sumes that all the other gods were mere myth, right? That's not to say that it's absolutely impossible for a real life Thor to show up today to watch the movie they made about him any more than it's absolutely impossible for Jesus to be returning today. Absolutes usually can only be proved mathematically and gods are not mathematical in nature. A honest as.sessment of the situation would allow a tiny possibility for any of these gods to be, or to have been, real especially if you hold that the supernatural actually exists. The Bible appears to say that Baal was as real a god as YHWH for him to be jealous of the rival.
Add to that the level that a believer is willing to accept something as their god and you open up the odds considerably. I personally suspect that a huge percentage of folks out there are ready to jump on the first logical explanation for why they believe in God that comes along. If the "God Center" of the human mind can be isolated to a greater extent lots of folks will say "Well, you see, I wasn't crazy to believe after all" and move on.