5/31/2008                                                                                       View Comments

5/30/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Some things never really sat right with me

By Heather H

This post is really mainly a rant, but it is also an actual question to all Christians out there.

The question is really why on earth they try to convert me in the first place? An old one, perhaps, asked by many here, but over reading the Bible recently I’ve come to a conclusion, possibly a question a lot of people have come to... but I digress. It’s really doing my nut though and makes me wonder why on earth people would even try to make me believe in their version of a god.

I first stopped really believing in that religion mainly due to scientific proof showing the creation story to be absolute bunk, (among other stories); as well as making a few friends of other faiths in university (or none). See, I was not entirely comfortable with the fact that these perfectly nice people would roast while I’d be dancing it up with Jesus without a care in the world as if it wasn’t happening right below my feet.

Yeah. That never really sat right with me.

But I’ve come to a rather larger stumbling block that would never let me go back to that faith ever. It really boils down to the old testament. Another old reason flung around here, but bear with me. The god in that collection of stories is to put it bluntly a completely genocidal whacko with self-esteem issues larger and wilder than the (western) Christian persecution complex. (I give you that some Christians are persecuted… just not where you are if you live in any Western country).

The point is I’ve realised that even if Christianity was ‘the one true faith’ I could never join it. Not ever again. It would be impossible for me to do so.

No, I’m serious here folks. Unless, of course the definition of a Christian is something I’m confused about. (What IS the blunt straightforward definition? And why has no-one told the million-and-one factions about it? If it is simply believing- does that mean everyone would automatically be one once it was proven to be fact? Would I become one all the same after my ‘eyes were opened’? Or is something else required? But I digress. I’m getting off track here.)

Christianity tells us to fear ‘God’ and if God came down on high and told me to ‘turn or burn’ quite certainly, I’d be scared, exceedingly so too. I probably wouldn’t be able to speak or even move. Probably not even to run or scream. I’d be terrified and rightfully so.

Would I fear him? Certainly. Of course I would. I’d be a fool not to.

But would I respect him? That would have to be a no.

I’d only fear such a god as I would if I was locked in a room alone with a homicidal maniac with a large array of weapons. I’d be scared in such a situation- I might do my best to avoid getting killed in any way possible (up to a certain point- I wouldn’t kill anyone/let him kill someone in exchange for my own sodding life for instance), but I wouldn’t- scratch that- couldn’t respect such a person.

Would you respect such a person? I somehow doubt it. Would anyone with any amount of sanity do so?

Such a person stirs within me: anger, fear, maybe even a drop of pity mixed in at such an obviously warped individual. But never respect.

That’s right, if your god was true, I would also even slightly pity him, as much as I would dislike him. After all he certainly has a strange version of what ‘love’ and ‘justice’ really is, which even some of the youngest children have some concept of.

There is a big difference between fear and respect. You can have both at the same time, but it is not a requirement, you can have one without the other in any case. Yet a lot of people can’t seem to differentiate the two. Evidently many Christians would fear AND respect him. But I couldn’t do the same.

Your god would only ever stir up fear for me, but not respect. I couldn’t respect him. It would be impossible.

How can you expect me to respect such a person?

How can you respect such a person?

Do you simply fear him then? If so, are we really that different after all in the end? Apart from the fact that you believe in him, and I don’t- are our opinions on him really that different after all in the end?

Delusional thinking....???

By James C

Evangelist Hagee took some heat recently for a comment in a sermon concerning the holocaust, "How did [the Holocaust] happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel."

But Orthodox Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg at: http://www.washingtontimes.com/article/20080524/NATION/810558402/1002
responded by supporting Hagee, saying, "Viewing Hitler as acting completely outside of God's plan is to suggest that God was powerless to stop the Holocaust, a position quite unacceptable to any religious Jew or Christian."

At http://www.populstat.info/Asia/israelc.htm we find that Israel's population only went from 880,000 in 1930 to 1,834,900 in 1945, an increase of 954,900.

So the pastor and the rabbi both feel their God thought it was OK to slaughter six-million people in order to get less than one-million to emigrate to Israel!

I'll leave it to the readers to decide.... delusional? Insanity? They are lying, perhaps even to themselves? Totally logical to someone who believes in religion?

5/28/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Punished by God? No one believes that!

By Dave, the WM

I was just reading about 71-year-old Rev. George O. Lowe, that he is in prison for sexually abusing a child in his congregation back in the 80s. There’s nothing particularly unique or interesting about the story; it's just another in a long, long line of sexually perverted religious leaders. What caught my eye in this story is that that the good reverend had recently tried to appease his victim who is now an adult by quoting Bible verses that discourage Christians from taking Christians to court and by claiming that God had already sufficiently punished him.

Quoting Bible verses to support a position (any position) is typical, but the statement he made that God had already punished him, that one got me to thinking.

The doctrine that God does or will eventually punish the wicked is universally touted as true by every variety, branch and stream within Christendom. Christians are frequently encouraged to leave to the Lord all thoughts of paying back the wicked for their wickedness.
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. -- Romans 12:19

Is the promise that "God will revenge" provide adequate comfort to Christians who are victims of abuse or crime? Consider a couple whose child is kidnapped and never found. Does anyone honestly think that a belief that God will eventually bring the criminal to perfect justice extend real solace to a parent in this situation? Or do you think that even the most faith-filled Christian parent would find more comfort in working tirelessly until the kidnapper was found and made to endure “imperfect” human justice?

If Christians really believed that God would righteously avenge all the wrongs in the world, then there would be no need for any Christian to ever press charges, sue, or even complain about being a victim. In fact, if Christians really believed God would avenge, Christians would meekly turn the other cheek as Jesus commanded.

The fact is, Christians do not believe in divine justice in the here and now. Oh sure, they say they believe in it, but by their actions and lifestyle, most Christians are just like anyone else when some thug tries to victimize them. When I was Christian, I knew I would defend against and possibly kill anyone who illegally entered my home with the intent to do harm to me or my family. I purchased a weapon designed for that purpose. I had no intention of turning the other cheek, blessing those who cursed me, or giving a thief my cloak. I was fully prepared to defend my castle and if necessary, met out swift ultimate justice to any who crossed my threshold with evil intent.

Most Christians I knew were of the same opinion when it came to defending one's home.

At this point some Christians might argue that human justice is an expression of divine justice. Those Christians will claim that God works through our justice system. Of course on another day those same Christians will bemoan the inadequacy of the justice system and proclaim that human stabs at justice can never measure up to God’s justice.

You can't have it both ways, Christians! Either God is in charge, or we are. Either we resist not evil as Jesus said, or we resist it and disobey his command.

In the hundreds, soon to be thousands, of years since the birth of Christianity, much has changed in the way Christians believe. Christians are not nearly as concerned with developing personal piety as they are with crusading for various political agendas. Christians have to be constantly admonished to read and memorize the Bible even though it is supposedly the very Word of God to mankind! They have to be told to tithe and feed and clothe the poor. Yet, when it comes to aggressively campaigning against the personal, legal, and private choices of non-Christians (Insert here homosexuality, abortion, alcohol, anal sex, or any other private matter that Christians feel licensed to condemn.), those same lazy-brained Christians are somehow energized. When it comes to war – any war – Christians can be found waving the flag the hardest. “Nuke em ‘till they glow!” was the clarion call of many modern Christians at the start of the Iraq crises.

Getting back to the main point: By their behavior, their words, and their causes, most Christians today demonstrate a lack of belief that God will avenge injustice. Just like all human beings everywhere, Christians know deep down that whatever justice we have on this planet is entirely up to us. How we want our society to operate, what we want to tolerate or allow, it is all entirely up to us. If victims are to ever be avenged, it is up to us. If criminals are to be stopped, it is up to us.

Ultimately everyone, regardless of rhetoric or position, understands that we are the sole agents responsible for crafting human society. Even Christians reject as foolish the teachings of Jesus suggesting we all sit around and wait for God to do something. Even Christians would scoff at the suggestion that a pedophile need not be brought to "human" justice because "God had already punished him."

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5/24/2008                                                                                       View Comments

I give up

By Billy B

I hope that I've learned my lesson.

Yesterday my Christian neighbor came to my door under the false pretense of wanting to ask my permission to place a sign endorsing a local political candidate in my yard. What he really wanted was an excuse to try and drag me into another mental cage-match over his insane worldview...(i.e. the Bible , prayer in schools, 'Expelled the movie'...etc...)

I took the bait and within 15 minutes he had me so fucking mad that I literally had to laugh.

Luckily the tension was broken by an important phone call that allowed us both an honorable exit from the situation, but this experience taught me a very important lesson: Engaging stupidity is self-abuse.

I've finally realized that there are some situations where I will only be submitting myself to emotional torture by entering a debate with certain types of Christians. Therefore, I've given myself permission to take a passive stance and let them run their mouths while I silently plot my escape.

To attempt a reasonable exchange of ideas is as futile as whispering to a charging rhinoceros.

As hard as it is to do, sometimes I just have to do the smart and sensible thing, no matter how superior it makes the Xtian feel.

I certainly respect anyone who wishes to verbally fuss and fight with certain types of trolls and fools that permeate our society. You do us all a tremendous service by using your skills and intellect to such ends. I appreciate your willingness to jump into the ring and do battle with someone who is willing to cheat and fight dirty.

I'm happy, for now, to sit at the apron and cheer on the team.

Any thoughts will be gratefully accepted.

P.S. I fully support WebMaster Dave's choice to block those whom he discerns to be destructive to the main purpose of this blog and its readers. Thanks.

5/19/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Love for fellow human beings

By Clair

Most of us come in regular contact with others, and when the subject of religion comes up a person can react in many ways:

1.Happiness and agreement.

2. Silence and a vague pleasant expression.

3. Silence, waiting for them to drop it.

4.Irritation and voicing non-agreement, with or without eye rolling.

5. Louder more serious disagreement.

6.Shouting with very unpleasant outcome.

But, we move on, get over it ASAP.

People that we truly care about though can cause serious mental anguish. Parents can push buttons with great emotional dexterity.

This is no suprise, since they are usually the ones who at least helped to indoctrinate their children. When the kids are grown, and have their own children, some grandparents are secretly afraid that all that bullshit has been found out. They want the illness to be carried on so they will be assured of having someone to agree with them. Or maybe they just want everyone to be physically uncomfortable for a minimum of two hours at the same time each Sunday, right down to the toddlers. Itchy suits and ties for the little boys and pressed dresses with bows, tights, hard shoes with sharp things for the girls. A great group S+M that proves you really love Jesus.

I woke from the religion coma in a family/community of comatose people, most of which are still asleep now. So, I tread carefully so as not to destroy or hurt those I love and or care for. I may insert thoughts of interest, tiny chisels to work in their closed mind.

My arsenal of choice is: the Bible.

A couple of weeks ago, my Christian mother was pointing out the correct way to raise my children, and my son was misbehaving at the same moment. I suggested that we take him to the elders and have him killed (he's four). She was quite shocked, and I pointed out that the bible says that. She didn't believe me, so I showed her Deut. 21vs18-21. She started to stammer something like, "We don't believe that!" which opens the door to "Well, which parts do you believe?"

She had no more commentary. That was an easy one, because most so called believers in the bible have never read it. Only small, easily chewed bites during the sermon, please and thank-you,and only sweet wooly lamb of god and all that.

I have lost a handful of my very best friends, people I've known for many years, and that hurt. It would be nice if getting rid of religion did not mean having to start all over, but it often does.

I'm glad to still be married to the same person (Stronger Now), but my old friends are gone. So I have begun new friendships, and I wouldn't go back for anything. The freedom I have experienced outside the gates of religion has been wonderful and an awakening like no other.

I hope more people wake up and step out of that prison and shake off the self-induced coma. To learn, grow, and stand on their own with eyes open and live without guilt and fear -- that is "born again" (finally awake!), but with actual results in reality.

It's more than nice to be there for someone when they begin voicing doubts about a long held crutch called Christianity. Everyone can use a hand when the rusty bolts begin to let go.

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5/17/2008                                                                                       View Comments

10 questions that every intelligent Christian must answer



If you are an educated Christian, I would like to talk with you today about an important and interesting question. Have you ever thought about using your college education to think about your faith? Your life and your career demand that you behave and act rationally. Let's apply your critical thinking skills as we discuss 10 simple questions about your religion. The answers will amaze you. -- http://whywontgodhealamputees.com

5/15/2008                                                                                       View Comments

The Pagan Christ



What if it could be proved that Jesus never existed? What if there was evidence that every word of the New Testament is based on myth and metaphor? And what if those revelations extended beyond Christianity, putting into question even the fundamental beliefs of Judaism and Islam?

These are the ideas presented in The Pagan Christ, a documentary based on theologian Tom Harpur's explosive, best-selling book. Using an investigative reporting approach to the topic, the cameras journey from the Egyptian temple at Luxor and the Great Pyramids of Giza to Vatican City and Jerusalem's wailing wall.

What do you think about the ideas presented in this film?

5/12/2008                                                                                       View Comments

All Christians are moral relativists

By Geoff

I tend to avoid writing about or discussing the topic of religion. In general, my unconventional views on the subject get me into a heated discussion with a zealous, but well meaning believer concerned with my eternal destiny or a mentally draining screaming match with a pretentious asshat who believes I worship Darwin and who seems convinced that atheism is just another religion (which is like saying that not playing sports is a sport). Despite this, I usually try to remain civil. After all, we are all entitled to believe whatever we want, right?

HOWEVER!

There are a few annoying arguments Christians use that quite frankly make about as much sense as a gay republican. Were I to go into all of them, I would be typing here for hours and hours. So, I will focus on one for now: Moral Relativity

Moral relativity essentially states that analysis into whether an action is right or wrong should come from several facets of study, culture, context, usefulness, etc. This ideas lies in stark contrast to the beliefs of some religionists who claim that moral values are absolute and handed down from a deity to humanity in some form of sacred text.

SOME Christians (I say some because not all Christians are stone cold fucking retarded; many are actually quite intelligent) believe that any and all moral truths are expressed in the Bible, that the Bible expresses absolute morality, and that to remove that from a person’s life is to lose ones reason for doing good. Well, I say that that is total and utter bullshit. Admittedly I do not know where mans’ sense of morality came from. This ignorance on my part, however, doesn't suddenly give me the urge to go out and kill people. It doesn't make me want to rape or steal, or eat children.

Doesn't supposedly knowing the ultimate nature of morality (absolute, handed down from a deity) take away from the idea of morality a little? Life is complicated. When you try to reduce all of life to an ugly montage of black/white, right/wrong, heaven/hell, you inevitably ruin the nuanced beauty of everyday life. With an absolutist mindset, the subtle voice of compassion in your head that tells you to stand up and question the ugly practices and extremes of religion becomes the voice of Satan trying to tempt you. The pangs of sadness you feel whenever a gay person is beat up for their sexuality becomes possible warning signs of your own homosexuality, a tremendous cause for concern.

But WORST of all…

The bleating voice of the minister from the pulpit becomes gospel truth; the televangelist starts to be a messenger from god himself. Wars begin to be god-ordained!

Here is a simple example of why I reject the argument for moral absolutism

1. Open your Bible to a verse that condemns homosexuality.

Find it? Good.

NOW, open your bible to a verse that condemns pedophilia. Find it?

Nope.

That’s because there is no verse in the Bible that directly condemns pedophilia. Christians are all moral relativists with regards to pedophilia, because there is no absolute prohibition in the Bible against it. All that’s left for anyone is to be a moral relativist on this topic. And, somehow, even without a mention of it in the Bible, nearly everyone agrees that the practice is morally reprehensible.

2. Open your Bible to a verse that says that women should remain silent in church (I believe its in one of the Timothy’s, and I don't want to go grab my Bible)

NOW open your Bible to a verse that condemns domestic violence. Not some indirect verses that could be applied to nearly anything, as in "X was mean to X women and God expressed disdain at this action.” NO, I mean quote a verse that says point blank that "IT IS WRONG TO PHYSICALLY HARM YOUR WIFE."

There really is none, so everyone is a moral relativist in regards to this as well. Either that, or you have to decide that domestic violence isn't important to God.

3. Open your Bible to a verse that condemns adultery (this should be easy).

NOW! Open your Bible to a verse that condemns animal abuse.

There is none!

In fact god seems more than willing to have hundreds of thousands of animals killed just to appease his ego. If you believe in animal rights, you are a moral relativist in regards to this as well.

I could go into this for pages and pages, with many more examples then I have given, but I think my point is abundantly clear.

Please note that my disdain only applies to that rare breed of Christian that somehow sees the Bible as explaining every detail of reality to a "T" – fundies. I realize that this is becoming increasingly less common among Christians (hey, its a good start). The sooner we get off our moral high horses and take a critical look at the world around us, the sooner we can start learning to cooperate with one another on this big, beautiful planet earth

FIN!

--Geoff

5/11/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Parenting Beyond Belief

An interview with Dale McGowan, author of Parenting Beyond Belief.

Licona vs. Carrier: On the Resurrection of Jesus Christ









This debate, which examined the rational evidence for faith in Jesus' resurrection, was given at the University of California, Los Angeles on April 19, 2004, and was moderated by S. Scott Bartchy, Professor of History at UCLA and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion.

Richard Carrier
is a historian and philosopher, whose articles have appeared in many publications, including the Skeptical Inquirer and the Secular Web. His book, Sense and Goodness without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism, is due out next year, along with an anthology, Jesus Is Dead, which includes three chapters by Carrier on the Resurrection. He is currently writing a dissertation on ancient Roman science at Columbia University. He has been involved in online, atheist-theist debates for more than ten years and served as Feedback Editor and Editor in Chief of the Secular Web for many years.

Mike Licona is a New Testament historian with a Master of Arts degree in Religious Studies from Liberty University and is a Ph.D. candidate in New Testament Studies at the University of Pretoria. He is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and Evangelical Philosophical Society. Mike is the author of three books, the most recent being The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Professor Gary Habermas remarks, "In my opinion, Mike's knowledge of the case for Jesus' resurrection places him among an elite number of evangelicals who are writing on the subject today."

Support Richard Carrier's efforts by purchasing a copy of this debate here: http://www.createspace.com/231347

5/10/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Noah's Flood: Myth upon myth upon....

By James C

Most of us are aware of the Noah's Flood story. People of the earth evil. God upset. Floods the world but saves Noah & family and enough animals to re-populate the world.

But, for an interesting "another take" on that story, link over to the Wikipedia story about the same, with inputs concerning the other Abrahamic religions and their look at the whole thing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah's_Ark#cite_note-14

The ark itself. Skeptics have, for a long time, questioned how a small family with no boat-building experience could have accomplished the ark; what kind of wood was used; that the dimensions are larger than any known successful wooden ship; and that it could not have held all the animals and the food and water necessary to keep them alive. So let's explore comments on that:

Origen stated that Moses had been thinking of the (larger) Egyptian cubit, meaning the Ark was even larger vs the historically successful wooden ships! Origen also speculated that the ark was a truncated pyramid, rectangular rather than square at its base, and tapering to a square peak one cubit on a side. (I'm still trying to figure out how a rectangularly-based pyramid ends up being square at the top???)

In Islam, surah 29:14 says the Ark was a thing of boards and nails (nails? Wiki says nails date back to early Roman times, around 9th century B.C. -- Noah was supposedly long before that). A contemporary of Muhammad wrote that Allah revealed to him (Mohammad) that the ark was to be modeled after a bird's belly and be made from teak wood (hmmm, isn't teak a native of Asia, not the mid-east??) Also, with those instructions, reportedly Noah planted a tree (from whence the seed?) which in only 20 years grew to a size such that it gave Noah all the wood he needed (to build a ship with almost half the displacement of the Titanic? Yeah, sure).

A Persian historian writing in 915 A.D. said that the first animal to board the ark was an ant, and the last a donkey (in which Satan was hiding). He also wrote that when Jesus' apostles wanted to learn about the ark from an eye witness, he (Jesus) resurrected Noah's son Ham from the dead, who told them more. Even explaining that in order to handle all the dung produced by the animals, Noah had miraculously caused a pair of hogs to come out of the elephant's tail. (hmmm, I remember my Grandad having hogs who loved to scratch their backs on kerosene-soaked corn cobs nailed to a tree... but eating shit? Never saw that). But what was wrong with already on board hogs?? And the poor elephant, such a BM! Maybe a bit of anti-constipation medicine was called for. And oh yeah, in order to get rid of a stowaway rat, Noah made a pair of cats come from the lion's nose. (again, what was wrong with the cats already on board?) This dude also wrote that each plank in the ark contained the name of a prophet, except for three missing planks. Those planks were brought from Egypt by Og, son of Anak, who was the only giant allowed to survive the flood (more on that later). He also mentioned that the body of Adam was put aboard in the middle to divide the men from the women (that DEFINITELY sounds Islamic).

The references to Og take us back to Jewish Rabbinical traditions. They stated that there had been no need to distinguish between clean and unclean animals before this time, the clean animals made themselves known by kneeling before Noah as they entered the Ark. A differing opinion said that the Ark itself distinguished clean from unclean, admitting seven of the first and two of the second. (did that include the specially-produced hogs and cats???) The traditions further tell us that Noah was engaged both day and night in feeding and caring for the animals, and did not sleep for the entire year aboard the Ark.(kind of sounds like not eating or drinking for 40 days and nights, doesn't it?) Not only that, the animals were the best of their species, and so behaved with utmost goodness. They abstained from procreation, so that the number of creatures that disembarked was exactly equal to the number that embarked. (Gee, celibate ark animals! Wonder if there were any problems with animal pedophiles???) And, this dude Og. One story says he was so big he had to stay outside the ark, with Noah passing him food through a hole cut in the wall of the ark (but doesn't clarify whether they built an extension on the ark, or pulled him along in another little boat). In fact, if you go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Og we find that Og strolled behind the ark during the deluge! (talk about being tall... strolling through water deep enough to at least cover Mt. Arrarat [at just a tad under 17,000 feet]) but then, a guy who can live for 3,000 years can pretty well do anything.

These rabbis also stated that refuse was stored on the lowest of the Ark's three decks, humans and clean beasts on the second, and the unclean animals and birds on the top. A differing opinion placed the refuse in the utmost story, from where it was shoveled into the sea through a trapdoor. This is in direct disagreement with the Islamic thought that on the first of the three levels wild and domesticated animals were lodged, in the second the human beings, and in the third the birds. And how did Noah and the gang manage to work below decks day and night? Candles? Lamps? Nah. Precious stones, bright as midday, provided light. (lots of precious stones that reflect existing light, but can anyone name one that PRODUCES light??)

The Mandaeans of the southern Iraqi marshes believe that the ark was built of sandalwood and was cubic in shape, with a length, width and height of 30 gama (the length of an arm); its final resting place is said to be Egypt.

In spite of the fact that by 1700 few natural historians could justify a literal interpretation of the Noah's Ark narrative, a telephone poll conducted by ABCNEWS/Primetime in 2004, 60% of US residents believe the story of Noah's Ark is literally true!

Isn't it amazing how one, false myth could be interpreted so many different ways and still end up believed by so many in this modern, scientific time. SAD!

5/07/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Evangelical Manifesto

By Doc Mike

This is hilarious! scholars and theologians are releasing a manifesto today to "take back" the term from the politicians. Apparently, it's starting to have a negative connotation in the world of politics. I wonder why?

USA Today says in Manifesto aims to make 'evangelical' less political:

"Evangelical" has been widely used to refer to Christians who have conservative political views, but the Evangelical Theological Society requires members to agree on just two points: inerrancy of Scripture, and belief in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as "separate but equal in attributes and glory" and essential for salvation.

This really makes me laugh because if "Scripture" is nothing else it is errant. In fact that's exactly what my blog (By The Book Comics) is all about. And don't even get me started on the "holy trinity"... Ha!

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5/04/2008                                                                                       View Comments

The Combination Lock of Religion

By Astreja

Trying to get something of value out of religion is kind of like trying to open a locked box.

At the beginning of our experience, we are informed that the box contains something of inexpressible value, something that exists only in the box, something that we can't buy or borrow or build.

And then we see... the lock.

A combination lock forged from dogma, tradition and our own expectations. Before we can open that magic treasure chest, we have to crack the code.

Some combinations appear to be fairly simple, but the gears stiff and heavy... The actual day-to-day practice of the creed proves too arduous, and we walk away.

At other times, the lock has so many parameters that we can twirl the dial for a lifetime without actually getting anywhere. Once in the while we do hear something go 'click', which reinforces the desire to keep trying.

But, once in a while -- Sometimes totally by accident -- the lock just opens by itself.

Some people find peace, love, a sense of purpose. Others, a dime-store ring that would look great on an eight-year-old, but doesn't fit their adult hand. And some of us just stare into an empty box.

Even after all that pain and bother, there's a chance that some control-freak minister, mullah, rabbi or roshi will slam the box shut on our fingers because we didn't open it the "right" way.

Why waste precious years of our lives trying to access something that may well turn out to be worthless?

And, if it is something that humanity actually needs... What kind of idiot would lock it up?

5/03/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Why is evolution so unpopular?

By AL



Hello. I’m Al. I’m an atheist, I actively believe that supernatural gods don’t exist.

In my previous video, “What Science Isn’t”, I detailed the case that the intelligent design movement had motivations that were far more political than scientific.

Creationism never had the anywhere near the level of objective evidence that evolution provided, but creationism still sees popular support in the United States.

Although I’d like to go into the overwhelming evidence that evolution has, in this video I’ll detail my thoughts on why anti-evolutionism is so prevelant in America.

This video doesn’t touch on atheism as much as my previous videos, but I think everyone, atheists included, has a stake in seeing that our education system stays true to scientific principles.

Also, because this video is centered on religion in America, I’ll mostly be talking about Christianity instead of theism in general.

I think I have some good insights into why science comes under assault when it deals with things such as the origin of life.

As usual, I’d like you to think about the things I say, and if you have anything to say back to me, please leave a comment.

(caption: On our humanity)

The heart of my argument on why so many are disinclined to accept evolution is because they think that it reduces our humanity and somehow makes us less special.This idea of human exceptionalism isn’t treated lightly, and many people take it very seriously.

There are lots of things that separate humans from other living organisms:

We discover mathematical principles that describe the behavior of the physical universe.
We wear clothing.
(naked) We create language that can be used to express complicated and abstract ideas.
We worship gods.
We create poetry, art, and video blogs.
We invent incredible things like skyscrapers, airplanes, and spoon-forks, which we call sporks.

Many people feel that since evolution dictates that we descended from apes, in a way this destroys our own humanity.

Here’s a short clip from NPR’s Morning Edition radio show that I feel quickly sums up the feelings of many on the anti-evolution side. On August 4, 2005 Steve Inskeep interviewed former Pennslyvanian Republican senator, Rick Santorum. During this time the Dover Area School Board was in court for promoting creationism in the classroom, and Santorum commented on his thoughts about evolution’s implications:

(Steve Inskeep) “Why do what you see as holes in the theory of evolution, and there are scientists here on the air, that will disagree that the idea that there are really that many holes, but-”
(Rick Santorum) “I just think they’re wrong.”
(Steve Inskeep) “Why does that particular item of the academic curriculum concern you as a United States senator? Why would those holes matter?”
(Rick Santorum) “It has huge consequences for society. It’s where we come from. Does man have a purpose? Is there a purpose for our lives? Or are we just simply, you know, the result of chance? If we are the result of chance, if we’re simply a mistake of nature, then that puts a different moral demand on us. In fact, it doesn’t put a moral demand on us, than if in fact we are a creation of a being that has moral demands.”

I think Santorum’s statements are very typical of the popular misconceptions of evolution. And there are several interesting things he said that I’d like to point out.

But something I want to show first is an interesting thing Santorum didn’t say:

Just because he finds the idea of humanity being descended from previous species to be philosophically uncomfortable, that doesn’t refute the scientific evidence in support of evolution.

This logical fallacy is known as an appeal to consequence, in which one rejects an argument simply because it leads an uncomfortable consequence, regardless of the argument’s actual merit.

But Santorum’s philosophical implications of evolution are also misconceptions. Evolutionary theory and the process of natural selection are completely disinterested in human morality and purpose.

Wow, despite Santorum also being a slang word for the mixture of semen and fecal matter that results from anal sex, I’ve managed to say his name repeatedly without giggling.

(suppressed and strained straight-face)

A similar flawed entanglement of science and philosophy occured in the beginning of the last century with Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity.

Heheh, get it? Einstein? Entanglement? Nevermind.

Relativity is a very unintuitive concept in physics, and most people didn’t quite understand it and applied it irrelevant areas such as human morality. There were many people who opposed Einstein’s relativity because they thought it implied an endorsement of moral relativism.

Not really. All it said was that light travels at a constant speed regardless of any frame of reference, which leads to time dialation, spacial contraction, and other phenomena as an object’s velocity approaches the speed of light. It also dictates that it is impossible for matter to travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum.

Evolution isn’t quite as complicated, but it’s often misunderstood to imply that the development of humans from apes means humans are conscious-less, soulless animals without intellect or purpose.

Not really. All it describes is the gradual changes to the genes in a population in response to environmental pressures. It also dictates that over time new species arrise from these changes.

In the 1890s the term “social darwinism” appeared in the vernacular. It was term used by people colloquially known as “rich assholes” to justify racism, xenophobia, and widespread poverty. According to social darwinism, the upper class deserved their wealth because of their innate strength in climbing the social and finacial ladder. You could argue that the term didn’t have much to do with evolutionary biology, but at least it provided a convenient excuse to jail union leaders and use child labor.

(with overlay of handlebar mustache and monocole) Ha ha, inferior child, you will work in my coal mine.

“Survival of the fittest” was also misused as justification for eugenics, the philosophy that adovcates improving the human race through institutional intervention. Eugenics become unpopular in the 1930s and 40s when Nazi Germany decided to institute their idea of human improvement on a mass scale.

(wince)

All of this associates a lot of negative baggage with evolution, and while it has much to do with philosophy, politics, and sociology, it has nothing to do with biological science.

(caption: A supposition.)

I’m going to go out on a limb and make a supposition:

“There would be no popular controversy about the science of evolution and natural selection, if they did not imply that humans descended from apes.”

I think many people find discomfort with the idea that our ancestors of millions of years ago were primates, or single-cell microorganisms billions of years ago. And I think many theists are used to believing that their religion holds a monopoly as a source of moral behavior and values.

I disagree.

I don’t think we have a moral mandate because God said so. I think we have a moral mandate because our actions, nevertheless what we think, make a difference. We affect the people around us in material and emotional terms, and our actions set an example for others to follow.

We have a moral mandate to take responsibility because we are in the rare position among life forms on earth to think, reflect, and take consideration of consequence.
I think to fail to excogitate on our actions with our unique mental capabilities is tragic.
And we see the problems that arise out of this failure, both in problems of hurt emotions and damaged relationships, and in problems of brutal violence and conflict.

Our ancestory from millions of years ago doesn’t limit our intellectual capability to find solutions to these problems today.
It doesn’t impede our moral imperative to heal ourselves.
And, unlike what Rick Santorum says, it doesn’t remove purpose from our lives.

But many people don’t see it that way. And then evolution becomes an attack not only on our divine creation, but also one on our humanity.

And I think this is the reason there’s so much popular opposition to evolution.

I hope you consider the things I’ve had to say, and if you have anything to say to me, please leave a comment. A transcript of this video is available on my website at coffeeghost.net.

Take care, and thanks for watching.

If a watch points to a watchmaker, then...

By Dave, the WM

A look around at the tremendous variety, beauty, power, and complexity in nature can evoke admiration, awe, and wonder from even the most hardened cynic. Modern Christians often appeal to these emotions to argue the existence of a creator deity. Many Christians consider the arguments from nature to be powerful and convincing evangelistic, apologetic tools.

The concept of nature somehow proving the existence of god isn’t particularly new. In 1691, John Ray, one of the most eminent naturalists of his time, as well as an influential philosopher and a theologian, wrote, “The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of Creation.” One of the most popular books on the subject was written in 1802. Authored by William Paley -- British Christian apologist, philosopher, and utilitarian – the book was entitled Natural Theology, or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearances of Nature.” Paley is also the one credited with birthing the now famous Watchmaker analogy that is so often recited as some great “AHA” by Evangelical Fundamentalists.

To be concise, Natural Theology asserts that the vast complexity of nature points to a designer much in the same way a watch points to a watchmaker.

But is this line of reasoning really effective for proving the existence of Christianity’s god?

While a watch assuredly implies some sort of a watchmaker, it can also just as likely imply a whole group of watchmakers, or an apprentice watchmaker, or even a watch making machine. The “god” found through Natural Theology lacks any of the attributes associated with the god of the Christian Bible, and describes more accurately the god of Deism. And, by analogizing god as a watchmaker, the basis for the design argument rests on the premise that God behaves much like a human being.

But there are more points to consider:

1) We can easily confirm the existence of watch factories, watchmakers, etc. We also know that watches do not naturally occur and that watches are in fact made by people. We cannot, however, be sure whether the universe is really designed or not. There is no way for us to compare a designed universe with an un-designed universe. We have no reference point, no measuring stick, and no knowledge about the matter.

2) The watchmaker argument is basically an argument from ignorance: “I cannot imagine how an intricate system could come about without an intelligent designer.” Therefore, god exists?

3) The argument from design seeks support from the emotions of awe and wonder rather than from reason.

Intelligent Design (ID) is nothing but a repackaged version of the old Natural Theology. ID purports to be scientific, but the fact that ID is primarily argued for in the courts of law and public opinion, rather than in scientific arenas, presents an interesting picture. Lately, the most vocal proponents of ID appear to have a clear political and social agenda which has nothing to do with science.

Further, ID explains nothing. If GOD, in a spontaneous act of design and creation brought the universe and all that is in it into existence, then that event wasn’t exactly natural. An event like that would be supernatural and miraculous. And by definition, supernatural, miraculous events are unexplainable. All we can do with a supernatural event is label it as supernatural. There is no way for us to explain things that lie outside of nature. In fact, should we actually explain a miracle, it is no longer miraculous.

For discussion:

If Intelligent Design lacks the ability to explain anything beyond simply saying the universe is inexplicable, what is the real point behind the rabid promotion of ID?

5/02/2008                                                                                       View Comments

The Age of American Unreason



On C-SPAN's Book TV, reason's Nick Gillespie recently sat down with Susan Jacoby, author of the new book The Age of American Unreason, to talk about anti-intellectualism on the right and left, trends in popular culture, and what Jacoby sees as a dangerous decline in the level of academic and political discourse.

From C-SPAN's description of the book:

In "The Age of American Unreason," Susan Jacoby offers a critique on American society and says that the combination of anti-intellectualism and anti-rationalism in American culture is becoming a serious problem. In the book she focuses on issues including society's addiction to mass media, ineffective educational systems, and religious fundamentalism.

It's a spirited and intense conversation between a cultural pessimist and a cultural optimist that lasts for about an hour.

5/01/2008                                                                                       View Comments

What Does Crime and Religion Have In Common?

By Bill Jeffreys

Every criminal act committed was done so for emotional reasons. No one acts rational and logical and then goes out and commits a crime. Yes, even serial killers have emotional reasons for the crimes they commit. They just don’t have guilt. It never is, "I just realized how logical it is for me to murder". It’s always some underlying emotionally based dysfunctional belief that they are acting upon.

Religion is very similar. No one goes out and follows god for reasonable and logical reasons because the foundation of religion isn’t based on accurate evidence, reason or logic. People don’t convert because of the supposed evidence. They convert for emotional reasons. They convert because it's supposed to make them feel better and give them hope.

If I remember my Christian stats correctly (when I was a Christian) most people convert in their childhood or youth when the brain is most susceptible to fantastical thinking. That was why we always targeted young people. They were more impressionable.

Why do ex-Christians practice morals and ethics if they don’t do so out of fear of hell or love of God? Because it is reasonable and logical to do so if you want to have friends and a good quality of life.

How many religious people are in jail or prison at any given moment vs. non-believers? Statistically, there are far more religious people in jail then atheists. I work with corrections clients, and I can tell you that many offenders, I speak with, have some sort of religious belief. Many of them are Christian beliefs. In my 12 years of working in the corrections field, I have only had one offender tell me that he didn’t believe in spiritual things. Do you know that the profile is for a sex offender? It’s a 40 something white educated male who attends church regularly.That should tell us something about the ability of spiritual beliefs to change people.

Does having a belief in a god make us a better person? Does going to church make us moral? Does following the Bible give us ethics? Not if you look at the statistics of people in church who commit crimes verses people who don't attend church or believe in a god.

Religion is mostly an emotional ride. It is a pseudo system that seeks to comfort people with false hope and control them with false guilt. In my experience, criminals and religious people do have something in common; their tendency to believe that just because they feel something that makes it true.