Category Archives: SKEPTICISM

Atheist Meme of the Day: What would convince you you’re mistaken?

(Kind of behind and need to catch up –this may be Atheist Meme of the Half Day for a couple days.) 🙂

If religious believers can’t say what evidence would change their minds — if nothing could possibly persuade them that their religion was mistaken — then it’s unfair for them to accuse atheists of being close-minded and unwilling to consider other possibilities. Especially since most atheists *can* answer that question. Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across.

Atheist Meme of the Day: Good ideas should welcome criticism

If an idea is good, it should be able to withstand questions and criticism, and should even welcome them. And that’s just as true of religion as anything else. When believers passionately insist that religion should be above criticism, it doesn’t make the God hypothesis look stronger — it makes it look weaker. Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across.

The road to hell is paved with schadenfreude.

last judgement
Are you a Christian? If so, do you believe in hell? Why or why not? Take a moment to think about why you do or not and how you came to that belief.

Wait, I’m not sure you did take a minute to pause and think about it. Go ahead, I’ll wait for you.

OK, if you do believe in hell, go ahead and skip right to the link below. If you are a Christian but don’t, take a second to realize that you’re in a minority both now and most certainly in 2,000 years of Christian belief. You’re like a Democrat who thinks Reagan had it right, or a Republican who believes in socialized healthcare for everyone. Keep in mind that most of your fellow Christians do believe in a literal hell, then read the page linked below:

Do Christians realize they will see people burning in hell from heaven?

Finished? If so, that’s all I really wanted from you is to read that and think about it a little bit. You’re free to go. 🙂

However, I do, of course, have some of my own thoughts on the subject if you’re interested….

First, to the believers in hell: How do you justify its existance? Yeah, it’s in the Bible so it must be true, yeah yeah, end of story. But the Bible says a great deal of things, most of which you likely ignore–so why hang on to hell in context of a god that’s all-loving and mercy and just?

Well…unless you’re one of those like Pastor Fred Phelps and his followers who revel in the belief that God is hate and hates the world, then I guess your belief in hell is internally consistant. Uhm, you can go now.

But back to you loving-god/hell-believing Christians, how does this make sense?

– God creates humans to be capable of sin.

– God allows sin to take place.

– God sets up a place of eternal horrific torment, a punishment literally eternally unequal to the crime, that’s the default destination for the souls of theses flawed creatures he created (creatures who didn’t ask to be created, much less in a “world of sin”).

– To avoid this far excessive default punishment, you have to believe the creature who set this situation up loves you and you love him.

Now, please explain to me how this is not extortion at best, and sadistic cruelty about a million miles away from “loving, just, and merciful”.

Also, please explain why it took this god 4,000+ years before he decided to actually let anyone know about hell, before he decided to suddenly spring it on humanity. (To understand what I mean, keep reading.)

Alright, non-hell-believing-Christians, thanks for waiting. So, why do you believe in this Jesus of the Bible fellow, but buck the whole entire theological reason for him to even exist at all? That is, to be the substitutional sacrifice whose spilled blood pleases God enough to let his sucky weekend be the exchange for your eternity in torment?

Well, you’re in the minority, but your numbers are quickly growing. The reason, I suspect, is because after 2,000 years of simply accepting the paradox of a loving god who casts his “children” into fire, Western humanity is finally realizing that’s seriously effed-up! To use the whole “father” metaphor Christians love, the whole concept of hell is like a father who has a child who keeps getting into the cookie jar no matter how often dad says “no”. So, dad one day gets tired of it and hands his daughter over to a band of thugs he knows of, fully knowing that they’ll rape her and beat her and torture her and leave her broken body in a shallow grave on the side of the road.

Those of you Christians who don’t believe in hell probably never conciously thought of it like that, but subconciously knew it. An all-knowing, all-powerful overgod who created literally everything and is responsible for judging souls and what happens to them, can’t possibly have a hell and still be the god of love, justice, charity, mercy, etc. Good for you!

But you’re not off the hook.

You use this Bible as your source for guidance in what this god wants, his will and instruction, you pull verses from it to prove god is love, in fact–you’d have absolutely no knowledge of the god of Abraham and his self/son Jesus without this book. However, the book very plainly describes the existance of hell.

Now, the current popular non-paradise afterlife belief is obliteration, and there are a handful of Bible quotes that seem to support that. Here is a list of passages which can be used to justify both hell and obliteration:

Is There A Hell?

Well, what do you think? Let’s forget for a second that the Bible is filled with self-contradictory passages, the hell passages seem pretty specific and straight-forward while the obliteration ones sound euphemistic for the fate the left column describes. If the Bible is to be believed en toto, to reconcile these two columns, it makes a lot more sense that the right-side is the more general and metaphorical side while the left is more literal–doesn’t make much sense the other way ’round.

Remember the story in the BE-Attitude link of Jesus talking about Lazarus and Abraham, and the torment and inability to cross the chasm. An oddly specific and detailed story to be a parable about paradise versus just dying.

But, I can see another reason why believing in hell is tough to deal with (as if a loving god tormenting you for eternity for the crime of his creating you flawed and prone to sin in the first place isn’t enough). There’s no precedent for it in Judaism. You know, that cultural religion that Jesus belonged to, is responsible for the Old Testament including the Commandments and supposed prophesies of Jesus, and tells of God’s Chosen People and their search for/bloody taking of God’s Promised Land? According to Judaism, there’s no hell. You get whatever blessings or curses due to you in this life, and applied to your decendents, not in any afterlife.

Now, this seems like a rather big thing to just kinda forget to tell your Chosen People about. Did God forget, or did Moses or the prophets forget to relay the message? Was God dictating The Laws to Moses and they get skipped?

“…but if the victim of rape is a virgin, then the rapist may pay her father her cost and she then must marry her rapist. Also, if a non-virgin is raped in town but no one heard her cries, she must be stoned to death along with the rapist. Oh, before I continue to give you My Laws, Moses, I need to tell you about this little thing where when you die, my mercy ends and I send you to eternal torment…for eternity. To be tormented. I dunno, some people might consider that a big deal, I guess. But it’s OK, in four thousand years I’ll send myself through a virgin to have a really sucky weekend before I return back to heaven as if nothing happened, and that will give you all a chance to avoid my, I mean, the hell. Somehow. Yeah, I don’t know exactly how that’s supposed to work either–I’m just hoping no one questions it too much.
OK, where was I…. Oh yeah, shrimp and the gay buttseks–both are abominations….”

Yeah, based on the blood-soaked attrocities, genocide, laws, cruelty and capreciousness of OT Yahweh, I could see hell as being perfectly in line with this god’s modus operendi. But, it’s a concept foriegn to His Chosen People until a small group of cult-like believers of this Jesus fellow started writing about eternal damnation and paradise.

But I guess some people even today get off on the idea that they get to be up in paradise while the people who didn’t believe in god in the same way as them get eternally tormented. To them, paradise is that much moreso knowing that.

But what about those of you who believe in hell but find it absolutely cruel and terrible? Think heaven will be heaven knowing most of the humans that ever lived, including many friends and family, have been cast away and sent to the eternal flames? Or do you hope and pray that once you’re up there, you’re knowledge of this is blissfully removed like a lobotomy?

The cold truth of global warming.

Frozen Trees by Andrea L. Etzel

Over the couple frigid weeks I’ve seen more than a few comments on the Intertubes mocking “global warming” because of the unusually cold weather. A few on Facebook, some on Twitter, a few blogs, and even a Web comic I follow made a snarky global warming mock.

If the mockery is meant as an ironic joke, I tee-hee right along with it. 🙂 But I suspect that most, if not maybe all, of the comments I’ve seen have been meant as a sincere dig at the idea of global warming. (Interestingly, nearly every one has been by someone who appears to hold a “conservative” worldview. I have suspicions why, but for this post I’m only going to focus on science, not socio-politics.) And, naturally, when you have a concept called “global warming” and yet you’re in weather that freezes skin within minutes, it’s only natural to play with the apparent contradiction. But I think it’s important to understand why this is not a contradiction at all.

The most important thing to remember, (whether it’s in this case or other topics that involve complex trends, theories, or processes), is to not confuse a data point with the trend. That is: the particular weather in a particular area on a particular day, with the overall average climate for the entire planet over the course of decades. See the huge difference in these two things? The weather for, say, southwest Missouri, or even the entire middle America, for two weeks in 2010 is just one tiny data point in a trend for an entire planet over the course of 100 years. An extremely cold patch of weather does not disprove the concept of “global warming” (which is a subset of “global climate change”) any more than a very hot patch proves global warming! An unusually hot summer is also just a data point in the trend and should not be examined independently when a much larger trend is being investigated.

Another thing to note is that “global warming” is, while not exactly a misnomer as the globe is warming on average, misunderstood. As the globe warms up, glaciers and ice caps significantly melt, that actually cools down some areas of the ocean and changes the salinity and significant weather-affecting ocean currents. This can have an ironic result of colder averages for some areas. But more importantly, as average global temps increase, this causes more atmospheric humidity which has an effect of (and this is very important) colder and harsher winters in some areas (including ice storms in the U.S. Ozarks regions), stronger and longer storm periods (like tornado season in the U.S. Ozarks regions), and longer and stronger hurricanes on average. It’s easy to just focus on the term “global warming” and not realize that the implications of the concept are more complex and even counter-intuitive.

Some material to consider:

http://www.skeptic.com/the_magazine/featured_articles/v14n01_human_induced_climate_change.html

(…Note especially the last paragraph.)

http://www.skepticalscience.com/How-do-we-know-global-warming-is-still-happening.html

http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science_and_impacts/science/global-warming-faq.html

Those are a little technical, these kind of simplify it down a bit and discuss the impact:

http://www.climatecentral.org/library/faqs/how_do_we_know_it_is_not_a_natural_cycle

http://m.discovermagazine.com/2009/jun/30-state-of-the-climate-and-science

I hope this helps somewhat in understanding what is meant by “global warming.” This is a perfect example of the metaphor “missing the forest for the trees.” Sometimes it’s hard to understand “the forest” when your experience is based on encountering single tree after single tree.

Keep on questioning!

Brian of skeptoid.com recently posted a listener mail response episode. He makes good points, and you don’t have to have read/listened to his past episodes to get something out of this one:

http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4169

The best part of the whole thing, though, is at the end when he summarizes thus:

“That’s what I think is the biggest tragedy of those who accept the supernatural: They’re missing out on the wonder of science. When you look at a 30-ton block of coral and conclude that magic must be the only way a single small man could have moved it, you have stopped trying to learn, and you miss out on a truly delightful and creative application of mechanics.

When you dismiss medical science because of its imperfections and turn instead to magic-based therapies, you abandon any meaningful understanding of how your own body actually works.

When you settle on a conspiracy theory as the explanation for what happens in world news, you effectively stop searching for other sources, and you miss out on the real causes and motivations that drive what happens in politics and economics.

The answer is to be more skeptical, and to require a higher standard for what you believe. Keep on thinking, keep on questioning….”

Biblical literacy.

rabbiHuh, evidently this is my 1001st blog post. And to think when I first started this I thought I’d putter a few posts out and find no use for blogging. Guess my desire to “hear my own voice” is strong. 🙂

So, a couple of online articles have colluded to make me comment on the subject of Bible literacy:

The first article discusses how the oldest known collection of books of the Bible, once part of a single collection which has since been pieced and parsed here and there, are coming back together as an online collection. What’s interesting about this is that it points up something most Christians don’t realize: There is no “original Bible.” This earliest collection was compiled 400 years after the last of the known gospels were written. Think about how long ago 400 years ago is from today…1600 AD. The Renaissance, more or less. From then to now is about the same amount of time that passed between the events depicted in the New Testament were supposed to happen and when the various and sundry stories were collected into one book.

Well, I’m fudging a little: It was about 350 years after the events that the more powerful and connected Christian leaders, who fought tooth and nail to eliminate many many of the less politically powerful Christian sects (like the Gnostics), got together under order of Emperor Constantine and decided what books, gospels, and epistles were to become “official” religious canon…because Constantine didn’t like all this bickering and fighting among the diverse orders of the religion he recently became a part of. Even by that time, 300+ years after Christ, the existing gospels and Pauline letters were copies of copies and passed around as individual documents. There is no original Bible, and more important, there is no original of any single document which makes up any of the Biblical books.

Not only that, but this article also discusses a topic very troubling to most Christians but is old hat to any Biblical scholar: The various gospels and letters have been changed and edited over time, so that what we have now in most Protestant and Catholic Bibles is not what was is depicted in Bibles 800 years ago and even more so what existed 1600+ years ago! One of the big examples is the ending to the Gospel of Mark (which is the earliest written gospel, on which Luke and Matthew are heavily based and even copied from). In the earliest known copy of that story, it ends with the women running away from what they encounter at the tomb and the Gospel saying they told no one of what they saw. Some decades later, a coda was added to make it fit more in line with some of the later “official” gospels like Luke.

Then, in that second article linked above, “Why a Real ‘Year of the Bible’ Would Horrify Its Sponsors,” we read a bit about how Christians today really have little idea what’s in this “Word of God” they revere:

A 2000 survey showed that even 60 percent of those chapter-and-verse-quoting Evangelicals thought Jesus was born in Jerusalem rather than Bethlehem. Similarly, a 2004 survey of high school students found that 17 percent thought “the road to Damascus” was where Jesus was crucified and 22 percent thought Moses was either one of Jesus’ 12 apostles or an Egyptian pharaoh or an angel.

When I was a kid and a teen, growing up Christian, I was encouraged to read and study certain very important verses. Sunday School, church camp, I encountered the same usual verses over and over, and invariably they were the verses involving God loving the world, Jesus is the one and only way, etc. Interestingly, I never encountered passages like these:

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.
Matthew 10:34-36 (RSV)

Or Matthew 12:46-50 in which Jesus ignores and refuses to recognize his own family. Or Matthew 5:18-19 and Luke 16:17 where Jesus tells his followers the old Law of Moses is the Word of God and none must break them. Which makes things awfully awkward for Christians who want to claim we don’t need to kill the married victims of rape (Deuteronomy 22:23-24), nor sell our virgin daughters to their rapists (Deuteronomy 22:28-29), nor sell daughters into sex slavery (Exodus 21:7-11), nor eat shrimp because they’re an “abomination” (Leviticus 11:9-12), nor kill our children if they disobey (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). Just to name a few of the hundreds of fun rules and laws God gave Moses and his other prophets.

See, I was like most Christians who only knew the John 3:16-type stuff of the Bible, until I was 17 or 18 and decided if I was going to be a good Christian, maybe even become an apologist or Biblical scholar, I should actually read the whole Bible. That’s when I read all about how God condones slavery and neither he nor Jesus (nor Paul for that matter) say a single word against owning people as property. In fact, women are property in the Bible from beginning to end, and owning slaves is fine for any good follower of Yahweh. I read how God sent bears to slaughter children who made fun of one of his prophet’s baldness (2 Kings 2:23-24) (not to mention the countless other instances in which God kills children en mass, such as the innocent first born of Egypt instead of giving Pharaoh a Paul-like Road to Damascus vision and change of heart), and the song of praise to God for killing children like this gem:

O daughter of Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall he be who requites you with what you have done to us! Happy shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!
Psalm 137:8-9 (RSV)

Praise be to the God of Love and Forgiveness.

The long way ’round to my point is this: Actually reading the Bible started me in realizing that the Bible is nothing more than a collection of myth and history (most of it fabricated) of an ancient patriarchal and superstitious Bronze Age people who were a nomadic offshoot of Babylonian culture. Followed by the stories (mostly copied from various older Near/Middle Eastern myths [see mainly Mithra, Horus, Dionysus and Krishna]) about an existence-questionable cult leader who believed the world would end within his followers’ lifetime (Mark 8:39 to 9:1, Mark 13:30-33, Matthew 16:28, Matthew 24:34, Luke 9:26-27).

And the history of the religion, why it’s survived this long instead of going the way of countless other religions that sprang up in that teeny-tiny patch of dirt, aka: God’s Promised Land, is because a Roman Emperor decided he wanted to add another religion to his collection of religious beliefs, of which he had many, and thus gave Christianity political protection. Followed by another Roman Emperor (Theodosius I) who spread it across Europe, foisted upon Europeans at the point of a spear. When you’re forced to convert or die, the religion will tend to take hold.

Back to the original topic: most Christians have not a clue what’s in the Bible. Like the fundamentalist Republican Representative who wanted the Ten Commandments displayed in Congress, most Christians can’t even name them. Well, of course the problem there is that in the Bible, as opposed to the mass produced porcelain replicas you find at Christian gift shops, there was actually two different sets of Commandments given to Moses–the pre- and post-broken tablets. Evidently God changed his mind about some stuff in between. Oh, and neither set were actually ten of then, but who’s counting. Most people who check the box marked “Christian” on forms do so simply because that’s how they were raised to answer the question, and have maybe been armed with a verse or two and some nice stories about an Ark, a manger, and a cross. Most Christians have no clue about the actual blood-soaked, misogynist, psychopathic, stone-age level of morality and ethics found in the book they believe to be the Word of God.

Read the whole thing sometime, cover to cover, including the “boring bits.” It is, after all, the very Word of God, is it not? At the very least divinely inspired by the all-creator. If you believe this to be true, then shouldn’t you actually have read it over and over again? It’s the most important document ever compiled, if it is truly God’s history and instruction book to all of humanity. I guess the first step is deciding which version of the compilation of ancient scrolls and letters is the true God-intended “official” one….

http://russellsteapot.com/comics/2007/free-will-and-frisbee.html

All roads could lead to Damascus.

Last week’s podcast/public TV show from Austin, The Atheist Experience, has a very interesting exchange with a caller to the program. (Interesting, for one reason, because he was very well-spoken and well-mannered and humble–unlike the show’s usual evangelical callers.) It’s show number 609 in the archives, and the call starts around 32 minutes in.

About 40 minutes into the show, they start talking about personal experience and revelation, and how revelation is inherently a personal experience and can not be transferable to other people. That is, one person’s experience is not proof that another person who has not had the same experience should believe them and take up their beliefs–especially the more extraordinary the experience. Test this: Pick any belief system you completely disagree with, whether it’s Islam, Wicca, fundamental Christianity, Hindu, whatever. Now imagine someone from that belief gave their testimony to you, very sincerely and emotionally, of their experience of communing with The Goddess, or Vishnu, or Krishna, or Mohammad, the Virgin Mary, etc. Would you just on the power of their telling of their personal experience, no matter how emotional and powerful it was for them, convince you to believe their religion? Didn’t think so.

That’s a little off the subject, but what the caller and the hosts began talking about was Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus and why he received a rare and unique vision to the exclusion of nearly everyone else in the world. The caller tried to offer that he thought it was because Paul was in a position to do the most good to spread Christianity at that time and place. But that raises the question: Why give that transcendent conversion experience to just Paul and not give it to everyone? Forget the middle-man, the books with contradictions and translation debates, the traveling prophets who’s stories are indistinguishable from mad ravings, and just make yourself known, truly known without question, to everyone.

The caller (you really should listen to the show; it’s quite good…but in case you don’t have that time, and I’d love to see some responses here…) suggested that perhaps God has a reason to stay distant, hidden for the most part, because the relationship he wants with us is more important than proving he really exists. That maybe removing that doubt would change or force the relationship.

Here’s where it starts to get good. (Go listen.) The host then suggests if you received a letter that said, “I love you; I want you to love me,” from someone you don’t know…would you love that person? To love and adore another requires that you know that other person. (He, and I agree, suggests that love and adoration also should be earned, not demanded.) You can’t even begin to have a relationship with someone if the other person doesn’t even know you exist. By revealing yourself to a handful (at the very best, currently 1.5 billion out of 6.5 billion–but how many of that 1.5B have actually “known” God and how many just check the box “Christian” on the census form?) you don’t put everyone on an equal ground, the same chance to know you. That’s at best shortsighted and thoughtless, and at worst a clear sign that “loving the world” is not a factor in this deity’s interests.

Just revealing one’s self, unambiguously, to the entire planet, would not force people to truly love you and have respect for and adoration for you any more than a thug who reveals himself from around your curtains and shows you he’s capable of killing you at his whim would elicit respect and adoration for him either. This God would still have to deal with people who honestly love him, those who only say they do to avoid the threat of hell, and those who feel that he’s unworthy of respect even though he’s shown to exist. (For example, it’s one thing for me to find out (a) God really exists–but if it was really Yahweh/El from the Old and New Testaments who existed who I found out really was real, there’s no way I’d worship and love that blood-thirsty, deceptive, callous, racist, sexist, amoral psychopath. The best he’d get out of me is the kind of “Yeah, OK, whatever you say, man–just don’t pull the trigger” you’d get if a deranged psycho had a gun to my head.)

Anyway, what is it for an all-powerful everything creator to give everyone a road to Damascus experience? At least that’d eliminate the grand majority of the world for the last 2,000-6,000 years from having died never having even heard of Jesus/Yahweh/Elohim/etc. and thus not even having the opportunity to have that relationship this God evidently so desperately wants–if you believe, say, Ray Comfort.

Update; and Did Jesus Abolish the Old Law?

So my iPhone is in the process of updating to the latest software, 3.0. It failed the first time because I’m doing it through a Windows XP install within a Linux virtualbox, and I wasn’t paying attention to the USB status. 🙁 So it had to restore and now I’m anticipating my application data will be lost (like my budget record). Oh well, I’ll soon have copy-n-paste and that’s a good thing. 🙂

So, now that it’s summer, I’ve still almost completely ignored this blog. But, I spend most of my social e-media time on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/liamrw) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/mechphisto), I don’t feel compelled to write articles on here even though I have tons of saved links and news items and others’ blog content I want to comment on. Darn you short attention span time wasters!!

Anyway, so, the iPhone is updating, I just finished re-planting some cilantro and Greek oregano into a new window-box planter…thought I’d at least get one interesting item I’d like to share out of the way today.

“vjack” over at Atheist Revolution has a recent post entitled: “Did Jesus Abolish the Old Testiment.” It starts with a question he received from one of his readers, that goes in part like this:

…why Christians cherry pick from the bible. I brought up stuff from the old testament, like women not being allowed to dress fancy in church. His response was, “That’s mosaic law and we are under a new law now.” I didn’t know how to respond to this. What would you say?

vjack’s response I think is incredibly reasoned and thought-provoking. Well, OK, not to me at this moment, I have to be honest. Because his response, which I agree with 100%, is a response I came up with on my own (and so do many many many former Christians) while I (1.) first read the Bible in its entirety around age 17 or 18, and (2.) once again a few years ago when I was working through those questions and issues that actually reading the Bible sparked so many years earlier.

It’s not a bad thing, and I mean no negative intent, when I say vjack’s response is not interesting to me…in fact, I mean it as both matter of fact and a complement. See…I was reminded of something this week as my wife and I watched Richard Dawkins’ “The Root of All Evil?“, and part way through we started discussing liberal/non-fundamentalist Christianity and the atheist response. And I gave answers and opinions and analysis which were kernels of understanding I came to on my own a few to several years ago, wrapped with wording and terms and nuance gained from other freethinkers I’ve since read who also deal with the same issues and questions. Then, when we continued to watch the documentary, my words were virtually echoed back to me by Dawkins.

Agnosticism and atheism have been on an upswing lately, people have started coming out and talking about it, and not being ashamed or afraid of being non-believers. It’s almost like a fad in appearance. But it’s not new by a long shot. Ancient Greeks wrote about doubt regarding the gods their contemporaries worshiped, including questions like: “Does [god] command what is moral because [he] decides what it morality; or does [he] do so because morality is absolute and [he’s] simply relaying the message? If the former, then morality is still relative…believers have simply shifted the responsibility up one level. If the later, then what is the need for [god] as a middle-man if morality is absolute and universal?” For example.

Then there’s Lucretius and Marcus Aurelius. And after that slews of freethinkers (at least, those not murdered by Christians during the Dark Ages), to Spinoza and Bertrand Russell, and now Hitchens and Dennett and John W. Loftus, who basically have been saying the same things for centuries regarding God(s), belief without evidence, religion. Because let’s face it: atheism is the final point of critical thinking for any person of any culture, any background, former religion or belief system. Any individual, anyone, can come to atheism on their own through thinking through the questions and thinking critically about the supposed answers. The reasons for non-belief don”t change through the ages (like religions constantly do in order to survive in changing and evolving cultures). Atheism doesn’t require any books, tomes, scrolls, or prophets. No figures of authority, no priests or rabbis. No spiritual revelation from any of the over 2,000 gods humans have created.

Religious belief requires revelation. For example: it is impossible for a person to become a Christian without coming into contact with the Bible or another Christian (who uses the Bible). A book that requires stores and libraries full of books to try to interpret it, explain it, rationalize the contradictions and inherent issues in order to bolster a person’s belief in it. Atheism only requires one’s working brain to come to the same conclusions freethinkers have been coming to for millennia.

And so, some years ago I would have found vjack’s response thoroughly interesting and informative. Now, it’s old hat. But, that’s a good thing. It continues to show that for 2000 years the same arguments hold up and continue to be inadequately answered by the believer.

That said, seriously, read vjack’s response. 🙂 It may be old hat to me, but it’s a good read! And, he has some fantastic links toward the end of his post to some resources which pose issues that demand response from the believer.

Also, some of the comments on vjack’s post are great as well. Some annoying or just plain worthless. But some, like this one, poignant and well-said:

The question is, why do you follow a different law? And, if you are supposed to follow a law that contradicts what is in the old testament, why even have the old testament in the first place? It is obvious that it simply creates confusion, so why not simply publish a version of the bible that is only the new testament and use that at church?

The reality is that no believer knows exactly what they are supposed to believe or follow, which is why they pray for guidance. Given that, if one has that kind of access to a deity, why would they need the bible in the first place? Couldn’t you just ask for guidance and go from there? Or, does this deity only answer some of the time, and how do you know when your god or gods is/are answering? You see, there are endless questions, none of which have answers that are going to (1) satisfy the skeptic, and (2) convince a believer otherwise. I guess the best that I hope for is that they begin to try to actually answer these questions honestly with themselves, which is how I became a skeptic in the first place. That eventually led me to atheism, although I realize that doesn’t happen with everyone.
(TDG)

Easter, deconstructed.

If you’re someone who believes in the holiness of Easter, you don’t want to read something that critiques the holiday this weekend–don’t; it’ll be a buzzkill. But, if you are interested in looking at the story of Easter with an open mind, interested in its reasons and rationale, and don’t mind looking at the story with a critical eye, come on back on Monday! It’ll still be here.

God's love

The issue of Salvation is arguably the most important aspect of the religion of Christianity–a cornerstone. The foundation, I would think. For, if the issue of the accuracy and validity of Salvation through Jesus is undermined, the very basis in belief in Christianity falls apart (from a religious standpoint. Nothing stopping someone from “believing” in Christianity from a philosophical standpoint…but why would you, when Christianity is rife with intolerance and cult-like attitudes and demands, and illogic? And I’m not just talking about Christianity today, but the very stuff printed in red in the NT).

It’s this issue of Salvation that really first made me question full-time and turned my corner from ultra-liberal Christian to Deist. (Like that’s incentive for the believer to keep reading!) My actual beginning of questioning started circa 1988 when I actually read the Bible for myself, but this issue of the logic of Salvation began somewhere around 2001-ish. And it went pretty much like this:

1. Why was it necessary for God to demand a blood-soaked human sacrifice to forgive sins? Can’t he just…forgive?

2. Wait. If Jesus is all man and all God, is God incarnate, then, he knew from the beginning the “sacrifice” was going to happen. And he had to have known, after all, he supposedly prophesised it, that he was going to rise a couple of days later and ascend into Heaven and return to the Godhead. So, technically, what did he sacrifice? What did he give up? He basically just gave up a weekend and indeed had a painful death. But, he got his life back anyway and returned to being God. Is that really a sacrifice?!

3. Who’s really responsible for sin anyway? I mean, did God not create humanity and all humanity was capable of? At the very least, isn’t God omniscient (all-knowing), so he had to have known before creation what was going to happen to humanity and the world–filled with perdition and death and destruction and “sin.” And since God’s the one with all the power and knowledge, isn’t it ultimately his responsibility for there being sin and evil in the world?
To let billions suffer cruelty, disease, cancer, for the mistake of one man is like if I had a young child, not even aware of the difference between right and wrong and so unable to understand that it’s “wrong” to disobey, did something I told him not to. So I punish him severely by…cutting off his arm. Then, decades later, he visits me with his family. I go up to his own granddaughter, and I cut off her arm. My excuse is it’s because her grandfather once disobeyed me. Would I be just and loving and merciful, worthy of worship?

4. Wait, I haven’t believed in Adam and Eve since I was a child. From whence did “evil” come from, then? If it is supposedly the work of a Satan or something, does that mean God’s not capable of thwarting him? Or is he not interested? Is the excuse “Well, humans made their choice, that’s free will,” really the excuse of an all-loving and merciful “father”? Is the command “You have free will, do as you want–but if you don’t do what I want, I’ll torture you forever” really a gift?! Is free will at gunpoint still free will? Would I be considered a “good, loving, just, merciful” person if I saw a rape-murder in progress, and I had the ability to stop it, but I did nothing, and my excuse was “Well, the rapist made his decision, it’s his free will”?

5. Same question, related to the innocents. Is it the work of a just and loving and merciful father to have every generation of human (not to mention animals) suffer this supposed evil that is another’s responsibility? If Adam was real, why is it just that children get raped by the parents that are supposed to protect them, why do millions die needlessly from starvation, why is there torture and insanity, because of the actions of one man and woman? Is that just and merciful and loving? And if it’s the work of an adversary that has infiltrated God’s Earth, isn’t it his responsibility to put a stop to an evil doer who’s causing great harm to his children?

6. If this is what we have to be saved from–how does that work exactly? How does God’s murder/suicide of Jesus actually change the rules about eternal punishment/reward that he set up in the first place? Why can’t God just change the rules? Heck, he’s God–we wouldn’t even have to know he changed them, he could just fill us with gratitude for the change and there’d be no need for a blood-lusted murder worshiping aspect to the religion, that doesn’t make sense.

7. (This one was my big kicker for my weakening belief…) And, so if Jesus is indeed the one and only way to Salvation, why would a loving and just God give that method such an incredibly inefficient and cruel method of transmittal. That is: All people are destined for eternal punishment (by God’s will). But to avoid that, you have to believe in Jesus. But the only way to know about Jesus is to have another human tell you about him. He was introduced to a handful of humans in a tiny speck of land in a planet that already had millions all over the world. And humans have to transmit the Good News by hand and mouth around the world, thus making sure that countless billions of people will live and die and presumably burn in hell because of the bad luck of being born in a time and place where a human didn’t reach them with a Bible. In fact, today, 2000 years later, there’s an estimated billion people alive who have not even heard of Jesus and will die having not. And this is the result of “For God so loved the world”?!

It would be like my having a big family, and I told one of my children, “When you all sleep, if you don’t wear a hat to bed, I’m going to kill you. All you children and grandchildren…everyone. But, I’m only telling my plan to you, and now you are responsible to go tell everyone else. Oh, by the way, I love you.”

At this point in my reasoning, which took a couple of years to really develop and for me to fully understand, I realized the God of Christianity simply did not exist. It’s impossible. Not to say maybe a god didn’t exist–I was still too much a believer…in something…to completely eschew the supernatural, but it was impossible for the God of the Bible as an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving and merciful creature to possibly exist. And this is where I got on my own, before I read any books on the subject, before I listened to podcasts, before I even knew the “new atheists” existed.

It was later, though, when I found out that everything about Jesus came from earlier myths from Egypt and the near and middle east. Everything, including every aspect of the nativity, and every aspect of the Easter story–all borrowed from existing myth. Look up Mithra and Osiris and Dionysus, just to name a few.

So, I end on this note from Lee Randolf’s blog post: As You Celebrate The Horror of Easter

– The principle that all of us have done things so egregious to warrant the death penalty is itself egregious. Name one thing that you have done that you should be put to death for.

(For the Facebook users: This is a post from my blog getting auto-noted to Facebook, which cuts off any images or videos in the transfer.)

A post of a response of a review of a debate on God and suffering.

Last blog for the night. It’s a long one, but, of course, worth it. 😉

John W. Loftus (studied under William Lane Craig [renown Christian apologist] and earned a Th.M. degree at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Author of Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity), had a debate with famous apologist David Wood. Bloging apologist Mary Jo Sharp criticized Loftus’ arguments in an article entitled: “Loftus-Wood Round Two: Another Failed Argument from Evil.”

So, Loftus has reviewed her criticisms and posted them on the site Debunking Christianity:

Loftus has written at length in his book, and in his articles on DC, on how suffering in the world undermines the existence of the Christian concept of God, makes him implausible at best. The above linked article en toto is very good, but below I’ve copied some of the best passages, ripped out of context and without permission. But, they’re arguments that really resonate with me and are the same criticisms I came up with myself years ago during my slow deconversion. They may make you think (if you daaarrre! Boooooo!) 😉

I also find it very odd that in order to exonerate God they must explain the lack of his revealed goodness due to an “epistemic distance,” otherwise known as divine hiddenness. I find no satisfactory understanding for why God created in the first place such that he wanted any creatures to love him. Theists ask if God is to be blamed for creating this world and for wanting people who freely love him. Yes, most definitely yes, until or unless she can tell me why a supposedly reasonable triune completely self-fulfilled God wanted this in the first place (“grace” is not an answer at all); why libertarian free-will is such an important value to God when compared to the sufferings that have resulted from this so-called gift; whether human beings actually have free-will if God created us with our specific DNA and placed us within a specific environment (an environment that actually obstructs many people from receiving the gospel because of the “accidents of birth”); why God suspends some people’s free choices (i.e. Pharaoh) but not others; why God even cares to have free-willed people who love him, knowing full well the consequences for the billions of people who wind up in hell (the collateral damage), and why God will allow sinners in hell to retain their freedom but take it away from the saints in heaven (and who subsequently completes the sanctification process for these saints without their own free choices doing it).


But even if Wood’s concocted view is correct, he has merely pushed back the problem of evil before the Fall of humankind. Why didn’t God allow Satan into his direct immediate presence to see all of his power and love such that Satan would neither desire to rebel against him or think he could succeed? Because of this divine decision every person who suffers in this world and every person who will suffer for all eternity (along with Satan himself) will do so because God failed to show Satan his love and power. Apologists say God did this to show us his glory and grace, but then that’s using people for his own ends. This is the ethic of consequentialism, again. Why does God hide his love from his creatures, for instance, knowing it would cause such intense suffering? This theodicy sounds much more like an excuse for what God should have done than it offers anything by way of a reasonable justification for a so-called perfectly good God.

Given the suffering that resulted from Satan’s supposed rebellion, why didn’t God simply deal with him and put him down immediately? That’s what a good and reasonable ruler would do. Listen, does a perfectly good God want a peaceable kingdom, or not? A good ruler would not allow such an evil in his kingdom in the first place. Evil like that is to be eliminated as soon as possible by a good ruler. Too many innocents would be hurt if he didn’t do this immediately.

Listen, the argument from evil is only as forceful as the suffering that exists in this present world. If there was no intense suffering the argument would lose most of its force. If there was no suffering at all then it would have no force at all. I have struggled in life, although I have not experienced any prolonged intense suffering. I’ve always had good health, with enough food and money and friends to get by. So if my kinds of struggles are good enough to test me then why couldn’t everyone’s struggles be no more than mine? Why do some suffer for years and years, and a few commit suicide because of their sufferings? Do they need this suffering whereas I don’t? Not everyone suffers the same. Some people are born with a silver spoon in their mouths while others struggle with financial woes and health issues and the loss of loved ones throughout their whole short lives. Why?

Here is but another example of how Christians count the hits and ignore the misses. They do this with prayer too. If a prayer is answered they count that as a hit. If it’s not, they ignore it. With regard to the universe and its form they simply ignore the vast amount of natural evil in it, as I mentioned earlier. One cannot look at this universe objectively and come away believing in the omni-God Sharp believes if she takes into consideration all of the evidence of unintelligent design. At best one should be agnostic about what the evidence can lead us to think. Even if one is to conclude some divine entity created a “quantum wave fluctuation” we don’t have an explanation for where this divine being came from, nor whether he still exists, nor whether he is good, or all-powerful. For her to believe in God she must believe in a historically conditioned interpretation of a selected group of ancient anonymous superstitious writings. And we certainly cannot verify the claims of miracles by the historical method, especially as outsiders looking in. Those beliefs of hers are to be described simply as bizzaro!

I think the more power a person has then the more of an ethical obligation he has to alleviate suffering. If, for instance, a woman is being gang raped, no one would fault me if I didn’t physically try to stop them, for then I would be beaten up and perhaps killed along with her (although I would be held morally responsible if I didn’t call the police). But if I was Superman and did nothing then everyone would rightly fault me if I didn’t stop them. So since God supposedly has all power he is the most obligated to alleviate suffering in our world. Without a suffient explanation for these things I argue that it’s probable such an omni-God doesn’t exist. Wood has not made his case.

Myths about atheism.

(First, sorry for the deluge of blog posts all at once. I haven’t had the chance to blog much with the new job, and when I get home I’m either working on school work or have no interest to be on the computer [wish I could say it’s because I otherwise have a life 🙂 ].)

Debunking Christianity has (re?)-posted an entry entitled:

I chose to title my blog about it after the myths about atheism because I believe, at the moment, that that’s more important than disproving a faith (even though the first section deals with atheist beliefs as well). I think McCormick does a very decent job in describing (in generalities of course) the outlook most atheists have and many people often misunderstand, or worse, intentionally contort.

Some of the myths addressed include:

  • You can’t prove atheism. You can never prove a negative, so atheism requires as much faith as religion.
  • Atheism is bleak, nihilistic, amoral, dehumanizing, or depressing.
  • Atheists and atheist political regimes have committed horrible crimes against humanity.

Again, he provides snippet answers to these myths, and often quotes Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith. It may seem suspect to quote mainly from one source…but not when you consider most all atheist writers (e.g.: Harris, Daniel Dennet, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, John W. Loftus) all pretty much say the same thing as what they say is the ultimate result of reason and critical thinking.

That last statement could be taken as snide and demeaning…I assure you, dear reader, that’s not the intent. To put it another way, atheism is what Loftus (I believe it was Loftus) says is “the conclusion of last resort.” Meaning: it doesn’t matter what religion or faith you start with, Christianity, Hindu, Jainism, Scientology, if you start questioning and examining with a truly skeptical and critical mind, you will end up at atheism. Everyone is born an atheist; you get taught and indoctrinated into the respective religion of your parents. One has to learn a religion always and only by being introduced to some revealed knowledge stored in a book or scroll.

But atheism does not require any texts: Anyone anywhere can reach atheism on their own by simply examining and questioning and following the questions where they lead without fear or prejudice.

2013: The year I prophesy to be…

…the year after nothing happens.

Hooray for CNN.com! Usually I tear my metaphorical hair (it’s the only hair I have left) at CNN.com for their almost consistently credulous “reporting” of “unexplained” events. UFO sightings, ghosts caught on film, angels, psychics to the CEOs….all met with not just an open mind but heads with brains that have fallen out. If in an entire article about crying statues or blurry ghosts walking around a gas station, there is any skepticism, it’s usually some token (partial) sentence like: “some say the oddly moving indistinct shape is a bug on the security camera’s lens, but most people around here, like Susie L., believe it’s an angel…Joe S. tells us ‘this used to be an Indian burial ground after all’….”

And then, some days ago, CNN.com posted an article on the whole 2012 brouhaha:

The article discusses the whole origin of why some people are freaking out over 2012, and then takes a skeptical look at why, and more importantly, why it’s ridiculous (my editorialization) and baseless. The article is cogent, succinct, interesting, grounded, and completely reasonable. I’m shocked and aghast! Pleasantly so.

For an even more in-depth examination of the 2012 scare-mongering, the various reasons why some Chicken Littles are claiming doomsday (by, among other things, retrofitting both complete pseudoscience and contorted real science to coincide around the end of the Mayan calendar), and a rational debunking of it with a lot more respect than I’m willing to give it–check out:

Most important 25 minutes of your day.

I just listened to the latest episode of Point of Inquiry:

At risk of being hyperbolic, it was by far one of the most interesting, important, vital interviews I have listened to.

In this interview with D.J. Grothe, Christopher Burns talks about the biology of the brain, the behavior of groups, and the structure of organizations and how each can lead to people making bad decisions. He discusses the paradox that in the age of information, it may be more difficult to make good decisions. He describes “false knowledge” and how to choose the right information to pay attention to.

The show is only about 25 minutes long (see the link “Download MP3” near the bottom of the site) and I would challenge everyone who reads this post to take the time to go listen to it. At least once, but I would suggest twice. Contrary to my usual behavior, I’m not going summarize or discuss what I think the implications are of what Burns has to say for risk of coloring how you may listen to the show. Seriously, go listen.

If you just ignore the bad stuff in Mein Kampf…

Title got your attention? I’ll explain in a moment.

A recent Debunking Christianity blog got my attention this week:

I’ll spoiler it for you by saying it’s a satirical piece. It portrays a fundamental preacher who turns away a child kidnapped and sold into sex slavery by telling her God has instructions for her to accept her role as a slave happily. The kicker: as anyone who has actually read the Bible knows, this is true. So, the satirical piece evoked some comments on Poe’s Law (which states: “Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won’t mistake for the real thing.“)

Both New and Old Testament has advice on how a slave should behave and how a slave owner should behave. The OT does indeed have instructions on how a father should sell his daughter into slavery should he be so inclined, and has God commanding his people to take on slaves from defeated enemies.

Here’s kicker number two: nowhere in the Bible is the concept of slavery denounced, nor does it indicate that God/Jesus’ position on slavery would eventually change. In fact, there are many passages that state straight-out that God’s Law never changes, his will is eternal, and his Word is changeless.This very argument is the reason why one of the most ardent opponents of abolition were God-fearin’ Christians.

That really only leaves two options for the believer: a) The Bible is the inerrant and inspired Word of God and we are actually as a culture and even as a species deviating from God’s Plan by considering slavery a terrible immorality; or b) Our morality is more just, merciful, righteous, and…moral, than God’s morality.

(Of course, this shouldn’t be a surprise, the Bible, including Jesus’ actions and words, are filled with God ordained and advocated horror including rape, murder, torture, suicide “bombings,” genocide, racism, bigotry against physical deformities, sexism, etc etc ad nauseum. Another recent DC post focuses on Jesus’ behavior as a mooching bum and advises his followers to also give up work and family and become mooching freeloaders. My recent favorites are Jesus’ family values, like where he states: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children,and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26, and when his family try to see him, he brushes them off and ignores them and basically disowns them in Luke 8:19-21. Funny how much Jesus is very much like your basic run-of-the-mill cult leader….)

Of course the liberal Christian would likely say that times change and culture changes and surely God knows this, if not guides it. But, as usual, the liberal Christian is making things up as they go along to justify their modern sensibilities as there’s nothing in God’s “Word” to directly justify this position. The fundamentalist would very likely select choice “a” and would be consistent within his own religion…although, I’m sure he’d also find some way to justify why we no longer condone slavery (and stoning rape victims and murdering family members for disobedience, etc) despite no Scriptural reason to do so.

Choice “b” is certainly the more reasonable, likely, and just plain obvious answer. The God of the Bible is a blood-thirsty psychopath and Jesus is a schizophrenic cult leader. It’s only proper and reasonable that we no longer accept most of the “moral” teachings of the Bible as ways to live our lives! But that always makes me wonder, why do people still elevate this blood-soaked, immoral, violent, sexist, mythological tome as worthy of veneration and honor and respect? It utterly baffles me. It’s exactly like saying, “You know, this Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler…sure it has some bad stuff in it about racism and bigotry, but I’m inspired by its words of courage and bravery and the nice things it has.” Seriously.

The Bible has no place in our society as a guide for morality or inspiration any more than Hitler’s tretise. The only reason people still bother to pick-and-choose to read the nicey-nice passages and turn a blind eye to the advocations of murder and severing all ties to family (at best!) and all the rest, is because of the pernicious belief that somehow some supernatural person ready to cast people he “loves” into eternal punishment wrote/inspired that book, so we need to keep venerating it, by God!…when we would actually get better moral teachings and a whole heck of a lot less instruction toward immoral behavior from say, The Lord of the Rings or something else equally fictional.

Problems with atonement theory, and that pesky free-will.

(I need to think of more things to post about that don’t require copying links and quotes.)

Debunking Christianity has a couple of good recent articles, one examining the atonement theory of Christianity (in light of the Chronicles of Narnia).

… Most liberal and many mainline Christians believe that Adam and Eve were mythical humans. That is, they didn’t exist as actual people. Without that belief, this atonement theory collapses….

(Last week I caught The Lion, Witch and Wardrobe on TV during one of the holiday visits and once again experienced Lewis’ trilemma, which I discuss in this post: Revisiting Narnia Was a Troublesome Trip, about halway through.)

And another Debunking Christianity post:

(Note that this post is written by a former evangelical, former minister educated by the preeminent Christian apologist William Lane Craig, John W. Loftus.)

… My friend asked if God is to be blamed for creating this world and for wanting people who freely love him. Yes, most definitely yes, until or unless he can tell me why a supposedly reasonable triune completely self-fulfilled God wanted this in the first place (“grace” is not an answer at all); why libertarian free-will is such an important value to God when compared to the sufferings that have resulted from this so-called gift; whether human beings actually have free-will if God created us with our specific DNA and placed us within a specific environment (an environment that actually obstructs many people from receiving the gospel because of the “accidents of birth”); why God suspends some people’s free choices (i.e. Pharaoh) but not others; why God even cares to have free-willed people who love him, knowing full well the consequences for the billions of people who wind up in hell (the collateral damage), and why God will allow sinners in hell to retain their freedom but take it away from the saints in heaven (and who subsequently completes the sanctification process for these saints without their own free choices doing it). …