Monday, December 5, 2011

My Story (pt. 3) The Baby Atheist

To summarize and perhaps clarify previous installments, I was raised in an ultra-charismatic household.  Supernatural events and ideals seemed to define my early experiences as a Christian.  My mother was a key component to my understanding of Christianity and world view.  I was somewhat lackadaisical while growing up in my Christianity but later embraced it passionately as I tried to find answers to my suffering with OCD.  I even bought the audio version of the Bible, so I was always trying to immerse myself in scripture.   I was consistent with church attendance and reading up on some of the latest apologetic works of people like Norm Geisler.  I understood that I was saved by grace, so this wasn't some attempt to earn salvation.  I simply wanted to be a well-versed and knowledgable Christian.  I wanted to also find some healing for my mental issues.

The A-Unicornist, who I became reacquainted with on Facebook, was initially someone I was trying to convert as Christ called the church to make disciples.  My best arguments were no match for his well-reasoned counter-apologetics and science.  I ended up de-converting in the process, and my journey as a baby atheist soon began.

I think it's very common for many baby atheists to immerse themselves in what science and other well-recognized atheists have to say.  It's like getting a new toy.  You just can't get enough of it, and I was no different.   For someone who really didn't like to read, I sure was checking out a lot of library books and purchasing some must-haves.  I may have read over 25 books that first year which probably doesn't seem like a lot to some of you bookworms, but it was quite a drastic change for me.  This didn't include the time I devoted to my own blog that I started at the encouragement of the A-Unicornist nor did it include the time I spent reading other blogs, listening to atheist podcasts or checking out the latest YouTube clip by one of my favorite outspoken atheists. 

 As a bit of a digression, this learning process obviously continues to this day.  I'm still watching videos, listening to lectures and tuning in to the weekly podcast, The Atheist Experience.  I'm just pacing myself s bit more and recognize that I don't have to know everything now.  As a baby atheist, most of us are so excited and exhilarated that we don't take the time to reflect.  My next installment will cover the period of reflecting and reexamining my worldview.  Atheism isn't a worldview in itself.  End of digression

The four-horsemen became familiar to me for the first time.  Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens were all voicing many of the same things I had come to believe, especially Harris.   I was becoming more knowledgeable in the subject of evolution and even began reading up on Stephen Hawking.  I must confess that I'm still quite the novice and intimidated by cosmology and astrophysics.  It's not something that I was formerly educated on or previously interested in.  It was also something that I left to God to worry about since he designed everything anyway.  

During this time, I was attempting to keep my blog a secret from family  which was no small task since I was enjoying it so much.  I didn't necessarily want anybody to know about my atheism.  What would my father-in-law believe or my wife?  As you may recall, my father-in-law  is a baptist preacher and then there was my mom to worry about.  It seemed like I was going to have to be a loner for the time which wasn't all that bad.  I never was the most sociable person to begin with.  In another sense, I was so convinced that the God of the O.T. was a moral monster that I really didn't care if people eventually found out anyway.  I figured that they were the ones with the problem of defending this nefarious brute.  

It's amazing how I never saw what was right before my eyes.  As a Christian, I never even considered that God might not be real or that the god depicted in the Bible was evil.  I always started with the presupposition that he was real and omnibenevolent and any evidence to the contrary was simply a misunderstanding of his nature on my part.  But after having my eyes opened, it became clear that he probably wasn't real.  I never took the stance that he certainly wasn't real as a strong atheist would say but probably not real.  We aren't dealing with certainty here.  I'm not certain that Bigfoot doesn't exist, but I think that he/she probably doesn't.  

Initially, I just told my wife that I was playing the devils advocate.  She would see a comment of mine on Facebook that was not very christlike shall we say, and I'd just play it off by saying that I just wanted to see what others thought.  Or, I would be listening to an atheist podcast and make the excuse that I was just wanting to know  more about my enemy so I would be better equipped to handle them.  I wonder how many baby atheists do this as an attempt to mask their true identity from Christian family members while still immersing themselves in their newfound identity?  I suspect that there are quite a few.

I hope that you come back for my final installment as I discuss the reaction of some of my family when they found out that I was indeed a follower of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and how atheism has changed me as a person.  In many ways, I believe that I'm a more well-grounded and stable person now.  This theme needs to be expanded upon in my next installment.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

My story (pt. 2) If You Can't Beat Em', Join Em'

It was about this time when I tried my hand in the stock market for the second time in my life.  I had been unjustly fired from my previous employer and had already been studying the market before getting the boot.  I spent the next year taking online course work in the stock market and losing my ass in online trading.  I continued to seek God's wisdom and favor as I made trading decisions.  My mother had told me about a woman who prayed before each stock trade and made a ton of money doing it.  As usual, there seemed to be no divine intervention from the Lord.  Yet, I never became bitter toward God for not helping; I just continued to try to be the best Christian I could be.

 It was also about this time that my long held beliefs were really put to the test.  I was searching Facebook for long lost pals and came across Mike Doolittle's profile.  It was unmistakably the same fair skinned, blonde haired guy that I met some 19 years earlier.  I asked for his hand in Facebook friendship, and he soon obliged.  But there was something wrong with this Mike Doolittle.  He kept making post after post and comment after comment of anti-Christian rhetoric or had the audacity to display scientific related materials discussing evidence that contradicted some of my most cherished beliefs. Just about anytime I put something up regarding my belief in Christ, he would challenge me in some way. For a time, I actually blocked this guy from my facebook. I can't remember exactly why I eventually unblocked him, but I think it was because I wanted to confront him. It wasn't long before I decided to go toe to toe with this non-conformist in a showdown at the virtual O.K. Corral.  Armed with materials from my favorite apologists and theologians and wanting to be the best Christian possible, I vehemently argued my case against such topics as evolution and God's morality.

Speaking of evolution, as a bit of an aside, I never believed in it nor was I properly educated on the subject.  Even in college, the subject just never came up.  I never thought about it enough to even know what I thought about it.  In short, I just believed whatever Hank Hannegraff or Norm Geisler said on the subject.  It was just a lie and full of misinformation.

Needless to say, I soon realized that Mike was telling the honest to god's truth.  There was a wealth of evidence confirming evolution as a fact.  Scientists almost unanimously agree that evolution is the best explanation for the diversity of species and the progress of our own.  It's awfully hard to continue to side with the fundamental Christianity I was used to when they are at odds with the scientific literature.  Not being raised as a moderate or liberal Christian, I didn't have the convenience of accepting evolution while discarding the story of Genesis as a metaphor.  

Mike pointed me to books and online articles discussing the latest research in evolution from--this is a shocker--real scientists. We also discussed some of the theories on astrophysics and origins of the universe. I quickly defined myself as a young earth creationist (YEC) as it aligned with the literal interpretation of Genesis. I honestly had never heard of the term before, but Mike laid it out for me. This was all well beyond me, but I sure just wanted to say that God took care of it all and leave it at that. Mike wouldn't let me get off that easy. Being far more advanced in the topic than I, he explained scientific theory and plausible hypotheses regarding the universe which don't necessitate a creator. We went over big bang theory, string theory, multiverse theory and many others. As the A-Unicornist often quips, the only thing worse than a god that doesn't exist is a god that might as well not exist.  

But Mike really put the nail in the coffin when we started talking about God's moral behaviors.  The O.T. had bothered me before but nothing that Lee Strobel couldn't fix.  After all, God was doing neighboring nations a favor when he demanded the death of children.  They got the automatic ticket to the greatest show on earth, heaven.  We can't all be so lucky.  As for the doctrine of hell, it was our own fault for going, and we chose hell over heaven by rejecting our savior.  We were going exactly where we wanted and asked to go.

Needless to say, Mike opened my eyes to the brutality involved in all of that.  We have a god, full of omnisicience, that still creates beings he knows with foresight will be eternally separated and punished for lacking belief and living apart from this taskmaster's own desires.

As far as the OT goes, Mike helped me realize that a secular morality was superior to God's.  I vividly remember watching The Stoning of Soraya M. and that was the final straw.  I could no longer worship a god with such a capricious and cruel nature.  Even if he was real, I wanted little to do with such a beast.   As the saying goes, if you can't beat em', join em'.   I raised the white flag and surrendered to an insurmountable amount of evidence in favor of evolution, against YEC and impressive moral arguments confirming secular morality's superiority.  

I humbly ask that you stay tuned for the next installment as I discuss what being a baby atheist is like.  I say baby because it's quite similar.  I found myself soaking up information like a sponge and voraciously reading everything I could get my hands on.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

My story (pt.1) Knee Deep in Supernaturalism

The wonderful Advocatus Atheist himself, Tristan Vick, has inspired me to tell the personal story of my own evolution into a rootin’ tootin’ atheist. I may have delved into portions of my story in the past so please bear with me if some of it sounds familiar. I was raised in a very fundamentalist household from day one. My mother is the main source of my religious upbringing. Although initially raised as Baptist, she later met a friend who would forever change her perspective as she began attending services that had a more charismatic leaning. These were the kind of services that you didn’t feel like you got your money’s worth unless you got spit on by the preacher in the process. People frequently spoke in tongues and flailed around aimlessly. Attracted by the supernaturalism, my mother continued to seek out churches such as these from that point onward.

I remember the dread of waking up on Sunday mornings and waiting for the bedroom door to open. I always crossed my fingers in hopes that my mom would let us stay home from church. This was seldom the case early in my life. As time went by, our church attendance seemed less consistent. Nevertheless, my mother continued to amass an impressive amount of books regarding the word of faith movement. You know, the whole just ask for whatever you want and you should get it unless you don’t have enough faith theology.

My mother suffered from a series of rashes when I was around the age of 7 or 8. Being wealthy at the time, my mom had flown around the world in search for a viable cure. She had seen many of the most famous dermatologists around but none could seem to fix her ailment. One night, she asked for my father, brother and me to pray for her. We got in a prayer circle and laid hands on her. Miraculously, by the next day or so, the rash had subsided substantially. I don’t think she’s had another outbreak since. It was moments like this where I first realized the apparent power of prayer.

My mother experienced bizarre, demonic visions of hell and torment as well. She told me that she had actually been dragged down the stairs by some force which just continued to utter the words, “If you don’t, if you don’t.” She said that there were demons all over the place, and even our cat seemed to have a devilish smile upon its face. The next day, she told me that her forearm was sore from where this spirit dragged her body. Stories like this were very common place in my family, and her childhood friend had even more creepy stories that kept me up in the wee hours of the night. On one night, I thought that I saw a demon myself. He had a monkey face and was standing beside my bed. I pulled the covers over my face frantically and waited it out. We lived over what was thought to be an old Indian burial ground. There were many reports of ghosts walking around at night and disturbing residents. It seemed like I was knee deep in supernatural occurrences. I think that these experiences certainly shaped my world view.

By 10th grade, I was attending a private Christian school and not particularly enjoying it. Like most Christians, I said that I was a Christian but lived outside of the teachings. Out of our graduating class, I could probably count one person who seemed genuine about their Christianity. It wasn’t until meeting my wife that I really began to establish a strong relationship with God.

Certain stressors began negatively impacting my life which seemed to coincide with my urge to get closer to God. I don’t fare well with change unless my back is against the wall and married life certainly seemed very different. My Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) became front and center in my life, and I was looking for answers. I really began to study the Word under the influence of my father-in-law, who happens to be a Baptist preacher. I was reading apologetic materials by the likes of Norman Geisler. I was regularly tuning in to the Bible Answer Man broadcast with Hank Hannegraff. I even tried my hand at being a youth teacher but that was fairly short-lived. Attending several services and study hours became common for me. In short, I wanted to be the best I could be at walking the Christian life. I wanted to conquer my OCD using God’s power, but there seemed to be a nagging problem. There was some cognitive dissonance brewing in my head regarding prayer. I couldn’t understand why God would heal me if he allows children to die. I felt like I was inevitably stuck with OCD because there was no reason to believe that God cared about mental illnesses when he didn’t care about starving, emaciated children. It wasn’t too long after this issue came to a climax when I became reacquainted with a long lost friend that was very instrumental in turning my life around. His name is Mike Doolittle AKA A-Unicornist. I encourage you to tune in to the next installment as I delve into the debates I had with Mike as he methodically destroyed my arguments and opened my eyes for the first time.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Atheism is not dangerous

The beliefs in supernatural phenomenon, an afterlife and the infallibility of religious doctrine are dangerous.  There are many reasons that they are dangerous.  For one, books like the Bible are open to millions of interpretations because there's no objective standard to assess its content.  Also, you end up having to believe that highly immoral actions are moral simply because the god of your religion has been defined as the source of objective morality by the scriptures themselves.  Therefore, actions like genocide, infanticide, abusive slavery, sexism, racism, animal cruelty, stoning and many more wonderful ideologies and practices are moral when this imaginary being says so in his fictitious book.

Atheism has no dogma or creed.  It doesn't make unsubstantiated claims.  There's nothing taken on faith. It doesn't even mean that you automatically believe in evolution.  

Arguably, the most destructive force against humanity has been the belief in religious doctrine.  The 911 attacks, crusades, Spanish Inquisition, and Holocaust can be directly linked to religious doctrine.  When has not believing in something merely on faith caused mass genocide or terrorist attacks?  People become slaves to beliefs that have no evidence and find the motivation to kill others  because of their interpretations of scripture.  God's will supersedes humanities, and it makes killing more palatable.

In the case of the holocaust, we can thank Christianity for antisemitism and the killing of millions.  The Jews are responsible for killing Jesus of the Bible, and Hitler took this ideology, inspired by Martin Luther, and enforced it systematically.  The scriptures offered no foresight into the events of the Holocaust or stern warning against killing the "children of the devil."  Perhaps Jesus was only addressing a certain group of Jews.  Nevertheless, scriptures like these fueled hatred for Jews, and god, with all his wonderful foresight, did nothing to prevent the deaths and persecution of Jews.

Friday, October 21, 2011

There is no greater meaning

Most atheists recognize the fact that there just is no greater meaning, intrinsic value or purpose to our existence nor is there some ultimate goal or justice for that matter. Theists use this observation as some kind of argument for god. It goes something like this: “It’s really depressing to think that there is no meaning to this life, and we just die. Therefore, God exists because that sounds better, and it makes me happier.” They may not say it just like that but that’s generally what they are implying.

Truthfully, humans ascribe whatever meaning they want to this life. The fun thing about being an atheist is that we can tweak it and change the meaning we ascribe to it as we mature and life circumstances change. We aren’t stuck with the idea that we are solely meant to pronounce the love of god to the world and try to get to heaven, with all the cognitive dissonance to go along with it. Life is more sophisticated than that and far more adventurous.

Some of us find meaning in chasing the almighty dollar despite the ill-affects it has on health and relationships. Apparently, Steve Jobs took this route and ignored his children entirely, only explaining his intentions postmortem. Some of us find meaning in traveling the world and learning from different cultures. Some of us find meaning in providing for our family but spending quality time with them as well. It doesn’t mean that a person can’t change what is meaningful as life goes on. In the end, they may recognize that they put their career in front of their children and change what’s meaningful toward their relationship with their children. I personally find more meaning and fulfillment in relationships, enjoyable hobbies, writing, reading and playing than I do in working 80 hours a week but that’s just me. I've never had a materialistic obsession. I say you should do what makes you happy as long as you aren’t hurting others or yourself.

The point is that it’s your life to live. You don’t need or want a book to tell you how to live it, or what should be important to you. You can decide what matters the most, what makes you happiest and what you wish to avoid. I find that far more appealing then living under a dictator who threatens you with fire and brimstone if you fail to live as he commands. You're robbing yourself from what life has to offer when you allow someone else, fictitious or not, to tell you how to live it.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The moral lessons we can learn from a spider

If you’re like me, your skin is sure to start crawling whenever you see one of these creepy crawlers. Most of us are very quick to curb stomp one of these little bastards when they dare cross our path. It generally doesn’t matter what size they are either. We are gonna’ take them down, and we pray (to Dawkins?) that we don’t find one in our room before going to bed because it will be most difficult to fall asleep until they are eliminated. But, what happens if we see them from a different perspective? What happens when we ascribe value to them?

I happen to have a black and yellow garden spider making a nice home for herself in the backyard. I noticed the magnificent craftsmanship of her web and immediately changed my perspective. Had I seen her creeping around on the patio, I would probably run for some spider spray or just stomp her out. Instead, I recognized the value that she had and the reciprocal altruistic nature of our relationship. I provide living space and shade, and she provides a death trap for flying insects that like to sting or eat away plants. She’s not poisonous and will not likely bite unless provoked. This is what happens when we stop objectifying others, regardless of species. Problems emerge when we stop seeing any value in another sentient creature; the Holocaust immediately comes to mind. The anti-Semitism derived from the Bible and Martin Luther’s distain for the Jew’s created an atmosphere of hatred and objectification. Hitler latched on to this ideology and made it a main area of primary concern in his reign. He refused to see the value in the Jewish people, blinded by hatred and religious vitriol.

It’s imperative that we learn to see the value in others. I believe that living morally requires the often conscious effort to find value in those around you despite their apparent flaws. There is no one that doesn’t have something to offer. Even the most decrepit can often teach us lessons about ourselves. Indeed, even a spider can illustrate the mental transition we can make when we see them as more than adversaries or pests. Anyway, I thought I would provide a little food for thought.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I went to church!

I attended a church service with my best friend this past weekend. This church emphasizes how it should be a “fun” place to grow and be challenged. It’s been about a year since I attended church, aside from going to Vacation Bible School to watch my children in a program. We went to the contemporary service, as opposed to the earlier traditional service. This was a more progressive, high-energy service that usually repels many of the older folks. The music wasn’t bad but standing there gets rather tiresome after twenty minutes or so. I don’t understand why Christians think worshipping god for all eternity is something to look forward to. In the words of Christopher Hitchins, “I don’t want to live in a Celestial North Korea for all eternity.” At one point, the praise and worship leader shouted that god didn’t want us to suffer, but to live abundantly. He would be the supplier of all our needs. I couldn’t help but think of the way the disciples and Jesus Christ himself were brutally murdered for their faith, as legend has suggested. The message being that if you follow Jesus far enough, you will end up being a martyr for your faith too. I’m not sure how this ties into “living abundantly."

We watched a brief video/infomercial about how the church is accepting of everybody regardless of their past or current circumstances. Different actors in the video gave various apparent objections to going to church such as: All the church wants is your money (Well, this is at least part of the reason); I don’t believe all of the same things you do (They listed various outside denominations as examples, but the atheist was sadly left out); only wimps go to church; if you knew what I did, you wouldn’t want me in your church (this one was particularly creepy, think pedophile); they’ll never accept me for who I am. Of course, the overwhelming theme throughout the video was that the church accepts everybody. This is a nice change but merely a reflection of an evolving church that’s becoming more and more indistinguishable from the world in which we really live.

After the video, we were treated to more music and I couldn’t help but notice the dancing woman in the corner. She was holding two long poles with soft fabric hanging off the ends. I just referred to her as flag girl. I asked my friend if it would be possible for me to become a flag girl as well. He laughed and said facetiously that she used to do an act where she was suspended from two cables and floated across the room.

Eventually, the music slowed a bit and a member from the congregation began speaking in tongues. One of the worship leaders “interpreted” it and gave some generic word about how we must praise god with greater power and enthusiasm. I wondered what would happen if I fallaciously began speaking in tongues as well. Would I get an interpretation? I’m betting that I would but I refrained.

Finally, and I do mean finally, the pastor began his message on the prodigal son. This was probably the only part of the service that had much real world application. We all understand that our actions have consequences, and it’s great to have a second chance, especially from the ones we love. The son, as many of us know, went to a distant land inhabited by gentiles. He squandered all of his inheritance--that he demanded from his father-- early and foolishly, hence the usage of the word prodigal. After wrestling with pigs and eating pig slop, he comes back to his father with his tail between his legs. His father is more than accepting, lowering his noble standards to running in a field toward him with his skirt hiked up, exposing his ankles. The pastor discussed many of the violations regarding social mores and customs of the Middle Eastern societies. This was refreshing and painted a more vivid picture of the story.

Each of the main characters in the story lowered their standards. The son lowered his standards out of greed and eventual desperation. The father lowered his standards out of unconditional love for the son. It’s a wonderful story but devoid of any supernatural necessities. Of course, this is supposed to be a parable which compares an earthly father/son relationship with the relationship god has with each of his followers. We live a life of sin but are welcomed back with open arms. So, serial killers and rapists can always be assured another chance if they sincerely repent before capital punishment is carried out.

There is just one itty bitty problem however. We don’t have any evidence that the father is real or that we have anybody to “run home” to. There’s not much of a point in putting faith in something that is devoid of evidence. In the parable, the son had all the evidence that he needed to believe in the father, but most of us aren’t granted a shred of physical evidence.

Anyway, I may continue going with my friend a couple times a month just for the fun of it. We had a church lunch afterword that was really good. Many of the members are very friendly, and others would be easily diagnosed with a psychological disorder. I certainly can fit in to the Christian culture as well as anybody.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's hard to imagine

It’s hard to imagine how much wasted money goes to religion, including things like: books, videos, tithes, churches, sound systems, gas to get to these stupid events, etc. This isn’t including the investment of time that people put into this smorgasbord of folly. I can’t help but wonder how much further along we would be technologically, medically, and scientifically if just a third of this money/time was allocated toward more worthwhile endeavors, not to mention if the whole amount was allocated more wisely. We could be heavily researching life extension technologies so that people could enjoy the only life they have for a much longer time. We could invest more heavily in cancer treatment research or AIDS research. The Christian religion is a multi-billion dollar industry; these numbers don’t even include other religious faiths that suck up resources better used elsewhere. Humanity has spent so much wasted time and money on something that’s completely fictitious—it’s the ultimate facepalm!

I know many Christians who just take this life for granted. They are absolutely certain that a future one lies ahead. They take their health for granted, and they take their environment for granted. After all, Jesus will return and usher in a new age, with a new world. Instead of doing something constructive, they decide to pray for things, like rain. They often put a religious spin on every minute detail of their lives that consequently influences their day to day decisions.

The Bible is considered their “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” This is a template for disaster and misuse of resources. There’s nothing in the Bible of any benefit than can’t be found elsewhere, from the golden rule and onward. Yet, this book has sold over 6 billion copies. There are enough copies for every single living person on the planet. The book has been published in over 450 languages and is generally found in every country, aside from the ones most vehemently against religious freedoms.

We should consider the number of people who decide to go into ministry that could be doing something far more profound with their time. We should consider the number of dollars going to people like Benny Hinn that could be going into research. Instead of churches, we could have learning and research centers based on the sciences. How much more advanced would we be? It’s hard to imagine.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Is it really that unreasonable?

Is it really that unreasonable and incomprehensible to believe that some people actually want evidence for claims before they will trust in them? This isn’t some revolutionary, radical idea that only the scummiest people on the planet, like atheists, should dare endorse. My problem is that many Christians frown upon atheists for the heinous offense of desiring some compelling evidence before wrapping their entire worldview around some epistemological stance. I personally would require extraordinary evidence before I swallowed what any religion proselytized. I know this is just a really shocking concept. Does this make me a criminal worthy of a thousand deaths? Yes, it does according to Christian dogma. I will go to my grave as a nonbeliever until I find evidence. I will change my mind in a heartbeat once that sound evidence is presented. This is what many believers fail to realize. They don't understand that most atheists would have no problem putting their trust in a religion if that religion had enough evidence to support it.

As John Loftus often quips, god knows exactly what I would require in order to believe. The Bible, in and of itself, isn’t convincing enough to believe in people walking on water or resurrecting from the dead. If it was, I would probably still be a Christian today (Although, god and I really need to talk about the stupid, nefarious shit he did to people in the Old Testament). And, as Jesus stated (John 14:12), we should be seeing even greater things today than before. Youtube or the local news could easily cover someone performing amazing feats that surpass--or at least equaled for fuck's sake--Christ’s purported miracles. Why were the disciples and Paul some of the few to get such an intimate glimpse of the supernatural? Where have these supernatural abilities gone to? If Jesus is in every believer, we can safely assume that he should be working mightily through his present-day disciples to continue the missionary work of converting the lost.

It certainly doesn’t help that every so-called faith healer has turned out to be nothing more than a counterfeit. This only further undermines my ability to believe. You have other Christians who believe that all the supernatural stuff just discontinued upon the closing of the canon of scripture. They put their trust in seemingly mundane “godly” interventions, like when god helps a surgeon perform well during a serious surgery. This seems to weaken the Christian message that was built almost exclusively on the miraculous. Indeed, nobody should have believed in this Christ back then if no miracles were presented and nobody would trust in Jesus today without such miracle stories.

My point is that there are plenty of opportunities for god to produce some sort of supernatural, miracle today that could be promulgated and demonstrated exclusively by Christians. This would eliminate the notion that some foreign god was responsible. The Bible frowns upon people requesting miracles (John 4:48). How much more important are such signs in the age of science? I suppose that the Bible threw this scripture in there because they knew that no such miracles occurred, and they needed to introduce their so-called trump card, faith.

Science makes faith an obsolete concept. In an age of scientific enlightenment, Christians and nonbelievers should demand more than stories to believe. We owe it to ourselves and the sciences to require that much. In nearly any other endeavor, most people would have no problem with you wanting evidence before devoting yourself to some cause. I would say that religion requires faith because it lacks any evidence. Faith, in the ANE, was held in the same high regard as science before we understood that real answers to seemingly impossible questions were attainable. Shouldn’t god understand that we are no longer living in such a primitive, pre-scientific state? It certainly doesn’t help that science has demolished the ability to believe in the majority of old testament stories--through biology, geology, and archaeology to name a few.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sex, drugs and rock and roll

I’ve been listening to music coming out of the 60’s and 70’s more as of late. You know the whole “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” era. I think this is why I could never relate to it as a Christian. We were supposed to look upon that time with scorn and disgust. As an atheist, I have found some of the ideas coming out of this era particularly appealing. I really like some of the ideas that come from the song Imagine, by John Lennon. It talks about world unity, no religion and no greed. The unity brings everyone together, and there would be no border separation. I’m not sure how this would work exactly, but I appreciate the pacifism presented in the song. Anyway, it’s yet another barrier being brought down as a result of feeling enabled to open my mind to other ideas that were once restricted when living as a Christian.

Imagine, by John Lennon

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try No hell below us Above us only sky
Imagine all the people Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

Monday, July 25, 2011

Christian: You are called to witness to the ends of the earth

This was the conundrum that I faced when I desired to take Christianity seriously. I wanted to be a great witness that had all the right answers. But, how can you be a great witness when you don’t have convincing evidence for what you believe in? For whatever reason, silly ole’ me tends to put more trust in evidence than in faith, and faith certainly isn’t evidence despite what Hebrews 11:1 suggests. The evidence that I was looking so desperately for was very poor.

I also don’t think there are very many good witnesses around, especially the kind that spread the message to the ends of the earth as instructed. Why is this? Sometimes I wonder if they are unconvinced as the rest of us but on a subconscious level. There may be a handful of missionaries out there, but the majority of Christians here in the states seem to live as “secret Christians”. This wasn’t what Jesus preached. In fact, many of the preachers that I have observed privately are really not much different. Jesus was vocal, putting on healing demonstrations. Jesus cast out demons. Where are the demons now? Did they just go home after Jesus left us? Most of us know that so-called demonic possession is really a case of psychiatric distress.

There seems to be this indifference amongst the Christian members. The preacher can stress the importance of witnessing, but most of them never change. Don’t actions/inactions speak louder than words? If they really believed in the demands of their Lord, why aren’t they voraciously spreading the word? I argue that there may be a disconnection between what they actually believe, and what they want to believe. It can’t just be a case of laziness. Perhaps, they just don’t understand the urgency because of their privileged circumstances. Many Christians may think that others will take care of the witnessing for them, but they are still saved since they proclaimed Christ as savior. I still think that they are living in disobedience, since Jesus made it clear that they are to witness to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). This isn’t a suggestion, but Christians live according to their own needs and wants just like the rest of us. If this doesn’t speak volumes than I don’t know what does.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

God just isn't worth worshipping

It’s been well stated by the likes of The A-Unicornist that the only thing worse than a god that doesn’t exist is a god that might as well not exist. I would like to look at this from yet a different angle and suggest that god just isn’t worth worshipping regardless if he exists or not. I’m going to look at this from a human perspective because that happens to be the only perspective available to me. I can’t very well step into god’s shoes and look at it from his perspective. If he exists, he already knows that good and well. I’m simply going to use the brain that he supposedly gave me to assess his worthiness as a deity that deserves worship. To do this, I’m going to ask some simple questions.

First, I have to ask is a god that kills, or at least functions as an accomplice, my fellow humans worthy of my worship? I don’t think so. He lacks any respect for the species that I call my own. Throughout history, he has shown time and time again that he holds a total disregard for our species. We can look at natural disasters as a prime example. If he has omnipotence, he is capable of controlling the weather. Some Christians pray for rain, suggesting that he can turn the weather on and off as he so pleases. Yet, it goes without saying that untold numbers have died as the result of devastating tsunamis, tornados, earthquakes and many others natural disasters.

When looking at the Bible, assuming that it has any historical merit whatsoever, we find that god doesn’t hold any punches. Infants, children and women are subject to his unrestricted wrath. How can a god expect humans to respect him if he lacks any sort of respect for our species? If he is willing to destroy children, he is equally willing to destroy you at any given moment.

In many ways, god seems more like the devil than the devil. God is the one who controls everything; Satan just sits in the background and occasionally whispers diabolical thoughts into our ears. God has killed more people directly than Satan ever thought about. I can’t help but think that Satan is down there, wherever that is, eating a bag of popcorn and watching god wipe out entire civilizations. He has to be gods biggest fan. I mean just look at what god does to children. He allows African children to starve to death, he aborts babies via miscarriage, he gives children terminal cancer and the list goes on and on. God is certainly the source of unbridled suffering because he’s the one who holds all the power. The innocent depend on him to save them from the wrath of the wicked but help rarely comes. We could take the tornado that devastated Joplin, Missouri recently as a example.

The fact that god doesn’t take care of children was one of the main reasons I began my de-conversion process. There was no point in praying for others, or my own needs, when he refuses to prevent the suffering of children. It simply made no sense to pray for my petty problems when god allowed children to die of malnutrition, disease, devastation of war and natural disasters. I just do not find this god appealing or worthy of my worship. Prayer is the main way Christians communicate with god, and it became a frivolous undertaking.

Friday, July 8, 2011

20 reasons I'm not a Christian now

In no particular order:

1) God sacrificed himself to himself for the curse that he placed upon humanity. This just seems like a really retarded god.

2) The book doesn't give me that important, "Hey, this must have been written by highly inspired people that consulted with some very powerful being" feeling.

3) God's a spoiled, evil prick.

4) God kills infants/children to suit his own purposes.

5) God's failed creation. Adam and Eve were failures . The entire world failed, so god destroyed everything but Noah. The Israelites get killed off by neighboring nations and god himself until only a chosen few make it to the promised land. Warmonger anyone?

6) No geological evidence for the flood.

7) No substantial archaeological evidence for the Bible.

8) Christians are such hypocrites for the most part.

9) No reason to believe that the Bible is more believable than any other religious text.

10) No way to objectively tell what the Bible means. Fundamentalists contend that everything is literally true except for the most obviously metaphorical parts, while liberals state that most of it is just allegorical.

11) No contemporaneous sources for New Testament stories.

12) Natural disasters.

13) Science makes more sense.

14) People are gullible, think Scientology.

15) Stoning as a method of killing.

16) God doesn't try to communicate to us through the 5 senses he supposedly instilled in us.

17) Lack of evidence.

18) Christians think the must stupid, mundane things are evidence of god and his involvement in human affairs. For example, a tree by Caylee Anthony's memorial site was struck by lightning, so that implies that god was involved. Where was he when she died?

19) Statistically speaking, Christians fair no better in married relationships than non-Christians.

20) Poor education levels, unwanted pregnancies, and violence are more highly coorelated with Christians.

*Bonus* What Harris said.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Scientific Terms 101

The term “theory” is not the same in science as it is in informal exchanges. Theory doesn’t mean just some educated guess, or some idea that somebody has conjured up. Within the scientific community, a theory is something that has been proven and is generally accepted as being true. Unfortunately, scientists are sometimes guilty of using the term “theory” in a colloquial sense which only further confuses many laymen.
A good basic definition of theory- an explanation of a set of related observations or events based upon proven hypotheses and verified multiple times by detached groups of researchers.

In looking at evolution, creationists and other naysayers like to point out that evolution is only a theory. They think that the word just means a hunch or one of many possibilities. Anyone looking at the evidence would come to a different conclusion pretty quickly. A theory and hypothesis don’t mean the same thing either.
A good basic definition of hypothesis (or hy-po-thee-sis as one caller on the Atheist Experience pronounced it…much to everyone’s amusement)-an educated guess based upon observation. It is a rational explanation of a single event or phenomenon based upon what is observed, but which has not been proved. Most hypotheses can be supported or refuted by experimentation or continued observation.

Most creationists would state that evolution is in the hypothesis stage even though it hasn’t been in that infant stage for 150 years. Let’s get with the times, shall we? The theory of evolution has been proven, but there are new hypotheses developed by scientists all the time. This doesn’t mean that the theory has been unproven! It simply means that we know evolution occurs, but opinion varies on HOW it occurs when looking at in from a case by case perspective. For instance, we know that humans evolved from tree dwelling apes, but we don’t necessarily know the exact conditions which prompted bipedal locomotion.
Then there are scientific laws- a statement of fact meant to describe, in concise terms, an action or set of actions. It is generally accepted to be true and universal, and can sometimes be expressed in terms of a single mathematical equation.
The law of gravity and thermodynamics are popular scientific laws, but they are not the same as a theory. BOTH ARE GENERALLY CONSIDERED TO BE TRUE HOWEVER!

My adversary was trying to argue with me about how evolution was far from proven. He stated that it wasn't a law yet either. We can see from the above descriptions that there was simply some confusion about what these scientific terms imply.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Is Science a Religion?

I’ve been duking it out with a Christian on the battlegrounds of Facebook after viewing a David Letterman interview with physicist Brian Greene. This fellow facebooker says that science and religion are so similar because scientists put their faith in the natural world. He says that I hold a presupposition of believing that everything can be explained within naturalistic means. Brian Greene is exercising his faith when he talks about the “very dense ball of string that started vibrating and creating everything.” When confronted, he accuses me of being na├»ve and “looking down” upon him.

Of course, science is nothing like religion. In fact, they hold diametrically opposing views. Christianity, for example, begins with a truth claim like, “god is real, and Jesus is his son”, and then tries to build the evidence to support that claim. Science starts with a hypothesis that may or may not be true and performs the research to determine its validity. It doesn’t start with a truth claim and declare that you must believe it regardless of how little evidence there is to support it.

There are indeed highly speculative models of how the universe came about and expanded. But, these models are not implausible nor do they necessitate the need for supernaturalistic explanations. In other words, the models would theoretically work within the confines of the universe in which we live.

When pressed for evidence, my adversary simply states that god’s work is all around us, and he doesn’t see how anyone could come to an alternate conclusion. I’m sorry that he can’t see how others fail to see god all around them, but I’m in good company. About 75% of the scientists out there reject the notion of a god too. Scientists that do the work and understand the evidence on the deepest level are not finding god anywhere. Truthfully, science continues to close the areas that god can hide as the gaps continue to fill. Christians are forced to evolve with the times or look like ignoramuses.

The Anthropic Principle states that it’s really not all that remarkable that we're here because the physical conditions on the earth must be compatible with the sentient creatures that are here to observe it, or we wouldn’t be observing it, would we? I don’t find it remarkable at all that we are here when you look at just how immense the universe is. The earth is just a small speck of dust in comparison, and it’s not at all surprising that life would emerge in some corner of the universe. I wouldn’t be surprised if some forms of life were in many areas throughout the universe, and evolution would be the guiding method behind all diversity regardless of where the life is located. We don’t have to look at the stars anymore and think that they are some kind of god, or the work of gods. We now know that there are naturalistic explanations that provide better answers. Science has paved the way to such enlightenment.

When it comes to the universe, I don’t necessarily have faith that we will ever find out all the answers. We may never know how the universe came about or if it just always existed. This still doesn’t mean that saying god did it makes the problem go away. It only intensifies the problem. We answer the mystery with a mystery. We then have the daunting task of figuring out how god came about. Who made god, and how does he operate outside of time and space? My Christian friend doesn’t seem to care if what he believes in is true. He says that there is nothing wrong with having faith. I agree but not for the reasons he is implying. I think faith is great when you get on a plane. Statistically speaking, you’re probably not going to crash, and aviation scientists have made flying very safe. But, I don’t consciously put my faith in things which have scarce evidence. This is akin to believing that you’re going to win the lottery, so you quit your job. If you don’t care about what’s true, you might as well believe in Judaism, Hinduism and Islam for starters. Also, it would serve you well to believe in the 30,000 different denominations out there with all their nuances. So, as for now, I’m the “ass” according to this guy for being arrogant and not having any room to believe in the supernatural.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Larry, Jennifer, Bob and Ted makes for a good time

Aside from being a really interesting interview from start to finish, this video perfectly illustrates one of the major problems with Christianity. About six minutes into the video, Jennifer Knapp, a very successful Christian recording artist and lesbian, says it all as it pertains to the Christian faith. There are nearly as many interpretations of the Bible as there are people on the planet. You can say that it means whatever you want it to mean, and there is no higher authority to discredit you. Sure, there are denominations that have written out their own declarations of faith, but there are 29,999+ other denominations that don’t necessarily agree with that declaration. And, these aren’t always issues of little consequence; issues pertaining to salvation and what constitutes sin are adamantly disagreed upon depending on the denomination. Homosexuality is a hotly debated topic among Christians. Sort of mirroring politics, the more liberal Christians tend to believe that homosexuality is not a sin while the more conservative Christians believe that homosexuality is definitely sin and will earn a person eternity in hell. There are people like Joe Dallas that go around preaching against homosexuality and counseling people on how to achieve a heterosexual lifestyle. There are other churches that would like to see the ban on same sex marriage lifted. As George Carlin would say, “It’s all bullshit and it’s bad for ya.” The confusion about homosexuality being good or bad goes away completely when you dismiss the Bible as just bullshit. It becomes increasingly difficult to tell who the real Christian is anymore and to avoid committing a No True Scotsman fallacy in the process.

Later in the interview, it becomes comical as two people argue about homosexuality being sin because each one’s interpretation contradicts the others. Many Christians will flock to the denomination that best supports what they want to hear. Jennifer Knapp gets spiritual counsel from likeminded Christians that support her homosexuality and interpret scriptures likewise.

Pastor Bob Botsford points out, god suddenly “changes his mind” and things like shell fish and wearing clothes containing different fabrics are no longer problematic (Why does an all-knowing god need to change his mind when he already understands what is right to do from the beginning? But that’s a different story) However, according to Pastor Bob Botsford in this interview, homosexuality continues to be considered wrong throughout the New Testament. The interview ends where it began. Jennifer basically speaks as many atheists do, despite her being a purported Christian, by contending that it’s all open to interpretation while Bob articulates that it is clearly sinful. Ted Haggard, in the background, keeps calling the whole thing a “process” but avoids directly stating that homosexuality is a sin. So, we have a very dogmatic stance and then we have a more wishy-washy stance in the case of Ted Haggard. Knapp seems to support a more relativistic theology where anything goes as long as it isn’t hurting others while Botsford thinks that homosexuality is so bad that you can’t be Christian while practicing it. Even though, he fully admits that he makes mistakes everyday but it’s apparently different if they aren’t consciously manifested.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A bit of Q and A

There were some questions raised by my last post regarding my brother-in-law’s dwindling faith. I thought it would be fun to make a new post regarding those questions included in its comment section and hope that Rebecca is cool with that. She begins with a question about the length of time it took my brother-in-law to realize how awful god was and then she asks about the difficulties people have in discarding their faith.

Question 1) I’m so very sorry to hear about your brother-in-laws struggles (they sound awful!), although I’m glad he’s edging closer to the “truth.” Still…I’m surprised… he never noticed, in his whole life as a Christian, that “God” is cruel/evil/indiscriminate? It took such personal tragedies to make him start questioning Christianity? Natural disasters, suffering children, other Christians’ difficulties, evil, torture, famine, rape, cruelty to animals – none of that ever made him question his faith or “God’s goodness” before? It just kind of baffles me, but I guess that’s the Christian brainwashing part.

My response: I can’t speak on my Brother-in-law’s behalf, but I do know how I addressed the repugnant cruelties so prevalent in the Bible and in the modern world. I read a lot of apologetic materials, especially Lee Strobel and Norm Geisler. They had a way of explaining things that seemed to momentarily satisfy my confusion. I also looked up to my mother. My mother, whom I love dearly, has always expressed how important a relationship with god is, and we usually attended church, more often than not.

I felt like most of the problems with suffering in the world could be explained away by thinking of it as a “fallen world”; the Armenian theology which suggests we are all under the curse of Adam and Eve’s original sin. Therefore, the suffering that occurs on earth is a result of original sin and not god’s doing. I bought into the whole notion that if there is no evil than there would be no room for god’s goodness to shine threw. It also helped to think that there would be ultimate justice when evildoers went to hell. I just started to look at it on a timescale. For example, I figured what Hitler did in his short time on earth pales in comparison to the eternity of torture he would endure. So, god really was the good guy in the end; it was just delayed a bit. The Old Testament is what really got me going in the opposite direction however. Like many people say: “If you want to make an atheist out of someone, just have them read the Bible.” I’ve read bits of the O.T. before but usually relied on the apologetic responses. Israel was a holy people and had to be sustained or Jesus would have never come. So, the infanticide and genocide were all ultimately necessary for the redemption of mankind. Nevertheless, reading the Bible made the wheels in my head start to turn a bit. Those little concerns in the O.T. turned out to be huge concerns later on.

In my brother-in-law’s case, I think it was a slow progression. One thing led to another and he started to realize that god just doesn’t seem to give a fuck. You have to understand that his dad is a Southern Baptist preacher, so he has been well indoctrinated. But, my brother-in-law isn’t the type to just go along with the flow, so to speak. He began to put some things together for himself and came to the conclusion that god isn’t a good god. So, to answer your question, I think that we all make rationalizations for god to keep him in the winner’s circle. When tragedy strikes, it was the result of someone’s lack of faith or sin. When something wonderful happens, it was the result of god’s goodness. I know it’s hard to probably understand any of that from an outsider’s perspective, but children tend to believe whatever their parents tell them. We were both indoctrinated from an early age.

2) As a lifelong atheist, someone who’s never had to deconvert or “give up Christianity,” I’m curious – what is so scary about giving up Christianity? Why is it so hard? (Maybe this should be a whole future post in itself!) Is it just the death part? (I don’t fully understand that, either – the millennia before I was born didn’t bother me; the “not thereness” when I’m asleep isn’t bad; I expect the “nothingness” after I’m dead to be fine, too. It doesn’t seem that scary to me.) So: Christians have to give up the idea of immortality… what else? You talked about the “emptiness.” Is this something that I, as an atheist, just can’t understand? Why do Christians hold onto the fantasy so desperately? I’d love as many things Christians are scared of (or whatever they are, whatever reasons they have for not seeing/believing “the truth”) as you can give. (There might be a poem brewing; call this my Market Research.) ;-)

My response: I think there are a multitude of issues with Christianity that keep people coming back. There is the group solidarity and cohesion aspect. Every time you go to church, you are acting as a supporter to each other’s beliefs which further ingrain them into your world view. This is crucial to keeping a religion viable. If you believe in an afterlife, you are going to be more prone to making sure you go to the right destination and are doing all the right things. I also think that people continue with whatever they were raised to do and think. Church is just a habit for many because it’s what you do on Sundays.

The whole notion of “emptiness” probably arises from the thought that we’re all alone in this universe. There isn’t a god(s) watching over us that care about us. It’s probably a negligible issue for those who have never believed someone was watching over them to begin with. It’s not always easy to realize that I’m not going to live forever when that’s all I’ve ever imagined. I used to put my trust and hope in that idea all the time. It was like having a crutch to help me walk with that has now been discarded. The difference between living 70 years, at best, and forever is immense. It just takes some time to get used to and put everything in proper perspective. Again, it’s probably not a problem for someone who never thought of the possibility to begin with.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject matter, and there are undoubtedly more sophisticated responses to these questions; Boyer Pascal’s book, Religion Explained would be a good place to look from an evolutionary perspective.

Friday, May 27, 2011

When god commits an epic fail

My brother-in-law was kind enough to share some of the issues he is dealing with as far as faith goes. As he got into his teenage years, he began to have a desire to go into the ministry. He’s a gifted musician and wanted to take over as the praise leader for a popular local Christian camp. He started taking theology classes to learn and broaden his perspective on religion. At first, this helped strengthen his faith, but his newfound open mindedness ultimately made him question what he was learning. Then, tragedy struck. A friend who he considered very “strong in her faith” seriously injured her spine while at work. They had worked together before as praise and worship leaders. Cognitive dissonance started brewing in his mind, and he began to ponder how god could do that to his most devoted followers.

Other ongoing issues seemed to serve as a constant reminder that all was not well with god’s children. My brother-in-law’s father suffered with chronic back pain that had been a significant issue since he was only a child. The medication his father was on made their relationship less than ideal as he states. His youth pastor, who was a mentor, was also suffering with chronic back issues. His father-in-law is the pastor of a Methodist church, and my brother -in-law sees the way his congregation treats him as further evidence of a god who doesn’t care.

Then, his wife’s grandfather became very ill. A man who had helped millions was suffering immense pain before his very eyes. This same man built hundreds of thousands of homes for the needy, built churches and dedicated every waking moment to the Christian cause, eventually becoming a bishop. He had a series of strokes that took him from being a mighty force for god to a bedridden man in constant pain. His body was so contorted that he couldn’t lie in his bed comfortably. As my brother-in-law puts it, “He recognized no one and was constantly crying from the time he woke till the time he went to sleep. The only recognizable words he said, through the tears, were about the memories of the places and people he had seen and tried to help but were so horrible that he tried to forget. But, now, they were his only memories, and he was reliving them every day.” This brutal, punishing attack against his body went on for ten full months. In my brother-in-law’s words, “God wasn’t just torturing him but everybody in his family.” After finally being released from his cell of torture, it was already too late for my brother-in-law. He had seen the devastation that god allowed to happen and bitter resentment soon emerged. The mere thought of god no longer evokes a desire to serve, more like a strong distain. He’s also fed up with hypocrisy in the church.

People have been “brainwashed”, as my brother-in-law puts it, into believing in a good god and the “God works in mysterious ways” mantra only makes him more infuriated. The problem with that line is that it really doesn’t alleviate the problem. Humans want reasonable explanations, but god provides no such thing. As I explained to my brother-in-law, and have shared with my faithful readers, I too suffered with a persistent state of cognitive dissonance. How could a god allow children to starve to death but take care of a Christian’s every need? I now know that he doesn’t because he doesn’t exist.

My brother-in-law isn’t ready to give up on the idea of some higher power. The “emptiness” he feels when thinking about there not being a god up there keeps him hoping for the possibility. I told him that I had the same problem for quite some time. It has taken a lot of reading, writing and time to get where I am today. I’d be lying if I said that I don’t still wake up in the still of night and become distraught. It’s scary to think that you simply die and are no longer. That’s not the happy ending any of us necessarily want to picture. After all, I used to feel like I could always afford to fuck up this life when I had another chance in the next one. I’ll just have to pick up the pieces and keep trucking forward with what’s left.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Some Bizarre/Stupid Scriptures for the Day

He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."- Matthew 17:20

And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron - Judges 1:19

If nothing is impossible through faith in god, why isn’t god capable of driving out people in iron chariots? And, as the website whywontgodhealamputees suggests, why aren’t people moving large objects and placing them wherever they so choose? I really used to wonder why my prayers had such ill effect in my personal life. Apologists may try to suggest that it’s just a figure of speech. Jesus didn’t really mean that minimal faith would give one the ability to move something as massive as a mountain; he was just saying that faith is important, and it can remove barriers in our lives. Some others suggest that the closing of scripture makes such feats unnecessary and are generally impossible. We have the friggin’ Bible so what more could we possibly need? It’s all right there! But how do we know when the Bible is speaking to us or just speaking to the people of the ANE? We must look at the context, right? After the disciples failed to cast out a demon, the man was brought before Jesus to tackle the problem. Jesus performed the task which prompted the disciples’ question: “Lord, why weren’t we able to cast the demon out?” As it turns out, they just didn’t have enough faith. Coincidentally, lack of faith is often the excuse people use today when something goes wrong. For example, if someone doesn’t get the job they really wanted, it’s because they didn’t have enough faith to believe that they could get it. If they do get the job, it’s because god intervened miraculously! God just can’t lose.

Jesus was never short on miracles and would scold his disciples when they failed to have the necessary faith to perform their own. In fact, Jesus said that those following him would perform far greater works than him-John 14:12. Clearly, miracles were a trademark of spreading the gospel message in Jesus’ time and in the lives of his disciples/followers:

1. The very shadow of Peter healed the diseased, Acts 5:15.
2. Diseases were cured, and demons cast out, by applying to the persons handkerchiefs and aprons that had before touched the body of Paul, Acts 19:12.
3. By the word of Peter, Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead, Acts 5:5, Acts 5:9, Acts 5:10.
4. Elymas the sorcerer was struck blind by the word of Paul, Acts 13:11.
5. Christ only preached in Judea, and in the language only of that country;
but the apostles preached through the most of the then known world, and in all
the languages of all countries. But let it be remarked that all this was done by
the power of Christ; and I think it still more natural to attribute the greater
works to the greater number of conversions made under the apostles' ministry.
The reason which our Lord gives for this is worthy of deep attention.

I know devote Christians who have prayed fervently for things as minor as healing for their back. Do they not have faith as small as a mustard seed? We can quibble about what was implied by using a mustard seed as an example. Some commentators suggest that mustard seeds may start small but they produce the largest of all herbs—implying that faith grows with time. I’m going to take the verse for what it says in a multitude of translations. It clearly implies that a small faith produces huge results. A lack of small faith gets poor results, like the demon that refused to come out for the disciples. If Jesus set the tone for how his ministry is to be carried out, where are all these miracles that should be occurring today? I challenge anyone to perform a genuine miracle under controlled conditions so that it can be truly verified as genuine. To date, I haven’t seen this happen. I’m sure James Randi would be happy to oblige any volunteers. Oh, wait, I forgot that it’s too easy just to con people out of their money by performing one hoax after another on TBN.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A wonderful poem entitled, The Bible Makes You Better?

Rebecca Rose, over at the aptly named Rebecca Rose Poetry website, happens to have a beautiful poem on that nasty booger that we all love to hate in the Old Testament named God. She's even got direct scripture verses to support the poems main theme. So, without further ado.

The Bible Makes You Better?

So atheists have no morals ‘cause we don’t believe in god,
But the Bible gives you morals? I find that rather odd.

God declared to Abraham, “Go kill your only son.” (Genesis 22:2)
In the end, he didn’t have to; but what would you have done?
All kids who “curse their parents” should now be put to death, (Leviticus 20:9)
Plus kill all Sunday workers! (Will anyone be left?) (Exodus 35:2)
If you rape a virgin, marry her! Then everything is great. (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)
Says God: “Kill men and women; the virgins you can rape.” (Numbers 31:17-18)
A brother rapes his sister; a father tells the crowd, (2 Samuel 13:11-14)
“Gang-rape my virgin daughter!” This Bible makes you proud? (Judges 19:22-24)

God slaughters every firstborn in a fearsome show of might, (Exodus 12:29-30)
Atheists are horrified – hey God! That wasn’t right!
The Bible’s full of murder – did God forget it’s wrong? (1 Chronicles 21:14, Deuteronomy 3:3-7)
Dead women, children, animals – the bloody list goes on. (2 Kings 10:25, Joshua 6:20-21, Numbers 15:35-36, Deuteronomy 20:16-17, Psalms 137:9, Deuteronomy 13:15-16, Joshua 11:21-22, Ezekiel 9:5-7, Hosea 13:16)

The Bible talks ‘bout buying slaves, just like we buy our bread. (Leviticus 25:44-46)
I wonder why it didn’t say that slavery’s wrong, instead?
Oh here’s a moral teaching! To kill your slave’s a crime. (Exodus 21:20)
But beat him so he’s down for days? Well, that’s completely fine. (Exodus 21:21)

You believe the Ten Commandments, the “one man one woman” rot,
Gonna kill those Sunday workers? Do you believe, or do you not?
If you stand up for one part of it, you stand up for the rest.
Those virgin rapes, those massacres – I dare you! Call it blessed.

Atheists know that murder’s wrong; rape and slavery too.
Didn’t learn that from the Bible. Hey Christians – nor did you!
The slaughters, all that raping – you think those things are good?
All those acts should be condemned – a moral person would.
You think you’ve higher morals ‘cause you’ve read that violent book?
The Bible makes you better? Better take another look.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

End Time Predictions

I’m so glad and unsurprised to still be sitting here well after the supposed annihilation of mother earth. How many times are people willing to fall for this b.s.? It’s like there must be small pockets of in breeders who have no access to the internet. Most of us can do a quick google search and see that a pretty obvious pattern emerges. People make apocalypse predictions all the time, and every single one of them have failed. I understand that there are a lot of wacky Christians that want the world to end so they can stop living out their miserable existences here on earth, but the outcomes of these predictions are strikingly predictable. This sort of thing happens on a yearly basis, rather it be Jim Jones, David Koresh or any random idiot's misreading of Nostradamus.

What’s more amazing is that people’s faith and convictions often become even more sincere when a prophecy fails. They immediately make excuses for the unsuccessful prophecy, blame it on a misinterpretation and/or explain the unfavorable outcome through rationalizing and dissonance reduction. A powerful leader, full of rhetorical zeal, can make any failed prophecy a success. The group leader simply stretches the date out further and the group cohesion remains intact.

Personally, I’ve never been a part of any church that made end time predictions. Generally speaking, my pastors would warn the members that the time was “ever so near” but certainly not pick out a specific date. They might even point to all the world events that were occurring which pointed to Armageddon, such as wars, natural disasters and famine. Of course, those kinds of events have been around for thousands of years but it sure helps carry credulous believers onward. I’ve been hearing the same nonsense since I was little. I think it’s one of the churches many ploys to keep people coming back each Sunday with eagerness and get new recruits that are fearful of the fire and brimstone.

More “sensible” Christians will tell you that nobody knows the day or hour but the father (Matthew 24:36). But, if you call yourself a prophet of god, we see that the ballgame changes a bit. Prophets throughout the Old Testament made all kinds of predictions that seemed to come true. I think we can safely assume that a failed end time date equates to a false prophet. Today, you can find a so-called prophet in every Charismatic Evangelical circle you come across. People follow them because of their rhetorical skills and charm, not unlike a crafty politician.

Well, I guess we’ll just have to wait until the next prediction. I think it’s coming soon! The Mayan prediction of 2012 is just around the corner. NASA has explained that there is nothing to be alarmed about, and they don’t endorse this prediction at all but plenty of nutcases will be preparing.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The third talk?

It has been quite some time since I updated my prestigious readership on my personal struggles with “coming out”, so I thought that I would do so now. First, some background, I’m not what you would call an extrovert. I rarely say things which I’m not completely sure of either. In short, I really suck at verbal bullshit. So, I don’t go around as any type of militant atheist willfully spouting out verbal diarrhea when I’m not 100% clear on what I’m saying. I also don’t necessarily retain a lot of information through book reading unless I reread the book many times. More often than not, I might gain one piece of information that stays with me after reading a 300 page book. It’s kind of like when I was in grad school and the professor told us that we would only remember 10% of what we learned throughout the program (I sometimes wonder why I bother reading at all!). I tend to process much better in writing and am less distracted by environmental factors. To be perfectly lucid, most of my family still doesn’t know much more about my stance than they did a year ago. Some of them still don’t know that I’m an atheist at all unless I’m just unaware. This is why I write this blog, to get my thoughts out in a clear and precise manner.

I did have a brief conversation with my mother about my lack of faith while waiting at the hairdresser’s. She accused me of being involved in witchcraft, emphasizing this whole good versus evil thing. She said something to the effect of, “You must be working for the devil then.” I said, “Well, I don’t actually believe in hell so I must be doing it unknowingly.” Surprisingly, she had nothing further to say and, after a rather awkward silence, I just changed the subject. On another occasion, after an occurrence of several health problems, my mom suggested that I was no longer under god’s protection, so I was succumbing to these demonic health related intrusions. There’s this whole notion in certain Christian circles, particularly of the charismatic evangelical variety, that people are impervious to illnesses when they are walking closely with god, and his trusty sidekick, Jesus. When someone does get sick, the person is blamed for a lack of faith so, conveniently, god can never lose. It was actually the “miracles” of modern science which nursed me back to health from some annoying skin conditions, and I was back to my ole’ hedonistic ways in no time. Or, perhaps, it was those prayers that my father-in-laws church was sending out to me *wink**wink*.

I really don’t mind if people pray for me or even pray in my presence. I just sort of stare into space and wait for the wasted time to be over. I’m also not the type of atheist or person, for that matter, to correct people when they say, “bless you” if I sneeze. It really doesn’t bother me, and I recognize it for what it’s worth, an ingrained cultural phenomenon.

You know how I used to talk about worrying about death and hell? Well, most of those feelings have subsided but they creep up in the dead of night from time to time. It is a less frequent intrusion though. I still have a problem saying the “A” word in public when someone queries about my religious convictions or lack thereof. I found myself telling someone that I essentially “lost my trust in religion” instead of saying that I simply became an atheist.

Along with becoming an atheist, I became much more liberal in most of my beliefs, aside from abortion—but, even that has changed a bit as well. I think that there are good times for early term abortion such as cases of incest and rape. I think that late term abortion should almost never be accepted though. Bottom line, it needs to be done EARLY or not at all.

My brother-in-law now knows that I’m an atheist, and he really wasn’t too disappointed. He actually congratulated me on my blog and thanked me for “educating” him on things that the church fails to say. I’m starting to wonder if he isn’t “turning to the dark side” himself. But, he can surely examine the evidence himself and come to his own conclusions. I’m not here to convince anybody of anything. I want them to really read the Bible, especially some of that O.T. ass kicking god does. And, then, I want them to give science a try even though it can be a boring pain in the neck at times. I have certainly struggled mightily with books on astrophysics and cosmology but I try to endure! I’d much rather be playing a game of Bad Company 2 at times but I think that it’s a healthy and worthwhile endeavor.

My wife still hasn’t listened to the Sam Harris clip I wanted her to listen to. So, I feel no obligation to indulge her or explain myself until she does so. He highlights all the repugnant aspects better than I can and I agree with him 100%. Other than the above, my life really isn’t that much different. I still play video games, work in the same field and enjoy a good workout. There are days where I think very little about science and religion, and there are days where it is at the forefront of my mind. One of the best things about this whole atheist venture is that it got me back to writing, and it gave me something to write about. My family and teachers always said that I had a knack for writing, but I just didn’t have anything substantive to say. So, I finally have that, and it’s been a grateful journey thus far. I love expressing myself artistically and on an intellectual level, as tiny as it may be. I've also learned to stop acting like I know it all. When I first became an atheist, I was like a child with an AK-47. I was out to destroy everybody and to invoke as many arguments as possible. But, I was pretty much as uneducated when it comes to science as many of the evangelicals I was arguing against. I've since backed off from debating with people until I feel like I have enough respectable knowledge to really argue with them. I still try to persuade people to look at their religion differently, just not so voraciously.

Lately, I’ve been reading Hector Avalos’, Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence. I may write a brief review on it at another time. Basically, it argues that religious violence is the result of scarce resources, resources based on sacred space, salvation, inscripturation and group privilege. These resources can be real or imagined, but they still create a situation of scarcity. Other groups don’t have access but the in-group is claiming that they have the genuine article. Avalos’ sometimes uses examples from the Bible to show cases where violence was evoked as a result of scarce religious resources. This was kind of confusing because I wasn’t sure if Avalos was suggesting that these were real historical examples illustrating his central argument, or if he was suggesting that violent events in history have occurred because of these stories. Anyway, I may continue to flush out my thoughts on this at a later time.

Well, please be sure to check out Skeptics if you haven’t yet. There’s three excellent bloggers combine forces over there and give us all a great education on a routine basis!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Here I am, burning in hell

I like to do a little poetry from time to time and thought I would entertain my rather massive readership with a little something about my experience in hell:

I should have known better
when he talked to me in all those love letters
I should have tried more voraciously to understand
that ordering the execution of women and children was a moral and justified plan
Like a good father sometimes does, God did some things to his children that they just couldn’t comprehend
This seems to be an ongoing but necessary Old Testament trend
But, now his infinite justice has been served
A never ending punishment is what I deserve
I should have listened more keenly to Pascal’s Wager
even though it seemed implausible according to Occam’s razor
I should have realized that Christianity was the only way
and all these other religions were just there to lead me astray
People in India should have come to their senses
instead of believing in Hinduism and committing such deleterious offenses
They should have came to the Christian nation where corruption is a thing of the past
and learn about Jesus’ love that will always last
Instead, Gandhi is burning in hell with me for getting it all wrong
We could be together in heaven singing praiseful songs
There is no end to my torment here in sight
I should have just believed even when my mind was telling me something didn’t seem right
But, god loves me so much that he sent me to the place I asked to go to all along
I didn’t believe in hell either but that was clearly wrong
God really did make us out of dirt from the ground
Evolution and its many discoveries were god’s trickery and markedly unsound
He was just testing our faith and seeing if we would still hold strong
just like he did to Peter when the rooster sang its song

Monday, May 9, 2011

Hector Avalos on the Bible's poor archeological evidence

Hector Avalos, author of The End of Biblical Studies and PhD from Harvard University, discusses the poor archeological evidence surrounding many major events, and people in the Bible: the Exodus of 1 to 2 million Hebrews who left not a shred of evidence behind in their forty year shenanigans through the desert, Solomon’s Temple, King David’s massive empire and JC himself. There is neither archaeological nor Extra-Biblical written evidence for these events that compels one to believe any of it. Does nobody else find it bizarre that no mention of King David or Solomon is found anywhere outside of the Biblical text? Solomon had monarchs from far and wide come and see him because of his vast wisdom but no speaking of the man outside of the Bible. David’s empire was vast but nothing remains to confirm that he even existed. God covered his tracks or this is just mythology. I’ll let you decide what seems more plausible.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sathya Sai Baba

Sam Harris has referred to an Indian mystic by the name of Sathya Sai Baba on more than one occasion. Sathya recently died on April 24th, 2011, about five years short of his predicted death of ninety and on Easter Sunday of all days. Sai Baba had legions of followers and was known for his miracle working powers. He purportedly performed all of the miracles that Christ did and then some. Yes, he has even resurrected people from the dead. Sai Baba wasn’t trying to convert people to Hinduism or anything; He encouraged people to continue with their own religious faith that they were brought up with and find their own pathway to heaven. It was more of an “all roads lead to heaven” sort of accomodationalism.

Sai Baba is an interesting figure for many reasons, but I’m just going to focus on one point as Harris has aptly stated on many occasions. These millions of people actually believed that this guy was performing miracles in an age of scientific enlightenment and advancement. People came in droves from around the world to see this guy and to get healed. Upon his death, devoted followers were having heart attacks and others were in complete shock because, like so many other gods, their god died. If there was a Jesus, which is actually a disputed point among scholars, would it really be that much of a stretch to believe that he was deceiving followers as well? This was a time when there was no such thing as empirical research or video recording. The people who were said to be his most devoted followers were the uneducated and illiterate underbelly of society. On a slight aside, the god of the N.T. isn’t even the same god as the O.T.! Things aren’t even consistent. The god of the N.T. was comingling with sinners while the O.T. god was saying “kill those motherfuckers!” Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

Sai Baba, not entirely unlike Benny Hinn, has managed to deceive more people than even existed in the ANE at the time of Jesus’ supposed sojourn. As far as I know, Hinn is still doing his “miracle” crusades around the globe despite being exposed for fraud and his adulterous affair with another minister. People are just gullible and credulous beyond reason. It’s the goal of science to bring reason and logic back into societies psyche and to better understand the world in which we really live in; not the world that made sense before the development of scientific theory.

In the days that follow, it would not be surprising to me if we started hearing reports of Sai Baba’s bodily resurrection being witnessed by masses before he and his giant afro ascended into the starry skies above. People will make shit up just to keep his legend and mystic intact. The question is as David Hume once similarly proposed: What’s more likely, that Sai Baba really performed all of these miracles or that there’s deception at hand? We’re talking about the more likely scenario in light of the greater understanding we have of how the world and sentient beings work given the groundwork science has made.

In the case of Christ, we have weak historical evidence to rely on. We have no contemporaneous eye witness testimony and contradiction between the gospel writers that were not present to witness the events. In the case of Sai Baba, we have legions of followers that insist on the validity of this man’s supernatural powers, but I seriously doubt that a single Christian would believe likewise. This mostly has something to do with the fact that they weren't raised as Hindus but as Christians within a society which greatly accomodates Christianity. The billions of Hindus may struggle to believe in televangelists like Benny Hinn for similar reasons; although, I suspect that Hindus are more open minded than Christians as Christians generally believe that Christ is the only way. When it comes to Christianity, it seems like it’s the one time where parents forgot to tell their children that Jesus isn’t real, unlike Santa Claus. I don’t mean to simplify religion or even pretend that I understand the reason it captivates the masses like it does. I do know that people are credulous when they want something to be true. Death and the fear of the unknown have always scared humanity and I suspect that this is at least a fragment of the answer.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

When God goes to Extremes

The story of Elisha and the two female bears is a fine example of god's extreme nature. I can probably think of one hundred different less extreme ways god could have dealt with a jeering mob without executing them all bear style. As in the case of most any mob, there are people that are not as enthusiastic about the whole affair as some of the others, yet they all received a mauling. Of course, there's examples a plenty of god going to extremes. You take the story of the man steadying the Ark so that it didn't fall and potentially get damaged. God killed him on the spot. You take the Amalekites and god ordering that children and animals to be slaughtered alike. Presumably, those animals might come and attack the Israelites later or lead them astray. Those children presumably couldn't be, at the very least, assimilated into the Hebrew culture and given a chance to live. Essentially, it was follow Yahweh or die in the O.T.. Now, it's follow Jesus or roast in hell for all eternity. Geez, I'm glad he expects us to love him for putting such a severe penalty on us for not doing so. Where else can one find such a great deal?

Anyway, this video pokes delightful fun at the story of Elisha and the she-bears. Most apologists will suggest that this atrocity occurred as a result of Elisha being in a dire situation ,and it necessitated a harsh punishment. The youths were yelling "go on up bald head" as if to say that he would die by their hands if he didn't miraculously escape. Some Christians applaud this story as a fine example of what god does for those who follow him, and it's a showcase of his power. You can look at the apologist Matt Slick's take on it here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

We’ve all heard about near death experiences and the sensation of going towards the light, via a dark tunnel. The experience seems to be nearly ubiquitous regardless of culture or ethnicity. Along the way, people have reported that they see their lives flash before them; we may revisit our first birthday, a memorable moment on a trip to Cancun, holding hands with the love of our life, our child’s first step and even events that haven’t happened yet, like having grandchildren. There are at least two explanations often offered for this event: A) it’s the natural consequences of a dying brain, or B) this is just the gateway to another dimension, heaven perhaps.

On the one hand, it seems rather depressing that the brain gives us this amazing calmness and drawing toward the light--mammals are naturally drawn to light--but, apparently, the event is merely the process of cell death. These primitive parts of the brain located closer and closer to the brain stem and within it remain active long enough for this last experience to occur. The visual cortex or the superior colliculus, when activated, produce the “vision” of light. Just imagine it, many of these events and people that have so much meaning to you cascade before you one last time, and then the curtain suddenly closes right before you see what’s at the end of the tunnel. It’s like it was all just some dream and then you die.

The other possibility is that it’s a tunnel which leads to heaven, and many Christians are probably thinking that they are well on their way as they travel down the tunnel. Can you imagine what that means for a Christian when the lights go out just before they are about to reach the pearly gates? Some Christians spend their entire lives dedicated to the notion that they are going to go to heaven, and I’m sure people like William Lane Craig will be laughing at all those stupid atheists while in route.

One of the more reasonable explanations for this phenomenon was actually captured by Air Force pilots going through centrifuge training. The pilot would pass out due to a lack of oxygen to the brain, and the whole experience of going down a tunnel of light and seeing loved ones was captured. Far from being dead, these pilots just passed out momentarily and came back to their senses briefly afterword. If this is a supernatural phenomenon based on the events experienced immediately after death, god has a very loose and peculiar habit of manifesting this phenomenon regardless of you actually being clinically dead or not.

Then, there’s this whole notion of out of body experiences that often occur when a person is on the brink of death during, for example, a emergency surgery. The person is seeing people even though they are completely unconscious, and their eyes may even be taped shut. Furthermore, they may have never laid eyes on the surgeons before but have a detailed description of them just from the out of body experience. The person may be able to see what is going on during a surgical operation and even what kind of shoes the surgeon was wearing during the operation. All we can do at the moment is speculate on what’s going on here. We can say “I don’t know” and be fine with that because, as Lawrence Krauss often says, that’s how we learn. But, if we simply put god as the answer than we really haven’t answered anything. We have discovered time and time again that things which were once explained by god(s) really have rational natural explanations. We can speculate for the time that perhaps the 1st law of thermodynamics plays a role in the fact that energy cannot be created nor destroyed. Some believe that consciousness is a form of energy that may persist after death. We could also just say that these are nothing more than unverifiable hoaxes or lies, that would be more parsimonious. This is something that only time, and science can bright to “light”.

Friday, April 8, 2011

What Harris Said

Having just listened to the Sam Harris/William Lane Craig debate, I want to just illuminate one portion of the debate that really made me giddy. It was Sam Harris’ twelve minute rebuttal that began with the statistics that 9 million children die each year under the age of five. It was as if Harris was saying EXACTLY what I feel about the Christian religion. I was so excited about it that I ran around the house to look for my wife because I wanted her to hear this. She continues to wonder why I’m an atheist, and I can tell her in plain terms but Sam Harris says it with such clarity and poignancy that anything I said would be an injustice. Unfortunately, she wasn’t around at the time.

This speech that he gives is something that I wish every Christian would listen to. If they just shrug their shoulders at the end and say, “well, god is mysterious” than I think a justifiable homicide is in order. And yet, I know that many Christians will do exactly that. They can live with the idea that what god says goes and that he is our authority figure who never falters from being 100% correct in every command. He would be right to tell you to sacrifice your child or kill a group of children but you would be wrong to do the same thing without his authority. How can something be objectively right or wrong solely on who is giving the orders? It has to be right or wrong all of the time and regardless of what the orders are to be an objective standard. As Harris points out in the Q/A section, even children know that it is wrong to punch another child in the face even when an authority figure like a teacher tells you to do so.

As stated earlier, Harris points out that 9 million children die each year under the age of five. It would be analogous to the 2004 Japan tsunami occurring every ten days and only killing children less than five all year around. He goes on to illustrate the agony that the bereaved parents are going through who very likely prayed wholeheartedly for their child to survive. Tragically, the children die and it renders us with the conclusion that either god is incapable of helping them, or he simply doesn’t care. Some might say that this is all part of god’s plan.

Harris rightly states that there is no evidence for the existence of hell. However, if hell does exist, then the majority of people who live in India are doomed for their Hindu faith. Yet, god engineers the circumstances of their birth place and death thus rendering them essentially unaccountable. Conversely, the run of the mill serial killer here in America need only come to Jesus on death row and end up spending eternity in heaven. Hindu’s, on the other hand, perish in an eternal state of torment because of their cultural and physical circumstances. “This vision of life has absolutely nothing to do with moral accountability,” says Harris. God is loving, kind and just but when we point out the horrible things that occur he suddenly becomes mysterious and the tired mantra “who can understand god’s will” plays as a seeming remedy to the travesty. We are told that god is good when something favorable happens, but we are told that god is mysterious in events like the 2004 tsunami where children were torn from their parent’s arms and cast out to drown. “This is how you play tennis without the net” says Harris.

This kind of faith is the epitome of narcissism. The Christian claims that god healed them of eczema but, meanwhile, millions of children go on dying. Harris states that this actually prevents us from caring about the suffering of other human beings. We trivialize their dire situation but magnify the fact that we have a corn on our big toe that god just supposedly healed.

Harris goes on to ask, “why give us a book that supports slavery or to kill those who practice witchcraft?” These are poor principles by which to live, and they fail to support the well-being of humanity. Whatever god commands is good only because he commands it, such as when he orders the Israelites to slaughter the Amalekites. It is easy to rationalize the slaughtering of children when god tells you to do so and that's what makes religion so scary. The “horror of religion” is that it allows perfectly rationale and sane people to believe by the billions what only a few psychopaths would normally believe.

Harris states, “Salvation depends on believing in him on bad evidence”. God got tired of being helpful and hasn’t performed any miracles nor shown his face in 2,000 years. Christianity is a cult of human sacrifice, and Christians celebrate a single human sacrifice as though it was effective. Jesus suffered the crucifixion so none have to suffer hell. This is of course excluding the billions who live in India or the billions throughout history who haven’t received the message.

Anyway, it was some of the best stuff I’ve heard that summarizes exactly how I feel in such a poetic and articulate manner. I don’t necessarily want to get in to who won or lost, but I think that Harris brought up a brilliant point with great poignancy that the god of the O.T. is seriously lacking as an example of objective morality. You can listen to the audio debate here.