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Marcus Aurelius

Entry 1192, on 2010-05-17 at 22:05:45 (Rating 4, Religion)

I'm currently involved in a minor debate with a Christian regarding the behaviour of his god. I found a web site which listed all the millions of people the traditional Christian god has killed (at least according to the Old Testament) and, when it's seen in the context of the population of the world at the time, I would say he is the worst mass murderer of all time.

My opponent countered by saying that the general level of theological analysis at the site was rather poor, which is true to some extent, but these stories are either true or they aren't! Well, of course, most of them are complete fantasy, as is his god, but he has to believe them because he (foolishly) thinks the Bible is inerrant.

So why would anyone worship a god who consistently demonstrates jealousy, inconsistency, murderous rage, and childish petulance? He's a pathetic god and totally unworthy of anyone's respect. Anyone who worshipped such a god out of fear is no better than the type of person who followed Hitler or Stalin because they were scared of them! In fact they're a lot worse because the certainty of punishment as a result of defying Stalin is far greater than defying this pathetic god. When was the last time he actually smote anyone anyway!

I found a quote today which summarises the advice I would give to anyone who wants guidance on the best way to live his life. It equally applies to people who don't think a god exists and to those who think one does. It doesn't apply to those who blindly accept the idiotic dogma of a fundamentalist church however.

The quote is from Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, who advised: "Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones."

Of course there is one huge hole in this particular philosophy. That is who decides what a "good life" actually is? Is it one based on charity, or hard work, or piety, or hedonism? To different people all of these would seem like the best way to achieve a "good life".

My answer to this objection is that most people know what a good life actually is and they would probably agree with a high degree of consistency, even across cultures, if external influences such as religious and political propaganda was kept to a minimum.

The principles of a good life would be to have fun, to be creative, to help your friends and family, and to contribute to society as a whole. Sure there are sociopaths and other deviants who wouldn't follow these ideals and there are people who have been so warped by their politics or religion that they might disagree, but I think the basic ideas still apply.

If there really is a god out there who demands unspeaking obedience and an arbitrary obligation to abandon what people naturally know is right, then that god really isn't worth taking too much notice of. The blind fools who take their god's warped message so seriously that they kill out of obedience to him really would be a lot better off to listen to Marcus Aurelius. Ignore religion and do what you know is really right.

In the unlikely event that there really is a god I know one thing with virtual certainty: he bears no similarity whatsoever to the pitifully childish ideas associated with the world's major religions. The real god would feel very sad that the inventors of those religions got it so wrong. And I'm sure he would appreciate those who follow Marcus Aurelius' ideas far more than those invented by a committee of the early church founders of whatever organised religion you might choose.

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Comment 1 (2669) by SBFL on 2010-06-10 at 09:41:10:

Re first paragraph...now who's taking the Old Testament literally?!!

You're nicked mate!

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Comment 2 (2670) by SBFL on 2010-06-10 at 09:45:10:

"if external influences such as religious and political propaganda was kept to a minimum."
- does that include the atheist sponsored bus ads?

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Comment 3 (2671) by OJB on 2010-06-10 at 13:35:13:

The atheist ads say something like "There's probably no god..." How could such a moderate and reasonable statement be construed as propaganda. Not only is is reasonable but its also true!

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Comment 4 (2672) by OJB on 2010-06-10 at 13:40:11:

SBFL said: You're nicked mate!

My point was to show that if you do take it literally it makes that religion (whichever one is making the claim) even worse. In fact the atheist belief is the most generous to god. If the OT is literally true he must be either a bumbling incompetent or a nasty, evil bully. Saying he doesn't exists seems far more generous!

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