10/31/2007                                                                                       View Comments

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

I asked a Christian poster to this site if he kept the Sabbath holy or if he profaned the Sabbath by going shopping, or perhaps eating at McDonalds after church, etc.

Here’s what he said:

First and fourth commandments say the same thing. The NT doesn't mention the fourth Commandment to keep because Jesus is that Commandment. He mentions to keep the other nine but that one was replaced by the New Covenant in Christ.

You are missing out on some very important teachings that is wonderful let me explain a bit. Lets take the Sabbath in Genesis 2:2-3 "And God had finished on the seventh day his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it, because that on it he rested from all his work which God had created in making it."

He rested, not because he was tired but that the work was complete. Now we have a completion in Jesus and we are in His rest.

Hebrews 4:1 "Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it."

Hebrews 4:9-11 "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief."

Jesus IS the Sabbath, the completion, not a Saturday or Sunday. We are complete in Christ, nothing more is required for salvation it ends in Christ. Not a man made building and established hierarchy.

Are you ready to repent now? Not yet? OK maybe this will help. Basic hermeneutics have some steps to understand the Bible:

Step One: Grasp the text in their town. What did the text say to the original audience?

Step Two: Measure the width of the river to cross. What are the differences between the biblical audience and us? (time, culture, language, situation, covenant.)

Step Three: Cross the principlizing bridge. What is the theological principle in this text?

Step Four: Does the New Testament change our understanding of an OT text?

Step Five: Grasp the text in our town. How should the individual Christian apply the theological principles in our lives today?

Things to take in account is The Inductive Method, Authorial Intent, and the most important a Grammatical Historical Method of Interpretation: To determine exactly what the author intended and how the original audience would have understood it.

Just to be clear you are using an eisegesis, and Reader-response method.

From my blog: "I use an Exegesis method of interpretation instead of an eisegesis method. Does this mean that eisegesis thinking is wrong, I would say yes because it is a capricious attitude. It may even be breaking the 2nd Commandment and making a god to suite yourself."


Mr. Marvin's blog: dmarvin811.blogspot.com


Basically, if I am reading him correctly, Mr. Marvin is telling me I am not applying the correct interpretation (Dan Marvin’s interpretation) to the Bible. It seemed clear to me that one of the Ten Commandments said to keep the Sabbath Day holy, but Mr. Marvin sees my obvious reading of the text as too simplistic.

Now, I readily admit that I don’t believe the Bible, and I think that adhering to archaic religious laws like this would be ridiculous, but regardless, is Mr. Marvin correct? Is keeping the Sabbath now passé for the Christian? And if so, I wonder why it is still included in the giant granite Ten Commandment statues all around the USA.

This is the interesting thing about Christianity. Modern Christians want to have a nice big Cracker Barrel lunch after church, and if buying and selling on the Sabbath is a no-no, then how’s a good churchman to eat?

Well, what do other “True Christians™” have to say about the matter?

From Let Us Reason Ministries:

“And so every time you remember the Sabbath day you are honoring the true God. That's why, if this commandment had always been kept, there would be no atheist, agnostic, idolater, or skeptic.” (prophecy seminar The Seventh day Sabbath true worship lesson 10 Leo Schreven) Really! This didn’t happen when all of Israel had kept it, even as a nation under God. While it may be true to keep the Sabbath honors God, it is not the only day or way to do so. Nor is it THE way to do so.

“He created this day in honor of himself as being the creator of all things. And you can read all through the bible God wants us to remember it.”


From the Second Presbyterian Church:

We know from the gospel accounts that Jesus kept the Sabbath day, that on the Sabbath day he went to the synagogue. The gospel accounts say that this was his custom. "As was his custom," he would go to the synagogue and there would sing God’s praise in the Psalms, hear the word read and proclaimed, just as it is done today. So both our scripture readings are about the Sabbath. The one that we now have in Deuteronomy 5 is explicitly about the Sabbath day, but the first reading, read just a moment or two ago from Matthew 11 is also, though implicitly, about the Sabbath day. That is, the word Sabbath is not mentioned, but the word "rest" is central to the text. Remember Jesus says, "Come to me all you who labor and who are heavy-laden and I will give you rest" – I will give you what the Sabbath commands and promises; rest, eternal rest, even heavenly rest . . . .

"Rest" is what the Sabbath day commandment is about, both literally and spiritually. We know that the Jewish people reflected on the fourth commandment, not just in its literal sense ("resting" on one day of the week) but they also thought about what it meant in its deepest level…


From John PipersDesiring God website:

"Keep it holy," means set it aside from all other days as special. Specifically, as verse 10 says, keep it "to the Lord," or "for the Lord." In other words, the rest is not to be aimless rest, but God-centered rest. Attention is to be directed to God in a way that is more concentrated and steady than on ordinary days. Keep the day holy by keeping the focus on the holy God.


From USA Today:

For all the attention paid this past year to public displays of the Ten Commandments, you'd think people would spend as much energy trying to follow them.

When it comes to the Fourth Commandment — "Remember the Sabbath Day" — that's not the case. And pastors like me, far from being role models, are among the worst offenders. After all, we work every Sunday.


From TruthSeek.net:

The Bible is profoundly clear (Colossians 2:16) in forbidding any Christian from judging another Christian in regard to keeping the Sabbath (many Christians, however, attempt to twist this scripture into justifying their NOT keeping the Sabbath), or in meat (and I'll tell ya, as both a Sabbath keeper and a vegetarian, I have been judged harshly by "Christians" for both these Biblical concepts -- remember, not everyone who claims to be of God, is of God), or in drink (some people have given up the Sabbath, but oddly, not the eating and the drinking, another thought to ponder).


From the Geneva Study Bible

Remember the sabbath day, {g} to keep it holy.

(g) Which is by meditating the spiritual rest, by hearing God's word, and resting from worldly labours.
From John Wesley's Notes:

Ex. 20:8 The fourth commandment concerns the time of worship; God is to be served and honoured daily; but one day in seven is to be particularly dedicated to his honour, and spent in his service. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy; in it thou shalt do no manner of work - It is taken for granted that the sabbath was instituted before. We read of God's blessing and sanctifying a seventh day from the beginning, Gen 2:3, so that this was not the enacting of a new law, but the reviving of an old law. 1st. They are told what is the day, they must observe, a seventh after six days labour, whether this was the seventh by computation from the first seventh, or from the day of their coming out of Egypt, or both, is not certain. A late pious Writer seems to prove, That the sabbath was changed, when Israel came out of Egypt; which change continued till our Lord rose again: But that then the Original Sabbath was restored. And he makes it highly probable, at least, That the sabbath we observe, is the seventh day from the creation. 2dly, How it must be observed; As a day of rest; they were to do no manner of work on this day, in their worldly business. As a holy day, set apart to the honour of the holy God, and to be spent in holy exercises. God, by his blessing it, had made it holy; they, by solemn blessing him, must keep it holy, and not alienate it to any other purpose than that for which the difference between it and other days was instituted. 3dly, Who must observe it? Thou and thy son and thy daughter - The wife is not mentioned, because she is supposed to be one with the husband, and present with him, and if he sanctify the sabbath, it is taken for granted she will join with him; but the rest of the family is instanced in it, children and servants must keep it according to their age and capacity. In this, as in other instances of religion, it is expected that masters of families should take care, not only to serve the Lord themselves, but that their houses also should serve him. Even the proselyted strangers must observe a difference between this day and other days, which, if it laid some restraint upon them then, yet proved a happy indication of God's gracious design, to bring the Gentiles into the church. By the sanctification of the sabbath, the Jews declared that they worshipped the God that made the world, and so distinguished themselves from all other nations, who worshipped gods which they themselves made. God has given us an example of rest after six days work; he rested the seventh day - Took a complacency in himself, and rejoiced in the work of his hand, to teach us on that day, to take a complacency in him, and to give him the glory of his works. The sabbath begun in the finishing of the work of creation; so will the everlasting sabbath in the finishing of the work of providence and redemption; and we observe the weekly sabbath in expectation of that, as well as in remembrance of the former, in both conforming ourselves to him we worship. He hath himself blessed the sabbath day and sanctified it. He hath put an honour upon it; it is holy to the Lord, and honourable; and he hath put blessings into it which he hath encouraged us to expect from him in the religious observation of that day. Let us not profane, dishonour, and level that with common time, which God's blessing hath thus dignified and distinguished.



From Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary:

Ex. 20:3-11 The form of the fourth commandment, Remember, shows that it was not now first given, but was known by the people before. One day in seven is to be kept holy. Six days are allotted to worldly business, but not so as to neglect the service of God, and the care of our souls. On those days we must do all our work, and leave none to be done on the sabbath day. Christ allowed works of necessity, charity, and piety; for the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath, Mr 2:27; but all works of luxury, vanity, or self-indulgence in any form, are forbidden. Trading, paying wages, settling accounts, writing letters of business, worldly studies, trifling visits, journeys, or light conversation, are not keeping this day holy to the Lord. Sloth and indolence may be a carnal, but not a holy rest. The sabbath of the Lord should be a day of rest from worldly labour, and a rest in the service of God. The advantages from the due keeping of this holy day, were it only to the health and happiness of mankind, with the time it affords for taking care of the soul, show the excellency of this commandment. The day is blessed; men are blessed by it, and in it. The blessing and direction to keep holy are not limited to the seventh day, but are spoken of the sabbath day.


From the Swedenborg Chruch:

It must be evident to all that disregard for the Sabbath is a great and growing evil in our community. The day comes, but not the spiritual rest that belongs to it. Secular labor that is not religious or sacred is to a great extent stopped, but with far too many people, there is no recognition of anything high and holy in its place. Too often, the thoughts are not raised above the level of common everyday life, and the Sabbath is treated as an occasion for nothing but physical relaxation. Those who have a better knowledge of what the Sabbath was designed to be should resist this increasing tendency, and do what they can to impress upon the mind the principles contained in this commandment.


From Charles Spurgeon’s catechism:

51 Q How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?

A The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that
day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as
are lawful on other days,

# Le 23:3

and spending the whole time in the public and private
exercises of God's worship,

# Ps 92:1,2 Isa 58:13,14

except so much as is taken up in the works of necessity and
mercy.

# Mt 12:11,12


From the Westminster Confession of Faith:

VIII. This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest, all the day, from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.


It seems clear to me that Mr. Marvin’s interpretation regarding the Sabbath differs significantly from quite a number of respectable Christian leaders. I wonder what gives Mr. Marvin the confidence to easily dismiss this wealth of Christian wisdom, not to mention a clear command written by the hand of his personal god?

Of course my point here is not to criticize or condemn Mr. Marvin. I'm sure he's a sincere man. I just believe he's terribly deluded by his religion.

Now, in all fairness, there are plenty of Christians out there who agree wholly or in part with Mr. Marvin. However, it seems plain from the various quotes above that many do not agree with Mr. Marvin on this issue.

This kind of discussion in Christianity (Sabbath vs. no-Sabbath) is part of what helped me escape the mind-snare of the Christ cult. When I devoted myself to seeking "the truth" and tallied up the contradictory teachings on this topic as well as so many others, I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized that for there to be so many Christians in such stark disagreement over basic things like one of the Ten Commandments, that the bold promise that the Holy Ghost would lead me or any Christian into "all truth" was woefully empty. I began, after months of heart-wrenching study and prayer, to finally understand that Christianity had been mutating with the times, just like every other man made religion. In essence, so-called Biblical absolutes were merely baptized situational ethics.

Keeping the Sabbath is inconvenient. Therefore, when the Bible says “Keep the Sabbath holy,” it has in some circles been inventively reinterpreted to mean “We no longer have to keep the Sabbath holy.”

And if you disagree with either side of the coin, then your exegesis is flawed.

Isn't that nice?

What do you think?

10/30/2007                                                                                       View Comments

God, Lies and Faith

By DagoodS

Does God lie? Interesting question to demonstrate our inability to verify claims made about God. I occasionally have the following conversation:

Christian: God does not Lie!
Me: How do you know?
Christian: Because He says He tells the truth!
Me: But if he could lie…couldn’t he be lying when he says he always tells the truth? How can you tell the difference between a lying God saying, ‘I always tell the truth’ and a truthful God saying, ‘I always tell the truth’?

I leave it to the theists to wrestle among themselves as to whether God can lie. The follow-up question is: Regardless of whether or not God could; WOULD God lie? Think of all the reasons humans lie. Primarily because we think our position is better served to lie instead of telling the truth.

As children we lie to avoid the consequences the truth would bring us. Better to blame the broken television on a sibling than take the punishment ourselves. As adults, we lie to avoid a fight with our spouse. Or to cover up where we were, or what we were doing. Because we think telling the truth will cause us more harm than the lie.

We lie to convince others to believe us. If we were totally honest, we think we will never sell this used car. We lie to avoid problematic situations for ourselves. “Does this dress make me look fat?” We lie for selfish reasons to elude what we perceive as future complications.

Seems peculiar to attribute such motivations to a God, doesn’t it? God—afraid of consequences? If one holds to a fore-knowing sort of God—He already knows the consequences. (And perhaps is unable to modify them.) And if one holds to a non-preknowledge sort of Spirit...well…he is God after all—do we think humans screw something up so bad God can’t fix it?

One of my favorite lines to use comes from Die Hard 3 in which Bruce Willis drives a car erratically:

Bruce Willis: Trust me! I know what I am doing.
Samuel L. Jackson: Not even GOD knows what you are doing!

(Sometimes, when I see actions of others and even myself, I think, “Not even GOD knows what you are doing!”) The humor of the line, of course, is that God knows everything, and what the person is doing is so crazy, so insane, not even a God could figure it out.

Can we picture God thinking, “Gosh, I would like to tell the truth here, but that human could really mess this thing up…they could do something I can’t fix…Guess I am going to have to lie.” The God who can create billions of galaxies, with billions of stars in each, with trillions of planets, and space, and time, and life, and love, and déjà vu, is stumped by a human who will not live more than 100 years and cannot lift the average automobile? Seriously? We are that much of a problem for God he has to lie?

Can we create an obstacle for God? It seems almost laughable to attribute a motivation to God, commonly in humans, “fear of a predicament.” Clearly, it is just as difficult to determine an incentive for God to lie, due to lack of ability to verify, as it is to determine whether He lies at all.

But wait a minute…

I am often informed the reason God does not physically appear to everybody is that He wants us to believe by faith. (I take “faith” as a belief based upon incomplete data.) The reason God doesn’t update the Bible? Faith. The reason God didn’t “write his name in the stars” or made a 6000 year old universe look 13 Billion years old, or doesn’t answer every prayer? Faith. The reason Christians are put through human hardships, like unable to afford this year’s model car, or the sudden drop in the stock market, or the 16-year-old daughter who drained the liquor cabinet? Faith.

Every time we question why God plays this hide-and-seek game, resulting in 1000’s of different gods, with millions of variations on a personal level, the answer provided is, “He wants to be believed in, NOT by observational information…oh, no!... rather He wants us to gather the scraps of the few puzzle pieces we have, and “by faith” create the whole rest of the picture.” Some of those Gods even demand we put together the picture accurately, or there will be Hell to pay! Literally.

In point of fact, the Bible makes it patently clear evidential belief will not save you. “Justified by faith…” Rom. 5:1-2. Eph. 2:8. It would seem if we are given too much information, we could be in jeopardy of not being saved; we believed—just not in the correct way.

It seems fantastic to me the same God who created those billions of galaxies with their billions of stars, and all those planets would be so highly concerned over the method by which a sentient species on one of those planets came to discern knowledge about Him. That such a God would desire the humans to know he exists, but not know it with certainty of information. That such a God wants the final leap of belief to be on a guess.

Yet this is what they tell me. God wants to be believed in by faith. Unfortunately, this results in a God with a motivation. He is motivated to make sure we get enough information to start the journey on evidence, but not enough to finish the journey with it.

This is a curious sort of God. One who cares enough to mandate a certain method by which we can learn about him. A method we can apparently screw up. What happens if we learn too much? Will God have to take our knowledge down a notch? What if we don’t learn enough? Will God have to give a boost? Worse, would we reach a point where God, in order to achieve his goals, would have to lie?

Does this create a God who fears the truth may be more problematic than a lie?

The reality is the proofs for God peter out. Then, to make the leap to the God the theist desires, “faith” is invoked, with the defiant claim that “faith” is the thing God cares about. That God does not want us to have TOO much information (since the theist doesn’t have it to give) or otherwise everyone would believe in him.

What none of us can figure out is why God is so concerned about everybody believing in him? Why does he care?

By attempting to fill in the gap of information about God with the incentive of “faith,” the theist makes a God who would lie in order to avoid the harm of the truth.

Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman



Dr. Bart D. Ehrman is a New Testament scholar, textual critic, an expert on early Christianity, a professor and the chairman of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the author of "Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why." Ehrman attempts to discern, as near as possible, the original wording of the gospels, epistles, and other ancient texts. He champions the thesis that early Christians, as they developed a single, orthodox doctrine, altered the Biblical texts in order to make them more uniform and in line with changing beliefs.

Ehrman was an evangelical Christian as a teenager, and was very interested in what he thought was God's true message. However, Dr. Ehrman's subsequent close analysis of the Bible and research into the field of textual criticism destroyed his faith in the Bible.

Ehrman is now an agnostic, and is a prime example of someone who has looked at Christianity deeply but found it to be faulty as a religion.

This video presentation was recorded at Stanford University. Total length: one hour, 40 minutes.







Christian parents, beware!

From By The Book Comics

Click on the image for a larger version.

There are so many contradictions in the Bible, you have to be careful or your kids will figure it out. You just can't go in there willy-nilly and read it yourself! Please ask your preacher which verses are okay to read. Better yet, just listen to the sermon on Sunday and don't try to read (or think) for yourself. — DocMike

10/29/2007                                                                                       View Comments

The New Atheists on Organized Freethought

The Humanist Network News (HNN) Audio Podcast is a monthly one-hour talk show created by the Institute for Humanist Studies.

Every episode of the HNN Audio Podcast explores a different area of humanist thought, from politics to pop culture.

Click on the player to listen to this month's broadcast.



Direct Download


Synopsis of this month's episode:


Segment 1: Sam Harris on "The Problem of Atheism"

Interview: Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith explains why people should not identify as atheists, humanists or Brights. Harris also says that religion testifies (more or less) to the possibility of extraordinary self-transformation, which is why he feels that we must develop a scientific language for talking about "mysticism" or "spirituality."

Interview: Daniel Dennett, author of Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon responds to Harris. Dennett recognizes the limitations of the atheist label, but thinks the atheist label needs to be reclaimed and not discarded. He says religion cannot be exterminated, but it can be encouraged to be more socially benign.

Interview: Prof. Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion responds to Harris. He believes that atheist organizations are necessary, especially in the United States. Dawkins also talks about The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason and his newest idea to write a children's book.

Interview: Christopher Hitchens, author of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, responds to Harris and explains why avoiding the term atheist is inescapable. Hitchens also shares his thoughts on atheist organizations.

Interview: Brian "Sapient" and Kelly M. of the Rational Response Squad react to Sam Harris's "seditious proposal" and offer a new challenge to humanists.

Interview: Pastor Deacon Fred of the Landover Baptist Church responds to Harris, blasts Harry Potter and prays for Humanist Network News listeners.

Segment 2: "Sweet Reason" on Coming Out as an Atheist

Audio Advice Column: Molleen Matsumura, the voice of "Sweet Reason" responds to a question from Tom about coming out to his family as an atheist.


Segment 3: Please Support the HNN Podcast

Message: Did you know that Americans donated $97 billion to religion in 2006? What can you do to help humanists make our voice of reason and compassion heard? Nancy Buxton, development coordinator of the Institute for Humanist Studies, has a special message to Humanist Network News listeners.


For a complete list of HNN Audio Podcast episode details and transcripts of the show, visit: HumanistStudies.org/podcast.

The HNN Audio Podcast is available in the podcast section of the forums. CLICK HERE to listen.

10/28/2007                                                                                       View Comments

The Enemies of Reason

Video presentation by Richard Dawkins

Part I:



Part II:



The Enemies of Reason is a two-part television documentary, written and presented by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. From the makers:

Is it rational that the dead can communicate with the living and give sound advice on how they should live their lives? What about sticking pins into your body to free the flow of Chi energy and cure your illness? Or the bending of spoons using your mind alone? Is that rational? Richard Dawkins doesn’t think so, and feels it is his duty to expose those areas of belief that exist without scientific proof, yet manage to hold the nation under their spell. He will take on the world’s leading proponents in their field of expertise, meet the victims who have used them and expose the history of the movements – from the charlatans who have milked these practices to the experiments and testing that have failed to produce conclusive results.[1]

The documentary was first broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK, styled as a loose successor to Dawkins' documentary of the previous year, The Root of All Evil?, as seen through the incorporation of brief clips from said documentary during the introduction of the first part by Dawkins. The first part aired 13 August 2007 and the second on 20 August 2007.[2]

It includes interviews with Steve Fuller, Deepak Chopra, Satish Kumar, and Derren Brown.

Christian Soldiers: a report by Dan Rather



A watchdog group claims that members of far-right-wing evangelical Christian groups are having an undue influence on the U.S. military.

More on this available at the Christian Science Monitor.

From the horse's mouth: Military Ministry with MajGen Bob Dees


21 Unconvincing Arguments for God

August Berkshire, the public relations representative for Minnesota Atheists and Vice-President of Atheist Alliance International, has put together a simple, concise list of 21 Unconvincing Arguments for God (PDF).

Here's his list:

(1) Holy Books - Just because something is written down does not make it true. This goes for the Bible, the Qu’ran, and any other holy book. It is circular reasoning to try to prove the god of a holy book exists by using the holy book itself as “evidence.”

People who believe the holy book of one religion usually disbelieve the holy books of other religions.

(2) “Revelations” - All religions claim to be revealed, usually through people called “prophets.” But a revelation is a personal experience. Even if the revelations really did come from a god, there is no way we could prove it. As Thomas Paine said, it is a revelation only to the first person, after that it is hearsay. People of one religion usually disbelieve the revelations of other religions.

(3) Personal Testimony / Feelings - This is when you are personally having the revelation or feeling that a god exists. Though you may be sincere, and even if a god really does exist, a feeling is not proof, either for you or for someone else.

(4) The “God Part” of the Brain - Some religious people argue that a god must exist, or why else would we have a part of our brain that can “recognize” a god? What use would that part of our brain be otherwise?

However, imagination is important for us to be able to predict the future, and thus aids our survival. We can imagine all kinds of things that aren’t true. It is a byproduct of being able to imagine things that might be true.

As a matter of fact, scientists have begun to study why some people have religious beliefs and others don’t, from a biological perspective. They have identified certain naturally occurring chemicals in our brains that can give us religious experiences.

In studies of religion and the brain, a new field called neurotheology, they have identified the temporal lobe as a place in the brain that can generate religious experiences.

Another part of the brain that regulates a person’s sense of “self” can be consciously shut down during meditation, giving the meditator (who loses his or her sense of personal boundaries) a feeling of “oneness” with the universe.

(5) “Open Heart” - It will do no good to ask atheists to “open our hearts and accept Jesus” (or any other deity). If we were to set aside our skepticism, we might indeed have an inspirational experience. But this would be an emotional experience and, like a revelation, we’d have no way to verify if a god was really speaking to us or if we were just hallucinating.

(6) Unverifiable “Miracles” / Resurrection Stories - Many religions have miracle stories. And just as people who believe in one religion are usually skeptical towards miracle stories of other religions, atheists are skeptical toward all miracle stories.

Good magicians can perform acts that seem like miracles. Things can be mismeasured and misinterpreted. A “medical miracle” can simply be attributed to our lack of knowledge of how the human body works. Why are there never any indisputable miracles, such as an amputated arm regenerating?

Regarding resurrections, atheists will not find a story of someone resurrecting from the dead to be convincing. There are many such legends in ancient literature and, again, most religious people reject the resurrection stories of other religions.

Modern resurrection stories always seem to occur in Third World countries under unscientific conditions. However, there have been thousands of people in modern hospitals hooked up to machines that verified their deaths when they died. Why didn’t any of them ever resurrect?

(7) Fear of Death / “Heaven” - Atheists don’t like the fact that we’re all going to die any more than religious people do. However, this fear does not prove there is an afterlife – only that we wish there was an afterlife. But wishing doesn’t make it so.

There is no reason to believe our consciousness survives the death of our brains. The mind is not something separate from the body. Chemical alteration and physical damage to our brains can change our thoughts.

Some people get Alzheimer’s disease at the end of their lives. The irreversible damage to their brains can be detected by brain scans. These people lose their ability to think, yet they are still alive. How, one second after these people die, does their thinking return (in a “soul”)?

(8) Fear of Hell - The idea of hell strikes atheists as a scam – an attempt to get people to believe through fear what they cannot believe through reason and evidence.

The only way to approach this “logically” is to find the religion that punishes you the worst for disbelief, and then believe that religion. Okay, you will have saved yourself from the worst punishment that exists – if that religion is the “true” religion.

But if that religion (with its punishment) is not the true religion – if the religion that has the second or third worst punishment for disbelief is the true religion – then you have saved yourself nothing.

So, which religion’s hell is the true hell. Without evidence, we can never know.

(9) “Pascal’s Wager” / Faith - In short, Pascal’s Wager states that we have everything to gain (an eternity in heaven) and nothing to lose by believing in a god. On the other hand, disbelief can lead to a loss of heaven (i.e. hell).

We’ve already noted that heaven is wishful thinking and that hell is a scam, so let’s address the issue of faith.

Pascal’s Wager assumes a person can will himself or herself into having faith. This is simply not the case, at least not for an atheist. So atheists would have to pretend to believe. But according to most definitions of God, wouldn’t God know we were lying to hedge our bets? Would a god reward this?

Part of Pascal’s Wager states that you “lose nothing” by believing. But an atheist would disagree. By believing under these conditions, you’re acknowledging that you’re willing to accept some things on faith. In other words, you’re saying you’re willing to abandon evidence as your standard for judging reality. Faith doesn’t sound so appealing when it’s phrased that way, does it?

(10) Blaming the Victim - Many religions punish people for disbelief. However, belief requires faith, and some people, such as atheists, are incapable of faith. Their minds are only receptive to evidence. Therefore, are atheists to be blamed for not believing when “God” provides insufficient evidence?

(11) The End of the World - Like the concept of hell, this strikes atheists as a scare tactic to get people to believe through fear what they can’t believe through reason and evidence. There have been predictions that the world was going to end for centuries now. The question you might want to ask yourselves, if you’re basing your religious beliefs on this, is how long you’re willing to wait – what amount of time will convince you that the world is not going to end?

(12) Meaning in Life - This is the idea that, without belief in a god, life would be meaningless. Even if this were true, it would only prove we wanted a god to exist to give meaning to our lives, not that a god actually does exist. But the very fact that atheists can find meaning in their lives without a belief in a god shows that god belief is not necessary.

(13) “God is Intangible, Like Love” - Love is not intangible. We can define love both as a type of feeling and as demonstrated by certain types of actions.

Unlike “God,” love is a physical thing. We know the chemicals responsible for the feeling of love.

Also, love depends upon brain structure – a person with a lobotomy or other type of brain damage cannot feel love.

Furthermore, if love were not physical, it would not be confined to our physical brains. We would expect to be able to detect an entity or force called “love” floating around in the air.

(14) Morality/Ethics - This is the idea that without a god we’d have no basis for morality. However, a secular moral code existed before the Bible: the Code of Hammurabi.

In Plato’s dialogue called Euthyphro, Socrates asks a man named Euthyphro whether something is good because God says it is, or does God announce something to be good because it has intrinsic goodness?

If something is good because God says it is, then God might change his mind about what is good. Thus, there would be no absolute morality.

If God merely announces something to be good because it has intrinsic goodness, then we might be able to discover this intrinsic goodness ourselves, without the need for god belief.

Christians can’t even agree among themselves what’s moral when it comes to things like masturbation, premarital sex, homosexuality, divorce, contraception, abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, and the death penalty.

Christians reject some of the moral laws found in the Bible, such as killing disobedient children or people who work on the sabbath. Therefore, Christians must be applying their own ethical standards from outside the Bible to be able to recognize that these commandments in the Bible are unethical.

Other animals exhibit kindness toward one another and a sense of justice. Morality is something that evolved from us being social beings. It’s based on the selfish advantage we get from cooperation, and on consequences.

(15) Altruism - People sometimes say that without a god there would be no altruism, that evolution only rewards selfish behavior.

However, it can be argued that there is no such thing as altruism, that people always do what they want to do. If they are only faced with bad choices, then people choose the thing they hate the least.

Our choices are based on what gives us (our genes) the best advantage for survival, including raising our reputation in society.

“Altruism” towards family members benefits people who share our genes. “Altruism” towards friends benefits people who may someday return the favor.

Even “altruism” towards strangers has a basis in evolution. This behavior first evolved in small tribes, where everyone knew each other and a good reputation enhanced one’s survival. It is now hard-wired in our brains as a general mode of conduct.

(16) Free Will - Some people argue that without a god there would be no free will, that we would live in a deterministic universe of cause and effect and that we would be mere “robots.”

Actually, there is far less free will than most people think there is. Our conditioning (our biological desire to survive and prosper, combined with our experiences) make certain “choices” far more likely than others. How else can we explain our ability, in many cases, to predict human behavior?

Experiments have shown that our brain makes a “decision” to take action before we become conscious of it!

Some believe that the only free will we have is to exercise a conscious veto over actions suggested by our thoughts.

Most atheists have no problem admitting that free will may be an illusion.

This issue also brings up a conundrum: If a god who created us knows the future, how can we have free will?

In the end, if we are enjoying our lives, does it matter if free will is real or an illusion? Isn’t it only our ego – our healthy self-esteem that is beneficial for survival – that has been conditioned to believe that real free will is somehow better than imaginary free will?

(17) Difficulties of Religion - It has sometimes been argued that because certain religious practices are difficult to follow, nobody would do them if a god didn’t exist. However, it is the belief in the existence of a god that is motivating people. A god doesn’t really have to exist for this to happen.

Difficulties can serve as an initiation rite of passage into being counted one of the “select few.” After all, if just anybody could be “saved,” there might be no point in having a religion.

Finally, the reward for obedience promised by most religions – a heaven – far outweighs any difficulties religion imposes.

(18) False Dichotomies - This is being presented with a false “either/or” proposition, where you’re only given two alternatives when, in fact, there are more possibilities.

Here’s one that many Christians are familiar with: “Either Jesus was insane or he was god. Since Jesus said some wise things, he wasn’t insane. Therefore, he must be God, like he said he was.” But those are not the only two possibilities.

A third option is that, yes, it is possible to say some wise things and be deluded that you are a god.

A fourth possibility is that Jesus didn’t say everything that is attributed to him in the Bible. Maybe he didn’t actually say all those wise things, but the writers of the Bible said he did. Or maybe he never claimed to be God, but the writers turned him into a god after he died.

A fifth possibility is that Jesus is a fictional character and so everything was invented by the authors.

Here’s another example of a false dichotomy: “No one would die for a lie. The early Christians died for Christianity. Therefore, Christianity must be true.”

What’s left out of this is that there is no evidence that anyone who ever personally knew Jesus (if he even existed) was ever martyred. We only have stories of martyrdom.

Another explanation is that the followers had been fooled, intentionally or unintentionally, into thinking Jesus was God, and so they were willing to die for a lie (that they thought was true.)

Another point is that if you believe you’ll end up in a heaven after to die, then martyrdom is no big deal.

Finally, does the fact that the 9/11 bombers were willing to die for their faith make Islam true?

(19) God-of-the-Gaps (Medicine, Life, Universe, etc.) - The god-of-the-gaps argument says that if we don’t currently know the scientific answer to something, then “God did it.”

God-of-the-gaps is used in many areas, but I’ll focus on the three main ones: medicine, life, and the universe. You’ll notice that God never has to prove himself in these arguments. It is always assumed that he gets to win by default.

Here’s a medical example: A person experiences a cure for a disease that science can’t explain. Therefore, “God did it.”

But this assumes we know everything about the human body, so that a natural explanation is impossible. But the fact is, we don’t have complete medical knowledge. Why don’t we ever see something that would be a true miracle, like an amputated arm instantaneously regenerating?

Several studies of prayer, where the patients didn’t know whether or not they were being prayed for, including a study by the Mayo Clinic, have shown prayer to have no effect on healing.

(This raises the question of why we would have to beg an all-powerful, all-loving god to be healed in the first place. It seems ironic, to say the least, to pray to a god to be cured from diseases and the effects of natural disasters that he himself created. It also raises the Problem of Evil: If God is all-powerful and all-loving, why does evil exist in the first place?)

An example of god-of-the-gaps as it applies to life is creationism and “intelligent design.” It says we don’t know everything about evolution, therefore “God did it.” This ignores the fossil and genetic evidence and also fails to explain the many poor and sub-optimal “designs” we find in nature. Is “God” an incompetent or sloppy designer?

The final and most popular example of god-of-the-gaps is the universe. But to say we don’t know the origins of the universe – if the universe even had an ultimate beginning – does not mean that “God did it.”

And, of course, it begs the question: Who created God? If complex things need a creator to explain their existence, then “God,” who by the traditional definition is far more complex than the universe, and is even more in need of a creator.

(20) “Fine-tuning” of the Earth - Some religious people argue that the Earth is positioned “just right” in the solar system (not too hot, not too cold, etc.) for life to exist. Furthermore, the elements on Earth (carbon, oxygen, etc.) are also “just right.” These people claim that this couldn’t have happened “by accident,” so a god must exist to have done the positioning and chemistry.

We should be able to recognize a god-of-the-gaps argument here. But an even better rebuttal exists. If Earth was the only planet in the universe, then it would indeed be remarkable that our conditions turned out to be “just right.”

But most religious people acknowledge that there are probably thousands, if not millions, of other planets in the universe. (Our own solar system has eight planets.) Therefore, by chance, at least one of those planets will have conditions that will produce some kind of life.

We can imagine religious purple creatures with four eyes and breathing carbon dioxide on another planet also falsely believing that their planet is “fine-tuned” and that a creator god exists in their image.

(21)“Fine-tuning” of the Universe - Some religious people argue that the six physical constants of the universe (which control such things as the strength of gravity) can only exist within a very narrow range to produce a universe capable of sustaining life. Therefore, since this couldn’t have happened “by accident,” a god must have done it.

Again, this is a god-of-the-gaps argument. But beyond that, this argument assumes that we know everything about astrophysics – a field in which new discoveries are made on almost a daily basis. We may discover that our universe is not so “fine tuned” after all.

However, the best rebuttal is that there may exist multiple universes – either separately or as “bubble universes” within a single universe. Each of these universes could have its own set of constants. Given enough universes, by chance it is likely that at least one will produce and sustain life.

We know it is possible for at least one universe to exist – we are in it. If one can exist, why not many? On the other hand, we have no evidence that it is possible for even one god to exist.

Conclusion - Religious people have a tough, if not impossible task to try to prove a god exists, let alone that their particular religion is true. If any religion had objective standards, wouldn’t everyone be flocking to the same “true” religion? Instead we find that people tend to believe, to varying degrees, the religion in which they were indoctrinated. Or they are atheists.

Brother Jeff in 2008!

Bless the Lard! I am pleased to announce that the Spook of Kryasst who is also somehow magically Him has magically inspired me to enter the race for President of the United States! Glory!

I am running as an independent candidate. I represent not the Republicans or the Democrats or even the Libertarians - but the One who Croaked in the Spook and Magically Undeadened Himself for us all! I represent KRYASST, and I pledge to do what must be done to restore our nation to the greatness it enjoyed when the Lard and His Word were revered in this country. As your future president, I rest my campaign upon the following Twenty Promises:

  1. If elected, I will restore mandatory prayer in our public schools. Our children will start their mornings off right with a humble prayer of thanksgiving before Alrighty Gawd acknowledging His Lardship, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance with the words “UNDER GAWD” clearly stressed.
  2. If elected, I pledge that no child will be left spiritually behind. Every child will have the opportunity to hear and respond to the Gospel and receive spiritual counseling, and they will receive a free KJV Bible, courtesy of the new Federal Bible Program, which will be funded through taxes levied against Atheists.
  3. Creation Science will be given its rightful place in our public schools, and the teaching of the Satanic Doctrine of Evilution shall cease, with the exception of courses designed by Creation Scientists to expose the many flaws of that Atheist religion.
  4. If elected, I pledge to see Biblical Justice implemented in this nation. Homosexuals, adulterers, and disobedient children shall be publicly stoned to death just as the Lard commands.
  5. Anyone who dishonors the Holy Farter and works on the Sabbath or dares even to pick up sticks on that Holy Day shall be put to death.
  6. Anyone who angers Kryasst by wearing sinful fabrics shall be put to death.
  7. Anyone who teaches the Satanic Doctrine of Evilution shall be put to death.
  8. Anyone who takes the Lard’s Name in vain shall be put to death.
  9. Anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spook shall be put to death and forever damned to Our Lard’s loving Lake of Fire.
  10. Witches and sorcerers shall be put to death.
  11. Anyone who worships a false god - which is really an evil spook - shall be put to death.
  12. Atheists who refuse to convert shall be put to death, as they are immoral and an offense to Gawd and not fit to be citizens of our Christian nation.
  13. Anyone who teaches the cosmological heresies that are married with the Satanic Doctrine of Evilution and denies the smallness of our universe or the flatness of our world or the solidness of Our Lard’s great starry firmament shall be put to death.
  14. The mentally ill (demoniacs) and those seized by fits shall be put to death, as they have been infested by evil spooks.
  15. Anyone who masturbates shall be put to death.
  16. Anyone engaging in sex before marriage (which, by definition, is between one woman and one man) shall be put to death.
  17. Any married woman who fails to properly submit to her husband as the Lard commands shall be put to death.
  18. Anyone who marries a divorced woman shall be put to death, as they will have committed adultery.
  19. Any woman who dares to speak in church shall be put to death.
  20. Any man who angers Kryasst with his sinfully long hair shall be put to death.

Furthermore, if elected, I pledge to integrate Church and State and form the glorious Christian theocracy that our Christian founding fathers clearly envisioned. Glory!

http://brotherjeff2008.com

Scientific Arrogance?

Reposted from: Freethought Café by J.C. Samuelson

Arrogance. It's a charge often levelled against those who reject religious faith, among whose numbers can be found many scientists. And, surely there are some scientists and their supporters who are arrogant, just as there are arrogant believers. Yet, while both hold humility as a high ideal, frequently it is the scientist who manages to inspire us by the very public admission of a mistake. In fact, science, more often than not, progresses in spite of arrogance, with advances made by disproofs, rather than proofs, of a theory.

One case in point would be the oft-repeated story of the aging zoology professor at Oxford who, after fifteen years of championing a particular theory, admitted his error after a visiting lecturer disproved that theory. Richard Dawkins recounted the tale in the series, Root of All Evil, but here it is as it was written in Unweaving the Rainbow:

"Arrogant or not, we at least pay lip-service to the idea that science advances by disproof of its hypotheses. Konrad Lorenz, father of ethology, characteristically exaggerated when he said he looked forward to disproving at least one pet hypothesis daily, before breakfast. But it is true that scientists, more than, say, lawyers, doctors or politicians, gain prestige among their peers by publicly admitting their mistakes. One of the formative experiences of my Oxford undergraduate years occurred when a visiting lecturer from America presented evidence that conclusively disproved the pet theory of a deeply respected elder statesman of our zoology department, the theory that we had all been brought up on. At the end of the lecture, the old man rose, strode to the front of the hall, shook the American warmly by the hand and declared, in ringing emotional tones, 'My dear fellow, I wish to thank you. I have been wrong these fifteen years.' We clapped our hands red. Is any other profession so generous towards its admitted mistakes?"


Another case in point would be that of Homer Jacobson, professor emeritus of chemistry at Brooklyn College in New York City. Professor Jacobson sent a letter to American Scientist that was published in the November-December 2007 issue, in which he retracted two statements from an article of his that had been published over fifty years ago. His reasons? Read for yourself:

"Retraction this untimely is not normally undertaken, but in this case I request it because of continued irresponsible contemporary use by creationists who have quoted my not merely out-of-context, but incorrect, statements, to support their dubious viewpoint. I am deeply embarrassed to have been the originator of such misstatements, allowing bad science to have come into the purview of those who use it for anti-science ends."


Indeed. The two statements, which he described in the letter as incorrect, have been in use by creationists. At least two websites - DarwinismRefuted.com and Evolution-facts.org - had, in fact, quoted Mr. Jacobson's half-century old work which, as we now know, was wrong. In fairness, the latter website has since removed at least one quote, though a cached view of the site still showed the erroneous work.

It's not uncommon for creationists to engage in quote-mining, often taking the cited material out-of-context or distorting its meaning in other ways. Most famously misquoted, of course, is Charles Darwin. In this case, however, the quoted material was not only distorted, it was simply wrong in the first place.

Mr. Jacobson's example is inspiring, and serves as yet another example of how whatever arrogance there may be among scientists, it is mitigated by integrity and the desire to present a true picture of what is. As Richard Dawkins observed in Root of All Evil, remarking on the story of the zoology professor, no fundamentalist would ever say that. This is why the charge of arrogance, as its levelled against those who admire scientific truth, is nothing more than smoke, a tautological irrelevancy.

Stay tuned.

10/25/2007                                                                                       View Comments

Here's What the Evangelical Christian Must Defend

By John W. Loftus

He or she needs to defend the existence of the social Trinitarian God (versus an anti-social Trinitarian God) of the Bible (which had a long process of formation and of borrowing material from others) who never began to exist and will never cease to exist (even though everything we experience has a beginning and an end), who never learned any new truths, who does not think (for thinking demands weighing temporal alternatives), who is not free with respect to deciding his own nature, who revealed himself through a poor medium (history) in a poor era (ancient times), who condemns all of humanity for the sins of the first human pair, who commanded genocide, who allows intense suffering in this world (yet does not follow the same moral code he commands believers to follow), who's Son (the 2nd person of the trinity) became incarnate in Jesus (even though no one has ever made sense of a person who is 100% man and 100% divine) to be punished for our sins (even though there is no correlation between punishment and forgiveness) who subsequently bodily arose from the dead (even though the believer in miracles has an almost impossible double-burden of proof here) and now lives embodied forever in a “spiritual” human body to return in the future (even though the NT is clear that the end of all kingdoms and the establishment of God's kingdom was to be in their generation), who sent the 3rd person of the trinity to lead his followers into "all truth" (yet fails in every generation to do this), who will also judge us based upon what conclusions we reach about the existence of this God and what he has done (paralleling the ancient barbaric thought police), and who will reward believers by taking away their freedom and punish the dammed by letting them retain their freedom?

Interesting hypothesis, if so. This is such a large claim. The larger the claim is, the harder it is to defend it.

Reason: the best counselor

By Bill J

I was reading up on an old friend from the ministry the other day. He went back to his roots in ministry and is providing counseling to people burdened by anger, depression and other issues. I recall his teachings and how they influenced me and others in ministry. Looking back I now see how narrow his views were and apparently still are.

It is unfortunate that people tend to look to pastors for a lot more than the pastors can offer. My friend sees much of the world through the eyes of religion and his unique version of counseling. He equates depression, addiction and financial problems with harboring secret or not so secret, hatred, un-forgiveness and anger toward people who hurt you. His solution is to talk people into reliving the emotional pain of past experiences and then encourage them to forgive. This brings up a whole host of issues regarding his method and his proof that it frees people from things like depression, addiction, etc. On his website, promoting his book, one of his claims is that his form of counseling sets people free from addiction to pornography. He claims there is a link between anger and viewing of pornography. So the theory goes that if one forgives the person they are angry at then they will be free from sexual addictions like pornography. As an ex-Christian, I know this type of shame based thinking regarding pornography. I'm sure he will have lots of youth ministers, pastors and missionaries clamoring for his special brand of counseling. Lustful thoughts and the guilt Christian males have over viewing pornography and masturbation runs rampant in Evangelical Churches. A good friend of mine told me about an alleged prophet of God who called out a spirit of masturbation from a young Christian man in his congregation. I don't even want to think of the shame that guy suffered from after that experience.

I remember telling my pastor friend about some of the classes I was attending in college. One of them in particular was anatomy of the brain. I was surprised when he wanted to know why I was taking that class for my counseling degree. He couldn't understand why it was important for a counselor to know about brain structure and chemistry like serotonin and other neurotransmitters.

Finding out that he is still into this type of counseling with no formal training in psychology other than a Masters in Divinity, is unfortunate. It is also unfortunate that many people who surround him speak highly of his counseling. The down side is that there are many who left his church and no longer count him as a friend because of the damage this type of counseling and viewpoint has done. It should be noted that when people disagreed with him and left his church, he often wrote them off as being unforgiving and angry. I remember him telling me how he forgave this person, or that person, for hurting him or leaving the church. It was like a shield against personal examination and responsibility for his part in the relationship. This type of rationalization was often married with the belief that the ex-parishioner was in sin and rebellion against God. Sometimes he would elaborate and state that they were influenced by the devil because they were angry and unforgiving. He liked to quote the Apostle Paul:
"Be angry, but sin not, because you will give the devil a foothold in your heart."


I think you get the picture. Some of his counseling involved casting out demons that lived in unforgiving Christians. That's a whole other theological debate that evangelical Christians have.

I recently spoke to him and asked him to testify for me regarding an issue involving my ex-wife (one of those people he counseled many years ago). He promised to meet with me when I flew down to Diego. I called him two more times to set up a dinner appointment with him and his wife. He never returned my calls and we never met while I was down in California. I did meet with an old friend who still attends his church. He informed me that my old friend, the pastor, finally gave up (after 10 years) on helping he and his wife with their marriage problems because he didn't know what else to do to for them. I guess the inner healing from bitterness and un-forgiveness didn't work and neither did the Christian teachings about submission and husbandly authority. I'm sure the pastor wrote them off as being unable to apply his counsel or God's word to their marriage because they were not dealing with some form of sin in their lives. I happen to know my friend's wife and I am fairly certain she suffers from an Axis II personality disorder. Only the pastor knows what reason he used to justify God's inability to change their marriage. Whatever the reason, I'm sure he washed his hands from any responsibility he might have had from preaching Biblical authority dogma and inner healing counseling to his church for decades.

Why he never returned my calls, well, maybe he never got them because his wife erased them or they had a power outage and my messages were deleted. Whatever the case, we did speak (he had my number) and he knew I was coming to San Diego. Maybe all the fires they are having in San Diego right now are a result of his un-forgiveness toward me. Don't Christians often claim God is judging us when calamity strikes? Knowing him has I did, my guess is that since I did not ask his forgiveness for leaving his church when we last spoke (I simply said lets just call it water-under-the-bridge and move on), he doesn't want to "cast his pearls before swine."

My experience with religious people is that they are very individualist regarding their beliefs. You can have 5 churches on the same block (much like in some areas of Alaska) and each with their own view on theology, ministry, counseling and spiritual gifts. What usually sets them apart isn't so much these type of beliefs as much as the image the pastor projects of himself/herself. If the image is what first attracts them, then it is the pastor's handling of relationships that usually repel them. This is not always the case, but it is often the case.

In my experience, people gravitate toward a church where the pastor's image makes them feel comfortable and accepted. That was how it was with me when I first attended his church. It wasn't until many years later that I was able to see through this image (and my own allegiance to him) and evaluate him without bias (he is a nice person, albeit, a mislead and self-protective religious person who often does as much harm as good). As Christians (especially Evangelical ones) we are taught to respect the pastor and revere him as "one who hears from God, or knows the Word". Obedience to God is first and foremost in the Evangelical Christian's mind and since the pastor "hears" from God.... well, you get the picture. At least I hope you do!

It's been at least 11 years since I attended his church and I remember how confusing and painful it was leaving it. I was ordained and licensed through his church, and my most formative Christian years, as a young adult, were in his church. Now, thankfully, I rarely think about him and that church. When I finally came to my senses and put religion behind me, I was able to look at him, and many of the other pastors I knew, with a different set of eyes. The only regret I have, about my time as a Christian, is the amount of time, money and quality of life I wasted trying to be a one. We are what we believe and if we go against what we believe we will reap the effects. It's called cognitive dissonance. People will go to great lengths to fight their own internal beliefs or justify them. Some beliefs, such as religious ones, are false and when we realize this, those beliefs gradually or suddenly lose their power over us. That was how it was for me.

In conclusion, I must confess that my life experiences have made me what I am today and today I am much happier then I ever was as a Christian. To be bitter or unforgiving one must have an emotional attachment to someone or something, but when that someone or something doesn't matter anymore then there isn't anything to let go of. When my belief about life, religion and God changed, so did my inner life. I realized that what I used to hold dear, or value didn't mean much to me anymore. I gradually replaced them with reason and personal responsibility. When I did this, I became free from doubt, false shame and false guilt and I my confidence grew. Forgiveness wasn't in the equation and neither was bitterness or anger. Reason was the answer.

Conversation with Ismael (a Muslim)

By Tiny Frog

There’s a guy who comes into one of the local coffee shops - 40ish, a businessman, and speaks with a foreign accent. I had met him a few months ago. I didn’t know he was a Muslim until a few weeks ago when he mentioned fasting for Ramadan. Last night, I was working on my laptop at the seat next to him, and he said something to the effect that the US should withdraw from Iraq and let the Sunnis and Shia fight it out. I just kind of nodded, not really intending to get into a political discussion. I don’t recall exactly how we got on the subject, but we started talking about Islam. He was from Palestine and was a Sunni - although, he had a number of conservative Christian business partners and friends. He seemed moderate enough, didn’t have the “I’m a fanatic” beard, had lived in the US for 20+ years, but he prayed five times a day and had socially conservative views.

I was interested in hearing his view of Islam, though, so I was asking him some questions about it.

He started talking about the differences between Sunni and Shia, and Middle-Eastern politics. He (a Sunni) didn’t like the Shia and considered them to be militaristic and willing to kill themselves whenever their leader commands. He did seem to like Hamas and Hezbollah - even saying that Hezbollah were “good Shia”. It wasn’t hard to see the underlying political bias that could lead him to this view - since Hezbollah supported the Palestinians against Israel.

I asked him what he thought of the Wahabbis. (Wahabbis are fanatical Sunnis in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The 9/11 terrorists, as well as Osama Bin Ladin are Wahabbis. They are behind Saudi laws that women must be completely covered, can’t drive or vote, don’t allow people to take their picture, etc.) He said that Sunnis have no problem with Wahabbis, but they were more conservative than most Sunnis. He didn’t agree with laws that women should be completely covered, and didn’t think women needed to cover their hair, either. But, he thought women shouldn’t be walking around in bikinis.

A little later, he was trying to convince me that Islam was the third and final revelation of God (Judaism and Christianity being the first two). He began claiming that the Islam and Christianity had a great deal in common, but Islam was the more accurate and recent revelation. I questioned that assertion with by contrasting New Testament teachings with Islam, but said I thought the Old Testament and Islam had more in common. I think he assumed I was a Christian (and I must admit, bringing up Christian teachings did play into that perception), and was trying to convince me that Islam was better than my (presumed) Christian beliefs. I ended up telling him that I was actually an ex-Christian and that I didn’t believe in God.

He began trying to convince me of the existence of God. First, he he told me that the Koran states that there are 99 names for God (the Merciful, the Creator, etc.) He then told me to hold my hands in front of me. Apparently, some of the lines in your right hand look like the arabic numerals for 1 and 8. The lines in your left hand are the same, but reversed: 8 and 1. He said to add them up (18 + 81), and, of course, they add up to 99. I think he was trying to make an argument that the result somehow validates the Koran, which says there are 99 names for God. Did God write 99 on our hands to tell us the Koran was true? This seemed like an odd argument. Not only is the method of coming up with 99 questionable, but, more importantly, I told him that I could form my own religion, tell people that God had 99 names, and use the same argument - would that validate the truth of my religion, too?
(Wikipedia: 99 Names of God + Palm of the Hand)

He also tried to convince me with Pascal’s wager, although he had never heard of “Pascal” or “Pascal’s Wager”. My guess is that he heard this argument used by a Muslim, and they had stripped-out the Christian origin of the argument. I told him that I didn’t buy that argument because it’s easy to manipulate people with that argument (any false religion can use that argument), and I didn’t want to confer legitimacy on false religions or be complicit in supporting a false religion for my own self-interest. I also told him that I thought it would be cowardly and intellectually dishonest to believe in a God I didn’t think existed simply for my own self-interest. It’s important for humanity to move towards truth - and that might involve risking personal harm to erase false religions from the world. The cowardly and spineless, on the other hand, are the prime “converts” for Pascal’s Wager. Ultimately, rejecting Pascal’s Wager is an act of courage in service of supporting what is true, despite potential personal harm - perhaps in the same way that being a soldier in a just war is personally risky, but a necessary step in fighting for what is true and right.

He claimed that the Koran was too complex to have been written by an uneducated man (Mohammed), therefore he had to get the words from someone else - and that someone else was presumed to be God. Not knowing arabic and being unable to judge the sophistication of the Koran, I simply couldn’t accept his claim based on “say so”.

He also claimed that Mohammed was fortold in the Torah (the Jewish holy book, ostensibly written by Moses), and that, according to the Torah, Islam was the last revelation of God. This story sounded like complete fiction. I asked him where in the Torah it said that, because the Torah is the first five books of the Christian Old Testament, and I certainly never read anything about Mohammed there. I said that his story sounded suspect, but if he had a verse that we could lookup, we could verify that claim. He couldn’t give me any reference, but in an attempt to shore-up this story, he claimed that, a few years ago, all the religious scholars of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism got together for a conference. Already, this story sounded highly suspect. “Really? All of them?” I asked. This story seemed simply to fantastic to believe, but I let him go on. He said that the Islamic scholars confronted the Jews with this information in their own Torah. At this point, I simply had to stop the story. It was simply too fantastic to believe. I can certainly understand why such a rumor would spread through the Muslim community, however. The story - that Mohammed was foretold in the Torah - not only validated their own religious claims, but it also made the Jews appear as if they were unwilling to acknowledge the superiority of Islam despite their own holy books teaching. Even further, if it was in the Torah, it would have significant implications for Christianity. I’ve heard of a lot of urban legends in the Muslim community, but this is certainly one I’d never heard before. Funny how fictions end up playing an important role in supporting pre-existing beliefs.

He claimed that the reason I didn’t believe in God is simply because I got busy in my life and forgot about Him. He said people don’t pray when everything is going well, they only remember God when things are going badly. I told him that it wasn’t true at all. I was a little too tired at this point to fully explain my disbelief, but I did tell him that when I was about 18 or 19 that I began to realize that the world made a lot more sense if we assume God isn’t involved in it. It’s funny when religious people believe fictitious accounts of why unbelievers don’t believe. There is always an easy explanation that discredits the basis of an unbeliever’s unbelief - something that is easy for them to deal with intellectually, and has a ready-made fix.

I asked him about the teaching that Christians would go to hell. He said that the Koran never teaches that. I told him that I thought he was mistaken on that point, but there was nothing more to say about it, since I couldn’t look up the verse in the Koran (like I can do now): “The unbelievers among the [Jews and Christians] and the pagans shall burn for ever in the fire of Hell. They are the vilest of all creatures.” (Koran 98:1-8) / “They indeed have disbelieved who say: Lo! Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary.” (5:17) He did say later that the only unforgivable sin was worshiping a God other than Allah. I asked him about people born in other countries - they followed the beliefs of their culture and their family - would they were somehow guilty of the unforgivable sin? He backed off from the ‘unforgivable sin’ claim and said he really didn’t know how God would judge people. I saw this again a little later, too — he would make a claim that the Koran says X, I would bring up a situation that would be unfair and unjust if his claim were true, and he would suddenly change his position to be agnostic about that particular point.

A little bit later, he was telling me that Islam is a religion of peace - and to backup his point, he said that the Koran teaches that whoever kills one person is as guilty as killing the whole world. So, I asked him about his earlier statements about Abu Bakr (a close friend of Mohammed who became leader - at least according to Sunnis - after Mohammed’s death). After the death of Mohammed, a number of people de-converted from Islam and Abu Bakr had them killed (this is where Muslims have their belief that apostates should be killed). Further, Sunnis regard him as the first of four righteously guided Calphates (leaders of the Islamic community).

Doesn’t the fact that Abu Bakr killed lots of apostates make him guilty of killing the whole world many times over? Ismael got evasive again. He didn’t know how God would see those killings, although he did agree that it was legitimate to kill Muslim apostates. Which gets us back to the old religious bait and switch. When a Muslim wants Islam to be perceived as peaceful, they can quote various sections of the Koran, but then ignore them or claim agnosticism whenever it comes to religiously-sanctioned murder. I dropped the “Islam is peaceful” claim and started asking him about the legitimacy of killing apostates. He said it was legitimate to kill apostates because they had disrespected their community and their teaching. I tried to turn it around and help him look at the nastiness of that idea from outside his religion. I asked him what he would think if Christians killed ex-Christians who had converted to Islam. Would he think that was okay? He shrugged and said that would be okay if Christians did that. I asked him if he could see that the practice of punishing or killing people for their beliefs will cause all kinds of strife and problems - and that this is the major lesson of European religious wars centuries ago. In fact, I had some ancestors who fled Catholic France to escape persecution because they had converted to Protestantism. I was trying to get across to him the fact that trying to control people’s religious beliefs leads to societal problems, endless fighting, and strife.

He claimed that Afghanistan under the Taliban were the only country on earth to actually attempt to practice true Islam. (And he didn’t mean that as an insult to Islam. He meant it as a compliment to the Taliban.) I asked him if he knew of all the violations of basic human rights that went on under the Taliban - having non-Muslims wear certain clothing, having women completely covered - including a mesh over their eyes so people couldn’t see their eyes, that music was banned. He relented a bit and said they were excessively conservative in making women cover everything. He believed that women didn’t need to cover their faces, or even their hair. However, he believed that music was justly banned under the Taliban because music - at least music with singing - was wrong according to the Koran. Music without vocals was okay under Islam, however. He also thought it was justifiable for the Taliban to enforce the death penalty on apostates. He didn’t worry too much about the “death for apostasy” idea because, he said, very few Muslims convert to other religions anyway. Well, yes, I told him - but many countries have laws against preaching anything but Islam. Saudi Arabia, for example, doesn’t allow anyone to preach a non-Islamic religion, they don’t allow religious minorities to show any religious symbols, they punish on any Muslim who de-converts from Islam. He seemed shocked by the idea that I would even suggest that a non-Islamic religion be allowed to preach in Saudi Arabia. After all, he said, Mecca was the home of the prophet. I asked him what he would think if Israel made it illegal to preach any religion except Judaism - after all, Israel is the birthplace of Judaism. Would he like it if preaching Islam was outlawed in Israel? He said something about Israel being only 50 years old, and somehow it didn’t apply. Anyway, he said that in the Middle East, even if there wasn’t a government law against apostasy, that if any Muslim converted away from Islam and they made it known, that someone would certainly kill them. It didn’t matter if there was an actual law or not. There would be vigilante attacks.

His whole idea of true Islam just seemed so medieval and barbaric. The Taliban had a long list of basic human rights violations, and I told him this but he didn’t seem that bothered by most of it. He did say he didn’t think women needed to be covered to the extent that the Taliban laws required, but that was about it. Yet, in other ways, he seemed rather open-minded. For example, letting his son read some pro-Christian material that one of his Christian business partners gave him. He certainly didn’t want his son to believe it, but he wanted his son to at least know about it and be exposed to it. He did say that he thought Al-Queda were wrong, even if he seemed to admire the rule of the Taliban. In fact, he claimed that the reason the Taliban was destroyed was precisely because they were practicing true Islam. It’s always amazing to hear Muslims try to position their religion (for public relations reasons) as a religion of peace, but then be taken aback when they express opinions that rightfully belong in the 15th century. They love to say that the Koran teaches that there should be no compulsion in religion - although, the actual meaning of that phrase is subject to interpretation. Yes, there are religious minorities in every Muslim country. But, to control the education system to reinforce Islam, prevent people from preaching non-Islamic religion, and have laws (or vigilante “justice”) applied to Muslim apostates means that Muslims are under *compulsion* to remain within Islam. I also asked him if potential converts to Islam should be worried about the “death for apostates” idea, because it seems that they won’t be allowed to change their minds later. He said that it wasn’t really a problem because countries didn’t enforce it (or at least, countries outside the Middle East didn’t enforce it) - which makes me pity any country that becomes more and more Islamic because the draconian laws are sure to follow once Islam has converted the majority of the population. Based on his opinions, I got the feeling that he would support Islamic rule over the United States - if there were enough American Muslims to actually make that a feasible possibility.

He also said that, according to Mohammed, that Islam would branch into 77 different sects before “the prophet” returned, but that 70 of these sects would end up in hell. I had to wonder what kind of infighting this teaching would cause. Muslims could be “justified” in branding other Muslims as heretics with that idea. It also gave me a bit of insight into why people like Al-Queda see most Muslims as enemies.

He said that in Islam the church and the state are merged. I said that the idea will lead to all kinds of strife and conflict, because people will want their version of Islam in control. It would bring back all the problems of the European religious wars. The West has learned it’s lesson about the foolishness of that idea. Yet, this idea is entrenched in Islam. I couldn’t help but think there were a lot of things in Islam that would lead to permanent internal and external conflict.

He said that Mohammed had made a prediction about Persia (present-day Iran) becoming an Islamic country, and that it came true. He also said that Moahmmed predicted that the Vatican/Rome would fall under Islamic power. Again, I couldn’t help but think these predictions were formenting conflict. While the Islamic world is currently too weak to capture Italy, this “prediction” could become a self-fulfilling one if enough Muslims take it upon themselves to make it happen. Again, it was an case where Islamic teaching could stir up conflict and strife.

I asked him how Muslims/the Koran would view me as an ex-Christian who no longer believed in God. He just shook his head. Apparently, to him, I had learned God’s second revelation (Christianity) and rejected it. I kind of figured I was only one step better than an Muslim apostate who had become an atheist, and his reaction seemed to confirm that view.

In the end, I thought it was an interesting conversation. I wish I hadn’t been quite so tired, or else I might’ve remembered more and made some better points. We left on friendly terms. I’m still a little bit taken aback by how he - a seemingly moderate muslim in many ways - could also endorse death for apostates, and admire the Taliban. And, as I said earlier, he certainly didn’t look like a crazy fundamentalist. I didn’t even know he was a practicing Muslim until recently. But, it’s odd how people can hold nasty views like that and have their religion completely blind them to the nastiness of their ideas. I’m also convinced that an Islamic world means a world of strife - because they believe most so-called “Muslims” are not following “True Islam” and will end up in hell (which seems a step away from punishing them here on earth), and the very idea of punishment and death for people who convert from Islam seems like medieval and barbaric. He seemed to endorse even the parts of Islam that conflicted with basic human rights. The mixture of church and state seems a very potent mixture of conflict - as everyone would want the government to enforce their version of “true Islam”. Yet, he’s quite convinced all these things are an essential part of his religion.

Personally, I view Mohammad as no better than countless other people who have created power, wealth, and adoration for themselves by creating their own religion. He is simply in the same category as Shoko Asahara (Aum Shinrikyo), Li Hongzhi (Falun Gong), Joseph Smith (Mormonism), L Ron Hubbard (Scientology), Sun Myung Moon (the Moonies), etc. It’s unfortunate that we are still living with and fighting against the ghost of this hoax over a thousand years later.

10/24/2007                                                                                       View Comments

Who Deserves Heaven as a Reward?

By Atheist Tooth Fairy (ATF)

In learning about the oh-so-many flaws of the Christian dogma, one issue I rarely see come up in discussion is how the Christian God determines who deserves the 'reward' of heaven.

Now, I do realize that some denominations shun the concept of “Being Saved”, that the more fundamentalist Christians proclaim as a requirement to gain entry to God’s Heaven.

However, it seems the majority of Christians we see come in here tend to believe one needs to “Be Saved” or one will burn in Hell.
So for the sake of debate here, let us assume that an adult can't reach those Pearly Gates by using the ‘works’ method and one really must accept Jesus as one’s personal savior and/or be “Reborn”.

My first problem with this heaven concept, would be with the children who have not yet reached this “Age of Accountability”, that so many speak about.

Obviously the more common Catholic school of thought was, that if one was baptized (usually as an infant) that this infant would go to heaven if it should die. Without this baptism, the infant would be lost to a special place called “Limbo”.
I believe this Limbo dogma has been rescinded recently and all these babies are now safely in heaven.
Amazing in itself, that the Pope can move such ‘mountains’ with God, don't you think?

So I’m fairly sure that if any baby or young child were to die, that it would go right to heaven, but if not, then certainly God would not put them in the same Hell as adult non-believers.

Moving up to the next level now...

I think we can also safely assume that a murdered child/infant, who may not have even heard about Jesus, also wouldn't be sent to Hell.
When Limbo did exist in the minds of the Catholics, these same murdered children/infants (but unbaptized) would land up in this Limbo, but I’m pretty sure for everyone else, they would also go right to heaven.
In any case, I doubt any sect believes such children would land up burning in the fires of hell.

So now we covered the child issue of heaven, so let’s move on to some situations that pertain to adults now.

Let’s look at some hypothetical situations and try and decide who goes to heaven and who doesn't.

Situation #1:

If I were to murder a ‘Jesus Saved’ adult, would that murdered person go to heaven or hell. I think we can assume they are probably destined for heaven?

Situation #2:

Now suppose that I murder an "UNSAVED" adult. Well now things get a bit tougher to reconcile. Do we just assume that because they didn't have their full life opportunity to find Jesus and be ‘Saved’, that they have no destination, other than hell?

Situation #3:

Once again, suppose that I murder an "UNSAVED" adult. Oh but this time, we add a ‘fly into the ointment’. This time God knows that at some point in their normal human future, this unsaved adult would have found Jesus and been ‘Saved’. Thus, at the time this person was killed by me, they were not YET saved, so what does god do with this unsaved person that would have been saved; if I hadn't killed them prematurely and taken away their normal expected lifetime?

Sure seems they would go to hell, for they hadn't been Saved YET, and what one may have done in the future doesn't seem to count for much. After all, if we were to include all that would have found Jesus, anytime in the future, then why wouldn't God allow a billion years of time for us to find Jesus. Why do we get only several decades to discover this very important piece of information. He could have least given us a few hundred years to discover him, as folks in the early OT days tended to live.

Did he realize by reducing our life span that he cut us short in the time we had to find this Jesus?

Situation #4:

This time, let’s talk about my own fate for having taken another person’s life.

Suppose I kill an innocent person today, but a year from now I find Jesus and become saved through his 'grace'. The next day I get hit by a car and die suddenly.
Does this mean I get to go to heaven, even though I had killed an innocent person?
From my understanding of how this ‘saving’ stuff works, it sure seems I would get my heavenly reward, and be right up there with all the ‘good’ folks who hadn't murdered a soul.

Situation #5:

These little questions keep getting tougher, don’t they.
So this one won't be any easier I’m afraid.

Now let’s take two of these situations and combine them into one scenario.

This time around, I murder an "UNSAVED" adult on Monday, but one that God knows would have been Saved on Tuesday, as this person had already made plans to go to the ‘right’ church and was ‘destined’ to accept Jesus into their hearts.
Alas, what they may have done on Tuesday never took place because I killed them on Monday.

Once again, a year later I go to the ‘right’ church and find Jesus and become saved by his grace.
So now I’m Saved in God’s grace and earned my just reward of heaven.

The unsaved innocent person I killed can't enter heaven’s gates in an unsaved state.
Does god give this murdered person one last chance to repent right there on the spot?
Does god tell this former human, that he knows they would have converted in their normal human future, so they might as well see the light and convert right now, or suffer the flames of hell.
Bascially a last minute ultimatum, is being offered by God here.

It would SEEM if I kill an unsaved person, who in their normal future would have found Jesus, that this person is now destined to spend an eternity in hell?
I on the other hand, get my nice fluffy cloud (complete with harp) and bask for eternity in wonderful happiness, while the person I murdered is tormented in flames because they were too slow in finding this Jesus before I did-them-in.

I do have some further thoughts now that I’d like opinions on:

If we assume these children, babies and 'almost' saved adults, who met an early demise, get to go directly to heaven upon their death, then what was the point of their existence as humans on this earth?

What point is there for God to make us live as flesh and blood humans on this earth, if we all will exist for the rest of eternity (a very long time I must point out) as some form of spirit being?
Why not just create us from the start, in the spirit form we will spend all of eternity?

Where is the logic in the god requirement for most of us to suffer all the things that humans tend to suffer, in the course of one human lifetime on earth.
How is it fair that most Christains must suffer a full human existence in order to gain the keys to the locks of heaven's gates.
Why is it that children, babies and those who have chosen to be saved via Jesus, but who die prematurely, get a free pass to heaven without having to live out the normal human lifetime on earth.

If some get this free pass, then why don't most humans get the same free pass to nirvana.

If god's great plan/rules says we must begin life as humans, live out a full life on earth, and aren't allowed to skip this human step in the grand scheme of things; then how is it possible that a small percentage would get to bypass these rules of god's plan.

Doesn't it make a lot more sense if there really is a creator god out there, that he would create us in our eternal form right from the start. If we do then screw up, then he would just take our immortal lives away, rather than using this human stepping-stone process Christians claim is necessary; for reasons that baffle me.