Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Monkeys From Nothing

"So lemme get this straight. You’re saying that there was just a big explosion in space that came from nothing, and then we crawled out of the goop and turned into monkeys? That’s how we got here? That’s absurd!"

It’s extremely disheartening to think that in the 21st century, where man has accomplished amazing things, kids are not being adequately equipped in the public school system to understand even the fundamentals of cosmology, biology, or history. While the above hypothetical query is a vague generalization of ignorance and a strawman argument, it doesn’t stray too far from what some religious people believe. Therefore, I will attack it for what it is, and take from it what you will.
Okay, that’s about as straight as a corkscrew. I agree that what you said is absurd. No, I am not claiming (nor is anyone else, as far as I can tell) that we “came from nothing” or “turned into monkeys”.
What you’re really asking involves three different sciences: cosmology, abiogenesis, and evolution.

You Are What You Eat
First of all, we know evolution happened. It’s a provable fact that we can observe today (by studying microorganisms), and there’s a mountain of fossil evidence for common ancestry. Francis Collins, the head of the Human Genome Project that was completed in 2003 (and an evangelical Christian), said that even if there were no fossils, the DNA evidence *alone* is enough to confirm common decent.
So, we can trace the lineage of every living thing back to some sort of beginning (yes, you and a carrot are very, very, very, very, very, distant cousins). We know that life is here, and we know that it’s changed. Now the question becomes, where did life come from? That’s handled by abiogenesis. There are a number of scientific theories about how life could have evolved from nothing, and some of them have actually demonstrated the possibility of life from non-life. The Miller/Urey Experiment simulated hypothetical conditions present on the early Earth and showed that, given billions of years, organic life can grow out of inorganic material. There are a number of other theories about how life could have came from maybe another planet or at the bottom of the ocean…the point is, we don’t yet know exactly where or how, but we do know that it is scientifically possible for this to occur.

Now we have to go even farther back. We can trace back the history of the universe—using cosmology—to the formation of planets, galaxies, stars, etc. and eventually to the Big Bang, which isn’t a “something-from-nothing” proposition. We don’t know what happened before the Big Bang, we don’t know the state of the universe at the time before time. The laws of thermodynamics state that matter and energy are interchangeable, and that it cannot be created or destroyed.

I Don't Know
You may notice that I’m saying “we don’t know” a lot. That’s actually the wonderful thing about science: you don’t know, so you try to figure it out. You look for an answer. This is also where theistic belief asserts an answer and labels it “God”. Saying “God did it” is just an attempt to solve a mystery with another even greater mystery. It tells you nothing about how or why, and more importantly, it forces you to stop searching for a real answer. Asking “who cause the Big Bang” is a fallacious question, because it assumes a) that there had to be a “who”, and b) that it was “caused” by something, meaning it wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
To argue against the popular alternative to all this provable, demonstrable, evidence is the theist, who simply states that he, too, doesn’t know how or why, but that “God did it” in his “mysterious ways”.

Reason To Believe
As I’ve shown, we have a plethora of evidence and reason to believe that everything occurred naturally. This is a big question, and I’d advise everyone to read and learn more about what we *really* known and what we’re trying to figure out. But there’s no significant justification or evidence that there was any kind of intelligent, transcendent “force” that caused life, the universe, and everything. Because of this lack of knowledge, I'm agnostic. Because of this lack of evidence, I will not believe.
Will you?
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Friday, January 25, 2008

Fallacy Friday: Burden of Proof

Hey there! I said we'd make this week's Fallacy. This one is again one of the most basic and yet so prevalent fallacy among the dogmatists.

It's My Burden to Bear
Our first fallacy of '08 concerns proof. It should seem obvious that if you make an assertion, you must back it up with some kind of reason lest it be rejected as false. And yet time and again (I'm speaking mainly to theists here, but anyone making any assertion is subject to this "rule") I see religious followers committing this logical fallacy.

"Well, can you prove God doesn't exist?!"

The burden always rests on the shoulders of the person making the claim. ALWAYS. It's not anyone else's job to prove your case for you. Using this logic, one should suppose that since no one can prove that the Invisible Pink Unicorn doesn't exist, then we should entertain the possibility. (As an aside, just because you can neither prove or disprove the existence of God or the IPU, their possibility of existence and nonexistence is not 50/50.)

Innocent Until Proven
Even in our legal systems, we do not assume that something is true unless its proven otherwise. You may be wondering "why do we do this?" Just think about it:

Can you prove there are no tattooed, flying lizard people living in the core of Neptune? No? Then we must therefore believe that there are, in fact, tattooed, flying lizard people in the core of Neptune!

Can you prove I do not have a talking snake in my garden? Sure, look. Oh, he must be hiding under that rock. Not there? Hmm...he must have slithered elsewhere.

Can you prove there is no God? Sure can't! Therefore, God must be assumed to exist.

(See Knowledge and Belief)

The Cheese Stands Alone
Those that frequently use this fallacy also gain some sort of weird bolstering effect from it. At least, they think they do. Just because we cannot disprove something is NOT--in any way--proof FOR it. Your theories and claims must stand on their own two legs, and be proven themselves. There is no "default" winner in the he said/she said debates that some religious people engage in.

Suppose claim 'C' cannot be proven to be true, and it's counterpart, claim 'P' cannot be proven true either. Now, suppose we can show claim 'P' to be false. This does not automatically make claim 'C' true!

More simply, suppose that tomorrow, evolutionary theory is scientifically proven to be 100% false. This would not automatically make Creationism true; Creationism has to be proven for itself, and the burned for that proof lies with the Creationists.

It is for this reason that I am an atheist. Anything "godlike" has yet to be proven, and should therefore be reasoned out of existence.


Thursday, January 24, 2008


Sorry I haven't been posting here very much. I'm juggling between this blog,, and now my YouTube channel. All that, and I still gotta work!

Come check out my videos at

I'm also available at my account, so drop by and chat me up. My stickam player is now at the bottom of the blog, so now anytime I go live, you'll be able to see it here!

We'll hit a Fallacy Friday tomorrow. Hope to see you soon, somewhere!


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Seeing Is Believing?

I've talked about faith so much that it makes me sick, but still it's an almost daily battle. One of the main contributors to my sorrow is the Judeo-Christian holy book. The bible is filled with stories and metaphors of people who didn't believe and were subsequently punished or hurt for it. The book breeds this ideology of faith so much so that it still affects humanity to this day.

You Gotta Have Faith!
Take for example, the story of Balaam's talking ass in Numbers 22. In a nutshell, the king of a town called Moab was afraid for his people because God's chosen people were destroying everything in their path (like good little believers do). This king sent forth for a guy named Balaam, a prophet. The king's men asked Balaam if he would mind putting a curse on these Israelites. Balaam talked it over with God, but of course these were God's people they were talking about, and God ordered Balaam not to curse them. Balaam told the king's men to go back to their country because Yahweh wouldn't let him curse their enemies.

The men did, but not taking 'no' for an answer, the Moab king sent another larger band of men for Balaam. They found Balaam and delivered the message from the king: "now do not refuse to come to me. I will load you with honors and do anything you say. I beg you to come and curse the people for me."

Being the ever-obedient one, Balaam replied that even if the king gave him is whole palace of silver and gold, he still couldn't disobey his God. He offered to let the men stay the night there before traveling back. Here's where it gets screwy...

No! I Mean, Yes! I Mean, No!
The bible says that Yahweh came to Balaam that night, and said "Have not these men come to summon you? Get up and go with them! But do only what I tell you to do." Once again, this is an example of God sending mixed messages. This can be explained if one considers the pantheistic religions of which Judaism and Christianity (and others) were molded from, but that's another topic.

So in the morning, Balaam saddles up his donkey and heads back with the men to Moab. The bible says that "God's anger was kindled because he went"...WTF?? So God says, "don't go!", then he says "okay, go" and then gets mad because he goes?! Perhaps Yaheweh's getting Alzheimer's?

As if this weren't enough to sell the story, it gets even loonier! So Balaam is riding his donkey, traveling back with the men from Moab, when God sends an angel to stand in the middle of the road. Balaam can't see this "angel of the lord", but his donkey can, and doesn't want to continue on down the road, but veers off into the open countryside. Balaam hits the donkey and steers her back toward the road.

Think about it, he's ridin' along, and his donkey leaves the road, so he strikes it and steers it back toward the road. Remember, Balaam can't see the angel that God sent to block the road cause he was pissed that Balaam went.

The angel then moves up the road a little ways and stands in the road between two vinyards, where there are walls along both sides of the road. The donkey has to squeeze right up against the wall to go past the invisible angel, and doing so, it crushes Balaams foot into the wall. Balaam of course beats his ass's ass again.

The angel then positions itself at a narrow passage (like maybe a bridge or something) where there's no way for the donkey and rider to go around. Get the picture -- it's like telling a joke, there's power in the one-two-three. The donkey can't go around the angel, so it lays down in the road. By this time Balaam is fed up with this damned stubborn donkey and lays his riding stick across its head one more time.

Talking Outta My Ass
The bible -- the holy book that some people believe every word of -- then says that Yahweh gave the donkey the power to talk! It tells Balaam that it doesn't understand why he beats it all the time, to which the infuriated (though not-so-much amazed) Balaam replies that he'd kill it if he only had a sword. The donkey then asks, "Am I not your donkey, and have you not been riding me all your life? Have I ever behaved like this with you before?"

"No," answers Balaam (now remember, a man is having a conversation with his donkey). God then opens Balaam's eyes so that he can see the angel standing there. Balaam bows down beside the donkey, in yielding to the angel of the lord.

The angel then says, "Why did you strike your donkey three times like that? You are lucky she turned aside or I would have certainly killed you by now, though I would have spared her." Huh? Wait, I know the story is trying to teach the lesson that you should just believe without evidence, but let's not forget that the donkey *could* see the angel, but Balaam *could not*. How would sparing the donkey but killing the rider be justice?

Balaam says to the angel, "I didn't see you standing there, but if what I'm doing displeases you, I'll turn back." The angel tells him to keep going, but to say only what he/God tells Balaam to say.

Flip-flop! So...wait a sec....huh?! So the point of the story not go, but then go, then not go because God's angel is blocking the way, but because he can't see it he thinks his ass is just malfunctioning, so he beats it, but that's bad, so he should go anyway?!

Oh, Just Do Whatever The Hell You Want
There are tons of these kinds of screwy stories. There's the ultimate tale of "put your trust in God" with the story of Doubting Thomas, who wouldn't accept that Jesus had risen until he actually poked his fingers into the deity's wounds. The bible is filled to the brim with these kinds of stories, teaching the "value" of belief without evidence is always better.

I hope you can see that it isn't.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

STA Answers Email: Talking about God

I was recently asked by a reader to talk a little bit about how to go about discussing God, particularly from a non-believer's standpoint. By the way, I welcome all emails at, and any comments you're willing to share here.

No Thanks
So how exactly do you broach the subject of God with a believer? Each encounter will be different, but is there some way of

When beginning a conversation with a Christian, the first step of course is to find out just what kind of "Christian" they. Are they fundamentalist or liberal? And to what degree? Do they believe the Bible is 100% inerrant Word of God, or that the Earth was created in a week? Do they believe in the Heaven/Hell thing, and is Jesus the son of God/savior/out to lunch but will be back soon, or what?

For almost *every* Christan, there is a new brand of Christianity. Simply, it's a cultural idea that is evolving. Every believer cherry-picks around their particular religion, or perhaps they'll choose bits here and there from among several religions or philosophical ideas. That's how religions are born.

Breaking the subject has as much to do with your reason for breaking the subject as anything. Perhaps you're ready to "come out" to a friend or family member. Maybe you're just making an off-hand comment, or you might be fed up with a certain someone at the office who's always spouting off about deities. Naturally, the point you're attempting to make will skew your approach. Now I don't necessarily think that a nonbeliever should seek debate. I much prefer to answer questions and react, rather than actively start disputes (because it's largely irrelevant to daily life), but to each his own.

Speaking of off-handed comments, I sometimes will reply "no thanks" when someone blesses me when I sneeze. If someone jokingly rejoinders "we're going to go to Hell for that, aren't we?" it provides a wonderful opening. I would also suggest investing in a t-shirt or hat or something that reflects your beliefs or lack thereof.
You just have to use the conversation or environment to your surroundings.

Chipping Away
Once I began to debate (both in person and online), I was amazed at how much of the common tactics were used by my opposition. It's like you can write a script for nearly every single encounter (at least the ones with those who haven't really debated before, or haven't given much thought as to why they think what they do), and it would almost always turn out the same:

  • Attack #1: Shift the burden of proof ("Can you prove God doesn't exist?")
  • Attack #2: What did God do to make you so angry?
  • Attack #3: Can you prove love?
  • Attack #4: Pascal's Wager
  • Attack #5: Watchmaker and other painter/painting Ray Comfort BS pesudo-arguments
  • Attack #6: Offer personal experiences (you can't say I'm wrong now...I just feel it!)
  • Attack #7: Since science doesn't know how we got here, it must be God
  • Attack #8: Everybody else believes in God!
  • Attack #9: Then what DO you believe in? (meaning of life, morality, etc.)
  • Attack #N: see Ways to Annoy an Atheist

Not only that, but every counter-attack has the opposite result: the more you show them there's no proof, the stronger they become in their belief! Faith, they say, is the evidence of what you can't see or prove. That's how you know, you just HAVE to know, and then you know. Obviously, this is bullshit and is no sane way at all of proving reality, but that's another topic.

Play It By Ear
Every person is different, with a different level of skill in communication, and differing knowledge on the subject. Like most other things, you just have to play it by ear and chip away at each retort.

If you've been in your opponent's shoes before, try to understand how they feel, and how they're thinking. I couldn't really blame some of the people I've talked to about god -- I'd probably have said the same things when I was a Christian.

It's also important to know what you're trying to get out of the debate or argument. I usually just try to plant little seeds of doubt and let my opponent question their own beliefs. I really want them to think about the questions after the encounter is over. If I can leave them with even a little hint of doubt, it might start a journey for them, which is often in attempt to restrengthen their faith.


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A time to Gather?

I've recently made an attempt to spread "the evil atheist conspiracy" to, a community where posters can share ideas, videos, images, articles and the like, and make cash doing it!

You can see my virgin post here:


Friday, January 4, 2008

Same Shit, Different Toilet

Now that the holiday breaks are over, it's time to get back to the grindstone. I hope you all enjoyed your time off with friends and family, and I'm sure some of you have made your resolutions for the new year.

Mine is simple: be a little more open with my stance on religion. Now I'm not one to go around trying to "de-convert" anybody, or preemptively engage in theological conversation. Indeed, it's a matter of tact. But I'll shorten my threshold for tolerance when it comes to theists assuming that I or everyone else in the room (or the country) thinks like they do.

The plan for the new year as far as the blog goes is to, well, keep going. I haven't posted very much in the few months that this blog has been up to begin with, so expect to see more of the same. We'll talk about the daily grind of being a non-believer in a sea of mind-diseased theists, continue to discuss logic and reason with Fallacy Friday, study the Unholy Bible (and perhaps other works of fiction), review movies, and educate you--the reader--on the thoughts of being a Small Town Atheist. And of course I'll cover events in the media that pertain to theism or lack thereof, though I highly encourage you to read the blogs and sites listed at the bottom right of the page. Those guys always do better than I could.

All in all, I look forward to the new year. Before I go, I'd just like to say: fuck the Pope, and fuck Mitt Romney.

Oh, and pick up one of these with your extra holiday cash...they're great!