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Christianity, Theist Wackiness

This is What Faith Does.

Want to know why I’m opposed to religion?  Watch this video.  It illustrates the number one reason I believe religion is a horrible force in society.  There are several things I think are noteworthy:

  • At the very beginning, we can tell that these folks — homeless, begging for change in a Wal-mart parking lot, with their son in tow — are not even the slightest bit upset with their god for allowing them to get in this situation.  They are SURE that this is all part of his plan.  They’re happy to go along for the ride.
  • Notice that the guy offering them the money doesn’t ask them to renounce their god, or become atheists, or anything like that.  He just offers them $20 to make two lines through the word “God” on their sign.  They’re free to use $0.20 of that money to get another piece of paperboard and make a new sign.  But they’re both afraid and defiant.  They’re afraid that it’s the work of Satan.  They’re defiant because this isn’t about the money.  It’s about respecting their religion.  (Islam, anyone??)
  • Some readers might point out that in the end, the family takes the money, so religion hasn’t really had that big an effect.  But we must realize that it was many minutes into the conversation, and after much persuading and cajoling by the filmmaker that they accepted the money.  Consider:  If the guy had asked them to take $20 to cross out the word “Me,” they’d likely have taken it in a heartbeat.  Consider:  They did NOT do what the filmmaker asked.  The filmmaker gave in and let them do something less offensive to their consciences.
  • I feel awful for the kid.  He’s growing up learning that such defiance and religious obstinateness is BETTER than feeding children.  He’s learning that his parents love god more than they love him.

A few days ago, I wrote the following:

Unfortunately, the “let God deal with it” meme is extremely popular, especially among evangelicals.  The degree to which people abandon their own fate varies between believers.  Some feel like God still expects them to get off their duffs and do some leg work, but others genuinely believe that all they have to do is sit back and wait for the God Lottery to pay off big.

These folks believe they won the God Lottery.  Dimes will get you dollars that they went into their RV and thanked their god for delivering $20 into their hands as a reward for defending his honor.  They saw the hand of god at work in their lives.  They thanked him for his blessings.

And THAT, ladies and gentleman, is why I am opposed to religion.

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Discussion

19 thoughts on “This is What Faith Does.

  1. While we both oppose religion, I think our confrontations are about approach.

    In yours, you seem to suggest to just address religion and hope it goes away. Even if you’re right, there’s still a problem. The problem is the cognition of the beliefs don’t just magically go away when you take away the belief.

    That is you have a direct approach to religion. That is pounce on religion head on. That’s fine if you just want to get rid of religion, not if you actually want to make the world a better place.

    My approach however, is an indirect approach. You cut it out at the legs, take out the cognitive mechanisms and religion will topple on it’s own and can’t be replaced with some other non-religious harmful or non-sensical idea. At least without much difficulty.

    When I was a theist, it wasn’t the I’m “an irrational terrorist sympathizer” that got me out of theism, it was that I changed my cognition [or rather that I stop making an exception for my cognition]

    As a side note, I’m willing to bet the farm that the guy in the video offering the $20, would have thought that getting them out of religion would have been more helpful than getting them out of poverty. That’s another place where you and I get disconnect.

    Posted by cptpineapple | February 24, 2011, 7:45 pm
  2. I feel sorry for this believing family. (That their beliefs in the Christian sky-god are unfounded is beside the point.)

    The film maker is asking them to violate their own conscience for a few lousy bucks. I agree that the underlying belief system is based on a fairy tale, but this approach of dangling a $20 bill in front of them is unnecessarily provocative and looks like little more than an opportunistic cheap shot to me.

    Yes, a sensible person would have to question how badly god is treating them when they are reduced to such desperate circumstances; but, this belief system is not usually about evidence and good sense. Questioning the reasons to believe may be warranted someday but I would bet it’s beyond their capabilities at present when it is all they can do to just put a bit of food on the motorhome table.

    This film maker gets a raspberry and two thumbs down from this armchair critic.

    -evan

    Posted by eheffa | February 24, 2011, 7:51 pm
  3. Hamby,

    There are 3 messages that can be construed from this video.

    1) Atheists can be suckered into buying a piece of cardboard for $20 bucks!

    2) Atheists have proven that religion cant be simply bought off. Maybe that dipshit in the video is bewildered because his atheism can be bought for $20 bucks.

    3) Atheists are fucked up because they prey on unfortunate people and try to manipulate them.

    And atheists wonder why most people are revolted by atheism

    Posted by PG | February 24, 2011, 11:19 pm
  4. Yes, this just seems like an asshole atheist missionary trying to convert the savages by giving them shiny objects with a caveat. Denounce your beliefs and follow the one true strawberry path.

    I don’t see where a predominately atheist society filled with people like this is much better than the current situation. People can rationalize idiotic behavior quite well on their own even without the influence of religion. And, really, yeah religion sucks in that it fosters irrational thought but the real problem is its absolutism. Fundamentalist atheism is almost as wanker.

    Posted by Skronk | February 25, 2011, 12:04 am
  5. Hamby, I have some problems with your logic here.

    1. The family does not state that their being homeless is part of God’s plan. We don’t know what level of personal responsibility they feel, at least from the footage here. Personally, I can’t understand why that able-bodied couple is not flipping hamburgers at McDonald’s, but that’s a different issue. They’re neither blaming God nor thanking God for their predicament.

    2. From the family’s standpoint, refusing to cross out the name of God is a matter of integrity. Jesus instructed believers to suffer in his name for a greater reward later. If they are believers, their decision makes perfect sense. The filmmaker’s claim that they are ignoring common sense is his value judgment.

    3. Personally, I feel that given their beliefs, they should not have taken the money. The cutting out of God rather than crossing out of God is a sellout as the filmmaker says. However, from his standpoint, they won the match. He gave them money, and in no way did they undertake an action denying their God. She’s now standing on a corner holding up a God sign! Which is a considerably stronger statement of belief than a benevolent “God bless,” something we say when someone sneezes.

    4. The kid did not learn that his parents don’t love him. He has seen his parents talk their way into $20 from a nonbeliever, and as you say they are undoubtedly thanking God for providing when they needed it most. As for feeding, it’s clear from Mom’s appearance that no one is going hungry inside the miracle bus.

    Posted by Susan Walsh | February 25, 2011, 12:09 pm
  6. I think there’s a few mistakes being made here. He never asked them to renounce their faith, all he asked is to cross out “God” on the sign. He even made it clear that he wasn’t asking them to abandon their faith or beliefs.

    p.s. I see our neighborhood troll is back. My entertainment level has been drying up without you PG. Let’s engage a little.

    1) Atheists can be suckered into buying a piece of cardboard for $20 bucks!

    Way to totally miss the point of the video. Nice try at hyperbole though. I’d give you a solid C+.

    2) Atheists have proven that religion cant be simply bought off. Maybe that dipshit in the video is bewildered because his atheism can be bought for $20 bucks.

    Or, perhaps he’s amazed that people would rather keep their children homeless and hungry than get 20$ for a damn sign.

    3) Atheists are fucked up because they prey on unfortunate people and try to manipulate them.

    Yeah, cause no religion does this. And he gave them the 20$ anyway.

    Posted by Alex Hardman | February 25, 2011, 12:34 pm
  7. I agree with you Susan on most of your comments ; but, one minor quibble – obesity is not a sign of adequate nutrition. Obesity is endemic ( even epidemic) in the lower socioeconomic classes & the underprivileged developing world. In adults, an excess of cheap highly refined carbohydrates, even when total caloric intake is at semi-starvation levels, will often promote obesity. This effect is quite evident in medical clinics in underprivileged areas where rotund mothers will bring their skinny malnourished children for care. These mothers will be regarded as negligent by their caregivers who assume that the maternal obesity indicates excessive caloric intake on the part of the mothers (while their children starve). This is actually a sign that they are both deficient in protein, fat & other components of a healthy diet. Highly refined carb’s are cheap & often the only staples available to the poor.

    The appearance of the mother in this motorhome family should not be taken to indicate adequate calories or that they are not in fact going hungry…they may very well be going to bed hungry.

    – evan

    Posted by eheffa | February 25, 2011, 12:46 pm
  8. 1. The family does not state that their being homeless is part of God’s plan. We don’t know what level of personal responsibility they feel, at least from the footage here. Personally, I can’t understand why that able-bodied couple is not flipping hamburgers at McDonald’s, but that’s a different issue. They’re neither blaming God nor thanking God for their predicament.

    I’m happy to admit I extrapolated this. But I think it’s a very, very good guess. Remember, I partied with this kind of Christian for most of 20 years. I know the type. And if I’m wrong about this particular couple, I’m still right about a great many Christians who do think that way.

    2. From the family’s standpoint, refusing to cross out the name of God is a matter of integrity. Jesus instructed believers to suffer in his name for a greater reward later. If they are believers, their decision makes perfect sense. The filmmaker’s claim that they are ignoring common sense is his value judgment.

    Exactly my point. They believe it’s a matter of integrity. They believe that suffering is better than crossing out a word. That’s fucked up. I’d cross out any word on any poster for five bucks. And I’m not homeless. I just know a good deal when I see one.

    3. Personally, I feel that given their beliefs, they should not have taken the money. The cutting out of God rather than crossing out of God is a sellout as the filmmaker says. However, from his standpoint, they won the match. He gave them money, and in no way did they undertake an action denying their God. She’s now standing on a corner holding up a God sign! Which is a considerably stronger statement of belief than a benevolent “God bless,” something we say when someone sneezes.

    Yeah, the Christians won. I am only guessing, but I suspect the filmmaker has too much empathy to stiff them after they put up with him making an example of them. I wouldn’t have done the stunt to begin with, but if I did, I’d let them win too.

    I don’t think the filmmaker cared very much whether he made an impression on that family. People who are that indoctrinated are generally beyond hope. He was trying to make a point to non-believers and moderate believers, and I think he made it well. “Religious integrity” screws with our moral compass, and makes us believe it’s better to leave a stupid cardboard sign unmolested than feed our son. That’s not integrity. That’s blind loyalty without moral reasoning.

    4. The kid did not learn that his parents don’t love him. He has seen his parents talk their way into $20 from a nonbeliever, and as you say they are undoubtedly thanking God for providing when they needed it most. As for feeding, it’s clear from Mom’s appearance that no one is going hungry inside the miracle bus.

    There is nothing good about dollar hamburgers from Krystal. And that’s what the family’s been eating. That kid’s developing physically and mentally. He needs vegetables and fruits and unprocessed meat.

    And again, I have to tell you from my own experience — maybe I’m wrong about this kid but yes. Kids can be very hurt when they discover that god is more important to their parents than they are.

    Posted by hambydammit | February 25, 2011, 1:18 pm
  9. As a general comment to all: The guy doing this says he’s being a bit of an asshole. And he is. I’m not trying to justify this stunt as “morally good.”

    But it’s been done, and the point is well made, even if it’s in poor taste. Believers’ moral compasses get screwed up by blind loyalty to god.

    Posted by hambydammit | February 25, 2011, 1:20 pm
  10. I think there’s a few mistakes being made here. He never asked them to renounce their faith, all he asked is to cross out “God” on the sign. He even made it clear that he wasn’t asking them to abandon their faith or beliefs.

    Alex wins the prize. That’s precisely the salient point here. Everybody’s focusing on all the side issues… he gave them the money anyway, he was an asshole for doing this stunt, blah blah blah.

    These folks are so religiously indoctrinated that they saw the work of Satan in the act of taking a marker to a twenty cent sign. Can’t anyone else see the connection here? Muslims won’t draw Muhammed. Christians won’t cross out the word “god.” Get it??

    Posted by hambydammit | February 25, 2011, 1:51 pm
  11. Evan, I stand corrected re obesity. I was aware of the evils of refined carbs, but I didn’t realize a person could be overweight still that malnourished. It’s true that refined and processed foods are consumed disproportionately by lower socio economic groups, but I think it’s largely a matter of convenience. Rice and beans create a perfect protein but require a lot more work than driving thru.

    Hamby, obviously I think it’s ridiculous to claim the filmmaker was doing Satan’s work. But I would argue that it’s OK for Muslims not to draw Muhammed. Where they get into trouble is inflicting violence against those who do. If this family attacked the filmmaker, either verbally or physically for his atheism, that would represent intolerance.

    I guess I understand the power of that symbol to them. I imagine that there are many WWII vets who would not throw the American flag on the floor for $20. Religion involves many symbolic acts and rituals – it’s not surprising that religious people would view the crossing out as profane. I just don’t buy the filmmaker’s contention that their decision proves a lack of common sense. (Though their lifestyle might.)

    Posted by Susan Walsh | February 25, 2011, 2:52 pm
  12. It’s true that refined and processed foods are consumed disproportionately by lower socio economic groups, but I think it’s largely a matter of convenience. Rice and beans create a perfect protein but require a lot more work than driving thru.

    This has actually been a pet peeve of mine for a while. The part of me that believes in the freedom to do stupid things to oneself is at odds with the part of me that knows how powerful advertising and culture can be in creating our beliefs and practices.

    I actually liken the fast food movement to the religious movement in some ways. In America, it’s virtually impossible to get good food for a low price on a 30 minute lunch. And it doesn’t have to be that way. But the fast food companies are so rich, and dominate the advertising market so thoroughly that many poor people wouldn’t have the first clue how to eat healthy if you offered them a thousand bucks to explain it.

    While I’m at it, I discovered recently that it’s impossible for two people not to get sufficiently full on one plate from any major restaurant chain. Trust me. I’ve been trying to prove myself wrong. But I can’t. The food industry has gone barking mad, and they’re literally killing people.

    Hamby, obviously I think it’s ridiculous to claim the filmmaker was doing Satan’s work. But I would argue that it’s OK for Muslims not to draw Muhammed. Where they get into trouble is inflicting violence against those who do. If this family attacked the filmmaker, either verbally or physically for his atheism, that would represent intolerance.

    Yes. I agree that no Muslim should be forced to draw Muhammed. That would be absurd. And no, the family didn’t attack the dude.

    But none of that is the point. Alex nailed it in an earlier comment. Everybody’s missing the point of the video. Yes, the guy was an ass for doing it. Yes, it’s in poor taste, and it’s intentionally making people uncomfortable, blah blah blah. I agree. 100%.

    The point is that these people are functionally no different than Muslims who won’t draw Muhammed. Their system of morality is skewed to the point that a word on a piece of cardboard is more important than money for food. That’s the result of religious absolutism. They believe they have to “defend their god’s honor.” That’s insane. Bat-shit insane. They see the work of an invisible demon in the act of crossing out letters on a page. Even if they just throw the page away and start over. That’s not normal, well adjusted thinking.

    I guess I understand the power of that symbol to them. I imagine that there are many WWII vets who would not throw the American flag on the floor for $20.

    What is Army Boot Camp if not an indoctrination camp that teaches blind and total obedience to authority? Yeah, I know we have to have armies and such, but that doesn’t mean it makes any sense not to take $20 to put a piece of fabric on the floor and pick it up again.

    Yes, I get it. Symbols are important to us, and there is a real difference between the profane and the acceptable, and so forth. I get it. But there’s a huge difference between respecting and believing in your country (or your god, for that matter) and transferring that sense of respect and belief to symbols. If you’re a prisoner of war and putting a flag on the floor is part of an interrogation/torture/brainwashing session, that’s one thing. But anything involving a symbol is context based. And that’s the point I’m trying to make. These folks are not able to put a realistic context to the significance of the word “god” on their little sign.

    I just don’t buy the filmmaker’s contention that their decision proves a lack of common sense. (Though their lifestyle might.)

    Their lifestyle may or may not reflect a lack of common sense. I dunno their story. And my contention is not that they lack common sense. It’s that their moral compass has been skewed with respect to this one issue — the power and meaning of a simple word on a piece of cardboard. And religious indoctrination is what did it. And that’s the point. Religion doesn’t turn us all into stupid assholes. It selectively fucks with our ability to think critically and make good choices.

    Posted by hambydammit | February 25, 2011, 3:13 pm
  13. If any of those veterans were homeless and starving, I’d call them idiots for refusing it as well. And if those Muslims were homeless and starving and refused to draw Mohammed for 20$, they’d be idiots too.

    The point is simple (like Hamby said, thanks btw), refusing to do something that has no measurable harm for 20$ when you obviously need the 20$ is stupid. “Faith” leads to such stupidity (be it religion, patriotism, or political ideology).

    Posted by Alex Hardman | February 25, 2011, 4:35 pm
  14. If any of those veterans were homeless and starving, I’d call them idiots for refusing it as well. And if those Muslims were homeless and starving and refused to draw Mohammed for 20$, they’d be idiots too.

    That’s what it really comes down to, isn’t it? Symbols are symbols. That’s it. I mean, seriously. Pay me enough money and I’ll egg the American Atheists headquarters. I’ll pay to have it cleaned up, and give them a nice donation afterwards, but I’d do it in a heartbeat. I’ll burn a picture of Dawkins or Darwin any day for a five spot.

    The thing is, I realize that such acts don’t define me or my beliefs. They’re just acts in this context. Now, ask me to take a million dollars to spend the rest of my life pretending to be a Christian, and NEVER let on that it’s a lie, and I won’t do it. Because that’s no longer symbolism. It’s asking me for a wholesale change in behavior. And for all intents and purposes, I’d really be a different person.

    That family, though? Twenty dollars richer, a sign in the trash, and a new sign that says “Some stupid atheist just gave us twenty dollars to cross out the word “God.” As if that would change my mind! Anyone else want to pony up? I’ll do it again! Praise Jesus!”

    Posted by hambydammit | February 25, 2011, 6:52 pm
  15. What I’d like to see is some follow up videos. Compare the reactions of people when they know they are being filmed and when they don’t.

    I’m willing to bet they would have sang a different tune if they didn’t know they were being filmed (of course, getting permission to put up the video after telling them they were being filmed would probably be hard).

    Posted by Alex Hardman | February 25, 2011, 7:46 pm
  16. A certain anthropologist that I follow also studies “Sacred Values”. Don’t let the Sacred fool you, they can be religious, but they need not be.

    Basically, it’s part of a person or group’s identity. That is X is part of who I am, and Y is a symbol of that. To deface Y is to deface X which defaces me.

    For example, if you ask me to strip on webcam for money and I won’t do it regardless of how big your pocketbook is. I wasn’t indoctrinated to not take off my clothes. You may think that’s stupid, but I don’t and that’s kinda the point. We have this actor/observer disconnect.

    This CAN be a result of indoctrination, but it need not be, and I see no indication that that family was indoctrinated.

    Which brings my to the point I made in my first post, that if we don’t know what’s causing this, we won’t know how to stop it.

    While I would like to see a world without faith, and such, I don’t think we will.

    Posted by cptpineapple | February 25, 2011, 9:31 pm
  17. I’m willing to bet they would have sang a different tune if they didn’t know they were being filmed (of course, getting permission to put up the video after telling them they were being filmed would probably be hard).

    It’s a reasonable thing to guess. I’d also bet that if they were allowed to cross out “god” in the privacy of the Miracle Mobile, and were assured it wouldn’t go on film, they’d be ok with it a lot more often. Which, ironically, proves the point — it never really was about crossing out the word “god.” It was about being seen doing so. Which highlights the social pressure angle of religion for one thing. For another, it shows how religion hijiacks reasonable morals. Not wanting to be seen is a reasonable reaction. They don’t want to set a bad example for anyone else doing something they believe is wrong. And that’s a good thing. What isn’t good is the disconnect between thinking it’s ok in private and not ok in public.

    But that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.

    Posted by hambydammit | February 26, 2011, 5:39 pm
  18. This CAN be a result of indoctrination, but it need not be, and I see no indication that that family was indoctrinated.

    Well, I do. And without further knowledge, we’re just guessing. But, dear Alison, I’ve had the privilege of both being indoctrinated AND getting out of it, so I dare say I might recognize the signs a little better than you.

    While I would like to see a world without faith, and such, I don’t think we will.

    Yeah. I know. I don’t think we will either, but I think we can make a world with a bit less faith. And that would be nice.

    Posted by hambydammit | February 26, 2011, 5:43 pm
  19. Well, I do. And without further knowledge, we’re just guessing. But, dear Alison, I’ve had the privilege of both being indoctrinated AND getting out of it, so I dare say I might recognize the signs a little better than you.

    My dear Hamby, I don’t think you know anything about my religious upbringing.

    Posted by cptpineapple | February 26, 2011, 8:07 pm

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