Open Letter to Rabbi Adam Jacobs and the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Communities

In Rabbi Adam Jacobs’ “Open Letter to the Atheist Community” on February 10th, he suggested that there were no “true atheists” because the “totality of the universe” is unknowable, therefore it would be impossible to definitively prove that God doesn’t exist. Jacobs also posited that Atheism was more a statement of principle than a cogent belief system; I say it’s neither. I say it’s a process and a mission.

The adjective “atypical” means “not typical.” A condition, event or stance of “atypicality” does not mean “typicality” (or a “type”) does not exist or that the state of being “typical” is impossible. It simply means a condition, an event or a stance is characterized by “atypicality.” The same could be said of the adjectival term “apolitical.”

The adjective “atheist,” therefore, means “not theist.”And an “Atheist” is simply not a Theist.

Atheism, then, is simply an existence not characterized by—or, in most of our cases, susceptible to—Theism. The onus to prove whether or not God, Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, Elohim, etc. exists is completely irrelevant. If God, Allah, Jehovah or Yahweh do exist, we’re not fans.

To demonstrate my point, let me give you an example involving God in the Christian sense from the Book of Genesis.

I will readily admit that I’m not the smartest person around, but I know this: if I put cookies in several different cookie jars and tell my kids that the cookies in one jar contain the knowledge of good and evil and that they can partake of the cookies in any jar in the pantry except the ones from the cookie jar of good and evil, then—even if I put that jar on the highest shelf—my children are eventually (if not immediately) going to reach for the cookies in the forbidden cookie jar.

Any good parent knows this.

What kind of parent would scold a child after purposefully setting a trap and then watching the child fall into it? What kind of parent would exile his children from his grace because they fell into the trap he set for them?

I may not be the smartest person in the world or the best parent but, in this particular respect, I’m arguably smarter than God. And I wouldn’t have done what He supposedly did to His children even if the staging and subsequent results achieved the desired effect.

The therapeutic entity (or pseudo-entity) that Christians refer to as the Divine Author is clearly something of a mixed bag. He reportedly made the sun, the moon and the stars, but had no grasp of human nature even though we were supposedly made in His image (and likeness). It doesn’t make sense. An omnipotent being would, well, be omnipotent.

If God was or is truly omnipotent, shame on Him. Omnipotence implies infallibility. Infallibility precludes causal error. That means God knew He was setting up Adam and Eve and manipulated them to fail and then punished them for failing.

The lesson to be taken from the exercise is that God expects blind, abject obedience. No more, no less. And if this was God’s plan for us all along, He shouldn’t have bothered with humanity at all.

Perhaps my thought processes border on incivility, but I believe that (1) no reasonable creator would require abject obedience of any organism, (2) no responsible creator would grant any single species ipso facto dominion over all others (any more than He would favor one people, place or faith over another) and (3) no relevant, competent creator would value rote reverence and voluntary meekness over thoughtful query and existential initiative.

This leaves us with two possibilities: (1) The entire concept of God is a giant fraud and may comprise the greatest lie ever told or (2) God is imperfect and possibly incompetent.

I would certainly never presume to speak for all Atheists, but I have to say this: if God exists, I’m not impressed and I don’t want Him on my side. His taste in “chosen” peoples and cultures is lacking and His intentions are suspect.

My mission, then, as an Atheist, is not to prove or disprove His existence to His followers. It’s simply to discourage and dissuade them from trying to define, limit or marginalize my existence any more than they already have. And this applies to Muslims and Jews as well.

It’s typical to believe that life on this planet began with a desert god; and it’s typical to think the world will end according to a desert religion. But the intellectual landscape for some of us is not so barren. That’s what makes us atypical.

Fort Worth native E. R. Bills is the author of Texas Obscurities: Stories of the Peculiar, Exceptional & Nefarious and Tell-Tale Texas: Investigations in Infamous History. Read other articles by E.R..

24 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. bozh said on February 21st, 2011 at 10:03am #

    it looks my post wld not appear.
    so briefly: sacerdotal class also denies existence of god. they never say that the know god exists–only that the believe one exists.
    and by speaking on behalf of an entity that is not known, is also a denial of its existence. for how’s one to know what an unknown entity thinks or says? yet priests know? really? r we that dumb? tnx

  2. MichaelKenny said on February 21st, 2011 at 12:02pm #

    The Book of Genesis is a Jewish religious book, not a Christian one! It was written long before Christianity ever existed. Thus, the vision of God it contains is a Jewish vision. Get your facts straight first. Then argue your point!

  3. bozh said on February 21st, 2011 at 12:42pm #

    christian bible was also written by jews or judeans. first christians were jews. in either case, people wrote dwn as if they knew god and what s/he was saying.
    i think that even the third shemitic ‘religion’, islam [read, teaching and promoting personal supremacism-nazism-americanism-zionism-fascism-mayhem-etc.] stems from hebrew nonsense.
    all of these bastards were criminals! and still are today and forever if we let them do to us what they had been doing to us fro millennia. tnx

  4. joed said on February 21st, 2011 at 2:40pm #

    Also, thank you ER Bills for this fine article. I do find your points and point of view refreshing. We need more articles like this and in this domain of philosophy. Ever since religion hijacked morality the ideas of right/wrong, good/evil have been left up to a bunch of ignorant bullshit artists claiming god is their guide. Pretty disgusting and what is a real heartbreaker is that most humans go along for the god ride because they don’t know how to think.
    Anyway, thanks again for a fine important article.

  5. joed said on February 21st, 2011 at 2:48pm #

    I consider my self an atheist because I have no reason to think there may be a creator/god. The idea that you can’t prove god doesn’t exist is moot.
    It is up to the person claiming god exists to give evidence for that existence. There are some things that can not exist, like a married bachelor. But a god is possible: just show the evidence and there would be few doubters. As it is, there is no evidence.
    Pascal’s Wager doesn’t hold water either.
    Religion really is willful ignorance and superstition and violent unkindness for the most part.

  6. Tonyandoc said on February 21st, 2011 at 5:49pm #

    Belief in God – or Creator, Supreme Being or whatever term one chooses – is a matter for each individual. It is our human condition that prompts us to band together into religious entities (Churches, Congregations and so on). In these entities tribal forces and organizational systems take over fostering power politics, dissent, factions and the spiral towards the lowest common denominator. Despite their inevitable human failings religions provide a basis and the toolset for individuals who wish to pursue their individual relationship with their God. Unfortunately they also provide a fertile breeding ground for religious fanaticism and the type of behavior that, if there is a God and if He She or It has a plan for humanity, would be far, far from God’s desired outcome. Mahatma Gandhi got it right when he said “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

  7. kalidasa said on February 21st, 2011 at 5:53pm #

    A man or woman professes to belong to a particular type of faith with reference to particular time and circumstance and thus claims to be a Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist or any other sect. Such designations are non-sanatana-dharma. A Hindu may change his faith to become a Muslim, or a Muslim may change his faith to become a Hindu, or a Christian may change his faith and so on. But in all circumstances the change of religious faith does not effect the eternal occupation of rendering service to others. The Hindu, Muslim or Christian in all circumstances is servant of someone. Thus, to profess a particular type of sect is not to profess one’s sanatana-dharma. The rendering of service is sanatana-dharma.

    -Srila Prabhupada
    I suppose you could and should easy, casually or however include atheist, animist, taoist and any and every other various and sundry designation one impales their self upon.

  8. Don Hawkins said on February 22nd, 2011 at 3:21am #

    ER you are getting good at this the this being knowledge. Let’s see we split the atom and now we have WMD’s we have the Hadron Collider in search of the origins of the Universe went to the moon the space shuttle the F-22, drones, GPS and heck electricity but just maybe instead of wondering why we are here or where we came from for a few decades at least just say we are here and in deep shit. Gadhafi yesterday did you all see the picture of the little god a momentary master of a fraction of a dot? Sitting in that little car with the umbrella am still trying to figure out if he’s gone Michael Jackson or was trying to make a statement on the environment. Here in the States more little god’s momentary master’s of a fraction of a dot using illusion of knowledge and causing much trouble and not even blinking an eye. There are people who do have the knowledge, knowledge gained over the just the last fifty years and some a bit further back and it sure seems to me are on house arrest. I wonder in say the White House when Gadhafi call’s in the jet’s to kill the general population what is the real thinking from the wise old owl’s not what we hear on the tube. I just wish we could see and hear the best mind’s we have who still care and want to make a try at survival but so far just more black is white or white is black.

  9. Don Hawkins said on February 22nd, 2011 at 4:02am #

    Blackwhite is defined as follows:
    “…this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink.”
    —Orwell, 1984 Wiki

    And so it goes on a level never seen by human’s a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. There’s more people now but with the help of mass media sort of work’s. I hear the pay is good to help people believe black is white. Just enough truth to make it seem real.

  10. Rehmat said on February 22nd, 2011 at 6:49am #

    Have I been a Zionist Jew – I would agree with E.R. Bills 101%. But, unfortunately, according to Holy Qur’an – I cannot be an atheist and Muslim at the same time – as a Jew could – as long as he/she was born to a Jewish mother.

    The Rabbis who penned the Jewish Bible (OT) were Israelite and not ‘Jewish’ – the race which appeared in the West only 100 years ago according to Jewish historian Dr. Shlomo Sand.

    Being an Atheist is very liberating expecially not being pressured by moral standards as prscribed by certain religions – Islam being on the top.

    According to Holy Qur’an – The Creator (Allah, G-d, God, Ashwar, etc.) is not responsible for the good or evil deeds of His creation. He gave a ‘sense of thinking (brain)’ to human-being and sent over 124,000 messengers to guide the human race how to live in peace in this life and the life after death (Hindus, Buddhist, Atheists and some Jews don’t believe in the later). But as Holy Qur’an says: “There is no compulsion in religion” – I am in peace with over one billion Atheists.

  11. bozh said on February 22nd, 2011 at 8:31am #

    in order to distinguish between european, african, and asian jews from judeans or jews of judea i often put the label under single quotes.
    thus, the label ‘jews’ labels many ethnicities and skincolors and belonging to diff cults; stemming from torahic misteachings.

    that is why i in above post of mine did not put the word jews under single quotes. tnx

  12. bozh said on February 22nd, 2011 at 8:50am #

    i part from any ‘holy’ writ. just say ‘holy’ land, ‘holy’ bible, ‘saint francis’, ‘godly’ or ‘god’ jesus, and i immediately turn such thinkers off!

    and mohammed just like jesus spoke from all four corners of their respective mouths; promising the moon and in case of mohammed, cursing damning to death anyone who dared to doubt his obvious treachery.

    these two of the greatest criminal minds still command about 3 bn people.
    i cannot see us ever having peace on earth as long as sacerdotal class rules bns of people.

    one ought to also keep in mind that all these ‘holy’ writs were written-edited-reedited by many priests over centuries or decades.

    such ‘ignorant’ people may have just posited what they felt, believed, wanted, wished for, etc. tnx

  13. AaronG said on February 22nd, 2011 at 11:00pm #

    The highlight of this article was:

    “I will readily admit that I’m not the smartest person around…..”

    If you’re going to talk about nuclear physics, at least show us that you know something, ANYTHING, about your topic.

    Every book review I’ve read on DV has quoted from the actual book to back up the review’s claim. I found no quote from the Bible in this article, only suppositions and hearsay. If I was a (junior primary) school teacher marking this work, I’d be asking a forthright question “Mr Bills, have you actually read the Bible?”

    The ones with the biggest faith in the world are the ones that believe that a single-celled organism can “evolve” into me – something that is called a theory but has not been proved in the lab. Therefore, since proper scientific method has been ignored, Atheism is just another religion.

    This article wasn’t dissident, it was mainstream. Dissidents do research to find the truth, mainstream parrots popular ideas from the general society.

  14. Deadbeat said on February 23rd, 2011 at 2:34am #

    I think AaronG makes a very strong rebuttal.

  15. bozh said on February 23rd, 2011 at 8:09am #

    nobody shld be called “atheist”. nobody shld be called adevilist either. neither the devil nor god exist to an seeing eye.
    thus, denying or affirming that an unseen and unseeable entity exists, appears a waste of time and peace of mind.
    all i can say is that i haven’t seen god nor devil. or, if one will, devilgod monopoly.

    if one wants to worship-obey sacerdotal class of people [surely no god or goddevil needs agents to represent it] it wld be ok with me; provided they stop spreading hatred towards those who do not respect or obey them.

    however, rabbis, ulema, priests appear as worst offenders of our humaness and our fallibility.
    sacerdotal class deny that they are fallible by simply asserting that torah, talmud, qoran, and bible are infallible writs.
    they are not. they were written by fallible humans claiming to be inspired by ‘god’ which they have never seen or heard.
    i call that kind behavior sanely insane, but with deadly and nefarious mission: wage wars, poverty, ignorance and lord over us! tnx

  16. 3bancan said on February 23rd, 2011 at 8:38am #

    AaronG said on February 22nd, 2011 at 11:00pm #

    Maybe I’m wrong, but my hunch is that AaronG wants to say that the Bible is a/the theory that has “been proved in the lab”, ie the only truth – according to his standards, and that its writers were “dissidents” who found “the truth”.

    Imho asserting that “Atheism is just another religion” is equal to asserting that not taking drugs is just another drug addiction, or that non-smoking is just another sort of smoking…

  17. MICHAEL said on February 23rd, 2011 at 8:59am #

    E.R. Bills: 2/23/2011
    As a rule of thumb,religious leaders fear the unknown.In an
    attempt to cope with this feeling,they try to enslave as many
    people as they can to think and feel the same way they do.This, then
    provides a pseudo sense of security, but more importantly, a conection
    to their Deity in obtaining immortality.
    This is also a way of verifying and validating there purpose for
    being alive.And it gives them power and control over their flock.What
    might be underlying religious dogma, is reverse psychology.That is,if
    people do not believe/accept my God, they will not believe/accept me.For
    what other reason is there for anyone to assume being a courtier for
    The truth is,that it matters not wether there is a God or not.There is no interference of the wanton destruction or the negligent behavior man
    is bestowing upon our earth,our habitat.
    Power,strength and knowledge belong to God.Therefore,men of the cloth,Invoke Power,strength and knowledge and are saved!Others may
    not be so fortunate.What an egotistical,irreverent attitude to hold.
    This is nothing more than obfuscating hierarchy immortals
    attempting to have power and control over everyone,everwhwere.
    Thanking you for your attention to this matter –

  18. mtatom said on February 23rd, 2011 at 10:25am #

    The more I study/learn about religion and religious beliefs throughout my life, the more amazed I am at the number of people who buy into it. I find the convoluted intricateness sadly fascinating–what lengths some will go to to deny their senses. Were I responsible for the creation/existence of whatever this is that we have, I’d be ashamed of my abject failures–pain, suffering, anguish and death are NOT things I’d allow to happen to my creatures.

  19. hayate said on February 23rd, 2011 at 11:18am #

    AaronG said on February 22nd, 2011 at 11:00pm

    I’ve never read the Bible, or any other religious book, all the way through. I’ve started a few of them, read sections, but fairly quickly my attention wanders to something else. Of the religious texts I have started, the Bible was the least interesting, so it inevitable got the least attention.

    That’s just how things are sometimes….

    BTW, I consider myself an atheist – not only that, but a godless commie, as well. 😛

  20. hayate said on February 23rd, 2011 at 11:49am #

    I had thought against wading in here, but what the hell, some quotes on religion:

    “Any priest or preacher must be presumed guilty until proved innocent.” – forgot who said that

    “In religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination.” – Mark Twain

    “God against Man, Man against God, Man against Nature, Nature against Man, Nature against God, God against Nature–very funny religion.” – D. T. Suzuki

    “History does not record anywhere at any time a religion that has any rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to face the unknown without help.” – another which I forgot the author

    “Men rarely ( if ever ) manage to dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the morals and manners of a spoiled child.” – and another

    “By sword and gun and crucifix,
    Christ’s gospel has been spread,
    And two thousand cruel years,
    Have shown the way that Jesus lead,
    The heretics burned and tortured,
    And the butchering bloody crusaders,
    The bombs and rockets sanctified,
    That rained down death from heaven.” – from the song “Stand Up For Judas” by Leon Rosselson

    “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine.” – Patti Smith

    “God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent–it says so right here on the label. If you have a mind capable of believing this, I have a wonderful bargain for you. No checks, please. Cash and in small bills.” – another I forgot the author

    “The most preposterous notion that humans have ever dreamed up is that copulation is inherently wrong. The second most preposterous notion is that there is a Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, who wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, who can be swayed by their prayers, and who becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history. – Heinlein

    “There is no need for rules.
    There’s no-one to score the game.” – Sandy Denny

    “The profession of preacher has many advantages. It offers high status with a safe livelihood free of work in the dreary, sweaty sense. In most societies it offers legal privileges and immunities not granted to other people. But it is difficult to see how someone who has been given a mandate from on “High” to spread tidings of joy to all humankind can be seriously interested in taking up a collection to pay their salary; it causes one to think that the preacher is on the same level as any other con man. But it is lovely work if one can stomach it.” – Heinlein

    “Any town with more churches than bars has got a serious social problem.”
    – E. Abbey

    “The tragedy of those who believe in a god is that their faith rules their intellect.” – Marleen Gorris

    “I went to the Garden of Love,
    And saw what I never had seen,
    A chapel was built in the midst where I used to play on the green.
    And the gates of this chapel were shut,
    And “thou shalt not” writ over the door,
    So I turned to the Garden of Love that so many sweet flowers bore.
    And I saw that it was filled with graves,
    And tombstones where flowers should be,
    And priests in black gowns,
    Were walking their rounds,
    And binding with briars,
    My joys and desires.” – song Garden of Love by Leon Rosselson

    “I have just come to this monastery; please give me some instruction.”
    “Have you had your breakfast?”
    “Then wash your dishes.” – another I forgot the author

    “The result, therefore, of this physical enquiry is that we find no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end.” – James Hutton

    “The Rain Forests of the Amazon are disappearing at the rate of 5,000 acres a day. Four million Indians once lived there. 120,000 remain. A few tribes have never had contact with the outside world. They still know what we have forgotten.” – The Emerald Forest (film)

    “A pox upon the pious, and what the scriptures teach. I’d sooner hear a teamster curse, than hear a vicar preach.” – Abieazer Kopp

    “The righteous said the Devil will take Kopp and his kind.
    “The Devil has got backsides,” said Kopp, “and Hell’s a state of mind. Women are the only heaven, marriage is the only hell.” – Abieazer Kopp / Leon Rosselson

  21. Hue Longer said on February 23rd, 2011 at 2:32pm #

    AaronG said on February 22nd, 2011 at 11:00pm #

    this is very poor understanding of scientific theory.

  22. kalidasa said on February 23rd, 2011 at 5:13pm #

    To expand a bit on Aaron’s comment I would ask from where did this single celled organism itself spring forth before its evolutionary journey began?

  23. hayate said on February 23rd, 2011 at 8:39pm #

    You don’t know, niqnaq?

  24. kalidasa said on February 23rd, 2011 at 10:34pm #

    “Just ask the Axis,
    He knows everything..”