2/28/2007                                                                                       View Comments

Is it right to ban ... ?

By Dave, the WM

Smoking in public areas has been outlawed in several States in the US and in many countries around the world. This past November, the citizens of my home state — Ohio — voted to ban all public indoor smoking throughout the state. Smoking is not allowed in stores, restaurants, bars, places of business, clubs or within shouting distance of doorways to any public establishment, private or otherwise.

So it is written, so let it be done.

This isn't a rant about smoking, by the way, but eventually I'll make my point.

Smoking has been part of American heritage and history for perhaps thousands of years. Native Americans are frequently credited with discovering and harvesting the tobacco plant, and with inventing the practice of smoking. Smokers claim that enjoying a cigarette, cigar or pipe, helps facilitate a quiet moment of rest and relaxation. Some say it aids digestion. Many would be hard pressed to make it through the day without a smoke. For certain Native Americans, smoking even holds a religious significance.

But some people absolutely hate smoking.

Here’s an interesting tid-bit from Wikipedia:
Pope Urban VII’s 13 day papal reign included the world’s first known pubic smoking ban (1590), as he threatened to excommunicate anyone who “took tobacco in the porchway of or inside a church, whether it be by chewing it, smoking it with a pipe, sniffing it in powdered form through the nose.”

Of course everyone knows that smoking presents health risks to people. I know it only too well. My uncle smoked like a chimney his entire life and his nasty habit finally took its tool on him, robbing him of reaching his 80th birthday. My mother has been smoking like a fiend for the past 60 years and it’ll probably keep her from reaching her 85th. My grandfather was never seen without a lit pipe in his mouth, and he passed away of complications unrelated to smoking at 92.

OK, I realize my family genetics in regards to smoking isn’t everyone’s. While in my family smoking doesn’t seem to be a big killer, in fact, is considered as dangerous as chewing gum. However, in many other families, smoking has been devastating. That fact that smoking has deleterious effects on thousands of people’s health is well documented. Only a fool would argue with the mountain of medical statistics throwing aspersions on partaking of demon tobacco.

Still, smoking is not illegal. It is considered every adult’s individual right to enjoy smoking or not. What the ban is all about is keeping the possibly harmful side effects out of public areas where the smoke might affect a non-smoker’s health. And that's just fine with me.

OK, now on to Christianity.

Many people claim that their "faith" gives them a sense of hope and purpose. They say that without their belief in Jesus, Mary, or whomever, they’d find it difficult to get through the day. Religion has a calming effect on their lives, provides peace, and perhaps above all, helps them believe that everything is right in the world.

That's what they say.

History is rife with stories of torture, killing, war, even genocide, all in the name of religion. Christianity's history is chock full of Christians doing harm to people in the name of GOD. This cannot be refuted. It is way too easy to brush away history by saying that nNone of them were "True Christians™." Perhaps all those smokers, dead from emphysema and heart failure, were simply not "True Smokers™." True Smokers only acknowlege good things from smoking. True Christians only acknowledge good things from Christianity.

Just as True Smokers might feel offended or marginalized when asked to keep their grey cloud out of public areas, True Christians feel marginalized when asked to keep their hell-fire religion out of public politics. Smoking can rob a person of good clean air, but Christianity can rob a person of the ability to think. Smoking can shorten a person's life span, but Christianity can take away the ability to even pursue a full life. Smoking constricts the lungs while Christianity constricts everything else.

Being a Christian is a person's choice, just like being a smoker is a choice. Neither is illegal, and I wouldn't suggest that either should be. What people do in private is their own affair. What I would like to suggest is that forcing other people to accept and tolerate and respect and remain quiet and never criticize and even love my rancid cigar smoke in public areas would be, at the very least, rude and obnoxious. Today's Christianity seems intent on rallying political support in order to force other people to accept and tolerate and respect and remain quiet and never criticize and even love their Jesus. And that, I believe, is at the very least, rude and obnoxious.

Should religion be banned from polluting the public domain and influencing pubic policy in the same way that smoking is being banned from polluting the public domain and influencing public health?

What do you think?

Holy Christian Beatdown

By Dr. Zachary Moore

In Cobb County, Georgia, the same mecca of rationality that declared all biology books must be labeled to protect the dear, innocent children from the dangerous message of evolutionary theory, a couple faces a murder charge stemming from the deadly discipline used on their son, inspired by the teachings of their unique Christian church.

Sonya and Joseph Smith, of the Remnant Fellowship Church (also of the "Weigh Down Workshop" weight-loss plan), followed along with the church's policy of physically disciplining children with strikes from foot-long glue sticks. According to this article:

On Oct. 8, 2003, emergency crews were called to the Smiths' home in Georgia after the couple reported Josef was having trouble breathing. He died the next day at an Atlanta hospital.

Sonya Smith told police that on the day he died the couple had disciplined Josef with a series of glue-stick whippings, delivered in increments of 10. She said the boy was locked in a closet and made to pray to a picture of Jesus affixed to the ceiling. He was monitored in the kitchen via a camera in the closet.


Laura Boone, a 17-year old who used to babysit for Remnant families, testified about what she saw when hired to work at a Remnant church function:

"There were more than 20 kids total there," she said. "All the adults were getting ready to go into the worship room, and Josef Jr. was crying really hard in the corner. I asked his dad what he wanted me to do, and he looked right at me, and he hit his fist into his hand really hard."

Boone said Smith Sr. told her to hit his son, "Hit him hard," she recalled Smith telling her.

"I just told him I didn't feel comfortable hitting his son," she said. "So, he took Josef in the little room next door, and we could hear Josef crying really hard and his dad hitting him."

Boone said Josef returned to the nursery area still crying but with no visible marks on his body.

That was the last time Boone or her friends accepted a baby-sitting job at Remnant or for a Remnant family, she said.

The church seems to be an odd weight-loss group/fundamentalist Christian cult of some sort:

Like other members, Steve Miozzi and his wife joined Remnant after taking a Weigh Down class at their church in east Cleveland, Ohio. He said he and his wife were initially enthralled.

"You walked into the church, and you thought this is what heaven must look like," said Betsy Miozzi.

Everyone was thin, their teeth white, the children well behaved, and many appeared to be financially successful, she said. And everyone was "lovebombing" the couple, she said, using the church's terminology for friendly embracing of new visitors.

But when Steve Miozzi sought help on how to deal with an 11-year-old boy misbehaving during worship services, he said he was told by church leader Ted Anger to beat the back of the boy's thighs with a glue stick. If the boy didn't behave he was to keep repeating the procedure, and if the boy continued to misbehave he was to put him in a room with nothing but a Bible, Miozzi said.

Miozzi says that when he visited the Brentwood church for worship services, there were "glue sticks sticking out of diaper bags" in the aisles.

Anger dismissed Miozzi's account last week, saying he never prescribed a specific way to spank a child.

"I didn't sit there and give people manual instructions about discipline," Anger said. "It's always been about teaching principles. It's about putting the parents back in control with love and boundaries."

Child discipline is not what Miozzi says prompted him and his wife to leave the church.

They left after three years because of a church philosophy that he said did not allow any questioning of church leaders. The strict obedience to their authority "destroyed my personal relationship with Jesus Christ," he said.

Also, he said, he was taken to task for not losing enough weight.

But according to Remnant's leader, Gwen Shamblin:

Spanking a child is very different from hitting a child. Hitting is not spanking. Hitting is inflicting pain in anger. Spanking is a reluctant feeling that is necessary, and it does hurt the parent more than the child.

Spanking is a time-tested, ancient teaching from the Bible… Every child is different, and some parents in the Remnant, all they have to do is give the child a disapproving look, and some children are strong-willed. Teaching and constant direction in the form of both positive and, very occasionally negative, reinforcement is the most loving way to raise a child.

Call it what you want; I think it's clear that if you cause a child's death, you've done something immoral.

2/27/2007                                                                                       View Comments

KIERKEGAARD AND SOCRATES

By D. R. Khashaba

[First published in Philosophy Pathways Issue No. 108]

Prefatory note

On November 11, 2005, one hundred and fifty years will have passed since the death of Sören Kierkegaard at the age of 42. Kierkegaard's philosophy dissertation was entitled On the Concept of Irony with constant reference to Socrates. He may have seen himself as continuing the Socratic mission of freeing people of passively received dogmas and making them turn inwards into themselves. But in this paper I find more contrasts than similarities between these two differently exceptional personalities. I try to bring out this contrast, or rather opposition, by examining Kierkegaard's exposition of his notion of the "teleological suspension of the ethical." But first let us try to get an overview of the intricate relations between their outlooks.

Kierkegaard and Socrates

Greek thought and Hebrew thought do not make a good mix. Christianity of course is such a mix and that is one source, perhaps the major source, of its difficulties. You can either think in Greek terms or in Hebrew terms without experiencing internal discord, but when you try to weld the two together you cannot be true to yourself all the way through; at some point you have either to forget about the rationality of Greek thought or throw overboard the sanctified presuppositions of Hebrew thought. Kierkegaard, like many old and present-day theologians and Christian thinkers, was trapped between the horns of this dilemma, but unlike many who found themselves in that predicament, Kierkegaard was willing to save his skin by sacrificing the rationality.

That is why Kierkegaard, while seeking to emulate Socrates, could not proceed Socratically. Socrates sought to free people of received preconceptions by examining, disentangling, clarifying ideas, by shedding a flood of light. Kierkegaard sought to pull people out of their quiescent, lukewarm acceptance of dogma by shocking them. As Professor William McDonald puts it, "He used irony, parody, satire, humor, and deconstructive techniques in order to make conventionally accepted forms of knowledge and value untenable."(1) But when he made 'conventionally accepted forms of knowledge and value untenable' his intention was not that people should discard them but that they should hold them with heightened fervency. He did not want people to reject dogma but to hold it in 'fear and trembling'.

The title of Chapter II of Kierkegaard's Concluding Unscientific Postscript, "The Subjective Truth; Inwardness; Truth is Subjectivity", sounds so deceptively Socratic that we may be excused if we are shocked by the revelation that the positions of the two men are in fact totally opposed. While both Socrates and Kiekegaard found the proper being of humans in subjectivity, the subjectivity Socrates valued was a subjectivity of reason, its essence was intelligibility, while the subjectivity of Kierkegaard was a subjectivity of feeling, its essence was a state of agitation. He asserts that "passion is the culmination of existence for an existing individual", and again that "passion is also the highest expression of subjectivity."(2)

Kierkegaard's project

Kierkegaard sought to rescue Christians from the tepidness, the superficiality, and the matter-of-fact adherence that is the bane of institutionalized religions. On this point his position was unequivocal: "If one who lives in the midst of Christendom goes up to the house of God, the house of the true God, with the true conception of God in his knowledge, and prays, but prays in a false spirit; and one who lives in an idolatrous community prays with the entire passion of the infinite, although his eyes rest upon the image of an idol: where is there most truth? The one prays in truth to God though he worships an idol; the other prays falsely to the true God, and hence worships in fact an idol."(3)

He wanted to restore individuals to their individuality. Hence his watchword was "become who you are", which we may designate as his version of the Apollonic/Socratic gnôthi sauton.

Kierkegaard and mysticism

Although Kierkegaard saw his work as a continuation of Socrates' mission to free people of thraldom to unexamined preconceptions and received notions, he stopped short of questioning the tenets of Christian theology. His contemporaries may have seen his positions as unorthodox and it pleased him to make a show of his unorthodoxy, perhaps the better to assert his individuality, yet he was too deeply immersed in traditional doctrine to shed away its basic tenets. The unreasonableness of those tenets rather than affording ground for their overthrow was seen as a virtue, heightening the intensity of the sentiment engendered by the desperate, blind grasping at nothingness. This is perhaps more akin to the drug-addict's grasping at the phantom of bliss than to the mystic groping for an undefinable, unfathomable something. The mystic's experience comes closest to pure subjectivity; Kierkegaard's paradoxical faith mars the subjectivity by reaching out towards an unreachable heaven.

With Kierkegaard, in place of the mystic identification with the ultimate source we have a constant assertion of the otherness of the power which constitutes the self. Since Kierkegaardian faith is neither the experience of mystic identification nor the self-evidence of phronetic intelligibility, it has repetitively to be renewed in anxiety, fear, and trembling.

Kierkegaard and existentialism

Kierkegaard's purpose was to shock Christians into revitalizing their faith. It was his representation of the religious experience as an inward passionate anxiety that earned him the title of "father of existentialism" and that led to the re-assertion of the connection between philosophy and life, a connection which had often been lost sight of and which has now once more been obliterated in many professional and academic circles.

Unfortunately, Kierkegaard's emphasis on the inwardness of the spiritual life was clouded and marred by entanglement with Kierkegaard's acceptance of the Christian dogma and by the consequent insistence on the absurdity and paradoxicality of faith. I suggest that, if Kierkegaard could have broken free of the fetters of dogma, he would have arrived at a purer conception of faith as the immediacy of spiritual inwardness.

Kierkegaard and dogma

The assertion of the absolute transcendence of God was pivotal to Kierkegaard's position, but what is that but to equate God with the area of our ignorance? If God is what I don't know and can never know, then what is he to me? At most the illusion of somehow knowing something that I know I don't know. And it is this illusion that is meant to give us the intense subjective feeling of knowing what is unknown and unknowable: the height of absurdity, but then absurdity is just what Kierkegaard was after. "Without risk there is no faith. Faith is precisely the contradiction between the infinite passion of the individual's inwardness and the objective uncertainty." (4)

In Professor McDonald's succinct formulation, "Christian faith, for Kierkegaard, is not a matter of learning dogma by rote. It is a matter of the individual repeatedly renewing h/er passionate subjective relationship to an object which can never be known, but only believed in. The belief is offensive to reason, since it only exists in the face of the absurd (the paradox of the eternal, immortal, infinite God being incarnated in time as a finite mortal)."(5) Let us try to understand what is supposed to lie outside the sphere of understanding. Christian faith, we are told, is a matter of a passionate subjective relationship to an object which can never be known: yet that which 'can never be known' is distinctly presented in that closing parenthetical clause: the eternal, infinite God incarnated in time as a finite mortal. All of Kierkegaard's circuitous subterfuges end in the requirement to embrace unquestioningly this absurdity not inspite of its absurdity but precisely because of its absurdity. Kierkegaard never wanted to free us of dogma: he was opposed to 'learning dogma by rote' but he was all for imbibing dogma with our eyes wide open.

The teleological suspension of the ethical

To give some substance to my generalities I will comment briefly on Kierkegard's examination in Fear and Trembling of the question "Is There Such a Thing as a Teleological Suspension of the Ethical?"(6)

In advancing the notion of the "teleological suspension of the ethical" Kierkegaard's immediate target was the refutation of Hegelianism. Following the plan he devised for that purpose, Kierkegaard (in the persona of Johannes de Silentio) starts from Hegel's definition of the ethical as the universal and of the single individual as a "moral form of evil", and proceeds to show that, on these terms, Hegel had to condemn Abraham as a murderer. This conclusion would, according to Kierkegaard, be absurd. Why absurd? Because 'correct' Christian doctrine tells us to revere Abraham as the "father of faith". We have to choose between Hegelian rationalism and justifying Abraham by faith. In his treatment of this question, Kierkegaard provides a most flagrant example of the utter sottishmess we can fall into when we allow ourselves to be enslaved by a given theology.

After distinguishing clearly between the tragic acts of Agamemnon in sacrificing his daughter, Jephthah, also sacrificing his daughter, and Brutus, ordering the execution of his son, on the one hand, and Abraham's sacrificing his son, on the other hand, and after arguing that Agamemnon, Jephthah, and Brutus, all remain 'within the ethical' and that there is no 'teleological suspension of the ethical' in their case, he goes on to justify the act of Abraham. (Parenthetically I would say that ranging Jephthah along with Agamemnon and Brutus as a tragic hero is an enormity: I cannot see how Jephthah can be said to remain 'within the ethical',(7) but I will not go out of my way to discuss this point at length.)

Kierkegaard asks, "Why then did Abraham do it?", and he answers, "For God's sake and (in complete identity with this) for his own sake. He did it for God's sake because God required this proof of his faith; for his own sake he did it in order that he might furnish the proof." I must confess I find no sense in this. Why would God 'require this proof of Abraham's faith'? Could he not find a less barbarous test? And if he could not, and allowing that his omniscience failed him in just this one instance, could he not opt for giving the man the benefit of the doubt instead of putting him to this cruel test? And why would Abraham find it so important to furnish the proof? To find favour in the eyes of God? To earn the rewards of subservient obedience? Prometheus proved himself nobler than Zeus; why could not Abraham aspire to that kind of nobility?

Kierkegaard continues, "Here is evident the necessity of a new category if one would understand Abraham. Such a relationship to the deity paganism did not know. The tragic hero does not enter into any private relationship with the deity, but for him the ethical is the divine …" He concludes: "The story of Abraham contains therefore a teleological suspension of the ethical. As the individual he became higher than the universal: this is the paradox which does not permit of mediation." And this is faith as Kierkegaard understands it, an absurd paradox or a paradoxical absurdity.

The final conclusion of Kierkegaard's discussion of the teleological suspension of the ethical is that faith transcends the ethical. Here we find the final and ineradicable contradiction between the position of Kierkegaard and that of Socrates. In the Euthyphro Socrates poses the question: Is what is righteous righteous because it is favoured by the gods or is it favoured by the gods because it is righteous? Although the Euthyphro does not spell it out, the Socratic answer rings loud and clear in the works of Plato as a whole and finds its clearest expression in the Republic: the Idea of the Good is the fount of all reality, all truth, and all value.

Kierkegaard advances the category of the 'religious' as a new category, a category higher than the ethical, not known to the Greeks or to Hegel. In fact it is nothing but the naïve 'piety' of the soothsayer Euthyphro that Socrates finds unsatisfactory, piety as that which is pleasing to the gods.

Concluding remarks

Sin and guilt loom large in Kierkegaard's thought. It is the sense of sin that instils in us the idea of the transcendent God towards whom we are 'always in the wrong', and it is the anxiety arising from our consciousness of guilt that impels us to seek salvation by the absurdity of faith.

Kierkegaard holds that the life-work which God judges in a person is that person's fulfilment of the task of becoming a true self. This would constitute a very fine philosophy indeed – and it has in fact been a source of inspiration to many(8) – except that for Kierkegaard that fulfilment could only be achieved through that necessarily absurd faith which alone secured salvation.

Kierkegaard's theoretical position was largely a reaction against Hegelianism. Against Hegel's hubristic logicalism Kierkegaard set up the irrationality of a paradoxical faith. Saner than either was Socrates' rationalism that valued understanding freed of the illusion of knowledge. Kierkegaard discovered the deceptiveness of the dream that promised to lead humanity to its highest goals (however defined) through scientific knowledge. Had he been more consistently Socratic he might have spared us something of the scientism that in our day poses as the sole way to understanding.

D. R. Khashaba

http://khashaba.blogspot.com

http://www.Back-to-Socrates.com

Footnotes

  1. McDonald, William, "Søren Kierkegaard", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2005 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2005/entries/kierkegaard/>.
  2. Concluding Unscientific Postscript, translated by David F. Swenson and Walter Lowrie, Princeton, 1944.
  3. Concluding Unscientific Postscript.
  4. Concluding Unscientific Postscript.
  5. McDonald, William, "Søren Kierkegaard", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2005 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2005/entries/kierkegaard/>.
  6. "Is There Such a Thing as a Teleological Suspension of the Ethical?" (reproduced in Approaches to the Philosophy of Religion, edd. Daniel J. Bronstein and Harold M. Schulweis, New York, 1954).
  7. See Book of Judges, 11.
  8. See, for instance, Richard Schain, In Love With Eternity, 2005, passim.

Discrimination against athesits, part II

A few weeks back, CNN's Paula Zahn put together a panel of so-called experts to discuss whether or not atheists are discriminated against in the US. Apparently CNN was flooded with emails about the panel not including an atheist, so Richard Dawkins was invited to speak on the topic. Enjoy! To view the short articles leading up to this interview with Dawkins, click here: Discrimination against atheists.

This video is about 3.5 minutes long.

2/26/2007                                                                                       View Comments

Logical Proof that God doesn't exist - Prayer

By Sailorfraud

The Bible says God is almighty who answers your prayers. So how do you know if God is real other than that faith crap? Try the power of prayer when an earthly situation occurs which is beyond your control and only an almighty God who created the universe and all life can control.

Suppose you or a close family member has a terminal disease like cancer which cannot be medically cured? A certain time line is given, so like all hopeful human beings, you humbly and diligently pray to the almighty God who says in the Bible he answers prayers. Time and reality passes, the disease takes it's toll, and your prayers go unanswered.

Maybe one in a million may be saved, but looking at a 99.9999% failure rate for prayer is evidence that God does not exist. Now, compare it to an atheist who suffers the same terminal disease and wishes for healing. The same 99.9999% failure rate occurs.

Now compare it to a devout Muslim suffering the same terminal disease and prays to his/her god for healing, and still results in a 99.9999% failure rate. Similarly, the Hindu, Jew, Buddhist, etc... all face 99.9999% failure rates.

Doesn't this indicate you you that there is no God? Perhaps one of the numerous worshiped gods do exist, but wouldn't that omnipotent god produce better than a 99.9999% failure rate, or else what is the purpose of worshiping that god if he doesn't answer your prayers? Doesn't common logic and sense exist anymore?

2/23/2007                                                                                       View Comments

The Atheist's Dilemma

By Justin Baragona

Religion is a very important element in the lives of the majority of people in this world, whether it is Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism. The level of belief that one person feels to his or her religion varies, from casual recognition of your religion on major religious holidays all the way towards full blown extremism. However, it would be safe to say that the majority of people, at least in this nation, believe in a god and feel that there is a deeper meaning to their existence, that there is a heaven or some form of an afterlife, and that through worship of the god that they can attain everlasting happiness in the afterlife.

Then, you have the flip side of the equation, the atheist. The atheist came to a conclusion sometime in his life that there was no such thing as a higher being, that there is not an afterlife and that once you die that is all. Most likely, this happened while he was a teenager or a young adult, when his religious teachings stopped making sense to him and what he learned in school just could not be reconciled with what the church was telling him. Or maybe the concept of blind faith in a deity that he could find no proof of did not sit well with him. The atheist was able to find it easier to not believe than to believe. It was at this point that the atheist looks back at the history of religion, and not just necessarily the one that he stopped believing in, but the belief in god(s) in general.

He sits back and sees that early man used an unseen god to explain away the things he did not, or could not, understand. The wind, the sun, the stars, the rain…all of this was done by a god. And this god, or gods, should be worshipped and paid tribute to, especially if it was felt that the god affected their way of life. As man progressed through history, religion would be used as a tool of power to maintain order amongst the masses. Civilizations were built, in part or wholly, through the belief and fear of gods. Men of power would typically use the belief in the god to keep their position and to instill fear in the population. Sometimes, religion was used to stifle scientific and academic progress. The atheist looks back and bemoans the destructive tendency of religion and feels self-satisfied for knowing that he is above it all.

The atheist, however, sometimes concentrates on the negative impact of religion and forgets some of the positive contributions to mankind. Mostly, he tends to gloss over the development of a moral code that came from religion that would thus be the framework for a government and legal system. It was most likely necessary in the beginnings of civilization to have our laws be given to us by a higher power, to help create order and try to ensure that people would follow for fear of a greater retribution. Then there is another huge factor of religion that the atheist tries to ignore, but inevitably can't: It gives people hope and meaning in their lives. While the atheist might have been able to come to grips with the fact that we only have one life and there is nothing afterwards, it is still a depressing thought to think that this is all there is. The atheist's dilemma with life is to acknowledge that it has no greater meaning, that it is all just a chance occurrence.

Some of the wind goes out of the atheist's sails at this point. Not necessarily because he is depressed when he comes back to the acknowledgement that life has no meaning , but in knowing that it would be impossible to expect that most people would be able to accept this. He knows that people need a reason to go on with their lives. They need something to believe in and something to hope for. They need to feel that there is a greater power than them and that life is not the end all. So, the atheist must accept this, because most people need to believe in a god to get through their lives, to give them a sense of purpose. In the end, though, this should be fine with the atheist, as he is not looking to convert believers, as he does not belong to a religion and does not believe in any deity that he feels must be worshipped.

OK, it should be obvious to anyone reading now that I am an atheist. Personally, I feel that religion is a waste of time and prevents mankind from moving forward. However, as I seem to acknowledge in the paragraphs above, I also realize the necessity for religion, for the belief in God and an afterlife. For many people, it can be downright depressing to think that we do not have a higher purpose in life. I do not have a problem with anyone's personal beliefs, and do not care that they congregate to worship or celebrate religious holidays or anything else of that nature. What I do have a problem with is groups of people who feel that the laws and policies of this nation and its government should be dictated by their own personal religious beliefs. I do have a problem with people railing against science because it conflicts with text that was written thousands of years ago. I do have a problem with how people feel it is necessary that we can only elect someone to office once we know that they are a person of faith. I do have a problem with people who feel that their religion needs to constantly be reinforced and recognized publicly. I do have a problem with people using religion as an excuse for intolerance.

2/21/2007                                                                                       View Comments

God: The Failed Hypothesis

God: The Failed HypothesisThe latest success in an "atheist literary wave" is GOD: THE FAILED HYPOTHESIS ($19.32, Amazon Books) in which Victor Stenger--a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and a research fellow of the Center for Inquiry--argues that science has advanced sufficiently to make a definitive statement on the existence or nonexistence of the traditional Judeo-Christian-Islamic God.

After evaluating all the scientific evidence, Stenger concludes that beyond a reasonable doubt the universe and life appear exactly as we might expect if there were no God. He convincingly shows that not only is there no evidence for the existence of God, but scientific observations actually point to his nonexistence. Stenger invites readers to put their minds--and the scientific method--to work to test this claim.

  • Bestselling authors Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris have praised GOD: THE FAILED HYPOTHESIS:

    "Marshaling converging arguments from physics, astronomy, biology, and philosophy, Stenger has delivered a masterful blow in defense of reason. God: The Failed Hypothesis is a potent, readable, and well-timed assault upon religious delusion. It should be widely read." -- Sam Harris, author of the New York Times best seller Letter to a Christian Nation

    "I learned an enormous amount from this splendid book." -- Richard Dawkins, author of the New York Times best seller The God Delusion

  • Every Barnes & Noble and Borders store in the country has this book on their new release front table.
  • The advertising campaign includes print publications the Los Angeles Times, New York Times Book Review, Reason, The Nation, The New Republic, and banner ads at SeedMagazine.com and ScienceBlogs.com.
  • Talk of GOD has been all over the blogosphere, including in The Huffington Post, The Skeptic online, Blogcritics.org, Detroit News Online's "Faithtalk" forum, MonstersandCritics.com, World Magazine's "World Views: Daily News/Christian Views" and The Secular Web.

Letters From Leavers

By John W. Loftus

In a recent email from a Christian student at Fuller Seminary named Tim Bowers he tells me that a classmate and him are doing a project called Letters from Leavers and that "it is essentially a webspace for people who have left the Church to write a “Dear John” letter to the Church."

Tim continues, "It may sound weird coming from a Christian (I hope it doesn’t) but I am very interested in hearing your story and would love you to check out the site. If the site interests you we would love it if you could help us out by sending any folks that you know that might want to connect with a site like this to the page. Thanks so much for your time and consideration."

Then he adds, "I assure you this is no ploy to try to re-evangelize you. We are genuinely interested in hearing your story and that’s it. You can post anonymously to the site so no one will be able to contact you if you don’t want them to."

I have already posted my deconversion story here, but others may want to do so. If so, have at it.

2/20/2007                                                                                       View Comments

Blind Man's Bluff

By DagoodS

You are in a building. The building contains a bomb which you must find. You do not know the size of the bomb, the make-up of the bomb, nor any markings on the bomb. It could be in any shape, and anywhere within the building. It could be a painting on the wall, the wallboard itself, or behind the wall.

You have a limited amount of time to find it. You are free to get advice from any bomb expert you choose, but there is no guarantee the bomb expert is correct. In fact, most bomb experts will tell you false information. You don’t know which ones are accurate and which ones are not.

Eventually you must make a choice as to what is the bomb. But you will not know whether that choice is correct until after the time of the bomb’s explosion.

Seems pretty incomprehensible, doesn’t it? Yet that is exactly what theists request of us. They claim there is a God in the building—that much is certain. But as to its size and shape and color, we are left totally in the dark.

How many times in our conversations with theists, have we come across the phrase, “God is mysterious. Incomprehensible. More than any finite mind could ever conceive or describe.”

Elsewhere, another blogger posed a question that I found intriguing: “If I cannot see God and if I cannot understand him, how will I know if I have found him?”

I have talked before about the concept of God and love. And when we compare what God does to what humans do—well, it doesn’t seem very loving. But when I point that out, I am met with shock—“Who are you to question God? Were you there when he made the foundations of the earth? His love is so much different, so beyond our comprehension (he died for you!) that it is nothing like it in the natural world.”

O.K. got it. Check. Can’t recognize God by love.

Or, when the question of love is brought up, I am informed that I am forgetting that God is just. But what does his justice look like? “Just” means in accordance with a law. What law does God have to follow? And, when he is merciful, he is deliberately not following the law. In other words, God is not bound by any justice or mercy at all. Since I cannot even see God, talking about some law beyond God (which he does or does not have to follow) that I see even less becomes meaningless.

O.K. got it. Check. Can’t recognize God by justice or mercy.

And I am informed that God defines absolute morality. But then I view actions in the Tanakh that go against the moral intuition he allegedly gave me. Things like asking a person to perform human sacrifice to prove their loyalty. Genocides. Hardening hearts. When I ask about those things, that don’t seem very moral to me, I am told I must accept God as moral, and while it doesn’t appear moral, God had to have a moral reason for it.

O.K. got it. Check. Can’t recognize God by morality.

I have no way to verify if God is speaking the truth. If God is bound by truth, and I ask, “Can you lie?” he must answer “No.” But if he is NOT bound by truth, and I ask, “Can you lie?” he can still answer “No”! Same question. Same answer. Two completely different Gods. No way to verify whether God is telling the truth.

O.K. got it. Check. Can’t recognize God by truth.

If I am talking to a young earth creationist, I am informed that God could make the stars appear to be billions of light years away, and make the earth appear to be billions of years old, by creating it looking old. But it really is young. And I am told by old earth creationists, that God didn’t mean “day” when he inspired the author of Genesis 1, but rather God meant “a long, long time” and that God created light before he created the sun. Which is completely contrary to science. But God did that because he did not want it to be too easy for us to believe in creationism.

O.K. got it. Check. Can’t recognize God by science.

I am told by Christians that Mormon scriptures are not from God and the Qur’an is not from God, and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures is not from God. That certain books, although esteemed as canonical at one time, like 1 Clement, Epistle of Barnabas and Shepherd of Hermas, are not inspired either. And now, we have questions as to whether the ending of Mark, or the Story of the Adulterous woman is inspired. In fact, the Christians can’t seem to agree on a method by which we can determine a certain string of words is inspired or not.

All of which doesn’t matter, because even without holy writings, I will still be held responsible.

O.K. got it. Check. Can’t recognize God by writings.

The Muslims have miracle stories of their own. So do Hindus. And Catholics have a weekly sighting of Mary, in cooked items or bridge underpasses. Mormons and Seven-Day Adventists have moving stories of personal testimony by which they tell of life-transformations because of their God. But those are the wrong Gods. The humans have it wrong, I am told.

O.K. got it. Check. Can’t recognize God by testimonies.

At which point, I wonder, as my blogger friend said: If I can’t recognize a God—how would I know it if I see it?

The problem with “God is mysterious” is that the impetus is on us to play this blind man’s bluff game with a ticking bomb, and the theist is puzzled why we have difficulty perceiving God. For the reasons they just explained—he is not like anything we know.

If your claim of reality is incomprehensible—why be surprised if I don’t comprehend it? I’m just following instructions.

2/19/2007                                                                                       View Comments

Douglas Adams on atheism



A great text by Douglas Adams, read by Simon Jones (who played Arthur Dent in the original HHGTTG radio and TV series), where he explains his positions about the existence of god(s), opinions and the scientific method.

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil

This is a small portion of the book that I have been working on about Christianity. Even this small portion is not what I want it to be nor is it "cleaned and polished" as some of my book already is. I share this unfinished portion now because of the need to have people think and understand the foundations of the major world religions and WHY they are harmful to the mind and consciousness of humanity.

Any feedback on this would be appreciated. Thanks!

John Blatt


*************************************************

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil
By John Blatt


It is common knowledge that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil lies at the very foundation of the monotheistic religions of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Regardless of the various interpretations there is no dispute – that at this Tree the whole of these religions are founded. Yet there is one extremely important fact that is repeatedly overlooked in the understanding of this doctrine within the teachings of these religions, especially within Christianity. These Old Testament scriptures (see above) unquestionably - yet subtly - proclaims that unrestricted knowledge was to be withheld from mankind and the only "true" knowledge is that which is confined to what God authorizes.

From a non-religious perspective it seems clear that, according to the Old Testament, God created the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and placed it in the garden of Eden where all the other good trees were for eating of its fruits. God created it and yet did not want mankind to eat from it. Why? For the moment try to forget that this was, according to the New Testament, the beginning of God’s plan of salvation, saving humankind from their Fall. Try to forget that it was the Serpent that tempted Eve. Even try to forget that it was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Let’s just think about the Tree of Knowledge itself. It was the Tree of Knowledge. Knowledge. What is knowledge?

Regardless if you believe in these scriptures or not, these passages clearly prohibits and condemns the acquiring of knowledge. Yet even further, in essence, what these texts suggest is the prohibition of thinking. It attributes the process of human thinking as something that Evil tempts you to do – think for yourself, acquire knowledge (which is the act of thinking), gain wisdom – is looked upon as something that is initially controlled by God and that God warns man not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge – that is, to have man gain his own knowledge. The knowledge that God wants man to have is the knowledge that He dictates, not what man himself/herself dictates. The Serpent, the one prompting Eve to think for herself, is viewed here as the Tempter, the Deceiver, and ultimately interpreted as Satan, the Devil, the Dragon, and the Evil One.

Let’s shine some light on this and turn this around properly. From a non-Christian perspective the Bible is at best errant and contradictory. It very well may also be the most brilliantly constructed set of psychological documents in history. The Bible, in my opinion, is exactly that. A series of mind-control documents that were created by incredibly knowledgeable men for the precise purpose of manipulating mankind and controlling the minds and knowledge of the world. Look at Genesis 3 again. Think not from the perspective that God is dictating anything or that even Adam and Eve existed. Think now for a moment that the Old Testament is man-made, not divinely inspired. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil takes on a new light. It becomes the control factor of billions of people. How? By creating a “divine world-view” and telling all of its adherents that Knowledge is to be restricted to “His Knowledge” or devotion to “Orthodox teaching”. To lay out in the beginning that man is NOT to gain knowledge on his own (and in doing so in the first place created the Fall of mankind), but to rely on only that which the Bible-God says to rely on. Men and women are NOT to think on their own, to attain knowledge and wisdom upon what they believe is best for themselves, but only what God says is best for them. Obtaining knowledge of all that is “good” and all that is “evil” on mankind’s own volition is Evil. It is this “eating of the tree of knowledge” by Adam and Eve to be the fall of mankind. We have become corrupt, sinful, deluded, and immoral by eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Thus, this sets all of humanity in a position to be completely dependent on the “knowledge of God” derived from the Old and New Testaments and Koran, since our “minds have been darkened” and the wisdom of God is now “foolish to men”. Thus we are set in a system of control so amazing and so “fearfully and wonderfully made” that we cannot think now outside of this system, outside of this man-made Bible-box, because we cannot understand the "things of God" on our own. We must rely now on God’s Word and its interpretation by the Elders of His Church to teach us His Truth. If we question it, we are rebelling against the knowledge of God. If we question it, we are doing what Eve did in the Garden – think for herself and seek knowledge not based on God’s dictates (according to the bible).

[Another thing to remember is that this is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil - this again, is very sublte control, because it states that the knowledge to be had is either Good or Evil. One of the best ways to manipulate a mass of people is to give them two oppositing forces to believe in, neither of which are what they are. This is literally a magic trick. A good magician makes the audience concentrate on two objects while the real trick is going on somewhere else, the focus is drawn away from the real issue. You create two opposing forces and do not give them any other options. People are suckers for battles or fights. The fight between good and evil. If there is no actual good or evil, but only what we are made to believe or think (it only has power if we give it power, it only exists if we believe it exists) then we are stuck with a foundational premise of viewing the world that is controlled with two "opposing forces" that don't even exist.]

Thus, from the very beginning in each of these religions, uncontrolled knowledge [knowledge outside the confines of the bible] (that is, knowledge that is not specifically approved by God, or practically speaking, approved by the Word of God) is a temptation, it is a deception, it is evil. Knowledge, and thus the process of thinking, must be controlled by God for our own protection – for our own good, because we are weak creatures. In the beginning God called man “very good”. Yet, not good enough to allow man to truly think for himself. He needed to be restricted from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He was commanded not to eat thereof. Adam, though “very good” and very appealing to God in the beginning, wasn’t good enough to have access to all knowledge. The knowledge of good and evil was bad for Adam. Why? Because if Adam had knowledge he would become like God himself, the ability to think for himself freely. "God" was the first Freethinker, yet, according to these texts he did not want mankind to have knowledge and to think according to this knowledge. In truth, God forbid man to think for himself. This, of course, is not true in reality, but according to the Old Testament it is. Thus the condemnation and guilt of mankind came from taking in knowledge and thinking for themselves. It makes the act of thinking and knowledge (the fuel of thought) evil. Thus at the very bedrock of the worlds "great" religions is: mind control. Only that which God dictates as approved knowledge is approved knowledge. Mankind, left to think for himself without God’s restriction, produces only evil and condemnation. Man changed from being “very good” to being evil, that “the evil of man was great on the earth, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the day long.” This is because mankind took into himself knowledge. He thought for himself. by the help of the Serpent, and thus became evil.

This is the thrust of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. That only the approved knowledge of God (the knowledge approved by God which happens to be the approved Word of God, the Scriptures) is acceptable knowledge and acceptable to think about. Mankind cannot be left to go his own way, to think for himself, to have all knowledge. His way must be restricted, his thoughts must be wrangled in and guided correctly, the knowledge that he should have is the knowledge of God – of what he approves. Thus the reason why he gave mankind “the good Book”, the “Word of God” the “Holy Scriptures”. "Yes, men wrote the Word of God but they were men who were approved by God to write it and divinely inspired them to do so." "Thus, to have all knowledge, to think freely without restraint or restriction, to reason and question, to go the way we think is best…is all anathema." "The Serpent is responsible for deceiving all of us in Adam and because of him we are now lost, naked, and ashamed." This is what these texts want us to believe.

Ultimately, those who are responsible for creating Genesis and the rest of the books of the Jewish Old Testament, the Muslim Koran, and the Christian New Testament are the ones who truly wanted to keep mankind from the Tree of the Knowledge. To keep mankind from thinking for themselves without restriction. To not question the approved knowledge and to forbid mankind from knowing what the authors of these works know. Knowledge is power. Thus all independent thinking and the seeking of wisdom on our own (outside of this god) is welded into our conscious and subconscious minds as coming from the Evil One. Even if we seek to think for ourselves and reject the teachings and gods of these religions there is the deep programming, the deep indoctrination that says to us that we have gone the way of the Serpent.

So the work has been accomplished quite amazingly according to plan. The majority of mankind are gripped by a fundamental mind control system that cannot be seen or understood by most. The easiest way to control the world is to control the thinking of mankind. How do you control the thinking of mankind? Just look at the religions that hold up the Tree of Knowledge at its beginning and you will see. Programming genius. Those who created these texts knew exactly how to use what is now called "Thought Reform" on the minds of men, for they have been successful in reforming the thought processes of trillions of men, women and children and controlling the knowledge and thus the reality of mankind for thousands of years. This is why the evolution of humanity is governed directly by these religions. We can speak of world consciousness, peace, and the evolution of humanity's consciousness all we like, but without this true knowledge, without being deprogrammed from this restriction of knowledge and devolved view of man we have no hope. As long as our minds are programmed and conditioned to accept these lies humanity is forever bound to darkness and control.

This fake tree is about to be hacked down. Men’s thinking and knowledge has been manipulated and governed for long enough.

An atheist walking

See if you can list all the Christian fallacious arguments used in this video. (Hint: Many of the same arguments have been presented by Christians right here on ExC.) The video is approximately seven minutes long.

And they will know we are Christians by our...

The Deep South in the United States is frequently called the "Bible Belt." Strongly Christian, with churches literally on nearly every street corner, the powerful influence of Christian values on the life of average people is perhaps more concentrated in the southern U.S. than in any other location in the country, and maybe the world. So, what happens when the hosts of the BBC's Top Gear program take a trip to Alabama to make some friends? This video is about seven minutes long.

2/17/2007                                                                                       View Comments

2/15/2007                                                                                       View Comments

An atheist debate and a response

Todd Friel debates Dan Barker over the existence of God. Watch this 4 min segment and get a taste of the debate that took place. A full debate is available in audio below the video.



Note: If you choose to listen to the podcast, keep a barf bag handy.






A rational response:

Brian Flemming Explains the Rationale of the Blasphemy Challenge

By John W. Loftus

Chris Hallquist and Brian Flemming have both weighed in on the recent debate about the Blasphemy Challenge. I've already commented on it here. But several atheists are calling it "pointless, juvenile and stupid," including Ed Brayton and Jim Lazarus.

As the creator of the Blasphemy Challenge, I really liked what Flemming wrote. He said: "...negative press is part of the goal of the project. Seeking positive press is a fool's errand for any atheist. I have no desire to rub up to the mainstream media and beg them to present atheists as slightly less evil, and to call that a public-relations victory." He went on to say, "But the Blasphemy Challenge was a publicity stunt conceived in the real, rough-and-tumble, knife-fight media world that we actually live in, and, critically, it was designed to actually make a difference in our culture -- to shake people up and force them to encounter a new idea. The goal was not to have the press proclaim what nice, decent, upstanding, middle-of-the-road people the founders of the Blasphemy Challenge are. The goal was to manipulate the press into discussing religion as harmful superstition. And it worked."

Flemming concludes by saying, "One goal of radicalism is to move the middle -- and the more press the Rational Response Squad and Blasphemy Challenge get, the more the "nice guy" atheists become the middle of the discussion instead of the scary extreme. In terms of overall media manipulation, that's a good thing. But I sure hope the nice guys don't spend too much oxygen condemning us radicals who have the audacity to call superstition by its name. Because that would be a waste of the new platform the nice guys are being given."

I agree. I suspect people like Lazarus and Brayton simply don't understand the media and the value of radicalism, that's all. I just think they should become better informed about these sorts of things before they go off denouncing something they don't understand.

But these critics say it gives atheists a bad name. Which ones? Me? Why should I think so? I am my own person and I am responsible for myself. You might as well say that the many Christians responding to them in vulgur ways, along with the gay and black bashing going on by Christians in our country are giving Christians a bad name too. But why does that follow?

They say we need a reasoned atheist response and I don't disagree with them. That's what I do, and I think that's what they do. But the people who take this challenge have every right to express their opinions wherever they want to do so. So the RSS is giving them a chance to do so, and they are not all stupid responses, either.

There are plenty of examples in the Bible where the prophets did some strange things to get people's attention, like walking naked through the streets, or cutting off all their hair, too. So what? Just because we wouldn't do that doesn't mean that the prophets didn't create an awareness about injustice for doing so.

So I say "let them." Don't discourage them. But in the process we are there to help educate them, along with others who may now be searching for sites like ours because of this very challenge, who might learn from more educated atheists about the arguments that have persuaded those college kids (and adults) who take the Blasphemy challenge.

2/13/2007                                                                                       View Comments

Small but Powerful

By DagoodS

It is amazing what power a few words can have.

“This means war!”
“Will you marry me?”
“You’re Fired!”

Each sentence can be stated with less than a breath, yet those syllables will have far-reaching implications. We even can vividly bring to mind powerful images, and broad implications from just a snippet:

“I have a dream…”
”Fourscore and seven years ago…”
“One small step for man…”

Hollywood is well-aware of the power of just a few words. I’ll bet most people could immediately state the movie in which we heard:

“I’ll be back.”
”Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
“You had me at ‘Hello.’”

Think of the impact a smattering of words have, when labeled with the ostentatious sticker of “God said,” on the world at large.

1 Cor. 14:34-35 and 1 Tim. 2:11-12 consist of only 85 English words out of the more than Three-Quarter of a Million of English words in the entire Bible. Less than 1/100th of a percentage. Yet those few verses, and their clear statement of “Women be silent in Church” have resulted in centuries of the female gender being subjected to lesser status.

We can have female leaders of countries, leaders of business ventures, leaders in social organizations and leaders in any field imaginable. Yet within the Catholic church, there has never been, and will never be a female bishop, cardinal or pope. Because of 85 words.

Within the Evangelical Church, no Female Pastors. No Female elders. No Female Deacons. In the 21st Century, it is amazing to me that a church I attended for more than two decades had to re-work its entire Sunday School format because some adult males enjoyed the teaching of a certain adult female. And, as much as they enjoyed it, the Bible doesn’t allow it. 85 words prohibit it. (They now meet all together for a period of “exhortation” and then divide off so the men can be “taught” by a man. And no, I am not kidding.)

In America we could gain a female President. Which means, depending on the church she attends, on Sunday Morning at 10 a.m. she would not be allowed to stand up and say certain things to certain males. At 11 a.m. she could sign the order to send them to war and die.

Churches are splitting and fighting and ostracizing, as well as whispering, gossiping, pointing fingers and dragging out the “true Christian” stamp regarding the controversy of where women can fit in the hierarchy of a church. Over 85 words.

One of the largest divisive topics in the United States is how many rights do we grant a homosexual. Can they marry? Can they adopt? Can they dare to be seen in public holding hands without a death threat?

Rom. 1:26-27. 64 words. Even less than women leadership in church. Oh, I know about the Mosaic Law. But parts of the Mosaic Law were fulfilled in the New Testament. In Christianity, the New Testament trumps the Mosaic Law. The best the homophobes have is two little verses in Romans.

Think about all the hate that is poured out from Evangelical Christians. The literal killings. The discrimination (all done under the guise of “love,” of course). People attempt to deny who they are because they think it is a “sin” so they enter a heterosexual marriage in the hopes that God will bless them; only to be racked with guilt, and divorce (hurting another person) or worse—commit suicide.

64 words that are defining the world we live in. Oh, you can talk about not liking it because it is “unnatural” or because of procreation, or because of whatever excuse you want to make up, but underneath it all is the long-standing Christian tradition that homosexuality is a sin.

Can you believe that fewer words then John Belushi’s speech in Animal House (“Was it over when the Germans Bombed Pearl Harbor?”) have caused states to change their constitutions, 100,000’s of peoples to rally, churches to hold services and people to die? Because of a few, simple words.

797 words. In light of the numbers we have seen, that seems like a lot! Genesis 1. The story of creation. But how many millions and billions of words have been expended over whether Genesis 1 literally happened?

A quick search of “creationism” on Amazon.com revealed almost 5000 books on the topic! That is more than 6 books per word, dedicated to the proposition that Genesis 1 is completely literal, partially literal, wholly allegorical, or completely irrelevant.

Through research, scientists produce cures and medicine, and data, all based upon the proposition of evolution. Christianity takes their pills and shrugs. Scientists propose the theory of gravity, the theory of relativity, and atomic theory. Christianity reads and learns. But if a scientist dares to invade what is considered sacred ground, by even suggesting that natural processes caused species to evolve, the axe must fall. Because such language speaks against 797 words.

How amazing that we have become so militantly engaged in this debate, to the point of bringing to bear the American Judicial system in an attempt to resolve it. And the Dover School district had to pay $1 Million dollars as a result. $1,250 per word.

When we review the Bible, it is fascinating to see how few words are dedicated to a prospect, yet result in vast schisms, and debate and argument. Not very many regarding divorce, slavery, how women should dress, or the unpardonable sin. Yet within those scant words, divisions of churches have separated and entire libraries created over how those words must be applied.

Why? What makes words that constitute less than a child’s paragraph so contentious? Because unlike any other words, people believe that these, in some way, came from God. These are not mere human words, but edicts from the very creator of the Universe. 20 or 30 words in the Bible are more valuable than all the laws and all the statutes of all the countries ever enacted.

(As a sidenote, isn’t it humorous that on the one hand the Bible is held in such reverence, yet on the other, Christians have to create regimented schedules, actively commit time and pursue with all their willpower just to read it? Most Christians have not even read the entire Bible!

They don’t need “Read through Harry Potter in a Year” to read the up-coming book. Yet to dredge through the very writing of the creator, it takes all they can muster.)

And how do we know it is from God? Because it says so. In one (1), tiny hyphenated word. “God-breathed.” 2 Tim. 3:16. “All scripture that is God-breathed is profitable for doctrine…”

Of course, we don’t even know what qualifies as “scripture” nor what the author meant by the word “God-breathed.” We have no other instance to compare the word to, for explanation.

Similar to my saying, “All blogs that are God-infused are edicts for what you must do.” The first question is what does it mean for something to be God-infused, and the second question is what method we use to determine which blogs qualify and which ones don’t. We have the same problem with determining which scriptures are God-breathed.

Completely baffling is that God appeared for a moment in time, inspired a few books, with only the briefest of mentions on some important topics, and then disappeared for 2000 years to let the humans wrestle over their meaning.

Think of the issues God’s Church would never have encountered if He had bothered to provide a succinct plan of salvation. Or mentioned the trinity. Gave direction regarding divorce, church hierarchy, sola scriptura, slavery and speaking in tongues. Or, even better, as new issues arise, explain His demands in…I don’t know…maybe some more writing?

We are fighting over mere sentences in books written by a different culture in a much different millennium. If those sparse words are impacting our world today so significantly, it is time we fully investigate and are fully knowledgeable as to why it is claimed to be from God. Hearing from a pastor or on Sunday morning is not enough.

If you want to tell me those words are as powerful as a two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12) you ought to be fully researched as to what method you use to claim they came from God. Otherwise, they are significant words, but not edicts.

Because if these ARE just words…

“Words do not pay for my dead people.” - Chief Joseph.

2/11/2007                                                                                       View Comments

SOCRATES AND ASPASIA

By D. R. Khashaba

Socrates’ Prison Journal (2006) was my first venture into fiction. My two earlier books, Let Us Philosophize (1998, out of print but freely downloadable in full from my website: http://www.Back-to-Socrates.com ) and Plato: An Interpretation (2005) as well as all of my published articles, were all theoretical. In Socrates’ Prison Journal I made use of the fact that Socrates spent a month in prison before being executed in 399 B.C. Around that fact I weaved the fiction of his keeping a journal throughout that month. In one of the daily entries I made him give an account of a conversation with Aspasia, the beautiful and intelligent wife of Pericles. I reproduce that entry here and hope you will find it of interest.

DAY TWENTY-THREE

One midsummer morning I woke up to a harsh voice calling, "Socrates!" I recognized the voice of one of Pericles' boys attending on the beautiful Aspasia. "Well, friend." I said, "what brings you at this unlikely hour?" "My lady Aspasia wants to see you," he said. "But it is yet too early." "My lady said I must catch you before you went out on your customary wanderings."

As soon as the sun was up I went to see Aspasia at her residence. I was taken to her room. Upon entering I greeted her with, "Joy, divine Aspasia!" "Why do you call me divine, Socrates?" "You are beautiful, you are good, you are wise; therefore you are a goddess." She laughed and said, "You are a big liar, Socrates. But I will return your compliment and say you are truly prophetic, for the divine is just what I want to talk to you about." Saying this, she held out a book she had in her hands. "What book is that?", I asked. "A book of the wise man of Abdera," she replied, and immediately began reading out the following words: "In respect to the gods, I am unable to know either that they are or that they are not, for there are many obstacles to such knowledge, above all the obscurity of the matter, and the life of man, in that it is so short." She paused for a while, then said, "Well, Socrates, what do you think of what Protagoras says here?"

"The words of a wise man", I said, "must never be passed over lightly. It seems to me that the wise Protagoras has truly spoken wisely. But then other wise persons, poets and poetesses, priests and priestesses, have told us many wonderful things about the gods."

Aspasia was deep in thought. Then softly she spoke inspired words. "Of what the poets and the priests tell us about the gods, some things are wonderful and beautiful, but many of the things they tell are opposed to the beauty and the goodness a pure soul aspires to."

"Have I not said that you are wise and truly divine, Aspasia? The good poets, the genuine poets, speak to us in parables. They tell us that there is something divine and holy and beautiful and good. Of this we may be sure. For myself, nothing can make me doubt that goodness and intelligence and beauty are real and are all reality. This is all we know and all we can say with assurance."

Aspasia said, "You have given voice to what was in my mind, Socrates. But if I ask myself: where is the divine to be found?, then, as I feel sure that the divine is real, I also feel sure that the divine is within the human soul. But where else?"

"It is in this regard that Protagoras speaks most wisely when he says: 'In respect to the gods, I am unable to know either that they are or that they are not.' You know, dear Aspasia, that I have for long given up looking for knowledge outside the mind. It is only in the things proper to the mind and in the operations of the mind that the idea of knowledge and the idea of certainty have meaning."

Aspasia, trying not to laugh, said, "You mischievous Socrates! As is your habit, you have not given me a clear answer to my question. Like a miser you keep your wisdom to yourself and refuse to teach me."

"My dear Aspasia, it is you who have been teaching me on this occasion as on every other occasion. To fend off the charge of being a miser, however, I will give you a bit of advice. If you ask me what you are to make of the stories told of the gods by poets and priests, I will say, enjoy them as fables and judge them good or bad on their merit as fables. You will then have done honour to the poets and to your intelligence. If anyone asks you whether those stories are true or not true, answer him with the wise words of Protagoras, or better still, answer him with the wise words of Aspasia when she said that some of those tales are beautiful but many are opposed to the beauty and the goodness a pure soul aspires to."

Then I was delightfully amazed when Aspasia, after seeming for a while lost in thought, spoke in a wonderful manner as if inspired, as if to confirm my naming her goddess. Indeed the words she spoke were not of this world. These were her words:

"Truly, in vain do the wise seek to prove the existence of God or the non-existence of God.

"Those who try to find in the investigation of nature evidence of an intelligence governing the world are wrong in demanding too much and expecting too little of science. Science cannot explain anything but science can and eventually will give account of much that at present we find baffling.

"It would be nothing remarkable if the investigation of nature could give a satisfactory account of the ultimate origins of life, a description of the step-by-step process by which the supposedly lifeless original stuff of nature develops into a living organism. That possibility may not even be far off in time. Would they then have 'explained' life? I think much muddled thinking is due to our failure to distinguish between giving an account or description and giving an explanation. The reality of life will remain a mystery even after we have given a full description of how it has come about, just as the delight in the fragrance of a rose will remain a mystery even after we have given a full account of all that goes on in the body, which sometime will be named chemical and neural processes.

"If we are concerned to affirm the reality and the value of things spiritual, we go about it in the wrong way both when we try to enlist science and when we try to confute science. Science has its domain which knows nothing of value. Value is in the dream world we create for ourselves."

As I write these words, a sneaking doubt invades my mind. Were these actually the words I heard from Aspasia or has some god inspired them in me as I was writing? Perhaps to sweep away the atrocious things told in Holy Books?

I now have to go to sleep.

          [From Socrates’ Prison Journal, pp.113-118.]

D. R. Khashaba

http://www.Back-to-Socrates.com

http://khashaba.blogspot.com

http://www.virtualbookworm.com/store/search.php?mode=search&page=1

What the hell is hell?

By John Blatt

The word "Hell" is a very popular word in English. Actually it is not an English word, it is a German word. As a matter of fact, about 90 percent of the King James English is actually borrowed from the Anglo-Saxon language, that is, German. The word "Hell" appears in many common phrases. There are even well known funny poems about Hell. A couple of them are in this article. Here are some of the phrases found on the internet with the word Hell being a part if it:
go to hell

from hell

in hell

like hell

what the hell

heaven and hell

hell's angels

run like hell

hell's kitchen

gates of hell

hell yeah

hell song

operator from hell

bastard operator from hell

hell lyrics

highway to hell

life in hell

hell hath no fury

hell freezes

hell freezes over

hell michigan

bat out of hell

hell fire

hell on earth

road to hell

going to hell

hotter than hell

marriage of heaven and hell

yaoi hell

hell hole

convent of hell

hell song lyrics

linotype hell

hell's canyon

hell yeah lyrics

the hell song

straight to hell

hell's gate

hell no

circles of hell

mad as hell

club hell

the road to hell

hell cat

levels of hell

the gates of hell

hell on heels

hell hath no fury like

who the hell

oh hell

to hell and back

email hell

heaven or hell

hell week

sounds of hell

dll hell

hotter n hell

hell in a handbasket

hell yea

cowboys from hell

sum 41 hell song

the marriage of heaven and hell

hell exothermic

hell raiser

problem from hell

eagles hell

the road to hell is paved

hell hath no fury like a woman

sounds from hell

hell is other people

burn in hell

eagles hell freezes

hell on wheels

motel hell

pictures of hell

highway to hell lyrics

circle of hell

hell bound

eagles hell freezes over

the road to hell is paved with

hell test

hell creek

hell gate

long hard road out of hell

hell fighters

hell hath no fury like a woman scorned

road to hell is paved with good intentions

hell endothermic

hell's belles

here today gone to hell

etiquette hell

roomies from hell

meatloaf bat out of hell

bored as hell

escape from hell

funny as hell

drumkit from hell

season in hell

deathscythe hell

shut the hell up

goto hell

hell to pay

heaven from hell

dante's hell

college roomies from hell

t shirts from hell

hell is for heroes

i'm mad as hell

jazz from hell

raising hell

hell mi

hell in a hand basket

fresh hell

life is hell

harlem hell fighters

mr hell

crazy as hell

see you in hell

is hell exothermic

hell is for children

damn hell

between heaven and hell

bakura's hell

hell fest

run like hell walkthrough

dj hell

level of hell

hell boy

felix hell

tickle hell

what is hell

to hell with dying

hell hound

this is hell

hell raisers

living hell

the hell song lyrics

raise hell

hell fire club

ac dc highway to hell

truth about hell

hell in the cell

the yaoi hell

got to hell

dante hell

hell sing

hell fighter

hell t shirts

what the hell is going on

from hell dvd

descent into hell

hounds of hell

hell's angles

hell angels

hell's angel

revelation of hell

lyrics hell yeah

hell night

proverbs of hell

hell breath

reign in hell

so you think you can tell heaven from hell

sum 41 the hell song

little hell

god of hell fire

green hell

babes from hell

hell or high water

bat out of hell lyrics

when hell freezes over

shores of hell

neighbours from hell

fun from hell

mr hats hell hole

hell yeah remix

cold day in hell

hell awaits

run like hell xbox

heaven & hell

raise a little hell

gamers hell

movie from hell

mr hell show

hell pics

arpeggios from hell

all hell breaks loose

bloody hell


Did you know that the secular meaning behind the word "Hell" simply meant "hidden, out of sight?" Yep, in the ancient German, when two lovers went to a dark place to hide for love making they "went to hel," they hid somewhere. Our English words helmut, hall, hole, heel, hall, all stem from the German word "hele". The religious meaning of the word "Hell" came from Germany too, actually Teutonic mythology. "Hele" was a goddess of the underworld in ancient folklore.

Here's some info from the "About" site:

"Hel is the name of the Norse underworld, and its ruler. Hel/Hela, in Norse mythology, was the hideous daughter of the Giant Loki, banished to the netherworld, Helheim (literally, 'house of Hel'), world of the dead, by the Chief God, Odin. The distinctive looking Goddess, whose skin is black on one side, rules over the dead until Ragnarök and the coming birth of the new world.

"Hel is sister of Fenris, the wolf, and Jormungand, the world-serpent.

"The name for the Christian world of torment is derived from Hela's abode. Unlike the Christian version, however, Hel's realm was home to all who did not die in battle - miserable as it was, good behavior wasn't any more likely to get one a reprieve. Helheim's entrance works only in one direction - once one has entered, even a "God", one cannot leave - like the Greek Hades, Helheim is guarded by a monstrous hound, and encircled by the impassable river Styx. According to legend, the dead will remain in Hel's kingdom until the last days of Ragnarök."


There is no "hell" to go to as so many "hellfire" Christian preachers or the Islamic clerics teach. I have studied this one little word for over sixteen years now with more interest and fervor than any Christian, ex-Christian, or secular mythologist that I know of.

If you have a bible do NOT take it for granted that it is telling you the "truth". The English bible translations in print today (all with the rare exception of a small handful of translations) are riddled with biased, theologically programmed indoctrination. This means that the original languages of the bible are TRANSLATED which requires interpretation. All the English bibles are translated by those who have some religious programming, thus their interpretation of the translation process is preset, even though they may think they are being as impartial as possible. Thus you have a bible that, regardless of intention, is impregnated with presuppositional religious programming by the translators. Translators rely on the works of other translators who have also relied on previous translators.

Take the Strong's Concordance as a perfect example. Many Christians go to the Strong's and Thayer's Greek lexicons for a more "thorough" understanding specific Greek words of the New Testament. They come away from these documents with the impression that they know the bible better because of them. But these tools are HEAVILY saturated with theological programming. The christian "layman" knows no better because their leaders (pastors, teachers, scholars, etc.) approve the usage of these "standard works". If anything one generally know LESS about the true translation of the original languages from these works then they did beforehand.

All this is to say that the words "hell" and other phrases such as "eternal damnation" or "everlasting torment" that are found in mostly every English translation is NOT what the original languages say. It is propaganda. Programming. It is ironic that those who are supposed to know the most about the bible - Christians - end up knowing less than non-religious researchers because they are dependent upon the Christian system and its tools for their knowledge, which has been controlled from the beginning.

I will give you examples in the future of what I am describing here. "Hell" is a control mechanism, created for the generation of fear, which is what oils the Christian machine.

2/10/2007                                                                                       View Comments

War on Science



The premise of this program is that there is a war going on against science and reason.

Video approximately 49 minutes in length.

Why is sex a sin?