Monday, May 31, 2010

Pricks and Self-Reflection

This is just my point of view on people as I see it now and is in no way, shape, or form endorsed (to my knowledge) by any humanistic, naturalistic or atheistic philosophy for the treatment of people around us. It simply points to the fact that I can now judge people clearly, and as I see fit, without having to think about absurd notions like the mythological satan with his pitchfork and hell as a repercussion in the process of coming to a conclusion about the character of others. Atheism frees us of worrying about being overly sympathetic and being victimized by people that love to belittle us or treat us like lesser than. This isn’t so much established in the Bible because the Bible is so noticeably contradictory on how we should treat others. Am I supposed to gouge their eye out if they gouge mine out, or am I supposed to expose my other eye to be gouged out as well? It’s really this whole modern misconception of who Jesus was, if he existed at all, that leads us to false conclusions on how Christians should treat others. Jesus is the one who told his followers that they have to HATE, and yes the Greek translation is hate, their family if they want to follow him. Luke 14:26. Jesus is the one who endorsed the infamous OT and said that we should follow it to the letter. Matt 5:18-19. Jesus is the one that said that he came not to send peace but a sword. Matt. 10:34. He told his followers to buy a sword, and to sell their garment to acquire one if they couldn’t otherwise afford it. Luke 22:36. He encouraged people to act in ways that brings about persecution. Matt. 5:11. He encouraged men to avoid women altogether. Matt 19:12. He elegantly called Jews the "sons of the Devil" which has resorted in untold numbers of deaths and further destructive ideology. John 8:44.

The 21st century Jesus is yet another made up figment of humankind’s imagination. This Jesus wouldn’t do anything that is unfair or immoral. This Jesus is all about love, acceptance, turning the other cheek, forgiveness, and bending over backwards to help others. He is nothing more than the reflection of our modern Christianized culture that has chosen to distort what the gospels say about Jesus to fit their mold of "goodness".

As a nonbeliever and freethinker, I can discard this whole notion of turning the cheek and allowing others to walk all over me as I offer forgiveness ad infinitum. As most believers think, I used to believe that I needed to be forgiving and understanding of those that treat me like garbage. They were just under the influence of Satan. I couldn’t just label someone as a prick even if all of the evidence was abundantly clear. Some people do have bad days, or even weeks, but then there are those who have been pricks for so long that they’ve made it a habit of living. Maybe this is bad logic, but I can just “smell” one within the first few minutes I’m around them. (You know the type) In my opinion, I find the most unfavorable personalities in the working environment. We really see what people are made of when the situations around them become quite stressed or just too monotonous. They are often very hypocritical, beyond criticism, narcissistic, belittling and patronizing towards those whom they view as little more than peons. I have a special contention for people that treat others as if they are better than them simply because of their education level, seniority, age, looks, or personal income. I don’t have to pretend to like people who demonstate such vitriol anymore. Obviously, in the work arena, I still have to be civil enough toward them, but I’m never going to be a brown noser. Call it a chip on my shoulder, but I’m willing to do things the hard way if it means that I don't have to go out of my way to be nice. Unlike others, I’m not motivated by prestige, fame, power or money. Call it the “introvert Advantage”. I don’t really have to play by their rules.

I can honestly say that I never try to bully others or make them feel incompetent because I know how it feels. I thank my newfound unbelief as a way of freeing me to see others for whom and what they really are. I treat everybody with a blank slate. As an introvert, I tend to mirror what they initially do and say to me first. I let the other person make the first move. If I come in contact with another introvert, the process of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship may take quite a long time to develop, if it ever develops at all. To make a fair judgment of a person, I gather information about their behaviors and interactions with myself and others. Are they respectful to me? In conversation, do they belittle me or treat me like chattel? Do they do what they say they are going to do? Do they treat me as well around others as they do when we are alone? Are they arrogant and smug to people around them that don't brown nose? Do they have unreasonable expectations for me that I could not possibly meet given the circumstances? Are they eager and anxious to criticize when the opportunity arises? Are they down to earth or are they on their own narcissistic planet? Do they act like their own feces doesn't stink?

I just like the fact that I don’t have to deal with people’s b.s. and worry about being continually forgiving no matter what. I generally reserve that depth of forgiveness for my family only. It’s alleviating to know that people can be measured by naturalistic and logical evidence. I don’t need a contradictory and outdated book, or Christian’s to tell me how to treat others. I treat them the same way they treat me, regardless of their status of “superiority”. The golden rule, which predated Christ’s teaching on it, is still a pretty good rule of thumb although there are some exceptions.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

You're an Atheist!!!

Well, now my wife AND best friend know that I’m an atheist. My wife let my friend and his wife know about it despite not asking my approval beforehand. She told them that I have a blog, but none of them know how to access it. I didn’t come right out and tell her that I have a blog, but she figured it out as I was doing a lot of writing on my word processor. It was too much of a pain to keep that hidden from her if I wanted to really get a blog going. Plus, she has seen me reading other bloggers posts. Anyway, my wife and friend believe, like many people, that being an Atheist is akin to selling your soul to Lucifer and butchering a million babies. They use the A word like it’s a derogatory term but nothing could be further from the truth. I just don’t take things at face value any more without requiring some kind of proof in the process. Indeed, I believe that the Christian god should have extraordinary evidence to prove his existence. The Bible is laughably inadequate as a source of credibility. Blind faith is just a stupid concept, especially if it applies to believing in things which abandon any sort of credible reference point from which you can refer to. I haven’t seen any jaw dropping miracles in my life time, nor have I experienced many things that couldn’t already be explained by science. Admittedly, there are a few things that still boggle my mind. My mother recovered from a shoulder injury, which was going to require surgery, after we prayed together. Indeed, this does strike me as a bit odd. But, this doesn’t mean that we have to jump to the wild assertion that a supernatural deity must have been involved as a result.

My friend and I had an argument the other day which involved many factors including my lack of belief. It was a quick jab at my newfound disbelief but points to the issue that many atheists face as they break through the shackles of religious dogma. At one point in the argument, he stated, “you’re so smart, but now you’re an atheist”. Maybe, it’s more like, “I’m smart and being an atheist further proves the case”. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t consider myself to be the genius that I once may have been—not that I ever considered myself to be a genius. My mother said that my I.Q. was tested at 160 back in lower school but we know that most I.Q.s drift to the median as we get older. I dread to know what it is now as I can hardly do long subtraction or division by hand anymore. I’m out of practice and used to calculators doing my thinking for me. But I digress.

I think that being called an atheist is really a compliment in disguise. Your right, I don’t believe in a god that butchers children and infants. You can keep that kind of monstrous god all to your lonesome. You can keep the bigot who subjugates women to draconian laws to yourself, and the god who requires that people be burnt to death or stoned if their sexual preferences are contrary to the Hebrew god’s liking. You can have the god that requires rape victims to be stoned if they fail to cry out loud enough, and allows men to take women from other countries after killing their families. Eventually, they may very well end up having to sleep with the man who slaughtered their family. I don’t need to continue to follow a god that can only exist if science is some mass conspiracy that is hell bent on destroying this notion of god altogether. Science isn’t against Intelligent Design because it has a strong religious theme. They are against Intelligent Design because there is no evidence supporting it as it applies to the development of the species. We would have lost out on a multitude of discoveries if scientists would have simply said that god is the reason for everything and not sought out naturalistic explanations. No discoveries have ever pointed to a god once science has properly investigated these various areas of intrigue.

They can keep the god who has influenced so much unnecessary killing and violence throughout the ages. This is the same god who creates people whom he loves, but, then, purposefully destroys them for reasons that no rational being can understand. But, we’re told to just believe because his ways are greater than ours. He creates humans with the capacity to feel both physical and emotional pain. He purposefully created some humans with the foreknowledge that they would die a hideous and torturous death. Presumably, he didn’t try to numb any of the unnecessary pain they would feel in the process. Despite this injustice, he has them murdered for “sins” that they didn’t even commit. The Bible has many passages adhering to this absurd ideology of generational curses. Some passages are in favor of it, while other scriptures speak contradictorily against it.

So really, who is taking the moral high ground here? Call me a pacifist if you want, but I’m not going to kill anybody because someone tells me to. Especially, if he wants me to kill people that pose no immediate threat to my family or myself. In the Bronze Age, this was possibly a reasonable request from a heartless god. But, I think our morality has evolved and we have learned to get along with others despite their sexual preferences, gender or ethnicity. The Bible does not come across as a book that takes the moral high ground. A deity would surely have more sense than 21st century America. The famous Sermon on the Mount does not speak of a deity who has a supernatural grasp on wisdom. There are a multitude of passages that are disastrously ill-advised. Matt Dillahunty does a superb job of dissecting these passages at Jesus continues to assert that we shouldn't worry about our current circumstances and live for eternity. This sort of reasoning causes people to be lazy, lack foresight and encourages them to abandon concern as it applies to this life. He equates those that think lustfully upon a woman as adultery, and those that think angrily upon a brother as a murderer—otherwise known as Thought Crimes. Seriously, I’m to equate butchering a group of people with just being very angry with a group of people. I don’t think so.

Please continue to keep me in your atheistic prayers and reasonable thoughts as I continue to struggle to find resolution, clarity and genuine happiness with my position in this life. This life which is the only life we will ever know. Sadly, many will waste their entire life in hopes of a better one to come, but I don’t plan on doing that.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The New Atheism

Well, I just read through Victor Stenger’s book entitled, The New Atheism and must say that I was most impressed. This is not going to be a thorough review, but I will touch on some points of interest without doing the book the full justice it deserves. I’m not one to read a book in a single three hour sitting, but The New Atheism was simply too hard to put down. As a budding atheist myself, I’ve read some of Dawkins, Hitchens and others regarding multiple views on religious faith and the far reaching consequences religion has on humanity. I read Jerry Coynes, Why Evolution is True which is a very readable book on the facts of evolution, but I have yet to find a book as thoroughly digestible as Dr. Stenger’s. I viewed the majority of the debate between William Lane Craig and Stenger back in 2003 shortly after reading the book. I think Stenger did an admirable job, although I would say that Craig won stylistically. But, style without substance doesn’t add up to much more than bullshit.

Stenger does a good job of propping up his fellow atheists such as Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens and Dennett in the aforementioned book. Stenger has no problem including himself in the group as a “New Atheist”. The main thrust of the New Atheist seems to be this understanding that morality isn’t something that needs a god to develop and practice effectively. Also, religion is seen as a danger to society and scientific advancement. It hinders school children from learning factual scientific evidence for the existence of the universe, planet and ourselves. This is detrimental to America’s future as a scientific powerhouse. The fact that our last president based many decisions, including going to war in Iraq, on purely religious convictions is a frightening situation. Stenger argues that future presidents may do the same and ultimately lead America, and perhaps the world, into an irreversible and catastrophic situation. In a sense, the events on 9/11/2001 helped fuel the fire of the New Atheism agenda. They argue that the terrorists who flew planes into the twin towers were motivated purely by religious ideology. This is hardly a debatable point, though some would like to base their reasonings on politcal grounds to take the focus off religion as an unpeaceful way of living and viewing those around us.

Stenger argues that faith is a dangerous proposition which only gives people the excuse to harm others based on divine revelation from a god that is undetectable by any sort of scientific means of investigation. He desires to challenge people and their deep seated religious convictions regardless of the possibility of offending the believer. At the same time, he recognizes that all of these passionate debates can be done in a non-offensive and civil manner.

Stenger addresses the misconception of science requiring as much “faith” as religion. He makes it clear that science only allows itself to go where the evidence leads and holds no unsupportable biases. He discards the whole issue of ‘god of the gaps’ by appealing to a purely materialistic view of the universe, humanity and the mind itself. He addresses misunderstandings about The Big Bang that apologists often misinterpret to support their own blatant agenda. He shows that The Big Bang was not the beginning of the universe. He references Quantum Tunneling as a more realistic scenario and also appeals to a multiverse theory to counter Christian apologist ‘Fine Tuning’ arguments. Also, he points to the notion that other life may have formed under alternate conditions that didn’t under the present laws of this universe. In other words, other universes may exist or could exist with a different set of physical laws in place which allows evolution to take course in the given environment. Apologists will suggest that manipulating a single physical law will result in the universe being unable to function properly which points to this notion of fine tuning. Stenger argues that all parameters must be varied within a system to determine their effect as a whole which any noteworthy scientist should already know. It’s unreasonable to just adjust one parameter without adjusting the others.

I can’t remember if it was in the debate or book, but Stenger makes the observation that the Genesis account of creation is faulty because it gets the order of creation wrong. Scientists know that the earth was formed after the sun, moon and stars. Conversely, the Bible states that the earth was formed prior to the sun, moon and stars. This contradicts our current understanding of the development of the universe and planets-just an interesting tidbit I thought I would mention.

Stenger observes that the intelligent design movement, in an act of sheer desperation since science has filled most other gaps in, is trying to maintain that science can’t explain the mind so god still must exist. He argues that the mind is nothing more than the brain itself and simply consists of physical matter which I happen to agree. He points to various occurrences of seeing a “tunnel of light” as easily being mimicked by stimulating various regions of the brain or pointing to people who have trauma or stress applied to their brain. He believes that most of the out of body experiences people claim are basically scams. I think, under certain stressful situations, people can have out of body experiences that are easily recognized as naturally occurring phenomenon given the appropriate conditions.

He points to the inconsistency and barbarism of the god in the Bible as evidence against a divine author of morality. He argues that there is far too much suffering in the world for a divine and omni-benevolent god to be behind all of it; I couldn’t agree more. He gives a vivid analysis of Mormonism as it is one of the newer offspring’s of the Christian faith. He points to some grizzly events that took place in the not so distant past under the Mormon theology including the assassination of a rebelling woman and her, guilty by association, baby. They died because a Mormon decided to slit their throats as a God given directive via divine “revelation”. This illustrates the point that religion and violence go together and can evolve rather rapidly. A person can find it completely reasonable to slit a baby’s throat if God commands it. He also briefly points to some issues with Jesus and his failed prophecy found in Matthew 16:28 regarding him coming back before those who stood before him died.

He corrects the misconception that atheism caused Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot to kill massive numbers of people. He also correctly states that Hitler was not an atheist to begin with. He states that there simply are no atheist scriptures which ask its followers to kill others like the Bible or Quran do. He goes over the atrocities of the crusades, inquisition and other religiously motivated slayings like those perpetrated by Incas and Aztecs. The common denominator is always religion. Nobody ever kills because of their lack of belief in a god or gods.

He makes an appeal to some of the Eastern philosophies of living such as Buddhism, as does Harris, without taking the notion of reincarnation seriously. He calls it ‘The Way of Nature’, as a way of living for others and being less self-centered. This helps humanity accept the fact that there is no afterlife when they are able to take the focus off of themselves. But, he suggests that one should be free to live for themselves and how they want while they are still youthful and less focused on their own mortality.

He notes countries like Denmark and Sweden, who are 80% atheist, as examples of societies which are better off than countries which are primarily religious. Sweden doesn’t have near the police force that the U.S. has to have, yet it’s not uncommon for the some of their major cities to go a whole year with only a single murder occurring in that city.

Overall, an excellent read for the person trying to get a basic understanding of the atheist movement and many of the misconceptions Christians have about atheists in general. If anyone has any other book suggestions for someone like me, please feel free to enter them in the comment section. I've just started Robert Price's, Deconstructing Jesus so I’ll see if it’s worthy of posting about later.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Would You Schmucks Leave Darwin Alone

Let me start by saying that I’m not an expert when it comes to Biology or more specifically, Evolutionary Biology. I never had much interest in science until my faith was first put into question. Back in the day, I denied that evolution was true because I bought into what all the creationists and Fundamental Evangelicals had to say. A long lost buddy I recently got back in touch with, through the miracles of modern technology, helped lay down the facts of evolution for me. He helped me to see how there are volumes of research and peer reviewed evidence that consistently point to evolution as much more than just a theory. I came to understand that over 90% of scientists believe in evolution. I discovered that the world is not 10,000 years old but around 4.5 billion years old. The oldest living organisms are around 3.5 billion years old. I came to the conclusion that this is far from some mass conspiracy that these scientists are engaging in. In the last 150 years, there has been no evidence to suggest that evolution is not factual aside from the bald assertions of Creationist propaganda. There is the Intelligent Design movement, under the Discovery Institute’s helm, which makes claims that evolution is false, but fails to follow through with any valid research to back those claims. As a theist, I tried all the usual bogus creationist tactics like explaining that the Cambridge Explosion points to a creator, fossil records fail to point to evolution and no design can exist without a “designer”.

There is a disturbing trend among many Evangelical’s that really hacks me off. They refuse to look at scientific evidence and needlessly drag Darwin’s name through the mud in the process. Even as an admitted layman and newbie to evolution, I am really getting sick of certain segments of Christianity picking on Charles Darwin with a Red Herring. Charles Darwin has zero responsibility for what anyone does as a result of his theory, or how they use his theory to be applied in different areas of study. What Hitler did has no bearing on the truth or the lack of truth in regards to Evolutionary Biology. So please, stop trying to get people to hate evolution because of the fallacious assertion that Hitler exterminated millions of Jews based on Charles Darwin’s Theory.

I recently listened to a ridiculous podcast delivered by Hank Hanegraaff who is the president of the Christian Research Institute. I wonder if they understand what research means. He hosts the Bible Answer Man broadcast throughout the week and had Stephen C. Meyer on as one of the guests. The topic for the day was Darwin’s Dilemma which is a movie appealing to a supernatural causality for creation. Stephen C. Meyer, one of the founders of the Discovery Institute, states during the program that humans would seize to have moral responsibility or free will if evolution was true. Hank Hanegraaff goes on to state that Darwin’s theory is one of the most terrifying ideas in modern history. He blames many of the atrocities like Nazism on Darwin’s theory and believes that we are headed down a very slippery slope if we continue to embrace this “baseless theory”.

Creationists love to point to moral arguments, eugenics, Social Darwinism, and Nazism among other ideals as a way of demeaning Darwinism. None of these topics have anything to do with evolutionary biology. Furthermore, they conveniently leave out all of the atrocities directly connected to Christianity. They fail to point out that Anti-Semitism played a major role in the extermination of Jews under Hitler’s regime. They fail to point out that Hitler pointed to spiritual inspiration and Christian principles as a rationalization for exterminating the Jews. They fail to consider Martin Luther and his hatred for Jews as well. Here is a quote from Martin Luther’s On Jews and their Lies, “I have read and heard many stories about the Jews which agree with this judgment of Christ, namely, how they have poisoned wells, made assassinations, kidnaped children, as related before ... However, it all coincides with the judgment of Christ which declares that they are venomous, bitter, vindictive, tricky serpents, assassins, and children of the devil who sting and work harm stealthily wherever they cannot do it openly ... That is what I had in mind when I said earlier that, next to the devil, a Christian has no more bitter and galling foe than a Jew. There is no other to whom we accord as many benefactions and from whom we suffer as much as we do from these base children of the devil, this brood of vipers”. I fail to see how Hitler, a professing Christian, was less influenced by messages like this than on Darwinian Evolution. Hitler’s biographer, John Toland, wrote that Hitler “carried within him its teaching that the Jew was the killer of God”. Although debatable, there is some pretty significant evidence that Hitler was inspired and influenced by Martin Luther’s writings.

We can point fingers both ways when it comes to the evil influences Darwin or Christianity may have on society. But, Darwinian Evolution doesn’t make the moral claims that Christianity does. It’s not a theory espousing certain moralistic views of how to live. It’s a theory explaining how we evolved and how the other animals around us evolved into the species we see today. Morality is something humanity learns and perfects through time. I believe that each human has to decide what is morally acceptable in their own eyes and what attributes positively influence society. If they fail to make a reasonable judgment, the justice system will generally catch up with them or they will end up dead. There are certainly empathetic traits that are passed on generation to generation, for these traits help carry on a species which benefit from the possibility of reproduction and survivability of offspring. Stephen C. Meyer and friends assert that we are all just machines that are incapable of making choices for ourselves. We would all surely act like wild animals that couldn’t control our primitive cravings if it wasn’t for god’s providential existence. I can happily testify that he is simply wrong in the matter. Of course, there are many people within civilized and uncivilized parts of the world who act like wild beasts regardless of god’s presence or lack thereof. But, this is generally a part of their culture, genetic disposition and/or chemical wiring. If anyone acts like a savage beast, it would have to be the god of the Old Testament. This point really needs no further explaining. A cursory examination of the OT with an “outsiders”, unbiased view would lead most anyone to the same conclusion.

Meyer also claims that the Cambridge Explosion was a rather sudden occurrence which points to a serious dilemma for those supporting Darwinian Evolution. On the contrary, the Cambridge Explosion was not a “sudden” process at all. It took a period of 5-10 million years and some estimate that it took as long as 80 million years to unfold, so it’s more aptly called the “Cambridge slow fuse”. Coincidentally, there were transitional fossils discovered in the Cambridge Explosion and ancestral species discovered before the Cambridge Explosion like different kinds of sponges. The Lobopods, found within the Cambridge Explosion, are a transition between arthropods and worms. They were basically worms with legs.

They also made the worn out, fallacious assertion that there are no transitional fossils showing the in-between stages of a species. Despite how understandably difficult it is for fossil’s to form, we actually have been fortunate to find many significant fossils which are beautiful intermediates between different species. Tiktaalik is a transition between fish and tetrapods. Archaeopteryx is a transition between dinosaur and bird. Homo Erectus is one of our own ancestors. We have nearly two dozen fossils which display the various intermediates between ourselves and a common ancestor.

Natural selection better accounts for what appears to be design than a supernatural deity for whom there is no evidence to speak of. Species continue to differentiate themselves through a process called speciation. Some species, like the cockroach and crocodile, have remained virtually the same for millions of years. Evolution is not based on some random chance as many Creationists espouse but through natural and artificial selection. In the case of natural selection, non-beneficial genes of a species are weeded out when they fail to prolong the longevity of the given species in the particular environment in which they live. Thus, a new species emergences and the process repeats itself. In the case of artificial selection for example, scientists can manipulate the environment and feeding habits of fruit flies, and end up with two separate species of fruit flies which can no longer breed. Fruit flies are used because their life cycles are so short, and scientists can see evolutionary processes at work in a relatively small period.

When all is said and done, I just wish some of these buttholes would stop demeaning Darwin and the FACTS of evolution from a biological standpoint. You do not succeed in devaluing evolution just because it doesn’t speak to issues of morality and your book does, albeit quite inadequately I might add. You do not succeed by discrediting a large body of scientific evidence without supplying any peer reviewed research of your own. You can't win with an argument from ignorance. And, you can't go from a hypothesis to a fact without putting in the work. Where is the evidence Creationists? Charles Darwin was one of the most brilliant biologists to ever walk the face of the earth, and he deserves better than to be made out as some hideous monster. When it comes to genocide, nobody covers that vehement act better than the god of the OT and groups who have used the same philosophy throughout the ages.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Emotional Attachment and Christianity

The final dilemma one must consider before relinquishing all ties with Christianity is this issue with emotional attachment. During my final months as a Christian, I kept telling a specific fellow blogger that I just couldn’t let go because I had this emotional investment put into god. The way I saw it, he was this big buddy that was “closer to me than any brother”. He would watch out for me, and make sure favorable situations and circumstances came my way. He would be there for me during periods of hardship, and he would always pull me through each circumstance regardless of its level of difficulty. Could I really afford to risk losing everything by telling god to get lost? I mean, things were already dicey as it was. I was unemployed for over a year and not collecting unemployment (long story). I was desperately seeking some form of work after my stock trading fantasy fell through. Yes, I spent loads of money getting “expert” teaching on how to trade stocks like the “pros” from companies like Better Trades and Prosper. After a year, I had done nothing but create more and more of a loss. In other words, I could have worked at McDonald’s for the previous year and came out way ahead. Despite this, I continued to try to be a good little Christian and restrain myself from sinful indulgences. I continued to witness and argue for god’s relevance and existence. I thought that the old saying, “if you want something bad enough and work hard enough you will eventually get it” would finally pay off. After a year, I waved the white flag of surrender. God never came through for me when I needed it the most. It’s not like I wasn’t putting in the effort or the money. But this experience isn’t why I left the faith. It wasn’t because god wasn’t willing to bless me. It was actually something far more personal.

It doesn’t help that I always had this preconceived paranoia about sin. That is to say, I always thought that harmful or stressful situations would arise if I gave into sin. This may tie in closely to my struggles with obsessive compulsive issues. I would immediately relate a problematic situation to a sinful behavior or thought that I gave into. I think this is reinforced for all believers when pastors question you about any “hidden” sins in your life. This whole notion that one must “die to sin” before they can truly experience the richness of a relationship with Christ. I began to wonder about people who speed. Let’s say the speed limit is 65. Does a person need to repent every time the speedometer goes over 65 by just a microscopic degree. My pastor and others always said that breaking the speed limit was sinful. But, they still admittedly did it despite the fact that it supposedly causes a riff between them and god just like any other sin. Sin apparently works that way regardless of how “big” or “small” it is. This is further supported by Jesus’ teachings on following the laws of the land and being obedient to the government. It becomes even more bizarre in nature when you consider the denominations that believe sin causes a loss of salvation. So, what happens if you break the speed limit by a fraction and then get into a lethal car wreck before you can repent? Are you bound for hell? Even if you don’t get in a wreck, do you have to spend the greater part of the evening in deep prayerful repentance for each and every time you went over the speed limit to and from work? It all becomes completely nonsensical when you start looking at it logically and practically. But I digress.

It was emotional attachment that was keeping me connected, and it was emotional issues that ultimately allowed me to discard the faith. Even though I’ve read it before, the OT reveals a dickhead of a god. He would kill 50,000 people just for taking a glance at the ark in which he lived-I thought he was omnipresent. I don’t know why I just read over stuff like that in the past and discarded it. But, once I started to think about it and think about all the other arguments that my fellow blogger was laying out, the decision became less difficult. I’m pretty passive by nature. I would never harm anyone unless I had to out of self-defense or for the protection of my family. I hate war and people having to die for the BS that goes on in the world. There would be no such thing as war if the world was perfect but it’s not. In the end, I just can’t relate to this kind of god. Yes, it may be a different definition of “good” that this god is, but it’s definitely not the definition of good that I would use to describe him. Could he not find more peaceful means to govern his people and to dictate his own actions? Killing other people just goes against everything I stand for. I hate violence outside of controlled violence like in MMA for example. What’s worse, I really hate violence inflicted on people that I love. Again, god has a funny definition that he uses when he says that he “loves” his creation. He has caused immeasurable amounts of physical and emotional pain to those whom he supposedly loves!

He is even appeased when people offer him human sacrifices and the appetizing aroma it provides him. In 2 Samuel 21, god answered prays regarding the famine in the land because David turned over seven different people to the Gibeonites for hanging. Saul’s two sons and five grandsons were murdered as a result, “before the Lord”. Never mind the fact that God sent a famine on the land that presumably wiped out hundreds of thousands of people for something that Saul did in the first place (he slaughtered the Gibeonites). People are getting murdered for things they didn’t even do or weren’t even alive to be responsible for! I love the commentary from this site,, in regards to the human sacrifice. It points to Abraham’s old peculiar saying as a crappy way of smoothing things over, “shall not the judge of the earth do right?” No, Abraham, apparently the judge of the earth will not do right I’m sorry to say.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a perfectly moral person and I do my fair share of hurting others. Sometimes, I am downright hateful and there are many things that I’ve done that I wish I could take back. But, I never have nor will I desire to kill anyone for bogus shit and would not do it if god asked me to right now. Maybe, I’m lacking the genetic gene that keeps people from losing their religious convictions regardless of how many logical arguments they hear. Looking back, I never really got into the “super spiritual” stuff and two hour long prayers. Honestly, I would get rather bored after about ten minutes of trying to pray silently in my room. But, I thought that it was always a good effort to try and be faithful. During church services, others would have these very emotional reactions to god but I wouldn’t feel much of anything. It’s not like I failed to say the prayer of salvation multitudes of times. I said it more than once to make sure and tried to mean it as much as possible. As a result, I bought all kinds of Christian materials, listened to Christian radio and even tried teaching the youth at church. But, in the end, I never had this feeling of being “changed” in any sense. Since leaving the faith, I still feel completely the same as when I was in the faith. Good things and bad things still happen to me. Some things are actually better and others are worse for me. For instance, I regret that I won’t get to see my family up in heaven and spend all eternity in paradise with them. But, I think most atheists probably regret that aspect of reality. On the contrary, Richard Dawkins says that it would probably get very tedious after the first 1000 years. Ultimately, I hope that it’s just like life before I was born, nothing.

If there is a god that isn’t a giant dick, I would be very happy to visit with him. But, he wouldn’t be an all powerful god because an all powerful god wouldn’t allow the shit that happens in the world to occur in the first place. Hopefully, he would have a sense of humor since this Christian god has none. I credit a good sense of humor and an attitude of love toward humankind. This is what helped me best to dissolve my dependencies upon god who turns out to be a tyrant.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Some Observations on Morality

Perhaps, I just don’t understand why Christians clamor on about this “absolute” standard of morality. More succinctly, why do Christians claim that morality needs this “ultimate authority figure” or we would all surely act like wild animals? Other religions and cultures predate Christ’s teaching of the golden rule by hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Apart from a god, is it really so impossible to conclude that society would find murder, rape, cruel and unusual punishment and slavery wrong? Many of the aforementioned atrocities were commanded by god himself. Our modern moral sensibilities have long since vanquished these barbaric acts with the exception of certain religious factions often sourced in the Middle East. We can give little thanks to the Christian god for this as he was the cultural conformist in many of these OT acts. I can hear the Christian saying, “Yes, but Christ perfected our senses of morality by living a sinless life and dying on the cross”. Some Christians have this bizarre theological stance that attempts to get the OT god off the hot seat by asserting that he reveals more and more of his nature as time goes by. The assumption here is that man could not possibly handle all of god at any one time, so he revealed little bits and pieces until Christ came as the “ultimate” revelation. This seems more like a case of special pleading than an honest look at what the characteristics of the OT god were. It certainly would not go over well in a court of law.

Besides, I think he did a very impressionable job of displaying his true nature in the OT. More than once, he commanded the slaughter of pesky neighboring countries via direct auditory commands to his prophets and leaders. I would also argue that god was more revealing in the OT than today. He certainly hasn’t been performing any noteworthy miracles that transcend the laws of nature lately. He hasn’t been leading people in a pillar of cloud, or discussing new moral laws on top of a mountain with his favorite followers of today’s time. We would quickly send such a person to the nearest mental health facility if they claimed that god had given them new moral instructions or laws. Or, we would simply dismiss them as scam artists such as in the case of Word of Faith teachers. Many Christians will claim that god doesn’t interact with humanity that way anymore. We have the canon of scriptures and that is all the revelation we need. Other more charismatic Christian circles will claim that god still performs miracles and point to subjective experiences and questionable healings as evidence.

Just recently, a story came out of a Somali girl being stoned to death because she was raped by three men at the same time. A militant Islamic group found that this went against their own religious convictions and commandments of Allah. The god of the OT made it clear that women deserved death by stoning if they failed to cry for help while in the city limits (Deut . 22:23-24). I’m not sure if this thirteen year old cried for help during the raping, but many women are threatened with certain death if they make any loud noises. Christians will assert that one must understand the cultural context of the time. Virginity was a very sacred thing and it would disgrace the family tremendously if a woman was a non-virgin on her wedding night. Another common rebuttal is that God had to be harsh with these stubborn people or they would fall into all sorts of irreversible life styles and perversions as frequently occured in the OT. So gods only means of disciplining his children was to kill them? Most parents give their children a spanking but don’t kill them unless their monsters like Andrea Yates. I’ve covered stoning in one way or another on previous occasions, and fail to see how killing a rape victim is any kind of “moral absolute” anyone could admire or wish to emulate.

As Richard Dawkins suggests, society’s morality has become increasingly better as time progresses and we learn how to deal with each other in more civilized terms. The interpretation of the Bible itself has changed due to the ever evolving census of morality. Most Christians today do not accept stoning, genocide, slavery or infanticide anymore. Paradoxically, they still support god despite their disapproval of his obviously immoral actions. Most people of European decent no longer support medieval torture as an acceptable practice. The rack torture device is no longer a public spectacle, nor are witches and homosexuals impaled or burned alive as supported by the church in the Middle Ages and virtually every other segment of European society at the time.

It really comes down to doing things for your social group and community that help prolong and advance it. We have altruistic genes that were selected through the evolutionary process that provide empathy. This can be seen in more than just human beings. In one particular youtube video, you can watch a dog help an injured dog off of a highway so that it wouldn't be killed by oncoming traffic. Some may remember the empathetic gorilla from Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo. A toddler managed to tumble into the enclosure which housed the gorillas. The on looking crowd gasped with horror as this toddler was sitting on the concrete surrounded by massive three to four hundred pound gorillas. The mother gorilla, Binti Jua, noticed the child and carried him back to zoo staff despite having a baby gorilla physically attached to her. Barbara king, an anthropologist, observed a male Chimpanzee who sat with a dying Chimpanzee for five hours in the wild due to a lethal bite to the neck delivered by a Cheetah. No one was allowed to get close to the dying Chimpanzee with the exception of her younger brother. There are undoubtedly many examples of animals behaving in empathetic ways that do not require a god or the Bible to direct their actions. These are instinctual behaviors built through evolutionary processes. We are different because our brains are significantly bigger and we are better able to distinguish positive and negative consequences for our actions. Humans are able to make decisions based on the long term impact it will have on them and society.

People do things directly or indirectly for others all the time and need no guidance from an old book to help them. It can be seemingly insignificant things like putting your used gum in the trash instead of on the sidewalk where someone else could step on it. It can be heroic acts like saving a child from a burning building, or sacrificing yourself by pushing a person out of the way of an oncoming car. These genetic tendencies have helped the human race come to a place in history where altruistic behaviors outpace demoralizing and harmful behaviors significantly. We might as well model Saudi Arabia for our morality if we are looking to find a society which mimics god’s morality in this day in time. The NT changes the scope of things some. People are told to “turn the cheek” instead of retribution through stoning or such nonsense. Ultimately, Jesus still supports the OT laws and didn’t come to abolish them. The big change is people are introduced to suffering delayed but prolonged in hell for all eternity. The concept of hell is strangely absent in the OT which makes up about two thirds of the Bible.

And, its not like there is any significant statistical data supporting the claims that we need god's absolute morality to function properly. Christians will admit that their divorce rates are every bit as high as non-Christians at a staggering 50%. Studies like the Global Peace Index (GPI) continue to reveal that societies who are primarily atheist do not fall apart and turn into warzones. On the contrary, the GPI continues to show that the state of peace among these secular/atheistic countries is among the highest. There is a strong correlation between peace and atheistic countries. Conversely, Muslim and Christian countries have a stronger correlation with non-peace. For more information, please visit

Friday, May 7, 2010

Wicked People

WARNING! This is not a story for the faint of heart. You may not find this story palatable if you love children or humanity at all for that matter. This is first and foremost a human interest story and has many themes, but was ultimately just something that I wanted to talk about.

"If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea" (Matt 18:6).

Matthew 18:6 is the verse that Andrea Yates used to give some rationale for drowning all five of her own children nearly nine years ago. At one time, she had four healthy boys and one beautiful girl ranging in six months to seven years of age. The age and names of the children were Mary the six-month-old, Luke age 2, Paul age 3, John age 5 and Noah age 7. The parents were forewarned by the psychiatrist that she would likely have to endure another long bought of post-partum depression before having Mary. Nevertheless, the Yates family insisted that they were “going to have as many babies as nature allowed”.

Over the course of time, Andrea decided that she had been a poor parent or a “stumbling block” to her children. Evidently, this was even reinforced by her non-denominational pastor. She decided that murdering them was the only way to ensure their place in heaven. We can put the blame on a number of factors and people, but the fact remains that there are people who actually believe god when he says some pretty ridiculous things in the Bible. Many people are just Cultural Christians, but we do have some imbeciles that actually take this nonsense to heart. I do find it rather peculiar that we don’t find more Christians cutting off their limbs or gouging out their eyes as Jesus commands for a remedy to recurrent sin as written in Matthew 5:29. But, we would like to think that rational Christians, whatever that means, won’t go against their own innate moral compass, and perform heinous acts because god said to, like in the case of Abraham and Isaac. Most honest Christians, and presumably all atheists, would tell a god to take a flying leap if he/she/it asked them to kill their own children. If not, then those people probably shouldn’t have children to begin with. The so called father of the faith, Abraham, nearly sacrificed his own son because god told him to. Undoubtedly, he would have followed through if the angel of god wouldn’t have intervened. Abraham rationalized the situation by thinking that god can raise people from the dead so Isaac will come back from the dead too. If you ever want to get a Christian on their heels just ask them if they would murder a child because god commanded it. But I digress.

Andrea had a long history of depression and delusional thinking, and was on several different medications that apparently weren’t enough to subdue her sickness. In all fairness, the DSM IV states that “infanticide is most often associated with postpartum psychotic episodes that are characterized by command hallucinations to kill the infant or delusions that the infant is possessed, but it can also occur in severe postpartum mood episodes without such specific delusions or hallucinations”. As previously stated though, Rusty and Andrea Yates were well aware of the risks associated with post-partum depression. They were also keenly aware that there is a 30% to 50% risk for reoccurrence of psychotic post-partum features according to the DSM IV and her psychiatrist. The psychiatrist told them that they shouldn’t have any more kids but they reasoned otherwise.

Andrea’s depression came back with a vengeance after having Mary. June 20th, 2001 was a day that made Andrea Yates infamous. In premeditated fashion, she waited for her husband to leave for work, and she even locked the dog in its cage so he wouldn’t interfere with the drowning. She filled the bathtub up nearly to the top; she made sure there was plenty of water to get the job done. Like a god ordained infanticide, she systematically drowned each and every child. In some of my research, I found that she wanted to ensure their passage to heaven, but other online resources put less emphasis on her religious convictions and more on her psychotic issues. If the biblical relationship is true, she drew from the teachings that children go to heaven automatically if they are still too young to be held accountable for sin. Coincidentally, the age of accountability principle is just an assumption Christian's make since they can't fathom that a god would send children to hell.

Andrea placed her six-month-old baby girl in the bathroom, who cried hysterically throughout, while these horrific events took place. Baby Mary saw each of her sibling’s die, with the exception of Noah, before being murdered herself. Paul was the first victim. “Perfect Paul”, as Andrea used to call him, was the one who always did what his mother said and caused very few problems. Andrea called for Paul to come to the bathroom. Being the ever compliant child, he eagerly made his way to his mother where she had just finished filling the bathtub. Without hesitation, she put him in the bathtub face down and proceeded to drown him for a “couple of minutes”, as she described it to the court. After struggling frantically, all movement subsided and Andrea pulled Paul’s lifeless body out of the water. She then took his body to her bed and pulled a sheet over it. The most rambunctious one, John, was drowned next and then Luke. John was hesitant to get in the water so his resolute mother helped him in and proceeded to drown him. Six-month-old Mary Yates followed her brothers. Even at six months, she was able to struggle for what Andrea said was “at least a couple of minutes”. Andrea didn’t bother putting her in the bed with her brother’s afterword. She left her body resting at the bottom of the tub. Noah was the last victim in this heinous crime. Noah, the eldest sibling, must have sensed that something was wrong because he tried to run out of the bathroom. He was no match for his overpowering mother. However, he put up a more tenacious fight than his four other siblings. Perhaps, the witch was getting fatigued as well. He tried to “come up for air” and “flip over” on numerous occasions before finally yielding to defeat. Immediately following, Andrea made a 911 call since she knew good and well that she had done something horribly wrong.

Sergeant David Svahn, a patrol officer with sixteen years on the force, was one of the first to respond to Andrea’s 911 call. Svahn described the residence as a typical suburban home. He saw family photos aligning the hallway, cereal bowls sitting on the kitchen table and toys on the floor. But the odious scene in the bathroom would change his perspective entirely, Svahn said he could have spent another sixteen years and never get used to the horrors he discovered. The child floating in the bathtub, surrounded by fecal matter, left a particularly deep impression that will undoubtedly haunt his dreams for some time.

One of the main problems experienced with drowning is that the body is taking in too much carbon dioxide. This rapid accumulation of carbon dioxide literally poisons the heart and causes it to stop beating. During the struggle, a person will often instinctively swallow a lot of water as much of it makes its way to the larynx. Also, the lungs will eventually burst in this whole grueling process. I can’t think of many worse ways a person can die in two minutes or less with the exception of burning to death. You would think that she could have thought of something a little less horrific if she “loved” her children so much. In my shamelessly biased opinion, Andrea has no business being in a low security mental hospital where she now lives out her miserable existence. This was premeditated murder.

Dena Schlosser, another diva of perversity, severed her 10-month-old daughter’s arms off with a kitchen knife and let her bleed to death while hymn music played in the background. She told the authorities that she was “giving her baby to God”. Her baby fought long enough to make it to the hospital before being pronounced dead. Apparently, Dena was also suffering with post-partum depression before the incident occurred. She was released from inpatient mental hospitalization after five brief years in 2008 and is now presumably just an outpatient. Does society really want this woman out and about?

One has to ask themselves, where the hell was god while all this shit was going on? Is he incapable of intervening in the lives of children? If so, then god isn’t omnipotent like the Bible suggests because he could have done any number of things to stop the situation. He could have given Andrea a heart attack for example. Perhaps, he could have given one of the children "Samson like strength" or the foresight to call 911 ahead of time. I never met any of these kids, but you best better believe that I would have knocked that bitch into another dimension if I could have been there to stop her. God supposedly knows the exact number of hairs on your head and cares about your every need, but wouldn't meet the need of these oxygen deprived children! The Christian will say that justice will be served but that doesn’t excuse what happened. The father would have been just as guilty if he was there and allowed this to happen. God was supposedly there, but the Christian refuses to place any guilt on him.

I have no sympathy for either of these two women. Both of them knew that they were dealing with issues before they killed their children. There are mental facilities conveniently located all over the United States for those who need help. Coincidentally, both of these pathetic excuses for human beings come from the great state of Texas. Texas has no shortage of mental health facilities and hospitals. We can see why! Hell, they both clearly knew that they did something wrong because they had the awareness to call 911 immediately afterword. Andrea demanded that policemen come immediately and wasted no time in confessing her crime. She even called her husband and told him to come home to see what she did. Does anybody really think that they didn’t realize it was wrong to kill their children as they were doing it? If I was in such a depraved state, I would chose to immediately call for help BEFORE I did something like that, or I would promptly kill myself. I certainly can’t put all of the blame on religious dogma in light of the advances in psychology and the various diagnoses under the DSM. But, I think that it must have at least played some part in the motivations or reasoning behind these killings.

I’m also writing about this because I simply find it fascinating. I find it fascinating that people actually have the capacity to do such purely evil acts, and I’m baffled by it. I’ve suffered from depression, anxiety and severe OCD in my lifetime. But, I’ve got to say that I never thought of harming anybody but myself. I’ve also worked directly with inpatients at various mental hospitals over the past five years, and have never heard of anyone of my patients doing anything remotely like this to another human.

Lastly, I’m writing this post because it really affected me and bothered me. When you have children, you immediately think about them when you hear of any other child being mistreated and it can be pretty traumatizing. Stories like this make me wish that I didn’t have anyone that I cared about. This way, I would never have to go through the emotional duress if something ever happened to them remotely like this.

Through evolution, we all have this instinctive desire to care for our offspring who may carry on the human race through reproduction of their own. I have no doubt that other animal species feel many of the protective emotions that humans do as a built in mechanism that prolongs the particular species existence. Evolution may do little to explain why a woman would do such a horrific act to her offspring. I believe in the innocence of children and that protection of children is essential. They are so impressionable and easily manipulated at that age. It makes me sick when people take advantage of their innocence for their own masochistic pleasures.

In closing, I hope Dena’s visit to the outside world is short lived. Perhaps, she will off herself before she gets the urge to kill again. In the case of Andrea’s story, it’s equally baffling that her husband places NO blame on her whatsoever. He simply thinks that she wouldn't have done this if she had the right medications. I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes her back and reproduces again. Mental illnesses that indirectly cause harm upon other people must be considerably rare. Nevertheless, they had the senses to call 911 after the killings.

Christians that are seriously wanting to ensure that they get their kids to heaven might find what Andrea did appealing. They can sacrifice their own life for the sake of their childrens. Thankfully, most people aren't quite so psychotic even if their faith reeks of irrational thinking.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My kind of God

Don’t get me wrong, I think it would be pretty awesome if there really was a god out there. I would prefer the kind that didn’t kill people for screwing before marriage and the kind that didn’t kill you for giving his ark a dirty look. Punishment would never exceed the crime and justice would be swift and fair for all parties. Homosexuals could do their thing without interference from right wing nuts. And this might be a shocker to my reader but abortion would be a thing of the past as god wouldn’t allow idiotic people that didn’t know what a condom was to get jiggy with it.(Admittedly, abortion is a fuzzy area when looking at it from the perspective of rape or incest) Yes, that would be a god worthy of praise. He wouldn’t expect you to call on him for every little stupid thing that happens to you either, but he would be gracious to offer assistance if you did. You wouldn’t be expected to praise him for hours on end, nor would you have to go to church to show how much of a good follower you were. He would understand if you didn’t want to talk for a while as most friends do, but still wish you the best and always be there to lend a hand if needed.

My god would talk to me audibly all the time and the book he gave me would make perfect sense morally, ethically and factually. Evolution would be included as a fact in the book. All the mysteries of the world would be explained in scientific language so you can actually believe what you’re reading. God wouldn’t care if you drank just as long as you did it responsibly. Yes, it would be a society of live and let live. God would reward those who did nice things to others with all sorts of cool things. Perhaps, he would provide a trip to the Caribbean or a new Lamborghini. Starvation would be a thing of the distant past and no child would die from lack of food. Animals would talk and hang out with you. Satan would not exist because we all know he is just a prick that the “real” god couldn’t take care of.

My god would be cool with any kind of music and any kind of movies since they are all only ENTERTAINMENT. My god would play games with me when I was bored, or he could take me to a different world so I could check it out and play with the unicorns. My god would abolish all diseases now and wouldn’t make us suffer for the sins of someone that we didn’t know in a friggin’ garden long ago. There would be no such thing as generational curses either. Dinosaurs would roam the earth and be cool as can be. Smoking pot would be perfectly legal, and anything else that didn’t interfere with other people’s rights. Bottom line, my god would kick ass, make sense, maintain logic and be a heck of a good conversationalist.

The Stoning of Soraya M.

I don’t know what crawled up ole’ Jim Caviezel’s crotch to play any kind of role in this despicably barbaric movie. If he was intending on converting some folks than he did a piss poor job of it. This movie was another key factor in my decision to make a hasty exit from the faith. Anyone who has cracked open the Old Testament can come to the inevitable conclusion that god ordered the vehement act of stoning. I guess throwing rocks at people was as inventive and merciful as god knew how to be back in the OT.

I think that I would only preserve such an act on the worst of criminals. Criminals that have done some seriously demented shit like Jeffrey Dahmer, or Adolf Hitler. But, god just finds reason to do it for the most idiotic things. Lovers playing bump, bump before marriage would get stoned. People having a little gay sex would get stoned. People getting raped and forgetting to yell out in the process would get stoned. Someone being a wayward son "beyond reprieve" would get stoned. You get the picture.

Anyway, if you want to see what stoning really is all about than you’ve got to watch this movie. The film director, Cyrus Nowrasteh, does a tremendous job of making the stoning scene as authentic as possible. SPOILER ALERT!! SPOILER ALERT!!! For anyone who hasn’t seen the movie, Soraya M. is about a woman in an Iranian village who is wrongly accused of making advances on another man who recently lost his wife. Soraya M.’s husband is an adulterous lunatic that plots against Soraya which eventually leads to her grizzly demise.

The death scene itself takes a good thirty minutes of time to unfold. Soraya walks down death row as onlookers stare at her with looks of haughty disapproval. Some Children are restrained behind fences and walls so they can’t see the event as it unfolds. Meanwhile, men are digging a hole in the ground deep enough to conceal Soraya’s body from the waist down. Some less restrained Children collect rocks that are of adequate size to hurt but not kill the person with a single blow, as was practiced in Biblical times. Other children sit and click the rocks together as Soraya proceeds in her death march, which serves as an eerie way of heightening the scenes sense of extreme desperation and unyielding conclusion. A parameter is set around the hole with chalk. The person is given mercy if they are able to somehow get out of the hole and pass that outer circle of chalk. But, the odds are heavily stacked against them.

First, the victim’s hands are tied with rope behind their back. Second, they drop them into the hole and fill it up with dirt so mobility is completely diminished from the waist down. Lastly, they use the rocks to deliver blow after blow which further immobilizes the victim. As in Biblical times, the first person to throw the stone is the parent. Soraya’s father casts the first rock, but it falls feebly short. Soraya’s father calls her all sorts of demeaning names in the process and denounces her as his daughter. Never fear though, Soraya’s husband is there to fulfill his god given obligations. Like a pitcher on the mound, he lines up, cocks and fires the first blow which hits Soraya squarely on the forehead. Her blood begins streaming down as it drips off her nose and onto the indifferent earth below. Cheers from the fellow men can be heard, but a gasp from the women seems to balance the scene. One woman in particular, Soraya’s aunt, pleads with the men to stop the stoning. This woman seems to have the only sense of decency in the story.

Nevertheless, the execution must continue; after all, it was mandated by god. Now is where it gets real interesting. Soraya’s two children are asked to join in the macabre event and throw a stone of their own. The boys' hesitate for a bit, starring back and forth at each other, but ultimately give in to the cravings of the mob. They each throw a stone, and both stones hit the mark. The boys’ heads turn downcast afterward. They seem to understand that this is completely immoral in every sense of the word. It’s sad when children understand how ridiculous something is but not god.

Soraya, now bleeding profusely from various regions of her head, screams out and pleads for mercy once again. But ultimately, god has the say so and the crowd demands that god’s judgment be carried out. The rocks start coming in bunches now and Soraya is starting to fade. The procession of rocks stops briefly for someone to check on Soraya’s condition. Her husband walks up to her and see’s her eye open and roll. He screams, “the bitch is still alive!”. More rocks soon find their mark and Soraya is nothing but a bloody heap at this point. The event draws to a close and we are taken to a month or so later where Soraya’s aunt digs up her bones.

Needless to say, god commanded this nonsense in the OT and saw it as appropriate punishment for people who screwed before marriage or even worked on the wrong day of the week. Sorry, I can’t be a part of this. Not when my morality is superior and Joe Smo’s morality is superior to god's. Nobody I know would wish this upon their worst enemy; let alone, somebody who masturbated too hard. In closing, this was something that I had to see to believe and it really put some anger in my heart against a fictitious god--silly I know--that not only kills babies, but finds it appropriate to kill others like homosexuals in a manner such as this.

Love Letters from God

We’ve all heard it before but it seems more and more magical every time. The Bible consists of sixty six love letters from god to you personally. Just think about it, each one of them went through vigorous testing to see if they would adequately display god’s love to you in the most authentic manner possible. It was the Roman Catholic Church in the year 397 A.D., at the Council of Carthage, who deliberated over the books that were authenticated and those that were contradictory to the overarching theme of god’s love book. Various hands labored over every meticulous detail, translated the Hebrew and Greek, and ultimately presented the Roman Catholic Church with what they knew were the genuine divinely inspired words of the creator.

Because of their hard work, we have beautiful scriptures that we can esteem and thank god every day for. Scriptures like Revelations 21:8: “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death”. But, this is just metaphorical people, geez, god isn’t a mean god. He desires a personal and intimate relationship with each and every one of us. And, I spit on those atheists who would ever get the notion that the above scripture has anything to do with people actually “burning”. Everybody knows that habitual liars deserve some kind of never ending punishment but burning isn’t what it’s about. And we can just forget those stinking scriptures like Leviticus 20:14: “If a man marries both a woman and her mother, it is wicked. Both he and they must be burned in the fire, so that no wickedness will be among you”. You’ve got to understand the context of the time. In those days, people wouldn’t burn you to death. They would throw medium sized rocks at you that would prolong your agony, and then burn you AFTER you were dead (painless) as mandated by a loving father. This was society’s morality at the time, and god was just trying to accommodate and be a part of their culture to show how loving he really is.

Heck, sometimes god will do the hard work for you. God, being the loving and highly judgmental god that he is will take it upon himself to burn people to death so you don’t have to worry about getting your hands dirty. Like in Numbers 16:35, “And there came out a fire from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense”. I bet you god didn’t leave any ashes behind for those guys to worry about cleaning up later either. He is always so accommodating, loving and justified in his actions. After all, he is god and you’re not.

Another great thing about god and the Bible is that there are no contradictory scriptures so we know exactly what to expect from this loving relationship. It’s very clear that we are saved by our works and not faith alone. Why else would Revelations 20:13-15 say this, “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their WORKS. 14And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire”. Idiotic atheists that say scriptures are quite unclear on how one is saved need to take a hard look at the above scripture and disregard older less reliable books in the Bible, and their accompanying scriptures like Ephesians 2:8-10, “8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”. Revelations is so weird and beyond our understanding. God intentionally makes things illogical because he is mysterious. This is how he most clearly articulates his desires and expectations for our relationship.

If god doesn’t love us than why do we have this beautiful story about Paul on the road to Damascus in the New Testament? The dude kills Christians for a living, and Jesus still reveals himself by speaking audibly to him and appearing before him. God may not give visions to other people but that’s beside the point. Adolf Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot were not so lucky but that’s simply because Jesus stopped doing stuff like that once the canon of scripture closed. Also, god stopped doing crazy things like parting the Red Sea, and turning water into wine after the closing of scripture because he finds it totally unnecessary to do that anymore. We’ve got the friggin’ Bible people, what more do you need. People should stop playing god and stop asking for absurd kinds of evidence!

In closing, I think it’s important that we look back and see how far we’ve come. God shaped up so why can’t we? The OT is all about eye for an eye, tooth for tooth but that was just a prelude to things that came much, much later. Conversely, the NT is all about every one of us loving our neighbor even if they’re going to “hell” for all eternity for being less than loving to god. The OT may have some icky stuff, but it’s really all about accommodation, culture, and context. It all becomes crystal clear when you take those elements and mix it in with understanding the laws and customs of the times plus the strange and mysterious ways god works. Infanticide, genocide, burning people alive or not so alive is a foretaste of a better god to come. Things sure did change too. He changed burning people alive on earth to burning them forever in hell for one. So, you at least get to enjoy yourself while you’re here. I think this speaks to a god that is ever evolving (no, not that ridiculous science kind of evolving) and ever revealing more and more of his love to us as time goes by. Until next time Christians, enjoy your shell fish and stay away from those maggoty homo queers… Amen and amen.

post partially inspired by the beautiful works of Edward Current of Youtube fame.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Freewill and Eternal Consequences

Ignorance Isn’t Bliss

The mighty Wikipedia refers to freewill as, “the purported ability of agents to make choices free from constraints”. In the Biblical sense, freewill is this notion that god gives every human a choice to either live for or against him. That is to say, we each have the ability to choose between good and evil. Adam and Eve had this choice in the Garden of Eden. The problem here, and this point can’t be overstated, is that they obviously didn’t know what was good or evil since they never ate of the tree before. They did that which was seen as evil in the eyes of the Lord even though they had no idea that disobeying authority was wrong. Unfortunately, their ignorance and god’s mercilessness had massive consequences that transferred down generation after generation. Every disease, death, misfortune, hardship, and the possibility of hell itself were made possible because two humans committed sin out of ignorance. Hey god, it would have helped if they had the conscience to understand right from wrong BEFORE they were tempted by the serpent with boobs! (see Michelangelo)

Genesis 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.
2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest there of thou shalt surely die.

Which to Choose, Which to Choose

Another component of freewill is that god doesn’t force himself upon us so we can make the conscious or subconscious decision to go to hell without him stepping in to stop us. You will receive eternal punishment in hell if you fail to believe, or choose not to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Presumably, those who never have the chance to directly hear about Jesus will still have the ability to go to heaven if they respond to “his light”. This notion of “his light” seems entirely too subjective to me but it works for the Christian trying to work through a maze of illogical absurdities. Likewise, a person who places their faith in Christ will inherit the kingdom of heaven and live for all eternity in paradise.

While there may be a choice, it’s a bit like telling someone that you can either choose to go to Hawaii for the summer or we can slowly roast you over an open fire in the backyard for the next three months. And, by the way, the pain and agony you experience in this three month duration never subsides because you’re entirely incapable of dying. In reality, the heaven and hell proposal is much worse because the duration of judgment is boundless. From that perspective, it seems like the choice would be effortless and you would swiftly pick heaven. But, what if you’re wrong or you do not want to serve a genocidal, narcissistic deity? What if this isn’t even the right god since there are literally thousands of different gods? Nobody wants or deserves to be punished forever as a result of finite crimes. This god may not necessarily be the kind of god you would want to worship, nor is there sufficient evidence of his existence. It would be a bit more plausible, perhaps, if you take out eighty percent of the OT and all the doctrine about hell in the NT.

God’s Level System

On another note, what happens to your garden variety pagan? Some will assert that there are variations or degrees of punishment endured in hell. This is akin to the epic, Dante’s Inferno. They will claim that an Adolf Hitler would get a harsher sentence than your average garden variety pagan. But, is the notion of a level system in hell scripturally sound? As is often the case, the Bible does a piss poor job of laying things out so one can understand what the stakes really are. There are many passages of the NT that may possibly allude to the sufferer experiencing multiple levels of torment in hell. Specifically, Jesus talks about the different cities and the ensuing fate that each city faces. Some commentaries conclude that Jesus is talking about levels of punishment in hell for the citizens of these cities.

Mt. 10:15 I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

Is this really talking about varying degrees experienced in hell or the level of wrath that god is going to dish out to these cities on Judgment Day?

Here’s another ambiguous verse.

Luke 12:47-48:
That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does
not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the
one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be
beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much
will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much,
much more will be asked.

Some commentators try to draw the case that this is referring to a level system in hell. Is that really the situation or is this referring to what god expects out of those who experience “more light” while on earth than others, and the responsibilities of having this “god breathed” knowledge? In the end, it’s really nothing more than apologists and commentators alike jumping through hoops to attempt to satisfy the very reasonable arguments by those who can’t fathom a god sentencing a person to a never ending fiery torment. The Bible is silent on the issue so they try to give it the benefit of the doubt. Apologists and pastors alike attempt to appease the layperson. A well meaning person who inquires about one of their grandparents, and how they never really worshiped god but were really good people may get a startling reply. The Christian may try to soften the blow by suggesting that grandpa isn’t burning forever in hell in the same fashion as a Joseph Stalin. He is just absent from god for all eternity and very angry. As if this is any true consolation.

The verse referring to the servant, "who knows little will receive little punishment" doesn’t hold up when you consider what happened to Adam and Eve for a mistake based merely on blameless ignorance. Heck, this might be a verse where Jesus is reminiscing about the good ole’ days when slaves got the snot beat out of them for being naughty. Well, actually slavery was still practiced in Jesus' time and continues to be practiced in one form or another to this day. In a practical sense, we can thank the Bible for the continued practice of slavery today since the Bible never condones it.

The ugly Truth and a Place to Rant

It’s actually pretty psychotic and narcissistic if you sit and ponder the whole notion for a while; god is basically saying that you either love him or face severe unquenchable punishment forever. Isn’t that what sociopaths tell their ex-fiancés with the exception of it not lasting eternally? Although, I'm sure there are many sick and twisted minds out there that work feverishly on inventing ways to prolong agony without killing their victims. God is essentially guilty because he sits idly by while the person is tormented for all eternity. He has the power to stop it but chooses not to. He tries to get off the hook by asserting that he isn't the one in charge of Hell. But, isn't he just as guilty since he could stop it if he wanted to? I just love it when Christians try to explain that hell isn't really about burning when the list referring to fiery torment and burning is quite exhaustive. If it's not about burning then you would think god could have made that clear for his lay readers.

The Christian will tell you it’s really an exquisite act of love and that he is just respecting our decisions to go to hell. Sorry, I’m just not willing to follow a god that tells its followers to kill babies regardless of the absurd reasoning that apologists pull out of their ass (Numbers 31). I’m also not into a god who has a poorer grasp of morality than me and almost anyone else I know. We’ve come a long way from slavery and prejudices against women. We still have a long way to go on the hostilities against homosexuals. We did discover a few different genes that have a significant correlation with homosexuality way back in the early 90’s but that’s not good enough for the church. If you have the nerve to speak against homosexuality than you better not be lining up outside of Red Lobster to eat shell fish. Jesus didn’t get rid of the 600+ laws in the OT just the sacrificial system. He came to fulfill the law and was in adamant support of the law. The whole thing is a hypocrisy because Christian’s pick and choose what they want to follow in the OT and what they can discard. The OT law against homosexuality and shell fish are located in the same area but they cherry pick!

And, I don’t recall anytime in American history where we made it a habit of killing born babies simply because they were in the way, and would grow up to supposedly destroy America. Admittedly, we still have much to do in the work of preventing more abortions, but we aren’t the ones who are supposed to be the picture of absolute and perfect morality like god is.

Note: This particular post entry has been partially inspired by the great Aronra of Youtube fame.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Absurdity and Biblical Justification of the Word of Faith Movement

The Word of Faith (WOF) movement and Star Wars have something in common. They both use the word “force” when describing a power that transcends reality, and ostensibly manipulates situations to the benefit, or detriment of its adherers. Albeit, WOFers do not frequently suggest that they can move physical objects even though Jesus suggested that faith as small as a mustard seed is capable of moving a mountain. Of course, WOF proponents will tell you that their ideology is based on truthful principles while Star Wars is based on Science Fiction.

The WOF Movement describes faith as a force. One can acquire health, wealth, and favor in just about any circumstance when they simply use the power of faith. How is this faith manifested? Faith comes through the power of the tongue and can have a variety of intriguing outcomes. They outlandishly believe that simply saying an idiom is a risky proposition. For instance, “that tickled me to death” can literally be fatal for the victim daring enough to utter the words. (Note: I will be referring to followers as victims for the remainder of this blog) Conversely, saying words that have a positive flare will presumably increase the likelihood of beneficial outcomes in the victim’s life. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne uses many of the same metaphysical principles but does not emphasis God like WOF devotees tend to do.

So let’s meet the players. Some would refer to Kenneth Hagin as the father of this movement but E.W. Kenyon was the original gangster. E.W. Kenyon was heavily influenced by eastern mystical and New Age religions. He tied those in with Christian teachings and came up with this steaming pile of dung. Today, Creflo or “cash flow” (as I like to call him) Dollar, Kenneth Copeland, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, and Benny Hinn are just a few of the swindlers but their numbers are expanding all the time. Joel Osteen pastors the largest church in North America.

All the while, the pastors of these mega churches are amassing fortunes. Incidentally, Creflo Dollar and Jesse Duplantis have their own room in Kenneth Copeland’s $6 million church owned mansion. Copeland has accumulated a fleet of private jets that he uses to spread the WOF gospel. He also uses the private jets to fly to exotic locales for vacation but he adamantly denies these allegations. There are countless examples of how these cronies misuse the churches money with minimal fear of consequences.

Unfortunately, this accounts for a deeper problem that occurs when the Bible is used to back an ideology. Verses of scripture can justify just about any stance a person desires to support their deceitful agenda. There are numerous verses in the Old Testament suggesting that those who follow God will also enjoy an accumulation of great wealth. However, the New Testament has Jesus stating:

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 19:24

In other words, it appears damn near impossible to get to heaven if your wealthy. The NT also emphasizes that followers should give away all of their possessions if they desire true “holiness”. (Matt. 19:21) Somebody should have told that to Abraham, Joseph, David, Solomon and a whole host of other OT figures who enjoyed massive inheritances of financial prosperity. They generally only gave away some of their loot if they were concerned about retaliation, such as in the case of Jacob and Esau.

Consider some of these OT jewels which directly contradict Jesus’ notion of wealth. In striking contrast, wealth was considered a form of verification that you were doing God's will in the OT.

(Deuteronomy 8:18 NRSV) But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.

(1 Samuel 2:7 NRSV) The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts.

(1 Chronicles 29:12 NRSV) Riches and honour come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might; and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all.

(Psalms 112:1-3 NKJV) Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who delights greatly in His commandments. {2} His descendants will be mighty on earth; The generation of the upright will be blessed. {3} Wealth and riches will be in his house, And his righteousness endures forever.

Paradoxically, Jesus demands that we sell the very possessions that he originally intended for us to have as a result of our obedience! In the NT, Jesus insinuates that we are not doing the will of the father unless we have little to no earthly possessions. Jesus even advises that we must abandon our family to follow him. (Matt. 19:29). The WOF movement has a strong case to suggest that god deliberately makes people wealthy out of maintaining a faithful relationship with him. Conversely, other denominations can make a case that wealth is detrimental to a relationship with god. This presents a conundrum becaue Christians can make the Bible say whatever they need it to since there is no objective ways of interpreting scripture. This is why there are 38,000 different denominations of Christianity in the world all proclaiming that they have the right brand of B.S..

Getting back to my central theme, there is an underhanded catch for the WOF movement victim to contend with. Money is one of those things we all would like to have more of and the WOF movement milks this notion for all its worth. Indeed, the enticement of the movement is the promises it makes to the victims. Faith and your faithful tithing are the main components which will ensure that you reap an abundance of cars, houses, and basically any other earthly desire your little heart can ponder. God is viewed as a cosmic Jinni that only needs an appropriate form of provoking and manipulation to get the stuff you want.

The victim has to tithe and I do not mean just a ten percent tithe but above and beyond what they can afford. I have heard of people giving their last buck away in hopes of a bountiful return. Conveniently, I also hear of story after story where people did this and end up being blessed immensely. These stories generally come from the pastor and the person has usually long since vanished. Or, you may hear of this concept of "sowing a seed"; you give ten bucks and you can expect to get one hundred back. The only one who really gets richer in this situation is the evangelist. It’s a give until it hurts kind of philosophy. This is very appealing to the church because they enjoy a tax exempt status. Consequently, they can do whatever they wish with the money acquired from the victim with no ramifications to consider. These people are nothing more than con artists.

One of the real tragedies in all of this is the consequences this movement has for its naïve victims. People will avoid medical attention because it would show a lack of faith. A lack of faith presumably diminishes any healing powers that it could provide for the victim. Pastors and other members of the church will often blame the family for lacking faith if one of their loved ones passes from a terminal illness. And what may be even more disturbing, the church family often condemns the family by suggesting that it was a lack of faithful giving which resulted in the family member's untimely death.

In closing, I hope this will give my reader(s) a little foretaste of what the WOF movement is all about and how to warn your loved ones of its many evils. Although not endorsing, I would like to give a bit of credit to some of the Christian denominations out there who are exposing the tyrannical actions of the WOF movement. The CRI (Christian Research Institute) has done many journal articles against them and Hank Hanegraaff of the Bible Answer Man broadcast has made two editions of books entitled, Christianity in Crisis which exposes their fraudulent behaviors. On the rational side of the fence, James Randi has done many real life experiments in which he exposes these frauds for what they are. He has dedicated the latter part of his life to exposing counterfeits of various persuasions. In recent history, I would argue that the WOF movement does more devastating harm than many of the other denominations out there to its victims.