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The Agony of Atheists

Compiled and partly written by Karl Priest November 19, 2013 (revised 3-24-15-13)

The following is a series of articles that reveal the thinking of atheists.

September 21, 2013
James A. Haught: Clock is ticking on my life
By James A. Haught

West Virginia has a surplus of seniors -- including me. Statistics rank our state with either America's oldest or second-oldest population.

I still work, long past retirement age, mostly because I enjoy the sense of purpose and the daily challenge of analyzing tangled public issues.

But I know that my aging timetable is ticking away, week after week, month after month, and cannot be reversed. I think all of us in our over-the-hill cohort should view our status wisely with matter-of-fact acceptance.

Here's a column I wrote on the topic in the latest   Free Inquiry  magazine:

I'm quite aware that my turn is approaching.  The realization hovers in my mind like a frequent companion.

My wife died several years ago. Dozens, hundreds, of my longtime friends and colleagues likewise came to the end of their journeys. They number so many that I keep a "Gone" list in my computer to help me remember them all. Before long, it will be my turn to join the list.

I'm 81 and still work full-time. I feel keen and eager for life. My hair's still dark (mostly).  I have a passel of children, grandchildren and rambunctious great-grandchildren. I love sailing my beloved dingy on small Lake Chaweva, and hiking in shady forests with my three-legged dog, and taking a gifted grandson to symphony, and seeking wisdom in our long-running Unitarian philosophy-and-science circle. I now live with an adorable woman in her 70s, and we relish our togetherness. But her health is fragile. Her turn is on the horizon too.

I have no dread. Why worry about the inescapable, the utterly unavoidable, the sure destiny of today's seven billion? However, sometimes I feel annoyed because I will have no choice.  I'm accustomed to choosing whatever course I want -- but I won't get to decide whether to take my final step.  Damn!

I have no supernatural beliefs. I don't expect to wake up in Paradise or Hades, surrounded by angels or demons. That's fairy-tale stuff. I think my personality, my identity -- me -- is created by my brain, and when the brain dies, so does the psyche. Gone forever into oblivion.

I'll admit that some reports of "near-death experiences" raise tantalizing speculation about a hereafter. But, in the end, I assume those blinding lights and out-of-body flotations are just final glimmers from oxygen deprivation. I guess I'll find out soon enough.

It takes courage to look death in the eye and feel ready. Sobeit. Bring it on. I won't flinch.  Do your damnedest. I'll never whimper. However, maybe this is bluster and bravado, an attempt to feel strong in the face of what will happen regardless of how I react.

Unlike Dylan Thomas, I won't rage, rage against the dying of the light. Instead, I plan to live as intensely as I can, while I can, and then accept the inevitable. I find solace in wisdom I've heard from other departees. Just before she died of ovarian cancer, one of my longtime friends, Marty Wilson, wife of a former South Charleston Carbide researcher, wrote:

"I often think of humankind as a long procession whose beginning and end are out of sight.  We the living ... have no control over when or where we enter the procession, or even how long we are part of it, but we do get to choose our marching companions. And we can all exercise some control over what direction the procession takes, what part we play, and how we play it."

In   The Fire Next Time, brilliant writer James Baldwin said:

"Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have."

Legendary lawyer Clarence Darrow, wrote:

"When we fully understand the brevity of life, its fleeting joys and unavoidable pains; when we accept the fact that all men and women are approaching an inevitable doom; the consciousness of it should make us more kindly and considerate of each other.  This feeling should make men and women use their best efforts to help their fellow travelers on the road, to make the path brighter and easier ... for the wayfarers who must live a common life and die a common death."

My journey on the road has been proceeding for eight decades. Actuarial tables make my future so obvious that I can't shut my eyes to it. Life proceeds through stages, and I'm in the last scene of the last act.

I have a Pantheon of my favorite heroes: Einstein, Jefferson, Voltaire, Lincoln, Carl Sagan, Shakespeare, Martin Luther King Jr., Tolstoy, FDR, Beethoven, Epicurus, Gandhi, etc.  They fill a different "Gone" list.  They uplifted humanity, even transformed humanity, in their day -- but their day ended, and life moved on.

My day was the 1960s, and '70s, and '80s, even the '90s. I was a Whirling Dervish in the thick of everything. Life was a fascinating carnival. But it slides into the past so deftly you hardly notice.

While my clock ticks away, I'll pursue every minute. Carpe diem. Make hay while the sun shines. And then I'm ready for nature's blackout, with no regrets.

http://www.wvgazette.com/Opinion/OpEdCommentaries/201309200131

October 18, 2013
Letters: Christianity is not blind faith
By Karl Priest

The clock is ticking for everyone. Gazette editor James Haught made that clear in his article "Clock is ticking" (Sept. 22). The good news is that anyone can wake up before the clock stops.

Mr. Haught admitted he has made choices. He has chosen to reject Jesus Christ. Those who reject Jesus Christ do it for one (or a combination of) people, persecution, pain, peccancy, or pride reasons.

The pressures of peers push one away from humbling himself before God. The fear of being persecuted keeps one from confessing his need of salvation. Anger or hurt over suffering of oneself or others is always found in anger-filled articles by atheists. Peccancy (it's simpler to say "sin") plagues us all. Pride is always there. It is worship of oneself. Egotism is excessive in atheism.

Mr. Haught seeks "wisdom in our long-running Unitarian philosophy-and-science circle." The Bible has many references to "wisdom." One that is pertinent is "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God." (I Cor. 1:19) His Unitarian Church has its own theological position and bills itself as "Your Liberal Religious Home."

Regarding his "philosophy-and-science circle," everyone, even an avowed atheist, has supernatural beliefs. It is a statement of faith to say, "There is no God." Or, "It is impossible to know if God exists." Amusingly, Mr. Haught claims that his personality was created by his brain. Evolution is an excellent example of what Mr. Haught attributes to biblical faith as "fairytale stuff." True believers in evolutionism believe that nothing created everything! They worship Mother Nature and Darwin is a saint in their religion. Ultimately, they tacitly admit there is a Creator.

"It takes courage to look death in the eye..." wrote Mr. Haught. That is true to an extent. Our combat troops are an example. But, for suicide bombers it is faith in their religious tenets. His faith is what brings Mr. Haught to his conclusion about what happens when his clock runs out. We all have faith. Christianity is not blind faith. It rests upon evidence which abounds. Life cries out, "There is a Creator!" The logical choice is to investigate who the Creator is.

Mr. Haught listed and quoted from people he admires. Some of them fit the biblical definition of fools. I admire Moses, David, Peter and Paul. All of them sinful, yet all wise enough to choose to accept the Creator.

I too have written about the reality of actuarial tables. Everyone should look at one and follow the biblical guide to ask God to "teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" (Psalms 90:12) because "it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27).

Christians are "in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better." (Phil. 1:23) The Christian view of death is "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (I Cor. 15:55)

The "Carpe diem. Make hay while the sun shines" philosophy of Mr. Haught is short-sighted when compared to the eternity he must face. Christians comprehend that "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." (I Cor. 4:18)

Tick, tick, tick...

http://www.wvgazette.com/Opinion/Letters/201310180070

November 8, 2013
Letters to the editor: Atheism
By Jim Spence

Editor:

Like most, I read the occasional diatribe from Karl Priest. He is, as anyone can see, a tremendous fundamentalist believer in a god. And though it's everyone's right to believe as they see fit, after reading his letter chastising James Haught for Mr. Haught's touching column about the end of life, I feel the need to reply.

Atheism is not a belief, regardless of what Mr. Priest says. He wishes it were so; it would make it easier for him to argue his misguided points. Mr. Haught does not say, "There is no god." He merely states his disbelief in the existence of a deity, a magical bearded man in a robe passing judgment. Atheists don't accept the existence of a god because there is no evidence. We don't say, "There is no god." We merely ask what proof is there?

Since the bible is an unproven history by unknown writers, his "biblical definition of fools" comment means absolutely nothing.

And since Mr. Priest states "nothing created everything," I'd love for him to explain the beginnings of his god. We should believe in the magical bearded guy and not science? Please.

The bible is full of contradictions and questionable dealings: the stoning of children for being bad, the acceptance of incest, the use of slavery as a means to control civilizations. "But these are in the Old Testament." So are the Ten Commandments. Which part is true?

Egotism is excessive in atheism? Mr. Haught wrote a heartfelt and personal letter. Mr. Priest attacks anyone who doesn't believe as he does. Classic case of egotism run amok.

One question I've always wanted to ask Mr. Priest: If your god gave you free will and intelligence, why would it persecute and punish you for using it?

Thank you to Mr. Haught for a wonderfully written essay, one that will ultimately touch the hearts and lives of many approaching the end of their days.

I hope Mr. Priest continues to spout public diatribes. With every word he writes, another person realizes the foolishness of blind faith and uses his or her mind. Thanks to him for that.

http://www.wvgazette.com/Opinion/Letters/201311080089

The original version of this article is “Wake Up Before the Clock Stops”.

November 19, 2013
The Agony of Atheists
By Karl Priest

I did not respond to Mr. Spence. My goal is not to reach those who are “willingly ignorant” (II Peter 3:5a) and fit the description from the first chapter of Romans.

21  Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

25  Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

28  And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

32  Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

(The omitted verses list a litany of specific sins which are standards of those who are separated from God.)

For those who are sincerely searching, here is what I would have written.

Mr. Haught is a likeable man. I taught both of his grand-daughters and coached his grandson (chess team) and they were wonderful children. I would trust his integrity without hesitation. However, being a nice and honest man is not good enough. There is the crux of the matter. Atheists (a term I will use to simplify matters although agnosticism would be better) set themselves up to be a god. They set the standards for “good.” The prevailing gripe they have with the biblical God is that He did not set up and run His creation the way they would. I once heard, with my own ears, Mr. Haught say evolution was silly, but he would not accept God because of the suffering (I think he specified cancer) in the world. That position has been powerfully refuted by writers much more capable than me.

While discussing James Haught:

Mr. Haught has a bio on The Eloquent Atheist website (http://www.eloquentatheist.com/author/jhaught/) and is listed as a Celebrity Atheist (http://www.celebatheists.com/wiki/James_A._Haught). So atheist claim him.

To my knowledge, he has never called himself an atheist. He said:

People sometimes ask me whether I’m an agnostic, an atheist, a skeptic – or what.  I have a standard reply:  I don’t think about labels; I just think about being honest and truthful…Admitting that you don’t know is truthful.  It’s just about the only honest stand you can take. Confessing that you cannot answer is moral and honorable.

He lists some beliefs, of which I do not believe, and concludes:

…your intelligence can conclude that such claims are so far-fetched that they should rank with children’s fantasy stories.

Therefore, honesty leads you to the secular humanist outlook: to acceptance of scientific evidence as the key to knowledge, plus a determination to strive to help humanity without supernatural aid. Humanism is a belief system that a truthful person can embrace.

Worldwide, the entire species accepts humanism in the sense of wanting to make life better for people — but the humanist movement as an alternative to religion is a smallish crusade led by a few dedicated intellectuals.

(http://uuhumanistsymposium.com/2012/07/11/happy-world-humanist-day-a-uu-talk/)

The definitions of humanism he provided claim that humanism will replace religion.

Actually, humanism is a religion. Atheism (a synonym for humanism for those not ashamed of the term) is also a religion. The definition of “religion” is “ an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion#cite_note-1) The argument that religion is a belief in one or more supreme beings is invalid because there are some sincere folks who worship Mother Earth. Anyway, the goal of this essay is not to prove that point. Others have well-written on the subject.

There is not a human being alive or who has ever lived or will live in the future that does not have a religious belief, including Mr. Haught and Mr. Spence.

Now, let’s look at specific Spence points.

1. I read the occasional diatribe from Karl Priest… after reading his letter chastising James Haught…

If my response to Mr. Haught was a “diatribe” (“an angry and usually long speech or piece of writing that strongly criticizes someone or something” Merriam-Webster) it was not my intention and I hope what I wrote immediately above makes that clearer.

2. He is, as anyone can see, a tremendous fundamentalist believer in a god.

Thank you for the compliment. FYI: the correct spelling is God.

3. Mr. Haught does not say, "There is no god." He merely states his disbelief in the existence of a deity, a magical bearded man in a robe passing judgment.

Disbelief is “a feeling that you do not or cannot believe or accept that something is true or real” and belief is “a feeling of being sure that someone or something exists or that something is true.” (Merriam-Webster) Both are based upon feelings and faith (“strong belief or trust in someone or something.” (Merriam-Webster) Claiming not to believe is the same as claiming to believe. Atheists have no claim to being superior in that realm.

Mr. Spence’s description of God is not how I perceive God. It sounds like Mr. Spence is, like many atheists, still impacted by being shattered as a child when he found out Santa does not exist. Also, Mr. Spence is quite judgmental of Bible believing (fundamentalist) Christians.

4. Atheists don't accept the existence of a god because there is no evidence. We don't say, "There is no god." We merely ask what proof is there?

The evidence of a Creator is abundant. To replace God, atheists must have evolution. The evidence for evolution is abysmal and I have proven that evolution is a lie.

5. Since the bible is an unproven history by unknown writers, his "biblical definition of fools" comment means absolutely nothing.

There are volumes that prove the Bible and every challenge by skeptics has been answered. As for Mr. Spence’s rejection of the biblical definition of fools: “For the preaching of the cross isto them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” I Cor. 1:18 FYI: The correct spelling is Bible.

6. And since Mr. Priest states "nothing created everything," I'd love for him to explain the beginnings of his god. We should believe in the magical bearded guy and not science? Please.

That question “Who created God?” is old. I can provide links to articles that answer it in detail. See one at “Who Created God?”. Ultimately it boils down to, there had to be an uncreated cause that is outside of time and our comprehension. Either that or, "nothing created everything." I noticed the Santa complex again. Thank you.

7. The bible is full of contradictions and questionable dealings: the stoning of children for being bad, the acceptance of incest, the use of slavery as a means to control civilizations. "But these are in the Old Testament." So are the Ten Commandments. Which part is true?

Everything in the Bible is true and there are no contradictions.

8. Egotism is excessive in atheism? Mr. Haught wrote a heartfelt and personal letter. Mr. Priest attacks anyone who doesn't believe as he does. Classic case of egotism run amok.

Hmmm. Usually atheists say, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Since Mr. Spence did not, I just did.

9. One question I've always wanted to ask Mr. Priest: If your god gave you free will and intelligence, why would it persecute and punish you for using it?

That question is a variation of the main objection to God raised by atheists: “Why is there suffering?” Again, I can provide links to in-depth articles that explain it. See one at “Why Does God Allow People to Suffer?. As for Mr. Spence’s specific question: “Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?” (Isaiah 29:16) FYI: God is not an “it.”

10. Thank you to Mr. Haught for a wonderfully written essay, one that will ultimately touch the hearts and lives of many approaching the end of their days.

Sadly, Mr. Haught offers only a false hope of a “blackout.”

11. I hope Mr. Priest continues to spout public diatribes. With every word he writes, another person realizes the foolishness of blind faith and uses his or her mind. Thanks to him for that.

The blind faith of atheists clinging to evolutionism is the foolishness I hope to expose. You are welcome.

Tick, tick, tick...

Addendum

(added 11-21-13)

After posting this, the following verse came up in my daily devotional:

“. . . his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” ( 2 Peter 3:16 )

Also, a friend said I should have posted more. He provided some examples. I present them slightly edited.

#7. While there may appear to be contradictions, they are perceived that way by those like Mr. Haught and Mr. Spence who have not taken the time to understand the scriptures and the context in which they were written . While some things may admittedly seem confusing and contradictory, the record of the events discussed in the scriptures are absolutely true. Turn to Prov. 30:33 in the scriptures which states 'the wringing of the nose produces blood'. We can also visit Isaiah 40:22 which states the earth is a 'circle'.

#9. God permits free choice to those who accept Him and those who don't. But there is a price to be paid for disobedience. That aside, it is an inevitable part of our existence since Matt. 5:45 states that the rain and the sun falls on both the just and unjust. In a perfect world, which existed before the fall of Adam & Eve, none of the bad stuff would have occurred to this day. Adam & Eve were told they could eat of every tree of the garden - except one, the tree of the knowledge of good & evil. Unfortunately, despite having vast freedom and choice, Adam & Eve trespassed on the one tree they could not partake of. And with that disobedience, sin fell upon man and exists today, sin that can and will be forgiven upon confession of sin and profession of faith in Christ. Your choice to reject Christ isn't because He didn't exist or do what He did. You reject Him (or claim His non-existence) because doing so allows you to continue your wrong and sinful ways and decisions of your life that you would otherwise be convicted of if you allowed your conscience to do so.

------------------

Also see “ Crick Was Up Intelligence C reek without a Paddle”.

LEGACY INDEX