3/28/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Fitna the Movie

Geert Wilders' film about the Quran



Fitna is a film by Dutch politician Geert Wilders, leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV) in the Dutch parliament. The movie offers his views on Islam and the Qur'an. The film's title comes from the Arabic word fitna which is used to describe "disagreement and division among people", or a "test of faith in times of trial". The movie was released to the Internet on 27 March 2008. -- Wikipedia


Freedom of expression or freedom to insult?

Calls from countries with a largely Muslim population to ban Geert Wilders film Fitna have fallen on deaf ears in the Netherlands, where freedom of expression is seen as an unassailable right. Folkert Jensma, NRC Handelsblad's legal affairs correspondent, explains the options.

Could the screening of Wilders' video have been prevented by law?

No, at least not in principle. The Dutch constitution does not allow censorship, which is defined in Article 7 as the freedom to publish or show anything without prior consent. This freedom applies not just to the printing press. It also covers art, movies, photos, cartoons – indeed any medium that can be used to express oneself. It’s a basic civil right and a founding principle of Dutch democracy. Basic civil rights also include the freedom of religion, protection from discrimination and the right to equal treatment. In democratic societies these basic rights are sacrosanct and protect individual citizens from the potential abuse of power by governments.

The only way the government could over-ride this basic right would be to declare a State of Emergency. Then it could have used special powers, including media censorship. But this was never a real option. Wilders' video may be a public relations disaster for the Netherlands but it is not a national disaster like war or serious flood caused by a break in the dykes.

Such an intervention was also out of the question politically. Dutch foreign policy champions human rights and the country hosts several international courts and legal institutions like the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice and Europol. The Netherlands initiated the European Convention on Human Rights which specifically forbids public authorities from interfering with the freedom to ‘hold opinions’ and to ‘receive and impart information’.

So it is impossible to ask the Dutch authorities to prevent the publication of an insulting book or the opening of an exhibition which is guaranteed to upset people?

This is where things get complicated. No freedom is absolute, even in an open, democratic society. Article 10, section 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights defines the ‘conditions and restrictions’ that need to be prescribed by law and that should be ‘necessary in a democratic society’. It also allows for restrictions to freedom of expression ‘for the protection of health or morals’. However, in practice the European Court of Human Rights tends to allow publications that may shock, offend or disturb and permits member states a wide margin in deciding where morals should be protected.

So yes, someone could have tried to stop the film, but they would have stood little chance of success. Top Dutch lawyer Gerard Spong said he would go to court because the commercial interests of one of his clients were being damaged by Wilders. Spong has not revealed the identity of that client apart from indicating it is an Indonesian company trading in the Netherlands.

Other organisations and members of the general public have also taken action. The national public prosecution department has received dozens of complaints from citizens and organisations who feel Wilders has broken blasphemy and libel laws. The department says it will take a decision on whether or not to proceed with the complaints 'in due course'.

As a member of parliament, Wilders is immune from criminal prosecution for libel and the state's response will probably be cautious. Since the murders of political rising star Pim Fortuyn and film director Theo van Gogh, the gloves are off in Dutch political debate. There is a feeling that everything that needs to be said should be said - preferably as loudly as possible.

In addition, the prosecution department can look back to the 1997 prosecution of Hans Janmaat for discrimination. Janmaat was an extreme right-wing member of parliament with an anti-immigrant message that preceded those of Pim Fortuyn and Geert Wilders. His conviction and €3,400 fine for speaking out publicly against multi-culturalism was later generally regarded as unmerited. By today’s standards Janmaat’s statement seems almost polite.

Wilders, meanwhile, has been warned privately by Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin that a criminal prosecution is a serious option, depending on the content of his film. After the meeting, Wilders complained of intimidation by cabinet officials.

So why was no action taken before the premiere?

The main problem was nobody knew what exactly the film was about. Nobody had seen it. Wilders steadfastly refused to preview his production to anyone. Legally speaking, there was no smoking gun - because the shot hadn't been fired yet. All lawyers knew was that Wilders intended to say insulting things about the Muslim religion. From the legal point of view, this could only be seen as attempted insult or conspiracy to insult. No such crime exists in Dutch law.

Don’t forget that this is as much a story about political gamesmanship as it is about legal wrangling. By not saying explicitly what his video film was about but repeatedly dropping hints, Wilders raised expectations and at the same time kept himself out of legal trouble.

Is a civil claim now likely?

Don’t underestimate the legal power of commercial self-interest. The former member of Dutch parliament and critic of Islam Ayaan Hirsi Ali was forced out of her home after her neighbours managed to convince a judge that the value of their property suffered from her presence.

Wilders has already abandoned attempts to show his video during a press conference in a building next to parliament in the centre of The Hague. Security costs would have amounted to several hundred thousand euros, which he said he couldn't afford. In addition, nearby shop owners claimed they would need to take increased security precautions for months and said they would demand compensation.

But Egbert Dommering, a professor of law at the University of Amsterdam and a respected expert on media law, thinks a civil claim against an ‘unknown’ film might have been successful if it presented a ‘clear and present danger’ to public safety. Then, he says, a banning order would be justified and could easily pass scrutiny by the European courts.

The order, could, for example, have banned publication on the internet. A limited ban cannot be considered censorship, Dommering argues because it would be proportionate in view of the expected damage. But no such move was made.

Where does all this leave Wilders? Since all Dutch television stations have refused to accept his terms for broadcasting his production and showing it during a press conference is expensive and may attract legal claims, Wilders has only one real option: the internet. The internet is full of insulting images of Islam already. And to stay out of legal trouble in the Netherlands, Wilders has hosted his website www.fitnathemovie.com in the United States. ‘Coming soon’, it said. Until recently. The internet provider Network Solutions withdrew Wilders’ account and suspended his website. They are currently investigating whether the site’s content is in violation of its 'current use policy', which forbids publication of defamatory or libelous material. Or 'hate propaganda'.

STORY LINK



3/26/2008                                                                                       View Comments

A Woman's Place...

By DocMike

One of my employees, who happens to be a young woman, said today that she would never vote for because she is a woman and the says that women should not be leaders.

"That's a man's job," she said.

I asked her where it says that in the and she didn't know. She just knows that it's in there and she knows that intended women to be submissive to men.

I wanted to rant and rave and fire her ass for being so fucking stupid! But I realized that it's not her fault. I pity her because she is a young, attractive, intelligent woman who has been indoctrinated all of her life and accepts that she could never be equal to a man. It's really sad!

And the fact is she's right about the . It does say that:

1 Timothy 2:12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

It's a shame that, in this day and age, young women are still limiting themselves because of this horrible, antiquated book that was obviously written by men! Makes me fucking sick!!!

Here’s some more female denigration from the :

Genesis 3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

1 Corinthians 11:3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.

1 Corinthians 11:7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.

1 Corinthians 11:8 For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man.

1 Corinthians 11:9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.

1 Corinthians 14:34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.

1 Corinthians 14:35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

1 Timothy 2:11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.

1 Timothy 2:13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.

1 Timothy 2:14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.

Also see Women in the Bible from The Skeptics Annotated Bible for many more examples.

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3/25/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Christianity: blaming the victim

By Dave, the WM

Christianity lauds itself as the panacea for the world’s woes, but Christianity’s approach to rescuing poor humanity is riddled with degradation. Before offering its “so great a salvation” Christianity first condemns, denigrates, and belittles people into believing they are vile creatures, wearing the filthy rags of a pointless existence. Self-confident non-Christians are redefined as “haughty and arrogant.” Sincere human compassion that is bereft of evangelical rhetoric is labeled as “selfishly motivated” and incapable of real or lasting good. Difficult circumstances and obstacles in a person’s life is seen as part of primordial curses put on creation by an unconditionally loving god.

What can you, a pathetic sinner, do to overcome the problems in your life? YOU? Nothing! You are completely powerless, the helpless victim of a spiritually fallen world.


Instead of building people up and empowering them with the tools and confidence to boldly address life’s obstacles, people are told they are powerless victims of evilly motivated demonic forces. The only escape, says Christianity, is total surrender to an invisible entity that is supposedly the sovereign lord of all reality. You need a savior, because you are a victim of sin.

We are all supposedly born “condemned already” with a depraved, sinful nature that is somehow inherited from a “morally perfect” man and woman who somehow became morally imperfect by disobediently picking and eating some forbidden fruit. All this happened quite long ago, and although no one alive can be said to be at fault for the decision of these prehistoric fructose lovers, everyone born since that fateful day is declared guilty-by-association. “Hey, your long dead forebear did a no-no, so you will be punished with everlasting, horrific torment!”

Talk about blaming the victim!

A case could be made that the mythical Adam and Eve were also victims. They were put in a situation against which they had no defense. I mean, what chance did a couple of innocent, ignorant, hairless, naked people have against a supernaturally talking snake? And what was so evil about eating a piece of fruit, anyway? Or was it disobeying GOD that was sooooo evil? So, if GOD gives a stupid command, then disobeying it is EVIL? Well, regardless of the individual guilt or innocence of either of these storybook characters, surely billions of subsequent human beings cannot be justly condemned for that one ancient, ancestral crime, can they? I’m pretty sure that I had nothing to do with whatever happened in that cute little garden. I think I'd remember something like that.

So, we are counted as guilty before GOD because we inherited a sinful nature from our free-spirited, nudist ancestors who ate bad pineapples, or persimmons, or something.

And that leads me into thinking about free will. If we have a sinful, depraved, fallen nature, devoid of the ability to do good, then once again we are hapless victims, yet held accountable for our position of helplessness.

Christianity insists that “all have sinned and fall short,” that “there is none that does good, no not one,” and that there is nothing any of us can do to save ourselves from the terrible judgment of GOD. (He’s still mad about the fruit thing, I guess.) Yet, these same Christians insist that we all have the free will to choose God, and all we have to do is repent and believe and all will be well.

Wouldn’t repenting and believing and choosing GOD be the greatest good that a person could ever do in his or her life? I thought I had a hopelessly depraved nature, that I was dead in sin, and that my thoughts are only evil continually!

God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. – Paul, Romans 9:18


So, on top of being born with a wicked nature, without the capacity to do anything good, I have a crippled freewill that is confined to choosing only among evil choices, unless God wants to have mercy. Otherwise, HE’ll elect to leave me in my depravity, or worse, harden me more.

One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” -- Paul, Romans 9:19


Yes, exactly. It’s because Bible-God does whatever he wants, whenever he wants, to whomever he wants, and there’s not a damned thing you can do about it. You’re a helpless, powerless victim! Unless you bow, you will be crushed to powder by the loving fist of God!

I refuse to think of myself as a victim. I refuse to return to the Christian victim mentality.

What about you? What do you think?

3/22/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Why I cannot honestly call myself a Christian

By Ian

Introductory remarks

This document sets out some arguments that question the truth of contemporary evangelical Christianity. It has been written largely for the benefit of the author but also to communicate to friends and family in a dispassionate and non confrontational way some of the rationale for no longer adhering to fundamentalist Christianity. It is almost all my own words but I have used material from the Internet in some places.

I want to start with a challenge to the Christian who may read this. The challenge is as follows:
  1. Think of all the people and belief systems residing outside your church.
  2. Try, against all the odds, to read this as a “juror” and not a “defendant”
  3. Remember the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes.
If you personally know our Creator, genuinely engaging in these issues should only benefit and assure you in your faith. However if you already know what follows is “deceit and of the Devil”, you may as well save yourself the time and stop here.

1) Without God there is “no meaning”


Unfortunately this is one of the hardest concepts I am going to write about but it does need to be at the beginning so please bear with me for this one…The above statement is one of the key reasons people fail to even engage with some of the issues around the validity of Christian doctrine. It is almost as if people are saying “I need an ultimate explanation…there has to be one and I cannot contemplate otherwise”.

Even if there is a God, as per evangelical Christianity, there is still much left to mystery and therefore is a lack of ultimate “meaning”. An example of one of these mysteries would be the origin of God but there are many more. Therefore saying you “know God” sets the boundary of what you think you understand about our universe, rather than ultimately explains it.

The boundary could be set entirely differently:
“Although I don’t understand everything, I do recognise I exist and I can see my relationships with other humans are important. Therefore I am going to use this to give me ‘meaning’…and not religion”


Is this different to the statement below in terms of achieving “ultimate meaning”?

‘Although I have to admit I don’t understand everything, I know God and I am going to use this to give me “meaning”…’


In both statements we have to acknowledge we don’t know everything and so neither is any more “ultimate” than the other.

Ok that may have seemed confusing, but it is important to be clear at the outset that, philosophically speaking, religion does not make life necessarily more meaningful than a secular outlook. Religion just removes the “lack of ultimate purpose” issue out of your own back yard, and therefore makes it easier to live with.

2) Our morality and God’s morality- i.e “…you need God to be moral”

Our morality is not the same as the morality of the Bible. This is pretty clear in the Old Testament, to the extent it is not worth listing examples. However, stoning any woman raped in a town (Deut 22- she obviously didn’t protest enough), is a good example. However Christians conveniently say that the Old Testament cannot be included in the argument on morality. The Gospel demonstrates a different set of morals to our western 21st century set anyway.

Can you see a parallel in the following story?

An adult allows a child to play on the hard shoulder of a motorway but, graciously, tells them not to cross the white line into the traffic. If the child is trusting and obedient the adult gets a “kick”- the kid had a choice and obeyed. However if the infant steps over the line and is mown down by a truck they were disobedient and so deserved to die right? In the UK you would get locked up for years for either neglect or murder/manslaughter if this happened for real; of course the “moral” thing to do is prevent kids from going anywhere near a road.

The analogy holds- the wisdom gap between me and the Christian God is much bigger than between me and a three year old. And yet in his wisdom and grace he lets millions of us “play” right next to Hell, telling us not to cross the white line of disbelief. Why does this need to happen? It is utterly illogical or, at worse, immoral behaviour. God has more control of us than I have over my kids (or any other person or animal I am responsible for), so why does he do a worse job than me? The answer is simple, because we do not actually share morality with the biblical God and our sense of morality is not imparted by an ancient Middle Eastern deity. There are both logical and positive reasons for a moral system outside of religiosity, but it is not the aim of this document to detail them.

As an aside, do you think the moral status of the child in the story (perhaps they are as awful as one can be at three) would make the court any more lenient on the adult involved? Points (3) and (5) should also be considered when thinking on this issue.

3) God’s will co-existing with man’s free will

This is illogical. Either God predefines everything or he doesn’t predefine everything. If he leaves even the tiniest matter to us, his will is not ultimate, and therefore, neither is he. If he doesn’t, we have no will of our own and therefore no responsibility either. Besides, if all the circumstances in which one makes a decision are predefined by someone else, how responsible is one actually for the decision? Or if someone in authority delegates a decision to a subordinate, are they not still ultimately responsible for that decision? The whole matter of “will” as determined by evangelical theology seems flawed.

4) Unconditional Love co-existing with Hell

This must be nonsense because these two things are mutually exclusive. Hell (if understood literally as fire, brimstone etc) is utterly horrific. Would you push and hold someone’s face into a bonfire or barbeque grill? Even someone who had done you a terrible wrong? No I thought not. Hell is far worse. A god who loved unconditionally would not subject anyone to it. Not least billions of completely ordinary people who happened not to be of the protestant western faith and who could never have known better. The key word here is “unconditional”. Logically it is possible for God to project unconditional love on some people utterly randomly while some suffer Hell utterly randomly. It would be his prerogative. However to the rational person this seems more despotic than something to be worshipped and adored.

5) Origin of Sin

The Christian position holds that before the creation of the Universe there was only God and God has always been. There was nothing but God and as such anything that now exists, at its root, came from Him. The problem is that this includes evil.

It is often explained by Christians that the fall of Man happened because God gave Man free-will in order that Man’s worship would be truly glorifying to God. Whether the fall is held literally or figuratively evil clearly existed in creation prior to this. The Devil fell because he was ambitious and selfish and wanted to be God, however where did the very seed of his evil come from?

This is insoluble intellectually, as the Devil’s origin is ultimately God within evangelical theology At this point the average Christian apologist will say that our intellect is indeed insufficient to understand such a mystery and must, in faith, trust these things to God.

However we are actually discussing a straight forward contradiction. Purity can contain no defect, by its very definition, and therefore there is no seed from which evil could grow. So if everything came from God (he is the ultimate reality) we cannot explain the existence of evil. To say this is too difficult to understand is like saying that 2 + 2 definitely equals 5 and the fact that 2 + 2 appears to equal 4 is just an insoluble mystery.

4) Pagan myths that predate OT law and NT narrative

I have researched this topic entirely on the Internet and on apparently authoritative websites. It certainly appears that Christianity includes many elements of pre existing religion. However we all know the web has much misinformation so I have ignored some of the more controversial and clearly anti-Christian motivated claims.

The following at least does appear to have some historical validity:

Mithras had twelve followers with whom he had shared a last sacramental meal. He had sacrificed himself to redeem mankind. Descending into the underworld, he had conquered death and had risen to life again on the third day. The holy day for this sun god was, of course, Sunday (Christians continued to follow the Jewish Sabbath until the fourth century). His many titles included ‘the Truth,’ ‘the Light,’ and ‘the Good Shepherd.’ For those who worshipped him, invoking the name of Mithras healed the sick and worked miracles. Followers spoke in tongues. Mithras could dispense mercy and grant immortality; to his devotees he offered hope. By drinking his blood and eating his flesh (by proxy, from a slain bull) they too could conquer death. On a Day of Judgement those already dead would be raised back to life. This was a key religion of the Roman Empire from about 300BC and competed with Christianity until about 200AD.

Both the Egyptians and Hittites had laws laid down by god(s) that were very similar to the Ten Commandments and both pre date the Mosaic Law. The Egyptian Book of the Dead contains a section where the newly dead have to declare they are fit for heaven (they actually had to do it 42 times because of the number of Gods). The newly dead very nearly state they obeyed the Ten Commandments. This was long before any Hebrew presence in Egypt.

6) Old Earth and the Biblical Narrative


It seems unfortunate Paul and Jesus are clear on a young earth (Jesus on marriage and Paul on original sin) yet you have to trust some unconventional science to agree with them. If you accept that observable constants are constants then there are some big problems for a young earth. It is best to research them yourself but some examples are:
  • Speed of light allowing us to witness events that occurred millions of years ago.
  • Ice core layers showing 100’s of thousands of years and consistent with predictions based on knowledge of ice ages etc.
  • Early humanoids that are well preserved and yet clearly not “man” in the biblical sense.
  • The amount of chalk produced by plankton would need far more than all the oxygen available over the 6000 years of young earth history. It would also need far longer to settle and form than 6000 years.
  • What were the dinosaurs? Cue the Job references 
  • Fossil strata are uniform (apart from volcanic disturbance etc) and you never find complex life mixed with ancient, simpler, life. That is a clever flood.
  • Radio metric dating. Although not infallible, there is no way of explaining why you get ancient dates again, again and again.
  • You can observe multiple volcanic formations caused by a single hot spot in the earth’s core as the crust has moved. The distances between formations need millions on years.
Of course all this could be a conspiracy by clever people by their puppeteer the “Father of Lies”. However it is worth noting that we do use the same scientists’ assumptions and methods to develop all kinds of other beneficial technologies without questioning them. But when it challenges our belief system it becomes some kind of conspiracy.

Theistic evolution does not make any more sense. If there are millions of years of evolution when did the fall happen? What about original sin? Death is a result of sin but also a necessity for evolution/natural selection. Death and suffering is in the fossil record. Evolution depends on a very high extinction rate of all living things over all time – couldn’t God get a hit rate better than 0.1?

6) Biblical contradiction, inconsistencies and errors, apparent human authorship

Just use Google and a Bible. I’m not going to list or re-discuss them all. The other approach, if you know the Bible well, is just to think about it in a straight forward way and avoid the temptation to “theologise” your way out of apparent errors and inconsistencies. When I read the Bible cover to cover with no commentary it suddenly seemed a lot less like an “inspired work” than when I read bits of it with notes, as I was taught to do. It does seem that the theologians need to do quite a lot of engineering to explain things that on face value sound like errors or contradictions.

Academic studies of the texts also make a lot of sense if you can take the time to get to grips with them. The authorship of the Pentateuch is worth studying for instance. It is also interesting that the movement to treat scriptures as “inerrant” is only 120 or so years old. Before this time it had always been assumed that interpretation is for the reader and that much of scripture is allegory.

Anyway a couple of examples:

"The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father..." -- Ezekiel 18:20


"I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation..." -- Exodus 20:5


"Honour thy father and thy mother..."-- Exodus 20:12


"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. " -- Luke 14:26


"... I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." -- Genesis 32:30


"No man hath seen God at any time..."-- John 1:18


"And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven." (2 Kings 2:11)


"No man hath ascended up to heaven but he that came down from heaven, the Son of Man." (John 3:13)


And this does not sound like a 2000 year timescale:

"Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. " -- Matthew 16:28


"Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. " -- Luke 21:32-33


"And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light." -- Romans 13:11-12


"Be ye also patient; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." -- James 5:8


"Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time." -- 1 John 2:18


"But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer." -- 1 Peter 4:7


Or a few examples of the scientific errors:
  • You can’t see all the kingdoms and oceans from the highest mountain
  • Rabbits do not chew the cud as cattle
  • Insects have six legs not four
  • Bats are mammals not birds, but are listed as birds in the Bible


7) The Trinity

This like #3, #4 and #5 is either mysterious or a logical nonsense. I do not even recall the terminology even being mentioned in the Bible but am happy to be corrected. It seems that the Trinity is a theological concept to make sense of the Bible. Polytheistic religions say that their Gods are equally God. Does Christianity have three Gods but call it one to be monotheistic?

The Bible taught that Christians were to worship Father and Son and Holy Spirit. It also taught that Christians should only worship God. Finally, it taught that there was only one God:
  1. We must worship only God
  2. We must worship God the Father
  3. We must worship God the Son
  4. We must worship God the Holy Spirit
  5. There is only one God
This seemed to put Christians in an impossible position from which they were rescued by the doctrine of the Trinity, which solved the puzzle by stating that God must be simultaneously both three and one. The Trinity is just another thing that doesn’t make sense, but can be accepted by using the “it is too mysterious for us” method.

8) Spectacular claims need spectacular evidence

This is a basic rule that we all learn at a young age and use to assess the validity of things we are being told or are learning. If in conversation I say “I drive a Ford” it is probable that little or no evidence will be required of me. It is not a big claim. If, however, I claim we have aliens from the planet Zorbe round for dinner every Thursday, people will wish to see very clear evidence or simply won’t believe me. This is only different if enough people say I do meet with aliens which make it socially unacceptable to question my veracity.

Similarly, if someone says “I personally know the creator of the entire universe and he has told me exactly how and why we are here and what his plans are for all the people of the world”, we should apply the “spectacular claims” rule. However God is invisible and does not speak out loud in any verifiable way. As for evidence of miracles and healings etc, nobody anywhere has ever shown photographic/clinical evidence of a medically impossible healing. Why do Christians throw this logic rule about evidence away? It is odd how much evidence many Christians need to get them to doubt the “young earth”, but need nothing but “faith” to believe the biggest claims one can ever make.

9) Omnipotent and Omniscient…

The much quoted Riddle of Epicurus sums this one well:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?

Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?


10) Belief in something hard to believe is the one qualifying necessity

The ultimate qualification for salvation is “belief” or “faith”. The Christian must believe in God as described in the Bible and in Jesus as their redeemer. Without belief, there is no Christianity. The evangelical always say that Christianity is all about one directional grace, love and forgiveness. However this is not strictly true- the one and absolute requirement is to believe something which is not directly evident. This is your contribution and the pay off is big. However the one thing that has to be contributed by the human (God does the rest) is belief/faith (this may be dressed as first given by God- but the display of belief is definitely our job). It is interesting that the very oxygen on which Christianity survives happens to be the one thing we, the party that definitely exists, have to give and exhibit. Belief, or displayed belief is the glue that holds things together.

The Church does not have for example; repentance, or forgiveness, or performing any other kind of duty, as the central requirement. These are part of it, but above all other things you must “believe” and be seen to believe, “to confess with your mouth”. This is so familiar it does not seem strange- this is religion. However to be part of any other organisation (apart from others in the same category) there is rarely emphasis on belief in the existence of the object of the organisation (except where it is a philosophical or political group, but here the deal is quite clear- the world view or belief is the end of the group). However with most groups this is not the case. Football fans do not have as the qualification for being a fan, a belief in the existence of the players.

11) Observations on the Church as a Social Group


One of the undeniable benefits of being a Christian is the security and social network that the Church provides. This is a good thing, but it can also add to doubts and questions as to whether the social functions of the Church are really all there is. This is not to say that Christianity is fundamentally insincere. However, if it works effectively as a social system it may not need a supernatural power for its existence. Is Christianity actually like “The Matrix” of the well known film- when you’re in it you cannot see it for what it really is?

Because believing something contrary to the majority of the population is difficult, it has an effect of pulling believers very close together. Therefore the majority of true friendships for Christians reside within the Church. This could be seen to enhance “groupthink” but more critically it makes the price of rejecting Christianity massive. Although Christians would say, with sincerity, that they would maintain friendships with “leavers”- it is unavoidably on the basis that the person was somehow in a different category. A similar but even more painful thing would happen to a person in a Christian family who decided to be honest. This honesty would be to admit that they had either not been chosen by God to have the gift of belief, or had correctly noticed that evangelical Christianity was untrue – whichever is the fact. One way or another it is going to affect some or all of their in-group relationships in a negative way. The doubter additionally knows how upset loved ones will be at their eternal peril. It is not that the Christian necessarily thinks these things through consciously and carefully, but it is certainly easier and more socially beneficial to stay inside the group belief system.

The Church also provides a network of people in whom all the membership can trust. This is very beneficial and has all kinds of upsides, from reliable tradesmen to filling properties with prompt paying and conscientious tenants – with everything in between. A Christian may arrive in most parts of the world and expect to find existing connections as well as a ready made and trusted social network. You cannot list all the differing benefits of the system, but they do provide a “here and now” benefit to being in the Church, alongside more lofty spiritual motives. While not subscribing to the fact Church leaders and other full time employees are cynically making a job for themselves, it is true that they are most committed to the promotion of its doctrine and they also are dependent materially from its continuance.

The rigid routines of Church life are also effective at holding it together as a social system. The Sunday services educate in the necessary doctrines and provide pleasure and enjoyment from music and mutual enthusiasm for the groups’ set of beliefs. A similar “tribal” effect can be observed at sports events. Prayer meetings sometimes seem to serve the function of communicating important information within the social group. To remain cohesive it is important for the community to know what is going on. “Matters for prayer” or “legitimised gossip”? Regular reading of the Bible (always with commentary to tell you what you’re reading means) and prayer keeps the mind receptive and open and persuaded of faith as reality. This routine and rigidity could be “a means of grace” or it might equally be method to keep the brain persuaded of something hard to believe.

The fact that the number of evangelical Christians that were brought up in religious homes is always far greater than those converted from utterly irreligious families also indicates “Christianisation” rather than the supernatural.

12) So, why aren’t you a Mormon or a JW?

I recently stayed for a couple of nights in a hotel while the largest UK convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses was running in the same town. Every other guest I came across was a JW. It was amazing how the atmosphere (pleasant enough) and people seemed almost identical to that which I have experienced at Christian conventions. These people were utterly and completely convinced they were right and that secular people and especially other religious groups were “lost” and “blinded”. It did seem eerily similar to my experience of fundamentalist Christianity.

It is much stated by Christians that witnesses wrote down what happened during Jesus’ life and that those witnesses were willing to die for the truth of their statements. These statements are exactly true of Joseph Smith the Mormon prophet and his associates, but with the added benefit that their existence and martyrdoms are indisputable, recent historic fact. But we all know the JWs and Mormons are nuts so we can disregard their apologetics right?

These two thoughts are just meant to get the mind working on the issue of how different are Christians, really, from other religious groupings.

13) Instinctive belief in the afterlife?

One argument that is used by the religious in support of Christianity is that we have an instinctive awareness of eternity and that death repels us so much because it is “unnatural”.

I think that when we dwell on times before our birth date it gives us a proof that material life continues with us “happily” in a state of non-existence. It seems quite natural and acceptable that after our death we again will cease to exist, in the same way we did not exist before we were born. God must be creating new eternal beings all the time but ones that are finite in one direction and infinite in another. Therefore they are not really eternal. I suppose there is no reason why this could not be so, but it seems odd to me. Personally I think non existence would be better than even one person being eternally burnt in Hell.

As for us holding revulsion at death, and behaving as though we will not die, this is a natural necessity rather than anything indicative of the super natural. If we did not see beauty in life and misery in death it would greatly affect our will to survive which is of course vital to our species. It makes that beauty and revulsion even more real when you realise how necessary and intrinsic it is to us.

Conclusion


So there you have it, a stream of consciousness about why I cannot honestly call myself a Christian. One could fill a book with this kind of stuff, but I think I have spent enough time for a man with a very busy job and a young family. The vast majority of this document is straight “off the top of my head” and it’s not meant to be scholarly. I know that every point can be countered and rebutted one way or another, especially when the protagonist has the benefit of all sorts of supernatural possibilities on their side. I also know that Christians will most likely think this document “evil” rather than honest and liberating as I do. The work of someone blinded and deceived. If that is their position then so be it.

I just feel it is more honest and straightforward to say we simply do not know all the answers to life’s big questions. To have lived, loved, cared and wondered seems the best we can do.

Living with and without religion

Reposted from the Freethought Café by J.C. Samuelson

Every day I work with people who have an invisible friend. But being fond of many of them, talking about that is something I like to avoid. After all, it's not really relevant to what we do, and if their faith helps them to be more productive or feel better about what they're doing, it's no skin off my nose. That being so, I've been thinking lately about why religious (and more broadly, supernatural) ideas bother me, and whether it's important to speak up.

The truth is that it's not too hard to avoid awkward moments where I work, because religious and supernatural topics hardly ever come up. Most such dialogues I've had a part in have occurred online, and even those have become infrequent. Perhaps this is because I no longer find it worthwhile to engage in a dialogue with those who, without a moment's hesitation, would consider me condemned. But whatever the reason, I've become even more reserved than in the past. Does this mean I no longer care? Does it mean that I've made peace with religion?

Not exactly.

Like everyone else, I'm simply more interested in living day to day. Practically speaking, religion isn't the most important thing on my mind. It doesn't even rank in the top ten, so to speak. Indeed, if it weren't for the influence religious people try to exert over public life, I probably wouldn't give it a moment's thought. It would be just another silly idea, along with fairies, psychic powers, alternative medicine, or a Ralph Nader presidency.

In other words, I don't care what you believe. This doesn't always come through in what I've written here and elsewhere, because frankly the disproportionate amount of influence religion has with the string pullers is alarming and the ramifications potentially deadly. Or at least detrimental.

Belief itself is, of course, not necessarily harmful in and of itself. It might even have some positive effects. However, inasmuch as it has a negative impact on one's perception of other people, or one's actions toward them, it can cause a great deal of harm.

Take, for example, the Levitical admonition to "love thy neighbor as thyself." It has always seemed to me that the best result would be something similar to pity. After all, if one is taught to think of oneself as an unworthy sinner, then everyone else is an unworthy sinner too, deserving of death and therefore pitiful at best. Or, take the idea that "God is in control," which is also biblical. If God is in control, in one stroke free will is dispensed with and the problem of evil rests on God's shoulders. As a result, accountability becomes a meaningless concept.

We atheists will sometimes tell you that, in the absence of such beliefs, everything would be just dandy. If only it were that simple. No matter what idea is in vogue at any given time, our species will inevitably find a way to screw it up. Now, I would agree that, in principle, if no one believed in God there would be one less bad idea to contend with. Thus, I continue to share my thoughts when the opportunity arises, hoping that they might have some positive effect. But I am skeptical that atheism is itself the answer.

Too many people, atheist and theist alike, view atheism as being or possessing in some fashion a sort of ersatzphilosophie that answers (or dispenses with bad answers to) life's persistent questions. For example, Ellen Johnson, the president of American Atheists, in January urged us to "vote [your] atheism first" this November, as if "voting atheist" (whatever the hell that means) will solve our political problems.

Simplistic statements like Ms. Johnson's are as ubiquitous as mosquitoes, and just as annoying. Neither theists nor atheists have the inside track on the right way to live, vote, or think. We all muddle through life the best we can. Some of us just don't assign credit or blame to supernatural entities or forces. Experience teaches us that such fantasies almost always lead to misanthropic thinking.

But if atheism is devoid of a meaningful or consistent philosophy, why bother? The answer, in my opinion, is that one's philosophy or worldview doesn't result from any one idea or concept (or lack thereof). Rather, it results from one's culture and upbringing, and possibly biology or physiology to some degree. In that sense, atheists have little choice but to credit religion with having had at least some influence on their composite worldview and/or philosophy. The degree to which it has will depend on exposure. Similarly, however, Western theists have little choice but to credit the Enlightenment with having had an effect on their religion and, by extension, their own worldview.

Getting back to whether, as an atheist, I have any responsibility or reason to speak up, the answer remains yes. I feel a moral responsibility to speak up concerning matters that affect not only me, but also my loved ones and even society. With respect to those with whom I share an office (or a world), this doesn't mean trashing someone's personal beliefs. That approach simply doesn't work, in my experience. What does sometimes work is discussing specific issues, looking for points on which we might agree or compromise, and perhaps sharing knowledge or materials that might increase a person's understanding of that particular issue. In the long run a person's beliefs may remain intact, but perhaps their perspective will be broadened and their attitudes tempered.

The point of all this is simply to say that I remain committed to promoting Freethought and rationalism. To my mind, however, this doesn't mean subscribing to atheism as an ideological platform, or leaping on any bandwagon. What it means is that religion itself is not important except to the extent that it finds expression in public life. Therefore, I hope to address religion and atheism even less frequently than I have in the past (though readers might reasonably point to the dearth of posts since December as proof that I have another agenda - I don't). This doesn't mean I'll stop completely (morbid fascination and a sense of humor, you know), but I'd rather share a joke, educate each other, and build something together.

Wouldn't you?

3/21/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Creationists Pollute Young Minds at Museum on Nightline

From Xrayman



Two Creationists take home schooled kids on a tour of a natural history museum filling their minds with Young Earth Creationist Bullshit.

The worst thing about religion is...

By Geoff

I am frequently told by a myriad of individuals that atheism is irrational, stupid, uncool and just plain negative, I am told that our worldview is asinine, that we are running from god and that we believe that we are descended from monkeys

Hard to believe that two years ago this was essentially the same belief I held about atheism! I already submitted my testimony, I believe "We are one with the cosmos" was its title. Since then I have told one of my parents about my newfound (lack of) beliefs, argued with my fundie father, tried in vain to get out of church, and still continue to suffer through a Christian school

BUT! That's just the bad. I can say with 100% certainty that despite my situation I have grown as a person in the past two years more then I could ever have imagined. The continual church services I'm forced to sit through has given me a myriad of ways to refute the various claims made by these people. The theology classes (I have been kicked out of three) serve to give me an insider's view of the religion. However, probably the biggest change in me is simply this:

I love life.

I'm no longer afraid to live. I'm no longer afraid to think and let my various hormone laden thoughts flow freely through me, I'm not afraid to say "thats fucking bullshit" when someone tries to tell me what to do with my penis, and most importantly I'm not afraid to let my uncorrupted sense of morality govern my thoughts and actions. I now believe in the absolute freedom of the individual to accomplish anything they feel like (provided it harms no one). Whereas before, I was constantly paranoid about conforming to Gods will.

CONFORM!

This is perhaps the biggest turn off about the Christian religion, It requires (and in most cases demands) unrealistic levels of conformity, Christian dress has to CONFORM to standards of Christian modesty. Christian music must CONFORM to standards of Christian decency. Christian women must CONFORM to the authority of their Christian husbands who must in turn CONFORM to the authority of the church who must in turn CONFORM to the authority of the bible

Well fuck! With all this conformity going on you wonder how Christians manage to do anything, be anything or live happy, comfortable lives. I have discovered that in most cases either they don't, or they do by ignoring most of the core teachings of Christianity, reaching for its god as a means of comfort (think a giant cosmic teddy bear) or as a way of proving to themselves that they are worth something. Is this really any way to live at all? What is "freedom in Christ" or whatever they are calling their particular brand of conformity now? In the end it all means the same. You CONFORM to the church's teachings, then spend eternity CONFORMing to God in heaven (We were created for the sole purpose of glorifying God, remember?)

When people say that Christianity has made their lives worth something, I can't imagine for the life of me how horrible they must have had it before. But it has ceased to be something that pisses me off and is now something that just makes me giggle.
So what is the point of this article? I honestly don't know. I suppose I can sum up the essence of everything I have learned, everything I am, and everything I believe in this way:

I am a small part of a large universe, I am just one living being on a planet of billions of living beings in a universe that quite possibly contains trillions of living beings. I consign "worship" to nothing, and that's because no supernatural being is in any way, shape or form more beautiful then nature -- not more complicated, more elegant, or more mysterious. Nature is my "god" and my mind is my own church. I believe I have one life to live and that I might as well have a blast and do my best to help others do the same. I believe that religion stemmed from the simple human need for understanding the world around them, and that like an old hypothesis it has been outmoded, and thus we are obligated to remove it and look at other options. I believe that the worst thing about religion is that it stifles human growth, morality and all around enjoyment of life, I believe in laughing, living, loving, sharing a joke with a good friend, enjoying the feeling of holding that special person in your arms, drinking a good cup of tea, having kinky sex, being spontaneous and obnoxious, listening to music that doesn't feature an invisible flying Jew as a central theme. I believe in science, skepticism and the thorough debunking of any and all malarkey that might lead someone away from experiencing reality. I believe there are no "bad" or "good" people, just people who need different kinds of love and recognition. I believe we are not dirty sinners in a constant battle with the evil one, but rather the human race, we have our flaws. We are capable of unspeakable evil, but also of selfless love, elegance and unshakable beauty. We can do great things, we just have to WANT to to do those great things.

I am a Satanist?

By Sandra

For years my son has put up with the fundy ways of his step mom. She calls him a Satan worshiper. He finally set her straight in this letter. I was so proud I wanted to share it.




Devil Worshiper. Seriously? Ha. That's pretty funny.

So I guess that in your mind, you picture me sitting around my house in a black cloak, sitting in a circle of candles on a pentagram in the floor and sipping the blood of some animal sacrifice, all while reading from some ancient spell book....and there I am, all spooky looking and chanting, giving praise to this little red guy with horns that has a pitchfork, which he uses of course to poke evil doers in the tushy.

That's hilarious.

I hate to spoil the fun, but no, I am not a devil worshiper. Before you label me, let's clear up a couple of misconceptions that you obviously have about me:

-In order to be a "devil worshiper", one must believe in a devil. If I was a devil worshiper, I would have to believe that somewhere in this vast universe, there is really a place filled with molten rocks and weeping lost souls that are being eternally tormented by a horned beast that wields farm equipment. Now what do you suppose the devil does with that pitchfork? I mean, obviously there must be alot of hay to be collected in hell...I mean, why else would he have a pitchfork? To be a fill-in actor for Green Acres? In all seriousness- that's just plain stupid.

-The devil is a fictional character dreamed up by some guy thousands of years ago to keep little kids from acting up and to create fear in adults who couldn't behave by themselves. Some people need fear to be civilized; I am not one of those people. I know right from wrong without having to have an imaginary half-man/half-goat or a bearded man floating in the clouds to instill fear in me. I am also content in embracing the real truth about the universe:

NO ONE KNOWS WHO CREATED IT, HOW IT IS GOING TO END, OR WHAT IT ALL MEANS. NO ONE.


Anyone that tells you that they DO know, such as religion or "self-help" cults is either lying to you to get your money, lying to you for political power or to oppress you, both, or just brainwashed and too scared to accept the fact that no one has developed the technology yet to calculate every possible item in the universe; much less tell you how it started, who made it, or why.

-To be a devil worshiper implies that I am a "worshiper." I don't worship. If there is something out there that made us and is watching us, I am betting that he didn't make us to lay around groveling on our knees for forgiveness, or to profusely thank him over and over again for what he has created. I mean, seriously, if you created people, would you really be that pompous to make your creations cower in fear, and constantly thank you for everything? If there is a god, I don't think he is a self-centered attention hog that wants constant praise and incessant cries of his name. That's just plain mean. So, no, I don't "worship." Worshiping is for slaves; I am no slave. So do I worship the devil? Of course not. Why would I waste one moment of my time giving my life to fictional character? I would never pray to Mickey Mouse, never give offerings to the Terminator, never fall to my knees and thank the Three Little Pigs for blessing me, and likewise, I would never worship ANY fake deity from any ancient or modern book. That means all of them. Worshiping ANYTHING at all signifies weakness, a fundamental lack of self-honesty, logic, and basic reasoning skills, and an inability to deal with the truth.

-Just like the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, elves, Zeus, Odin, Thor, Jesus Christ, ghosts, psychics, little green men, fairies, Allah, specters, spooks, and many more... the devil is a fairy tale. I stopped believing in fairy tales when I was a kid. I only believe in real things- things that are verifiable, and tangible, and if not clearly visible, then detectable using spectrometry, remote sensing satellites, or any other known means of phenomena detection and analysis at the very least. I do not concern myself with books that were written over 2,000 years ago by primitive people (a talking snake in the garden of eden, a boat with ALL the animals on it, a talking bush on fire----sounds like a drug problem to me. And a virgin having a baby? No way, I had health in the 7th grade- I know where babies come from) nor do I believe in any of the goofy fairy tales of our own era, like real haunted houses, visions, or any other stupid, fake concepts that people develop to create a stir, to draw attention, or simply fool you. All of these myths are fun stories, especially the ones about Odin and Thor- they were pretty awesome, but they are just stories. Just like any story I read, I realize it is just a story, written by a guy just like me, except the guys that wrote them claimed to be "divinely inspired."

I don't worship the devil. So what if I listen to "Devil Music"? So what if I listen to ANY KIND OF MUSIC!!!!? It is just listening to music for crying out loud. Since when is that a crime? I mean, it is just a cd. It isn't a bomb, or a gun, or a torture device....it is a stinkin' cd; completely incapable of harming ANYONE EVER. Furthermore, the devil isn't real. The people who write "Devil Music" know that-- and they are all having a big laugh right now too. Why do you think they write "Devil Music"? Because they get a big kick out of how seriously people take mythology of course, and most importantly, to generate album sales. There is no such thing as bad publicity, and publicity gets you sales. Nothing sells more albums than for Bill O'Reilly to talk about how inappropriate an album is. The moment that some FoxNews reporter warns the parents about how "detrimental, evil, vile, and disgusting" an album is, that album instantly sells 1 million copies. You know, now that I think about it, they might be in on it---getting their piece of the cash by publicly denouncing a band, thereby getting them rich. Either way, despite any artist's motives in creating music, I just like music. I don't care which fake god or devil or boogeyman it represents, sings about, or promotes, or what brainwashed lunatic wrote it for that matter....I just love heavy music, and I will continue to listen to it and write it until the end of time. Any form of music that displays supreme musical skill, whether it be beauty, speed, complexity, heaviness, or otherwise, can talk about whatever it wants to and have anything it wants on its album cover. I listen to Christian bands too, you know. Like Living Sacrifice, Zao, Stretch Armstrong, and other really heavy bands that you would mistake as "Devil Music" no doubt. These bands are seriously heavy, fast, and chaotic- just like I like it- but they have Bible verses and New Testament stories for lyrics. Doesn't affect me at all; like I said, I just like music. I don't care who they are praising. They can praise Gomer Pyle for all I care.

But lets face the facts here. I read the bible. All of it. I actually attempted to believe it and follow it as a child. I am sure you remember...you told me that if I didn't quit taking 10% of my allowance and using it as tithes at church, you'd cut off my allowance. Twas then we argued about whether the bible tells you to tithe or not. You told me that at the Seventh Day Adventist church, you never did that, and that it wasn't explicitly instructed by god to do so. Well, if you want to believe Leviticus 27:30 and 32, 2 Chronicles 31:12, Malachi 3:8-10, Prov. 22:9, and many other verses, then you are supposed to tithe. According to the Malachi verse, failing to tithe is robbing from god. Well, I'm no scholar, well, um, yes I am,...er...well, let me just try that again. I am a scholar, and I say that god wants 10% of your earnings, and failing to do what god wants gets you put into hell. Christian lives are meant to be spent honoring god in every way that he has set forth in the bible. It says so very plainly throughout the bible, and to be a true Christian, you must obey the bible. Period. Just like the laws of the United States must be obeyed to stay out of jail, the laws of the bible must be obeyed to stay out of hell. You can't just pick and choose. Thus, you can give yourself partial credit for pulling me away from Christianity by forcing me to sin against God. It wasn't too long after that when I realized it was all a big dumb lie anyway, so don't take the last statement too seriously. I would have eventually deduced that it was all a bunch of lies anyway. In all honesty, if you ever actually read the bible, then you would realize that the god of the bible is a pretty messed up guy, and that maybe the "Devil Music" that I listen to isn't so bad after all. Get out your bible if you want, here's some really good ones:

Isaiah 45:7- "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things."

So, there you go. God made evil. About 1,000 times in the bible, it is made clear that "everything God does is good." So then, making evil is good. God did it, and you can't mess with that. I mean, if it wasn't good, then why did He make it? Just to mess with people? Whatever.

--In Judges 21:10-24, Numbers 31:7-18, Deuteronomy 20:10-14 God allows murder, rape, and sexual slavery.

All the soldiers in Midian were instructed by Moses, who was guided by God of course, to kill all the women who had been with a man before, and to keep all the virgins for themselves. It gets worse:

Deuteronomy 22:28-29- "If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her."

So a guy can rape a girl, as long as he pays the father, and then the poor girl has to marry the rapist!?!? Sounds pretty Satanic to me. But, nope. That's not Satan...

There are tons of other verses where rape is okay, one of the worst being Exodus 21:7-11 where it tells that a girl sold into slavery will not be released at the same time as the male slaves. (Side Note- By the way, um, slavery is okay?? God seems to think so. Who are we to question him?) If the girl doesn't satisfy her captor, she can be bought back. Are you kidding?

I could go on with these forever. God tells people to kill their children, their parents, gay people, non-believers, pretty much anybody that doesn't follow all the rules. This includes the whole Sabbath day thing. All those Sundays when I wanted to go to church with my granny, but had to come home to do some kind of housework instead were blatant sins against god. You may as well have been buying me Cannibal Corpse or Judas Priest albums. There are more verses involving condoned murder and human sacrifice than I could ever list in a night. "Brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death". (When Jesus comes back, brothers will kill brothers, and parents and children must kill each other!?!?!? That's REAL evil!) I am not supposed to listen to "devil music", but I can go to church, and bible school, and be considered perfectly normal, despite the fact that the bible is far more brutal, more twisted, and features more murder, rape, slavery, torture, and promotion of crimes against families and children than any album I have ever owned. You couldn't fit the bible's worth of evil onto one CD. Devil Music?----"Don't imagine that I came to bring peace on earth! No, rather a sword lf you love your father, mother, sister, brother, more than me, you are not worthy of being mine!!!" No, that wasn't Metallica, Slayer, or Ozzy....that was Jesus. Yep, the same prince of peace, all loving, love your neighbor guy. But don't be confused, he came with a sword to rip your family apart. And you thought my music was bad....

One final comparative analysis I would like to make involves my music versus yours. Case in point involves Metallica's "The Four Horsemen" and Heart's "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You." The Metallica song is a song about a fictional story- the story of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. It is a tale of the return of the horsemen to bring judgment to the people of the world. This story is obviously a fictional story and is in no way harmful to anyone. The lyrics are not profane, nor do they encourage any wreckless behavior. Now, lets have a look at the Heart song. Whereas I was not allowed to listen to Metallica and White Zombie, the "devil music" that was written about fictional characters, I was allowed to listen to the Heart song. Not just allowed to; basically had the song shoved down my throat for over a year. I still know every word of that song. Funny thing is, that song is about the most inappropriate, sinful, unacceptable song for children to listen to. The song is about a woman who cheats on her husband with some guy she picks up on the side of the road, literally. She lets this guy hitch with her, and then they go to a hotel, even though she is supposedly "in love with another man", and she admits to getting together with him ONLY to have sex with him, and the chorus re-iterates the point like 8 times in the song. It is even the song title- "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You." She isn't talking about her husband, you know.

Now, in practical terms, I am not very likely to try to emulate any of the actions promoted by the Metallica song "The Four Horsemen." I see it being pretty unlikely that I will ride out of the sky on a horse wielding a giant hammer anytime soon. On the contrary, it is completely possible that an impressionable youth could misunderstand the celebration of extramarital lust and adultery that is promoted in the Heart song. I still, to this day, find that song to be one of the most offensive things about this argument against my music that has gone on for over a decade. That Heart song teaches little girls that it is okay to be a whore and that it is okay for them to pick up strangers on the side of the road if the stranger is handsome enough, then take this stranger back to a hotel room to "make love---love like strangers---alllll night loooooong" (that's what it said.) But I can't have an album that has the word "Shit" on it.

Now, allow me to really clarify the problem here. The problem isn't that I find the Heart song offensive. IT IS JUST A SONG. I was just making a point. The point is, a song is just a song. If you want to talk about Devil music, I am pretty sure that the Heart song is Satanic. If having sex with a total stranger to fulfill lust that your man at home can't satisfy ISN'T evil, then I don't know what is. But I don't really care. The real truth is that the music we enjoy is simply the music we enjoy. It doesn't actually affect any decisions we make, beliefs that we have, morals that we abide by---it simply serves to be something that we like to listen to. I like my music heavy, fast, and mean. That doesn't make me a devil worshiper. That makes me human. And hopefully, at this point, you see the point of the comparison.

Just because I listen to a song about demons doesn't make me a demon. Just because you listen to a song about whores doesn't make you a whore. It's that simple. I don't believe in fairy tales, and I certainly don't conduct my life around song lyrics, which is what you are implying be calling me a "devil worshiper" by listening to the music that I do. Believe it or not, I am a rational, intelligent, logical human being with the capacity for good ethics and kindness using my own decision making skills and critical thinking. I don't have to follow anyone else's goofy beliefs. I don't have to have an imaginary being, god or satan, to guide me through life. I am comfortable embracing the truth and realizing that life is unexplainable at this point. No one knows the answers, good or bad, and I am not about to swallow any fantasy story about it.

In closing, I hope you truly realize that I am not a Satanist. However, if it helps you to sleep at night, you can go ahead and believe that I am a devil worshiper, and I am fine with that too. I kinda get a kick out of it, lol.

So anyway, I gotta go. All these candles are going out in my "Black Magic Circle" and I can't really see the goblet of blood since it is getting so dark, so I have to hurry up and give the Invocation of Chthulhu before the moon passes before the wolf. Hail Satan!

3/20/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Words of wisdom



A few quotes from some famous un-believers.

Why I am NOT respectful



One atheist's opinion about respecting Christianity.

Scientific Breakthroughs from the Bible (Part II)

The book of includes so many ridiculous and horrible prophesies, it's obvious that was either consciously trying to scare people into submission or he was on some kind of psychedelic substance; or both.

To me, one of his most revealing claims is that the stars will fall to the earth. Of course at the time of his writing, people didn't know just how big and far away the stars really are. To them, they were just little lights in the sky. But if his "visions" where really coming from an omniscient god, wouldn't he have known?

Here are the verses in question:

Revelation 6:13 And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.

Revelation 8:10 And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters;

Revelation 9:1 And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.

Revelation 12:4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

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3/19/2008                                                                                       View Comments

What I believe but cannot prove

By Michael Shermer

I believe, but cannot prove, that reality exists independent of its human and social constructions. Science as a method, and naturalism as a philosophy, together create the best tool we have for understanding that reality. Because science is cumulative, building on itself in progressive fashion, we can achieve an ever-greater understanding of reality. Our knowledge of nature remains provisional because we can never know if we have final Truth. Because science is a human activity and nature is complex and dynamic, fuzzy logic and fractional probabilities best describe both nature and our approximate understanding of it.

There is no such thing as the paranormal and the supernatural; there is only the normal and the natural and mysteries we have yet to explain.

What separates science from all other human activities is its belief in the provisional nature of all conclusions. In science, knowledge is fluid and certainty fleeting. That is the heart of its limitation. It is also its greatest strength. There are, from this ultimate unprovable assertion, three additional insoluble derivatives.

1. There is no God, intelligent designer, or anything resembling the divinity as proffered by the world’s religions. (Although an extraterrestrial being of significantly greater intelligence and power than us would probably be indistinguishable from God).

After thousands of years of attempts by the world’s greatest minds to prove or disprove the divine existence or nonexistence, with little agreement among scholars as to the divinity’s ultimate state of being, a reasonable conclusion is that the God question can never be solved and that one’s belief,
disbelief, or skepticism ultimately rests on a nonrational basis.

2. The universe is ultimately determined, but we have free will.

As with the God question, scholars of considerable intellectual power for many millennia have failed to resolve the paradox of feeling free in a determined universe. One provisional solution is to think of the universe as so complex that the number of causes and the complexity of their interactions make the predetermination of human action pragmatically impossible. We can even assign a value to the causal net of the universe to see just how absurd it is to think we can get our minds around it fully. It has been calculated that in order for a computer in the far future of the universe to resurrect in a virtual reality every person who ever lived or could have lived (that is, every possible genetic combination to create a human), with all the causal interactions between themselves and their environment, it would need 1010 to the power of 123 (a 1 followed by 10123 zeros) bits of memory. Suffice it to say that no computer in the conceivable future will achieve this level of power; likewise, no human brain even comes close.
The enormity of this complexity leads us to feel as though we were acting freely as uncaused causers, even though we are actually causally determined. Since no set of causes we select as the determiners of human action can be complete, the feeling of freedom arises out of this ignorance of causes. To that extent, we may act as though we were free. There is much to gain, little to lose, and personal responsibility follows.

3. Morality is the natural outcome of evolutionary and historical forces, not divine command.

The moral feelings of doing the right thing (such as virtuousness) or doing the wrong thing (such as guilt) were generated by nature as part of human evolution. Although cultures differ on what they define as right and wrong, the moral feelings of doing the right or wrong thing are universal to all humans. Human universals are pervasive and powerful and include at their core the fact that we are by nature moral and immoral, good and evil, altruistic and selfish, cooperative and competitive, peaceful and bellicose, virtuous and nonvirtuous. Individuals and groups vary in the expression of such universal traits, but everyone has them. Most people, most of the time, in most circumstances, are good and do the right thing, for themselves and for others. But some people, some of the time, in some circumstances, are bad and do the wrong thing for themselves and for others.

As a consequence, moral principles are provisionally true, where they apply to most people, in most cultures, in most circumstances, most of the time. At some point in the last 10,000 years (most likely around the time of the advent of writing and the shift from band and tribes to chiefdoms and states, some 5,000 years ago) religions began to codify moral precepts into moral codes and political states began to codify moral precepts into legal codes.

In conclusion, I believe but cannot prove that reality exists and science is the best method for understanding it; that there is no God; that the universe is determined but we are free; that morality evolved as an adaptive trait of humans and human communities; and that ultimately all of existence is explicable through science.

Of course, I could be wrong…

3/18/2008                                                                                       View Comments

We don't exist?



How can we say we no longer believe in Jesus, after meeting Him and experiencing God?



Comments?

3/17/2008                                                                                       View Comments

How Can We Protect Our Children from Religious Recruiting and Heartache?

By Valerie Tarico

“Sunday was a day of just so much external restraint as public opinion absolutely demanded. I learned at last, as I came to be about seventeen, that my father was an entire freethinker, as much as I am now. It shocked me much, because he never taught me anything, allowed me to pick up religion from any one around me, and then scolded me because I embraced beliefs which he knew must condemn him. I think this neglect to be honest with children is a terrible evil. I have lost years of thought, and wandered wide and done such unwise conceited things, and encountered risks for soul and body, all of which might have been obviated by his frank teaching.”
-- Moncure Daniel Conway, Autobiography (1904)

" I did what I thought was the right thing so my children would not have to unlearn all that my church taught me--I took them out of the Methodist Sunday School and put them into a Unitarian church school which they then refused to attend. One was Jewish then Buddhist then Unitarian and I don't know what now, two are not religious and one is a born-again who does not know if she is evangelical or fundamentalist--but believes in the rapture--and she is teaching her 5 children that stuff. Would it have been better to leave them as Methodists?"
--A Seattle mother and grandmother, 2007

As I speak publically about fundamentalism, one theme I encounter is the pain of parents who have lost children to religious recruiters. My friends, Elise and Thomas, have a wonderful smart daughter who was recruited into Jehovah’s Witnesses by a college boyfriend and now spends much of her time doorbelling. A colleague has little contact with his grown son, who isolates himself in a fundamentalist Evangelical community. Yet another woman, a professor, is cut off from her grandchildren because her scientific world view is perceived as a threat. One couple stood by helpless as their daughter struggled with her marriage to an abusive Muslim who demanded absolute obedience to himself and his religion. All of these parents feel helpless and often heartbroken.

For them, it may be too late to do anything other than wait, hoping that life circumstances and their ongoing love will bring their children back around. But what about those of us who are parenting right now? What is the best way to inoculate children against the predations of religious recruiting? I don’t think any of us know for sure. My hypotheses are along the lines, below, but they are only hypotheses. For the purposes of my public speaking and writing, I would welcome thoughts/ideas from any of you on this topic.

1. Educate them about the history of religion and the Christian religions specifically. Put Christianity in a broader context. Make sure they know the myths that the Bible emerged out of and how our modern Bible got built. Teach them about the political and cultural influences that shaped our current selection of belief systems.

2. Educate them about the psychology of belief – how religions get transmitted, how they fit into our brains, why they feel so powerful. Explain “book worship,” why sacred texts are the perfect idols in our modern era. Help them understand why other people become "true believers," and how Christianity, specifically, turns believers into recruiters.

3. Actively prepare them for encounters with recruiting: What does “friendship” missions look like? How about when you are being recruited by a loved one? How can you perceive the (often slow, patient) hidden agenda? How can you respond with kindness and firmness to a persistent and beloved missionary?

4. Find a way to not only model but also articulate your own moral core, perhaps within some kind of community that shares your values. Teach your children about the ways that familiar religions violate our shared moral core, or universal ethical principles. In other words when religious dogmas are immoral, point this out and process it together. Watch for teachable moments.

5. As much as possible, help your children knit themselves into communities that don’t require them to subsume the individual self to a cult self. These can include communities built around activities or social networks but try also to find one that includes dialogue about morality and meaning. As is said, nature abhors a vacuum.

6. Teach them about the good as well as the bad in our received traditions, and in local religious communities. If you only teach them about what is bad, then when they encounter warmth, love, mutuality, and joy they will think you were wrong. Teach them how to be selective in the service of a higher, deeper set of goals and values: to glean the good and leave the bad.

7. Block access of recruiters to your children. No matter how much educating you've done and how healthy your kids are, don’t assume it is safe to send your children to a nondenominational summer camp or youth group any more than you would assume it is safe to send them to a Scientology camp or youth group. Where you can, pull the plug on friendships that involve religious recruiting.

Valerie Tarico, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of The Dark Side: How Evangelical Teachings Corrupt Love and Truth. Additional essays can be found at www.spaces.live.com/awaypoint.

3/15/2008                                                                                       View Comments

The Atheism Tapes

ExChristian.Net has partnered with Alive Mind Media to offer The Atheism Tapes on DVD. Alive Mind Media holds exclusive rights to the The Atheism Tapes.

The Atheism Tapes is a BBC television documentary series presented by Jonathan Miller. The material that makes up the series was originally filmed for another, more general series, Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief, but was too in-depth for inclusion. Instead, the BBC agreed to create The Atheism Tapes as a supplementary series of six programs, each consisting of an extended interview with one contributor.

In these off-the-record interviews, neurologist turned playwright, filmmaker and self-described atheist Jonathan Miller filmed conversations with six of today's leading men of letters and science: the New York Times best-selling author Richard Dawkins, philosophers Daniel Dennett and Colin McGinn, distinguished playwright Arthur Miller, theologian Denys Turner and Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg, who discuss their personal intellectual journeys and offer illuminating analysis of non theism from a wide range of perspectives.

For a taste of this video series, the following is a has been transcribed from a portion of the interview with Colin McGinn.

Colin McGinn (born 1950) is a British philosopher currently working at the University of Miami. McGinn has also held major teaching positions at Oxford University and Rutgers University. McGinn is best known for his work in the philosophy of mind, though he has written on topics across the breadth of modern philosophy. Chief among his works intended for general audience is the intellectual memoir The Making of a Philosopher: My Journey Through Twentieth-Century Philosophy (2002).

Jonathan Miller (JM): In the summer of 2003, I began filming the series "Atheism - A Rough History Of Disbelief". As part of the process, I talked to a number of writers, scientists, historians and philosophers. Having secured their cooperation, I was very embarrassed to find that a large proportion of what went on ended up on the cutting room floor, simply because the series would have lasted 24 hours otherwise.

But as it happens, the BBC agreed with me that the conversations were too interesting to be junked and with these six supplementary programmes, they've made the extremely unusual decision to go back to the original material and to broadcast, at length, some of the conversations I had - conservations with people such as English biologist Richard Dawkins, the American philosopher Daniel Dennet, the Cambridge theologian Denys Turner, the American playwright Arthur Miller, the English philosopher Colin McGinn, and the American Nobel Prize winning physicist, Steven Weinberg.

When I talked to the English philosopher Colin McGinn, at his apartment in New York, we discussed at some length the meaning of the word "belief" and much of that discussion is in the Atheism series, but to begin with I just wanted to get from Colin a sense of what it felt like to be a sceptical English philosopher in a country as seemingly religious as the United States.

Colin McGinn (CM): Sometimes Americans will say, "So you don't believe in God.", and I say, "That's right, I don't believe in God.". And they say, "So, you don't believe in anything?". And I say, "I believe in many things." and I don't make jokes, with them about "I believe in tables and chairs.", and I say to them, "You know, I believe in various ethical causes and political ideas and other aesthetic values, intellectual values... there are lots of things I believe in.". And they say, "That's all you believe in?", and I say, "That's all I believe in.".

"Don't you believe in something god-like? You don't believe in the traditional God. Don't you believe there's SOMETHING there?".

And I say, "No. There's nothing there.". And it's very difficult to get across to people who are religious, that when you are an atheist, that you mean you don't believe in anything like that whatsoever. It's not that you think nature is God, or it doesn't have personal qualities or something like that. You don't believe in anything of that type. Nothing supernatural. nothing miraculous, nothing superstitious. No ghosts, no telepathy... you know... nothing of that kind. That's what it's to do with.

It's not that I'm picking on God somehow - or picking on the Christian God and not believing in him. It's just nothing of that type.

JM: Don't you then get the answer, which I get from people who are not necessarily religious - I mean they don't belong to any of the three monotheistic religions... They will say, not just simply "There must be something." to which I would give the same reply as you, but, "Where do you get your spirituality?"

CM: Yeah...

JM: It sounds as if... otherwise there's a shortage of some sort, but I've never been able to get from them whether it's like some vitamin deficiency.

CM: Exactly. Exactly what do they mean by that? Spiritual... Can an atheist be spiritual? I guess it's a matter of definition really... I mean you certainly can't be if it denotes anything supernatural, but... you know aesthetic and ethical values can approximate to what people call the spiritual... you know, the most deeply held beliefs about human behaviour might be counted as spiritual, I don't know. Feelings about nature might be. I mean, I wouldn't use the word, it doesn't seem to me to be a good word to use. A risky word to use, But it doesn't mean you don't have any deep views about things, you know, or deep convictions about things, but often people feel that.

JM: Well that's where I always say the clergyman crouching in the laurel bushes leaps out and says, "Aha! Your deep feelings are, in fact, unacknowledged... acknowledgements of the God you deny."

CM: Yeah, well, one of my deep feelings is that there is no God, and it's a bad idea to believe in God and it's been very harmful, so if that reflects my belief in God, well that's a strange situation! That's one of my deepest convictions - there is no God.

JM [To the viewer]: Now I happen to share Colin's conviction that there is no God and, in my case I never believed it, so I wondered if there had ever been a time in Colin's earlier life when he did believe in God.

CM: With me it was quite precisely delineated. It was... I can't remember the exact dates now, or the exact times, but I think I was about 17 or 18 when the idea of believing in God, and it was Christianity that I was exposed to, became real to me, and it went on for about a year, I would say, not much more than that.

If you'd said to me when I was ten, "Do you believe in God?" I probably would have said yes, I don't know, but it didn't mean anything - it was just sort of "Yeah, everybody does, don't they?" Like the cows... everybody believes in them. But then I actually started studying the Bible because I was studying Divinity A-Level. So I started studying it, but we had a very charismatic teacher - an admirable man, Mr. Marsh, who I wrote about in my autobiography - who was very enthusiastic and he was teaching us the Bible... and I was having to learn the Bible... studying it closely... Old Testament... New Testament... so I know much more about the New Testament than most Christians now... and I... even now, 25 years later, I know more about it than most religious people.

So I actually know it pretty well - it's what got me interested in philosophy... because at the same time I was getting interested in philosophy it was through thinking about religion, studying the Bible, and I think there were two factors... a confluence of two factors here - one was the interest in metaphysical questions, basic questions about the universe... What's it all about? What does it all mean? That kind of question.

And on the other hand there was an ethical component to it, because you find in the New Testament, obviously, a very strong emphasis on ethical aspects of life. I was an idealistic teenager, you know, and it was the '60s so that had a profound impact on me, the ethical side, and I was not brought up in a house where ethical ideas were particularly discussed... and it still has a profound impact on me, the ethical side of it.

So those two things made me think there was more to life than the mundane realities that I'd been used to living up there in Blackpool, you know, with the amusement arcades and the pubs and the fish and chips, you know, and the freezing cold... and there was this idea of philosophical thought, metaphysical ideas, and then these high ethical ideals. Good combination. Good combination.

So I got interested in it and so for a period I was influenced by that and I went to university studying psychology... and... since I stopped studying the Bible, and I wasn't seeing Mr. Marsh any more for our divinity lessons, and I kept it up a bit and I would occasionally talk to people about religion and it just sort of disappeared.

I remember going out and remember sort of trying hard to keep up with it, going to some sort of religious meeting and I was just sort of sitting to it and I thought, "This a load of rubbish. I just don't think this is true any more.". And then I was reading Bertram Russell, Why I'm Not A Christian, and in a few... I don't remember the details, but in a pretty short time I just decided it was all wrong. And I also decided you could keep the ethical side and the philosophical side and jettison the rest.

So Russell represented to me an alternative to religious idealism. It was a more secular idealism... so I realised you could have some of the aspects of religion that appealed to me, but without religion, and the bits that didn't appeal to me, like the virgin birth, miracles, strange ideas about how the universe came around, the sort of bits it's very hard to believe, you could just cut those bits off and you could keep the good bits. So you get rid of the theological baggage of religion and then you keep the sides of it that you like. And that's what I have done ever since, basically the same thing.

JM: Was there any crisis in, as it were... unhitching the metaphysical and divine from the ethical to which you continued to subscribe?

CM: Not in my case, which is... I think it differs from other people's case. In Russell's own description of his fall from theism, he describes it as a deeply painful, traumatic, irrecoverable episode - he spent his whole life somehow dealing with it. Not with me... it was relatively easy... it just happened quite naturally. As I say in my autobiography, it was like shedding the skin, you know... the skin comes off and you have a new skin and it seems fine.

JM: Was there a sense of relief as you shed the skin?

CM: No, I wouldn't say there was relief... disappointment... I think there was disappointment.

JM: Ah!

CM: I would have liked religion to be true. I'd LIKE it to be true, because I'd like to be... I'd like there to be immortality, I'd like there to be rewards for those who have been virtuous and punishments for those who've not been virtuous - especially the punishments would be good. You know, there's not... there's no justice in this world and it would be good if there was some cosmic force that distributed justice in the proper way that it should be and it still is to me a constant source of irritation and pain that wicked people prosper and virtuous people don't!

So there was a bit of disappointment about those aspects of it, but there was some exhilaration too. I mean... Russell has a description that I think is kind of appropriate of a feeling of a Godless universe as a kind of exhilarating universe. There's something hygienic about it. There's something bracing about it. Whereas the idea that there's this sort of... suffocating presence gazing at your every movement and thought... you know... and gauging everything you do... it's a bit oppressive to think that way.

JM: Well, OK, now here you are, the philosopher that you thought you might become...

CM: Yeah...

JM: ... you have now very fully become. Now, in your role as a philosopher, I'd love you to develop the arguments which were previously intuitional skin-shedding.

CM: Yeah...

JM: Now be more systematic and surgical about it, and say why, in fact, the notion of a god is incredible.

CM: Well, the one set of arguments is the sort of no-evidence arguments. Russell puts it by saying there's no more reason to believe in the Christian God than the Greek gods. No more reason to believe - in other words there's no positive evidence for it. There's no theory that you need to postulate God in to explain some natural phenomenon, which can't be explained by some other theory.

People will sometimes say, "Well, miracles were performed.". There's never any good evidence that miracles WERE performed. The judgement that they were is usually based on some prior opinion that God exists rather than being an independent source for believing that God exists. So... so there's no evidence in terms of what anyone's ever observed. There's no facts about the world that can't be explained without postulating God, so there's no REASON to believe in God, any more than there's any reason to believe in Zeus or the Greek gods.

So that's on the side of whether there's any reason to believe it. There's the question now: are there any reasons to disbelieve it? Any positive arguments against it?

...There are also some arguments for, like the ontological argument. I don't know if you want me to talk about the ontological argument?

JM: Well, tell us what that argument is.

CM: The ontological argument. This is a very nice argument. Anselm of Canterbury thought of it, I think it must be in the 15th century. He argued that the definition of God entails that God exists. Now this would be a fantastic result... just the mere definition tells us that God exists. So what's the definition of God? The most perfect conceivable being. Or lets say the most powerful conceivable being, is an equally good way of putting it. And then Anselm argued as follows - well suppose this most powerful or most perfect being did not exist... right... then he would lack the attribute of existence, but the attribute of existence is one of the perfections or one of the things that makes a being powerful, but since he is by definition the most perfect being, he must have the attribute of existence, therefore God exists.

So lets go over the argument again. Get the definition of God. How is God to be defined? Let's compare this with the unicorn. How is the unicorn to be defined? A unicorn is a horse with a horn growing out of the middle of it's head. There's nothing in that definition to imply that unicorns exist, and unicorns don't exist. But let's define God. An all-powerful, all-good, all-knowing being... right... these are some of his characteristics... and everybody will agree that's the definition of God. So now one of the definitions is he's the most perfect being. One of his attributes is utmost perfection, un-improvable perfection, OK? That's the definition of God. Now Anselm argues, but if God didn't exist, wouldn't he be less perfect than a being just like him in all those attributes except that that being existed? 'cause to exist is to be more perfect than not to exist. It's better to exist than not to exist. God is as good as you can be, as superior as can be so he must exist. So we know by definition that God exists.

It's a brilliant argument, but it's wholly unconvincing to everybody who hears it, they think, "There's something going wrong with that. That's a very strange argument."

JM: Alright. Tell us what's wrong with it.

CM: Well that's... the difficulty is that no-body's ever been able to pinpoint exactly what's wrong with it. I'll tell you what I think is wrong with it, although the issue is by no means clear. I think that what's very funny in the argument... the bit that goes... that strikes you as sophistical is the bit that says, "God's the most perfect. Existence is one of the perfections.". It sounds superficially plausible, but what does it really mean? "Is one of the perfections." I like to compare this to somebody who said, "Let's take the most tasty meal conceivable... The most tasty meal conceivable...". Does that mean anything, to say that? There's the most tasty meal I've ever had. But it's not well defined, the most tasty meal conceivable, or... you know... the best football game conceivable... not that I've ever seen. What does it mean? It's not a very clearly meaningful idea.

So if we say we're defining God as the most perfect being, and we don't really lay down very clearly what we mean by perfect, then what does it really mean, the most perfect being? ...You know... he has the most perfect colours...? We know he doesn't have the most perfect colours because he's not coloured at all... you know... it's not clear what it means. So we can't always think that phrases like, "the most perfect conceivable F" are always meaningful. Sometimes they are meaningful. The most perfect conceivable triangle, it means one whose angles are precisely 180 degrees. But the most perfect conceivable moral being - what does that mean? It's not clear that it's so well defined.

So that's what I think is wrong with it, but it's like many a philosophical argument, just because you can't refute it, doesn't mean that you should take it all that seriously, especially... you know... form your common sense beliefs on the basis of it.

JM: All right, so much for the ontological proof...

CM: Yes, that's the ontological argument.

JM: Umm... how about the other ones?

CM: I... here's one I like. People think... I think that psychologically this is quite important to people. That's why this argument is more important psychologically... people think, "Without God, life is meaningless. Where is meaning? It's just an empty charade of... you know... pointless and purposeless, valueless going from one thing to the next.". Well, the first reply to make to that is, you don't necessarily need to seek the meaning of life outside of life.

Here's the premise, the assumption of that argument - without there being a being outside of human life, human life would have no meaning. So the meaning of human life must be conferred by another being. Here's my question - what gives the meaning to that being's life? How does his life, God's life derive meaning? Well here's a dilemma, right? Either God's life has meaning intrinsically just by his existence, or not, right? Well if it does, then it's possible to have a meaningful life intrinsically, so why can't our lives have intrinsic meaning? Their meaning doesn't have to be conferred by another being.

JM: But the religious might want to argue, without even reverting to the ontological argument for the existence of God, the fact... the observable fact that we do have values...

CM: Yeah.

JM: ...and meanings is in fact evidence of the fact that something has

CM: Yes.

JM: ...given the meanings in the same way that the argument says something has given the thing design.

CM: Yeah. Well there's... I think there are two points there. One point is that the existence of values itself is an argument for the existence of God. Like an evidence argument. Another point though all together is the idea that morality can only have a foundation if it's based on God's commands or God's desires, God's wishes. The first one of course, the thing to say about that is there's just no reason to think that the existence of values in human society depends on the existence of God. I mean, why should it? There's just no clear logical argument for that, any more than the existence of ears is a reason. There are various aspects of human life - there's art, value, family, there's all sorts of things that we take to be valuable. Why do any of these require us to postulate God to explain their existence?

A more worrying question for many people is, they don't see that morality can have any foundation, can have any absoluteness, unless there's a god to certify it... legitimate it. That's a... you can see that point. It's a point that was discussed by Plato long ago in the Euthyphro argument. And he makes - well I think - Socrates makes a completely compelling refutation of that argument and it simply goes as follows.

The argument, you see, goes like this: Suppose you take as a moral principle, it's wrong to steal. People say, "Why is it wrong to steal?". Answer - because God says it's wrong to steal. God commanded that you should not steal. OK? The point that Socrates makes in that dialogue is to say, "How can God give this moral rule a foundation? Either the moral rule is intrinsically a sound moral rule, or it can't be given soundness and legitimacy from an external command.". Suppose we had the rule "It's right to murder.". Somebody said, "That's not right! Murder is wrong!". And somebody said in reply, "But God says it's right to murder.". That doesn't convince you that it's right to murder. If God says that something is right which isn't right, God's wrong. He can't make something right just by saying it's right. God can only... what God has to do is reflect what's right in his commandments so that's what he really does. It is wrong to steal. It's wrong to steal and wrong to murder. So God says that it's wrong and he's right to say that. Why? Because it IS wrong in the two cases! He doesn't make it wrong by saying it. He can't do that. If that were so, we'd have no reason to respect God's morality...

JM: So God as it were... appropriates our spontaneous and indigenous values...

CM: Yeah...

JM: ...which then get reflected back on this hypothetical entity...

CM: Right...

JM: ...which then seems to validate our beliefs.

CM: Exactly. So we don't need God to validate our moral beliefs - he couldn't validate them. He only... His validations only work insomuch as they correspond to what IS right and in wrong. He can't make something be morally right when it's not.

Another way to put it is, it can't be a matter of God's free decision or whim what's right and wrong. People can see that morality is what it is. They know what they ought to do. But human beings are weak. We have weakness of the will. We don't always do what we know very well we ought to do. And that is... in most people produces the phenomenon of guilt. Guilt is a powerful negative force in people's minds. People hate guilt, right, guilt is a bad feeling. So you need something to prevent guilt. To prevent guilt, you need something to make you do what you know is right, but since human beings are weak, they don't always do what they know is right, but God gives you an extra motive to do what's right, beyond morality itself. Morality gives you a motive, but it's a motive which is rather fragile. Rather... you know... momentary, intermittent and easily broken. But if you've got the idea of God there, it can sort of give it some more oomph, gives it more power, and then you can do what you know is right more easily, more regularly, and that's, you know, perfectly sensible. It's reasonable... it's not unreasonable anyway for an atheist to think that maybe we need God, or people need God, because without God they can't do what they know is right.

I don't believe that myself. I think people are not as morally depraved as religious tradition says. I think most people will do what's right in normal conditions. They won't always of course, but normally they will. They don't need God. And I think people who sometimes have lived with God as their moral support, their moral whatever it is they're getting from it, when they cease to believe in God, they feel that it was not as difficult to be moral afterwards as they suspected it might be. And in fact it was better, because there's a corrupting part to that conception of God, which is the idea that you're doing something good because God will reward you and think well of you. And that's a corrupting idea. It's much better to do something good because it's good, and only because it's good, and that's your only reason for doing it. But the idea you're going to get the warm fuzzy feeling, "Oh, God's really pleased with me today. I did this.", that's not what morality ought to be about.

JM [To the viewer]: Having discussed the various arguments that have been offered in favour of the existence of God, I asked Colin to summarise some of the best reasons for not JM believing.

CM: Well the classic argument against is the problem of evil. This is a... even religious people find this one very uncomfortable. So the argument is simply, God is meant to be a being who is all-knowing, all-powerful and all-good, so how come there is suffering and pain in the world? Why does God allow it? God, obviously if he is all-good, thinks that it's bad that this should occur, would rather it didn't occur, like any decent person would rather it didn't occur, and yet he lets it occur. Now that would be OK if he didn't have the power to change it, but he's meant to be all-powerful. I mean we're told by religious people he intervenes all the time in various ways, so why doesn't he intervene to prevent the death of a child, or the torture of a prisoner? He doesn't do it. So you don't want to conclude from that, "Well God is actually quite bad... quite a bad person.". That's a conceivable conclusion you might draw. But what you conclude from it is the combination of these two characteristics is inconsistent. He's all-good and he's all-powerful - you need all-knowing too of course because he has to know what's going on - but it's essentially the conflict between being all-good and all-powerful and the existence of evil.

The standard reply to that, the apologists of religion will give the reply, "God created human beings with free will.". Now there's the question, why did he do that, knowing the results were going to be horrific? That was a pretty wicked thing to do to start with. But let's put that one aside. The problem with that argument is that not all suffering in the world comes from the exercise of human will. Much of it comes from human... not human, natural catastrophes, or disease, accidents... All sorts of things can cause tremendous suffering in humans... You know, someones born with a genetic disease, no human being had any role in whatsoever in creating that. That comes from nature - God's creation of course, we're told.

So God created a world in which it was inevitable there'd be tremendous suffering on the part of completely innocent human beings.

JM: But there might be religious argument to the effect that he created this obstacle course...

CM: Yep...

JM: ...for his created creatures endowed with free will in order to bring out the best in them.

CM: Yes... and I always... this one to me brings out to me the sort of... hard-hearted, immoral side of this way of thinking about things. Because just think about what's being said when somebody says that. You've got the innocent child with some terrible disease, and God's up there saying, "I really need to test some people here. The obstacle course needs to be put there. Let me just pick on this two year old girl, put her through this terrible ordeal, and I'll test the other people.". I mean, if any human being had told you that's what they'd done - suppose I decided, in my wisdom, "I need to test some people here. I need to improve their moral characters, so I'm going to do this terrible thing to their child.", you know, you'd think I was the wickedest person it the world to do that. Well why isn't God? If that's what God does, I have no respect for him. I think it's a wicked thing to do. God shouldn't do that if God cares about human beings, he should not allow that to happen. to do.

JM [To the viewer]: Having discussed the argument both for and against religion, we turned to speculation as to the reason why so many people still had a need to believe.

CM: I don't think anybody has any very good ideas about why this is, especially why they believe in it to the extent that they do. What I would speculate about it is I think it's less to do with the idea of death and survival of death, and rewards in heaven and punishment in hell. I think it's a sort of cosmic loneliness. I think that's what's behind it. It's hard for people to accept that we are alone, and that nobody cares. Outside of us. I think there's a kind of constitutive reason for that, which is human consciousness is essentially sealed off from other consciousnesses. I'm sealed... mine has sealed off from you. We only know each other indirectly, through the symptoms of the body, and yet we yearn to be in contact with other people. Love is a lot to do with that. So we have this feeling that we are, as conscious, embodied beings, somehow lonely is out essence, cut off in out essence, and that's a feeling that we struggle against. You can see it in literature and so on, dealing with this theme. Frankenstein actually deals with it a lot.

So we feel this sort of metaphysical, existential alone-ness in the universe and God is a wonderful antidote to that, because in the case of God, God, we feel comes directly into our minds, and we're directly in contact with God. You see God doesn't know us through our bodies, God knows us intimately in our minds. And that satisfies a deep craving, I think, in the human soul, right, for communion with something outside the self.

JM: I'd just like to finish with one thing. Here you are, like myself, reluctant to use the word, "atheist" to describe what we are - because it's an accusation, rather than, as it were a conviction, in a country which, in fact, has become more intensely religious. Do you find it difficult to uphold such ideas in the America of the 21st century?

CM: Let me say something about the first point, the label... the label one has. Yeah, to be called an atheist it's a negative view, and it suggests that one is a sort of professional atheist... you spend your life arguing against God, the way Russell did. And I think that's a rather undignified and pointless procedure. Once you've decided there isn't a god, there's not much point in inveighing against it, unless you think that huge harm is done by the belief in God. But you don't... nobody spends their time trying to prove to others that the Greek gods don't exist. You know, you just decide that they don't, and that's the end of the story for you.

So I like to distinguish atheism from antitheism. Antitheism is opposition to theism. I am an antitheist, because I believe that religion is harmful in human life. So I am an antitheist. I'm not just an atheist who... suddenly, my only values are that I don't agree with it. I'm actively opposed to it. But then I distinguish that from what I call post-theism or post-atheism, which is the healthy state of mind where you've put all that behind you. Now we can't do that yet because there's lots of religion in the world, and lots of bad results of it.

But to me, the ideal society would be one where the question of religion didn't really arise for people, or if it did, it wasn't a heavy question for them. They would say to each other, "You know, those humans used to believe, back there in 2003, some of them believed there was this God and he did this... others didn't and they did TV programs about why they didn't. What a funny debate that was!". So it would be a post-theist society, where it just wasn't an issue.

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