Tuesday, December 29, 2009

There Goes Another Decade

Well, there goes another year -- and another decade.  Wow.  It's hard to believe it's been ten years since Y2K.  A lot's happened to me in this decade.  I got married.  I realized I don't believe in God.  I started this blog and started learning how to think.

While I think it was an okay year, I'm hoping this coming year will be a little better.  I'm also hoping this coming decade will see rationalism, skepticism, and most importantly atheism expand and thrive throughout the world, as this decade saw the atrocities of the fruits of faith (though I think it's getting better).  As far as resolutions go for myself, I'm hoping to get back into writing and debating more.  I'll attempt to get back into the Gather.com community, and make a more videos on YouTube.  I'm also going to continue to slowly step out of the closet, perhaps by speaking up a bit more and not letting bigoted, ignorant things go unchallenged.

As always, thank you so much for your support, emails, and comments on this blog and all my endeavors.  The interaction is what keeps me going; I can listen to myself talk any time.  Now I'm off to spend time with friends and family.  I'll see you next year!


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Get Back To The True Meaning

Every year America is inundated with pleas from the Christian populace to cast off the secular traditions and once again return to the true meaning of Christmas.

If only they'd study a little history.

Origins of Christmastime
Roman pagans first introduced the holiday of Saturnalia, a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25.  Saturnus, the god of seed and sowing, was honored with a festival.  During this time the Roman courts were closed, law was lifted, and the social order was inverted.  Slaves didn't have to work, banquets were held, and all seriousness was essentially barred.  There were gifts given and informal dress with felt hats (normally used by slaves) were worn to symbolize the freedom of the celebration.

It was an occasion for jubilation, visits to friends, and the presentation of gifts. Slaves were treated as equals, allowed to wear their masters' clothing, and be waited on at meal time in remembrance of an earlier golden age thought to have been ushered in by the god Saturn.  Lucian of Samosata wrote, "Drinking, noise and games and dice, appointing of kings and feasting of slaves, singing naked, clapping of frenzied hands, an occasional ducking of corked faces in icy water—such are the functions over which I preside."  The Saturnalia continued to be celebrated as Brumalia, the winter solstice, down to the Christian era, when its rituals had become absorbed in the celebration of Christmas (just as the festival of the Germanic goddess Eastre).

The Real Reason
When I was a Christian, I despised what I saw as the corruption and commercialization of my Lord's birthday by the evils of Walmart, Target, and Santa Claus (who I saw as a way of getting Christ's message across to heathens).  Now that I actually looked into a bit of history surrounding the time, it's clear that we're not too far off from the "original meaning".  I admit that I was an ignorant theist, as I think many today are; they don't want to learn anything past Jesus.  They don't realize that centuries of time, traditions, and practices came before the third century!  Just as with Christmas, they stop at 4AD and refuse to accept that gods like Mithra, Horace, Dionysus, Osiris, and lots of others all call that date their birthday.

Traditions get taken over as ideas slowly change.  As the culture changes, you either adopt the new traditions by relating to them in some way, or you ignore them outright.  I find it amusing that the pagan influences are still wrapped around the Christian face of the holiday. Jeremiah 10:2-4 warns not to put up what we today call a Christmas tree.  And yet how many Christians have a tree in there house right now?  Like I said, you go with the flow and change the meanings to fit your own tastes and beliefs or you die by the wayside.  Our contemporary traditions are just as much the "true meaning" as any.

The fact is, the season is the reason for the season; it's the winter solstice.  We must realize that feasts and festivals in honor of to the gods and forces of the seasons have existed for millenia.  In our modern times of abundance and prevalence of food (the fact that you can get strawberries in the winter, etc.), in a way removes the reasons for many of our traditional holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Thus, we're free to "celebrate" whatever we want.  If you want to view Christmas as a celebration of the hope of the next spring, go for it.  If you want to see it as another chance to spend time with loved ones, be my guest.  If you want to think that it's the day your god was born or as a festival to one of the many fertility gods, that's fine too.  Whatever reason you decide the season is for, just make sure to eat, drink, and be merry -- and don't force your practices on everyone else.

And have a wonderful Christma-Hanu-Rama-Ka-Dona-Kwanzaa-Wali-Solstice!


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Claus and Christ

It's that time of year again.  We see you-know-who's face plastered up on billboards and posters all over the place, at least here in America.  With his big blue eyes wishing peace and love to the world.  Yep, Jesus is everywhere.  And so is that pagan red devil, Santa Claus.  Coincidence???

Let's look at some similarities of these two fairy-tale personas:
  • Jesus (being God) is ever-watchful -- see Psalm 139:1-4
  • Santa sees you too -- see "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town"

  • Jesus rewards good behavior (heaven) and punishes bad behavior (hell)
  • Santa also rewards good behavior (toys) and punishes bad behavior (coal)

  • Jesus has a list of good people (The Lamb's Book of Life)
  • Santa has a list of naughty and nice children

It's pretty clear that they both represent attempts in our culture to keep children in line.  Some even view Santa as a way of passing the messages of Christianity onto nonbelievers.  What about their differences?
  •  Santa has a physical, tangible existence -- he eats cookies, drinks milk, comes down chimneys, etc.
  •  Jesus lives in your "heart" and is no longer* a flesh and blood being

  •  Santa rewards you in the here-and-now with material positions
  •  Jesus's gifts have to wait til you die (except for babbling incoherently and other "gifts of the Spirit")

  • Santa will put you on the naught list as long as you're bad
  • Jesus will roast your ass in hell forever if you screw up and forget to say 'Sorry' before you kick the bucket

  • Kids who stop believing in Santa Claus are praised for their cleverness and skills of deduction
  • Kids who stop believing in Jesus are shunned for immorality and outlandish blasphemy

It's also interesting to note how society relates to these two.  Santa is looked upon as fantasy, whereas Jesus is touted as 100% fact (even though Santa is more plausible, baring the "magic" and violations of physics and economics).  The Santa myth is looked upon with fondness as something innocuous that we can look back upon and laugh about.  But the much more bloody and unbelievable myth is put forth in all seriousness.

There isn't many wars fought over which of Santa's ideas are to be followed.  There isn't any Santaquisions or Elf Burnings.  As Stefan Molyneux of FreeDomainRadio.com points out (paraphrased), "Nobody drinks the wine that is supposed to turn into the blood of Santa, and you don't eat bread that turns into Santa's flesh.  Santa doesn't come back from the dead, Santa doesn't heal the sick and so on."

That's why I don't have a problem partaking in the pagan and secular mythologies of Santa Claus.  When the time comes, I won't be lying to my susceptible children about the existence of Santa.  It's indeed just as harmful if you lead a child into thinking they "better watch out" because Santa is watching them, as it is to tell them God is watching them and they'll burn in hell forever if they're not good.  I'll most likely let my children know that it's just a fun story, and I'll pretend with them for as long as they want to.  I see it as an opportunity to show them critical thinking, weighing of evidence, and the parallels with religion.  When a majority of the world can see the universality of myth -- that their creation stories are one in the same, unjustifiable myth -- we'll be a lot better off.

I get asked sometimes why I bother writing about and making videos on religion if I don't believe in it.  The fact is that many, many people do believe in the teaching of their supposed prophets and deities.  These people's beliefs affect the actions they take upon others, and that's the problem.  If there were "Santa Wars" fought daily, I'd be here pointing out the absurdities of flying reindeer, the lack of evidence for elves, and arguing for people to put away their childish notions of a fat guy who lives at a toy workshop at the North-Pole.  Luckily, no one takes Santa seriously enough to jeopardize the fate of the planet, so I'll keep railing against the bigoted religious intolerance that is doing just that.

*Assuming Jesus ever existed in the first place.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Day In The Life: Accused

I just have to share this because I'm jazzed about it.

Many of my regular readers will know that while I'm very outspoken about my atheism on the web, I'm still a mostly-in-the-closet atheist when it comes to my immediate family members.  (I know, I'm working on it; these things take time.)  Said family members were have their Thanksgiving celebration yesterday, myself included.  I love our Thanksgiving.  I mean, sure, I still like going to the houses of parents' and grandparents' of extended family for the holidays, but nothing can beat the spread, quality, and atmosphere of having Thanksgiving at home (and Mom's food is always better).  They're not an overtly religious bunch.  None go to church regularly and holidays have always been about family and food and togetherness, never about Jesus or other religious hogwash.  So there I was, sitting at the dinner table in the house that I grew up in, stuffing my face with...well, stuffing, when one of my grandmother's many brothers walked into the kitchen with his southern boisterous ululations.

"You god-damned atheist!" he roared.

I froze, heart thumping.

"With yer bumper sticker saying 'The hard work of one does more than the prayers of millions'!  I'm gonna go get Brother Jack and we're going to send you straight to hell!"

I nearly choked on the turkey -- with laughter.  "Well, send him over!" I quipped.  My mother chuckled.

You'd probably have to know the man to appreciate it all.  He's known for that type of language, but I was surprised to hear it and being in the form a joke softened it a little.  But the fact was there...I was called an ATHEIST in front of my whole family!  Holy shit!  I'm sure because of me not objecting to the term and congenially welcoming the attack was in a way a coming out of sorts.  At least I'm sure it will aid in the real event, should it arise in the future.  It was great.  In one instant I essentially made the topic accessible.  Call me an atheist, I don't mind.

I assume that my family suspects at least something's up.  I mean, they realize I stopped going to church.  And I have that bumper sticker and an EvolveFish on my truck.  And I made the priest who came into my hospital room when I had my cholecystectomy leave immediately.  And I sent my mom a reply linking to this blog when she forwarded me a stupid email.  And some of my kinfolks and related-in-law already know for sure, through either direct conversation or finding me on the internet (no telling who they talk to).  So I think at least some of my core family members might get the picture, although they're not aware of all the details.

My great uncle was joking, of course.  He meant no ill toward me, though I'm not entirely sure he'd be so cordial if I had stood up and said, "yeah, I'm a soulless, faithless, godless atheist...so what?!"  And I was all ready to defend my position.  This is it, I thought.  Oh well, perhaps for the better; it may have ruined the festivities.  But at least my uncle can joke about it.  He was raised in a tough Catholic school way back in the days where they would beat your hands with rulers for not obeying their strict requirements.  He hates nuns now.

Anyway, I'm still all goosebumpy over it even though it literally was one sentence and nothing more from anybody.  I never thought I'd be (semi)outed by one of own family.  Being called an atheist, just out in public like that, was exilerating.

I hope it happens again.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Prayer and the Internet

The bible states that prayer somehow works better when you get a bunch of like-minded people together.  You'd think that with the invention of the internet and therefore the ability for billions of believers to sync up their communication channels to God and send requests en mass, we could easily change things.  Things like, oh I don't know, world peace, the end of hunger, cancer, and other needless suffering.  After millennia of just a spattering of people here and there asking for a global change, we have now within our means a way to systematically connect all the conduits of faith, and with a glorious roar reminiscent of Horton Hears a Who, simultaneously unleash a massive prayer toward the heavens.

But still nothing happens.  Either everyone isn't synced up just right, or not enough people care about the state of things, or too many people are talking to too many different Gods, or -- the more likely answer -- prayer just doesn't work.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Who Really Needs God?

I hope everyone's Thanksgiving weekend went well.  How many of you nonbelievers had discussions with religious family members?  I'm betting a lot of you 1) sat quietly through the prayer before dinner, and then 2) listened to your aunt bitch about how Obama is the Muslim Communist Antichrist.  I was lucky enough to only have to deal with a few racist jokes this year; and all-in-all fairly good Thanksgiving.

This time of year always gets me thinking about why people cling to the ideas they have.  What makes these otherwise kind, sane, decent people feel the need to uphold barbaric, antiquated, immoral concepts?

Religion Binds Culture
Religions tend to contain directives that are divisive and harmful.  They are prone to being used by people who are willing to take the necessary actions suggested by them.  Take the passage of "thou shall not suffer a witch to live".  That passage is toothless until someone comes along who is of such character as to accept it as an authority and then act upon it.  Therefore, the passage (or the religion, moreover) becomes a reflection of that individual's character.

Not only that, but religions change -- and poison -- the culture they're in.  They increase the likelihood that people with these characteristics will be cultivated.  Cultures change over time if left to their own devices.  The problem is that a religion, upon its creation, encodes the current culture.  Once locked in, it attempts to maintain the status quo.  This is why the believers of the Bronze Age ideals of Christianity and Islam are trying to keep their outdated ways of thinking in the norm.  Religion shackles culture, inhibits progress, and encourages stasis and stagnation.

Breaking The Chains
So who needs religion?  Many people feel that without religion humanity would have no sense of right and wrong.  Some even feel that its impossible to breath without God.

A lot of the ideas modern folks have about God, prayer, and religion has grown out of the mindset of the contemporaries of their belief systems.  As stated above, religion naturally assumes the state in which it is founded.  Those who hold Bronze Age beliefs come from a long line of people wanting a better life.  The average poor person in America would be considered rich by the standards at the time the New Testament was written.  The average tween probably knows more and is generally smarter than anyone who lived over two thousand years ago.

But even by comparison, some people today still feel like the world is against them.  They covet the positions of the rich, feel like the "good guys" are loosing, and see the world as doomed.  Most people still cling to hopes for a better life.  I suppose in some sense that will never go away; no matter how good things get, there will always be a need to find something better.  Religion thrives on this idea.  It tells you that things are guaranteed to be better for you, if not in this life, then in the next.  It's the ultimate "grass is greener" mentality -- something that's extremely appealing to the downtrodden.

We have to eliminate the need for god.  We have to realize, as a whole, that together we can accomplish amazing things.  With the scientific discoveries of the century, we've discovered microbiology, cured major diseases, and even walked on the moon.  As long as our society neglects people, as long as there is major injustice and suffering, god will be there as the last resort and the empty hope for surrendered minds.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Unholy Word: A Love To Die For

With the atrocity that is "National Bible Week" in full swing (though I haven't seen any effects of it, thank goodness), let's delve into another look at this Unholy Word.

Dinah Blow Your Horn
Today the tale is from Genesis 34.  Dinah, a Jewish girl, is raped by a man named Shechem. After he rapes her, he goes to his father and pleads, "I've fallen in love with her, you gotta get her for me, I must marry her!"

Shechem's father goes to Dinah's father, Jacob, and says "My son raped your daughter...but he loves her, so let's have them marry. Even better: let's swap daughters between our two tribes and form a peace treaty! We'll rule this area together and be strong!"  He is so infatuated with her that he asks, "Set the bride-price as high as you want and we'll pay."

The sons of Jacob were there and they said, "Sorry, our sister can't marry anyone who isn't circumcised. That's just the way it is. As a matter of fact, if you want to create a peace treaty, your whole tribe will have to convert and be circumcised."

Well evidently Dinah was Helen-of-Troy hot, because not only did Shechem agree to be circumcised, his entire tribe took the snip in order to seal the deal and make up for raping Jacob's daughter. That's real dedication!

Three days later, while all the men of this tribe were sitting around sore, two of Jacob's sons come in and slaughter all of them. They kill every man in the city, including Shechem and his father. Then they grabbed all these men's sisters and wives and headed home. Then the rest of Jacob's sons showed up and plundered the city, taking livestock food, children, everything.

Jacob was mad at his sons; they'd runed any chances at a peace treaty with any other tribe -- who would trust them again? His sons said, "So we should have just let them treat our sister like a whore?"  There's nothing more on the story, it just ends there.

Too Many Bad Ideas
I guess the moral is that if your family member gets raped and your original ludicrous demands are met, you're justified in killing, pillaging, and enslaving to get even.  But I could be wrong; like a lot of these old stories, simple moral points tend to get added and mixed.  To some the point is not to disobey your father and the consequences of killing your new-found friends. Or maybe it's a sad story about how a guy lost his one true love.  Its a tortured jumble of lessons that weren't being thought out as they were being put together.

Of course, I can understand anyone being enraged to the point of murder at the rape and forced marriage of your sister.  (Yes, keep in mind that woman didn't get a say in who thy married.  They were treated as property and bargaining chips.)  But the actions they took were unjustified and immoral.  These kinds of stories fill this antiquated book that so many will point to as being the backbone of modern American society and good moral values.  If only these people would just read the thing!

The bible offers more instructions on rape in Deuteronomy 22 if you weren't sure how to get away with it.

Good stuff.  Read it to your kids or at the dinner table between the turkey and the pumpkin pie.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Same Camp, Same Colors

A Mild Delusion
I sometimes hear from Christians that don't accept the ways of the fundies.  Though we can both agree on their outrageous antics, we disagree when it comes to who takes the blame.  That's where I put moderates in the same bucket as the fundamentalists.  It doesn't matter what the amount of delusion is, it's the problems at the core that tie them all together.

Moderate and liberal believers act as a safe house for fundamentalists and provide a shield for them.  Whenever the majority becomes comprised of relaxed moderates and anything bad happens that would cause them to think God is angry with them or the world or whatever, the moderates begin thinking, "What did we stop doing that would cause God to be vengeful?  What changed?"  They most often find the answer in fundamentalism.

If You Can't Beat 'em, Keep 'em Around
I used to be a fundamentalist Christian, growing ever increasingly moderate all the way out.  Even though my tactics and reasoning were changing, I still had a mindset of a core fundamentalist.  I'd see someone going "a little too far" on something, but I always knew their heart was in the right place.  We had an elderly couple who began to grow more and more vocal over the choice of clothing the girls in the youth group wore to church: the dreaded and sinful pair of jeans.  "That's no way for a woman to dress!" they could be overheard exclaiming as the congregation filed out of services.  I didn't think God gave a damn about something as materialistic as pants, they backed up their objections with claims from the bible.  I don't recall any particular passages, but it's not uncommon for a believer to say, "well, that's Bible!" when it comes to something they firmly believe -- whether or not it is actually stated in there.  The point is that none of us less-sexist of the flock could shake the couple's certainty of the sin being committed, and we couldn't show them otherwise using the same "logical" tactics and arguments from the bible and faith.  Those types of disagreements always come down to, "I'll have to pray about it".

The harboring of fundamentalist ideals is performed by all believers, be they liberal, moderate, or extremist.  It's because the ideological framework is built using the same wood from the same tree (if you'll pardon the labored metaphor, and those that follow).  The scaffolding may reach differing heights, but the foundation is the same unfounded illusion.  Until the entire structure is torn down and can be rebuilt using actual knowledge and sound critical-thinking methods, the intellectual groundwork of moderates is indistinguishable from even the most delusional fundamentalists.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Wedding Hells

I recently attended a wedding reception and there was one thing that bothered me (enough to sit down and rant about it today).  And no, it wasn't the "blessing" that was given before people ate the buffet.  A song was sung to the newly-weds; a narrative offering advice on how to stay together.  A line in the song suggested, in effect, when times get tough to turn to God and he'll fix it.

Bad Chord
I'm finding several issues I personally have with the otherwise great original song.  First off, like so many other theistic pronouncements, it assumes that a) the speaker's God and the audience's God are the same, and b) that the audience even has a God.  It's akin to singing a poignant song about real-life things such as love and marriage, then including a line about finding leprechauns grading gold at the end of rainbows.  It kills the mood of the song and makes you look small-minded.

The biggest beef I have with it is the idea itself.  Let's look at it from both the viewpoint of the believer and the atheist.  First, the former.  Using the idea of the Christian God, one may easily see how seeking His guidance is obviously the route to take.  He is all-knowing, after all.  According to their theology, God has a plan for everyone.  Thus, when a couple's marriage is on the rocks, a quick voice-mail up to the clouds and all should be well.  But how many Christian marriages fail, even with the fervent prayers of not only the betrothed but often times their families and friends as well?  If the answer is as easy as asking God what to do, and getting the sense that the answer is "be kind to and TALK with each other", then why do over half of all theistic unions fail?

Assuming God does exist with all the superpowers generally attributed to him, it goes without saying that such a being is, for lack of better terminology at the moment, a giant prick.  In fact, those reading this right now, be they theist or atheist, are probably more moral and ethical than the Christian deity.  For how many of you would, if you knew the answer to healing the hurting hearts of two people, would refuse to administer your aid until asked?  Would you wait to poor out your miraculous blessings upon the hungry until all of them sought your help?  Would you withhold a cure that would strike leukemia from a dying girl until not just the girl asked for it, but her family, the whole ward floor, the entire hospital, town -- or continent -- agreed you could?

It Takes Two -- Me and You
Since I am one of the millions who do not subscribe to such egotistical bullshit, I will say that the obvious course of action is not to turn to some imaginary friend to fix your martial issues, but instead turn to each other, the flesh-and-blood human being with whom you committed your life to.  Seek the problem at its source.  Talk with each other.  Listen to each other.  Find out what the hell is going on and do not cower from it.  If you need to involve beings from outside of yourselves, turn to your family, your friends.  I'm sure there's at least one person every married couple can talk to (we all had at least one witness, right?).  Find the bug.  Hunt it down like a heat-seeking missile.  The point is that the answer is within you; it's not going to come from some mysterious force outside of you.  Both of you -- whether you knew it or not -- took the necessary steps to fall in love.  It's going to take both of you again to stay that way.

And if he's reading this, let the songwriter know that this is in no way an attack on him directly.  He's one of the best and most upstanding guys I know, and a wonderful friend.  The contention is merely with the message and wording of his outstanding and touching song -- a small disputation, yet one I think worthy of mention.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Paying for Prayer

Are you sitting down?  Good.  Here's a couple news items from this week.

An All-Christian Prison
Oklahoma plans to build a Christian-run prison to give Christian inmates special privileges.  So where's the all-atheist prison, or the all-Muslim prison?  Sure, that's exactly what they need. Pray to an invisible friend that will take away all the bad things you've done in your life so that you can feel better about yourself, and read your bibles that tell stories of unicorns, dragons, satyrs, and talking donkeys. "Ninety-eight percent of offenders are going to get out of prison," says the project's leader. "What kind of offender do you want living next door?"

Priest Same As Doctor
Congressional members are again kowtowing to Christian Science by sponsoring a provision in the health care reform bill to allow prayer to be considered medicine. The Christian Science Church has pushed throughout its history to secure official recognition for its paid prayer practitioners. That's right, I said paid prayer practitioners. Their job is to pray for healing and charge for treatment at rates similar to those of medical doctors.  Imagine having a job where you just pray for someone to get better all the while earning doctor's wages!  I guess if you don't have a conscience or care at all about people, that's the best job in the world. If praying for someone to get better counts as medicine, shouldn't praying for someone to die be considered an attempt at murder? Does praying to win the lottery amount to fraud?


Friday, October 23, 2009

The Bible Warns Against Learning

Time for a quick Friday rant. The bEarthDay thing has got me thinking about the humorous side that religion brings, but I can't help but shake the fact that it's ultimately detrimental to society as a whole.  It seems I'm always talking about this: religion is counter-productive to the advancement of human understanding and knowledge. We cannot learn as a whole as long as we are shackled by the chains of this way of thinking -- or should I say, not thinking.

I'm targeting the bible here, but all religions are guilty of this. The fact that Christianity is based on the idea of how wrong it is to learn something new. The Genesis story tells of humanities first and largest sin: gaining forbidden knowledge. All throughout the bible, we can find passages that strictly condemn thinking. Proverbs 3:5-6, Ecclesiastes 1:18, Philippians 2:14, Romans 1:22, and 1 Corinthians 1:19,27 are just a few examples of this wonderful guidebook that about one third of the planet identifies as the backbone of society. The bible states very clearly: don't think for yourself.

The idea that thinking for yourself is fundamentally against faith or the laws of the creator of the universe is dangerous and it squelches any hope of advancement for humankind. The fact that you're reading this right now is testament to the power of understanding brought on -- not by the wisdom of an almighty ghost -- but by the labors of reason and the drive to understand reality. I find it simultaneously absurd and terrifying that people fight tooth and nail to try to keep us in the Dark Ages by blocking off any progress in the battle against ignorance.


Happy bEarth Day!

Way back in 1658, Archbishop James Ussher determined that the world was created precisely at 9am, October 23, 4004 BC.  So today is the official creation day and the earth is a ripe young 6012 years old!  Men of God have faith, and that counts just as much as evidence, right?


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Today from Ray: What Have You Been Doing?

In a small effort to spice things up around here -- and get me blogging more -- we're starting a new running series. I like to argue. More importantly, I like to help people. I feel that pointing out errors aids in the stamping out of ignorance.

Our good friend Ray Comfort has loads of such ignorance spewing forth from his blog here on blogger. Ray's "Comfort Food" blog is now "Atheist Central", and since I fit the description of his target, I've tried to regularly participate. The only problem is that of censorship. The only comments that are shown are those that Ray judges as appropriate. He'll even cut off discussions if you fail to capitalize specific words like jesus! (You can read his rules for commenting just below his title graphic full of argumentum ad verecundiam.) So since taking him on on his own turf is rather ineffectual and self-defeating, I'll have to answer Ray's criticisms and characterizations of atheism here. Occasionally we'll take a look at what's going down on Ray's blog today.

And Ray, if you want to comment here, I don't give a rat's ass how you type "jesus".

Big Words From Little Woody
Jumping right into what I find displayed on the page right now, Ray's October 18th drips with his basic Way of The Master rhetoric. "When the atheist stands before God," Ray writes, "it will be a waste of time telling Him what he thinks of Him." Ray fails to convince atheists with this kind of "logic" by failing to see the enormous assumption. After all, what will Ray really have to say to FSM when he stands before him, huh?

The snide title of the post comes from the fact that Ray quotes atheist Woody Allen and then calls him a "sad man who is fearful of dying". He somehow gets that out of Allen's words: "God has some explaining to do". Indeed, I'd ask the same from God if I died and met Ray's deity in the clouds. Aside from reading in a fear of death, Ray fails to see that if his god is real, it would already know exactly what it would take to convince every single non-believer on the planet. This is the point of Allen's quote. It's not a matter of being hostile towards religion, or just wanting to be a naughty little sinner. It's not that he's scared of dying, or scared of finding out he was wrong, it's the fact that a god with qualities that Ray and other Christians profess wouldn't and shouldn't expect a surprise run-in with an atheist.

You're an idiot, Ray. This is going to be harder than I thought...I'm going to go lay down and try to get rid of the headache I got from pulling my hair out.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Perfect Love

[Adapted from a video by Nick Gisburne]

I saw a beautiful woman sitting alone in the park. I recognize her, because she comes there often. I've admired her for quite some time, but I've never gotten up the courage to talk to her, or even let her know I exist. I start writing her letters, telling her how much I love her. I tell her of all the wonderful things I can do for her, and to her, if only she'd be mine. I leave these letters on her front porch, and I watch in hiding as she reads them and blushes with excitement. She runs to the door and yells out into the street, "Let me see you! I love you!" though I remain hidden.

I continue writing her, constantly expressing my devotion and unconditional love. She keeps asking to see me. She starts writing me responses and leaving them on the porch so that I would find them whenever I came to deliver my next batch of love letters. In her responses, she begs me to reveal my identity, that only if she and I could talk face-to-face and hold each other close, then the fullness of our love could be realized. I respond in my next letter by saying I want her to freely love me, and I don't think she could if she knew my true identity.

Over time, I notice my letters start to pile up at her doorstep. It seems she no longer reads them. Worried, I began watching her through her window. She seems not to care about how much I love her. I then see a man walk up to her door. She answers it, and kisses him passionately on the mouth. Infuriated and confused, I race to the door and strike them both down. I drag them inside and tie them up. I scream at my former love, "Why? Why? Why?! After you knew how much I loved you, how could you betray our love?"

"How can I love you if I can't be with you?" she asked through her tears. I can't hear through the raging torrent of blood pumping through my veins. "All I asked was for you to love me -- ONLY ME!" I screamed as I doused the living room with a gas can. She pleaded with me to stop, that she'd love me, but it was too late. As I walked away from the burning house, I relished her screams of agony, for she was receiving justice for denying me.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It's My Choice

I've recently received a lot of comments regarding the Problem of Evil, namely the theist's attempt to solve said problem. Many theists will claim the reason bad things happen to good people is because "God can't (or doesn't want to) interfere with our free will to be able to choose to love Him on our own. Otherwise, we'd all be robots", etc, etc, ad nauseum. Let's take a look at why free will fails as a defense.

The Greater Good
Free will is assumed to be a greater good than the evil that it causes. If a young girl is raped and murdered, is this because God needed to preserve the rapists free will so that his actions could result in greater good or so that the rapist could freely love God? Or is it so that the young girl would pray to God and beg him to make her attacker stop?

What about natural disasters (if you want to call them "evil")? God -- being omnipotent -- could have devised a way to remove all the evil in the world, and still give us free choices. What does shingles or hypospadias have to do with choice or the absolute knowledge of God?

Take Me To Your Leader
"We'd all be robots" is a conjecture based on what, exactly? You're claiming that God would destroy our free will to worship him simply by giving us evidence of his existence. Not to do your own theology for you, but according to the bible there have been several individuals who had first-hand knowledge of God's existence and still managed to have the free will to choose or not choose him: Adam, Eve, Moses, Satan, just to name a few. These beings had repeated conversations and interactions with God -- did they loose their free will? And what about Heaven? Will you lose your free will there?

The idea that we would have no choice to love/worship a deity who revealed itself unquestionably is preposterous. You'd still have a choice in the matter. You know for certain of the President's existence, correct? Did you lose the free will to disagree with his policies? If the God of the bible convincingly revealed himself to me, I would still not get down on my hands and knees and grovel at his feet. Such a tyrant, hiding or otherwise, deserves no worship.

Free will is not an excuse for why bad things happen to good people. Knowledge of God still affords us a choice in the matter, except we'd have better evidence to base our opinions on. Besides, you can't truly love someone without an absolute knowledge on them.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Happy Blasphemy Day

September 30th is international Blasphemy Day. Here's Penn explaining it.

So go out and express disrespect for the god of your choice. If you're religious, you're encouraged to blaspheme too -- it'll mean more if you do it.

Happy Blasphemy Day, everyone...and fuck Ra!


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Scribble in God

For those who aren't in the know, Scribblenauts is the current smash hit game for the Nintendo DS. The game allows you to write down words and it creates objects in the game world. The game includes a huge dictionary of objects (over 22,000 words). What does this have to do with this blog?

Type "atheist" and a white-haired professorial looking fellow appears. Then, type "god". The stereotypical white-bearded god is made. That's right, you can create God in the game, even though the guidelines for writing objects include being "actual, physical" things. Put the two together, and the atheist gets scared and runs off.

I think it's funny. Hey, at least it recognizes the word. And I guess I'd be pretty freaked out too if I saw the Abrahamic God.

Try "scientist". He doesn't run from God. You can also type in "devil" with god around, but god always kills him without much trouble. Makes you wonder...

The "priest" is apparently indestructible. Nothing kills a priest in the game. Not even a zombie -- he just makes the priest a zombie!

There are all sorts of fun tongue-in-cheek things you can do, like make the Large Hadron Collider. It creates a black hole (which kills everything, even God).


Saturday, September 19, 2009

An Updated Origin

November 21, 2009 will mark the exact 150-year mark since the publication of Charles Darwin's book Origin of Species, and a group is actually going to provide over fifty college campuses with free -- yes, FREE -- copies of the book. Who is this group, and why would they go through all that trouble? Why, for God, of course!

That's right folks. The group is the 'Living Waters' ministry. But why would I care that a Christian evangelical collective is giving away Darwin's book? Because this is not the book Darwin wrote. This special-edition version includes a hidden 50-page introduction written by Ray Comfort. And therefore, as you should be able to guess, starts the book off by claiming evolution can't happen, and then proselytizing for Jesus. I say "hidden" because the book does mention Ray's name until after the introduction.

Ray's Fractal Wrongness
You can read Comfort's introduction at the Living Waters site. Here's some random lines from Ray's special introduction, to give you an idea into Ray's way of thinking:

"Here’s the argument: There was nothing. Then paper appeared, and ink fell from nowhere onto the flat sheets and shaped itself into perfectly formed letters of the English alphabet." -pg. 9

If you're familiar with Ray Comfort's style of argument, then this should be par for the course. Ray thinks that evolution is cosmology and abiogenesis all rolled into one. He thinks natural selection should explain the expansion of the universe, and that the traits of animals just popped into being.

"Do you think that DNA’s amazing structure could have come together by accident? Or does it point to an intelligent Designer?" -pg. 11

Ray thinks because Francis Collins, the director of the Human Genome Project, thinks God made DNA (and he IS a scientist, after all!), then DNA = ID = Jesus. He also mentions Anthony Flew's conversion, as if it made a difference.

"There is a mountain in South Dakota that proves what evolutionists have been saying all along: if you just have enough time, wind, rain, erosion, and pure chance, you can get a mountain with the faces of four U.S. presidents on it!" -pg. 13

"Here are some interesting questions for the thinking evolutionist: Can you explain which came first—the blood or the heart—and why?" -pg 23

Ray Comfort, Kirk Cameron, and the like have never understood evolution, nor do I think they ever will.

After citing hoaxes of "missing links" (which were discovered using science!), Ray quotes Darwin out of context, and even uses the oldest trick: quoting the bit where Darwin admits that the evolution of the eye seems absurd, and then stopping before quoting the VERY NEXT LINE that shows how. Ray does however mention that next line, here:

"Even more incredible, though, is that Darwin went on to say that he believed the eye could nonetheless have been formed by natural selection. He was right on one point. If a Designer is left out of the equation, such a thought is absurd in the highest degree." -pg 28

The oldest Creationist canards are stuffed into these 50 pages of drivel. All the misunderstandings a religious person who is uninformed about science could make are in here.

"But even if an organ were no longer needed, wouldn’t it only prove devolution? This fits well with the Law of Entropy— that all things deteriorate over time." -pg 29

Ray not only fails to understand evolution, but he also fail to understand any tacit of science, it seems, including
Thermodynamics. And after showing us he can't comprehend things such as biology, palentology, geology, cosmology, and physics, he goes on to show how racist and sexist Darwin was -- as if that has anything at all to do with his ideas.

The next logical (for him) tact is to claim that believing in evolution creates people like Adolf Hitler.

One of his funniest lies is this:
"If you find it hard to believe that there was an Intelligent Designer, give this some thought. Man, with all his genius, can’t make a grain of sand from nothing....Did you realize that if we could simply make one blade of grass without using existing materials, we could solve the world’s hunger problem?" -pg. 31

Remember, he's arguing for an intelligent creator god who CAN make things ex nihilo. So Ray, why doesn't your God solve the world's hunger problem?

"Richard Dawkins, arguably the most famous of atheists, can’t claim the title 'atheist,' because he understands that something must have created everything. He said, 'Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.' " -pg. 37

This comes after Ray redefines the term "atheist" to someone who doesn't accept an initial cause. Wrong again, Ray.

At the end of this special introduction, Ray gives us the meat of what he's really after: evangelizing for Jesus.

"Please think about your sins, then think about the Savior and what He did for guilty sinners such as us." -pg. 40

Ray offers a scenario of four choices (the Mona Lisa original, a car, a million dollars, a parachute), says you can pick just one, then tells you "but first you have to jump 10,000 feet out of an airplane". You're supposed to pick the parachute out of necessity. He then takes this same logic and offers the choice of all the world's religions, then goes into his have-you-ever-broken-the-Big-Ten spiel. You're supposed to pick Christianity, because it fixes the problems it creates.

The rest is pure proselytizing, spewing unfounded claims about God and Hell.

They're delivering this bastardized version of the Origin of Species to college campuses nationwide on November 19. They're also calling on people to buy copies and give them out at their schools and churches.

Might Be Okay?
As I was writing this, I was thinking about how scarily-ignorant America is when it comes to science -- BASIC science -- and how this will only continue to fuel the problem. But then I started thinking, maybe this isn't such a bad idea. I mean, they will be getting the copy of the book into people's hands for free. As far as anyone knows, the rest of the book is unchanged. That means that thousands copies of Darwin's work will be in churches all across America. Hopefully, some people will actually read it and realize how what they thought Darwin said and what he actually said were two totally different things.

Another side affect is getting the book to college kids, and hopefully people who know Ray Comfort is full of shit. I think a lot of college students are intelligent and can easily spot the flaws that a 9th grade science student could find. Plus, they won't have to pay for a copy of Darwin's book. They'll just have an easy reference to the "counter-arguments" that fundamentalists make.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Righteous Judge

From "Tim" to The Non-Prophets internet radio show:

So I was driving 66 in a 65 mph zone, got pulled over, given a ticket, and had to go to court. The judge said that because I had broken the law I had to serve the minimum sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole at a maximum security penitentiary that makes HBO's Oz look like the merry old land of Oz.

I thought the sentence was a bit steep, but I later realized that we all fall short of the glory of the judge who never broke any laws whatsoever and cannot tolerate even the slightest unlawfulness, so I had no choice but to accept my punishment.

However, the judge did take pity on me. He called his son in and proceeded to brutally whip him with a cat 'o nine tails until he was raw and bloody, and then nailed him to a cross until he was dead. He then told me to eat his flesh and drink his blood. I did, and after that I was free to go.

I walked out of the court room a free man, as did the serial child molester who also ate the judge's son's flesh and blood (he was a cannibal, so really didn't mind). However this other woman said she didn't want to cannibalize the judge's son and that she didn't do anything wrong. But the judge just said that all have committed crimes and all must be endlessly punished for them, and the only way for her to escape was to eat his son. The woman still refused so she was sentenced to life in prison.

I guess I kinda felt bad for her spending the rest of her life in prison. Nevertheless, I know that she deserved it because the judge was truly a good man. I mean you'd have to be a really, really good person in order to brutally beat your own son and then crucify him and have his flesh and blood consumed so that me and a serial killer could go free. Truly these are actions of a righteous man. Well I guess it just sucks to be her.

Anyway, I'm a free man now, although my schedule is pretty full. I've been spending most of my time at the judge's house, thanking him for freeing me and telling him how great he is over and over and over and over and over again.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Look Busy

I drove by a church sign today that read, "Jesus is Coming, Look Busy" and I don't know how I'm supposed to take that.

What do they mean by "busy"? Like, busy helping the sick and the needy, or busy washing your car? Does a person reading the bible look busy to Jesus?

The other reason I don't get it is because of their implied message. If you're a child at a rowdy slumber party and your friend says, "I hear mom coming, act like you're sleeping!", or you're at the office and someone says, "Here comes the boss, look busy!" then I can understand the ruse, but it just doesn't work for theology. Are they suggesting that their all-knowing deity won't notice you're "looking busy" because you know he's coming? (See Pascal's Wager Flaw #4)

As I drove on I wondered, should Christians be the kids who are up too late and are fixing to get in trouble, or should they be the dad who sits up until 1:00 AM waiting on his teenager to come home? I for one (if I actually believed he really WAS coming) would be the like the angry parent just waiting to bust Jesus' ass for being so goddamn late.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Missing Bible

I just stayed at a hotel in Branson, Missouri-- the G-rated Las Vegas. The town is filled with nothing but "family" shows and activities; there's a lot of brochures for shows with the little Jesus fish on them. I couldn't wait to play hide-the-bible at the hotel.

Seek And Ye Shall Find
If you haven't played that game, you really should consider it on your next hotel stay. See, the cleaning staff have to put everything back the way it was before you got there, in preparation for the next guest. And I mean everything: the towels are folded a certain way, the blinds are set to a specific angle, even the TV is put back on the default channel and the remote put back in its place. They essentially reset the room.

You usually find a bible in the bedside drawer, and if you're an infidel like me (or just mischievous in general) try to find a better place for the bible before you check out. Make it difficult for them to find; put it behind the TV or way under the bed in the corner, or wrapped up in the towels. (I generally tend to not damage it too much; it's not my rightful property and I respect that.) You could even write a letter and put it deep within the pages, so the next person who opens it will find your message. Whatever works best for you.

Blessed Are Those Who Do Not See
Anyway, I was all looking forward to playing, seeing as how the town seemed to carry that nauseatingly sweet air of righteousness just under its surface...when come to find out, my hotel room didn't have a friggin bible in it!

Maybe it was just a fluke, or maybe the previous occupant kept (or destroyed) it. Or maybe the FSM was watching over me and, knowing that the World's Largest Toy Museum had blatantly attempted to shove Christianity down my throat, supernaturally hid the vile tome from mine eyes. Whatever the cause, I was extremely grateful and a little sad at not getting to play my favorite hotel game.

Moral: Don't visit Branson's Toy Museum if you don't like being proselytized to.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

God is THE Answer

I occasionally need a quick laugh and while traveling, nothing is easier than flipping on a Christian radio talk show. This particular one had me listening in for a few minutes, intrigued by the conversation between the host and a caller. The topic was the seemingly-out-of-place book of Ecclesiastes, a rather hard book for Christians to read without adding and changing the wording to make its message of "life is meaningless" mean something different (even though the book itself explicitly warns not to add to the book). The show's caller asked something regarding the mysterious ways of God. The host's response made me choke on my Skittles: "God doesn't give us answers, He gives us theology."

Not On Your Own Understanding
In the effort to once again tie atheism with nihilism, the Christian radio host continued to spout of claims that a life without God is a meaningless, hopeless life. These claims were of course not supported by anything other than the same words spoken with different inflection. But we've heard that song over and over and have proven it false. The thing that truly bothered me was how crass and willfully ignorant that statement was.

Now I've known first-hand how religion works and I talk with religious people on an almost daily basis, yet every time I hear this stuff I want to rip my hair out. They say things like "don't question, just accept" and claim it is the smartest thing you could ever do. They tout incredulity and gullibility as their highest virtue.

The radio preacher's words reminded me why I make videos and posts and why I talk to people about religion. The harm it causes to not only the believers and their family, but to the rest of the world, now and future generations. Not being able to think critically about ANYTHING is a greater risk to public safety than worrying about seat-belt laws. Those with this mentality of "we don't need answers, we just need God" scare the Jeebus out of me.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Unmoving Mover

I realize I haven't done much lately as far as posting videos or making blog entries. That got me thinking about the definitions I'm often hearing about "God". Hopefully you'll see the connection in a minute.

Not only is the traditional concept of God a logically self-contradictory idea (consciousness without matter, life without birth or death, complexity without evolution, simultaneously all-knowing and all-powerful), it also produces static divinity.

A Static God
If God is everywhere, then there is nowhere he can go. I have the freedom to sit in that chair, but God doesn't because he's already in it. He is omnipresent and omnidirectional . If he knows everything already, then there's nothing he can learn (or change). He can't "want" something, because he's supposed to be perfect (and you can't want what you lack). He is essentially an unchanging, unmoving, inactive idea; an everything and a nothing all at once. Add one to the self-contradictory list.

The theists will disagree, but the basic God-triangle (omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent) produces a static deity. The omnipotence paradox and the omnipotence-omniscience paradox show how God is restricted by simply applying the "omni-" attribute. Another simpler way to look at it is the phrase "a expert of everything is an expert of nothing". You can't judge your expertise against anything if you're already counting everything. Maybe all that means to you is that your god is super-powerful, but to me that means he can't change. Change is good and necessary, especially in a being that's supposed to be a healthy judge.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Tassel Hassle

I've been in Texas over the weekend for a family member's graduation. With a few hundred graduates seated on the floor of the local Expo center, I was prepared for a long evening. I was in for a surprise when the ceremony begin with a prayer.

You, Me, and MY God
I don't know why I was surprised. The graduating student opened with a prayer to the Christian God, thanking him for getting them through the school year alive, and asked that everyone -- not just her, her family, or even the class...EVERYONE in the building -- continue to "seek God and do His will". I shouldn't have to say how presumptuous, disrespectful, and unnecessary this was, but I'll do it for the benefit of the believers who read this and just can't see why it's not okay to assume that everybody within earshot believes in YOUR god.

As the ceremony progressed, I was increasingly disheartened by the notion that nearly every speaker just had to say something about God. One even read from the bible! After every mention of religion, I found myself tuning out the speaker. I would be agreeing right up until I heard them talk about how Jesus blessed them with the knowledge they have. No matter what came after, it would be tainted with the discovery that the speaker lacked true critical thinking skills. I wonder what exactly was talked about in their government, history, and science classes. "We've learn a lot," one would say. Have you?

We Did It
One theme that was common was the motto, "we did it", a pretty universal high-school graduation adage. And yet, the religious graduates continually described how God gave them this, God blessed them with that, "God's hand has been on our class". One student's speech started out with her thanking God for everything, THEN giving thanks to the apparently less important ones like her mom and dad. I see this all the time from god-believers and those who specialize in doublethink. "We did everything; we're smart, we have wonderful teachers and supporting parents. But GOD gave us the knowledge and the blessing and blah blah blah". Either give the credit to the ones who've earned it (yourselves) or sit there like the puppet you think you are and give all the credit to your "savior and Heavenly Father"!

I was relieved to discover the school had a disclaimer printed at the bottom of the program that stated the students were given the chance to make speeches on the topic of their choice, and their views didn't reflect nor were they endorsed by the school. I am all for free expression, and I'm in no way condemning the students for exercising their rights and choices. I just wish they'd made a little better informed ones. All in all, I (and perhaps a few others in the large audience) was uncomfortable and belittled, but at least I got to see my cousin graduate.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

W's Religious War

Recently declassified briefings from the Bush administration further reveal the link between our current war and religion. The cover sheets to these documents are adorned with pictures of troops and other war images captioned with quotes from the Christian bible. These briefings were delivered by Rumsfeld to the White House. Although this propaganda wasn't directly sent to the troops themselves, the fact of the matter is that those in power believed war was the correct course of action because of their religious belief. I think the images speak for themselves.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How to Argue Like a Theist

So what am I doing making a post with such a title? Over the years of arguing with them, I've learned to anticipate the arguments that theists will use in a discussion. It's like you can write a script for nearly every single debate (at least the ones with theists who haven't really debated before, or haven't given much thought as to why they think what they do). We nonbelievers have learned all the theists' tricks simply because these arguments are all that they have. They just keep using them again and again, no matter how many times they've been proven wrong.

  • 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 pseudo-arguments
  • Attack #6: Since science doesn't know how we got here, it must be God.
  • Attack #7: Offer personal experiences (you can't say I'm wrong now...I just *feel* it!)
  • Attack #8: Then what do you believe in? (purpose in life, morality, etc.)
  • Attack #n: see Ways to Annoy an Atheist

The first step (depending on how threatened the theist feels) is to attempt to rid themselves of the burden of proof. They may also falsely confuse passion with anger and try to use emotional arguments, claiming that the atheist must have been "hurt" by religion in the past. When these attempts fail, the next step is to argue from design. As the nonbeliever will typically use current scientific understanding to combat these weak attacks, the believer's next attempt is to attack science itself, claiming that scientific methods are invalid or flawed and will commonly use the "well, it's just a theory!". Once shown that science works, they resort to the only thing the atheist can't take away from them: personal experience. By the end of the discussion (if both parties ever reach such a point), the theist will throw out an argument from morality and begin considering what would be required to "believe IN" if one doesn't believe in God.

This is in no way a complete list, nor is it a script that occurs at each encounter. As I said earlier, it's the most common arguments that I find believers using to try to justify their unjustifiable beliefs. Yet the nonbeliever usually finds that every counter-attack has the opposite result: the more you show them there's no proof, the stronger they become in their belief! Faith 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. Faith (read: ignorance) can prevail.

Tracie Harris (who writes the Atheist Eve web comic) provides a similar list of theistic tactics, though in a different order:


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Obama Not Concerned with Praying

It seems that this year's annual trampling of church-state separation known as the "National Day of Prayer" was basically skipped by the nation's current President. The Obamas opted to observe the "holiday" in private (as he should according to his religion). For the first time in nearly two decades the White House declined to participate in the Congressionally-authorized mental jerkfest beyond issuing the standard proclamation.


Obama's toned-down stance earned him big points with us secularists. Along with his measures to stop federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education for teens and replace it with funding for “scientifically accurate” teen pregnancy approaches, and his stance on placing stronger a emphasis on science, not to mention lifting the ban on stem-cell research -- he's shaping up to undo a lot of the evils of the previous eight years.

Of course, President Obama did sign a proclamation recognizing the National Day of Prayer, as presidents before him have done for over half a century.

Small steps, I guess.


Monday, April 27, 2009

God Is Love

Here's a poem from a guy I'm subscribed to on YouTube:

He tempted Eve with a forbidden tree
God is Love
He allows Satan to wander free
God is Love

He killed newborn babies with a worldwide flood
God is Love
He just cant get enough fresh blood
God is Love

He killed poor Uzzah just for saving the ark
God is Love
He hated vegetables and gave Cain a mark
God is Love

He fried little babies in Sodom and Gomorrah
God is Love
He killed thousands more in the Amalekite slaughter
God is Love

He caused Davids newborn son to die
God is Love
Yet honored Rahab for her lie
God is Love

He let the devil ruin Job
God is Love
So he could brag and he could boast
God is Love

He hardened poor old Pharaohs heart
God is Love
Condemned by God, doomed from the start
God is Love

But with escape he was not content
God is Love
All firstborn died before they went
God is Love

He spared not one poor Canaanite
God is Love
The newborn went without a fight
God is Love

He killed forty-two boys with a grizzly bear
God is Love
Because Elisha had no hair
God is Love

He killed Ananias and Sapphira too
God is Love
For holding back their portion due
God is Love

So to cap off all that he had done
God is Love
He tortured and killed his only son
God is love?

© 2001, TruthSurge

Friday, March 20, 2009

Why I Left Atheism - A Critique

During a recent conversation I was challenged to read Why I Left Atheism, a paper by a guy named John N. Clayton who runs DoesGodExist.org. The autobiographical "booklet" details Clayton's story of becoming a Christian, and I was encouraged to read it in the hopes that I'd find it convincing. Thus I sat about hear out the exposition of this so-called former atheist-turned-evangelical with an open mind. Here's what I found:

Common Caricature
Very early on, Clayton begins making the common mistakes we see Christian evangelists make. In the second paragraph, he states that he used to be an atheist and the life he led was a stone's throw from pure evil. Clayton writes, "...that kind of life and conviction led me to do and say things and to be something that was really very unpleasant. I lived a life that was immoral and which reflected a lack of belief in God. I lived in a way that was very self-centered and that satisfied my own pleasures and desires regardless of whether or not other people were hurt in the process of what I was doing."

It is in this manner that Clayton shows us the first face of his ignorance. He equates being an atheist to living a "self-centered", "unpleasant", and otherwise "immoral" life. He argues from morality, assuming that all atheists are immoral by default, and that that kind of lifestyle is a reflection of not believing in God.

He couldn't be more wrong right off the bat. To falsify his claim we'd only have to find one person who doesn't believe in God (that is of course, the Christian God) and who leads a life that is not "self-centered", "unpleasant", or "immoral". Shouldn't be too hard.

We Don't Know Yet
Clayton then tells us that he was raised, nay indoctrinated as an atheist by non-believing parents. I'll give Clayton the benefit of the doubt, although this composition is already taking on the standard tone of the "once-blind-but-now-I-see" crowd. Things really start to get shady when Clayton claims to have had a discussion with one of his college professors on the "creation of matter from nothing" (apparently during an astronomy class where the topic was "origins"). Upon asking the professor which theory best explains creation ex-nihilo, Clayton is told he needs to learn to ask intelligent questions. Indeed, that's the smartest line so far, for Clayton should understand that matter/energy cannot be created or destroyed as per the First Law of Thermodynamics. The professor supposedly tells Clayton that these are questions not for the scientist but for the theologian, and Clayton is stunned that science doesn't know everything. The tone of this paragraph (and the following one) is reminiscent of the old email that has made the rounds a few times, the one about the atheist professor and the Christian student who "defeats" him with science.

The point of the paragraph seems to be that we are to focus on the answer the professor gave, about origins not being within the realm of science. Richard Dawkins covers this topic well in Chapter 2 of his book, The God Delusion. Put simply, religion falsely claims the right to answer why questions, and science gets the how. But not only is such a thing as a why question nonsensical, but the fact that most of the claims made by God-believers about their deity require some sort of physical interface, as it were. Dawkins writes, "The moment there was the smallest suggestion of any evidence in favour of religious belief, religious apologists would lose no time in throwing NOMA out the window." (NOMA being non-overlapping magisterium, the idea that science can't answer questions about God.) If God interacts in any way with the physical world, that point where the transaction occurs is (or should be) a place of testability.

Nevertheless, Clayton's unoriginal idea that science can't solve poorly-worded questions continues throughout the missive. Clayton moves on to the next professor (who always seems to be "one of the great XYZ professors in the country"), this time, biology. Again Clayton poses the question of origins to the all-knowing scientist, and again he is told that it is a question for religion, not for science. He then attempts to slip in a little argument-from-authority: "I guess what was happening to me was the same thing that Lord Kelvin, a very famous British scientist, described in his writings when he made the statement, 'If you study science deep enough and long enough it will force you to believe in God.' That is what happened to me. I began to realize that science had its limitations--that science, in fact, strongly pointed to other explanations than natural ones to certain questions."

A very famous scientist said science leads to God, so it must be true. More importantly, science doesn't know every answer to every question, so therefore Magic-Man done it! Clayton is just not seeing the problem here. An explanation has to stand on its own two feet. Even if the whole of science turns out to be a load of cow shit doesn't mean that God, FSM, Bigfoot, or Santa Claus wins by default.

Science is making progress; a thousand years ago people thought that lightening was caused by an angry god throwing bolts down to earth, and that illness was caused by evil spirits. We've come a long way to closing those gaps in our knowledge, but still some remain. Those gaps -- however convenient a hiding place to stuff a deity into -- do not suggest anything "supernatural" simply because they are unknowns. This God-of-the-gaps argument is the most-used attempt offered by theology. Not knowing something isn't a proof for anything except ignorance.

How The Bible Is Accurate
Clayton's next words reek of absurdity. While keeping the bad-boy image of living an evil immoral atheist life, Clayton reads his bible in the hopes of discovering scientific contradictions. You guessed it, he finds none! I'm not sure what his definition of "scientific contradictions" is, but I'm pretty sure "bats = birds" should qualify.

The intellectual bankruptcy continues for the rest of the paper, all the while Clayton cherry-picks bible verses and reiterates the view that he could do whatever he wanted to -- because after all, there was no God. He talks about his rebellious youth and implies that children who don't believe in a supernatural father-figure can't be good moral people and this is what's wrong with society today. Clayton recounts having to lie to his mother about certain happenings with a girl whom he had taken out the night before, and because "that was the last thing I was going to tell my mother", he learned to lie reeeel good. He then points to a bible verse that says "Fathers, provoke not your children to anger", thus blaming his lying, stealing, and general wickedness on the sins of his parents as strictly forbid in the "inerrant Word".

And of course no theistic proclamation is complete without the classic Psalm 53 attack: "The fool says in his heart there is no God"! Ouch, John. That always stings us heathens! Why you gotta do that?

The Need for God
Clayton admits to thoughts of suicide, recounting how his immoral atheistic lifestyle drove him to sink so low. It's the same old story you hear again and again about the drug-using rebellious hedonist who's hit rock bottom, then they "find Jesus" and all their problems just melt away. Even Clayton himself admits this and writes, "Have you ever wondered why it is that when a person gets clean from drugs, gets rid of the problem of alcohol, or conquers some of the problems like the ones I had, that the person always seems to get involved in some religious cause, halfway house, or something like that? Why is that?"

I'll tell you why that is. First off, it's easy to believe in God given the standard definition of his attributes. You can't see him, touch him, etc. but he'll take all your cares away and you'll even get to survive your own death! What's not to like about that, given your current state of mind?

But most importantly the reason lies in a common misconception (one that Clayton himself admits to subscribing to). There is this perception that you're either a godless, immoral, no-good asshat OR a god-fearing, virtuous, upright religious pillar. It's the idea that somehow religious people automatically receive respect simply because they're religious. By starting out claiming that you were a somewhat shitty person because you had no sky-master demonstrates this fallacy. According to this false dichotomy, what other choice do the run-downs think they have? People who think in this manner can't seem to understand that human beings don't need a god to be good.

Even if religion was proven to be the best way at dealing with these stereotypical problems, that would not make any of its claims true one bit. Being helpful doesn't equal being real. Beneficial? Maybe. But can anyone give me a benefit that religion offers that can't be provided by secular means?

Picking A God
Clayton next claims that he sought answers from other religions and "found that [they] taught many things I could not accept. There were teachings in their writings concerning what life was like after this life that were unrewarding and unrealistic and there were descriptions of God that were illogical and inconsistent."

Oh? And the omniscient/omnipotent or infinitely-just/infinitely merciful inheritances are logical? Streets of gold and worms that never die are realistic? Since he can't find anything to suit his personal taste, Clayton picks the bible as the only obvious truth (since truth is based on what suits you best). "I decided that if I ever came to believe in God, it would be a belief based upon the Bible." Statements such as these reveal Clayton as a poorly-reasoned atheist.

After picking out which flavor of Christianity he liked best (Church of Christ, apparently), Clayton finally gives us "the final straw" that took him from godless heathen to moral sainthood. Again, it's one of his "leading atheist" professors. This time it's geology, and Clayton ends up his somewhat contrived banter by telling his professor, "Sir, you have not really shown me any contradiction between what we have studied in this course and in what the Bible has to teach," to which he replied, "Well, I guess if you really study it, there is no contradiction." So again, he paints the picture of science (or scientists) not being able to solve his ill-formed questions...therefore Yahweh exists and the bible is literally true.

John Clayton finally sums up his "lesson" by saying if you're not with God you're against God. So remember, if you're not with the Tooth Fairy you're against the Tooth Fairy -- you can't be both!

This laughable tale has no hope of convenience any intellectual to take him seriously. At every point he incorrectly summarizes the state of things as we know them with regards to science, logic, and reason. He assumes first, and since no satisfactory answer is found, he turns to untested dogmatic irrational thinking that lacks any evidence whatsoever. Clayton's only arguments are from incredulity and morality. As for the latter, he doesn't get that he was just an immoral person, not because there was no God to tell him what to do or think, but because he didn't respect himself or his fellow man.

Clayton may indeed have been an atheist, although a poorly-informed and irrational one. Still, he displays an enormous lack of understanding about the scientific method and the fields of biology, cosmology, and geology. Those of us who hold our position due to reason and intellectual rationalization can quickly point out the flaws in Clayton's pesudo-arguments. This exercise has not truly been a waste, however, for the doors of conversation remain open, and the bright light of knowledge is still shining through and rousing the ill-informed.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Terror of Ignorance

Most people are stupid. I've probably said a thousand times by now that the education in this country is atrocious, and our critical thinking skills are about on par with those of common mouse turds. I'm not entirely sure of it, but I'd be willing to bet a small fortune that religion (or at least, religiously-based thinking) is at the root of our collective ignorance.

"Duh buybull sez..."
That ignorance is of the most terrifying molds: self-imposed. The fact that ignorance is necessitated by religion, coupled with the modern life-altering "gifts" that science, technology, and otherwise intelligent and knowledgeable people have given us, should alone be enough for any sane person to loudly cast religion aside. As I've said in an earlier post, I feel that one of the worst things you could possibly do to yourself is to willfully shackle your mind. Evidence -- pure, unadulterated, on-the-nose evidence -- still isn't enough to make some people see the light, as it were.

So the story goes for the idiots in Waco, Texas, where atheist Bill Nye was literally booed during a lecture where he said that the moon reflects the sun's rays and gives off no light of its own. I mean...wow. Stop and think about that: there are actually grown human beings in this day and age...people with kids...who don't, can't, or don't want to understand that the moon doesn't make light. I suspect the latter, because it's not from a lack of education or some serious head trauma or something. It's because they believe in God. They think their God wrote a book and because it says that he "created two great lights" that any physical evidence, no matter how strong and solid, won't convince them otherwise.

"Jesus, please save us....from your people!"
The knowledge that people like that make up a majority of the electorate, are raising children, and have a say in the education of future generations makes me physically ill. After typing the above paragraph, I actually had to stop and go outside for a bit. Just like when politicians or judges simply ignore rules clearly stated in our Constitution, the realization that some (most?) people can't seem to put two and two together makes me wish there was another habitable continent on this planet that wasn't already filled with the likes of them.

Religion is to blame for the ignorance in Waco, surely. Religion is synonymous with ignorance; it means ignoring evidence and reason in favor of "this-is-how-it-is" doctrine from other morons who don't know what they're talking about. Christianity's book starts out with humans being ignorant, and the first attempt at knowledge warrants damnation of their kind. And think a little more on just how that story went down: you have two ignorant humans listening to opposing discussion (by a snake, no less). Now forget the symbolism, ridiculousness, and supposed sacredness of the text, and ignore the idea that the snake wasn't lying, etc. Just think about what the story implies. The worst thing you can do is talk to someone who doesn't believe what you believe. Ignorance is bliss.