This is a great flyer from FreethoughtAction….
This is a great flyer from FreethoughtAction….
My father smoked in the house while I was growing up, but that was common back then. In fact, for generations people smoked almost everywhere: at work, at home, in theaters, in bars, in restaurants, in stores, in airplanes, and even in the hospital. Smoking was fairly ubiquitous for decades. In the 1960s when I was growing up, almost every other person was a smoker (today it’s down to about 15% of the U.S. population). Rarely did anyone complain about it.
Cigarette ads were everywhere: on radio, on television, in magazines, in stores, on billboards, and in movie theaters. Cigarette vending machines were commonplace. Cigarette companies even targeted children. They appeared in cartoons like The Flintstones and Tom and Jerry, and you could buy candy cigarettes at the candy store across the street from the elementary school.
Anyone can watch old movies and films to see how prevalent it was. About the only place I remember you weren’t supposed to smoke was in the elevator because of the confined space.
I have an old picture that someone took of my father on his knees proposing to my mother. One hand is holding hers, and the other is holding a cigarette.
Despite his own habit, Dad did try to discourage my brothers and I from smoking a couple of times while I was growing up. When I was very young, he satisfied my curiosity about it by letting me take a drag off his cigarette. He knew I wouldn’t like it, and he was right. I spent a long time in the bathroom afterwards brushing my teeth.
Later, he gave us all a demonstration that he hoped would keep us from ever smoking. He asked us to watch him as he took a puff and then he blew the smoke out through his handkerchief. It left a brown spot. He said, “That’s just what I blew out. Most of it stayed inside me, and that was just one puff. Imagine how that might build up over time in my lungs… so many puffs for each cigarette, a pack of 20 cigarettes a day, 7 packs a week, week after week, and year after year.”
It did make some impact on me, but I wasn’t planning to smoke anyway back then, so I didn’t think it was something I would ever need to worry about.
Things did start changing slowly after the 1964 United States Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health suggested there might be a relationship between smoking and cancer, but the changes after that were very slow and gradual—and almost imperceptible for years–and there didn’t seem to be any concern for nonsmokers. Things pretty much continued as they were, except later some tobacco companies began to introduce lower tar or “lighter” cigarettes and new kinds of filters.
By 1971 there was the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act, which banned cigarette ads on television and radio. I probably didn’t notice.
I started smoking in 11th grade. It was January or February of 1975. I’ve been a smoker on and off—but mostly on—ever since.
My best friend smoked, some of my other friends smoked, and I had dated a couple girls in high school who smoked when I was in 10th grade and earlier that year. I didn’t see what the attraction was, but it didn’t bother me that they smoked. After all, I had grown up with my dad smoking, and it was so common that I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it.
If it hadn’t been for one especially cold and windy night, I might never have started. I asked my best friend to let me have one of his cigarettes to distract me from how cold it was while we were walking outside. Despite wearing my heaviest coat, it felt like the wind was blowing through my bones, and we couldn’t talk without our teeth chattering. I was looking for anything to take my mind off the cold. The cigarette didn’t seem so bad, so I started thinking about trying it again… and one lead to another over the next few days….
I kind of liked the buzz I got off them before class when I first started. Of course, that didn’t last, but all the cool kids hung out in the designated smoking area in high school, and I was making new friends there.
Cigarettes were fairly cheap back then, about 35 cents a pack in NC. That was probably less expensive than anywhere else on the planet because North Carolina was the tobacco capital of the world.
I went to Myrtle Beach with some friends after graduating 11th grade and partied hard for a week, smoking and drinking. I may have gone through 15 packs while I was there. I had made myself sick of them by the end of the week, and I quit when I got back home. I didn’t feel any withdrawal symptoms at all, so I didn’t think it would be so hard to quit any time I wanted to. That was part of the reason I didn’t see any problem when I started back up about a week later.
Maybe it was in the late 1970s–or sometime in the 1980s–that there started to be separate sections in some (not all) restaurants for smokers and nonsmokers, but there wasn’t anything to stop the smoke from travelling from the smoking section to the nonsmoking section. It just kept it from being quite as direct or in-your-face as it might have been previously.
I bounced around a bit after college in the early 1980s, and tried to find work in the Clearwater Beach area in Florida. I wasn’t having much luck trying to find a job without a car before my money was going to run out, so I thought it might be productive to try and quit again before I was going to have to move back home. A few days spent floating around in a pool and trying to relax as much as possible worked. By the end of a week, I had gotten over the physical addiction. It had been a little harder than when I quit before, but it wasn’t too bad.
It was about 8 months before I started back. I started to realize that there was the physical addiction that I had already dealt with, but there was also the psychological addiction that might be more insidious.
The cost of cigarettes went over a dollar a pack in the 1980s.
I remember when it happened in Nashville. It may have been 1982 when I moved to Nashville with one of my younger brothers, and I got a third shift job at a corner convenience store called Hot Spot. It was just something to pay the bills until I could find better job.
I had been working there a few weeks when the cost of a pack went over a dollar. Near the end of my shift an old man came in to buy a pack, and I quoted him the price. He was outraged. I tried to tell him about the price increase, but that didn’t help. He was so mad that he took out all the coins he had in his pocket and threw them into my face as hard as he could. “THERE’S YOUR MONEY!!!” he screamed at me and walked out the door.
I wasn’t in Nashville long. I moved back to North Carolina in 1983 and it wasn’t much later that the cost went over a dollar there as well.
In 1984 the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act forced cigarette companies to place Surgeon’s General warnings on all cigarette packs and advertisements, but that didn’t stop anyone I knew from smoking.
I made another attempt to quit smoking in the late 1980s because a woman I was in a relationship asked me to. It was even harder this time. It took 2-3 weeks now to get over the physical addiction. This time my abstinence only lasted about 6 months before I started back. Once again the psychological addiction came into play when I was going through some stressful times.
In 1988 smoking was prohibited on all domestic flights less than two hours. In 1989 it was expanded to include all domestic flights. I didn’t do much flying, so that didn’t impact me. The only flight I made during that time was not domestic, and I was able to smoke in first class on my trip to Cancun, Mexico.
Things really started changing at a faster pace in the 1990s….
In 1993 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that secondhand smoke caused lung cancer. It designated secondhand smoke a Class A carcinogen, a proven cause of cancer. This put it in the same category as asbestos and radon.
As a result of the EPA report, by the mid-1990s smoking bans in some public places began to be enacted in hundreds of local governments and in 40 states, but I don’t believe North Carolina was one of them.
My younger brother in Nashville got married around then, and that was the first time I ended up in a smoke-free hotel when I went to his wedding. It seemed fairly noteworthy at the time because it was somewhat uncommon.
My parents stayed in the same hotel, and my father later told a story about an experience he had while he was there. He said he was heading outside to have a cigarette, and he was holding one unlit, cupped in his hand, when he got on the elevator going down. A woman got on at the next floor and saw the cigarette filter sticking out from his hand. Dad said she gave him a dirty look when the door closed. She assumed the cigarette was lit. He said she was waving her hand back-and-forth in front of her face to keep from inhaling the imaginary smoke. She was also “tisk, tisking” and making noises of exasperation as she continually looked from his face to his hand to the elevator door and back again.
When the door opened in the parking garage, he stepped out. He said he made sure that she saw him light the cigarette as the door closed.
It wasn’t long after this that a friend who was a few years older died. She always smoked like a chimney and everyone always bugged her about her smoking, telling her it would be the death of her. She died after being in a coma for 3 days after falling off the back of a golf cart and breaking her neck. No one ever warned her about falling off golf carts, and all that time spent worrying her about smoking was for nothing.
Probably every smoker has friends who bug the crap out of them about their smoking. I once told one of my friends like this that “One day you’ll be looking at my dead body, someone will ask you why I died, and you’ll have to tell them that you worried me to death about smoking.”
But probably every smoker has an army of friends and family who are always bugging them to death about smoking, as if we haven’t heard it thousands of times before. It is frankly annoying as hell, and not very likely to motivate me to quit. In fact, it tends to have the exact opposite effect. I might sigh and say, “Yes, I know” when they bug me, but I feel like saying, “Would you just shut the fuck up about it already? Don’t you think I KNOW all this by now?”
Nevertheless, I did make another attempt to quit smoking in the 1990s, and, once again, it was harder than the previous occasion to get over the physical addiction. It took about a month this time, but I did go about 1 ½ years without smoking before I got caught by the psychological addiction again. It happened after I broke up with someone I was in a relationship with. I was feeling down after the break-up, and I was out drinking with friends at a bar. Someone lit up a cigarette, I said “Give me one of those,” and BOOM! I was smoking again.
In 1998, it came out that perhaps the EPA had “cherry-picked” their information to come up with a desired conclusion regarding secondhand smoke risks back in 1993. In a case the tobacco industry brought against the EPA, a federal district judge ruled that the EPA had “committed to a conclusion before research had begun” and the “EPA disregarded information and made findings on selective information.” The judge also ruled that “using standard methodology, EPA could not produce statistically significant results,” and that the “EPA cannot show a statistically significant association between ETS [Environmental Tobacco Smoke] and lung cancer.” Based on this, the judge vacated the study.
Afterwards, the EPA appealed the ruling against them and had it overturned by the fourth circuit court of appeals on a jurisdiction technicality, not the merits of the ruling. But the media didn’t pay much attention to the controversy at the time. Things proceeded as if there was never an issue with the EPA’s conclusions, the EPA stuck by its guns, and the EPA report continued to be cited without any qualification about its legitimacy.
Nevertheless, for the most part, most things hadn’t changed very significantly for smokers. They might be a little inconvenienced here-and-there, but they could do much of the same things they were doing before. You could still smoke in a lot of places, and you could easily avoid most places where you couldn’t smoke. You could still smoke in bars and many restaurants and in many (but maybe not all) workplace environments (if not on the sales floor, in your office, for example). While many hotels now offered smoke-free rooms, you could still easily get a hotel room you could smoke in.
It wasn’t until sometime after the turn of the century that things began to change more dramatically.
By the early 2000s, an ever growing number of jurisdictions across the country began enacting smoking bans in bars and restaurants, reaching some areas sooner than others. By then, some restaurants had begun seating customers in a separate room rather than a separate section in the same room. As the decade progressed, many restaurants began to seat them at tables outside. By then, you could no longer smoke in most theaters, in most stores and malls, in hospitals, at work, in buses or subways, in planes and trains, or inside almost anywhere. Even the very small, designated smoking areas at airports began to disappear.
Another decade and another attempt to quit smoking. Again, it was harder and took longer to overcome the physical aspect. It took a couple months or more this time, but I did it. But once again I fell back to smoking a year later because of the psychological aspect.
Giving up cigarettes is supposedly harder than giving up heroin, as far as the physical addiction goes. I had proven I could make it through that, but I evidently may never be able to overcome the psychological addiction. It was at this point in my life I began to think I’d not bother to try to quit again. I mean why go through all that suffering when I just keep going back to it later??? I’ve heard that Einstein said that “the definition of insanity is trying to do the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result.” I don’t know if he actually said it or not, but it seems to make sense.
By the 2010s, it seemed restaurants, bars, and some hotels were the last to have smoking banned, but they went pretty quickly as state governments began to ban smoking in all public and commercial buildings.
I happened to be in Washington, DC when that kind of ban was enacted there. As I approached a bar near where I was staying, it seemed to be packed with people overflowing outside. I thought the bar must be very popular. When I went inside, no one was there except the staff. Everyone was outside smoking because of the ban. North Carolina passed the same kinds of restrictions soon afterwards.
Even many restaurants have stopped offering a table outside for smokers, and most places not only stopped allowing smoking inside their establishment, they insist you must be beyond a certain point outside of it.
When my father had undergone (not smoking-related) surgery several years earlier, he was in a room recovering for 17 days. I had to sit with him most of that time so that he would have someone to take him outside in a wheelchair every couple hours to have a cigarette. He had been smoking since he was 14 and wasn’t about to stop this late in his life. No one else was there to do that for him, so I had to sit in an uncomfortable chair–while he had the bed–to be at hand for him for the full 17 days. Each time he wanted one, I had to get him into his wheelchair, push him to an elevator, take him downstairs, and push him outside so many feet away from the entrance so he could have a smoke. Then take him back when he was finished.
Now hospitals don’t even allow you to smoke on their property at all. You can’t even smoke in the parking garage in your car with the windows rolled up. I really can’t believe that could possibly be worse than the carbon monoxide pouring out of the back of a car.
I had to have surgery myself a few years ago, and I thought I’d check out the smoking situation before my admission. The closest area was across the street from the hospital, under a bridge that ran over a creek. A security guard told me that hospital patients were frequently injured falling down the steep decline to the creek trying to find a place to have a smoke. He said that someone had stumbled, fallen into the creek, and drowned the week before. Imagine that! People actually dying to have a cigarette at the hospital!
It would seem that hospitals would try to make some kind of better accommodations for smokers that don’t plan to quit rather than insisting they have to be entirely off their property.
Hotels are now smoke-free. The last time I stayed in a hotel, they offered three benches in the open air across the street as their designated smoking area. Beach hotel rooms with balconies don’t even allow smoking on those balconies in the middle of winter, even when it’s unlikely anyone else would be on a neighboring balcony because of the cold.
So, now smokers are forced outside, away from everyone else in all kinds of weather, in the blazing heat or the freezing cold or in the driving rain.
A couple years ago smoking was banned in parks in my city, and I know at least some beaches in some states that ban it. So, it’s increasingly banned in outside public places. Some rental apartments prohibit it. And it wasn’t long ago that the condo complex where I live sent out a newsletter telling us we shouldn’t smoke inside our own condo.
It’s increasingly banned inside and outside public places and commercial areas, and now there seems to be an effort to ban it in your own personal space.
I told someone then that it was beginning to seem like we were being driven off the planet, step-by-step.
Not only is it becoming harder and harder to find a place to smoke, it is also becoming more expensive….
The cost of cigarettes has continued to rise with additional federal and state “sin taxes” added onto the cost to theoretically lower consumption and cover the supposed health cost on society. Today the federal government adds on $1.01 per pack in taxes, and state taxes vary from 17 cents per pack in Missouri to $4.35 per pack in New York. In North Carolina, the state tax is 45 cents, so smokers pay an additional $1.46 per pack, and now cigarettes cost about $4-$6 per pack (the cost is roughly $200 per month for a typical non-casual smoker in NC, but probably higher in other parts of the country).
Health insurance rates are also higher for smokers, so they are paying more there as well.
There are also the social costs. Not many people today are interested in dating or entering into a relationship with a smoker (except possibly another smoker), and it seems like they are treated almost like lepers by society.
Aside from friends and family always bugging smokers about smoking, It’s not at all unusual for total strangers to give smokers some shit about it as well. Many will wag their finger and tell you how bad it is, how it will kill you, how you ought to quit, and so on.
It’s funny how no one would presume to tell some overweight person eating something unhealthy the same kind of thing, for example. But, if you’re a smoker, it seems like you’re fair game to be chastised by anyone who sees you smoking.
And people always point out the people who die of lung cancer to you: “SEE! Just think. He would still be alive, if he hadn’t smoked!”
Well, not necessarily. If he had been more health conscious, he might have been hit and killed by a car while he was out jogging by the side of the road years earlier. How can anyone know? Being a smoker might have prolonged his life.
Even when some smokers try to transition to electronic cigarettes or vaping to rejoin society, which shouldn’t be an issue for others, it’s treated just the same way as cigarette smoking in most places. Many nonsmokers are evidently freaked out by the very IDEA of smoking, even when it’s water vapor coming out.
In my mind, it has gone over-the-top, to a point beyond reason. I’ve always tried to be as considerate as possible towards nonsmokers, but why, for example, can’t we have some designated smoking bars and restaurants? A smoking car on the back of the train? Or a courtyard in the back of the hospital? I know it may be an issue for the staff in some of these places, but no one would be forced to work there. I’m a bit of a libertarian in cases like these. Why can’t we let the market decide?
I know it may be a health risk for me to smoke, but it’s bad for me to do a lot of things like eating too much saturated fat, or driving on the highway in 5 o’clock traffic. In the end, it should be my decision, and I should be free to take my own risks in life without people pestering me about it.
I know many people don’t want to believe it, but there are some good things about smoking. Aside from being a relaxant and calming, it can act as both a depressant and a simulant. It speeds up your digressive processes, and it makes you more alert by making the neurons in your brain fire faster. I sometimes joke that it also takes the monotony out of breathing.
I know that might not be much, but the point is it isn’t absolutely evil. It does seem to aversely effect some people more than others, possibly due to genetics. For example, my father smoked all his life, never had a problem with it, and it wasn’t the cause of his death. And a cigar-smoking George Burns lived to be over 100, for example. But I do know some families where it seems to be a greater risk factor. Of course, those kinds of things should be factored in to whatever decision someone might make about it.
I understand that my rights might end when it affects other people adversely, but there should be a way to make accommodations where the odds of that are minimized. In my life I’ve had neighbors who have had a lot of wild parties and played loud music late into the night. I never complained because I hoped they would show the same consideration for me when I wanted to party. I’ve had neighbors with dogs that barked for hours, day and night sometimes. I never complained because I might want to practice my guitar on occasion. The point is that we all might do things that bother other people sometimes, but the more slack we can give each other, the more freedom we have for ourselves to do the things we might enjoy.
I understand that we might be taking it to another level where other people’s health is concerned regarding secondhand smoke, but we can always try to work something out if that’s the case.
But I do wonder if that’s really so much the case with secondhand smoking as it’s made out to be.
I already pointed out how the 1993 EPA study about secondhand smoking was flawed, which may have set many of these cultural and societal changes in motion. Now it seems that everyone takes it as a well-established fact that secondhand smoking is dangerous. It is hard to find anyone—or almost anything on the internet—to challenge it. People seem to be able to find later studies to support the EPA study even if that one was flawed.
But how reliable were these later studies? Is the mindset of most of society so committed to the idea that secondhand smoking is a fact beyond question that people are unwilling to believe anything that might contradict that perception?
I’ve personally never been fully convinced that secondhand smoking is as bad as they’ve been saying for all these years. I’m not talking about how it might affect someone living in the same home as a smoker, someone constantly exposed to it like I was as a child. I’m just talking about people who might be occasionally exposed to it.
There have been several studies that have come out over the last several years that seem to put all these assumptions most people seem to have about secondhand smoke into question.
Is it something people are even willing to consider or are most people’s minds closed on the subject?
I know people aren’t going to go back to how it was—and that might be for the best after all–but maybe we can become a little more reasonable and less over reactionary about it.
Here’s an article from January 2017 which fills in the part of the story I left out of what I covered above. As the article’s subtitle asks, “Will we look at the new evidence for long enough to at least consider whether we’ve gone too far?”
We Used Terrible Science to Justify Smoking Bans
This is a selection of quotes I’ve collected over the years. I expect to add to it over time.
Impact on Music
“[The Beatles] almost single-handedly rescued the Western musical system.”
— Howard Goodall, music composer named “Composer of the Year” at the 2009 Classical BRIT Awards
“The impact of the Beatles – not only on rock & roll but on all of Western culture – is simply incalculable … [A]s personalities, they defined and incarnated ’60s style: smart, idealistic, playful, irreverent, eclectic…. [N]o group has so radically transformed the sound and significance of rock & roll. … [they] proved that rock & roll could embrace a limitless variety of harmonies, structures, and sounds; virtually every rock experiment has some precedent on Beatles record.”
“In their initial incarnation as cheerful, wisecracking moptops, the Fab Four revolutionised the sound, style, and attitude of popular music and opened rock and roll’s doors to a tidal wave of British rock acts. Their initial impact would have been enough to establish the Beatles as one of their era’s most influential cultural forces, but they didn’t stop there. Although their initial style was a highly original, irresistibly catchy synthesis of early American rock and roll and R&B, the Beatles spent the rest of the 1960s expanding rock’s stylistic frontiers, consistently staking out new musical territory on each release. The band’s increasingly sophisticated experimentation encompassed a variety of genres, including folk-rock, country, psychedelia, and baroque pop, without sacrificing the effortless mass appeal of their early work.”
–Icons of Rock: An Encyclopedia of the Legends Who Changed Music Forever by Scott Schinder and Andy Schwart
“The Beatles were an English rock band that formed in Liverpool in 1960. With members John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, they became widely regarded as the greatest and most influential act of the rock era.
“The Beatles are the best-selling band in history, with estimated sales of over 600 million records worldwide. They have had more number-one albums on the British charts and sold more singles in the UK than any other act. According to the RIAA, the Beatles are also the best-selling music artists in the United States, with 178 million certified units. In 2008, the group topped Billboard magazine’s list of the all-time most successful “Hot 100” artists; as of 2017, they hold the record for most number-one hits on the Hot 100 chart with twenty. They have received ten Grammy Awards, an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score and fifteen Ivor Novello Awards. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, and all four were inducted individually from 1994 to 2015. They were also collectively included in Time magazine’s compilation of the twentieth century’s 100 most influential people.”
Impact on the Soviet Union
“More than any ideology, more than any religion, more than Vietnam or any war or nuclear bomb, the single most important reason for the diffusion of the Cold War was … the Beatles.”
–Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the Soviet Union
“The West spent millions on undermining communism but it had much less impact than The Beatles. The Beatles, Paul, John, George and Ringo have done more for the fall of Communism than any other western institution. They alienated a whole generation of young, well-educated, urban Soviet kids from their communist motherland.”
–Artemy Troitsky, Russian journalist/music critic
“The Beatles had this tremendous impact on Soviet kids. The Soviet authorities thought of The Beatles as a secret Cold War weapon. The kids lost their interest in all Soviet unshakeable dogmas and ideals, and stopped thinking of an English-speaking person as an enemy. That’s when the Communists lost two generations of young people. That was an incredible impact.”
–Dr Yury Pelyoshonok, Soviet Studies professor
“It sounds ridiculous but it’s not. I’m convinced the Beatles are partly responsible for the fall of Communism.”
–Milos Forman, Czech film director/screenwriter/actor/professor
“[The Beatles brought] a taste of freedom, a window on the world”
–Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation
“The Beatles promoted a cultural revolution in the former Soviet Union that played a part in the demolition of communism in that part of the world,”
–Leslie Woodhead, British Cold War spy
Impact on Other Musicians
“We were driving through Colorado, we had the radio on, and eight of the Top 10 songs were Beatles songs…’I Wanna Hold Your Hand,’ all those early ones. They were doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were outrageous, just outrageous, and their harmonies made it all valid… I knew they were pointing the direction of where music had to go.”
“This was different, shifted the lay of the land. Four guys, playing and singing, writing their own material … Rock ‘n’ roll came to my house where there seemed to be no way out … and opened up a whole world of possibilities.”
“It was just magic – it was like being hit by a bolt of lightning. I even remember where I was and what I was doing. I was walking down the road in Aston one day, with my light blue transistor radio, and this song came on. I thought, ‘What the f**k is that?’
“It changed my life forever, and at that point I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I never knew it would turn out the way it did – it turned out way bigger than my wildest expectations – but I knew that I wanted to be the singer in a band.”
“The Greatest Band To Ever Walk The Earth!”
–Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath
“If it hadn’t been for The Beatles, there wouldn’t be anyone like us around.”
–Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin
“There’s no outdoing The Beatles.”
“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is probably the greatest single album I ever heard.”
“the Beatles ultimately “eclipsed a lot [of what] we’d worked for … [they] eclipsed the whole music world.”
–Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys
“The Beatles were in a different stratosphere, a different planet to the rest of us. All I know is when I heard ‘Love Me Do’ on the radio, I remember walking down the street and knowing my life was going to be completely different now the Beatles were in it.”
–Justin Hayward, The Moody Blues
“Probably my two biggest musical influences were the Everly Brothers and the Beatles, in chronological order. Both of them have had a very simple-sounding musical style that’s actually quite complex as far as popular songs are concerned.”
“My favorite artists have always been Elvis and The Beatles and they still are!”
–Johnny Ramone, the Ramones
“I don’t think anybody comes close to The Beatles, including Oasis.”
–Brian May, Queen
“The minute I saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show — and it’s true of thousands of guys — there was the way out. There was the way to do it. You get your friends and you’re a self-contained unit. And you make the music. And it looked like so much fun. It was something I identified with. I had never been hugely into sports. … I had been a big fan of Elvis. But I really saw in The Beatles that here’s something I could do. I knew I could do it. It wasn’t long before there were groups springing up in garages all over the place. ”
“That one performance changed my life … Up to that moment I’d never considered playing rock as a career. And when I saw four guys who didn’t look like they’d come out of the Hollywood star mill, who played their own songs and instruments, and especially because you could see this look in John Lennon’s face — and he looked like he was always saying: ‘F— you!’ — I said: ‘I know these guys, I can relate to these guys, I am these guys.’ This is what I’m going to do — play in a rock band’.”
“I took one look on the Ed Sullivan Show and it was ‘Fuck school. This makes it.’ I memorized every Beatles song and went to Shea Stadium and screamed right along with all those chicks.”
–Joe Walsh, The Eagles/James Gang
“The Beatles were the first to actually find that middle path between the artistic and the intellectual, and at the same time still be on the street.”
–Keith Richards, The Rolling Stones
“The four-headed monster.”
“They gave us our first big hit in England, which was a song they wrote “I Wanna Be Your Man.” And we were very grateful for that because it really broke us in England.”
“Their success in America broke down a lot of doors that helped everyone else from England that followed, and I thank them very much for all those things.”
–Mick Jagger, The Rolling Stones
“When The Beatles arrived, from then on, a thousand different things arose.”
–Peter Townshend, The Who
“A big influence was seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. They were a quartet and we said, wow, we can do that. If these guys from England can come out and play rock ‘n’ roll, we can do it … We bought Beatle wigs. We went to the drama store, and I guess they were Three Stooges wigs at that time.”
–Doug Clifford, Creedence Clearwater Revival
“The lightning bolt came out of the heavens and struck Ann and me the first time we saw the Beatles on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show.’ … There’d been so much anticipation and hype about the Beatles that it was a huge event, like the lunar landing: that was the moment Ann and I heard the call to become rock musicians. I was seven or eight at the time. … Right away, we started doing air guitar shows in the living room, faking English accents, and studying all the fanzines.”
–Nancy Wilson, Heart
“There is no way I’d be doing what I do now if it wasn’t for the Beatles. I was watching ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ and I saw them. Those skinny little boys, kind of androgynous, with long hair like girls. It blew me away that these four boys [from] the middle of nowhere could make that music.”
“The Beatles were a band, of course, and I loved their music. But they were also a cultural force that made it OK to be different. They didn’t look like everyone else, and they still made the girls scream.”
–Gene Simmons, Kiss
“The night The Beatles first played The Ed Sullivan Show, boy, that was something. Seeing them on TV was akin to a national holiday. Talk about an event. I never saw guys looking so cool. I had already heard some of their songs on the radio, but I wasn’t prepared by how powerful and totally mesmerizing they were to watch. It changed me completely. I knew something was different in the world that night.”
–Joe Perry, Aerosmith
“One of my earliest memories was sitting cross-legged on the floor in the living room of the house I grew up in and looking up at the black-and-white TV set and watching the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. I was five years old and I remember thinking, ‘Wow! That’s what I want to do.’ I know it sounds absurd — most five-year-old boys say they want to be firemen or policemen or baseball players, or even the president. Not me. I wanted to be one of The Beatles.
–Richie Sambora, Bon Jovi
“After the Ed Sullivan Show, Feb. 9, 1964, at approx. 8:04pm, after that moment every album, every guitar, every set of drums that was ever sold … 10% should have gone right into their pocket!”
“The Beatles were formative in my upbringing, my education. They came from a very similar background: the industrial towns in England, working class; they wrote their own songs, conquered the world. That was the blueprint for lots of other British kids to try to do the same.”
“I think The Beatles are the reason I’m a musician.”
–Sting, the Police
“John Lennon has been my idol all my life.”
–Kurt Cobain, Nirvana
“There’s a big jump from ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ to ‘was she told when she was young that pain would lead to pleasure.’”
“Michael Jackson can sell records until the end of time, but he’ll never matter to people as much as The Beatles did. Every record was a shock when it came out. Every single was an event.”
–Elvis Costello, Elvis Costello & the Attractions
“The Beatles were the ON switch to my life. I can’t even put into words the impact they had on my seven year-old soul. It is almost 50 years ago I saw them on Ed Sullivan and this was the music that changed my life. I got a copy of Meet the Beatles and a guitar for my seventh birthday, and the guitar has been welded to me ever since. I was drawn to the sound of the guitars and the songs and the vocals, the way they looked and how they acted…well really everything about them! It was pure magic to me. I learned to play to those records, and like all the people my age that play music , we all wanted to be the Beatles. I think the Beatles are my generation’s classical music, and as time has shown, they still are our musical gold standard. John, Paul, George, and Ringo changed the entire planet like no one ever will again! They are and always will be the greatest band of all time.”
–Steve Luthaker, Toto
“The British Invasion changed everything musically and culturally. Like a “big bang” there was a before and an after. Ideas changed, music changed, society changed, and the impact of The Beatles alone will keep fans and historians busy forever. A defining moment in the 20th Century that continues to resonate, and will continue strongly for all time.”
–Todd Sucherman, Styx
“From one generation to the next, The Beatles will remain the most important rock band of all time.”
“The Beatles are the foundation of everything we do.”
“If it weren’t for The Beatles, I would not be a musician.”
–Dave Grohl, Foo Fighters
“They completely turned the world upside down.”
–Phil Collins, Genesis
“The greatest rock band of all time. Nobody even comes into the same planetary system in terms of songwriting and presentation. They never repeated themselves. They kept going from strength to strength.”
–Lemmy Kilmister, Motorhead
“Then my mother gave me a copy of “Let it Be” by the Beatles. It was all over after that. I bought every Beatles album and every album by anyone who hung out with the Beatles- The Stones, The Kinks, The Who, etc. I went through the British Invasion about 20 years too late.”
–Miles Zuniga, Fastball
“Everybody was influenced by somebody, but I think everybody was influenced by The Beatles.”
“I fell in love with music through The Beatles. I still think there has never been a band as good as them.”
–Adam Levine, Maroon 5
“They were a great influence on us because they were songwriters. They broke a lot of rules and they created an artistic credibility in the pop music business which had never been there before.”
–Robin Gibb, the Bee Gees
“The Beatles showed up with their great sense of humor, their completely infectious pop songs, their “Woooo!” you know, their everything. It was impossible not to fall in love with them.”
–Susanna Hoffs, The Bangles
“I do remember actually learning chords to Beatles songs. I thought they were great songwriters.”
–Mick Taylor, Rolling Stones
“I liked the Beatles because there was so much melody.”
“The Beatles just changed the whole world of music.”
“The big turning point, really, was the Beatles’ influence on American folk music, and then Roger took it to the next step, and then along came the Lovin’ Spoonful and everybody else.”
“That’s my No. 1 biggest influence. If you’re a rock musician and you say you don’t like The Beatles, then you’re a jerk. You’re just trying to be cool, but you’re really not. You can’t deny The Beatles.”
“You know, I was such a big Beatles fan, and when I’d buy a new album I’d invariably hate it the first time I heard it ’cause it was a mixture of absolute joy and absolute frustration. I couldn’t grasp what they’d done, and I’d hate myself for that.”
–Andy Partridge, XTC
“And I said, ‘Why not? It’s the truth! Why can’t I say I’m a Beatles fan?’ I used to get criticized for that.”
–Buck Owens, musician/singer/songwriter
“When I was a kid, I went through a lot of musical phases, and one was when I’d learn everything that The Beatles ever recorded. After I started drums, I fell in love with their music so much that I just wanted to learn everything.”
–Eric Carr, KISS
“You can’t love music without loving the Beatles.”
–Nick Cannon, rapper
“The first time I heard ‘You Really Got a Hold On Me’ by The Beatles, I was very, very, very happy. The Beatles chose one of my songs! And they wrote great songs!”
“All Beatles, all the time. They were the cornerstone.”
–Jeff Murphy, The Shoes
“From 1962 to 1965, the guitar became this icon of youth culture, thanks mostly to the Beatles.”
–Pat Metheny, jazz guitarist/composer
“I just got into the Beatles a couple years ago, you know, I like it.”
–Ziggy Marley, Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers
“So whenever I hear The Beatles I always feel I’ve got a lot in common with everybody else.”
–Robyn Hitchcock, singer/songwriter
“If Elvis was the first wave of mega-fandom, then The Beatles just sort of blew that out the water.”
“Almost everything The Beatles did was great, and it’s hard to improve on. They were our Bach. The way to get around it may be to keep it as simple as possible.”
–T-Bone Burnett, musician/songwriter/record producer
“I honestly think that there are certain things in life that help people understand themselves. I think The Beatles are one of those things. They resonate the journey of true selfhood, really.”
–Sophie B. Hawkins, singer/songwriter/musician
“There was so much excitement for music at the time, and much of it had to do with the Beatles. The Beatles inspired probably more bands than we will ever know, and they certainly inspired me.”
“I love the Beatles. What more can I say? I’m not gonna lie to you. I love ’em. They make me happy. And I think they were the best, and still are.”
–Liam Gallagher, Oasis
“I remember exactly where I was sitting. It was amazing. It was like the axis shifted … It was kind of like an alien invasion.”
–Chrissie Hynde, The Pretenders
“The British invasion was the most important event of my life. I was in New Jersey and the night I saw the Beatles changed everything. I had seen Elvis before and he had done nothing for me, but these guys were in a band.”
“This was the main event of my life. It was certainly the major event for many others, whether or not they knew it at the time. For me, it was no less dramatic than aliens landing on the planet. … There’s no equivalent of that today, TV shows that literally everybody watched. All ages, all ethnic groups, all in black and white on a 14-inch screen. … It was their sound, their looks, their attitudes. It was so many things. A time to look at things differently, question things a little bit. All kinds of things were new.”
–Steven Van Zandt, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
“It was like aliens landed. Look at that and look on how they act and they — wow.”
–Micky Dolenz, The Monkees
Impact on Others
“The Beatles were like aliens dropped into the United States of 1964.”
–Todd Leopold, CNN
“I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, ‘The Beatles did.'”
“My model for business is the Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum parts. And that’s how I see business. Great things in business are never done by one person, they are done by a team of people.”
–Steve Jobs, Apple Computer
“When The Beatles came around everybody freaked. They just loved the look. It revolutionized how people dressed. It triggered in my mind to start a business.”
–Tommy Hilfiger, fashion designer
“That’s when the world turned. That’s when we escaped from the doldrums and moved on to a brighter, better, more joyful future…. Every record was an event, every cut was an opera, the entire story told ours.”
“It was like hearing the future.”
“They blew the walls down for everybody else.”
“The Beatles were my favorite group. This is the nearest I will ever get to being a Beatle.”
–J.K. Rowling, author
“When I was living on North Ninth Street in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in a two-room flat, on welfare, the only decoration in a room I shared with a half brother and sister were Beatles posters.”
“When I was a little colored girl, honest to goodness, I was the biggest Beatles fan.”
–Oprah Winfery, talk show host
“I’d never seen anybody that looked like them. It was like a revelation. And when you’re a little kid, you don’t know it’s a revelation, but it was like the whole world lit up. Suddenly I felt like I could be friends with them… and I’m black! I never thought of them as white guys. They were The Beatles. They were colorless, you know, and they were fucking amazing! The Beatles gave me this idea that everybody was welcome. If you weren’t the hippest kid in the neighborhood, it didn’t matter because you could be a Beatles fan, and I liked that. And that sort of carried me into these older days where it’s like I am my own person. I can look the way I want, I can be the way I want, and it’s okay. And I got that specifically from them.”
–Whoopi Goldberg, actress
“Growing up, I liked all the stuff that everyone else was listening to, like Motown, but the biggest group of all was The Beatles.”
“I love the Beatles.”
–Eddie Murphy, actor, comedian
“I lived in the projects in Brooklyn, you know, in a black community, and The Beatles were everywhere. It wasn’t like this was a white phenomenon. They were everywhere.”
–Nelson George, author
“In Las Vegas I advised them that the Jacksonville Gator Bowl–one of the biggest stadiums in America–would be segregated. To a man, they argued against it. They said they weren’t going to do it. There were 19 days of negotiations. Eventually the Jacksonville Gator Bowl was desegregated for the first time.”
“The people who ran the Gator Bowl integrated for the first time ever, which from my historical perspective and study ended all that in most of the big stadiums in the south.”
–Larry Kane, WFUN
“I was 15, living in segregation. It was an apartheid that’s probably difficult for a lot of people to even picture. The only white person I would even have contact with was a salesman who would come into the community. I was ripe for something different, I think, by the time I heard that The Beatles were coming to town. It was my first concert, and I went by myself. The only catch in my breath that I got was when I went to my seat, and there were all those other people around me. And I still can feel that to this day, that there were all these white people around. But I was standing up with everybody, and then just yelling as loud as I could and singing along. That was the first experience I had where it was possible to be around people who were different and, at least for a while, those differences could disappear.“
–Dr. Kitty Oliver, historian
“The whole thing of The Beatles was they made life more fun.”
–Eric Idle, Monty Python
“Their songs are in my memory banks. I think they’re actually in my genetic material.”
–Robin Williams, comedian/actor
“I wasn’t a fan until I listened to the White Album and became an instant convert.”
–Steven Spielberg, Film maker
“The Beatles created something that never trailed off. What a gift that was to their fans. If you’re into the Beatles, you loved them from beginning to end.”
“Whenever a Beatles song comes on the radio, I reach for the volume and turn it up, because I still haven’t gotten enough of them.”
–Jerry Seinfeld, comedian
“The Beatles originality, passion, and virtuosity, remain undiminished, if not enhanced.”
–Alec Baldwin, actor
“I like the Beatles. They’re at the core of my musicality. And John Lennon’s my spiritual father.”
–Esai Morales, actor
“The greatest rock band ever, ever! They built a great reservoir of melody and poetry which we’re still drawing on today.”
–Victor Spinetti, actor
“They were always original, and that’s thing that comes across from the beginning to the end. These people thought differently from everybody else, and that’s why they made it to the very top.”
–Mark Lewisohn, author
“I felt as much as a girl can feel. I was in love with John…. It was this sense of world music, that we were loving them all over the world.”
“We belonged to them and they belonged to us, and it was so meaningful to us, you know. It just gets me excited just thinking about it.”
–Sigourney Weaver, actress
“My big love was the Beatles. I was more into music.”
–Gary Oldman, actor/filmmaker/musician/author
“Even at all my mother’s concerts, I had never seen people go crazy the way they did with the Beatles.”
–Lorna Luft, daughter of Judy Garland
“Lennon and McCartney were superb composers – their songs were brilliant and remain brilliant.”
–Martin Goldsmith, author
“Artists who broke through the constraints of their time period to come up with something that was unique and original … in the form of popular music, no one will ever be more revolutionary, more creative and more distinctive. They not only sparked the British Invasion of the US, they became a globally influential phenomenon as well.”
–Robert Greenfield, former Rolling Stone associate editor
“I declare that the Beatles are mutants. Prototypes of evolutionary agents sent by God, endowed with a mysterious power to create a new human species, a young race of laughing freemen.”
–Timothy Leary, psychologist
“When The Beatles did the Sullivan Show, everything at the radio station changed. There were no more requests other than The Beatles.”
–Bob Eubanks, radio DJ/concert promoter
“The city has never experienced the excitement stirred by these youngsters from Liverpool called The Beatles.”
“The Beatles first appeared on our show on February 9, 1964, and I have never seen any scenes to compare with the bedlam that was occasioned by their debut. Broadway was jammed with people for almost eight blocks. They screamed, yelled, and stopped traffic. It was indescribable … There has never been anything like it in show business, and the New York City police were very happy it didn’t – and wouldn’t – happen again.”
–Ed Sullivan, host of The Ed Sullivan Show
“Over 55,000 people saw the Beatles at Shea Stadium. We took $304,000 – the greatest gross ever in the history of show business!”
–Sid Bernstein, music producer/promoter
“This is the greatest phenomenon in the century thus far.”
“I quickly sensed that the band represented the biggest cultural shift in generations, and maybe ever.”
“Let me explain to you the type of feeling that you get after 15 performances watching The Beatles in action and watching the crowd. It’s a chilling feeling inside because you know you are experiencing a phenomenon that is the only one of its kind in the century thus far and will probably go down in history as the greatest show business example of music and admiration in many, many hundreds of years.”
“None of the police in any of these cities were prepared for this. Nobody is prepared for this.”
–Larry Kane, WFUN
“They’ve all seen crowds before. They all say we know our own people, we know the police potential, and we’ll be able to handle it, but what they’ve never seen is a Beatle crowd. This is the biggest thing that’s ever happened, no question about it. It’s like nothing before. it’s not like Presley, it’s not like Sinatra, it’s not like the late president Kennedy… it’s The Beatles and they are without precedent.”
–Derek Tylor, press agent
“We’ve never seen anything like this before, ever. Never. Not even for kings and queens.”
–Unnamed airport official
Pre-fame Beatles Quotes
“It was like a merry-go-round in my head, they looked absolutely astonishing … My whole life changed in a couple of minutes!”
“All I wanted was to be with them and to know them.”
“I was top of the bill and wearing a white suit. The boys [the Flamingos] are wearing purple suits. We’re doing The Shadows and all that and the girls are screaming. These guys came walking in, they all had leather and black polo necks and John Lennon had big rips in his jeans. I thought, good God, what’s this? They’re going to ruin everything – the state of them! John Lennon hit his amplifier with a hammer, Paul put on a solid red Rosetti guitar with three strings on it, not even plugged in.
“No stage clothes, just this scruffy, stinky, smelly group. All of a sudden I heard this voice, ‘Oh, my soul! Baby, baby, baby.’ Paul just ripped it out. My fans came screaming from one end of Litherland town hall [Merseyside, England] to the other to watch them. Usually all the girls tried to talk to me, but I was completely ignored! Beatles, oh man, I was sick.”
–Faron Ruffley, Faron’s Flamingos
“Paul and George would come from next door in their school uniforms and all they could talk about was chords and guitars and music. They were sitting around this pile of chips and they’d start playing and strumming, and I would sit down and the hairs would stand up on the back of my neck when I heard the voices – the three of them, you know, at the age of 16, 17, 18. It was amazing!”
“Don’t you think that the Beatles gave every sodden thing they’ve got to be the Beatles? That took a whole section of our youth – that whole period – when everybody else was just goofin’ off we were workin’ 24 hours a day!”
“The Beatles saved the world from boredom.”
“From a standing start, knowing only a handful of chords between them, John Lennon and Paul McCartney turned themselves into the most influential composers of the late twentieth century. Their music wasn’t just immensely popular. It also proved that traditional western harmony – the main building block of European music – still had plenty to offer. (Even though avant-garde composers had turned their back on it.) By mixing pop and classical techniques, and cross-fertilising them with Indian, and electronic music, The Beatles refreshed and revitalised western harmony. They also transformed the recording studio from a dull box where you recaptured your live sound, into a musical laboratory, of exciting and completely new sounds. This was one of the most crucial advances in the way popular music was to be produced. But Lennon & McCartney didn’t just influence all popular music that followed them. They influenced classical music too. The leading classical composers of our own era have turned back to traditional harmony. More than anyone, Lennon & McCartney prefigured this trend. They showed that the old musical forms could be refashioned and refreshed, to make music that was both exciting and popular, and sophisticated and new. They, more than anyone, saved the western musical tradition from extinction, and gave it a new purpose and a direction. Not bad going for two boys who met at a local church fete and taught themselves their instruments.”
–Howard Goodall, music composer named “Composer of the Year” at the 2009 Classical BRIT Awards
Their musical innovations and commercial success inspired musicians worldwide. Many artists have acknowledged the Beatles’ influence and enjoyed chart success with covers of their songs. On radio, their arrival marked the beginning of a new era; in 1968 the programme director of New York’s WABC radio station forbade his DJs from playing any “pre-Beatles” music, marking the defining line of what would be considered oldies on American radio. They helped to redefine the album as something more than just a few hits padded out with “filler”, and they were primary innovators of the modern music video. The Shea Stadium show with which they opened their 1965 North American tour attracted an estimated 55,600 people, then the largest audience in concert history; Spitz describes the event as a “major breakthrough … a giant step toward reshaping the concert business”. Emulation of their clothing and especially their hairstyles, which became a mark of rebellion, had a global impact on fashion.
According to Gould, the Beatles changed the way people listened to popular music and experienced its role in their lives. From what began as the Beatlemania fad, the group’s popularity grew into what was seen as an embodiment of sociocultural movements of the decade. As icons of the 1960s counterculture, Gould continues, they became a catalyst for bohemianism and activism in various social and political arenas, fuelling movements such as women’s liberation, gay liberation and environmentalism. According to Peter Lavezzoli, after the “more popular than Jesus” controversy in 1966, the Beatles felt considerable pressure to say the right things and “began a concerted effort to spread a message of wisdom and higher consciousness”.
“So much has been said and written about the Beatles — and their story is so mythic in its sweep — that it’s difficult to summarize their career without restating clichés that have already been digested by tens of millions of rock fans. To start with the obvious, they were the greatest and most influential act of the rock era, and introduced more innovations into popular music than any other rock band of the 20th century. Moreover, they were among the few artists of any discipline that were simultaneously the best at what they did and the most popular at what they did. Relentlessly imaginative and experimental, the Beatles grabbed hold of the international mass consciousness in 1964 and never let go for the next six years, always staying ahead of the pack in terms of creativity but never losing their ability to communicate their increasingly sophisticated ideas to a mass audience. Their supremacy as rock icons remains unchallenged to this day, decades after their breakup in 1970.
“It’s hard to convey the scope of the Beatles’ achievements in a mere paragraph or two. They synthesized all that was good about early rock & roll, and changed it into something original and even more exciting. They established the prototype for the self-contained rock group that wrote and performed its own material. As composers, their craft and melodic inventiveness were second to none, and key to the evolution of rock from its blues/R&B-based forms into a style that was far more eclectic, but equally visceral. As singers, both John Lennon and Paul McCartney were among the best and most expressive vocalists in rock; the group’s harmonies were intricate and exhilarating. As performers, they were (at least until touring had ground them down) exciting and photogenic; when they retreated into the studio, they were instrumental in pioneering advanced techniques and multi-layered arrangements. They were also the first British rock group to achieve worldwide prominence, launching a British Invasion that made rock truly an international phenomenon.”
–Richie Unterberger, Allmusic.com
“The Beatles were an English rock band that became arguably the most successful act of the 20th century. They contributed to music, film, literature, art, and fashion, made a continuous impact on popular culture and the lifestyle of several generations. Their songs and images carrying powerful ideas of love, peace, help, and imagination evoked creativity and liberation that outperformed the rusty Soviet propaganda and contributed to breaking walls in the minds of millions, thus making impact on human history.”
“The Beatles were an iconic rock group from Liverpool, England. They are frequently cited as the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed band in modern history, with innovative music, a cultural impact that helped define the 1960s and an enormous influence on music that is still felt today.”
Over the years the word “atheist” has been used in various ways. At one time Christians were called “atheists” by pagans because Christians didn’t believe in their gods. Later, deists like Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine were called “atheists” by Christians. So, for many years, believers have used the word to define those that didn’t believe in their particular god, even if they believed in some other god or concept of god.
Some definitions of the word in the last couple centuries or more may define an atheist as someone who “denies or rejects the existence of God” and/or someone who “believes there is no god,” or variations of these. These definitions were likely formulated by believers and not the atheists themselves.
This explains quotes by people like American writer and professor of biochemistry Isaac Asimov (1920-1992), who seems to have one of those definitions in mind when he said….
“I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I’ve been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say one was an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn’t have. Somehow, it was better to say one was a humanist or an agnostic. I finally decided that I’m a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally, I am an atheist. I don’t have the evidence to prove that God doesn’t exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn’t that I don’t want to waste my time.”
Definitions of this sort are the ones many self-identifying agnostics also seem to have in mind when they resist self-identifying as “atheists.” They correctly think that asserting a claim either for or against the existence of a god without empirical evidence is “intellectually unrespectable.” Some believe these types of definitions puts “atheism” on the same ground as belief, requiring an equal conviction—or “leap of faith”–without knowledge, and frequently leads some to assert that “atheism” is equivalent to religion in that respect. Using definitions like these may also unfortunately result in placing the burden of proof on both sides–theism and atheism–in equal measure.
Typing “atheist definition” into Google today comes up with this result: “a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods.”
Other online sources that come up near the top of search results include the following:
The Urban Dictionary: “a person who lacks belief in a god or gods.”
Merriam-Webster: “a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or any gods.”
Rational Wiki: “Atheism, from the Greek a-, meaning ‘without’, and theos, meaning ‘god’, is the absence of belief in the existence of gods.”
Wikipedia: “Atheism is, in the broadest sense, the absence of belief in the existence of deities.”
These are more modern definitions of the term.
I submit that the best definition for “atheist” is someone “without a belief in a God or gods,” or as the Oxford Book of Atheism defines it, someone who has “an absence of belief in the existence of a God or gods.”
Here are my 5 main reasons….
#1: Practical Use
According to their website, “Since 1963, American Atheists has been the premier organization fighting for the civil liberties of atheists and the total, absolute separation of government and religion.” American Atheists is a national organization representing thousands of self-identifying atheists in America.
American Atheists use this definition: “To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.”
Dan Barker is the co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), FFRF is the largest national organization advocating for non-theists in the U.S. On page 135 of his book Losing Faith in Faith he says: “Atheism is not a belief. It is the ‘lack of belief’ in god(s).”
Aron Ra is the president of the Atheist Alliance of America, he has said that “A-theism means ‘without theism.’ It is not necessarily a claim of knowledge or even a conclusion. It is simply any perspective that does not include or accept the beliefs held in theism. It is the default position regarding the failure of theists to make an adequate or compelling case for their unsupported and evidently false assertions. Theists know they can’t bear the burden of proof, so they try to reverse it, to shift it onto us, by saying that atheism is a belief that there is no God. No, atheism is a lack of belief in the existence of a god; not the existence of belief in the lack of a god.”
These organizations–American Atheists, FFRF, and Atheist Alliance of America–are the largest membership organizations of this type in the U.S. and they all advocate for a definition that is absent (or without) a belief in a God or gods.
Having been well engaged in the secular/atheist/humanist/freethought movement over the last decade, I can say this definition is typical in local, national, and international nontheist secular organizations.
The American Humanist Association (AHA), for example, touts that one can be “Good Without God.” Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the AHA has said, “By definition, identifying as atheist indicates that one doesn’t have a belief system that includes a god, nothing more.”
From a 2012 Center for Inquiry (CFI) blog post: “Being an atheist doesn’t even mean that you must deny the existence of God. That’s why the proper definition of an atheist includes ‘lacking belief in any god’ and not necessarily also ‘claiming to know no gods exist.’ Reasonable doubt, not epistemic certainty, is enough for an atheist.”
There are other examples, but these are some of the largest nontheist secular membership organizations representing secular nonbelievers in the U.S. that I’m citing. I am not aware of any counter-examples which propose any kind of rejection, denial, or belief that there is no God as definitions of atheism.
Of course, I haven’t surveyed atheists across the world to find out how all of them might define themselves, but it seems we might pay at least some attention to how those organizations who represent them might define it. And it would seem if there were any significant objections from their various memberships, there would be some significant noise about it, which there doesn’t seem to be.
The point is that it might be most relevant to use the definition that people who self-identify by that term would use, especially those organized atheists who are most invested in it. To impose a definition on them from outside would seem to be less accurate in understanding what they actually think.
#2: The Various God Definitions
“God” is certainly a term that is well-known to be used by different people to mean different things. [Note: I won’t be focusing on secondary definitions of the word here (such as: His “god” was money), but more on primary definitions.] Believers of different religions (or faiths) have different concepts in mind when they use this word (although there is some overlapping among some of them, and sometimes different words are used such as “Allah” by Muslims), and different sects within each religion may have somewhat different things in mind when they use the word. It may even be difficult to find two people of the same sect who have exactly the same concept in mind. For this reason, some have suggested that each believer creates “God” in his or her own image, and some charge believers with SPAG (Self Projection As God), but I will pass over that here. Nevertheless, if this is the case, then the term could have a different meaning for each believer.
A review of some selected dictionaries seems to indicate a difference between the use of the word when it is capitalized and when it’s not. For example, Merriam-Webster seems to be providing a definition for the lowercase “god” with its second definition here: “a spirit or being that has great power, strength, knowledge, etc., and that can affect nature and the lives of people : one of various spirits or beings worshipped in some religions,” and Dictionary.com explicitly provides a lowercase definition as “one of several deities, especially a male deity, presiding over some portion of worldly affairs.”
Focusing solely on 1st definitions in these dictionaries and the uppercase use of the word, we find Merriam-Webster defining the term as “the perfect and all-powerful spirit or being that is worshipped especially by Christians, Jews, and Muslims as the one who created and rules the universe.” According to The American Heritage Dictionary, “God” is “a being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheistic religions,” and according to Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, “God” is “the creator and ruler of the universe; Supreme Being.” The World English Dictionary defines “God” as “a supernatural being, who is worshipped as the controller of some part of the universe or some aspect of life in the world or is the personification of some force.” Collins English Dictionary defines “God” as “the sole Supreme Being, eternal, spiritual, and transcendent, who is the Creator and ruler of all and is infinite in all attributes; the object of worship in monotheistic religions.” And Dictionary.com defines “God” as “the one Supreme Being, the creator and ruler of the universe.”
According to Wikipedia…
“God is often conceived as the Supreme Being and principal object of faith. In theism, God is the creator and sustainer of the universe. In deism, God is the creator (but not the sustainer) of the universe. In pantheism, God is the universe itself. The concept of God as described by theologians commonly includes the attributes of omniscience (infinite knowledge), omnipotence (unlimited power), omnipresence (present everywhere), omnibenevolence (perfect goodness), divine simplicity, and eternal and necessary existence. Monotheism is the belief in the existence of one God or in the oneness of God. God has also been conceived as being incorporeal (immaterial), a personal being, the source of all moral obligation, and the ‘greatest conceivable existent.'”
Without exploring every last dictionary and encyclopedia available, we can began to gather some idea of how many different believers conceive of the term when it is used in an uppercase sense. “God” seems to be a supernatural and supreme being who created and/or rules the universe. As a result of this “supreme” status, other attributes might or might not include: an eternal and necessary existence, transcendence, perfection, omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence, and omnipresence.
However, as the Wikipedia entry attempts to address, there are some differences between the theistic, deistic, and pantheistic concepts of “God.” If you explore even further, you will find different–and sometimes highly developed–schools of thought about the definition of “God” not only among theists but deists and pantheists as well.
Therefore, it is important to understand what someone means when they use the word in order to understand what they might be claiming or talking about. If the term is undefined, it could mean a very wide range of things. The person using the word may be talking about a personal God who intervenes in the world or they may be talking about an impersonal God who doesn’t. They might have some Eastern concept of God or they might have some Western concept. They might be talking about a Christian God or an Islamic God. They might be talking about “Nature’s God” or even just “Nature,” or they might even be talking about “All That Is” or some ill-defined or undefined “force” or undetectable “energy.”
Muhammad had a different “God” in mind than Martin Luther. John Calvin had a different “God” in mind than Thomas Jefferson. Albert Einstein had a different “God” in mind than Billy Graham, and so on.
It was precisely because Einstein didn’t define what he meant when he used the word “God” at one point that he had to clarify it later because of the confusion it caused….
“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”
In order to understand what anyone means when they use the word, it is important to understand the context or the definition that individual might be using, including the possibility they might be using it only as a metaphor.
So, if we define “atheist” as “someone denying or rejecting the existence of god” or “someone who believes there is no god”–as some persist in doing–we run into the problem of what definition of “god” we are talking about. While I might be able to rule out some definitions as possible (if they are self-contradictory or irrational, for example), I might not be able to rule out all of them. And I certainly can’t rule out every definition any believer might come up with prior to learning what that definition is.
The burden is on the person making the claim to define what they are talking about when they use the word “god.” If they refuse to give a definition, they might as well be using a nonsense word, so what they are talking about is meaningless, and it can be dismissed as such with no reason to even consider it. Until the word is defined, nonbelievers have no way to know what they are talking about, so it would be difficult (if not impossible) to have an opinion on the subject (unless they themselves are assuming their own definition). For example, if the person using the word simply means “nature,” I imagine you would be hard pressed to find an “atheist” who didn’t believe in nature. This is just one example. Some people use the word to mean “All That Is.” If that is what the person using the word really means, then again, you would probably have a hard time finding an atheist who didn’t believe in that (while one might suggest the believer use other words for clarity regarding what they are talking about, we have no control over how people might use the word). I think you will have a difficult time finding an atheist anywhere who is willing to reject the possibility of any and/or every definition of “god” that a believer might come up with.
You might find some who will positively reject some definitions of “god,” perhaps because those definitions are internally self-contradictory or illogical/irrational, which may be fully justifiable, but not every possible definition someone might present. And even if someone thinks they know all possible definitions, new ones are likely to spring up at any moment.
As Gordon Stein pointed out regarding the word “atheism”:
Actually, there is no notion of “denial” in the origin of the word, and the atheist who denies the existence of God is by far the rarest type of atheist — if he exists at all. Rather, the word atheism means to an atheist “lack of belief in the existence of a God or gods.” An atheist is one who does not have a belief in God, or who is without a belief in God. The importance of these distinctions is that one cannot understand what one cannot define accurately. An atheist cannot deny the existence of that which he finds to be without meaning, namely the term *God. In order to deny the existence of something, one must know what the term one is denying means.
Certainly one cannot reject or deny what has yet to be defined. That would be irrational.
#3: Burden of Proof
As I pointed out in the introduction, using definitions for atheist such as someone who “denies or rejects the existence of God” or someone who “believes there is no God” unfortunately puts the same kind of burden of proof on the atheist as it does the theist who believes there is one. The definition “without a belief in a God or gods” avoids that problem entirely.
As a result, this definition is useful in combating the theists’ common assertion that atheism is as much a belief system as theism is, and that it takes just as much “faith” to say there are no gods of any possible definition as it is to say there is one.
It removes the “intellectually unrespectable” issue that Asimov struggled with, as well as the issue that self-identifying agnostics who shun self-identifying as atheists have with it.
As Michael Martin (1932-2015) former professor of philosophy at Boston University explains it:
If you look up “atheism” in a dictionary, you will probably find it defined as the belief that there is no God. Certainly many people understand atheism in this way. Yet many atheists do not, and this is not what the term means if one consider it from the point of view of its Greek roots. In Greek “a” means “without” or “not” and “theos” means “god.” From this standpoint an atheist would simply be someone without a belief in God, not necessarily someone who believes that God does not exist. According to its Greek roots, then, atheism is a negative view, characterized by the absence of belief in God.
This would result in treating the definition of “atheism” in the same way we treat other words like “amoral,” “atypical,” and “asymmetrical,” with the “a” meaning “without” or “not,” which would seem to make the most sense.
Here are some other related quotes on the matter, selected because they may be of some interest….
Atheist, in the strict and proper sense of the word, is one who does not believe in the existence of a god, or who owns no being superior to nature. It is compounded of the two terms … signifying without God.
— Richard Watson (1781–1833), British Methodist theologian, author of A Biblical and Theological Dictionary
Etymologically, as well as philosophically, an ATheist is one without God. That is all the “A” before “Theist” really means.
— G.W. Foote (1850-1915), English secularist and journal editor, author of What Is Agnosticism (London, 1902)
The word atheist is a thoroughly honest, unambiguous term. It means one who does not believe in God, and it means neither more nor less.
— Robert Flint, (1838-1910), Scottish theologian and philosopher, author of Agnosticism (Edinburgh, 1903)
If one believes in a god, then one is a Theist. If one does not believe in a god, then one is an A-theist — he is without that belief. The distinction between atheism and theism is entirely, exclusively, that of whether one has or has not a belief in God.
— Chapman Cohen (1868 -1954), English freethinker, atheist, and a secularist, author of Primitive Survivals in Modern Thought (London, 1935)
… the absence of theistic belief …
— Joseph McCabe (1867-1955), English writer and speaker on freethought defining the word atheism in A Rationalist Encyclopedia (1950)
Obviously, if theism is a belief in a God and atheism is a lack of a belief in a God, no third position or middle ground is possible. A person can either believe or not believe in a God.
If theism is the belief in the existence of God, then a-theism ought to mean “not theism” or “without theism.”
— Gordon Stein (1941-1996), American author, physiologist, and activist for atheism, former senior editor of Free Inquiry and the American Rationalist
“Atheist” is quite clear in its meaning of “somebody without a belief in God.” It is more complex in its usage since it has often been used to blacken anyone with the slightest doubt about the teachings of religion.
— Jim Herrick (born 1944), British Humanist and secularist
All children are atheists — they have no idea of God.
— Baron d’Holbach (1723-1789), French Enlightenment philosopher
The man who is unacquainted with theism is an atheist because he does not believe in a god. This category would also include the child with the conceptual capacity to grasp the issues involved, but who is still unaware of those issues. The fact that this child does not believe in god qualifies him as an atheist.
— George H. Smith (born 1949), American author of Atheism: The Case Against God (1974)
Calling Atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color.
— Don Hirschberg, in a letter to Ann Landers
Atheism is a religion like abstinence is a sex position.
— Bill Maher (born 1956), American comedian, political commentator, and television host
Atheism is a belief system, like “OFF” is a TV Channel.
— Ricky Gervais (born 1961), English comedian, actor, writer, producer
“Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby.”
— Penn Jillette (born 1955), American magician, comedian, author
If we accept that an atheist is “someone who is without a belief in a God or gods,” then atheism and agnosticism (or theism and gnosticism) are not mutually exclusive because one has to do with belief and the other has to do with knowledge.
One can be…
An agnostic atheist – one who thinks we can’t know with certainty, but lacks belief.
An agnostic theist – one who thinks we can’t know with certainty, but believes regardless.
A gnostic theist – one who claims to know and believes.
A gnostic atheist – one who claims to know and doesn’t believe.
You will find some who refer to the agnostic atheist position as weak, soft, implicit, negative, or pragmatic atheism and the gnostic atheist position as strong, hard, explicit, positive, or theoretical atheism.
If the “without a belief in a God or gods” definition is used, then not only is it compatible with agnosticism, it also necessarily includes all atheists (weak/soft/implicit/negative/pragmatic/agnostic and strong/hard/explicit/positive/theoretical/gnostic). It becomes an all-inclusive umbrella definition for atheists of all stripes.
Therefore, I submit that the best definition for atheists is “without a belief in a God or gods” or “an absence of belief in the existence of a God or gods” because 1) that is the way I think most organized atheists would define it today, 2) that definition resolves the issue of rejecting in advance something that is yet to be defined, 3) it removes the problematic burden of proof issues, 4) that is the etymology of the word, and 5) that definition makes it compatible with agnosticism and it can include all types of atheists (weak/soft/implicit/negative/pragmatic/agnostic and strong/hard/explicit/positive/theoretical/gnostic).
If anyone is interested in going into further detail regarding some of the things I’ve covered above, as well as some reasons that I didn’t cover, I’d suggest reading this excerpt from the Oxford Book of Atheism on “Defining Atheism.” It is a little long, but it is also interesting and informative.
Regarding the unfortunate ruling in the Greece v. Galloway case, instead of just banning invocations outright, the Supreme Court ruled that invocations before local city council meetings can be allowed when they are open to everyone.
To test this, Humanists have suggested applying to give Humanist invocations, Satanists have suggested applying to give invocations to Satan, and others have suggested atheists might apply to give invocations to the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the Invisible Pink Unicorn.
All of the above might be better ideas than this one….
My first inclination after the ruling was to try and make a total mockery of the occasion (to an even greater extent than giving invocations to the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the Invisible Pink Unicorn might be).
Imagine showing up as some kind of cross between a witch doctor and a magician (e.g.: body paint and a rattle, a magician’s hat and a wand, etc.). Then, giving an invocation like this…
Ooogla Boogla, Ooogla Boogla, Ooogla Boogla, Shazam!
Abracadabra, Alakazam, Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo!
Hocus Pocus, Voodoo, Hoodoo, You do!
Jantar Mantar, Jadu Mantar, Joshikazam!
Mecca lecca hi, mecca hiney ho!
Klaatu barada nikto!
Sim Sala Bim, Presto, Ju ju!
Ep-pe, Pep-pe, Kak-ke!
Hil-lo, Hol-lo, Hel-lo!
Ziz-zy, Zuz-zy, Zik!
Meeska, Mooska, Mickey Mouse!
A la peanut butter sandwiches!
Izzy wizzy, let’s get busy!
Of course, aside from dancing around and shaking a rattle, you could throw around some glitter and blow some “Miracle Bubbles.” You might even consider becoming “possessed by the spirit” at the end and conclude by frothing at the mouth and shaking violently on the floor.
Note: The words above were drawn from a number of sources related to “magical words.” I’ve also included the chant from the novel (not the movie) “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” It’s the chant to summon the flying monkeys.
The Bible is full of contradictions, and anyone can build a God or Jesus in their own image by cheery-picking the parts they like.
The character of Jesus as relayed in the Bible is a mixed bag. It is NOT a consistent message of peace, love, and understanding, despite what so many seem to want to believe.
Matthew 10:36: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.”
Luke 14:26: “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.”
Matthew 15:22-26: “A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.’ Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, ‘Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.’ The woman came and knelt before him. ‘Lord, help me!’ she said. He replied, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.'” [Although, he did eventually help her, he basically calls non-Jewish people “dogs.”]
He curses a fig tree to death for not bearing fruit out of season [Matthew 21:19], and he seems to disregard the poor when he is advised that the costly ointment being used on him could be sold to help them (“The poor you will always have with you” -Mark 14:7).
In Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23, Jesus acts like a Sith Lord when he says, “He who is not with me is against me.” Jesus introduces the idea of thought crimes in his Sermon on the Mount. And Jesus is the one who introduces the idea of eternal hell and damnation for nonbelievers (Believe or Burn!).
Also consider that most Christians believe in the idea of the Trinity, that God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost are one God, that they are “co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial, and each is God, whole and entire.”
However confusing this might seem to be, it means that Jesus is also responsible for all the mean, nasty, insane, and genocidal stuff the character God was supposed to have done in the Old Testament as well.
So despite how much liberal Christians might LOVE to find ways to call conservative Christians hypocrites and conservative Christians might LOVE to reinterpret the nicer bits, they both overlook the fact that there are enough contradictions in the Bible (and enough different ways of interpreting it) to make Jesus/God into whoever you would like them to be by cherry-picking whichever parts you like best.
Today is the day Christians celebrate the idea that a God sacrificed himself to himself to save us from himself.
So giving this story EVERY possible benefit of the doubt, one might ask, “How much of a sacrifice was it really???”
Plenty of other people have suffered worse, and you would probably have people lined up for MILES to be sacrificed like that if they knew in 2-3 days they would be resurrected as the Supreme Being of the Universe forever afterwards.
Jesus: “Well, it was fun while it lasted. I think I’ll go back to being the Supreme Being of the Universe now.”
According to Wikipedia, “Easter is the most important religious feast in the Christian liturgical year. It is believed by the Christians to be the resurrection of Jesus, which Christians believe occurred on the third day after his crucifixion around AD 33.”
In fact, it might be said that Christianity stands or falls based on whether or not the resurrection of Jesus actually occurred.
The “evidence” is sketchy.
Jesus isn’t credited with writing anything himself and there are no contemporary accounts of his life or death. The earliest texts mentioning him come from “Paul the Apostle.” Paul never met Jesus, and Paul’s first writings are dated roughly 15-20 years after Jesus’ supposed death (and Paul doesn’t reveal any knowledge of Jesus’ birth, or much of his life or his ministry, so he isn’t a good source for an historical Jesus).
Paul relays stories of people who he says Jesus appeared to after his death and ends this list with himself (1 Corinthians 15). It is certainly unclear if he is describing some kind of “spiritual vision” or an actual bodily resurrection since he includes his experience on equal footing with the other appearances (and his experience seems to have been of the former type).
The four so-called “Gospels”–which are supposed to be the primary accounts of Jesus life, death, and resurrection–were written even later, decades after the fact (and none of those were written by actual eye-witnesses). [We can include the “Acts of the Apostles” here as well.]
We do not have the original copies of any of these texts. The earliest sufficiently complete copies we have come hundreds of years after the supposed events. They are fragmentary and are copies of earlier copies, which are themselves copies of earlier copies, and so on, to an unknown degree removed from the originals. Comparisons of the various copies that we do have indicate variations between them and indicate that copying errors occurred.
The sudden appearance of new sections of text in later copies (text that doesn’t appear in any earlier copies) suggest that some things were added later and were most likely not contained in the original versions. This opens up the possibility that additions were made before the earliest copies available to us as well.
Even the originals, from which the flawed copies are derived, were written years and/or decades after the supposed events took place. None of them were written by actual eye-witnesses, so they are second-hand accounts at best. They are actually even further removed from the supposed events than that, either based on prior writings that are lost to us and/or oral traditions that were passed down over time. [The reliability of stories passed down orally should be is suspect to anyone who has ever played the game “Telephone.”] Additionally, the original authorship of the various texts is entirely unknown (except for some of the ones said to be written by Paul).
The various texts that we are left with are in conflict with one another in many details regarding the events that supposedly took place. They are also in conflict with what we know about the history, culture, and traditions of that time, place, and people.
They include accounts that are suspiciously similar to other earlier stories that were told about other god-men that we now consider mythological, and these accounts claim various extraordinary and supernatural events taking place that most of us would consider wild, outrageous, and unbelievable were they to be told about something happening in today’s world with no more evidence than what we have here.
Even if we assume that Jesus existed and that the whole story wasn’t an invention, distortion, or in any way embellished, that the written translations were more or less uncorrupted and somewhat accurate translations from the original texts, and that the original texts were based on accurate reports of more or less uncorrupted and somewhat accurate oral accounts given in good faith by actual eye-witnesses (which is quite a lot to assume), there is still the possibility that the witnesses were mistaken or deceived.
So we have flawed translations of conflicting reports by biased and/or anonymous authors who were relaying hand-me-down hearsay-accounts of wild, extraordinary, and supernatural events given by unsophisticated witnesses, who were possibly duped, mistaken, or lying (if the authors themselves weren’t fabricating or embellishing, which appears likely), and that are suspiciously similar to earlier stories circulating at the time which we now consider unbelievable mythology.
This kind of “evidence” would be laughed out of any court of law today.
It is certainly not much to base your life on.
Occum’s Razor and common sense suggest that there are any number of other more rational/natural explanations for these accounts of supposed events than the one Christians believe.
I think it unlikely that most Christians would even believe it, if they were presented with this evidence for the first time as adults and not brought up to believe it as children when they were most impressionable.
Regardless, as Carl Sagan said, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
In this case, we have some very extraordinary claims which lack even the minimal requirements for evidence of even ordinary claims.
While I’ll not get into the conflicting resurrection story details found in the various Gospels, I’d just like to review how the resurrection myth developed over time in the Gospels themselves….
In Mark (the oldest gospel), you have an empty tomb and a young man in a white robe to tell what has happened, saying Jesus would be seen in Galilee. In Matthew there is an earthquake and the young man has turned into an angel blazing like lightning, flying down from above to zap a couple of guards and roll away the stone to the tomb with one hand, then saying Jesus would be seen in Galilee (but instead, he shows on up right away and repeats what the angel said). In Luke, the one boy is now two men in dazzling raiment, but rather than Galilee, the place to see the visions has become Jerusalem. Then some more time goes by and we get to the story of John (the last gospel) where the boy in Mark has become two angels!! and Jerusalem is again the place to see visions.
Also, as the myth grows, we see Jesus go to more and more trouble to prove that he has a physical body. In Mark, he isn’t there. In Matthew, they grab at his feet. In Luke, he asks his disciples to touch him and eats some fish. In John, he shows his wounds, breathes on people, and lets Thomas put his fingers into the wounds themselves.
It is as if the authors have more and more they want to try to prove about the resurrection, so they keep adding more details and taking it further and further.
Now it has been taken so far that it has become The Greatest Lie Ever Told.
Some of my favorite humorous parts of the Bible are the fabrications “Matthew” spreads regarding the aftermath of the resurrection…
“And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent. The graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” – Matthew 27:51-53
Matthew is the only one to report any of this. None of the other Gospel writers mention it, and there is no extra-Biblical support for it (as you would imagine there should be for such an extraordinary event).
One of the funniest commentaries about this I’ve ever read is from Thomas Paine in his “Age of Reason.” He sounds almost like Mark Twain here….
“It is an easy thing to tell a lie, but it is difficult to support the lie after it is told. The writer of the book of Matthew should have told us who the saints were that came to life again, and went into the city, and what became of them afterward, and who it was that saw them — for he is not hardy enough to say he saw them himself; whether they came out naked, and all in natural buff, he-saints and she-saints; or whether they came full dressed, and where they got their dresses; whether they went to their former habitations, and reclaimed their wives, their husbands, and their property, and how they were received; whether they entered ejectments for the recovery of their possessions, or brought actions of criminal conduct against the rival interlopers; whether they remained on earth, and followed their former occupation of preaching or working; or whether they died again, or went back to their graves alive, and buried themselves.”
The BBC recently released the results of a survey they had commissioned with the research consultancy ComRes.
Here are some of the results…
• Half of the people surveyed didn’t believe in Jesus’ resurrection (including a quarter of people who described themselves as Christian)
• There was an equal split among those who say they believe in a life after death (e.g. reincarnation, heaven, hell) and those who do not (at 46% each).
More from the survey can be found HERE.
Tables from the survey HERE.
Another recent study from the Pew Research Center says that “For years, the percentage of Americans who do not identify with any religion has been rising, a trend similar to what has been happening in much of Europe (including the United Kingdom). Despite this, in coming decades, the global share of religiously unaffiliated people is actually expected to fall, according to Pew Research Center’s new study on the future of world religions.”
The main reason given is that “This relative decline is largely attributable to the fact that religious ‘nones’ are, on average, older and have fewer children than people who are affiliated with a religion. In 2015, for instance, the median age of people who belong to any of the world’s religions was 29, compared with 36 among the unaffiliated. And between 2010 and 2015, adherents of religions are estimated to have given birth to an average of 2.45 children per woman, compared with an average of 1.65 children among the unaffiliated.”
In other words, the religious are outbreeding the nonreligious.
I’d like to suggest that the religious have always been outbreeding the nonreligious and the only way the percentage of those who do not identify with any religion has been rising recently in spite of that is because of the internet.
As I’ve said previously, “if you look back on the rise of the nonreligious, it seems to coincide with the rise of the internet,” and “for the first time in the history of humanity, religion will have to fight it out in the marketplace of ideas like it’s never had to do before.”
I guess only time will tell which way it will go.
A report of the study is HERE.
The study is HERE.
What kind of proof could there ever possibly be for atheists for an omni-max Supreme Being as imagined by believers?
Arthur C. Clarke once proposed that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Suppose a more advanced civilization wanted to fool us into thinking “the” omni-max Supreme Being God was making itself known to us? How would be able to tell the difference? In order for us to really “know,” if it was some all-knowing being or not, wouldn’t we have to be all-knowing ourselves? Even if it was able to prove it had supernatural abilities (or was supernatural itself) somehow, it would always be possible that there were a whole host of other supernatural beings that were superior.
How could any being ever really ever know if it knew everything? How could any being ever really know for certain it was all-knowing? How could it ever know that there was nothing beyond its own knowledge? How does one know what one might not be aware of? So, even if some being thought it could be the all-knowing omni-max Supreme Being, how could it ever know it was for sure? It might be that as far as it could tell it was, but it could never really know for certain. And if that’s the case (and EVEN IF IT’S NOT), how could any human (who is clearly not all-knowing) think that they know something else is? In other words, wouldn’t you have to be all-knowing yourself in order to know if something else was?
Let’s assume there is some Supreme Being God for argument’s sake. Why should be necessarily worship it? Maybe it’s “evil” as far as we can tell, or maybe it doesn’t have our best interests at heart. Just because it might have made us, does it necessarily follow that we should worship or love it? Shouldn’t it still have to gain our trust or give us good reason to have some affection for it? If it seems to be against us and our future advancement, shouldn’t we contest it? It seems to me that as far as we’re concerned, we are what matters, and if there is some being who has other interests that we must be sacrificed for, it needs to sell us on the importance of that sacrifice, or that being’s interests should be disregarded, and an effort should be made for our own interests instead.