Monday, December 04, 2006

Okay, so here I am in New York City. I just flew in to do this appearance tomorrow on the View. I have no idea how it will go, but I am so thankful and happily surprised that they are having me on the show to talk about Letting Go of God. I know that Jenny McCarthy is also a guest. I don't know if we will get into my show very much or not. But we will see.

I am going to start a Forum so we can continue all this great discussion. It probably won't be up for a while, but it eventually will exist. In the meantime, I'm collecting my favorite comments that people have made and I am going to post them in a special place on my website.

In the meantime, I wanted to answer the letter that Michael wrote to me -- after I asked him, why he believes in God and what that God is like. His letter to me is in italics. My response is not.

Julia,

Thank you for at least acknowledging there are issues with the concept of spontaneous creation. I appreciate your honesty about that.

Wait a minute! I didn't say there were "issues" with spontaneous creation. I said that there are lots of possibilities for how life got started on earth, all of them plausible and from natural sources - or not-God sources. I worry that you use the word "issues" to mean that the evidence for a wholly natural universe is shakey, when it is not.

Now, to answer your questions. I write this with a little trepidation because I know that it will be jumped on by many, but, you asked an honest question and I will provide an honest answer. I don't expect that it will be a satisfactory answer to most, but it is at least a contrary viewpoint from a believer to a non-believer.

The short answer to your question of why do I believe what I believe is that I believe that God loved me so much that He voluntarily came to earth and became human. He endured incredible suffering of physical and spiritual pain and torture for the redemption of my sins. He was humiliated, mocked, laughed at, and killed because of that love. Yet, he was resurrected. I cannot escape his love for me and I, in turn, love him. Boiled down to its core, love is the essence of my relationship with God.

But there is no evidence that God loved you so much that he came to earth and became human. To me, this is a myth - a common myth - that you believe as true because your religion told you it was true and you have some reason to need to believe it. This story of Jesus divine nature is repeated through out many myths. There is no credible evidence that he was resurrected. The evidence is based on heresay and eye-witnesses and we know that this is one of the worst possible types of evidence. Even though it might feel good to believe this story and even though there might be plenty of social and psychological reasons to believe this story, to me - it doesn't seem like there is any solid evidence to believe this story as fact.

I feel his presence in my life. I have joy, peace, and contentment trusting in him even in very difficult situations. God has been faithful to me even when I have not been faithful to him. He has answered prayers and provided guidance with difficult decisions. Without Him in my life, there was a gaping hole in my being that only He could fill.

I think you have been coached to feel that the joy and peace and contentment came from God when really that is all within you. You have the capacity to make yourself feel joy and peace and contentment and God is a mechanism through which you can transfer your inner powerfulness onto a "God" and then give it back to yourself as if it's a gift. And it IS a gift. It's the gift of your own evolved psychology and biology. You may need to believe in God. You may be a better person for believing in God. But that still doesn't mean there is a God.

Now, the longer answer. There was a time in my life when I questioned whether there was a God "up there." But, in doing so, I had to acknowledge that the universe had a beginning at some point. It likely started with a singularity and rapidly expanded from there. Why would that have occurred? What would have caused it? How could matter be created out of nothing? In the words of the old Billy Preston song, "nothing from nothing means nothing." Logically, it does not make sense that something would be created out of nothing for no reason without the force of a creator creating it. An intellect and power beyond anything we can comprehend or even imagine in this dimension would answer that dilemma. It makes much more sense to me that a being created the universe than believing that it just happened.

I think that there is plenty of evidence for a Universe created without intention or intelligence. I think consciousness is a product of an organ that we have evolved: our brain. I think we have evolved to think that consciousness is something that is other-worldly or exists outside ourselves. We overly-revere consciousness -- and it's easy to see how this could be. Consciousness is amazing. But that doesn't mean that the Universe has a consciousness. Also, the universe didn't "just happen." It happened through a long process of evolution and natural selection. Our brains are also designed to expect a designer. We see such a small little bit of it in our lifetime -- that's why we need science and a concillience of evidence from many disciplines to really see what is likely to be true. And all of that points to a world without design and without an intervening and loving consciousness that is concerned about us. Even though - I know - that SUCKS. It was really hard for me to take that. It meant that bad things really did often happen for no reason. It meant that all that time I "kept it to myself" when I was wronged or thought I was wronged, and then thought - "well God knows this and that's what is important." It meant that I had to stand up for myself and see all the terrible injustice in the world. And that bad things can happen to good people because lots of bad things are random and not deserved. So, I know, it is difficult to look at the world that way. But I think it is accurate to look at the world without a Supernatural Love. And now I see the dark side of believing that, too.

Secondly, there is the question of where did life on this earth come from. Life on this earth also had a beginning. How did it begin? Evolution is one attempt to answer that question. An atheist friend I used to work with tried to show me how clear evolution was. He provided me with some books, one being from Gaylord Simpson. As I read it, I noticed how many assumptions, speculations, and holes there were in the whole theory. Why should I abandon my faith in God for a theory that required my faith to accept. (I acknowledge that there are many Christians who accept evolution as being God directed; however, I personally don't buy macroevolutionary theory).

Evolution is not a theory in that it is debated in the scientific community. Theories in science are what describe groups of facts. Evolution is a theory and a fact. The theory of gravity explains why apples drop from trees. But gravity is not a theory that is debated in science. The same is true for evolution.

The more I've learned about evolutionary theory, the more incredible it is for me to believe. I've touched on only a couple problems I have with it. I don't accept these assumptions that have to be made. For example, creatures more advanced than apes supposedly led up to man in a string of transitions. Those creatures would have been at that time the most advanced creatures on earth. Where are they? Why aren't they still around? Oh, I know that we have a few bits and pieces of bones here and there which are subject to interpretation. But I'm talking about the living, breathing creatures. Why would the most advanced creatures on earth ALL disappear except the last in the line? It doesn't make any sense. Therefore, again, the Bible supplies the answer for creation of the species that makes much more sense. A creator created that life.

I don't really understand what you are saying here. They are us. Or they are other species that are not extinct. I don't think you understand what evolution really is. The Bible's description of the creation of the species is a story that was made up by an ancient people that didn't have the means to look at the evidence. It makes much less sense. Why would God create all those animals? We don't need all those animals.

I also have found that the Universe, the beauty of nature, and the incredible complexity of life from cells up to humans displays not randomness but design. Design implies a designer. One may make patterns out of a cloud, but the cloud is not the object you see. I wouldn't expect to come across a sculpture and wonder what windstorm or firestorm caused some hunk of bronze to fashion itself into the replication of a horse. Rather, I would wonder who created the sculpture. Yet, atheists see an incredibly designed, perfectly complex universe and all that is in it but believe it just happened on its own by chance.

We see things as designed becasue we are arriving here on earth so late in the process and we are only alive for a very short period of time. It is reasonable that you would think the world was designed. This is one of the greatest gifts of insight that science has given us -- it shows us that the world exists without a designer. It goes completely against our instincts and common sense. And yet, the evidence points this way. We can see it in the smallest levels -- the ones that you accept -- in viruses and bacteria. Evolution happens and the byproduct, over a very long period of time, is a world that looks designed.

Fourth, why are humans so different from all the other creatures. The Bible says man was made in God's image. There is a quantum leap in intelligence between humans and animals. Furthermore, isn't it odd that all peoples throughout history have believed in a God. Now, you can chalk that up to ignorant superstition, but if that's the case, why do doctors, mathematicians, lawyers, CEOs, and, yes, even scientists, etc. in the year 2006 also believe in God. It would appear that there is some connection between being human and believing in God. It is not unreasonable to believe that God has given us the ability to find Him.

That's just it! We humans, it turns out, aren't all that different from other creatures! And it SO seems like it. But the more we learn about animals, the more animal like we find ourselves. Because we are animals. I think people all around the world believe in God because people made up reasons why there was thunder and lightening or why their particular tribe was special. They made these stories up to explain things they could not explain, or to help their group psycologically. And I think the reason that so many educated people say they believe in God is because there are a lot reasons to benefit from believing in God. It makes you part of a defined community, it alleviates anxiety about death, there is a social stigma to not-believing and so forth. It makes sense to me that there is not God AND that most people believe in God.

Next, I had to consider the life of Jesus. He clearly lived on this earth. He clearly claimed that he was God. Reliable witnesses saw him perform miracles. He was crucified, died, and was buried. There is no question that the tomb was subsequently empty and many witnesses saw his resurrected body. His ministry lasted only 3 years in an insignificant country in the middle of nowhere. Yet, within a short time, his message had spread and is now one of the world's dominant religions. The mention of his name provokes reactions like none other. His disciples went from being afraid to even admit they knew him to boldly preaching his word and being willing martyrs rather than deny his deity. You ask for proof of God? Jesus Christ was that proof.

Becuase someone claims they are God, that doesn't make them God. Lots of people claim to be God. The witnesses that saw Jesus perform miracles were not reliable. There were a lot of incentives to make this up. There have been many messianic characters in history and many stories about them. That doesn't make it true. The reactions that people have about Jesus are real, but they have them for psychological reasons and not because Jesus himself is having some effect on them. Many scholars don't even think that Jesus ever existed. AND just because people like the disciples went from doubt to faith to preaching doesn't mean that it is real and true. Jim Jones also had disciples who went through the same progress in behavior and thinking. I don't think you understand what "proof" is, really.

I have seen people who were addicted to drugs or alcohol turn their lives 180 degrees after accepting Jesus as their Lord. I have seen people who have been homeless for years completely turn around after becoming a Christian. I have seen individuals who have attempted suicide because of depression and failed lives be healed of that sickness. Christ offers redemption and hope to those who are suffering or in pain, which is most of us at one time or another. I'm not sure what atheism has to offer those individuals.

You are right that the idea of God or of someone like Jesus can have a dramatic psychological effect on someone. But I think those people all had that strength to turn their life around themselves. I think humans are capable of the most astonishing transformations.

Finally, God offers the promise of eternal life to those who believe and that's no small thing.

Yes. And there you go. I think that the idea of God and eternal life alleviates a great deal of anxiety in us about death. This is potent and deep. But it doesn't make it true. It just makes belief effective in that way.

I have explained in part above what the God that I believe in is like. He is an intellect far beyond my comprehension and understanding. I may wonder why some women die in childbirth. However, to say that I cannot imagine a God who would allow that is to say that I know everything God knows, and, knowing that, I conclude that a true God would not allow such things. Job had the same debate with God and God's responses were instructive.

Hmmm... Well, I thank you for describing your faith and what your God is like to me. I think that your faith is really meaningful to you and maybe even psychologically necessary for you. In that case, I am glad that you live here in America where you can have your faith. In many areas of the world, you would not be able to have your faith. You would be forced into some other faith. But here in America, at least it still seems like it - you can believe this story as the truth and you can privately worship in your own way. I am so glad that this country guarantees that people can worship - privately - in whatever way they want to. I just get ticked when one group of believers feel that they must make me believe the same thing as they do.

It seems like you want to have it both ways. You want to believe and you want what you believe to have the facts and reason and science behind it. But I think you have to let go of that. I think you should just believe because you believe. Just have faith and I would say, don't even try to get into explaining it or proving it. I know you aren't asking me for advice, but that is my advice. I am mostly concerned about keeping our society a secular one where the laws are based on reason and science and a tolerance for people to have their faith that they can express privately. I have no reason to convince you not to believe in God.


Anyway, there you go.

68 comments:

Coby said...

Perhaps this has already been discussed, but I am interested in hearing what you guys think about the cover story of Time on November 13 that was titled "God vs. Science". Time interviewed Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins at the same time. Here is the link.
http://www.time.com/time/
magazine/article/0,9171,1555132-1,00.html

toomanytribbles said...

michael's arguments are classic and all are well refuted by julia: misunderstandings as to the workings of evolution, mistaking complexity for purposeful design, anthropocentric tendencies, a distrust of science, projecting one's deep desires and believing them to be true, relying on shaky myths to support the jesus story, and, maybe most important of all, the fear of death. it's all there.

i remember a bit of, i believe, 'the root of all evil?' with r.dawkins and it spoke of a woman who declared that the earth was supported on the back of a turtle. when asked what supported the turtle, she replied, another turtle, of course. and so it went.

so when i read,

Logically, it does not make sense that something would be created out of nothing for no reason without the force of a creator creating it. An intellect and power beyond anything we can comprehend or even imagine in this dimension would answer that dilemma. It makes much more sense to me that a being created the universe than believing that it just happened.

i just marvel at the illogic of it. god is no answer at all.. what created god.. how could a god arise out of nothing.

it's the turtle theory, all over again.

nothing from nothing means nothing. something from something we have not yet discovered, is all the difference in the world. i'm confident that, if we survive, we'll one day discover even that. through science, with our intellect.

maria said...

As an ex-Fundie, I know exactly where Michael is coming from. The truth is that I have *way* more peace and joy since I've escaped the assumptions and intellectual traps of Christianity than I have ever before in my life. Christians are always happy to jump on me and say, "Well, you then weren't really a Christian." (A statement which is, of course, totally judgemental and against the teachings of the New Testament.) But I generally reply, "You've never really been free."

You'd said yourself, Julia, that the Jesus story is powerful. It is so much so that somewhere along the way the myth got mistaken for history (I call this mythstory). The only historical reference that supports the existence of a Jesus at all (and we're not sure which he meant because there were many at that time) was in Josephus' Antiquities. The only problem is that it's clear from later comments by Origen and (I think) Plutarch that things were later added to Josephus' work and interpolated by Christian scribes.

My belief is that, once we can put all the evidence (or lack thereof) on the line, people will start to realize that Christianity is not based on an historical figure. Until then, that's going to be the lynch pin of all their arguments for clinging to a story that just doesn't jive on any level.

Good luck on the show!

Sheldon said...

TooManyTribbles said what I was thinking, but her message may have been lost in her writings.

WHAT CREATED GOD?

If the universe and everything in it MUST have had a creator because it's so amazing and complex, and God is even more amazing and complex, then it stands to reason that something must have created God, right?

Most Christians just shut down when you ask them that question. They either can't understand it, or they pretend it isn't important. Just once, I'd like to hear someone say, "Oh shit! I never thought of that!"

Dannii M said...

Hi Julia:

Your blog makes such interesting reading. You're truly inspirational.

On a side note, I saw this Onion article: "Kansas Outlaws Practice Of Evolution". I of course thought of you and the communicty of blog readers here.
http://www.theonion.com/content/node/55807

^_^

passionatebright said...

Michael,

I have a few things to add:

1. If Jesus and the Biblical God are real, then why don't people discover them without being exposed to the story first? If they were real and alive now, you wouldn't need alleged history or speculation about how the Universe began to find them. Also, do you realize that the only supposed eye-witness accounts of Jesus are from his followers, who are also undocumented? This is like saying that munchkins are real because Dorothy said so.

2. Have you ever studied evolution and ancient history and mythology completely independently of church propoganda? Check out:

www.jesuspuzzle.com
www.jesusneverexisted.com
the DVD THE GOD WHO WASN'T THERE
www.talkorigins.org

3. You need to decide, are you looking for some kind of security or are you looking for truth? Though I do think, as Maria says here, that giving up Christianity may seem scary and empty, but once you do, you will feel much better.
Life is scary so people fall for false securities, but in the big picture this ironically creates more danger.

4. Are you aware that many, many other religions, and other things, all over the world, claim to have transformed people's lives? The actress Kirstie Ally said that Scientology cured her cocaine addiction. I have a friend who was cured of a heroin addiction with SGI Buddhist chanting, and the list goes on and on.

5. Are you aware of the mental gymnastics you need to do to convince yourself that incredibly bizarre, contradictory, twisted, nonsensical, disgusting Bible is true?

6. I do think that there are mysteries and that sometimes people go too far in thinking that science can explain everthing, but don't make the mistake of creating a "God of the Gaps". It is OK to admit we don't know. Jumping into ancient mythology or other projecitons of fears and desires and conditioning is not a good answer. I think that Buddhist type philosophies, which are about understanding how the mind distorts things on a deep level and freeing yourself of it, which is based on observation in the here and now, is the right approach. I urge you to explore other things beyond Christianity.

3boysmom said...

Even as an ex-evangelical I've never understood the idea that Jesus clearly claimed to be god. I don't see it anywhere in the bible. There are indirect references he makes that men have interpreted to mean Jesus was saying he is god. "Before Abraham was, I Am". I've often wondered why the CRUX of the christian faith seems so contrived. If Jesus was claiming to be god--one would think he'd just come right out and say it. More than once!

James said...

Logically, it does not make sense that something would be created out of nothing for no reason without the force of a creator creating it.

On the contrary, logic has nothing to do with it. Logic is just a set of rules to get from assumptions to conclusions. You can start with any assumptions you want, but anyone else can question whether those assumptions have anything to do with the real world. (The process of determining whether they do is called "science").

In the real world, things are created out of nothing for no reason constantly -- really constantly. As in quadrillions of times a second per cubic centimetre. The effects of this can actually be measured! Acausality is an established property of the universe. Things can, and do, happen for no reason whatsoever.

michael said...

James, you said: "In the real world, things are created out of nothing for no reason constantly -- really constantly. As in quadrillions of times a second per cubic centimetre. The effects of this can actually be measured! Acausality is an established property of the universe. Things can, and do, happen for no reason whatsoever."

Ok, I'll play along. Can you give me one example of matter being created out of non-matter, ie, something out of nothing? I thought there was some law of science that said that matter can neither be created nor destroyed. However, I'm willing to hear what you have to back up what you say.

BEN TURK said...

coby- that article was hilarious! THe only thing i remember about it is it was obvious that the debate was much longer and more back and forth and when the editors cut it down for publication, they gave collins the last word on EVERY question.

Matthew said...

Michael said:

I thought there was some law of science that said that matter can neither be created nor destroyed.

Matt replies:

That used to be the case, but then came along this guy named Einstein who discovered that energy and matter are the same and you can convert between the two with the equasion E=mc^2 which says that energy equals mass times the speed of light squared. Energy can be converted into matter and vice versa. Perhaps you are thinking about the First Law of Thermodynamics which states that the total amount of energy in an isolated system remains constant. Or alternatively energy in an isolated system can be neither created nor destroyed.

James is quite correct. Quantum theory says that particles (or matter) are created all the time. How does this not break the First Law of Thermodynamics? Well, the particles are created in pairs. A particle and an anti-particle, so the energy balances out.

-Matt

Susan in Spokane said...

I can respond to this one:

I have seen people who were addicted to drugs or alcohol turn their lives 180 degrees after accepting Jesus as their Lord. I have seen people who have been homeless for years completely turn around after becoming a Christian. I have seen individuals who have attempted suicide because of depression and failed lives be healed of that sickness. Christ offers redemption and hope to those who are suffering or in pain, which is most of us at one time or another. I'm not sure what atheism has to offer those individuals.

I'm 30 years sober with the help of AA through the first 10 years. The AA philosophy is that a "Higher Power" helps you get and remain sober. Because I couldn't believe in God as a higher power, I used the group of people around me as my "higher power".

What helped me was the support of other people who were either already sober or who were in the process like I was, not a belief in a God.

You might say Michael, something on the order of "how do you know it wasn't God?" or you would tell me that my being sober is proof of God.

My being sober is only proof that people can handle an addiction by hard mental gymnastics and staying away from the addictive substance. There is nothing magic in my sobriety, I was just too proud to let myself go and have people think that it was a relief that I was gone.

Since one of the many sayings in AA is "Take what you need, I didn't "Let go and Let God", I just let go.

It is possible for a person to revolutionize his/her way of thinking to the extent that he/she is able to make a necessary transition. Repetition helps tremendously. After you hear something enough, it can become a part of you. So someone who is on the verge of suicide and is stopped from that path, hears from others that he/she is worth saving and that life is worth living.

I have suffered from severe depression several times in my life and what has finally made a difference in my life is a pill, not God. And the pill was created by a scientist. I know your argument would probably be that God directed the scientist to create the pill, but why would he do that and not save the people in Dafur, or stop Sadam and Hitler from murdering people. Doesn't make sense to me.

I like Julia am I am "so glad that this country guarantees that people can worship" (me: or not worship) - "privately - in whatever way they want to."

Susan in Spokane

Susan in Spokane said...

On another note, it will be interesting to see who The View picks to interview you. I see the Von Trapp familys is on also. Seems like they may have stacked the deck...lol

Susan in Spokane

allison said...

Julia,
You were great on The View! You have a genuineness and likability that I think probably helps believers listen with an open mind. You did well!
Allison

ben turk said...

sheldon-

hey, if you ever get to this point with an xtian who doesn't shut down, they'll probably be pulling out some of the historical debate on causa sui and the ontology of god, summarized pretty well, with refutations here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontological_argument

it's metaphysics, so you'll have to chuck out your science background, but that doesn't mean you are defenseless. They all assume that our sensory organs are imperfect so observation cannot be trusted when it comes to these questions, a claim that i tend to agree with. the imperfection of observation is itself supported by observation.

if your atheism is couched only in science, then your atheism is incomplete and cannot answer a number of questions that have come up in these discussions.

Linda said...

I just saw you on The View- how wonderful to see someone stand up and bravely state they don't believe in the god/christen myth! I seldom discuss my beliefs (or lack of, actually) with anyone because the defensivness and closed minds of those who do believe. Trying to logically debate the existance of god with believers can be so frustrating! You are a brave woman!
Peace-
Linda

Nancy J. Bond said...

Julia, I just watched your interview on The View -- I was gobsmacked to hear you verbalize with such honesty and humor the very things that I have struggled to explain for a few years now. Having been raised in a strict, Christian home, "letting go of God" as the be-all and end-all of everything that happened in my life was an overwhelming and sometimes shattering prospect.

Thank you for sharing your spiritual journey -- I look forward to your CD and to a daily read of your blog.

Genevieve said...

I think that spiritualty and the quest of God and self is an on going process. I myself am a 32 year old psychic, lesbian witch, on paper that is quite scary. I have suffered from the misguided practitioners of the Christian faith and and other religions. But hell! Is that a big deal? I have been more in the closet about being a witch than being a lesbian.
But I have learned that the heart will tell you where you need to go.
Witches are traditionally healing women and that's it. And I know you have to let go of dogma to really know the face of God and the face of God really has no name.

Mishelle said...

Basic Question: Why do we measure years by B.C. (BEFORE CHRIST) and A.D. (AFTER DEATH)?? Because Jesus is a myth?????

Olga said...

I just saw you on the view! I had no idea you were an atheist! I am so stoked to see a positive atheist figure on tv. I have a completely atheist family consisting of my husband.. my son.. my unborn child. I was so happy to see a funny charasmatic woman out there representing what I believe. I thought it was hilarious that they didn't understand what it was not to believe in god. Asking you questions like "are you mad at God?". How can you be mad at someone you don't believe in? I've had so much opposition living in the bible belt and I just hope more thoughtful people like you come out of the woood works so atheists can finally be seen as normal americans.

Anonymous said...

I think that your argument about God being for psychological reasons is way too classic. There is neither evidence proving or disproving God's existence. But what really got me is that you made the assertion that Jesus might not have even existed. I have heard several times from historical scholars that the notion that the historical Jesus didn't actually exist is a false claim. There are other documents, by Jesus' contemporaries--historians and politicians-- who were not his followers who make reference to him. To question his divinity is reasonable, to question his existence is naive.

Laura M. said...

Julia,

I just saw you on The View, and you were fabulous!

Congratulations, this was an important moment for the destiny of this country and I'm so thrilled that I had a front row seat, right in the comfort of my own living room, to sit here and watch history unfold.

It's just SOOOO about time that this moment FINALLY happened !

Never underestimate the importance of what you did today, and what you have been doing and continue to do so well.

The picture of Mulan was adorable, and Rosie was just lovely to you.
It was wonderful to see them all treat you and what you had to say so respectfully.

Including Elizabeth, whose comments near the end of the segment were particularly surprising, but very kind of her to point out that even most Christians should be able to read your writings and relate to the struggle to find faith.

So many of us are so proud of your honesty and bravery. And humor, of course!

Anonymous said...

Mishelle, educate thyself. A.D. does not stand for "after death." It stands for Anno Domini, which means "in the year of our lord."

vida said...

I watched you on the view and i was very pleasantly surprised about some of your comments. Especially about how you felt like God was like Santa Clause..i have been using that analogy for a long time now and have never heard anyone else refer to it in those terms.
it made me burst out in applause for you from my couch! good luck and thank you!

Jamie Kilstein said...

First off, I’m Jamie. New to the board and new to Atheism. (Wow, that sounded support groupish)

I’m not sure how much of this has been hit on so I’ll make this short. I love what Julia does because she will highlight the positives of being an Atheist. To most moderates I believe the only thing holding them back is the selfish thought of “what will this get me?” Not rejecting god possibly gets me VIP in the sky and if I fuck up I can shoot a prayer gods way and feel better about myself.
If you openly reject god it gets you a whole lot of questions in yelling form and dirty looks. Not the best incentive.
I think most people just like having god around as this ultimate fall guy.
When people say it’s in gods hands they may not believe it, they just don’t want responsibility for what’s about to happen.

I think even comments like this are scarry --

I feel his presence in my life. I have joy, peace, and contentment trusting in him even in very difficult situations. God has been faithful to me even when I have not been faithful to him. He has answered prayers and provided guidance with difficult decisions. Without Him in my life, there was a gaping hole in my being that only He could fill.

This “without him” talk. I can see how sometimes that can seem like a positive, but just like drugs and alcohol it is a crutch. If you get your self snotted at a bar, your not in control either, it doesn’t mean that when you wake up the next morning in a stuttering vomit coma it was “destiny.” Same deal.

Saying only an invisible man can fill a hole in MY body is scary. Take alcoholics anonymous. They have to have a “higher power” that you surrender to. First off there success rate is awful. Secondly, when they are sober, it is “because of god” never because “they didn’t drink.” There isn’t much incentive when your not getting the credit. Then when they relapse it’s “god had other plans for me.”
Was it god or was it the Jack Daniels? If you always assume your being worked like a puppet your less likely to make the right decisions.

I‘ll leave you with this. Maybe not the most scientific proof but I’m trying to think of things that weren’t all ready said (you guys are bad ass) in response.

-- If there was a god, and he wanted to write his big novel (The bible) don’t you think an all knowing all mighty creator of the universe would have gotten it right on the first draft?
No need for foot notes and rewrites. No 25 year anniversary addition with the forward that says “Ok you don’t have to kill the gays.” Or I apologize…I made most this shit up…

Why would you base your life around a book? It would be the equivalent to in 2000 years someone basing there life on the all mighty Harry Potter! We laugh at the thought, but as we know, if imbedded into our heads long enough, it could actually happen.

Keep it up! You guys are rad
myspace.com/kilsteinmusic

Helena (Poppy) said...

Thank you! You have put into words exactly what my heart and mind is feeling, but my tongue seems to not find the words. As a non-believer, friends have tried to 'save' me over the years, but to no avail. Duh! What I don't understand is why they must make me believe 'their' dogma, and why is their dogma more valid than their neighbour? I respect their beliefs, and understand their need for it. I wish that they could just respect my non-belief. I want to take responsibility for my own life ... not allow 'god' to take the blame for my stupidity or my ooops moments. This allows me to be good and kind because I have to look at myself in the mirror in the morning. It is 'I' that I face every day, and 'I' can face my child as an honest and generous human being.
However, ... that being said, in our home, Santa Claus and faeries are totally belived in! :)
I am so anxious to listen to your 'Letting Go Of God' CD. I will treat myself to it as soon as the holidays are over, as my little girl's desires are more important during this joyous season.
Sparkly and shiny holidays to you and yours!

blairie said...

I'm only watching The View today to support you. Glad I took the day off work for the flu, after all.

Moglandor said...

I was able to catch your appearance on the View, and I thought you did a great job. I thought you handled yourself really well, and impressively got your ideas across in such a short segment. I also think it was smart to call yourself an atheist instead of a "naturalist." Not that there is anything wrong with that title, but in a limited amount of time better to describe yourself in ways that don't need further explanation. The View is not something I normally watch, and I have to say that it was kind of surreal to watch a funny, good-natured person openly call herself an atheist on that kind of show. I also liked the way that handled the (inevitable) "angry at god" response.

Stephanie said...

Hi Julia,

I just saw you on The View...Great job! It seemed like everyone but Rosie O Donnell was bombarding you with questions, but you did a good job answering them. It's funny that people usually think that we're angry at god when we say we're atheists. That's the same response my husband and I have gotten from my in-laws.
Anyway, thanks for all you do for atheists! You're a great role model.

Jane Toumpas said...

Hi Julia! I saw you on The View today. Great job! You are not going to believe this but my best friend i going thru chemo for breast cancer right now and I am having "issues" about God and is he real. I was brought up Catholic and then became Greek Othodox when I married and had kids. Thought is would be alot easier as a fmaily. Now that I am taking my 2 kids to church ( they are 9 & 11) I just don't understand this whole God thing . Why would he let my best friend get cancer ? Why would he let my son's teachers baby die from SIDS last month? I just don't get it anymore . I think I never understood it but have been afraid to ask some one about this mystry. I am going to get your new CD. Looking foward to it! Thanks for listening to me. Sincerely, jane Toumpas Concord, NH
PS Your daughter is beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Julia, you said “I just get ticked when one group of believers feel that they must make me believe the same thing as they do.”

Umm, hypocritical a little? Wouldn’t you say that’s kinda what you and other atheists are doing?

Here’s just a smattering of bon mots from self-identified atheists on this blog:

sheldon: “when I, as an Atheist, try to get through to those whose worldview includes things that are demostrably untrue, I'm doing a service to all humankind. To do any less would be to allow people to continue to hold beliefs that are potentially dangerous to us all.”

ben turk: “we try to be helpful, taking away people's crutch may cause them pain temporarily (see anonymous' comments) but will allow them far greater self-understanding in the future.”

ben turk again: “You like to keep people in their comfortable little faiths because you think it benefits you. but by doing so you are limiting their ability to interact with the world, stunting their potential and doing a disservice to them, yourself and the rest of us. please stop it.”

atheism quotes: “I don't have to accept something that contradicts facts and reality. It isn't showing disrespect to educate the ignorant.”

Norma Manna Blum: “But it was bull shit 5,000 plus years ago, and it's bull shit now, and nostalgia is NOT an excuse for perpetuating fraud.
It has to stop sometime, somewhere, and SOMEBODY has to say "no more.."

doug: “I am glad to see that there is a revolution happening in the world to denounce this fairy tale called religion...and hopefully open our childrens lives to free thinking in the future.”

anonymous: “As much as I’d like to convert the religious to atheism, I’ve never found logic, by itself, to be an effective approach.”

Norma MB again: “Removing god from the equations of human thought, will bring, one hopes, better things in an improved environment in which to live our lives”

Still think (some) atheists aren’t trying to make others think the same thing they do?

Replace “atheism” with “faith” in these comments and what makes you guys so different from Christian missionaries?

It's Jen! said...

Hello Julia

It was a terrific surprise to see you on The View today... I am a big fan of your quick, smart humor. I love your bits on TAL.

Seeing you on tv sent me through a couple quick emotions. First, I got warm & fuzzy remembering you on SNL, then kind of squicky and sad about you being really Christian.
As I listened to the interview, I couldn't believe my ears! You LEFT religion?!! Hooray!!! (That is only meant in a nice way.)

You've impressed me more than ever. You are a deep thinker and a brave voice. I eagerly await the arrival of your new cd (just ordered it.)
JC

Hypatia said...

"Replace 'atheism' with 'faith' in these comments and what makes you guys so different from Christian missionaries?"

We're not missionaries trying to convert people to an entire world view that comes with many troubling implications. Engcouraging people to question dogma is NOT the same as trying to replace one dogma for another. I think the difference is fairly obvious and I'm pretty tired of the old "you're just as extreme and wrong as the other side" argument. Mainly because it's not an actual argument. It sounds good for a minute until you actually look at the details. It also puts the person who repeats this platitude in the position of the objective moderate who sees what's wrong with both sides. It's a useful device to frame the debate in your favor, but it doesn't get us anywhere. And again, it's tiring.

Anonymous said...

Julia, I just saw you on The View today and I am new to this blog. I've always been a fan of yours. You are so delightful and funny and intelligent and the things you talked about just made so much sense to me. I've been "on the fence" about religion and the existence of God for many, many years. I am 42, married for 17 years and a mother of two daughters now 6 and 8 years old. Currently I attend a wonderful UCC church in my town and I really love the community of it, but still have many, many questions. Always will, I suppose. No getting around that! Anyway, I just wanted you to know that seeing you on The View today and reading your blog has been a wonderful discovery. I feel much peace reading your thoughts, discoveries and those of others here. I am not great at expressing myself in written words, and certainly am not even remotely as well read as most of the bloggers here seem to be, but I am hooked. I just feel GOOD being here. I'm getting the cd, too. But sshhhh...don't tell my Jesus-lovin' friends...hahahahah! ;)
Carry on!

Jeff D said...

Julia, excellent job responding to Michael.

I shouldn't be amazed any longer to hear or read dedicated Christians talk about "eyewitness" accounts of Jesus' life or miracles. If only the public schools weren't afraid to teach the real historical / critical study of the Bible as myth, folklore, urban legend, public relations release, internal party history, etc. As a start, it would be helpful if the New Testament were taught and examined by going through the books in the N.T. in the order in which they were likely written, starting with the epistles actually written by Paul, and then moving on to Mark, then Matthew & Luke, then John, and then the pseudo-Pauline epistles.

It was a revelation to me, back in 1982, to read G. A. Wells's "Who Was Jesus," and to discover that Paul knows and writes virtually nothing about Jesus' life or even the time, place, and circumstances of his arrest, trial, crucifixion, and death. Paul also writes nothing about Jesus performing miracles and even comes close (in I Corinthians, I think) to denying that Jesus worked miracles. Time and again, Paul could have clinched an argument in one of his letters by citing a miracle or a teaching by Jesus that is described in one or another of the gospels (all written after Paul wrote and after Paul's death), but he doesn't do so, because he didn't know about these details -- which strongly suggests that these details were made up and added later, as the various bits or oral tradition, rumor and gossip were embellished and assembled into the gospels.

Jeff D

Anonymous said...

Hypatia, tiring is in the eye of the beholder. And atheists ARE just as extreme as the other side.

They can be just as hypocritical, proselytizing, patronizing, self-righteous, self-aggrandizing, sanctimonious and obnoxious as anyone else. To wit:

"It isn't showing disrespect to educate the ignorant."

I'm more than "tired" by such blather. I'm nauseated.

ben turk said...

Anonymous-

the important difference we're dealing with here is that what we are advocating (and i don't think Julia is necessarily 'advocating' but i'm not ashamed to admit i am) is a removal of beleif, not replacement with a new set of beleifs.

Atheism is not a faith, it is a different approach to the questions that religious people use their faith to answer. Faith answers these questions simply and arbitrarily. I'm saying that we'd all benefit from being a little more imaginative and objective.

Besides, when we are aggressive (and sometimes we are) we are as the minority who seek equal treatment. When religious people are agressive (you can't deny it) they are as the established authority attempting to deny equality. For this reason, only under very atypical circumstances, like this message board (which in reality, don't matter all that much), can we engage in anything like coercion or ganging up, whereas you have the ability (and you excersize it) to gang up on us in the sphere of government, community and mass media.

Anonymous said...

You site is totally useless. It offers only one side of the story your opinon. You don't even publish anything against your view. There are much better arguments for christianity then you even begin to publish. You arguments are so week and fundamental. You offer zero evidence to your view. It pure opinon and based on no substance or evidence. There is absolutly zero evidence of evolution. There is no evidence that species transform into other species over time. Darwins lie is not supported. no transitional fossils have ever been found despite the years of efforts. Without those transitional fossils the entire theory calapses. You are really getting into a subject you have no knowledge or the intellegence to be a spokesperson for. You have failed to make your case. I am searching for the truth and I was close to being aiethist but now after reading your material I am not so sure. You only prove that you have an opinin based on no facts. It requires too much faith for me to believe in your view. I personally see more evidence to an existance of a God. That is just the way it is.

bookboy said...

Anonymous said...
You site is totally useless.

Bye Bye....

bookboy said...

Oh, and don't let the blogger door hit you in the ass.

Undecided said...

Yes, there are some here who seek to change people's minds but I don't think Julia is one of them. Unless I've missed something, her intent is simply to offer her story of (to borrow a phrase from A.A.) "what it was like, what happened, and what it's like now."

That is what makes her so attractive to those like me. I don't feel preached to. I just feel like I stumbled across someone I can watch and listen to and learn. Julia, your life has enhanced mine. Thank you!

The Exterminator said...

To: Julia and (many others)
Re: your answer to Michael (and all believers)

Why do we atheists insist, over and over again, on using logical arguments when confronted by stubborn-but-proud illogic? There's no logic to which people like Michael can respond. I mean, the guy quotes a Billy Preston song as evidence, f'Chrissake. Isn't it clear that he's really not operating in the same rational cosmos as we are?

We and the nonbelievers are speaking entirely different languages. Would any of us (except for a few "Star Trek" nerds) engage in a debate that was held in English on one side and Klingon on the other? The only way either side could win would be to phaser the other one into oblivion. Every few years, that's exactly what religious fundamentalists somewhere in the world attempt to do.

Even those god-worshippers who believe that they're being logical must--ultimately--resort to supernatural faith. If, as for most of us here, faith is a non-factor in a rational discussion, its insertion into the discourse should end the conversation.

On the other hand, the amount of faith shown by atheists is staggering, too. We believe that those who have their fairy tales deeply rooted into their psyches will listen to what we say and think, "Oh, yeah. My bad. I guess there's no god, after all."

In my opinion, atheists can realistically strive to make a difference in only two ways:
(1) Those atheists in the public eye can set an example for budding freethinkers whose non-belief may need shoring up. They can, as Julia does, discuss their own ideas, and make them seem appealing and natural (as, of course, they are); and
(2) ALL of us must be vigilant about religion creeping into our governments' actions. We must fight to make sure that we are not allowing the universe's witch-doctors to rule us. You might enjoy clicking on my name and checking out my blog, which deals (almost) specifically with issues of separation of church and state.

If world, national, and local events cease to be predicated on religion, it should not matter to us how many ignoramuses there are in the populace.

Rose said...

Dear 12:29 Anonymous,
There is abundant evidence in the fossil record to support evolution, and abundant transitional species. For further support, your own body has vestigial traits, genetic homologies help distinguish between analogous and convergent morphologies, and diverse experimentation that supports that species are selected for. Many people feel that knowledge supports their faith and have a deeper reverence for their faith because of their knowledge. It seems like those that are a little more doubting resent knowledge, so to appease those individuals do we pretend the sun flies round the flat earth? Could your faith perhaps be more honored by not being so threatened by those who do not subscribe to it, and by remaining vital in light of facts? For many of us, it is not empirical scientific evidence that detracts from the credibility of faith, but rather that at face value it is implausible and irrelevant. Some are dissuaded by the history of religious origins rather than by science. Do you ever question the motivations at the Council of Nicea, or do you wonder if a troop of half literate monks precisely got it all correct in the polygot? Does it pique your interest that Zoroastrians have a remarkably similar faith to the Abraham trio? At any approach one can strongly challenge the validity of religion, so perhaps it should be a personal adherence that can be held viable and relevant in your own life, and allow others to see it differently without fear and condemnation.

Rose said...

Exterminator,
We kind of have to care what they think because they outnumber us, many vote, many of them hold seats in government (making it difficult to be vigilant about this creeping into government), and for people who believe the meek shall inherit the earth they have a lot of money, power and corporate backing. When we ignore them, our kids end up getting taught intelligent design, our universities get pushed back a few decades, we lose civil rights, and advances in medicine to name a few. I think at the very least we need people to understand that their faith is a weak one if fact is dangerous to it, and how dangerous it is when you live in a country that's policies are dictated by a single dogma and that it becomes so narrow that it may not be theirs that wins.

The Exterminator said...

Rose:

I think you may have misunderstood me. I NEVER said that we should ignore believers, and I most definitely do NOT advocate our doing so. I merely opined that we are not likely to open their eyes to reality, or prove to them that their faith, as you put it, "is a weak one." I guess my point was that the fight against religion's influence in society is too important to waste our energies trying to "convert" individual sheep. Their lord is their shepherd; let them believe whatever they want. But keep them from ramming that belief down OUR throats.

michael said...

Julia,

Thanks for your response. It gives good insight into how you've mentally processed your reasons for atheism. If you don't mind, I'd like to respond to a few points you made. Your comments are in quotes.

You said: " I worry that you use the word "issues" to mean that the evidence for a wholly natural universe is shakey, when it is not."

No, I referred specifically to spontaneous creation. Your acknowledgement that panspermia could have been the process that started creation on earth is an acknowledgement that the idea of spontaeous creation has some problems. Panspermia is a theory devised to resolve the problem of spontaneous creation. That has nothing to do with God directed creation.

You said: "But there is no evidence that God loved you so much that he came to earth and became human. To me, this is a myth - a common myth - that you believe as true because your religion told you it was true and you have some reason to need to believe it. This story of Jesus divine nature is repeated through out many myths. There is no credible evidence that he was resurrected. The evidence is based on heresay and eye-witnesses and we know that this is one of the worst possible types of evidence." Later, you said: "I don't think you understand what "proof" is, really."

That last comment really made me chuckle. You have fallen into the common trap of making an assumption about things without any facts to support them. It so happens that I deal with "proof" every day. I went to school for three years to learn about proof. Issues of expreme importance to people often depend on my understanding of what proof is. You see, I have been a trial lawyer for 20 years. So, I think I understand a little bit about what "proof" is.

Now, regarding your comment that there is no evidence that God came to earth in the form of Jesus and that there is no credible evidence of the resurrection is just plain wrong. YOU may not find the evidence persuasive enough (assuming that you have really studied it) and YOU may not find the evidence credible. But to assert that there is NO evidence of it is simply ignoring the evidence.

You state: "Many scholars don't even think that Jesus ever existed." If you are referring to scholarly evidence, that statement is just not true. The fact that Jesus of Nazareth lived on this earth is established beyond question. Some people have tried to argue that he never really existed. However, such arguments are just silly. We have biblical sources for his existence. We have non-biblical sources. The calendar for most of the world is based on his existence. Wars have been fought over him. He has been a central figure in the history of the world for almost 2000 years. The truth is that the unamimous scholarly concensus is that he lived. So, if anyone is going to take the position that Jesus as a person is a myth, that person is simply denying reality.

The real point of debate is in Christ's divinity and the resurrection. Historical evidence is by necessity based on witness observations, "hearsay" evidence, and writings. This is very much like the proof that is used everyday in trials across our country - that is, what did you see; is there any corroboration of it; is there any documentary evidence relating to the event, etc. In evaluating the historical evidence, it would appear to be biased and unfair to impose more rigourous standards regarding Jesus than is commonly used for other historical figures. For example, do you believe that Alexander the Great lived and conquered the known world? If so, why? What proof do you have, how reliable is it, and how contemporaneous is it with the actual events? My guess is that virtually no one doubts Alexander and his conquests. However, the evidence about Jesus is more contemporary and better documented.

Regarding Jesus' burial by Joseph of Arimathea, there are a number of separate sources, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul. The source Paul cites for the burial is based on an extremely early source, probably within 5 years of Jesus' death according to most scholars. Matthew, Mark and John rely on independent sources for their statements regarding the tomb later being empty. The fact that it was women who discovered the empty tomb, not men, adds credibility to the story since women were not permitted to serve as witnesses in Jewish society at that time and their testimony was not given weight. Therefore, if the writers wanted to make up a story about an empty tomb, it would have made more sense for them to do so with witnesses who would have been seen as more reliable and therefore more credible.

There is also multiple independent sources in the gospels and by Paul attesting to the resurrection. Given the early date of Paul's information and his knowledge of the people involved, it cannot be said that these were legends or myths. You might say these people were delusional, but the timeframe is too current to claim myth.

The disciples' sudden belief that Jesus was raised from the dead, which was contrary to everything they had been taught by Jewish instruction about the afterlife, is further evidence of the resurrection. They were willing to proclaim that belief boldly in the face of danger and were willing to be tortured and killed for that belief. Again, it does not appear logical that such people would simply create a story under such conditions. The only real conclusion is that either it was true or they believed it to be true and were, therefore, delusional.

Regarding this point, you state: "AND just because people like the disciples went from doubt to faith to preaching doesn't mean that it is real and true. Jim Jones also had disciples who went through the same progress in behavior and thinking." No, that alone does not mean that it is true. It is, however, EVIDENCE, that it is true. If I testify in court that you ran a red light and hit my car, that does not MEAN that it is true, but it is evidence that it is true. Therefore, your claim that there is no evidence is simply incorrect. Furthermore, the Jim Jones analogy misses the mark. His followers apparently really believed what he said, so much so that they were willing to commit suicide for their beliefs. That event does not support the argument that the disciples just made up the story about Jesus' resurrection. They must have really believed it. Again, does that PROVE that Jesus really was resurrected. No, it is simply one piece of evidence in the entire framework. Your Jim Jones analogy further breaks down when it is considered that his death ended his "reign", no one I am aware of stated that they saw him resurrected, no one was willing to die for a belief in his ressurection, and no world religion was started by his death.

You also make the assertion: "The evidence is based on heresay and eye-witnesses and we know that this is one of the worst possible types of evidence." Well, as an attorney, I have to disagree with you. Eye witness testimony is one of the most common and oft used types of evidence at trial there is. It is often the only evidence. It is relied on in case after case to prove or defend against a claim. Under certain conditions, it may be unreliable, such as identifying a criminal defendant at a distance at night, but in many cases it is extremely reliable. So, from a legal standpoint, your assertion is not accurate. Hearsay evidence is generally not allowed because of the inability to cross examine the declarant. However, there are many exceptions to the hearsay rule under which a court will allow hearsay testimony. Under those conditions, it is perfectly reliable.

Therefore, the evidence that Jesus existed, that he was crucified, buried in a tomb, and that the tomb became empty is reliable, credible, and entitled to be believed. Additionally, the evidence of his resurrection is also credible. You may not find this evidence persuasive. You may not believe there is sufficient evidence. However, it is simply inaccurate to argue that there is no evidence or no reliable evidence.

Faith comes into the equation at the point where you decide how to respond to the evidence. I am of the opinion that the most plausible explanation for the evidence is that Jesus was God; that he was resurrected; that he was who he claimed to be. Is there absolute irrefutable proof of that? No. Belief of that requires faith. But, that faith is based on credible evidence.

You said: "I think you have been coached to feel that the joy and peace and contentment came from God when really that is all within you." What proof do you have to support that statement as it relates to me? What do you know about my background to be able to assume that I have been coached to feel a certain way by anyone? Furthermore, how do you explain those same feelings experienced by others who have never been Christian before after accepting Christ as Lord? It does not come from within; in fact, it is contrary to human nature to feel peace and no worry when going through a difficult circumstance. The natural tendency is to worry and be upset, not to feel peace about it.

You further state: "Also, the universe didn't "just happen." It happened through a long process of evolution and natural selection." Julia, I think you missed my reasoning on this point. I was speaking of the very moment of the beginning of the universe, the singularity. You don't mean to assert, do you, that the singularity at the very earliest nanosecond of the universe's creation arose by some type of long process of evolution, do you? If so, I would be interested in seeing your authority for that position. You really did not address my point by talking about evolution.

Julia, you completely missed my point on the evolution of hominids. The relevant portions are as follows: I said: "For example, creatures more advanced than apes supposedly led up to man in a string of transitions. Those creatures would have been at that time the most advanced creatures on earth. Where are they? Why aren't they still around?" Your reply was: "I don't really understand what you are saying here. They are us. Or they are other species that are not extinct. I don't think you understand what evolution really is."

You seem to be saying that in the line of evolution from ape species to man, there was one continuous transition so that all previous species died out between ape and man. Under that theory, it would appear that man will die out in favor of the next development. Nevertheless, I believe it is you that does not really understand evolutionary theory.

Hopefully, a little blurp from Talk Origins will help clear up my point. "Scientists think that one group of apes, in response to their environment, started evolving in a way that would eventually lead to humanity (and many other now-extinct hominids)." And, in discussing the famous picture depicting the evolution of ape to man, they say: "The drawing often creates a misleading impression of human evolution as a steady progression from apes to humans. It has always been known that not all the species in that series were human ancestors (for example, the robust australopithecines)." And this from Wikipedia: "Australopithecus afarensis and Australopithecus africanus are among the most famous of the extinct hominids. A. africanus used to be regarded as ancestral to the genus Homo (in particular Homo erectus). However, fossils assigned to the genus Homo have been found that are older than A. africanus. Thus, the genus Homo either split off from the genus Australopithecus at an earlier date (the latest common ancestor being A. afarensis or an even earlier form, possibly Kenyanthropus platyops), or both developed from a yet possibly unknown common ancestor independently."

The theory is that there was a branching effect so that there were offshoots of some of the hominids that did not lead to man. It is not a straight line; it is a family tree. Therefore, many "hominids" much more advanced than apes developed on a branch that did not lead to man, but to a separate branch, such as, as Talk Origins states, Australopithecines.

Now, again, these creatures were much more advanced than modern apes, but yet were somehow unable to survive. Why?

Well, my response is lengthy enough. I'll sign off.

Susan in Spokane said...

Ah come on Jamie..

"Saying only an invisible man can fill a hole in MY body is scary. Take alcoholics anonymous. They have to have a “higher power” that you surrender to. First off there success rate is awful. Secondly, when they are sober, it is “because of god” never because “they didn’t drink.” There isn’t much incentive when your not getting the credit. Then when they relapse it’s “god had other plans for me.”
Was it god or was it the Jack Daniels? If you always assume your being worked like a puppet your less likely to make the right decisions. "

I know plenty of alkies who have gotten sober through AA and are atheists. As I said in a comment above yours, I got sober through AA by using the group and my "higher power" I also took credit for not drinking while trying to stay that way. I haven't gone to AA for 20 years and yes, I'm still sober.

Please don't make blanket statements like this.

Anonymous said...

Michael said, "Now, again, these creatures were much more advanced than modern apes, but yet were somehow unable to survive. Why?"

Why? Michael, it's because WE out-competed them. If they had been better suited to survival, we would be fossils and THEY would be around wondering what happened to us!


AND... Michael also said, "Furthermore, how do you explain those same feelings experienced by others who have never been Christian before after accepting Christ as Lord? It does not come from within; in fact, it is contrary to human nature to feel peace and no worry when going through a difficult circumstance."

Then Michael, what about the millions of people who have the EXACT SAME EXPERIENCE after converting to Islam or becoming Buddhist?

You may be a great lawyer, but your definitely not a scientist....

Jeff D said...

Michael wrote,

"Well, as an attorney, I have to disagree with you. Eye witness testimony is one of the most common and oft used types of evidence at trial there is. It is often the only evidence. It is relied on in case after case to prove or defend against a claim."

and ". . . the evidence that Jesus existed, that he was crucified, buried in a tomb, and that the tomb became empty is reliable, credible, and entitled to be believed. Additionally, the evidence of his resurrection is also credible. You may not find this evidence persuasive. You may not believe there is sufficient evidence. However, it is simply inaccurate to argue that there is no evidence or no reliable evidence."

Michael has come to believe that accounts of Jesus' trial, crucifixion, death, and resurrection are founded on credible evidence, including eyewitness accounts, but his basis for that belief is manifestly not found in the New Testament or even in non-Christian sources (I agree with other commenters' comments on the unreliability of references to Jesus in Tacitus and in Josephus's "Antiquities.")

Based on when they were written (according to the dating of the earliest extant manuscripts and other historical clues and errors in the text itself), the gospels are not eyewitness accounts. They are not even reliable second- or third-hand accounts, given the many, many inconsistencies between the gospels about details that should be crucial (When was Jesus' trial? On what day was he crucified? Who was present at the scene of the crucifixion? Who saw the empty tomb? How many angels or people in white were present? To whom did the "risen" Jesus appear, where did he appear, and what did he say?), it should be obvious to a careful reader that the gospels were written not as historical accounts but as bits of oral tradition collected and combined in order to express rather disparate theological arguments and perspectives of the anonymous editor/assembler of each gospel. Mark's gospel dates to no earlier than 68 or 70 A.D. (or C.E.). Matthew and Luke were written no earlier than 80 or 90 A.D., and John's gospel could have been written as late as 110 A.D.

The best manuscripts of Mark's gospel, the first written gospel, end with 16:8, when Mary Magdalene and 2 other women find the empty tomb and are told by an angel that Jesus has gone to Galilee. That's it. All the later embellishments of the trial, crucifixion, and resurrection in the other 3 gospels -- including contradictory details -- were added later to respond to counter-arguments in the fractious Gentile and Jewish communities in which the early Christians were competing for converts. It's exactly the same process by which urban legends -- something that allegedly happened to a friend of a friend -- become more elaborate as details are piled on.

When we go back to the earliest Christian writings -- Paul's letters, written between 43 A.D. and 56 A.D., we find almost no details about Jesus' life and teaching -- only that he was a supernatural being who chose to be "born of a woman" as an ordinary Jew and human being, and that he was crucified "for our sins" at an unspecified time, in an unspecified place, in unspecified circumstances, and that he rose or was resurrected in some fashion. In Paul's geunine letters, there is no mention of Jesus' mother as Mary, and no mention of Judas, Pilate, Calvary, or (as far as I can recall) Jerusalem or Nazareth in connection with Jesus.

Merry Christmas to all.

Jeff D

michael said...

Jeff d,

Your response is a great example of an atheist completely refusing to acknowledge accepted sources for historical proof that have never been refuted by any legitimate scholar. You prefer to rely on cook, fringe arguments about authenticity of the scriptures rather than face the facts. Utilizing standard historical investigation of documents from antiquity, the New Testament stands above the vast majority of historical documents whose authenticity no one questions.

The NT accounts about Jesus were written by eyewitnesses and by those who heard eyewitness testimonies. There is very good reason to believe that Matthew, a disciple, was the actual author of the Gospel of Matthew and that it was written somewhere between the time of 30 - 70 AD. General scholarly concensus dates the gospels no later than 70 AD, except John which has been extended by some scholars to as late as 90 AD. Many of Paul's epistles are dated around 50 AD. These dates are all within the first generation of those who would have witnessed Christ.

In contrast, many other historical documents that no one questions were written hundreds of years after the event. For example, the earliest account for the life of Alexander was by Didorus Siculus who wrote approximately 300 years after the death of Alexander. The best source for Alexander's campaigns was written some 450 years after his death. There are many other such examples.

Furthermore, there are thousands or partial and complete Greek manuscripts of various NT writers. In addition, there are thousands of manuscripts in Latin, Coptic, and other languages. The earliest piece of NT discovered is a portion of John's gospel and is dated around 130 AD. The Chester Beatty Papyri contain most of the New Testament and are dated AD 200 - 250. Therefore, the dates between the actual originals and the copies that we have discovered is extremely short and, based on historical authenticity methods, shows the NT scriptures to be reliable sources of the events recorded.

Your reference to "inconsistencies" has been discussed ad nauseum in many other avenues. A thorough understanding of Jewish culture at the time and a careful reading of the gospels will, in fact, reveal that there are no inconsistencies as to all significant details of the events. There is no disparate theological positions in the gospels and Paul's writings. They are clear that Jesus walked this earth, that he did so being God, and that he was resurrected after death.

Michelle said...

Would a competent lawyer define an eyewitness account as a series of dusty old letters found in an attic, professing that the writer had an eyewitness account of the celestial teapot?

To equate the content of the bible to the validity of authentic and provable eyewitness accounts is bizarre.

As the Exterminator emphasized-- Atheists do not care if believers believe, we are concerned about keeping believers belief separate from secular governing.

In addition, some atheists will spend the time to discuss the topic with 'believers' who are having a hard time swallowing the irrationality of religion.

I, myself will not waste my precious time trying to deconvert a believer.

My opinion is that Julia S is a sweetheart, and perhaps she will continue to spend oodles of time trying to deconvert ardent believer, but it sure is not my cup of tea.

Jeff D said...

Everyone:

Michael's references to "legitimate scholars" and "kook fringe arguments" show that he is closed-minded on the issue of the reliability of New Testament writings. Michael fervently believes what he wants to believe and he selectively cites and clings to only those sources that support his beliefs -- a classic example of confirmation bias in research.

The issue is not simply one of how long after an event a written account is made, but whether (1) the writer was trying to create an objective historical account,(2) the nature and extent of variations between different manuscripts of any particular text, (3) the quality of the sources the writer relied upon or used, and (4) contradictions between different written accounts of the same alleged events. The gospels are replete with contradictions about the order or circumstances in Jesus' life, ministry, teachings, trial, and crucifixion.

I have read a number of Christian apologists' writings, and I find their reasoning and their selective distortions of scripture to be either insufficiently rigorous or tendentious or intellectually dishonest.

With all due respect to Michael, G. A. Wells, Robert M. Price, and Burton Mack are not "kooks," "fringe" crackpots, or IL-"legitimate scholars."

I will not waste any more of my time or the time of other commenters responding to Michael. No point in arguing with him.

Jeff D

dabradster said...

Julia,
You are my heroine! Bravo! Thank you!
Didn’t see the TV program, but saw you at Ars Nova, listened again to the cds, and sent them to a relative today, whereupon I found your blog.

You’re doing a WONDERFUL job speaking for so many of us who, for example, have carefully read the Bible and come to the only realistic conclusion – that it’s the work of primitive humans, not a god of any sort. And also that the Bible is a poor guide indeed to lving a fulfilling and ethical life.

(George W. Bush is my other hero, since he, too, has done so much to prove that the “higher father” doesn’t exist. But, needless to say, your methods are far more constructive and fun!)

My own journey to reason started when, as a 10-year-old evangelical preacher wannabe, I was given a fancy leather and parchment New Testament for Christmas. I resolved to read every word. But problems began on the cover page - even before I got to Matthew! Nobody could explain to me why God let the King of England have his own “version.” (I think I’d previously read the last few verses of Revelations.)

It became clear in a hurry that my questions about all the biblical things that didn’t make any sense weren’t welcome either at home or in church. Forty years later, I’m still learning and asking questions, and the honest answers all lead me to…Deepak Chopra.
(Just kidding, Julia!)

To respondents above:
Please correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that today’s humans DID NOT evolve from monkeys! Modern apes and humans evolved separately from a more distant common ancestor. Apes and humans, then, are very distant cousins. This is an important point, and one that has long been distorted by those who stand to gain by casting doubt on the plain reality of evolution.
(Of course, the average chimp is more humane than some homo-sap cousins, but that’s another story.)

Congratulations to those who have been brave enough, like Julia, to come out and tell their families, friends, and neighbors that they don’t believe in Zeus, the Sun King, Yahweh, Santa, Jehovah, or any of the other imaginary friends that mankind has dreamed up for comfort or for a good story!
If many more of us would emulate Julia, Dan Barker, Charles Templeton, and others, maybe we could help save, well, everything.

michael said...

To Michelle:

To answer your question - No, a lawyer would define an eyewitness account as an account of an event by a person who actually witnessed that event and, for purposes of trial, was questioned about that event and retold it at trial. As it relates to historical inquiry, an eyewitness would involve a person who actually witnessed an event and then either recorded the event him/herself or recounted that event to one who recorded it in written form. The NT is filled with such eyewitness accounts.

The fact that you characterize NT manuscripts as "a series of dusty old letters found in an attic" demonstrates that you really have no idea of the historicity of those manuscripts and the scholarly work that has been developed around authenticating them. Apparently, you dismiss the entire works of antiquity.

You seem to have created a fantasy world regarding the authenticity of the Bible apparently without any real study of the subject. That's your prerogative. However, you certainly do nothing to bolster your position or lack of believe by making comments that are clearly baseless.

To JeffD:

The sources I rely on represent the scholarly concensus on the subject. Your sources, such as G.A. Wells, are far outside of that scholarly concensus. That by itself would not be enough to dismiss Mr. Wells; however, he is also outside of his field of expertise. I believe he is a German professor, not an historian nor an expert in antiquities. His methods are not at all sound. Indeed, many, many professors of history have severely criticized Wells' conclusions, including Howard Marshall, Michael Grant, Will Durant, Rudolf Bultman, etc. Prof. Grant, an atheist, had this to say: "In recent years, 'no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non historicity of Jesus or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary."

You are correct. There is no point in arguing when you are going to dismiss accepted evidence and assert your position as if it's an established fact. Atheists appear to be as closed minded and given to rely on flights of fancy as much as you accuse Christians of doing so.

zigory said...

Julia, you wrote beautifully your responses to Michael's letter. Your tone is exactly right. His arguments fail for the reasons you indicate. However, he is free to believe in God if he wishes. It's good that this freedom of belief and speech is protected in America, but it's important that American laws remain secular and based on reason and science, and continue to respect that freedom for everyone.

passionatebright said...

Oh Michael, Michael, Michael,

I'll try once more.

You are seriously confused.
Tell me, how in the world do you know that the Bible is full of eyewitness accounts? How can you know such a thing? You really cannot. How do you know they are not made up?

I have heard of so-called "textual criticism" that supposedly can tell if something written thousands of years ago is made up or a real eye witness account. Do you honestly fall for that? How about the textual criticism that overwhelmingly indicates that the Bible has every indication of being folklore and myth?

Do you realize that there are zero independent eye witness accounts of Jesus? He was supposedly this very amazing character that went around and did all these flamboyant things and there are no other accounts? The only accounts are by his followers who are promoting a religion, which is completely unreliable. It's as reliable as asking OJ's mother if OJ is innocent.

Many scholars think that only three of the gospels are elaborations on one of the gospels, not independent works at all. Try reading them with this in mind and you can see how it makes much more sense than if they were eyewitness accounts.

The names on the gospels were added much later. No one knows who wrote them.

It is often true that a consensus of experts can be trusted. But there are exceptions. There is very, very strong pressure not to question Christianity too closely in the Western world and much of the population is heavily indoctinated since childhood. I know some of the people who publically question the truth of Christianity get horrifc hate mail and death threats! Therefore in this case, the consensus of experts may not be reliable.

The bottom line for me is, I think that this whole approach to spirituality is completely wrong. Alleged history is not the place to go at all. As I said before, if the Biblical God and Jesus were real, people would find them without ever being exposed to the religion and the Bible, and this is absolutely not the case. If you are looking for something that is alive and real now, there has to be a route to it from the present. Since when do you discover anything real from reading a story? This is really very simple and basic, but you suddenly forget it and get totally confused when it comes to God. You would take this for granted in any other context.

The past is dead and gone. You can never experience it directly and you can never be certain of what happened thousands of years ago. It is always full of doubt and not the route to spiritual truth in the here and now. History has its place, but not for this.
Please read my previous post and study the websites I listed.

jeremy said...

Hypatia-

I'd just like to say that I love the user name.

Kevin said...

To Sheldon: okay, okay "oh shit, I never thought of that" There!Actually, that statement would have been true. But I actually have thought of its' referent statement "What created God?" It must have been umpteen years ago now. My response to it then (and now I guess) -- it assumes that God is material and therefore "complex" - with integrated systems and sub-systems - as some kind of biological entity.

What if God exists in an ulta-dimentional reality some call "eternity". (It's a concept most people [including myself] have trouble with.) and what if "it" (God)does not have form or mass as we know it. I think one of the reasons we have trouble with it is because the concept 'eternity' tends to be juxtaposed to 'time' and we have a hard time imagining 'no time'. But for me, time is inextricably linked to the 'movement' of something... from the planet's rotation to the vibrations of an atomic clock... SOMETHING HAS TO MOVE to tell time. It is a secret that CIA 'interrogation' (read: torture) techniques have taken advantage of for decades. Take away someone ability to perceive time via sensory deprivation and you can brake them. All that’s to say 'no time' is tough, perhaps in more ways then one.

So, I wonder, prior to the big bang there is no movement (in this would be universe anyway) Therefore, what do you have? My answer: a state of being, a prime mover, that which had the will and ability to take nothing and move a universe into existence which latter would have "billions and billions of stars" (thank you Carl) - from which we evolved – fueled by the uncreated energy (spirit) of that which preceded it.

Anonymous said...

Michaels comment on 3:09 really cleaned your clock. You are in such denial. And your contradictions in your comments are just so rediculous that you are no longer worth lisenting to. You have totally been discredited.

Christians don't fear you and your beliefs. You fear christianity because your afraid of accountablility. You may just have to do the right thing in your miserable life for a change. God forbid.

I found truth in Jesus
Sorry you are so lost and confused

68monkeys said...

I love you Julia. Just in the last couple of years have I had the determination to finally say I am an atheist. I have grown up in a Catholic family, gone to Catholic church and while I find comfort in the imagery and the riutal aspects of Catholicism I have finally realized that I didn't believe in what others seemed to believe in.

I have yet to come out to my family in fear of them not understanding but I am very honest with my friends. Some still think that because I don't beleive in God that means I believe in something else.
I always explain to them that "I believe in what exists between you and me. What exists between me and the mountains. What exists within me."

If it ends up being me, you and everyone else than that's just fine with me.

Anonymous said...

"Sheldon said...

TooManyTribbles said what I was thinking, but her message may have been lost in her writings.

WHAT CREATED GOD?

If the universe and everything in it MUST have had a creator because it's so amazing and complex, and God is even more amazing and complex, then it stands to reason that something must have created God, right?

Most Christians just shut down when you ask them that question. They either can't understand it, or they pretend it isn't important. Just once, I'd like to hear someone say, "Oh shit! I never thought of that!" "

God doesn't have a beginning and an end. Illogical? Of course it's not, He's God afterall. I guess you've heard about our belief that God [Christian]is omnicient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. But more importantly, it is important to remind ourselves that we cannot just rely on what's tangible and that we human beings are limited and that our science and logic cannot explain and solve everything.

john13:34 said...

Hello,
An atheist colleague of mine suggested I listen to a feature on NPR's This American Life on Julia Sweeney's Letting Go of God. It was interesting and thought provoking, which led me to this blog.

I just want to share with all of you my experience as a person who grew up in the faith and as someone who now works for the government advising on international economic policies. I was 13 yrs old when I accepted Christ; it was wonderful growing up in the church, learning about the Christian faith. While that was true, when I entered college, especially attending a very liberal one, I found myself questioning my belief in God and the whole Christian faith. For three years, I struggled as I had no Christian friends at school or a church to support what I had been taught to believe. Finally, as I entered my last year in college, I felt that I was ready to decide on my own terms whether in fact I believed what I believed because of my upbringing or the result of rational and spiritual exploration of what the faith was all about. It became clear to me (as clear a belief could be) that what I believed was real; this is when I rededicated my life to Christ.

Since then, my faith has never been shaken. Because of my faith, I chose to devote my career to serving the development community in public service. My husband and I strongly believe in the tenets of the Christian faith, and we try to practice it in every aspect of our lives. But I have never forced my faith on others (to non-Christian friends/coworkers), and contrary to many of your views that we Christians are all out to change the government to be an extension of the church, I have never let my religious affiliation affect my work, especially if it in any way meant discriminating or harming another group of people (including other faiths & non-believers). I do believe there is a need to maintain a government that is secular to protect all of our rights; but I also believe there is a need for more Christians (as well as non-Christians) who try to live out the moral principle of "love one another". My point is that Christians are trying to make this world a better one through the teachings of the Bible and the life of Christ, and I don't understand why there are so many people out there who see us as ignorant, psychologically dependent, delusional people who are trying to mass covert anyone we encounter. Most of us (I can't speak for every Christian) are trying to make this world a better one, so why the atagonism for what we believe personally, when that faith is the very source of motivation to do good in this world???

Someone said it best - we simply speak two different languages; the Bible and historical interpretations are internally consistent from our point of view. From your perspective, this is all a bunch of bologne. But bottom line, you cannot convince those of who believe that our truth is just a "myth". I think I am, and most of my Christian friends are, tolerant of other faiths or non-faiths. But I have frequently encountered (more recently) many non-believers who see themselves as intellectually superior, who vehemently attack me and other Christians for our delusional thinking and belief, and that somehow, they will "enlighten" us with their sound logic. I am an intelligent individual, who happens to also be a Christian. These two things are NOT mutually exclusive! I ask all of you to be tolerant of those of us who believe as you are asking for us to be open with you... it's clear, atheists do not have all the answers either. So, just because I define my truth in the way I understand it with my mental and spiritual facilities, it does not mean your logic makes my faith a lie or delusion.

Bottom line, no science can prove to me what love is.

MICHAEL said...

Salvation is always the ending of the minds fascinated identification with the dead and unchanging image of what it was. It is the complete reversal of the "natural" order of things a METANOIA - the Greek word for repentance, meaning precisely a turning around of the mind, so that it no longer faces into the past, the land of the shadow of death, but into the Eternal Present.
So long as the mind is captivated by memory, and really feels itself to be that past image which is "I" it can do nothing to save itself; it's sacrifices are of no avail, and it's Law gives no life.
After years of therapy, I had a metamorphosis - I asked Jesus to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. He delivered me from my inequities. Praise the Lord!!

Peace Be With You
Micky

MICHAEL said...

Julia says…
Evolution is not a theory in that it is debated in the scientific community. Theories in science are what describe groups of facts. Evolution is a theory and a fact. The theory of gravity explains why apples drop from trees. But gravity is not a theory that is debated in science. The same is true for evolution.

Greetings Julia
I wonder if this might interest you:
THEORY: An idea or system of ideas intended to explain something [Oxford Dictionary].
FACT: A thing that is definitely the case [Oxford Dictionary].
How can a theory be a fact, Julia? Evolution is just a theory – hypothesis.
WHAT IF - Creationists can know that Copernicanism is the demonstrable precursor of evolutionism both as Bible destroyer and as the guarantor that the anti-Bible false science establishment would become modern man's criterion of Truth Itself? (FIXED EARTH)
I imagine that you have escaped into your head because you are too terrified to face your DEMONS. Your process is not whether you believe in God or evolution but unprocessed STUFF from your childhood. The only hope for you is to go back to the CHAMBER OF HORRORS [Your Childhood] and recover “Little Julia” - you abandoned her a long time ago. That child is God!! “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” [Luke 17: 21].
Peace Be With You
Micky

Marc said...

As you consider your search for the
Truth of what God is.

Apart from myself my scientific
side make me doubt that God does exist.

But anyway something beautiful
from Judaism about the Universe
and Humanity.

Tikkun olam (Hebrew: תיקון עולם) is a Hebrew phrase that means "repairing the world" or "perfecting the world." Tikkun olam is an important concept in Judaism.


The expression tikkun olam is used in the Mishnah in the phrase mip'nei tikkun olam ("for the sake of tikkun olam") to indicate that a practice should be followed not because it is required by Biblical law, but because it helps avoid negative social consequences. One example is in Gittin 4:2:

According to the Jewish mystical system known as Lurianic Kabbalah, the creation of the universe by God was unstable, and the early universe, represented figuratively by a glass or pottery vessel, could not contain the holy light of God and shattered into shards. Consequently, according to the Kabbalists, the universe that we know is literally broken and in need of repair. According to this belief, by following halakha (Jewish religious law) and performing mitzvot (fulfilling commandments or performing good deeds) people help to repair the broken shards of the universe through their deeds. Therefore, the Kabbalists teach, through her or his actions each person can participate in tikkun olam, literally repairing the universe, and humanity is a partner in God's creation.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

徵信, 徵信, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 感情挽回, 婚姻挽回, 挽回婚姻, 挽回感情, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信, 捉姦, 徵信公司, 通姦, 通姦罪, 抓姦, 抓猴, 捉猴, 捉姦, 監聽, 調查跟蹤, 反跟蹤, 外遇問題, 徵信, 捉姦, 女人徵信, 女子徵信, 外遇問題, 女子徵信, 徵信社, 外遇, 徵信公司, 徵信網, 外遇蒐證, 抓姦, 抓猴, 捉猴, 調查跟蹤, 反跟蹤, 感情挽回, 挽回感情, 婚姻挽回, 挽回婚姻, 外遇沖開, 抓姦, 女子徵信, 外遇蒐證, 外遇, 通姦, 通姦罪, 贍養費, 徵信, 徵信社, 抓姦, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信, 徵信公司, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信公司, 徵信社, 徵信公司, 徵信, 徵信公司, 女人徵信, 外遇

徵信, 徵信網, 徵信社, 徵信網, 外遇, 徵信, 徵信社, 抓姦, 徵信, 女人徵信, 徵信社, 女人徵信社, 外遇, 抓姦, 徵信公司, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信公司, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信公司, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 女人徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 女子徵信社, 女子徵信社, 女子徵信社, 女子徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 征信, 征信, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 征信, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社

Microsoft Office 2007 said...

Office 2010
Microsoft Office 2010
Microsoft word
Office 2007
Microsoft Office
Microsoft Office 2007
Office 2007 key
Office 2007 download
Office 2007 Professional
Outlook 2010
Microsoft outlook
Microsoft outlook 2010
Windows 7

Peter said...

Thanks for great share :)

EWA review
Affiliate review
pc games download
download gta 4 for pc free
Blam ads review
cpatank review
wolf storm media review
Ndemand review
Download Shift 2 Unleashed Free