The Raving Theist

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Happy Worst Moment

November 23, 2005 | 42 Comments

The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Comments

42 Responses to “Happy Worst Moment”

  1. AK
    November 23rd, 2005 @ 11:20 am

    Dante never had the self esteem to consider that the atheist could thank himself.

    And if thats the “worst moment” for the atheist, then we got it much bette in life than the theist does.

    The worst moment for the theist could be any number of things, all of them worse than the “worst moment for the atheist”:

    Worst moments for the theist:

    1. Tithing 10% of your pre-tax income
    2. Getting molested by the Priest
    3. Trembling in fear over whether youll get to heaven or not
    4. Believing you are inherently worthless (Dante was a fan of this one apparently)

    Im sure the list could be bigger than that. Anyone wanna help me add to it?

  2. Jennifer
    November 23rd, 2005 @ 11:26 am

    If you can’t thank a sky fairy you can’t thank anyone?

    Whatever.

  3. a different tim
    November 23rd, 2005 @ 12:07 pm

    We can thank ourselves, and give ourselves a big chocolate cake in gratitude. Sounds good to me.

  4. qedpro
    November 23rd, 2005 @ 2:12 pm

    thank quantum physics and chaos theory.

  5. AK
    November 23rd, 2005 @ 5:23 pm

    Hey how come my comment isnt up there? It was a good comment!

  6. Debbie
    November 23rd, 2005 @ 5:29 pm

    You could thank the friends, family, educators, mentors or anyone who ACTUALLY had a role in helping you get to where you want to be and were happy.

    Would a religious fundie be more angry at an atheist for not thanking a god, or at, say, a scientologist for thanking the wrong god?

  7. Debbie
    November 23rd, 2005 @ 5:30 pm

    You could thank the friends, family, educators, mentors or anyone who ACTUALLY had a role in helping you get to where you want to be and were happy.

    Would a religious fundie be more angry at an atheist for not thanking a god, or at, say, a scientologist for thanking the wrong god?

  8. Mort Coyle
    November 23rd, 2005 @ 7:32 pm

    Ah, G.K. Chesterton…

  9. Jason Malloy
    November 23rd, 2005 @ 8:29 pm

    Conversely, it’s also pretty bad for the atheist when he is really angry at a natural disaster or fatal cancer and has nobody to blame.

    I mean the theist can blame themselves for inviting God’s wrath by not burning the gays and stoning loose college whores. But who can we scapegoat??

  10. Lily
    November 23rd, 2005 @ 9:37 pm

    How about making your thankfulness to those who helped you along the way concrete by helping Ashli (see TRA’s post below this one)?

    She is actually trying to help someone and would be thankful to you. C’mon, have some compassion and help a mom who might lose her home. I mean, I, for one, would like to see your godless morality in action, actually doing someone some good. But I am not holding my breath…

  11. Dawn Eden
    November 24th, 2005 @ 12:32 am

    Mort’s right. Happy Thanksgiving, all.

  12. qedpro
    November 24th, 2005 @ 1:34 am

    Lily, Lily, Lily
    you can help all the people you want. It won’t make up for all the people that religion destroyed.
    Helping people does not make you holier than thou.

  13. bUCKET__
    November 24th, 2005 @ 4:16 am

    I think you’ve all missed the humour in this one. It says it’s the worst moment; that is, the only thing that atheists miss out on.

  14. mark
    November 24th, 2005 @ 6:38 am

    “it’s also pretty bad for the atheist when he is really angry at a natural disaster or fatal cancer and has nobody to blame”

    I heard this somewhere so it might be true:

    Countries with higher rates of religious belief also have higher rates of natural disaster.

    Of course no one can show which way causality goes but I’d like to think that there is a god and He doesn’t like arse-lickers.

  15. a different tim
    November 24th, 2005 @ 10:10 am

    “The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank”
    I think bucket’s right. If this is as bad as it gets, no worries.

  16. Lily
    November 24th, 2005 @ 12:28 pm

    Wrong answer, qedpro. I have seen message after message here claiming that atheists can be generous, virtuous, kind, etc, etc, ad nauseum without believing in no stinkin’ religion. I say, put your money where your mouths are. It is easy to point to the charities that Christians support. It is also well known and easily demonstrated that they are the most generous with their time and money as volunteers.

    I say it is time to quit talking and start demonstrating… Or else admit that just as we beat you intellectually, we beat you in generosity and all other virtues because there is no such thing as godless morality.

  17. Breakerslion
    November 24th, 2005 @ 12:37 pm

    Here we have another example of the typical egomania of those that pontificate on the Deist side of this argument. Imagine, believing that you know what the worst moment is for all of those individuals, and believing that it is necessarily the same experience for all of them. I bet if pressed, Mr. Rossetti would admit that this was ‘just a figure of speech’. Meanwhile, Mr. Rossetti has dropped this philosophical turd in front of those that will smile, nod and agree; accepting input in a self-satisfied way.

    I am thankful to D.G.R. for pointing this out to me. Until now, I thought that my worst moment was when I found out that one of my friends was dead when we were both 20 years old, and I realized that there was not a thing that could be done about it. Thank-you Dante, my new worst moment is far less painful!

  18. Breakerslion
    November 24th, 2005 @ 2:03 pm

    Lily:

    I have a couple of problems with your post above. You may ask, but you cross a line when you begin to cajole. I will not donate to Ashli at this time because I do not know her. I do not know that you are not Ashli, posting under an alias, for that matter. I do not know that Ashli has not found a creative way to pay her bills by taking in unwed mothers, then mounting an emotional appeal. It’s panhandling, and unlike registered not-for-profit charitable organizations, there is no oversight. Or, maybe there is and I have not done enough research yet to have a comfort level. My point is this: I donate regularly to OXFAM, I give to other worthy causes, I have opened my doors to a homeless teen and provided a free place to live for a year. I have given others a temporary home as well. I will probably be doing all these things again. I have nothing to prove to you, and I am glad that you are not holding your breath because you could turn blue for all I care.

  19. sternwallow
    November 24th, 2005 @ 6:54 pm

    Lily: “I say, put your money where your mouths are. It is easy to point to the charities that Christians support. It is also well known and easily demonstrated that they are the most generous with their time and money as volunteers.

    I say it is time to quit talking and start demonstrating… Or else admit that just as we beat you intellectually, we beat you in generosity and all other virtues because there is no such thing as godless morality.”
    Atheists are very charitable and compassionate, but, unlike Christians who do it for PR and put their name on every nickel, many atheists contribute in private. Further, we have been burned by blind appeals on the Internet and are reluctant to cast our limited resources into the void hoping with faith that there really is someone needy on the other end.

  20. Lily
    November 24th, 2005 @ 10:20 pm

    sternwallow: You have to be kidding, right? The millions of dollars raised privately, in churches, etc all come with the names of the givers attached? News to me.

    Because I knew that it was unlikely that a dime would be raised here, I pointed Ashli to several Christian and pro-life friendly blogs. At “Southern Appeal”, one of the lawyers who blogs there checked her story out because he felt he owed it to his readers and found everything legit. You can find that post at http://southernappeal.blogspot.com/ Scroll down through the Wednesday posts. Or not. That’s ok. The Christians will take care of the need. As always.

    But I will preach one brief sermon: it really is a wonderful thing to give. All of us have been helped along the way by others. Since we can never repay all the kindnesses that have been shown to us, we can, at least, pay it forward. Someone I know never lends money when asked– he gives it. And tells the recipient not to repay him but to pass it on to someone else in need, when he is able. This is the kind of generosity that can literally change lives.

  21. Brandon
    November 24th, 2005 @ 11:58 pm

    I guess when you’re nailing your models, you are often overwhelmed with ineffable gratitude, inspiring knowing quips. GDR’s breasts do recall the sublime.

    As an atheist I blaspheme on a regular basis – many times a day. And I’ve been known to say ‘thank god’ after finding a lost pet or my wallet. It’s meaningless. It’s a place-saver; an expletive in the grammatical sense. We live in a Christian culture and use a language steeped in Christianity.

    Personally, I think that thanking in a general sense is healthy activity: it helps center us to the basic lack of control we have over most aspects in our life, not as fallen creations, but as non-omnipotent denizens of the earth. Disfiguring the language in an attempt broadcast your atheism makes one seem uneducated and puerile: actions, not deeds.

    As far as the no “godless morality” goes… your statement is asinine, patently offensive and empirically uninformed. In the aftermath of Katrina, there were Republicans who tried to make an analogous argument about blue-staters and Democrats in regard to relief work and aid without any data to back that idea up. The fact of the matter is that no one was checking party cards at the shelters. I’m a life-long atheist and I put hundreds of dollars, at least two working weeks of my time and opened my home to refugees from New Orleans. Up until a month ago, I was still helping at shelters (they’re closed now). I was the there the day the levees broke at LSU’s field house, running people from helicopters to the triage, changing diapers, getting shattered families on buses and, crying my eyes out back in my car after 10 hours non-stop of this. I did this without compensation or need of recognition. I don’t need the threat or reward of some supernatural being to spur me to act like that. You can call it sociobiology if you want, though I don’t agree with purely evolutionary ideas of behavior – or rather, rudely mechanical models of behavior as solely contingent on genetics. I prefer to think of it this way, as a man wiser than us all once wrote, I am human, nothing human is alien to me. If you need god to power your compassion and your ethics, perhaps you ought to reconsider your own heartlessness before challenging the ethics of others. Your own god suggested no less.

    I don’t mean to get in a pissing match with you. But your idea that there is no morality outside of religion is bunk. Morality, broadly defined, doesn’t even require religion to enter the equation.

  22. Tomek
    November 25th, 2005 @ 12:08 am

    Thanking God IMO, is a little narcissistic. I cannot imagine thanking a being who may have taken his time to save me from some trouble but does very little and maybe even contributes to the suffering of entire populations. This is also very inconsiderate as you are loving this being partly based on what he does for you while ignoring completely what he does or doesn’t do for other people. Add the wonderful justice of hell and your continued support for this being despite it, and you have a very honorable god morality indeed.

    Anyway, when ever I escape a potentialy bad situation it is either because of chance, myself, my friends or doctors. I find myself being very thankful to all those people now and in the past who have contributed to our scientific knowledge in all areas.

    Tomek

  23. Breakerslion
    November 25th, 2005 @ 10:33 am

    My second comment is conspicuous by its absence. I am not a big fan of censorship, excepting blogspammers. Please let me know what was offensive so that I can understand your rules.

  24. Jason Malloy
    November 26th, 2005 @ 12:49 am

    A better version of this quote would be “The worst moment for the atheist is when they have nothing to scream during mind blowing sex”

    I mean “Oh, matter and space-time! OHHH, blind evolutionary genetic forces!” – it just doesn’t work.

  25. joe in oklahoma
    November 27th, 2005 @ 3:28 pm

    on a different topic. i see you have paypal listeed as a hate site…can you tell me why?

  26. The Raving Atheist
    November 27th, 2005 @ 3:35 pm

    Joe: See here.

  27. Lily
    November 27th, 2005 @ 8:36 pm

    Brandon:
    My comment about godless morality goes back to a lengthier sub-thread some weeks ago about how morality can be arrived at by agreement or derived objectively or some such nonsense (nonsense=anything I don’t agree with). It was meant somewhat ironically. (I say somewhat because you are part of the same culture and heritage that the rest of us are. I doubt that anyone of us can break with the culture so cleanly that no religious teachings color what we believe.)

    At that time the theists all stated plainly their agreement that atheists might be generous, kind, etc. So, my challenge was aimed at those who were so emphatic at that time about their godless morality (i.e. non-religious morality) to demonstrate some generosity in ashli’s case.

    I certainly appreciate that some people are not in a position to help. I appreciate that some people give to other causes. I do appreciate the concern that people have about random appeals on the Internet. In this case, RA says she is a friend of his. That seemed good enough to me to contact her and learn a little more.

    And, as I said, a lawyer on another blog went to the trouble of contacting the church that runs the crisis pregnancy ministry and found out that the doctor who cares for the woman is the same doctor who delivered his first child. That was good enough to convince him to publish her appeal.

    It would be cool if some few of you who are able and don’t normally respond to appeals for help would put a crowbar to your wallets just for the pure pleasure of helping.

  28. Thomas
    November 28th, 2005 @ 10:35 pm

    “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.” (Luke 19:27) This is the tail-end of a parable Jesus tells of a king who takes from his servants what is not his and rewards the rich with the savings of the poor (Luke 19:1-26). The quote itself is as often attributed to the king in the parable as it is to Jesus. Whatever the case, he certainly seems to be advocating the procedure. Do you have any alternate ideas about how this passage should be interpreted?

  29. Thomas
    November 28th, 2005 @ 10:36 pm

    Sorry, that above post should have been addressed to Lily.

  30. Lily
    November 29th, 2005 @ 12:02 am

    Thomas: The quote is never attributed to Jesus as something he is encouraging his followers to do. A parable is a comparison of one thing to another, in order to explain something of spiritual significance. Anyone who yanks this statement out of its context is doing violence to the text.

    The context (I think I have used that word more often today than in the last decade) of the parable is of a master dealing with his servants in a way that seems rather surprising to us. However, in ancient times, no servant (a bondslave) could claim anything as his own. Everything belonged to his master. The lesson to be learned from this parable? Every good thing comes from God and we will have to account to Him for the way in which we used the gifts he gave us. This passage offers no justification for any Christian to murder anyone. It does warn us that God will hold us to account and deal with us as we deserve.

    As far as Jesus himself is concerned, take heart from the many times he counsels us to patience, turning the other cheek, mercy, etc. towards our fellow man. How we treat each other will be part of the reckoning.

  31. DamnRight
    November 29th, 2005 @ 10:08 am

    Yeah, God was speaking figuratively when he commanded his people to commit rape, genocide, infanticide etc. etc… they just made the mistake of thinking he was being straight forward… Jesus is supposedly “God incarnate”… he is God… so we can’t separate the God of the OT from the God of the NT… can we?…

  32. Lily
    November 29th, 2005 @ 10:18 am

    Huh? Care to cite a specific place where such a command is given? It is not good enough to spew at random. No, we cannot separate the God of the OT from the God of the NT.

  33. DamnRight
    November 29th, 2005 @ 11:25 am

    Lily, are you are agreeing with me that the OT is not “the word of God”… was it not God who told Joshua what to do to the people of Jericho?… or is that not genocidal enough?… does dashing children on rocks not count as infanticide… or cutting open pregnant women?… or was this just God having a bit of fun?… God to Jesus, “I can’t believe they took me seriously. What a bunch of losers.”…

  34. Lily
    November 29th, 2005 @ 1:09 pm

    A comments box is scarcely a reasonable venue for a discussion of the sort your question deserves. But I will try…

    First things first: The Bible is made up of all sorts of literature (and there was a lengthy discussion about this here very recently)– history, poetry, fables, chronicles, law, etc. all written over centuries in a couple different languages/dialects by different people. Knowing what sort of literature you are reading, necessarily influences your understanding of what it means.

    For example: The only dashing of children against rocks I am aware of is a rather bloodthirsty hope expressed by a psalmist. Not God. It is a rather interesting bit of insight into an ancient’s mind. Does God approve? I have no reason to believe so.
    I don’t recall the slicing open of the pregnant woman. Give me a cite and I will look at it.

    Jericho is an interesting case. God is described there very much as a tribal god. This is a very old account of a very old war involving pre-Israelite tribes. Of them, we know (and archaeology corroborates) that they practiced human and, most often, infant sacrifice. The Catholic Encyclopedia entry states:

    But the most disgusting traces of this idolatry are the skeletons of infants — mostly new-born babes — sacrificed to the deity, which at Gazer were found buried in jars beneath the floor of the sanctuary, and elsewhere, especially at Mageddo, in its immediate neighbourhood. Several times the remains of these human victims, among which have been adults, were found beneath or in the foundations of houses and other buildings; a striking illustrations of the words of Jos., vi, 26: “Cursed be the man before the Lord that shall raise up and build the city of Jericho. In [or with] his firstborn may be lay the foundation thereof, and in [or with] the last of his children set up its gates.”

    The whole entry is quite interesting and if you are interested you can read the whole thing at: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03569b.htm

    One of the things that our namby-pamby age doesn’t get is that God makes the rules. Break them and he will set things right again. And not in ways that will be pleasant to us. Today we don’t generally put populations to the sword but there have been mass killings in our century alone that would stagger the ancient world.

  35. MBains
    November 30th, 2005 @ 11:33 am

    LOL! You’re damn right DamnRight!

  36. DamnRight
    December 1st, 2005 @ 1:14 pm

    Is there some bible out there that helps identify the parts to take literally?… obviously “Thus saith the Lord” is not trustworthy… or any “prophet” in the OT saying “God says…”… because, it’s getting way to hard to have a discussion of what someone believes when their reference document is constantly being redefined as to what is “God speaking” vs “man speaking” vs “God’s telling a story” vs “we just borrowed this from another culture & tweaked it” vs “”…

  37. Lily
    December 1st, 2005 @ 2:35 pm

    This “reference document ” is not constantly being redefined as to whether it is God or man speaking. You just never understood this before. Same with the fact that not every book is to be read literally. (By the way, it is not God who tells the stories, per se, but the author of which ever book is or contains a story.)

    No sane person thinks that God dictated the Bible. Even the most fundamental fundamentalist will tell you that the Bible is only inerrant, if properly interpreted. Of course, since we all have different levels of education, it should not be a surprise that an uneducated reader is not going to understand the difficult bits it as well as an educated reader. That is one of the reasons Christ established a Church. The Church is the place where people learn (or should learn) about faith and how to understand and practice it.

    The Bible is a complex book that crosses genres and eras. Its complexity is the reason why 10 football fields could not hold all the books that have been written about the biblical world; its history, its languages, its cultures, etc. All of this adds to our understanding of it.

    There are literally thousands of “How to understand the Bible” books out there from those written for children to those written for graduate students and scholars.

    You would be better off, if you *really* want to look some things up, to sit down with a good up-to-date commentary like the Anchor Bible which is now up to 44 volumes (each treats one or two books) and so answers just about any question anyone could possibly think to ask. Just about every library in creation, public or academic, has it or another good commentary available.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia is online and freely available. It is very scholarly but I think it is very readable.

    So now, it is up to you to inform yourself.

  38. darwinfish
    December 1st, 2005 @ 10:44 pm

    “A better version of this quote would be “The worst moment for the atheist is when they have nothing to scream during mind blowing sex”

    I mean “Oh, matter and space-time! OHHH, blind evolutionary genetic forces!” – it just doesn’t work.”

    I believe “daddy”, “you bitch” and “fuck” work just fine…maybe that’s just me

  39. darwinfish
    December 1st, 2005 @ 10:45 pm

    “A better version of this quote would be “The worst moment for the atheist is when they have nothing to scream during mind blowing sex”

    I mean “Oh, matter and space-time! OHHH, blind evolutionary genetic forces!” – it just doesn’t work.”

    I believe “daddy”, “you bitch” and “fuck” work just fine…maybe that’s just me

  40. hermesten
    December 2nd, 2005 @ 4:01 pm

    “No sane person thinks that God dictated the Bible. Even the most fundamental fundamentalist will tell you that the Bible is only inerrant, if properly interpreted.”

    Well, from your remarks I’m assuming you’re Catholic, and I beileve you said you used to work at MIT, and now teach at a Big Ten University, so forgive me for assuming that you haven’t really met very many fundies. I’m not so fortunate. I can’t tell you how many times fundies have told me that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. Granted, some may say the work is the “inspired” word of God, but a good many of those I’ve met do indeed think that God dictated the Bible.

    Furthermore, if you’re a Catholic and accustomed to the intellectual environment on college campuses and in big cities, I don’t think you have a clue why most of us harbour such animosity to Christians. I’ve said on here many times, I’m generally not talking about Catholics when I talk about Christians. I grew up in a place that was about 90% Catholic and I never had a problem with religion. Then I got transferred to Oklahoma, where the typical Christian I came into contact with considered Catholics to be idolaters, and not real Christians.

    When I was young I used to watch WF Buckley’s firing line and enjoyed listeing to many a fine and intelligent debate with obviously educated and intelligent Catholic priests and other theologians. However, in real life the “Christians” I run into are more like Fred Phelps than a Catholic priest.

  41. Lily
    December 2nd, 2005 @ 9:16 pm

    Hermesten: I may be tempting fate with this message, since I think the other thing that thows us into cyberhell is the number of messages per day or, maybe, per hour.

    You are 97.77% correct above. Except I now live and administrate in the heart of Dixie. I do verily believe that there are no fundamentalists in New England! But when I lived in the Midwest, I belonged to an evangelical church that has a very fundamentalist branch. Because that branch didn’t have a church in my university town, a number of seriously fundamentalist types went to my more moderate church.

    Sometimes, it was just impossible to find common ground with them. Their understanding was so constricted by the milieu the lived in and the upbringing they had received that it was difficult for them to conceive of any other way of thinking. I taught the college/young adult Sunday School class for years and they came primarily to challenge the heresies they thought us “liberals” were preaching. It was a challenge.

    But guess what? As individuals they were among the kindest most generous people you would ever want to meet. At the time I am thinking of I was in grad school and poor as the proverbial church mouse. When my mother was dying I could not afford to fly home. Word got out and within 2 days of my receiving the frantic call from my sister, an airplane ticket was in my hand. They were among the most generous in subsidizing that trip home.

    What I am trying to say is that humans are complex. Just when I wanted to tear my hair out over some theoretical theological misunderstanding or downright silliness ( Of the sort “The King James Bible is the one Jesus used and to use any other is heresy.”), one of them would do something so generous that it was humbling. And, of course, some of them were not very nice people. Pretty much, just like the rest of humanity.

    Well that was in the early days after my conversion as a young grad student. After a few years I did long more and more for a more vigorous Christian intellectual life, or, at least, one that recognized and could deal with ambiguity. Since I trained as a medievalist, I had long been familiar with the riches of the intellectual heritage of the Catholic Church. And yes, I loved “Firing Line”, too. So, all that adds up to my hope to be received formally into the Catholic Church this year.

    So maybe you were 98.13% correct.

  42. hermesten
    December 5th, 2005 @ 12:49 pm

    Lily, I homeschooled my children. This means that the majority of people we came into contact with via homeschooling groups were fundamentalists. I don’t think any of these people were “bad” in any meaningful sense of the word.

    However, some of these people were scarily ignorant. It is quite bracing to hear a group of fundie women say that a two month old baby is going to grow up to be a “slut” because of the way her eyes follow males around a room. Or to hear a woman say she must leave by 7:30 because her husband doesn’t “allow” her to be out of the house after 8 PM.

    The thought that people like this are seeking political power and want to make laws for the rest of us, scares the crap out of me. As they say, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

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