Religion is Not Really About Hope

March 3, 2011

Non-religious people can live just as positive and hopeful lives as religious believers. Believers doubt this atheist attitude, and love to bring up the topic of heaven in response.

Is religion really so great just because you get to believe in an afterlife? Without religion, believers claim, there’s no reason to be hopeful about life at all. And heaven is a huge part of that consolation for most believers. Believers often say, “How can you have a hopeful attitude about life when you think that death is final?”

Actually, nonbelievers don’t have any bigger difficulty staying positive than anyone else. You can find depressed atheists, and pretty depressed believers too. Death is just another tough reality to be accepted along with so many unchangeable things about life. Its natural to want to not die. Hoping for a second endless life is the unnatural condition. Why should people get their hopes so high? But no hopes are too high for religious folks. The sky’s the limit for them – actually, not even the sky limits their hopes as they gaze up to heaven.

But I don’t think that heaven is really about hope or consolation.

Religion at the personal level is ultimately about wish-fulfillment (and that is why religion includes delusion as well). So it appears easy to explain belief in heaven – people really to believe, because that belief feels so great. For believers, it feels so good to be able to console yourself when life is tough, and it feels so good to be able to tell loved ones about heaven when their lives get tough. All the same, I’m skeptical that heaven is really about loving and hopeful consolation.

One reason why I’m skeptical is the curious fact that almost all people who believe in a pleasant afterlife also believe in a nasty afterlife. Christian and Muslim and Hindu and Buddhist hells (just to mention a few) are fascinatingly disturbing. Even folks with fuzzy notions of “hell” as just a separation from God make sure to remind you that such separation is not supposed to be pleasant. If heaven is about one’s own wish-fulfillment, why do people also want to believe in hell? Conveniently, hell is not for you, it’s for other people.

Consolation is lovely for you and people you care about. But religious believers don’t really want everybody to be consoled. Believers want to be reassured that other people won’t ever be consoled. Believers imagine hell because they like to imagine certain people in hell. Believers adoringly talk as if heaven is supposed to be such a fabulous place for everyone. They go on and on about how we should all become believers so that we can all believe that we are going to heaven. But believers don’t really want everyone in heaven. What believers really believe is that everyone should accept that some are getting heaven, and some are getting hell. And the people going to hell the fastest are those who don’t believe in this lovingly fashioned plan.

Heaven and hell are more about enforcing moral retribution upon everyone, and not about loving consolation for everyone. I said earlier that religion personally is largely about private wish-fulfillment. But at the social level, religion is mostly about imposing a public moral system. And not just any moral system – religions with heavens and hells have moral systems about obedience, vengeance, and retribution. With heaven and hell, private wish-fulfillment nicely pairs up with public moral-expectation. God delivers love to us because we feel deserving of that love. God delivers vengeful retribution upon others because we wish we could do it to them ourselves.

When believers say, “My God is all about Love!” what they are actually saying is that God really loves them and doesn’t love others. These are the kind of people who can’t feel truly loved unless someone else doesn’t get that love. Such a childishly selfish attitude, barely tolerable from the three year-old pushing the older sibling away from the parental lap, is entirely despicable from adults. Yet religious societies take this to the public level, effectively frightening members into obedience, and warning outsiders not in that good company that they will suffer for it. Join our religion, the message rings out, or else you’ll get hell for it!

Preachers and theologians from all kinds of religions are eager for everyone to know all about hell. Their warnings help fill libraries all around the world. Just one sample may be enough, from Puritan Jonathan Edwards (d.1758). Notice how his sermon has to describe, in literally agonizing detail, not just what hell is like for those in it, but how hell looks to those in heaven:

That God will execute the fierceness of his anger, implies that he will inflict wrath without any pity: when God beholds the ineffable extremity of your case, and sees your torment to be so vastly disproportioned to your strength, and sees how your poor soul is crushed and sinks down, as it were into an infinite gloom, he will have no compassion upon you, he will not forbear the executions of his wrath, or in the least lighten his hand; there shall be no moderation or mercy, nor will God then at all stay his rough wind; he will have no regard to your welfare, nor be at all careful lest you should suffer too much, in any other sense than only that you shall not suffer beyond what strict justice requires: nothing shall be withheld, because it's so hard for you to bear.… [Y]ou shall be tormented in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and when you shall be in this state of suffering, the glorious inhabitants of heaven shall go forth and look on the awful spectacle, that they may see what the wrath and fierceness of the Almighty is, and when they have seen it, they will fall down and adore that great power and majesty. ( Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, 1739 )

Wow, what a thing to hear from a sermon. Heaven would be incomplete unless you can watch people suffering in hell. Heaven truly is the happiest place, praise God! As sickening as all this is, it only expresses what religion tacitly thinks, how heaven for you requires hell for someone else. And that’s no coincidence, since the larger point of such a “loving” religion is to not love everyone. Such a religion is trying to enforce a crude morality in which you can’t be rewarded for being really good unless others are punished for being really bad. God the Father doesn’t really love everyone equally. Jesus saves, but terms and conditions apply.

For believers who don’t take heaven and hell so seriously, my general point about religion and hope still stands. Religions enforce their crude moral codes using crude psychological techniques. Religions force people into contradictory and schizophrenic mental states. Believers have to simultaneously believe that life really is so awful and hopeless that only a religious fantasy lets you believe that life really is so hopeful. Notice that holding these two contradictory beliefs together is essential to religion. You have to really truly believe that life was so awfully hopeless before you’d be driven to take religion seriously and believe that life is actually quite hopeful. On the other hand, if you didn’t think this life was all that hopeless (like the way that atheists don’t), then you wouldn’t have to take religion seriously in the first place. Religion is premised on sensing and fearing hopelessness in this life.

That is why religion tirelessly pounds the awfulness of this life into your head from the day you are born. Before you are even ready to maturely think about what life is about, religions instruct you that you are horribly imperfect, or shrouded in sin, or trapped in karma, and so forth. Each religion has to convince you that your life is so bad so that they, and they alone, can provide the one cure to make you well.

Addiction to such poisonous cures can cloud the minds and twist the hearts of believers, but not atheists. Atheists have their own struggles to stay focused on beautiful and worthy things in life, but at least they don't suffer from unearthly distractions. When believers demand that you find hope in life, reply that you already can. Then there’s no need to listen to an unnecessary sermon.


#1 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Thursday March 03, 2011 at 1:42pm

That is why religion tirelessly pounds the awfulness of this life into your head from the day you are born.  JS

Gee, I seem to recall from reading the beginning of Genesis that it’s repeatedly asserting that God saw that the universe was good.

I don’t recall anyone pounding the “awfulness of this life” into my head.  Compared to the concept of life from Nietzsche or Freud or Skinner or most of the other atheist versions of life most of the versions presented by religion is rather cheerful.  You’re a pile of molecules without free will, programmed to ruthlessly assure the replication of the DNA whose mere receptacle you are, which will use you and leave you to rot strikes me as less cheerful than that you’re created in the image of God and are capable of freedom, love and eternal happiness. 

Of course with the billions of people following, perhaps, tens of thousands of religious traditions you can find just about every kind of assertion, some of them pretty nasty, but no nastier than you get with a lot of atheists, who seem to relish a rather foul view of life, or have you ever visited James Randy’s “educational foundation”?  Hear Penn Jillett’s act? 

I remember reading, years ago,  Ray Hyman pointing out that skeptics tend to be pretty nasty and mean compared to your opponents.  Who am I to second guess him on the personality profile of his own side?

#2 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Thursday March 03, 2011 at 2:17pm


I see a troll has left his bridge.

Considering the documented atrocities of christian behavior, from the inquisitions to the nazi’s final solution, I take your diatribe for what it is worth: nothing.


#3 Strubie on Thursday March 03, 2011 at 2:28pm

Now, that’s a fine atheist sermon if there ever was one!

#4 Ed Beck on Thursday March 03, 2011 at 3:01pm

//“I don’t recall anyone pounding the “awfulness of this life” into my head.”

-You read the rest of the book? Or others?

//“You’re a pile of molecules without free will, programmed to ruthlessly assure the replication of the DNA whose mere receptacle you are, which will use you and leave you to rot…”

-Yeah but the entire process sure can be beautiful at times, especially with others. Natural != automatically all miserable, ya cynic.

//”...strikes me as less cheerful than that you’re created in the image of God and are capable of freedom, love and eternal happiness.”

-We’re capable of a great deal of love here and now, and its entire value is due to its finitude. Think about that for a second. As for free will, we at least have the appearance of it. Isn’t that enough? Again, natural != inherently miserable. Nor does something being unpalatable to you make it inherently false.

//“Of course with the billions of people following, perhaps, tens of thousands of religious traditions you can find just about every kind of assertion…”

-Sounds like a cultural construct to me then. No less cultural than cuisine. Thank you for stating one of the most obvious evidences for the natural, psychological roots of religions.

//”...some of them pretty nasty, but no nastier than you get with a lot of atheists, who seem to relish a rather foul view of life, or have you ever visited James Randy’s “educational foundation”?  Hear Penn Jillett’s act?”

-Anecdote, first off. And although we may be nasty, we don’t have supernatural excuses or justifications for when we’re assholes to other people. As for Randi and Jillette, you may be confusing “foul” with “honestly appreciating the absurd”—to a point of being so comfortable with it that you can joke about it, and appreciate some goddamn irony once in a while.

In conclusion, just because the natural world kind of sucks doesn’t mean it can’t be amazing sometimes too. Nor does something crossing your tastes mean it’s false. Also, did you actually read the entire post?

#5 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Thursday March 03, 2011 at 3:47pm

-You read the rest of the book? Or others?  Ed

Yeah, that and lots of other religious literature from many different traditions.  Apparently more than John has.  Or the rest of you.

—- Considering the documented atrocities of christian behavior, from the inquisitions to the nazi’s final solution, I take your diatribe for what it is worth: nothing.  Jim

Anyone who persecuted Jews or others are guilty of doing that, anyone who didn’t persecute them isn’t guilty of it, anyone who shielded Jews or others from persecution are even less guilty.  Of course, you have to be able to see individuals instead of classifications, something that seems to be against the CFI theory of group guilt. 

There were a lot of Christians who opposed Hitler, famously Dietrich Bonhoeffer, even as he was making his pact with Stalin, to the approval of many atheists, I’d like to read what Corliss Lamont, the godfather of CFI,  had to say about it at the time, if anything.  The Nazis killed lots of Christians.  And, hate to point this out to you, but John’s diatribe certainly targets religious Jews as well as all other religious folks.  It would cover quite a few of the people both the Nazis and Stalin murdered.  New atheists don’t do so well with nuanced reality or history.

#6 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Thursday March 03, 2011 at 3:53pm

You might want to read what the OSS report concluded.  Look for:

July 6, 1945 - “The Nazi Master Plan: The Persecution of the Christian Churches”

if this link doesn’t post.

#7 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Thursday March 03, 2011 at 4:51pm


Hey Troll,

You may want to read the following:

The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945

The Churches and the Third Reich: Preliminary History and the Time of Illusions 1918-1934
Klaus Scholder
(This is the classic text about the complicity between the nazis and the churches)

Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews—A History
James Carroll

#8 L.Long (Guest) on Thursday March 03, 2011 at 5:59pm

As an X-Catlick I can guarantee you that they ....
‘... tirelessly pounded the awfulness of this life into my head from the day I went to school. ‘
It was the incessant diatribe about how we are all so sinful because of someone’s fruit preference that was the start of my deconversion.

Anthony says…’...even as he was making his pact with Stalin, to the approval of many atheists,..’
well name some of them?!? I can tell you the name of the pope that thought Hitler was Da’Man!’

#9 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Thursday March 03, 2011 at 6:00pm


Troll, you wrote:
“Gee, I seem to recall from reading the beginning of Genesis that it’s repeatedly asserting that God saw that the universe was good”

I seem to remember that very shortly after this myth saw that the universe was good he got pissed and kicked Adam and Eve out of Eden.  Not shortly thereafter, the myth destroyed all life because the myth was displeased with the actions of humans.  I could go on, but I think your cherry picking has been unmasked.

Bridges are for trolls, secular humanist sites, not so much.

#10 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Thursday March 03, 2011 at 6:56pm

“Cherry picking”, what a new atheist says when they’ve got nothing.

L.Long, well, you might want to look up the scandal of the Communist Party in the United States that went from vehement anti-fascism up till the Hitler-Stalin pact was signed, when they suddenly decided that they favored peace with Hitler, only to rediscover that you couldn’t do business with Hitler when he attacked the Soviet Union in 1941.  There were communists who honorably left the party in disgust when the pact became CP gospel and plenty who dutifully went along with it, even as the Confessing Church in Germany was in its fifth year of working against the Nazis and a year after Bonhoeffer began working with the group that would eventually try to assassinate Hitler. 

And it wasn’t only Communists in the United States, here’s how Harry Pollit who was the head of the CP in Britain put it when he decided he couldn’t stomach it, ‘I do not envy the comrades who can so lightly in the space of a week go from one political conviction to another…I am ashamed of the lack of feeling, the lack of response that this struggle of the Polish people has aroused in our leadership.’

Dalton Trumbo’s

#11 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Thursday March 03, 2011 at 7:04pm

Dalton Trumbo’s case is an interesting one.  His most famous book,  Johnny Got His Gun, came out as part of the sudden CP support for peace with Hitler only to become inconvenient as Stalin changed his mind when Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, when it became an embarassment for Communists.  Though I’ve read that it remained popular with pro-Nazi isolationists. 

#12 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Thursday March 03, 2011 at 7:08pm

Jim, James Carroll is a Catholic, a former priest and a practicing Catholic, one who writes about Catholic matters quite often.  You read that book you’ve suggested to me or did you just pull it off of google?

#13 Patty (Guest) on Thursday March 03, 2011 at 8:27pm

Anthony, don’t even bother posting your arguments here. Not to say they aren’t valid, it’s just that you won’t convince them otherwise. They’ve already made up their minds, so don’t be disheartened.

#14 Kir (Guest) on Friday March 04, 2011 at 1:26am

It’s interesting.  The thing about going to religious websites or atheist websites is the inability for people with opposing opinions to listen to each other- thinking each other is an illiterate idiot who doesn’t just doesn’t understand ANYTHING.

I’m not judging or anything.  I’m actually doing a highschool paper on this at the moment and thought it was interesting to see it in play the first article I read.  Given…you guys probably have tones of crazy trolls coming to this website everyday.

#15 asanta on Friday March 04, 2011 at 1:50am

Unlike most theists who cherry pick passages of the bible and read the soothing, uplifting passages in the great book of multiple choices, I read the bible cover to cover TWICE, once when I was 11 and bored, the second time slowly, thinking about the passages, as a young adult to make sure I really understood what I read. The first reading made me an atheist, and the second confirmed I made the correct choice. Since then, I have gone to various churches/temples/synagogues with friends, being open minded to their beliefs and why they believe, but all I see are fairy tales and a childish boogey-man story.

#16 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Friday March 04, 2011 at 4:55am

Patty, I have to confess that I often try out ideas here to see if the best minds of the new atheism can refute them.  Generally the problem is that they don’t know enough about history or the foundations of science to engage the ideas. 

But hope springs eternal.

The rest of it is just confronting the appaling bigotry.

I forgot to mention that Johnny Got His Gun was published in serial form by the Daily Worker as part of the CP support for the Hitler-Stalin Pact.  That it was quite popular with the fans of Hitler, the Nazi ones, not the Stalinist ones, comes from a source that couldn’t be more credible,  Dalton Trumbo, himself. 

Dalton Trumbo is quite an interesting example of an atheist hero who was a pretty slimy traitor to his former comrades.  And what’s true of him is true of most of the leadership of the CP, among whom being an atheist was de rigueur, as it was in the leadership Stalinist countries. 

The entire time that the CP was impotently helping to destroy the left in the United States, there were religious folks who were trying to make progress.

#17 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Friday March 04, 2011 at 5:12am

asanta, I’m always so interested to see how many atheists proudly announce that their knowledge of religion is based on what they could gather of it as a young child.  I assume this means you never read Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Leonardo Boff.

Leonardo Boff.  If Karl Marx could see what people do in his name he’d never stop throwing up.  I suspect he’d be a lot more happy with Leonardo Boff’s thinking than most of the Marxists who supported some of the worst mass murders of the past century.  But, then, old Marx, himself said that he wasn’t a Marxist.

#18 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Friday March 04, 2011 at 6:29am

Cherry picking, here’s how the most famous atheist of today does it, from Marilynne Robinson’s review of The God Delusion:

Dawkins says, “I need to call attention to one particularly unpalatable aspect of its [the Bible’s] ethical teaching. Christians seldom realize that much of the moral consideration for others which is apparently promoted by both the Old and New Testaments was originally intended to apply only to a narrowly defined in-group. ‘Love thy neighbor’ didn’t mean what we now think it means. It meant only ‘Love another Jew.” As for the New Testament interpretation of the text, “Hartung puts it more bluntly than I dare: ‘Jesus would have turned over in his grave if he had known that Paul would be taking his plan to the pigs.” Pigs being, of course, gentiles.

#19 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Friday March 04, 2011 at 6:30am


There are two major objections to be made to this reading. First, the verse quoted here, Leviticus 19:18, does indeed begin, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people,” language that allows a narrow interpretation of the commandment. But Leviticus 19:33–34 says “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. . . . You shall love the alien as yourself.” In light of these verses, it is wrong by Dawkins’s own standards to argue that the ethos of the law does not imply moral consideration for others. (It would be interesting to see the response to a proposal to display this Mosaic law in our courthouses.) Second, Jesus provided a gloss on 19:18, the famous Parable of the Good Samaritan. With specific reference to this verse, a lawyer asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”Jesus tells a story that moves the lawyer to answer that the merciful Samaritan–a non-Jew– embodies the word “neighbor.” That the question would be posed to Jesus, or by Luke, is evidence that the meaning of the law was not obvious or settled in antiquity. In general, Dawkins’s air of genteel familiarity with Scripture, though becoming in one aware as he is of its contributions to the arts, dissipates under the slightest scrutiny.

#20 Thomas (Guest) on Friday March 04, 2011 at 7:52am

Gee whiz, Anthony, you complain about “cherry picking” and then you go off on a completely off the wall diatribe against something Dawkins said in his book The God Delusion?  LOL!

I think part of your problem stems from somehow getting the idea that Nietzche is the “father” of atheism or something, so we all have to be as neurotic as he was!

#21 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Friday March 04, 2011 at 8:18am

Thomas, I was pointing out that the charge of “cherry picking” is what new atheists automatically say when they can’t counter the evidence provided in the way that every single person who cites other people does it, including Dawkins and Dennett and John Shook and everyone else who writes about these things.  They cite passages to bolster their arguments.

That Marilynne Robinson caught Dawkins in a flagrant example of what you’d call “cherry picking” in order to make an evo-psy drenched indictment of religion, when the refutation of his claim was contained within the same chapter of the same book of the Bible is evidence of intellectual dishonesty, the same kind of dishonesty that she and many of the other reviewers of that new atheist scripture found throughout it.

New atheism is all about not understanding the first thing about intellectual activity.  Including the universally practiced act of citation selected from a larger work. 

If someone wants to refute the citation as being misrepresentation, as Robinson did so very well, they go to the bother of reading or being familiar with what is cited.  It’s something that educated adults do.

#22 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Friday March 04, 2011 at 2:57pm


Hey troll, loved that you wrote:

“It’s something that educated adults do.”

When you become one, let us know.

#23 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Friday March 04, 2011 at 3:38pm

Jim, I’m not worried the insults of someone who is google dependent.  You’ve got nothing.

Center For Inquiry, ha!  The new atheism can’t stand up to real inquiry on the basis of information.

#24 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Friday March 04, 2011 at 3:59pm


Hey troll,

You misquote, take shit out of context, and have a pathological addiction to commenting here.  In fact, I bet I’m not the only one here who wonders what could compel someone to write so much crap. 

It’s pretty obvious that you don’t care about intellectual exchange.  It’s just as obvious that all you crave is attention.

Let me guess: your parents didn’t give you enough of their time.  I suggest a psychologist.

And it is equally clear that you’re a religious loser (I’m sure this will provoke a huge amount of bullshit about how you’re not). 

I treat losers the way they should be treated: with contempt and ridicule.

Ugly old trolls belong under bridges.

#25 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Friday March 04, 2011 at 4:09pm

Oh, and, by the way, Jim.  Checking out your second cited book above, by Klaus Scholder, he’s a pastor in the Lutheran-Evangelical Church and his book goes into quite a bit of the history of the Confessional Church, which you obviously didn’t know about so I know you never read the book or looked into its author.

I did come across this as well;

“We will not allow mystically-minded occult folk with a passion for exploring the secrets of the world beyond to steal into our Movement. Such folk are not National Socialists, but something else—in any case something which has nothing to do with us.” (Speech in Nuremberg on 6 September 1938)

Sounds like CSICOP, though I didn’t wade through the speech to see if it was quoted accurately.

#26 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Friday March 04, 2011 at 4:23pm

And there is this:From the beginning of Hitler’s regime, the ecumenical Christian movement (its central offices were located in Geneva, London and New York) strongly condemned developments in Nazi Germany that threatened the independence of Christian Churches and the safety of Jews. On May 26 and 29, 1933, twelve hundred American clergymen from 26 different Christian denominations sponsored an advertisement in The New York Times condemning anti-Jewish activities in Nazi Germany. Leaders of the Federal Council of Churches (a Protestant group), located in the United States, sent angry letters in 1933 to their colleagues in the German Churches, demanding public statements denouncing Nazi policies. Between 1933 and 1945, there were six major statements from the leaders of Churches in this country and in Europe (outside the Third Reich) that specifically condemned anti-Semitism and the Nazi persecution of Jews. (Among the officials involved were the Archbishop of Canterbury and Samuel Cavert and Henry Smith Leiper of the Federal Council of Churches in New York.) In November 1938, the three leading Protestant ecumenical organizations in Geneva, Switzerland, issued a statement castigating “antisemitism in all its forms” and urging governments to permit more Jewish refugees to enter their countries.

The Role of the Churches:
Compliance and Confrontation
By Victoria J. Barnett Anti-Defamation League website

#27 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Friday March 04, 2011 at 4:25pm


In the United States in December 1938, the Federal Council of Churches and the U.S. Catholic bishops issued a joint condemnation of Kristallnacht, which had occurred a month earlier. (It was the first Protestant/Catholic joint statement on a social issue in this country.) In December 1942, after reports of genocide began to reach the Allied countries, the Federal Council of Churches passed a resolution protesting the “virtual massacre” of Europe’s Jews. This was followed by similar protests from the Anglican Church in England and a joint statement by Protestant ecumenical leaders and the World Jewish Congress in Geneva. In Great Britain, the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, gave an impassioned speech in March 1943 in the House of Lords, demanding an immediate end to immigration quotas and an increase in Allied aid to countries that offered refuge to Jews. In a 1983 speech delivered at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Gerhardt Riegner, the director of the World Jewish Congress in Geneva during the war (and a man who had participated in efforts to rescue Jews from the Nazis), said that, during the Holocaust, “the human understanding, friendship, and the helping hand” of his Protestant ecumenical colleagues “were the only signs of light in the darkness that surrounded us.”

#28 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Friday March 04, 2011 at 4:37pm



I read the book.  And by the way, Mr Scholder is dead.  Your brief inquiry into him probably didn’t bring that up.  You also, evidently, didn’t read the book.

It is still the definitive text on the subject.  And he is quite clear: protestants and protestant clergy were indispensable into getting the nazis into office.  He has a huge segment on political christianity.  It was fascinating.  The catholics were at first resistant; however, the nuncio—later Pope Pious—supported the nazis and signed a treaty with them guaranteeing that the vatican would oppose no assault on Jews.

How typical that a troll like you praises himself about how much he knows and hasn’t read the definitive book on the role of the churches in the coming of the third reich.


#29 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Friday March 04, 2011 at 7:05pm

I looked at the book at the library, it didn’t carry his obituary notice.  I’m aware of E. Pacelli’s sordid history, as I pointed out anyone who is guilty of persecution or indifference to the genocide of the Nazis is guilty, NO ONE WHO ISN’T GUILTY OF THAT IS GUILTY OF IT.  As the books you cite prove, Christians are quite able to face the sins of Christians during the Nazi period.  You want to read what the Nazis did to Catholics in Poland?  You want to read how Poles, most of them Catholics, hid more Jews than even the Dutch did? 
If you read the book, as you claim to have,  you must know that there was opposition by Christians and, certainly, Jews to the Nazis, even during the period when Corliss Lamont, the money bags behind the Humanist Association, the parent of CSICOP and, eventually CFI was supporting the Hitler-Stalin pact.  He was an apologist for Stalin right up through the show trials, the Hitler-Stalin Pact, Lysenkoism, The trumpted up, phony, “Jewish Doctors Conspiracy” and a host of other mass killings.  A history which didn’t keep him from being named “Humanist” of the Year when he should have been denounced as the last Stalinist.  I’m sure there were plenty of other people on the left who must have gagged on that one, as I did.

#30 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Friday March 04, 2011 at 8:44pm



You were proved wrong and now you’re on another rant.
How boring.

#31 Val Esman (Guest) on Saturday March 05, 2011 at 12:22am

@Anthony, it was the Left and many within the CP who were the first ones to go and fight facism in the Abraham Lincoln brigades in Spain.  They were the premature anti-facists while the rest of the US was isolationist in character.  The purpose of the Stalin-Ribbentrop Pact was to buy time for the Soviets to industrialize and arm themselves.  This is something that most Americans don’t understand because this period has never been written about honestly and historically.

Back to this article.  I think this was a very good exposing the vindictive nature of Christianity as it is taught and practiced in this country.  And this vindictiveness is not an abstract thing.  In witnessing some internet debates over Prop 8 in California I saw the very nature of this vindictiveness come out.  The most interesting thing is that this vindictiveness and self-righteousness taught in Christianity has even permeated the culture and mindset of the nonChristians, some of whom are opposed to gay marriage for nonreligious reasons but do so with vengeance and hatred in their hearts.

Its’ true.  The Christian Right teaches hatred.  The Westboro Church is the ultimate example of Chrisitian fanaticism and hatred in the picketting of funerals.  This shouldn’t have been allowed IMO by the Supreme Court.  To me it has nothing to do with free speech.  It’s a question of decency and honor.  I’d like to see CFI do a column on this recent Supreme Court ruling.

But this is the first column here I have really liked because this deep-sided need to punish our enemies has become part and parcel of the rightwing sick political culture in this country.  It’s not enough that people have political differences.  The people on the right want to kill those withwhom they have differences.  Glenn Beck, Limbaugh and Palin are the embodiments of this line of thinking.  What many don’t realize is that Sarah Palin has been a Far Right Christian for a long time now.

Again, excellent column.  Would like to see it extended further into how religious attitudes permeate and infect the entire social culture of the US regardless of religious belief.  And one of the things that religion brings to us is a kind of fatalism and pessimism.

#32 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Saturday March 05, 2011 at 4:30am

Val, yes, and some of them were quite admirable, but Corliss Lamont wasn’t one of them, as pointed out even a lot of idealistic communists of the period were disgusted with the Stalinists.  And I’ve heard the defenses of the Stalin-Hitler pact and the critique that what Stalin expected would happen is that he could sit it out as the capitalist countries destroyed each other.  Given that he was insane, he might have thought that. 

None of which negates the immorality of the Stalinists supporting the obscenity as the Nazis invaded Poland and started up their genocide campaign.  But, seeing as how Lamont had already supported the show trails, betraying other species of communists in the process, expecting him to care about actual HUMANS as they were slaughtered shouldn’t have been expected. All in all, the record of atheists with power, in the 20th century,  wasn’t an impressive endorsement of the moral superiority of atheism.  It combines fundamentalist certitude and viciousness with scientific efficiency. 

As I said, if Marx could see what people did in his name he’d never stop throwing up.  I’d expect he’d gain a small amount of relief from seeing the Liberation Theology movement, but not enough to make up for what the materialists did using him as an excuse.  I expect he’d have gotten over Hegel, in the process.

#33 Ken (Guest) on Saturday March 05, 2011 at 7:20am

Great article?

One question - in the following segment, I think that a word is missing in the phrase after the dash in the first sentence:

“So it appears easy to explain belief in heaven – people really to believe, because that belief feels so great.”

Was this supposed to read

‘people really WANT to believe’

or maybe

‘people really LOVE to believe’?

#34 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Saturday March 05, 2011 at 10:38am

“So it appears easy to explain belief in heaven – people really to believe, because that belief feels so great.”

And atheists don’t have any emotional attachments to their beliefs, do they.  If that can impeach the belief in heaven, why doesn’t it impeach the belief that immortality was impossible, which Corliss L. was endlessly parroting, maybe because it was in the early period when elderly, big name philosophers would still co-write with him.

#35 asanta on Saturday March 05, 2011 at 4:20pm

Anthony, you are offering a straw man. Even as a child I recognized that the bible was a fantasy story. I also recognized that Santa and the Tooth Fairy didn’t exist, and I’ll bet you don’t deride the child because s/he didn’t pro Santa and Tooth Fairy tracts before coming to such a monumental decision. I have since read apologetic books for religion, but the most damning evidence for the non-existence of their ‘god’, is STILL their reference book..the bible.

#36 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Saturday March 05, 2011 at 6:29pm


#31, Great comment.  I read it wondering how I disagreed with you on a different thread.

I must have misunderstood it.

#37 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Sunday March 06, 2011 at 4:29am

asanta, you are offering the same old new atheist bromides that I’ve heard for a half a century, they were dishonest in the beginning, they are dishonest now.  I was not brought up in a fundamentalist family, I never believed the bible or any other scripture was either a history or a science anthology. 

If you want to look at made up stuff about the prehistoric period, you can find it in abundance in the works of Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett and Steven Pinker.  Only just about every new atheist I’ve ever encountered really believes that is accurate whereas most of the Jews and Christians I’ve known don’t believe that Genesis is literally true.  Just like people who read it were supposed to believe that the lies Corliss Lamont told on behalf of Stalin were true.  Atheists are no less prone to believing what they want than any other people, far less so than religious liberals who are far better at questioning their beliefs.

#38 Debra (Guest) on Sunday March 06, 2011 at 2:50pm

When you religion is science, then yes, your religion is NOT really about hope!!! Your religion is hope in science, whereas my religion is about hope and faith in God, the Creator of the Universes!!!!

#39 asanta on Sunday March 06, 2011 at 4:22pm

Anthony, You continue to present ‘strawman’ and ‘poison the well arguments’. The bible is a bronze age fantasy to explain what was explainable to them. Every ancient society has one. The christians simply had the military might to ram their ‘Phantasy’ view down the throats of the rest of the world. Military might doesn’t make the view right and doesn’t make their gods any more real.

#40 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Sunday March 06, 2011 at 6:27pm

asanti, you are an automatic cliche tape loop.

No one is more accomplished at making up creation myths than Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, seeing as how they can hoodwink their acolytes into believing that it’s science, just as Hegel convinced the materialist fundamentalists that the dialectic was real and Freud had his own group of atheist faithful that drank his sop.  All of them materialist fundamentalists with their own sects, no different from fundamentalist of religion.

That’s the difference between atheist fundamentalists and agnostic atheists, it’s the same difference between fundamentalist and liberal religion. 

You can add “straw man” to the list of things you hear when new atheists have got nothing.

#41 asanta on Monday March 07, 2011 at 2:29am

Anthony, you are the consummate cherry picker. I did not need Hichens et al to make my decision. Nor did they influence the decision I made FIFTY YEARS ago.

#42 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Monday March 07, 2011 at 3:26am

Cherry picker, straw man, the new atheism isn’t so much an intellectual movement as it is a vocabulary of dodges to avoid intellectual engagement and to excuse its intellectual and ethical lapses. It is a shallow, bigoted intellectual fad.

#43 Scott W. (Guest) on Tuesday March 08, 2011 at 6:44am

I’ve never seen so much projection outside of a movie theater.

#44 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Tuesday March 08, 2011 at 12:32pm


Hey troll,

By attacking the overwhelming evidence of evolution, you have thoroughly convinced me that you are, indeed, not only an idiot, but a christian masking as something else.

I suggest, first, you become familiar with the evidence.  I suggest Dawkins new book, The Greatest Show on Earth.  Second, I suggest you keep to religious sites.

You’ve shown that you don’t know your stuff when you commented on The Churches and the Third Reich.  To not have read it and then say that because the author was a Lutheran minister he couldn’t have written anything critical about christians shows that when you complain that atheists aren’t educated in the issues, that complaint is just pure projection.

Troll, you’re not fooling anyone here, just making yourself look foolish.


#45 ampaxx (Guest) on Tuesday March 08, 2011 at 6:13pm

Ah I think I finally get the internet: if someone disagree’s with you, they are trolling. Thank you all for some of the most worthless bullshit, from both sides of this argument, that I have ever heard.


#46 Naikaidiver on Tuesday March 08, 2011 at 8:07pm

Anthony, I sincerely hope that you haven’t abandoned this thread because I feel that you, along with others really should take a step back.  This kind of polarization does not accomplish anything.

There are plenty of stories and tales throughout history that both support and condemn acts of people.  As an obviously devout Christian, you should be familiar with the concept that human beings are both corruptable and fallable.  That concept alone is more than enough an explanation for anything from mass murder to cheating on a spouse without invoking the word of long-dead, corruptable, fallable men.

I am no exception to this concept, nor is anyone else but in my own humble experience I have come to two conclusions.  Truly devoted religious people hold a measurable contempt to people that do not hold to their flavor of faith.  And second, IF Jesus Christ was a real person, divine or not, he wouldn’t care what faith, race, gender, or belief system you adhere to, he would say; “I love you anyway.”

Anthony, if you honestly believe in Jesus and his teachings, you really should take another long, hard, look at your own attitude.

#47 SocraticGadfly (Guest) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 at 2:04am

@Anthony ...

As a PK, I heard plenty about how we were miserable sinners, worms needing to grovel before god, when I was growing up.

#48 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Friday March 11, 2011 at 5:35pm


Honest disagreements can be useful; they often lead to new lines of research and questions.  However, when some nasty troll like Anthony comes on this site it is solely to harass secular humanists.

He misquotes, cherry picks, and just makes shit up.  Nothing is gained from his participation and he knows that.  That is why something like Anthony comes here.

Since he doesn’t come here for a discussion, I treat him for what he is: a nasty troll. 

I don’t think enabling a troll is useful.

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