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Lying For Jesus [Part III – The Sneak-Attack Baptism]

Thursday September 10, 2009 3 comments

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

That’s Mark 16, verse 15 (KJV). It also happens to be the impetus behind Christians going out and knocking on doors at 9:00am on Sunday mornings. As bad as that is, I don’t have a problem with it. I think if they’re that compelled by an ancient book that can’t even maintain internal consistency, then bring it on.

What I’m not ok with is lying to gain converts. Deceiving children, no less. Lying to parents and the children in order to get a few more baptisms under your belt. I’m pretty sure Jesus doesn’t keep a scorecard, or a running tally on what church gets the highest number of baptisms or converts.

Last month (August 26, 2009) Breckinridge County High School (Kentucky) football coach Scott Mooney led a group of players from their school’s football team to see what he told the parents and children would be a “motivational speaker” and a steak dinner. What Mr. Mooney failed to mention to anyone was the fact that this “motivational speaker” was the pastor of his church, Ron Davis (Franklin Crossroads Baptist Church). And the “steak dinner” was, in fact, a mass baptism and the teammates were to accept Jesus Christ as their “Lord and Savior” as a way to, as coach Mooney said, “bring the team together.”

So coach Mooney used peer pressure to get all of those teammates baptized in his church. He lured them under a false premise of going to see a “motivational speaker.” Not only this, but he used a public school bus, with the expressed permission of superintendent of the district, Janet Meeks.

What seems to be at issue here is the fact that believers take Mark 16:15 and use it as an excuse to do whatever is in their power to force their religion on everyone they can, honestly or not, willfully or not. If you have to lie, cheat and deceive to get a few more converts, then all the better for the receiving church.

Thankfully, one of the teammates parents is considering legal action against the school district. A lawyer, Bill Sharp, from the ACLU was contacted and he said that…

The message conveyed to the students is there’s an official endorsement.

And also that…

There’s certainly a coercive element. He’s in a position of authority.

I think one of the biggest tragedies of all wasn’t even the fact that these kids were corralled into a big baptism fest. The biggest problem for me was the fact that when one of the kids was asked by his parents, after returning from the trip, what baptism actually means, he hadn’t a clue. This entire process was nothing more than a “getting saved” assembly line. Pump ’em through the system and get them into the fold as quickly as possible, before they realize what’s happened to them.

I think this is a big problem with the mentality of fundamentalist and evangelical Christians. They’ve got this mindset that they have to get everyone saved as quickly as possible. They just need to get as many people  as possible to say a certain prayer as quickly as possible, regardless of whether or not they understand what’s going on. The important part is that the person says the words just right.

Anyway, if all goes well and the parents follow through with their legal action, hopefully any faculty involved in this incident will be fired, including the coach and the superintendent.

The public school system is not a place to push your religion on children. And more importantly, without permission from their parents – and that means ALL of the parents… not just the Jesus lovers of the group.

My conclusion? Believers, stick to knocking on doors at 9:00am on Sunday morning. Keep your religion out of the school system. Also, Mark 16:15 doesn’t condone lying, cheating or deceiving in order to follow through with that verse. Remember the 10 Commandments? Bearing false witness?

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What Is Wicca? [An Atheistic Perspective]

Saturday August 22, 2009 10 comments

Introduction

I actually had a request to write about this topic. It’s not exactly my area of expertise, but I thought I’d give it a shot.

Now, I could go into a bunch of history, specifics as to what Wiccans believe and whatnot, but I think it would be a little redundant. There are plenty of sources for that on the internet. Wikipedia has a great article on Wicca.

My main purpose here is to give an Atheistic, or, maybe the more appropriate term might be Naturalistic, view of Wicca.

Nature-Based

Nature Wicca is referred to as a “nature-based” religion. What seems apparent are the common themes in Wicca that span many different religions. The idea of a trinity, for instance. Many Wiccans worship the “Triple Goddess;” the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone. We see this idea in Christianity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We also see this in Hinduism (the Trimurti); Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. (More info on various other trinities can be found here.)

Taking into account the very symbolic nature of these trinities, it’s worthwhile to mention that in its basic form, religion seeks to explain the world around us. As opposed to science, religion seeks to explain our world with decrees and absolute statements through divine revelation.

With that in mind, we can see that the Triple Goddess is symbolic of things such as the phases of the moon and stages of life. Attempts to anthropomorphize the world around us.

It is said that the origins of Wicca stem from various pagan beliefs which may have been around since before the Abrahamic religions came into existence.

These religions were developed long before scientific inquiry was the standard for proof of a claim. Before we understood as much as we do today about physics, Newtonian mechanics, relativity and even that the world is round. The standard explanation for anything in those times was that a god was in charge of the workings of nature.

We can see how these symbols of Wicca reflect that idea. Things such as the phases of the moon symbolized by the phases of life of a goddess.

Essentially, by “nature-based,” this means that everything in nature is anthropomorphized and brought to a level where everything around us is somehow expressive of some human quality. It gives everything a more personal quality, and where the feeling of “connectedness” stems from.

We can’t relate with trees, or the moon, or any other species on this planet outside of a human context. But, when we attribute human qualities to them, they soon become more relatable and filled with a certain “energy” which is, in its most basic sense, an emotional attachment.

Magic

Book Of Shadows A large part of the Wiccan religion is magic. Be it White or Black magic, Wicca centers around this practice.

As with any claims of paranormal activity, be it ghosts, ESP, dowsing, or magic, there is a huge burden on those who make these extraordinary claims to show evidence that these claims are real.

The problem with magic is that there is absolutely no evidence to support the idea that it actually works. The people who propose that magic works use vague terms such as “energy” and “intention” or “will.” These terms are meaningless, for several reasons.

The most basic of these reasons is that “energy” is nothing more than the potential to do work. This can be either kinetic or potential. Energy is not an invisible cloud floating around waiting for someone to tell it what to do.

If the proponents of magic intend to claim that it is anything more than kinetic or potential energy, then it is up to them to provide the mechanism for how it works. To simply say that it is mysterious, or that science cannot understand it is meaningless. Let me explain a little further.

To claim that magic can have an effect on the physical world intrinsically means that this “magic” must consist of something physical. I liken it to when people claim that ghosts can move objects in a room, or that ghosts can walk through walls. If a ghost can walk through a wall, then it obviously does not interact with the physical world.  This is also the same reason why ghosts cannot be visible. If it were visible, it would have to consist of some physical medium which could reflect light back into the eyes of the perceiver.

A ghost cannot walk through a wall, then in the same instance knock a cup off of a table. Those are two contradicting phenomena. It’s not just that I think it probably couldn’t happen. It is physically impossible, no matter what excuses you use. It violates the laws on which this Universe is based.

In this same way, magic cannot perform work and at the same time consist of something that is not physical. By necessity, any energy able to perform work is detectable by scientific instrumentation. At the end of the day, it all boils down to friction.

In order to perform work, or to actually affect the physical world, there must be friction. One surface against another. To open a door, there must be friction between your hand and the doorknob. To push a cup off of a table, there must be friction between your hand and the cup and the surface of the table. Even, as some magic spells claim, to affect emotions such as love, there must be friction in the brain, causing electric activity in the brain to be sparked by a transfer of electrons.

Any other use of the word “energy” outside of the realm of physicality and friction is simply a ruse to make a claim sound mysterious and beyond our comprehension, to bring the claim beyond the realm of questioning. The word “energy” used in this way is, again, meaningless.

Conclusion

While I am far from an expert on Wicca, there are some glaring similarities between it and many other world religions. The anthropomorphizing of nature, the idea of a trinity, forms of magic and spells and an overall manifestation of mystery around normal, everyday phenomena.

From a Naturalistic or Atheistic perspective, Wicca really is no different from any other religions except maybe for the fact that personal control over the environment is deemed possible through the influence of magic. In most other religions, this control over the environment is only possible through the influence of the godhead, or in the case of monotheism, the god of that particular religion.

Essentially, Wicca is another attempt to explain the world through supernatural means. A way to get easy answers to the complicated questions, such as the origin of the Universe.

A Case Against Objective, Transcendent Morality

Friday April 10, 2009 2 comments

Introduction

Do we really need God to give us our morals? No.

Do you disagree? Well, let me provide the evidence necessary to change your opinion.

In this essay, I intend to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that our ideas of morality stem not from some Divine Authority, but are merely value judgments based entirely upon the goals of the society in general.

To be more specific, morality is not an independent idea, something that exists abstractly, either objectively or transcendent to the human species.

Morality is a property of social structure, contingent upon the existence of a society. It is a manifestation of the desires of a group of people; not a Divine Mandate from a god in the sky.

Example By Analogy

Let us take logic, for example. Logic is, of course, a set of rules. But, to be clear, no one “came up with” or “invented” logic. Logic is the expression of a well-structured argument. People have discovered the properties of logic by discovering what makes for a good argument. What are the properties of an argument that can withstand scrutiny? These properties are what make an argument “logical.”

For an argument to be logical, it must obey certain rules. It must be devoid of logical fallacies. One cannot argue from authority, use ad hominem attacks, use post hoc reasoning, etc. These methods do not lead to rational conclusions, simply due to their illogical nature. They aren’t illogical because someone decided that they aren’t. They’re illogical because of their property of being illogical. They don’t possess logical properties.

This could possibly be because they do not deal with the facts and the evidence. Simply and clearly, logical thinking is merely the manifestation of a sound argument. Logic does not exist on its own, independent of the arguments that it governs.

If there were no people debating, making claims or arguing about anything, logic would not exist. Logic is contingent upon the premises and conclusions it governs.

How Does This Apply To Morality?

Morality is to human behavior as logic is to premises and conclusions. Morality is a property of human behavior. We require sound argumentation to have a foundation for reality. For society to exist the way it does, there are certain things that must or must not take place; things which morality governs.

Morality would not exist without humans valuing one behavior over another. To be more specific, morality is an abstract manifestation of the goals of a society or social structure.

This is evident by the fact that there are countless cultures on our planet. Each has their own rites, rituals and ceremonies (morals) which express the values of that particular society.

For example, the ancient Aztecs practiced Cannibalism. American culture views this act as “immoral.” But, for the Aztecs, it was part of their way of life. It expressed the goals of that society. For them, the property of “morality” was associated with Cannibalism; it was contingent upon their values.

Some Islamic cultures punish stealing with the cutting off of the hand. Many cultures view this as immoral. Yet, it is moral and, in fact, just in the eyes of these people to administer this type of punishment.

It all has to do with value judgments. What does one culture value as compared with another?

To reinforce this point, it should be mentioned that a society does not “crumble” if certain morals aren’t followed. It simply becomes a different society with different moral properties. Those who claim that society will crumble are merely afraid of society not valuing what they value any longer.

The Conflict

Conflict arises when one culture believes that it possesses absolute Truth, or that its values take precedence over the values of another culture. When one culture collectively looks down on another culture for not having their same moral values.

This happens prominently in religious circles. Pride is the driving force. Christians and Muslims feel that their view of reality (AKA: their God’s view of reality) takes precedence over the values of any other worldview, and therefore, these “other” worldviews are incorrect. Consequently, these other cultures are deemed to deserve eternal punishment for their difference in value judgments.

God And Morality

When invoking God in the moral argument, there are only 2 paradigms available. Either (a) God is the one who decides what morality is, or (b) morals are transcendent and even God is subject to them.

If one is to adhere to the former idea (a), that God is the ultimate judge of what is moral, then God (the Biblical God) is a hypocrite. The book of Job is a perfect example of this.

What is God’s reason for allowing Satan to bring all of the horrible things described in the Bible to befall Job? It was not for any evil that Job had done.

(Job 1:6-12 KJV)

1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.

1:7 And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.

1:8 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

1:9 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?

1:10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.

1:11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.

1:12 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.

It is made plain at the very opening of this book that Job had not sinned. Yet, God still allows evil to happen to Job. Why is God doing as Satan asks??

On the other hand, if one was to assume that morality is transcendent, beyond God; that God is subject to this morality, one would have no choice but to deem God as evil. One cannot read about all of the genocide and horrid acts done by the command of God in the Bible and still conclude that these acts are moral in any way, shape or form.

Conclusion

It is quite clear that morality is merely a manifestation of the desires of a group of people. Groups with different desires have different “moralities;” different value judgments.

To claim that one’s values are better or have more Truth value is to impose one’s views upon others. Arrogance in the highest degree.

The Golden Rule is usually a great place to start in considering moral values. But, even the Golden Rule is not universal. Consider the argument ad Hitlerium: would you treat Hitler the way you would want to be treated? Of course not. It would not be moral.

I think the main point I want to make here is that there are no demonstrably universal moral values; values that hold for every person, under every circumstance. And I think this argument strikes a very hard blow to the argument that there are objective or transcendent moral values.

I would only conclude that it’s possible that I’m completely incorrect here, but it would take a lot of convincing. That would mean evidence and logical arguments. In other words, arguments with logical properties. Feel free!

Anyway, read a book. It’s good for you.

Categories: All, God, Philosophy, Religion

An Atheist (Me) Reviews The Qur’an

Thursday March 12, 2009 100 comments

Introduction

Ok, so I finally finished reading The Qur’an. It took entirely too long. Just a little over 3 weeks. I suppose the fact that The Qur’an is basically the same things said over and over again didn’t help matters. It was just plain boring. It may sound disrespectful, but it’s absolutely true. The Bible was at least much more interesting with the whole storyline and plot.

There’s no plot or storyline with The Qur’an. It sort of reminded me of a journal or a diary. As thoughts came to Mohammad, he would write them down, whether they dealt with things from a week ago, a year ago, or yesterday.

In fact, I have a translation of The Qur’an by J.M. Rodwell, and in the introduction, he states…

It was, in fact, at first not a book, but a strong living voice, a kind of wild authoritative proclamation, a series of admonitions, promises, threats and instructions addressed to turbulent and largely hostile assemblies of untutored Arabs…To speak of the Koran is, therefore, practically the same as speaking of Muhammad, and in trying to appraise the religious value of the book one is at the same time attempting to form an opinion of the prophet himself.

I must say, though, that if I were to throw my hat into the religious circle, I’d probably believe The Qur’an over the Bible.

The Qur’an VS The Bible

The Qur’an largely agrees with everything in the Bible. The Bible is even in some instances referred to as a “Luminous” book in The Qur’an. The main difference between The Qur’an and the Bible is that The Qur’an does not recognize Jesus as being equal with, or one with God. And this makes more sense from a monotheistic perspective.

The Qur’an denies the doctrine of The Trinity. And, I have to agree. God can’t be one and three at the same time. That’s called polytheism – in The Qur’an and to anyone with common sense.

Also, there is no “salvation” to speak of in The Qur’an. There is no mysterious rite of passage involving saying a certain set of words (being “Born Again”). As long as you are faithful, do good deeds and obey The Qur’an, you will get to Heaven. Again, I think this makes more sense.

The Qur’an On Its Own Merits

Now, I may have done a lot of “agreeing” in the previous section. But, that does not mean that, on the whole, I think The Qur’an is a good book. Quite the opposite. It’s just as bad, and in some cases worse, than the Bible.

First of all, women are treated as property. Take, for example, Sura 4, entitled “Women,” verses 35-38…

35 Thus, virtuous women are obedient, and preserve their trusts, such as God wishes them to be preserved.

36 And those you fear may rebel, admonish, and abandon them in their beds, and smack them.

37 If they obey you, seek no other way against them.

38 God is Highest and Mightiest.

And this is the attitude taken toward women throughout The Qur’an. How anyone could think that, were there a perfect and loving God, He would want His most beloved creation treated in this fashion? Hardly.

Slavery also plays a big part in The Qur’an. Go to this site and do a search for “slave.” Verse after verse of rules and regulations regarding the keeping and managing of slaves. Not really much different than the Bible, except that the Qur’an goes into more detail in these matters.

Aside from these two issues, The Qur’an is incredibly monotonous. Over and over again, you hear the same stories. Noah and the Ark, Abraham and Isaac, Lot, Pharaoh, etc. Old Testament stories. It would have been fine once or twice, but these stories are repeated over and over throughout the entire Qur’an. We are constantly reminded that these stories are a “remembrance,” and a “reminder” to those who believe.

One would be hard pressed to find a publisher today who would even take a second glance at The Qur’an, had it been initially published today. You can’t just write the same things over and over again and expect it to sell.

I also like the contrasts (contradictions?) in the verses of The Qur’an. For instance, a verse would talk about the horrible torment and torture that await the sinners, and then the verse ends with, “God is All-Compassionate, All-Forgiving.” It’s interesting, to say the least. He doesn’t see to be All-Forgiving. Maybe it should say Mostly-Forgiving, or A-Lot-Of-Forgiving. Not ALL-Forgiving, because He’s obviously not forgiving ALL.

On another note, how one could justify an All-Compassionate God would create an eternal place of torment for people who’ve only been alive for around 80 years… it’s flabbergasting. Maybe God is simply Somewhat-Compassionate, or Kinda-Compassionate, or even Not-Very-Compassionate.

Let’s put it this way. How is it at all compassionate or just to consciously torment a human being for anything they’ve ever done for a time that amounts to longer than they were alive??? Hitler could not have dreamed of such atrocity, such injustice. There is nothing you can say that will convince me otherwise. No excuse you could throw at me that would make me think that Hell is a just punishment for anything.

Conclusion

I know this is hardly a complete critique or review of The Qur’an. But, these are only my initial impressions after reading it through once; one translation. If you’re looking for a good, thorough critique of The Qur’an, there’s a great one here.

It is very thorough and filled with a lot of useful information.

And one final thing. Everyone always talks about how martyrs are destined to have 72 virgins and whatnot… that this is the reward for dying for the cause of God. Well, this isn’t accurate. It’s actually found in Sura 78:31-36…

31 But, for the God-fearing is a blissful abode,

32 Enclosed gardens and vineyards;

33 And damsels with swelling breasts, their peers in age,

34 And a full cup:

35 There they shall hear no vain discourse nor any falsehood:

36 A recompense from thy Lord – sufficing gift!

No mention of virgins, or even dying or killing infidels. Just those who “fear God.” They get to victimize women is the afterlife just like The Qur’an allows them to do in this life. Women, if you really accept The Qur’an, realize that this is what God has in store for you throughout eternity. You are the property of a man on Earth as well as in Heaven. It’s barbaric and sick.

Anyway, that’s about all I’ve got for now. Let me know what you think.

Read a book. It’s good for you.

Does It Help To Believe God Did It?

Saturday January 31, 2009 1 comment

Introduction

The other day I was listening to an episode of The Infidel Guy. Specifically, the episode where Reggie was debating Kent Hovind, the Intelligent Design (Creationist) whacko.

Following that 2-hour debate, my thoughts began to wander over the next few days. Hovind’s basic premise is that God created the world in 6 literal days. He also claims that this is Christian “Science.” His Young Earth Creationism is “science” in his mind.

Hovind says Creationism is science. But, I think he fails to understand what exactly science is. He says that there’s no evidence to support evolution. Yet, he provides no evidence to support God creating the world in 6 literal days. He even admits, on the show, that belief in Creationism is faith-based. Although, he also claims that “belief” in evolution is faith-based.

There’s a huge, glaring problem with his analysis, though…

Applications Of Creation Science

At the very end of the show, a geneticist called in, asking Hovind if he thought his ideas were scientific. He, obviously, replied that they were.

And this is where religion and science part ways. One of the main objectives in science is to create real-world applications from its discoveries. And, in order for that to happen, theories in science have to be able to make predictions.

When pressed for answers, or more precisely, pressed for a scientific application that could be used from knowing God created the world in 6 literal days, Hovind repeatedly danced around the issue, refusing to answer the question.

And with good reason. There is no real-world application from knowing God created the Earth in 6 literal days. In fact, it would hinder science to even consider that premise.

There’s no way you can use that information to better the human condition, or to generate new technology – in contrast with understanding the principles behind modern medicine and biology (based entirely on evolutionary theory), which provides us with cures for diseases and bettering of the quality of life for humans. Not a common trait of religion.

There is nothing about religion and the “scientific” claims that it’s proponents put forth that can make any predictions about any physical phenomena.

In science, plate tectonic theory predicts how continents will move over time, Germ Theory describes and predicts how diseases behave, and then, of course, there’s the good old Theory Of Gravity and Evolutionary Theory.

Creation “science” can predict nothing.

God Is Not Exempt From Logic

Let’s assume God did, in fact, create the Earth in 6 literal days. Ok. Fine. That doesn’t answer any questions.

How did God do it? Who created God? Is it turtles all the way down? You can’t assume that the Universe is too complicated to just have formed on its own, yet conclude that a God with infinite powers could just have always been. It’s absurd. As Bertrand Russell said in Why I Am Not A Christian

If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument. It is exactly of the same nature as the Hindu’s view, that the world rested upon an elephant and the elephant rested upon a tortoise; and when they said, “How about the tortoise?” the Indian said, “Suppose we change the subject.

The Idea Of God Does Not Advance Science

Back to the question posed for Hovind. Are there any applications in “Creation Science” that can be used in real-world situations which will enhance our understanding of the Universe?

No. There aren’t any. And this is why science is, in an epistemological sense, superior to religion. It serves no purpose to consider God in the lab, or in any scenario where we are searching for knowledge and understanding. In fact, it hinders progress.

Let’s take electricity, for an example. What do we understand about electricity? We know how it flows, we know which materials conduct and resist it. We know, basically, everything about it, with this knowledge coming mostly from Atomic Theory. And what role does God play?

None.

What would happen if we tried to insert God? Well, nothing. What role would God play? Essentially, a believer would simply say, “Electricity works that way because God made it work that way.” This doesn’t help matters.

But, Maxwell was able to determine exactly why electricity works the way it does with his equations. And if you look closely, you’ll notice in those equations that the name “God” doesn’t appear anywhere in there. And yet, they still manage to explain everything perfectly. God is not needed to explain these things.

Take No Thought For Tomorrow

So what does this all mean? Essentially, the basic premise behind Creationist arguments is that things are the way they are because God did it. But, in the lab, that answer is not enough. We need to know the why’s and how’s. To simply insert magical thinking distorts and confuses matters. If there is a God who can reach in and “mess with” our test results, then the result is chaos. We couldn’t rely on any observations simply because we wouldn’t know if God is messing with things.

In science, we have to assume there is no God messing with things in order to get accurate results. To extrapolate this further, to common, everyday experience, we have to live life assuming there is no God in order to function. We can’t depend on a God to “make things right,” or to hope he will take care of us. If we were to take the Bible’s advice (Matthew 6:28-33), in the words of Jesus…

28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek: ) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you…

It’s impossible to live that way. No one, in reality, lives life like God is going to take care of everything. That mind-set is saved for Sunday morning. When one is sitting in the pew, safe from having to make any decisions.

No one walks into a busy street without looking both ways because they’ve decided to “take no thought” for tomorrow. You might seek first the kingdom of Heaven, but in the meantime, you should probably look both ways before crossing the road. The laws of physics don’t stop for God.

You have to look out for yourself. God is not going to do it for you. That type of thinking is dangerous.

Conclusion

I could go on, but I’m heading toward the topic of Free Will, and it’s not something I want to get into right now. What I will do is say that I’m open to criticism and constructive dialogue. If I’m wrong, tell me.

But, don’t expect me to just take your word for it. I’ll need evidence. Show me where I’m wrong. Don’t tell me that I don’t have enough “faith,” because that is not an answer. You have faith in Jesus, and another person has faith in Allah, and someone else has faith in Krishna. They are all equally faithful and they can’t all be right. And, in fact, they’re all on equal footing. The best any of these groups can do is claim “faith.”

And faith is not, contrary to popular opinion, a virtue. Belief in something for no other reason than because you choose to is not a valid reason. At least, not in terms of using that reason to convince others that they, also, need to believe. There needs to be some type of evidence. Some tangible reason to accept a belief system. You wouldn’t take a pill Phizer created just because you’ve got “faith” in the drug’s effectiveness. Where are the results of the clinical trials?

Ok, so that’s enough for now. I’ll end with that.

Read a book. It’s good for you.

“Darwin On Trial” By Phillip Johnson [More Lying For Jesus]

Saturday December 20, 2008 Leave a comment

First off, I’m not here to write an extensive review of this book; exposing all of the false, misleading or incorrect information contained in it. Eugenie Scott, of  National Center for Science Education (NCSE) fame, already wrote an excellent review doing just that.

I’m here simply to express my frustration with what I perceive as great intellectual dishonesty (lying for Jesus).

I suppose one of my main problems with Johnson’s thesis is that he doesn’t offer any alternatives to evolution in his book. Well, no alternatives other than magic (God).

He also plays a good bluff. You’d think, with his apparent extensive knowledge of evolutionary biology, that his case is quite relevant. This is not so. He merely states the same old misconceptions in a more eloquent, sophisticated manner. He is a lawyer, after all (Truth Modification Engineer?). One of my favorite quotes in Scott’s review of Johnson’s book says:

Johnson has grasped the general picture of evolutionary biology, and even some of the details, but he lacks the deep understanding that is required to make the criticisms he makes. A deep understanding of a field comes from careful study of relevant literature, including primary sources, and communication with specialists in the field.

Johnson also quotes heavily from the “big names” in evolutionary biology, such as Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins. But, his quotes aren’t taken from the biological literature found in journals. They’re found in writings these men provide for a layperson audience. And, taken out of context, these “simpler” renditions could look suspicious to the layreader. Scott says…

…but the works Johnson cites are usually those written for laypersons, such as Gould’s Natural History columns. A casual reader would necessarily miss a great deal of the detail and nuance of the arguments, though perhaps acquiring an understanding of the broad sweep of contemporary evolutionary science.

And I think this is wherein lies Johnson’s hopes. He hopes that the average layperson will take his arguments at face value. That no one will take the time to investigate what’s been said. To take the time to really critique his arguments. And he’s got a pretty good chance of that happening, to a large degree.

It would take the average person countless hours to thoroughly research and learn all of the various nuances and details involved; the sheer depth of effort required to grasp the current state of evolutionary biology is not something you can do in an afternoon.

Johnson’s got the easy job. Make a complicated subject seem easy to understand, poke holes in his misunderstood conceptions of that subject (the Straw Man logical fallacy), and convince those who don’t understand the subject to begin with that he knows what he’s talking about.

I mean, think about it. Seriously. People in this field spend their lives studying this material. They’re out in the field analyzing, pouring over countless fossil samples, looking at all of the evidence and actually placing it in context. Not only that, but the peer-review process is grueling. Their fellow scientists are looking to poke holes in their work all along the way – contra to what Johnson claims in his book. So they’d better make sure what they claim stands up to scrutiny. They don’t need Johnson’s illegitimate criticisms along with all of that.

And yet, Johnson thinks he’s going to put all of this research to rest with a single book? How arrogant. You couldn’t possibly give a thorough, honest, accurate account of the “flaws” or “errors” in any field in a 170-page book. This whole thing wreaks of lying for Jesus. Like there aren’t enough examples of that to go around.

This is why we need more scientists to be “popularizers.” People who bring science to the public. To help people to understand what science is all about. To show the masses that science isn’t some secret ritual that takes place in a laboratory, where the priests and bishops are men in white coats privileged to esoteric information. That with a little effort, one can grasp concepts like evolution for what it is, from a scientific perspective.

Granted, you probably won’t know enough to be an evolutionary biologist, but what you will know is enough to understand the arguments and whether or not a criticism is likely or not to be valid.

On that note, although I didn’t like this book, I recommend you read it to get a feel for what the current state of Intelligent Design (Creationism) logic is. It’s quite informative.

Read a book. It’s good for you.

Adventures In Christian Radio [Part I]

Saturday December 13, 2008 10 comments

Introduction

Every once-in-a-while I like to dabble in points of view other than my own. Especially when it comes to religion. I wouldn’t be able to consider myself an Atheist if the only thing I knew was Atheism. Makes sense, right? Can’t say the same thing for most, let’s say, Christians.

Take, for example, the book I’m reading right now: Darwin On Trial by Phillip Johnson. I can’t say that I’m enjoying it, but I’m at least taking a stab at it with an open mind. Do you know of any Christians reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins? Reading books which speak badly about God is a sin. It’s only a step above the original Church position of keeping the common man from reading anything at all… the pre-Martin Luther (The Father Of Protestantism) days. Pre-religious totalitarianism, mental slavery days. You know, the whole burning of and killing of “witches,” people who think the world is round, people who work on Sunday, children who disobey their parents.

If you have any questions about these things, read the book of Deuteronomy. You can get the gory details for yourself. In fact, here’s a quote from EvilBible.com:

The act of murder is rampant in the Bible.  In much of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, there are laws that command that people be killed for absurd reasons such as working on the Sabbath, being gay, cursing your parents, or not being a virgin on your wedding night.  In addition to these crazy and immoral laws, there are plenty of examples of God’s irrationality by his direct killing of many people for reasons that defy any rational explanation such as killing children who make fun of bald people, and the killing of a man who tried to keep the ark of God from falling during transport.  There are also countless examples of mass murders commanded by God, including the murder of women, infants, and children.

And if you’re one who says that “that’s in the Old Testament. Jesus made it so we don’t have to do that anylonger,” then you haven’t really read the Bible. In particular, Matthew 5:17-19:

17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

That’s right… even the least of commandments. Killing your kid when he or she talks back to you.

Anyway, back on topic. Any other worship than Jesus and reading the Bible is considered “Devil Worship.” If you don’t believe what they believe, you’ve already been classified and shelved away – your opinion summarily blocked out. And how can they possibly do that? Not being well versed in any other opinion other than their own? They can’t. And that’s what makes a good portion of the Christian community ignorant. It’s also arrogant to assume knowledge of absolute truth.

Anyway, the point of this entry is to talk about some things I heard on my local Christian radio station last night: WZXV – “The Word Radio.” So let’s get to it…

Humans Cannot Reason For Themselves

This first particular segment contained a whole bunch of psychological woo-woo nonsense. Not that the second segment didn’t. But this particular brand of woo-woo seems, to me, to be very detrimental to mental development.

A woman called in asking for some advice. She wasn’t sure about where God wanted her to go in life. She wasn’t sure which path in life was “in His Will.”

This seems incredibly weak-minded, to me. And, while this isn’t the main point of this subsection, I will say that it seems people use Christianity as a way to avoid dealing with problems or issues in their life. Christ will shoulder your burden; you don’t have to.

Where should you be going in life? I don’t know. No one does. Go where you want to go. That’s part of being a human. Making your own choices. Not leaving it up to some invisible man in the sky. I think that’s what an intelligent, loving God would want for you. Toughen up and deal with your problems.

I understand that people desire to feel stable, in control, safe. But, when you go to lengths of creating false mental constructs to support your instability, only bad things can result. Where does “God” want you to go in life? It’s a recipe for destruction.

The host went on to tell a story about a recent event between her and her child. This is the part that really disturbed me. The following was her method for determining “what God wants” in your life.

She talked about how her child, one night before bed, said, “Mommy, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the Lord speak to me before.” She responded that certainly, her child had heard him. The child responded with, “No, I don’t think so.”

Skip forward to the next day.

The child apparently grabbed a golf club from the garage and proceeded to hit bark (tree bark?) in the back yard, knocking a big piece through a window.

When sitting down with her child, she asked if he heard a voice inside saying, “You shouldn’t be doing that?” When her child responded back in the affirmative, she stated that that voice was, in fact, “the Lord.”

Now, what’s wrong with that? A lot of things. First of all, it establishes in the child’s mind that sense of shirking responsibility, of developing false mental constructs.

Instead of telling her child the TRUTH, that the voice he was “hearing” was himself… that he already knew that he shouldn’t be doing what he was doing, she decided to let “the Lord” take credit for that tendency to do right.

This is a turn for the worse in this child’s life. Instead of realizing that he knew the right choice to make all on his own… instead of cultivating that; his mother is telling him, essentially, that he has no idea what the right thing to do is, and he has to depend on “the Lord” for making right decisions. He can’t rely on himself any longer. He has to wait for signs from “the Lord” to do anything. Essentially rendering him mentally impotent.

And what form does “the Lord” take? In the Christian community, it could be a pastor telling you to give money to the church. It could be a “Christian Academic” telling you that evolution has no evidence to support it, and to ignore any other points of view – declaring them “the Devil’s work.” There are endless other forms of mental slavery that this leads to.

Christians Still Resort To Bronze-Age Superstitions

This second segment was of particular interest to me. It was about a group of people who were planning an outdoor viewing of The Jesus Movie for a large group of teenagers.

Now, I’d never heard of the Jesus Movie before, but apparently it’s a pretty significant film. The site has this to say about it:

Every four seconds, somewhere in the world, another person indicates a decision to follow Christ after viewing the “JESUS” film.

Every four seconds… that’s 21,600 people per day, 648,000 per month and more than 7.8 million per year!  That’s like the population of the entire city of Seattle, WA, coming to Christ every 27.5 days.  And yet, if you are like most people, you may have never even heard of it.

Called by some “one of the best-kept secrets in Christian missions,” a number of mission experts have acclaimed the film as one of the greatest evangelistic tools of all time.  Since 1979 the “JESUS” film has been viewed by several billion people all across the globe, and has resulted in more than 225 million men, women and children indicating decisions to follow Jesus.

Those are some pretty mind-blowing stats. I wonder where they came up with them? I’m sure they aren’t lying for Jesus, or anything like that. That would be dishonest. I bet they don’t lie for Jesus in that movie, either.

Anyway, let’s get to the real meat of this story. This radio segment was presented as one of those “Breaking News” type of things. Like a “FOX News Alert” or something. And you won’t believe what they had to say.

Allegedly, where they were showing this film, there was a witch doctor who didn’t want the film to be shown in the community. And, also allegedly, this witch doctor made it rain every time they tried to have this gathering.

A witch doctor? Are you kidding me? Absolutely incredible. Magic spells and everything. I bet if they turned on the Weather Channel, they would have known about the witch doctor’s “magic spells” ahead of time.

Upon further research, I’ve found this witch doctor mentioned several times on the Jesus Film website. Here and here.

I must say, the story about the witch doctor “turning to Jesus” is priceless. After probably a lifetime of doing magic spells, he all of a sudden believes in Jesus after watching some movie? My “lying for Jesus” sense is tingling.

Conclusion

What nonsense. Absolute nonsense. And people ask what the harm is in believing in the “supernatural.” What harm can it do for people to believe in, and take literally, a book written 2,000 years ago, deeply rooted in magical thinking?

This is the harm it can do.

People believing in utter lunacy (witch doctors changing the weather), and disillusioning themselves. Teaching their children that their own conscience, their own sense of reasoning, of right and wrong, is actually “the Lord” speaking to them.

Lying. Deceiving. Anything to get a few new converts to Christianity. And for what? Does it boost our ego? To have another join the flock. Does it make people feel better when they rope in another convert?

I almost wonder why I even bother listening to Christian radio. It honestly makes me angry hearing these types of stories. It’s almost as though these people have such utter disregard for actual truth, that they’re willing to say or do anything in the name of Jesus; regardless of the negative impact it has on those around them… especially their children.

If it were up to me, religion wouldn’t even be allowed to be taught to children until they were 18. And it’d be a different world if that were the case. If they were actually allowed to understand what they were having shoved down their throats.

Try telling someone of sound mind and body, and of legal age that their sense of right and wrong is “the Lord” speaking to them, or that witch doctors change the weather because they don’t  like a Jesus movie. Good luck with that one, buddy.

You’re better off taking advantage of little children who don’t have the capability of understanding. Get them while their heads are still soft enough to shove that crap in there.

Ok, so that’s enough of my rant. And yes, I do get a little upset about this type of garbage. Probably because I used to be a Fundamentalist Christian; it upsets me to see how deceived and duped I was. This is how I release some of that anger.

So anyway, read a book. It’s good for you.