Letters to the truth, vol. 2: Atheism baby!


Hi! The word has spread far and wide that a truth called nothing are preparing to release a record about atheism (and indeed might already have done so if the monkey fuck computer would cooperate)! Hence, some of you have been wondering what’s up with that subject. So this is our Q&A session with our experts; Balthazar, Caspar and/or Melchior who’re gonna answer all questions you might have about God, Jesus or the Camelz. So let’s go!

Q: Is it really true? I mean really, that there isn’t any God at all? It seems implausible, with the universe being so big and all.
– Harrison Ford, Mediocre pilot but brilliant Indiana Jones interpreter

Dear Harrison, good to hear from you – we’re all fans of your work here at the BOF. When you think about it, the bigness of a thing isn’t really evidence of it having come about through supernatural means. A big plane, or a big blockbuster movie, for instance, wouldn’t seem more likely to have been created by magic than a small dinky plane, or an indie film with just two guys in a college dorm awkwardly entering an exciting new phase in their relationship as men. You see? Just because something is big and might be hard to grasp (that’s what she said), that doesn’t mean it didn’t come to be in a natural way. Of course, movies of any kind are one hundred percent man-made anyway, so it’s hard to really compare them to the universe in the first place. Our creation stories all view the universe as something that was “made”, but we need to realize that this is more related to the way in which we, humans, tend to understand what is placed in front of us. In reality, there is no evidence the universe was “made” at all. So no creator is necessary, and our search for one is related to our limited understanding of the world. However, we have something that can let us grasp things outside our narrow frame of reference, by adhering to strict rules about how to gather and analyze data. That is science!

-Balthazar, Caspar and/or Melchior

Q: I listened to this podcast by Marc Maron where he talked at great length with Reza Aslan. Mr Aslan said that all religions are man-made. That is, religions aren’t from God but from ourselves. Some sort of evolutionary trick I think he said. He also said that religion is inherently good. That is, believing our made up stories is good. Does that make sense?
– Merdad Özil, the Muslim Bob Geldof

Hi Merdad! No, it does not make a particular amount of sense. Nothing man-made (or nothing in general) is inherently good. The things we create, we make for some purpose. That purpose can be better or worse, and the thing we make to address the purpose can be more or less successful. We agree fully with mr. Aslan that religions are man-made stories, and possibly derived from evolution. To this, we would add that religion is part of our pattern recognition. This is one of the central factors of human intelligence. We have a natural tendency to put things we see and experience into systems and narratives, to tell ourselves stories. Think of how it is easier to deal with difficult things in our lives in hindsight, if we are able to “process” them. This often entails putting things into a coherent narrative, more coherent than the clutter of everyday life, anyway.

But when it comes to actually understanding the world on a deeper level, our natural pattern recognition has sadly failed us time and time again. We once believed certain women were witches (because of things we didn’t at the time understand) and decided to drown them. Was this “inherently good”? We once believed there were demons from Hell in the minds of our mentally ill citizens, and subjected them to unhelpful and irrational “exorcisms” rather than giving them real care (some people even still do this). Was this “inherently good”? The problem for people like mr. Aslan – religious apologists, as they are called – is that their wish to rehabilitate religious thinking inadvertently also seems to rehabilitate all manner of superstition, if you take the argument to its conclusion. Because there is no difference between religion and superstition. It is all just stories we tell ourselves to make sense of our reality, and some have survived – while some haven’t.

And the thing about science that’s tricky for a lot of people is the fact that it is a system we’ve invented that tries to eliminate pattern recognition as a factor and instead look for results that are confirmable and repeatable. This is literally counter-intuitive. But it has served us incredibly well when it comes to making sense of this fragmented reality, to discovering facts that then help us construct formulae that we can apply in improving our technology. If our scientifically derived, mathematical theorems weren’t largely correct, the space probes we sent off would have ended up in a completely different place than we expected. But they didn’t, they ended up more-or-less where we thought they would. And the key to this way of thinking is realizing that we are not at the center of the universe.

For religion to come close to measuring up to science when it comes to results, apologists would need to show that religion succeeds at its aims. Far be it from us to define these aims for other people, but it seems clear that enforcing morality and helping to deal with death are two major aims of religion, by the interpretation mr. Aslan is using. When it comes to moral behaviour, it hardly needs to be stated that religion has generally been an utter failure. And dealing with our mortality? Just think, for all of history, religious thinking has been found in the majority of people. Indeed, atheism has been a factor for such a short time that it doesn’t even show up on the measuring stick. And yet, death anxiety is still somehow a thing. So how can religion, stories we tell ourselves which have failed completely at their stated goals, possibly be “inherently good”?

-Balthazar, Caspar and/or Melchior

Q: Are all religions the same or do I have to pick the “right” one? If that is the case, how do I know how to pick the right one?
ET, alien botanist and bit of an introspective guy

Hey ET! You’ve hit on something big with your question, and you are so close to grasping the problem. No, not all religions are the same. Apologists sometimes say that all religions are derived from the same supernatural source, are just different interpretations of the same thing, and can all coexist peacefully. Even if we disregard the obviously absurd notion that religions are able to coexist peacefully (please understand that for the majority of recorded history, in most of the world, this has not been the case. Religions’ peaceful coexistence is a quite intermittent, very regional phenomenon), they just aren’t the same. You cannot, at the same time: 1. wake up post-death in a 100% happy place where all the good people who died in the past will welcome you, 2. wake up post-death in a new life as a tropical rodent, and 3. return to the Earth post-death as a vengeful ghost on a mission to rectify the wrongs in your past life. These things are plainly mutually exclusive. And while alive, you cannot simultaneously 1. solve your spiritual problems by getting them forgiven by a desert guru who helped some people and then died on a cross and rose from his grave, 2. solve your spiritual problems by sitting in a funny position under a tree and reaching a state of nothingness and connectedness with nature and the world, and 3. solve your spiritual problems – and attain superpowers! –  by getting rid of ghosts stuck to your body which were once blown up by nukes in volcanoes. So yes, if there is a true religion, you would have to pick the right one. But it is really easier, in our opinion, to just forget the whole thing and use a more systematic way of making sense of the world. Now, young man, your homework will be to discover what this systematic method is called. (For extra credit, what are the religions or belief systems described in the examples we used?) Good luck!

-Balthazar, Caspar and/or Melchior

Q: Can a loving God really send someone to hell? Also, where in the bible does God’s autobiographer talk about hell?
– Chunk, truffle-shuffle kid and really loud person

Hi Chunk! There are many assumptions religious adherents make which are very hard to confirm one way or the other, since the whole system of thinking is based on narrativity and intuition. It has always been a problem for apologists to explain the nastier aspects of God. The theodicy problem – why does God do bad things/permit bad things to happen? – has been a hard nut to crack for theologians. (One could interject that a system that isn’t based on thinking things through rationally probably can’t be redeemed by rational thinking.) Very few religious adherents know this, but the theodicy problem has not been convincingly solved in any way, shape or form. It is still a very good question why a supposedly good God stocks the world with horrors. We don’t hear priests and apologists talk about it very much these days, but that isn’t because it has been solved, it’s because they simply don’t talk about it. Sceptics always suspect that they are afraid the question doesn’t have an answer different from “God absolutely does not exist”. Which they’ve already decided isn’t the case, of course. 

You can compare this to the question of religious relevance. Apologists always pay lip service to science, while maintaining that religion is still necessary because it is a different, spiritual kind of knowledge. But this is unhistorical. When the scientific method began, atheism wasn’t really a thing. That means that the people who started to do science were pretty much all convinced that God was real. And everyone eagerly expected piles of evidence for the literal, physical existence of God to start pouring in. It is only after it started to become clear that we would be able to find better explanations for literally everything that we once attributed to magic that religious adherents have moved the goalposts. Now, it is suddenly a different form of knowledge. We’re just rambling now, but can you see the way religion moves the goalposts when asked to provide any evidence for their claims? This is because religion is not based on facts, but on narrativity and intuition.

As for your second question, we don’t have the bible to hand right now and are too lazy to look it up. But we think hell isn’t really mentioned a lot in it. So christianity is just a safe, peaceful religion about love, right? Well, the lack of hell in the bible isn’t really evidence of that. Again, this is something most christians have no idea of, but the bible is actually a living historical document which has been altered and amended many times. Once upon a time, there was plenty of talk about hell, the devil, and God’s rage in it. In early versions, Satan was the vengeful aspect of God (this was amended to make Satan God’s enemy instead – likely to make the religion more palatable to its target audience). If you go even further back, to Gnostic times, there was Sophia – God’s mother. These things would almost be deemed as blasphemous by today’s standards, but they were once as “unchangeable” as the bible is considered today.

-Balthazar, Caspar and/or Melchior

Q: If Jesus comes back, is that positive or negative?
– Andrew Ng, janitor at the Holy Land experience

Hello Andrew! We’re sorry, but there are too many non-factual assumptions involved in the formulation of this question. As such, there are too many variables to take into consideration. It is mostly useless to ask factual questions about non-factual things. According to our current understanding of the world, there probably wasn’t a Jesus (the historical evidence is paper-thin). There is almost certainly no way to come back from the dead. If he was, and there was, who can say whether that would be good or bad? The political situation today is so fraught, humanity is so divided… Sorry to say, but Jesus would probably be fucking confused, try to apply his ancient worldview to modern questions, fail to really convince anyone, and lapse into inexorable depression. See what we mean? It’s just a very unlikely hypothetical. And yet, it is probably a question a not insignificant number of adherents find themselves pondering. So, religion does not insulate one fully from desiring factual discovery and applying rational thought. The only question is, why not go all the way, ask some more questions; and if your religion does not hold up as well as you expected under scrutiny, why hold onto it at all?

-Balthazar, Caspar and/or Melchior

That’s all from us! See you soon, and if anyone has further questions, please direct them to

truthnothing (at) gmail (dot) com!

And all who are included in the letters column will recieve a FREE MP3 DOWNLOAD!!!!!

Best and sweetest regards from Balthazar, Caspar and/or Melchior; and all of us here at the BOF

One thought on “Letters to the truth, vol. 2: Atheism baby!

  1. Pingback: The Truth Train is once again departing | a truth called nothing

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