Jim Stokley, A Response to a Skeptic

Update: I really do not want this post to become a central topic surrounding the death of Jim Stokley. Jim was an important part of this city, and I hope that we can see him for that. Here is a great article printed in the Observer about Jim and his love for his family and the kind of person he was.

Update: Since writing this the Sarnia Skeptic has taken down his post (which is sort of ridiculous). This is the problem with anonymous identity on the Internet. There is no responsibility for your actions. You can say what you want with no backlash for the type of person you are. So I’m taking the liberty of quoting his entire post here which I conveniently found cached in Google. So you can read his post and then read my response.

There Is No God
Well, for those who know me, I lost one of my best friends yesterday. Jim Stokley – at 50 – organizer of the world-class Bayfest festival in Sarnia, died on June 5, 2009.

For those that knew the real Jim know that he did what was right for the right reasons – he didn’t do it for a reward in an afterlife – he did it because it was the right thing to do. He touched and enhanced the lives of hundreds – no – thousands of people and, possibly, no one more than my wife and I.

Jim’s loss is proof enough that there is no God. Any God willing to take the life of a devoted husband and father of two young children who did nothing but for the betterment of our community and others is a God hardly worth worshipping.

No matter how you wanted to coat it, Jim always wanted the truth. He also gave nothing but the truth, as far as he could be sure, to anyone who asked. In doing so, he has provided priceless advice and support to countless business persons and individuals in our community and abroad. He is a man unlike most – a man of virtues and values, a man of caring and compassion and – especially unlike most others – couldn’t care less about being recognized for it. He has donated hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars in his lifetime – most of it anonymously – for no personal promotion or public recognition – he did it because he could and because it was the right thing to do. Jim had a heart of gold and cared more than anyone will know.

I love you Jim and I will miss you. You are more alive to us today than a God ever has been and we look forward to keeping your name, mission and goals alive. We will help and support your family and we will do, as you would, whatever is necessary to keep alive the hopes and dreams of others.

If God existed today, I’d crucify him myself for such a horrid act towards one of the greatest people who has ever lived.

The Sarnia Skeptic wrote the post above about Jim Stokley, a Sarnia businessman who has made quite a dent in the city over the past number of years and who has recently passed away. He disabled his comments, so I decided to write my comment on my site instead.

Dear Sarnia Skeptic.

I lament the loss of Jim Stokely, he did some great things in Sarnia, and while I didn’t know him that well personally besides a few transactions, I respected him as a business guy and a local Sarnia man. I remember him giving us a good deal on the Industry one night because he really appreciated some of the stuff that went on at Temple when I was involved in their day camp setup because his kids attended there. It sucks he is gone, and Sarnia will have a hole without him here.

With that being said, I find it odd that you would take such a personal situation and turn it into more “proof” for the non-existence of God. It seems after reading your blog for the past little while that it is mostly full of the same attitude, certitude and “religion” that I tend to stray away from within my own faith circles. I’m annoyed when someone doesn’t care to meet someone and they would rather just hit them on the side of the head with a few phrases (via bumper sticker, or faith tracks, and now blogs) about what they believe. It never sat right with me to take a eulogy at someone’s funeral and turn it into a turn or burn sentiment for the Christian faith. It frustrates me when someone forgets about the person and makes them into a token example for some proof of something they’ve been saying all along.

Christians do that shit all the time and for a long time I thought it was just Christians. Then I realized that it’s not just Christians, but its humans. For some reason we tend to take things that are just meant to be mysterious (ie. death) and turn it into a formula as to why or why not God does or does not exist or act a specific way. You unfortunately don’t sit any more right with me than the right winged, evangelical, turn or burn Christians that you and I despise so much. Your approach seems to come from a place of bitterness and resentment, not a place of love. Call it what you will, it appears that your blog is similar to all the things inside the church that bothers me, but instead of it being wrapped with the Jesus brand, it is wrapped with your Atheist one.

Please don’t turn the death of one human into (anti)religious propaganda. Mourn a death, don’t use it as a pedestal to spout of more of the same stuff that you’ve been saying all along. Stokley dying is no more proof God doesn’t exist than when Mother Theresa died, or when you will die someday.

9 thoughts on “Jim Stokley, A Response to a Skeptic”

  1. Thank you! This is truly one of the greatest things I’ve ever read. This person is no better than the people he despises. His argument is a total non-sequitur.

    Besides, there are WAY better “proofs” out there!

  2. I may as well post my original comment to his post that got deleted. Here it is.

    So by denying God’s existence by using the logic “any God willing to take the life of a devoted husband and father of two young children…is a God hardly worth worshiping”, you seem to be just expressing your anger with a non-existent God? And really, your post seems to be focused more around the existence of a non-existent God than Jim Stokely himself (the only connection being made that Jim’s motivation to do good wasn’t for benefit in the afterlife). That’s counter clockwise circular logic man…it’s lame. Why all the focus on God if you don’t believe that a God actually exists? Why give someone the credit that you don’t believe exists? Besides, the “God” that you are focusing on is a pretty archaic model when compared to the more “post-modern”, “neo-pagan” view of God anyway. At least the one that I think about has nothing to do with life or death and doesn’t “take the life” of those who disobey God or separate soul’s after the bodies die. (*insert tongue firmly in cheek*) Oh wait, but I still believe in some sort of a God figure…how does that work? I thought there was only two sides of the fence here. (de-insert tongue in cheek)

    You say “If God existed today, I’d crucify him myself for such a horrid act towards one of the greatest people who has ever lived.” You can’t crucify someone that doesn’t exist, so why acknowledge it for any other reason than to attempt to persuade those who are already persuaded and turn off those who are already turned off. These traits that you prescribe to God (killing someone because they’ve done wrong); aren’t those the exact same traits you’re exhibiting by threatening to crucify God for “such a horrid act”.

    It’s the old philisophical idea that if you simply focus on what or who you don’t want to be or believe in, you end up being, believing in, or giving power over you to that idea.

    Start becoming a real skeptic man and questioning the things that people DON’T usually question. If you want to piss people off, there are a lot more creative ways to do it than blogging a eulogy.


  3. Let me respond to the absurdity here.

    I will, first, admit that I should never have posted anything on my blog about Jim’s death. It was not the right place for it and I removed it.

    The problem of suffering is often the reason that many people lose their faith – Bart Ehrman’s book “God’s Problem” is a great book to read on that issue.

    Jim’s faith and feelings are irrelevant and though our loss is an example of a “problem” for a god, it should never have been posted on my blog.

    The posting was at a time of great pain for myself and my family – we lost an amazing friend. I’m not angry at god – it is impossible to be angry at something that doesn’t exist. The loss of Jim has had no effect on my feelings towards sky fairies, invisible pink unicorns, flying spaghetti monsters or other beings that don’t exist.

    (As for Mother Teresa – Jim was far more saintly – see “The Missionary Position)

  4. There is no god.

    I found nothing wrong with the Sarnia Skeptic’s post. It demonstrated the pain that was being felt.

    Us atheists and non-believers are hit harder by death because we know for sure that this is the only one life we have to live and there is nothing after this life. The loss is forever.

  5. Thanks for the clarification Skeptic.

    You are right the problem of suffering is a major one within any religion. The problem I find though is that it is easy to chalk all bad things up to God not existing at all. You will never see the same people chalk up all good things that happen to the existence of God.

    I never wanted to turn this into another platform for a debate on God’s existence, and I hope that you posting, or me posting does not take away from the grieving that needs to happen. I’ll be praying for the Stokley family, and you and your family throughout this (though that means very little for you) but please know that our thoughts and love are here during this hard time.

    Maybe we can continue this debate when you have had some time and move it into a forum that is more suitable for this, and not stealing the thunder that should be about Jim right now.

  6. Jim was a great man from all aspects. I know him and Michelle from Bayfest. Too bad there aren’t more like him. My heart goes out to Michelle and the 2 young children who have to go on without him.
    No matter what any of us believe or don’t believe as far as religion is concerned, I respectfully believe that arguing about religion/atheism does not give justice to Jim’s life, death, or legacy. No matter what any of us believes or doesn’t believe, the one thing we all seem to agree on is that Jim was a charitable, caring man who had a positive impact on our community, and that’s what we should focus on right now. Arguing religion does no justice to Jim, and takes the focus away on what’s important – celebrating Jim’s life, and mourning his death.

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