Ascent out of Darkness ~ Armchair Philosophy from the 'Silly Beliefs' Team
|God, Intelligent Design & resignation|
Recently I received the following email from Ron, he writes:
John, I'm venturing into more risky territory here by embracing the subject of religion. I have some questions/comments. Some are my first-hand observations, some I have read and some I have discussed with others over the years. I don't have the answers and I don't consider any of these have ever been satisfactorily answered by anyone, scientists, great thinkers or whoever. Many things are mysterious. I have no sinister motives here. I don't expect you should have the answers either. I'm simply throwing them in here and feel sure you will comment where you can in your always interesting good-to-read style.Well Ron, your questions certainly cover some interesting ground. And surprise, surprise, I do feel that they have been satisfactorily answered, and no creationist or passing evangelist has been able to convince me otherwise.
OK, what's with some Christians speaking in 'tongues'? You're right in describing it as 'incoherent babble', it's just gibberish invented on the spot by na´ve people mistakenly trying to pretend that they have been possessed by some supernatural power. I say they are mistaken in what they are trying to do, and this is yet another example of Christians not understanding what the Bible actually says. The confusion comes from the Book of Acts, when following the death of Jesus the disciples wonder how they are going to get the good word out. Here is how Mark Russell explained it in his book 'God is Disappointed in You':
'They realized that if they were going to spread the word of Jesus Christ throughout the world, then they had a bit of a problem. They all came from the same place and spoke the same language. So how were they supposed to preach in other countries? As they argued amongst themselves, they started mumbling in strange words. The other diners in the restaurant thought they were drunk on syrup or something, but they weren't. They were speaking in tongues. God had sent The Holy Spirit, who was sort of the George Harrison of the Holy Trinity, to lend a hand. The Holy Spirit had given them all the ability to speak in foreign languages. So problem solved. With their new foreign language skills, the disciples broke up into small groups and began traveling the world. Like Jesus, they popularized their message by performing magic tricks along the way.'So when someone speaks in tongues, according to the Bible, they are made multilingual, able to speak and understand the language of whomever they encounter. A little like the Universal Translator that was seen in original 'Star Trek', or the Babel Fish that was described in the 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'. The disciples were not speaking 'incoherent babble', they were speaking a real language, even though those around them may not have understood it. But this is never the case with modern silly Christians speaking in tongues. Christians who only speak English, should suddenly find themselves speaking Spanish, Arabic and Mandarin, but this never happens, they only speak childish nonsensical sounds.
There should be no confusion with what the Bible means regarding the disciples speaking in tongues. It notes that 'God-fearing Jews from every nation... heard them speaking in his own language... how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?... we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!' (Acts 2:5-11). Clearly to speak in 'tongues' means to speak in a real foreign language. However in his book 'God Hates You, Hate Him Back: Making Sense of the Bible',
So the modern silly Christians speaking in tongues are simply acting like ignorant imbeciles, making up gibberish because that is what they think is expected of them, and that is what the person next to them is doing. That they are prepared to make such public fools of themselves is surprising, but that supposed Bible experts are doing it for an utterly bogus reason is astounding. So when you see a Christian speaking in tongues, it's no different from a toddler's tantrum. It's a childish act.
As for exorcising demons with a slap, not only is this also embarrassing to watch, it's sad that people who often have real psychological problems are going to these fraudsters for help, rather than seeking proven treatments. These shows are simply a form of mass hysteria, where the emotions of gullible believers are built to a crescendo, and the finale is them collapsing on stage, performing for the crowd. Like a good movie with good actors, people are drawn into the performance, forgetting for a time that what they are experiencing is just make believe. It's no different to the witchcraft trials in Salem in 17th century America. Children put on a physical act, claiming to be possessed by demons that were controlled by witches, and other children repeated the acts and adults believed them, believed that the children's behaviour and utterances were the result of demons. And accused witches were tortured and killed, all by people who argued that there could be no explanation other than a supernatural one.
But what intelligent, informed person today still believes that people can be possessed by demons? And if it's not demons that force me to abuse telemarketers that ring during dinner, then how can these religious nutters rid me of something that doesn't exist? These silly exorcisms are a little like hypnotism, where people play along, mirroring the performance they know is expected of them, since they've all seen it before, and know exactly what they have to do. Of course some, perhaps even many, will believe that it's not really them screaming and collapsing, that they're not in control of their body, but in reality it's all psychological, their mind is playing tricks on them. And I'm not surprised that 'None of them knew what happened and felt nothing', because nothing did happen and there was nothing to feel. And of course there is no evidence, worldwide, of anyone ever being healed by one of these silly acts. The only time demonic exorcisms make the news today, it's not for miraculously curing someone, it's for killing them in the process. And while Jesus may have been convinced that mentally unwell people were possessed by demons, this is just another example of the ignorance of his time. Seriously, would we still have mental illness or need psychoactive drugs if people could be cured by simply having some religious nutter slap them on the forehead? And why does someone have to catch them, so much for trusting in the Lord. Why can't God catch them, wouldn't that be more impressive of a divine miracle? Imagine the afflicted person gently falling backwards and then floating across to a comfy sofa to recover. Can an all-powerful God not rid you of a demon without making you collapse, and risk a broken hip in the process? Why do all of God's modern day miracles appear no different to what would have happened if he wasn't even there at all? Why does something truly inexplicable never ever happen, eg floating to the sofa? But again, the evidence speaks for itself, if a healing slap truly worked, then mental illness would be unheard of amongst Christians, and this clearly isn't the case.
Moving on to what I see as your most important query, you relate some typical claims that we hear from advocates of creationism and intelligent design, who argue that no one can fully explain the human brain, the human eye, how our universe began, why natural laws are unchanging and mathematical, or how the information in DNA arose. You write that this view 'can easily suggest that surely there must be a being, a force or an "intelligence" in control', and that 'Such precise info surely cannot exist without someone constructing it'. I don't lose any sleep over these claims as I believe they are easily and convincingly answered by science, but I'll spend a little time explaining the flaws I see in this argument from design.
I am forever amazed that so many people still present this argument in modern times, even as you say, a recipient of a Nobel Prize in quantum electrodynamics, who definitely should know better. This stance is one of utter resignation, of submission, of hopelessness, of surrender and futility.
For most of history this view was the norm, that it was not the servant's place to know the thoughts of his master, and in fact it was utterly impossible for humans to comprehend the workings of the divine. Clearly the world is so orderly and so complex that man has no hope of understanding it even if he wanted to. In the past people would have said something along the lines of:
We'll never know how far you can sail before you fall off the edge of the world, or whether the world rests on pillars as the Bible says, or on the back of a large turtle as yet others say. We shall never understand lightning, earthquakes, tsunamis, eclipses, human reproduction, diseases, mental illness, comets, why apes look like humans, and untold other mysteries, they are clearly beyond us. So let's just give up, accept our profound ignorance, bow low in humility and be thankful that God knows how things work and why things happen as they do. And how dare that some of you have such arrogance that you think you might discern the mind of God, that you might comprehend, even slightly, how or why God works his miracles. To dream that we might understand why the Moon goes through phases is as childish as thinking that we could go there.But revealingly, things like lightning, eclipses and comets are no longer included in the lists that modern naysayers offer as clear evidence that humans have reached the end of our understanding of the world. Thousands upon thousands of things — unsolvable mysteries — that people used to attribute to God have now been shown to be completely natural after all, with no fingerprint of God on them. A handful of brave, intelligent and inquisitive individuals ignored the religious worldview and the defeatist attitudes of their fellows, plus the real threats of torture and death, to discover that everything from plagues to the movement of the planets had nothing to do with gods, and that the explanations could indeed be understood by mere humans.
From history the clear pattern has been that given time and research, everything eventually gets taken out of the supernatural box and placed in the natural box. In fact the God box is now empty. There is no clear reason why the unanswered questions at the frontier of science today are anymore unanswerable than the questions that were being pondered over 500 or 1,000 years ago. There are no theories that argue that there is a limit to our knowledge, and no evidence that this impenetrable barrier has now been reached. Yes, the answers to these questions will be complex and difficult to solve, likely demanding paradigm shifts in some areas, but they are surely no more difficult than the problems that confronted scientists before the likes of germ theory, quantum theory and relativity theory were developed. To go from a horse and cart to a space shuttle in one or two steps is clearly impossible, but in many, many steps, each adding more knowledge, clearly humans can indeed move from a horse and cart to a space shuttle. Likewise understanding the brain, DNA and the origin of our universe was clearly impossible until scientists in the last century uncovered a wealth of new information. But having discovered these new details, new theories and technology can now build on the successes of the past to make new breakthroughs.
And the fact is that we do already know an impressive amount of detail about the brain, the eye, the origin of the universe and DNA, information that would have been considered by many impossible to obtain not so long ago. Not everything is known of course, but our knowledge and technology would still make us look like gods to the goat herders who wrote the Bible. Just because we don't at present completely understand consciousness or the origin of the universe, just as mankind once didn't understand lightning, doesn't mean we never will, unless of course we stop looking for answers, believing that what a god must have created is beyond our understanding. I find that it is only the religious that immediately jump to seeing the hand of God and the will of God in complex events that they don't understand. There is no hint whatsoever from the greater scientific world that research into these avenues is being brought to a close, that further work would be futile. Indeed, research into neuroscience, genetics, cosmology and high energy particle physics is increasing, not decreasing. Clearly no one has convinced scientists, or the people that fund them, that they have banged up against a barrier, the other side of which they will just find God, not the answers they seek.
Again, at every stage of human history people could, and indeed did, argue that everything from lightning and earthquakes to kittens and smallpox had been created and controlled by some god. Time and time again the religious have argued that we have no explanation of why these things are the way they are, and that is because of their complexity. A complexity that was clearly designed and that must have required the conscious effort of a prodigious intellect. The world is far beyond what even the brightest human can comprehend, so obviously this creator, this intelligent designer, must be a super being, or in other words, a god. But that was then, this is now. History tells us that every time people believed they had reached the limit of possible knowledge, beyond which God would be found, every time without fail a natural explanation was found and God was found missing. I believe that science will continue to find better explanations and not find any trace of gods, unless the religious convince the world at large that it's much easier and far cheaper to just say that God did it. But let's remember that when this attitude did rule society, we had inquisitions, short life expectancy and witchcraft, and no medicine, aircraft or computers. We shouldn't be arguing that we need to stop looking for answers and instead return to God and ignorance. Our present understanding of the universe is impressive but still incomplete. But being incomplete, we still don't just throw up our hands and say that the bits we still don't understand must be controlled by God. Given time the gaps in our knowledge will be filled in, and there is no reason whatsoever to believe that the answers will be anything but natural. So it will be with the origin of the universe and life.
Of course there are other problems with the designer argument, one being that if it were true, it explains nothing. What makes the sky blue and the grass green? God does. By looking for scientific answers you gain knowledge of the universe, but by falling back on God you learn nothing.
Another problem is one called infinite regress. It's a simple argument but the religious struggle with it. Remember that their argument is that the universe and life is far too orderly and complex to have arisen naturally, so it must have been designed and constructed by an advanced intelligence. A complex brain and DNA makes a very intelligent human, but even this intelligence is pitifully inadequate to fully understand the universe, let alone make another one. So clearly the intelligent designer that created us must be as far ahead of us intellectually as we are ahead of amoeba. It is this vast gulf in intellect that is required to make a working universe with flourishing life. But just as we look at ourselves and realise that we are far too orderly and complex to have arisen naturally, and look for our creator, our creator must also reach this same realisation, that they are also far too orderly and complex to have arisen naturally, and so they in turn must wonder who created them. Each thing that is created must be created by something more complex. For example, one sees humans genetically engineering bacteria, but you never see bacteria genetically engineering humans. So now the unimaginably complex intelligent designer must argue that he too must have been designed, by something even more complex and intelligent. And this must go on ad infinitum, something called an infinite regress. The concept of infinity is difficult enough to grasp, but the argument that complexity and intelligence must increase enormously with each creator and each universe is even worse. Of course the religious answer to this embarrassing problem is that God doesn't need a creator, which is another way of saying that God could arise naturally. That's right, the religious logic is that an unimaginably orderly and complex god could have arisen naturally, but a comparatively simple and primitive human couldn't. But seriously, if something has to arise naturally, surely it is much more reasonable that a simple, small, lifeless universe popped into existence than a fully formed, thinking god popped into existence? If we have to stop at some point and say we can't explain how that thing came about, surely it is better to stop at a simple, small, lifeless universe than an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving god? The religious may continually ask how something as unlikely as the universe and life began, but do they not realise that this just shifts the question back a step, to me asking how a being as unlikely as God began? When told that everything has been created by God, even children have enough nous to ask, 'But Daddy, who made God then?'
Concerned by this realisation, some think that they can circumvent this problem by saying that God didn't need to be created since he has existed forever. But if the answer is that something has existed forever, then again, surely it is much more reasonable that that something is a simple, small, lifeless universe rather than a fully formed, thinking god? That an empty vacuum might have existed for an eternity before the big bang happened is far more believable than an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving god existing for an eternity. It's just inconceivable that he existed for all that time and then just created our universe in what for God would just have been a microsecond ago. What was he doing for all that time? Has he created innumerable universes before creating ours, was ours just a failed version as he works towards one without evil? But again, this just shifts the question back a step, with me asking how God could have existed for ever, especially when the religious insist that a simple ol' universe couldn't have existed for ever.
Having a god create the universe doesn't answer our questions, it only creates even bigger questions. How did he create our universe and why? How did he create humans from dust and why did he make it look like they had evolved from primates? Why did he falsify the fossils and light from distant quasars to give the impression of an ancient universe when he only created it 6,000 years ago? If he is perfect and only capable of perfection, why does our body have so many imperfections? If he made the universe just for us, why is nearly all of it utterly hostile to life? I know many will answer that it is blasphemous to ask such questions, but this is just a religious excuse to avoid embarrassing questions that will lead to God looking quite impossible. Only the religious are happy with the answer that God created the universe. Even if people like me were to accept that this were true, I would still want to now how he did it. The questions won't stop.
Another problem with the intelligent design argument is that even if evidence of design were found, it gives no support to the God of the Bible. It merely points to an anonymous designer, albeit a powerful and intelligent one, but gives no reason beyond wishful thinking to argue that it must be a supernatural one. It could have been a highly advanced alien species in a parallel universe that triggered the beginning of our universe. And science has no problem with that scenario since it doesn't break any laws of nature or logic like the supernatural scenarios do. But let's that say it was actually a god that created this universe, where does that get us? Thousands of religions have creation myths where they insist that one or more of their gods created this universe, and of course it could also have been a god that no human has ever heard of. This is the deist argument, which posits that some uncaring, unknown god created the universe and then departed, leaving it to evolve on its lonesome. So even if we never understand the origin of the universe and life but finally come to accept that it must have been created by an intelligent designer, there is no reason in hell that Christians or Hindus or Maori or any god-believer can claim that their favourite god was that intelligent designer. But realistically, there is no evidence or rationale pointing toward an intelligent designer, at worst our origins will remain a mystery, and mystery is not another word for God. It simply means we don't know the answer, as we once didn't know what lightning was.
Another gripe I have with this origin of the universe and life, is that the religious create a false picture. They want their listeners to view the universe and life as what they see out their window, that is a world and life as it is after it's evolved for 13.7 billion years. They want people to recall that God created humans fully formed from dust, and then ask them whether they think humans could have formed from dust naturally, without the help of a god? And of course the rational answer is no. The chance of this happening is so improbable as to be impossible. You may have heard the silly example that creating humans naturally is as silly as expecting a tornado that tears through a junkyard to assemble a Boeing 747. But of course this is not what science argues, humans were not created fully formed by nature from dust or even amino acids, they evolved slowly from less complex life forms over billions of years, right back to single celled organisms like bacteria. Of course the religious then replace dust with bacteria in their argument, which if there is still just one or two steps involved from bacteria to human is just as silly. So again we get people saying that they don't believe we evolved from bacteria. And closer to home, others say that they don't believe that their great grandfather was a monkey. Well of course he wasn't. They don't seem to grasp the huge time spans involved and the innumerable small changes that are required to change a monkey into a human, let alone a bacteria into a human. They visualise these simplistic and false images and then sensibly reject them as impossible, because they are. They gain a false view of evolution because they base their conclusions on bogus explanations. It's the same with the origin of the universe, they argue that it is far too complex to have arisen naturally. But like life, again they look at the complexity of the present universe, rather than how complex it was in the beginning. At the very beginning there was just energy, so that's all that a natural cause has to explain. Then, in very simple terms, we got this energy turning into matter, subatomic particles which eventually formed hydrogen and helium, surrounded by a lot of radiation. The universe started expanding and for billions of years, hydrogen and helium gas and electromagnetic radiation was pretty much all there was, which as far as complexity goes, is pretty simple.
Eventually stars formed, and nearly all of the other elements besides hydrogen and helium are then created in stars. Then these elements go on to form planets, and then later still life may arise on some of these planets. Some of this life may increase in complexity and eventually, quite late in the history of the universe, intelligent, self aware beings may evolve. But the point is that none of this complexity existed at the origin of the universe, and so any theory of its origin doesn't have to explain me and my wide-screen TV. Of course something as fragile and complex as me is not going to settle out of a huge big bang explosion, but it's only the creationists that seem to paint this picture. They visualise a humongous explosion and imagine planets swarming with life settling out of the dust cloud, and can't see how such a destructive force could create the order and complexity they see around them. And they're right to be dubious, since clearly explosions do not create order. It's a little like someone hearing that an atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, and then this person visits the site today and finds a modern city where he expected to find ruin and destruction. He wonders, 'How could a simple explosion create such a complex and orderly city?' But of course there was only destruction created by the explosion, the city came well after the destruction, from other causes. This person would have a futile search looking for a bomb design that could destroy existing cities and create new cities in their place. There was no information embedded in the bomb blast that mapped out and brought the new city into being. The city's destruction and subsequent rebuild, while connected, were quite independent. The new city didn't have to be built. Likewise the Big Bang and the arrival of humans are connected but still independent. The Big Bang had to happen for any life to evolve, but life didn't have to arise on Earth. Certainly life and the human brain are both very complex, but this complexity didn't exist at the origin of the universe, and therefore the Big Bang doesn't have to explain it. All the Big Bang has to explain is the basic building blocks, matter and energy, which very, very slowly combine and recombine to eventually build humans nearly 14 billion years later. And just think, if the dinosaurs hadn't stepped aside, we wouldn't be here, but like us, their demise was not written in the Big Bang. Humans are not the pinnacle of the Big Bang and evolution as some Christians argue, we are a fortuitous accident that need not have happened. If humans had not evolved to wonder what the point of it all was, what then would have been the point of the universe?
Thus any theory to explain the Big Bang can completely ignore life on Earth or anywhere. It only has to explain where the energy of the Big bang came from, and why the basic laws of nature are the way they are, or were. Of course explaining how some gas and light arose in the Big Bang and then the origin of self-replicating molecules, ie basic life, is still extremely difficult and complex, but nowhere near as difficult as expecting those explanations to include the creation of humans. The creationists and intelligent design proponents deliberately or naively make the Big Bang and evolution theories sound utterly implausible because they miss out trillions upon trillions of necessary steps between then and now.
They argue that the universe can't possibly have come from nothing or have existed forever (although confusingly, God can). Expressing the designer argument, the question was asked: 'How did the universe start? It had to start somehow?' I accept that this is a valid question, which science is trying to answer, but if I were to be convinced that God is the answer to that question, why am I consistently accused of being silly in asking: 'How did God start? He had to start somehow?' And of course, if it is accepted as a valid question, we are now back where we began, still not knowing how things started, and no closer to explaining the brain or DNA beyond throwing up our hands and saying, 'God did it'.
So the way I see it, the only way that we might find out more about the universe and life is to stick with science. Opting for God leads to a dead end, since even if he does exist, he condescendingly says it's all to tricky and mysterious for us to understand.
You'll have noticed that after all this I haven't actually offered possible answers for the origin of the universe and life, even though I believe that science has presented several plausible ideas. To me it's not about the answers per se, but whether we should even be looking for answers. The design argument proponents would have us stop further research on the big questions, insisting that it is futile since the answers would be incomprehensible to us. The implication is that we only need one answer, and that is, 'God did it'. I feel that while the scientists do the complex research, I can best help them by doing my little bit in convincing people that the religious argument from design is a throwback to our primitive and ignorant past. In the past scientists were imprisoned, tortured and executed for the arrogance of looking for answers outside the church, we shouldn't now throw away their sacrifice by handing authority back to the church. We may never discover the true origins of the universe and life, but I think the brave thing to do is to actually look for answers. We humans are known for our inquisitiveness, our advanced society is based on it. Now is not the time to give up and turn back to God.
As for the scientific answers, it's perhaps better that you read some of the many excellent books written by experts that explain why there is no design in nature, and how this apparent design can be better explained by natural processes. In fact evoking gods raises far more problems than it solves. To start with, some books I would thoroughly recommend are the following, and many more can be found in our 'Book & TV List':
You ask me, 'Did you realise that God is likely pursuing you?' I sincerely doubt this. Let's remember that God (with a capital G, as opposed to thousands of minor gods), is all-powerful and all-knowing. So how is it that he is still pursuing me, he should have easily caught me by now? Being all-knowing, he would know exactly where to lie in wait and exactly what arguments would convince me of his existence. So how is it that I manage to stay well ahead of God, so far ahead that I've never even glimpsed him in my rear view mirror? Christian fundamentalist Ian Wishart argues that God puts 'people in your life who could help you understand if you allowed them'. But my response to this was, what people has the big guy put in my life? When I think of the many that have preached to me from street corners or knocked on my door over the years, I have to ask, why does he send such morons? God knows my beliefs and the arguments he has to counter, so why do 'his people' come so ill prepared? Clearly if God is pursuing me, then he has hit a stumbling block, some argument that I've adopted or some piece of evidence that I've accepted is causing him grief, and he just doesn't know how to respond. So he remains in the shadows, mumbling and pacing backwards and forwards, unsure of what to do next. But could an all-powerful and all-knowing god be bested by a mere human? No, of course not, that would make no sense, so the only rational explanation for why a pursuing god hasn't caught me already is that he doesn't exist. I suspect this argument also explains why my neighbourhood is not beset by vampires.
I agree that Buddha, Mohammed, Moses and Confucius never claimed to be divine, while Jesus did make this connection. But let's remember that many, many other characters from history also claimed divine connections, such as Zeus, Osiris, Thor, Quetzalcoatl, Maui, Apollo etc, and many claimed to be the sons of gods, such as Hercules, Roman emperors, Aztec rulers and Egyptian Pharaohs. And yet no one today believes for one moment that these humans were actually the sons of gods, or that these gods even existed to have sons, so why should the claims of Jesus be believed but not those of the Egyptians? Surely if the Jesus claims are plausible, then must not the others be plausible too? And alternatively, if untold gods and their sons can be easily dismissed as fanciful nonsense from a primitive time, then surely Jesus and his god must be dismissed for the same reasons? We either have no gods or we are swimming in gods. There is no rationale for Christians to support one god that was preferred by their ancestors while they giggle at the naivety of people that would believe that other gods might exist.
As for this Christian talk of God and Jesus as father and son, no Christian can explain how this makes the slightest sense if Jesus is also God. If Jesus was just God wearing the equivalent of a fake moustache, silly glasses and a robe, then he wasn't a man and thus could never have suffered and died on the cross. It was all an act, with fake blood and fake screams, and as the Bible says, if this were the case then Christianity is a sham. Conversely if Jesus was a real man, then he can't claim to be God, or forgive people their sins in place of God. And let's remember that Jesus was forever talking to God, even pleading to him on the cross, asking where the hell he was, as he felt he had suffered enough already. So clearly at these times Jesus didn't think he was God, and believed God was a separate being. Of course God could, being all-powerful, transform himself into a true human being, so that he would truly experience what it was like to be human, but if that happened then he would have died on the cross and remained dead, since only God could resurrect him, but God had given up his powers to be human remember, so no resurrection. God couldn't make himself human while retaining the power to resurrect himself, since knowing, for certain, that he wasn't really going to stay dead would mean that he wouldn't really fear death as a real human would. So again, his stint as Jesus would all just be an act. And to make things worse, if Jesus was the son of God, rather than God himself, but still with godly powers and authority, then this means that there is no longer just one god, but two. Many Christians are forever talking about their belief and faith in Jesus, but God gets barely a mention, suggesting that Jesus is now the important one to please. But then this raises that other claim that there are actually three separate divine beings or gods that we must obey: God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the infamous Trinity. And if you think explaining how two beings can be one yet separate, it just gets worse with three. Christians really have dug themselves into a hole with this one, and yet they just keep digging.
And as for Jesus talking of God the father having 'a close union unique to all humans', I honestly fail to comprehend how people can swallow that. I will be eternally grateful that my real biological father was nothing like God the father. I knew my father, he loved me, cared for me and was there to support me. My so-called spiritual father was an absentee father. I've never met him, never had any communication from him, not even a birthday card. I don't even know what he looks like, where he lives, or why he refuses to have any contact with me. And to make things worse, people have given me a book called the Bible that proudly and graphically relates my spiritual father's actions here on Earth, and frankly I couldn't be more ashamed of him. He makes the likes of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot look like kindergarten bullies. Furthermore, the disgusting plans he has for my loved ones and even me, his spiritual child, when I die, make me wonder if he has any idea what it means to be all-loving. That Christians can view this diabolical invisible being as a superior father figure shows that they also struggle to understand what a loving relationship actually means.
Well Ron, thanks for the chance to consider those points, but as you see, I fail to be swayed, mainly because I see no evidence of gods or need for gods. I see no evidence that gods are responsible for anything in this universe, or for the universe itself, while I see untold evidence that this universe can be explained by science. Likewise I see no need for a god to provide me with a moral code, to tell me not to eat shellfish or to explain the cause of lightning.
Christians say they believe God is real because their Bible tells them so, and amazingly, this is it, that's all there is, there is nothing else that they offer to support their outlandish claim. No physical evidence, no documents outside the Bible corroborating their claims, nothing. Not a single supernatural claim is supported by science, and even a great many claims of a natural nature have been shown to have never happened. And if you're thinking, well surely the claims of the Bible are trustworthy enough, no Christian would accept a similar argument from a Muslim pointing to the Koran.
All I can say to people thinking up arguments for their god is that they need to contain solid evidence and reasoning, I will not accept a religion on faith or fear or wistfulness.
|Oscar the Cat of Death... or maybe not|
Does the name Oscar the cat mean anything to you? How about one of his other titles that people have given him: Oscar, the Death-Predicting Cat — Oscar the Kitty of Doom — Oscar, the Hospice Cat — or Kitty Kevorkian?
I vaguely remember seeing the Oscar the cat story on the TV news years ago, a cat living in a hospice-type ward in the USA that could apparently predict the impending death of patients, signalled by him visiting them, and perhaps curling up on their bed. Like much of what passes for news on TV, I didn't take it too seriously. But the other day Cynthia made a comment on the psychic nonsense that is 'Sensing Murder', and asked, no doubt with spooky psychic powers in mind, if I had heard of Oscar and whether I thought 'animals can sense death and disease, and if so how?'
So, I've since had a quick read up on what evidence there is to support this claim, and there's not much. I certainly don't believe that there is any psychic or supernatural element involved in what Oscar can allegedly do, as some articles imply. One review talks of 'what almost appears to be Oscar's supernatural ability of sniffing out the impending death of one or another of the patients', and wonders that 'If "eyes are the window to the soul," is it possible that Oscar's eyes can see into the souls of patients approaching death?' umm... let me think... no.
So might it be that some animals can sense death and/or disease, without appealing to the spooky realm? It is certainly plausible that some could sense chemicals related to certain diseases and/or react to behaviour surrounding death and disease. Discussing Oscar, this article notes that 'There's interesting research suggesting that dogs can detect cancer and other diseases. The most likely explanation is not some psychic ability but instead that the dogs' super-sensitive noses can detect faint biochemical traces given off by the body's reaction to the disease'. However it also noted that 'While studies show that canine disease detection is better than chance, it is still not as accurate as formal medical tests in many cases'. So I wouldn't swap a medical lab for a dog, let alone a cat, since while I read that a 'cats' sense of smell is 14 time stronger than that of humans', dogs have a sense of smell thousands of time more sensitive than that of humans. I also read that cat behavior expert Carol Wilburn 'theorized that Oscar may sense the flow of energy prior to death', but this is nothing but new age nonsense, akin to psychic types claiming to detect a weakening aura.
Oscar was only one of six cats in the nursing home, and is only one of thousands of cats that no doubt live in nursing homes world wide. So one must ask why only Oscar could sense impending death if it's a typical cat thing? Not a single cat besides Oscar (let alone dog or gerbil) has been observed worldwide to be able to do what Oscar did, either before Oscar or after Oscar. So being unique to Oscar, this almost points us back to it being a supernatural thing, a psychic gift bestowed on this specific cat for some mysterious reason. But there is nothing to suggest the meddling of some supernatural being, and even if this were suspected by, for example, devout Christians, why would their God give this gift to just one cat in one nursing home and ignore the untold others dying around the world without the benefit of a feline warning?
Oscar first turned up in the 'New England Journal of Medicine', in 2007, in an essay written by Dr. David Dosa, and it all got out of hand from there. As this article notes,
'Oscar's story has since been included in virtually every list of psychic animals in every kind of media, and is often cited as proof that the ability exists, particularly due to its publication in such an esteemed journal. But please, hold the horses a moment. The opening section of the Journal is called Perspectives, and includes essays, editorials, and opinion pieces. Dosa's article was in this section; it was most certainly not presented as research, but simply as a fun anecdote. Dosa made no representation that it was either scientific or based on serious study of the cat's behavior.'As Benjamin Radford writes, 'There's nothing wrong with essays, but they are essentially stories and anecdotes, which don't necessarily carry any scientific or evidential weight'. Dosa expanded his essay into a book called 'Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat', but as Joe Nickel pointed out, the book didn't produce any more evidence than the essay did, in fact Dosa even admits that he omitted 'inconvenient' facts:
'Dosa fails to mention a single instance of Oscar failing to predict death correctly; yet in a beginning note he begs readers to "forgive the occasional mistakes" the cat "makes from time to time." ... Moreover, Dosa admits that "for narrative purposes" he has "made some changes that depart from actual events" and that "some of the characters that appear in this book are composites of multiple patients". In other words, there is no point in trying to evaluate the anecdotal evidence: it has been manipulated — in the interest of telling a good story, of course — so it is scientifically worthless.'People ask how Oscar's success in predicting impeding death can be explained, but as many have pointed out, there is no good evidence that Oscar was reliable, no good evidence that Oscar could actually do what was claimed he did. Regarding Oscar, there might well be nothing to explain. Perhaps what needs to be explained is why a few people in a single nursing home misread what was happening. There could be many innocent reasons why Oscar was found near a patient that subsequently died; as one person noted, because of 'more warm blankets placed on dying patients'. SF Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll asked, 'Are weak and dying patients least likely to kick the cat off?' This reminds us that Oscar was not living in an ordinary home or business, and Dosa admits that the 'passing of some residents was not unexpected due to their advanced condition'. And so as Benjamin Radford explains, 'If Oscar wanders by enough rooms for long enough, he will likely be in or near rooms with dying patients just by random chance every now and then'. And as long as staff report the hits and ignore the misses, then Oscar will seem to be doing something spooky. Evidently a nurse called Mary Miranda was the one who first alerted Dosa to what Oscar was up to and was responsible for helping collect many of the stories in Dosa's book, and yet as Joe Nickell notes, 'Mary admits she also would "like to think" that there is something more to Oscar's alleged ability than, say, smell... and that she concedes, "I'm a dyed-in-the-wool animal lover. It's not like I'm objective"'. But unfortunately to discover the truth and determine exactly what was happening does require people to be objective. Mary may like to think there was some thing intentional and other-worldly in Oscar's actions, but wishing doesn't make it so.
As to what might be happening with Oscar, I tend to agree with the opinion of this article's author:
'From what we know of Oscar, there is no need to suggest that he has the power of prediction, either psychic or based on some smelling ability or behavioral sensing. Oscar's story can almost certainly be explained by confirmation bias: the tendency of workers at the center to more strongly notice Oscar's actions when they confirm the belief, in exactly the same way that many hospital workers notice busier nights during a full moon, a notion that's been conclusively disproven. But we can't know for sure since nobody has ever studied the way Oscar divides his time between the living and the dying. Until they do, we have a cute story, but certainly not a psychic cat.'Interestingly there are other theories about why Oscar and death are connected. Columnist Jon Carroll noted, 'From the evidence, an equally viable theory is that Oscar kills people, but no one has mentioned that possibility'. Oscar isn't sensing an impending death, he's actually causing their death. Along this line of thinking, I also came across this report that states that Oscar might now be dead. Seemingly he became rather unpopular with patients, and that 'a dented bedpan was found near the body', which isn't surprising, after all, who wants Death to curl up on their bed, even if he does look like a cat. Actually the article is a spoof, but it reads as though it should be true. Or another theory, as this article noted, 'perhaps Oscar is just a cover story for a serial killer on a warped euthanasia mission'. These theories do have some plausibility because some patients that Oscar targeted died unexpectedly, to the real surprise of medical staff.
From the little I've read, I don't think we can take Dosa's account at all seriously. For example, apart from changing what happened to suit his story as we've already noted, and apparently ignoring all the times Oscar failed in his predictions, Dosa wrote that he 'became more of a believer after talking one day to Ida, a widow in complete charge of her senses... Ida believed that cats have a sixth sense and that they can communicate with us if we understand their language'. In complete charge of her senses you say? Really? Believing we can talk to cats? This sort of admission should have made Dosa more skeptical, but instead he became a believer. Dosa also said that 'I'd like to think Oscar embodies empathy and companionship. He is a critical cog in a well-oiled and dedicated health care team', which makes Oscar out to be a really nice, friendly cat. And yet, I read here that Dosa said that Oscar was 'not a cat that's friendly to [living] people', giving one example of when 'an elderly woman with a walker passed him by during his rounds, Oscar "[let] out a gentle hiss, a rattlesnake-like warning that [said] 'leave me alone.'" So how does Dosa reconcile 'companionship' and 'not friendly' in the same cat? Clearly Dosa is just weaving a story, where what you say at different times doesn't need to match or make sense. Look at this excerpt from Dosa's story:
'Oscar returns to his work. He sniffs the air, gives Mrs. T. one final look, then jumps off the bed and quickly leaves the room. Not today. Making his way back up the hallway, Oscar arrives at Room 313. The door is open, and he proceeds inside. Mrs. K. is resting peacefully... she is alone. Oscar jumps onto her bed and again sniffs the air. He pauses to consider the situation, and then turns around twice before curling up beside Mrs. K'.This is pure fiction, the doctor is not following the cat around recording what he does minute by minute. He writes that Mrs. K is alone, so who later described to Dr. Dosa what Oscar did in her room, Oscar himself or the dead Mrs. K? This is like passages in the Bible in which Jesus's disciples later describe in detail what Jesus did in the desert — by himself — and off praying — again by himself. The disciples admit that no one witnessed what he did and that Jesus himself never revealed what happened, so how can they write about what they don't know? The truth is they can't, everything they write MUST be made up, pure invention to support the story they are spinning. And yet believers never seems to notice, with Dosa or the Bible, that what these writers are relating must be fiction. And when we can prove logically that some of their testimony is false, surely this makes all their testimony suspect? If they are prepared to lie for some of it, why might it not all be a lie?
Finally, I got to wondering what Oscar was doing when not predicting impending death? Clearly he must spend almost no time in the ward, and his rare appearance must have been like Death himself stalking the corridors. I say this because it is reported that 'By the time of the book, Dosa said some 50 deaths at the Center had been preceded by visits from Oscar', and another report said these 50 deaths happened over five years. If we do the math, this means an average of 10 deaths per year, one every 5.2 weeks, or one every 36.5 days. So clearly Oscar could only be seen visiting a patient once every 36.5 days, less than once a month, who then died. So what was Oscar doing for the rest of the year? He certainly had a lot of spare time on his hands (sorry, paws), because he couldn't be seen sleeping around the ward or catching up with patients because this would be viewed as a prediction of death. He couldn't have been wandering the ward and visiting this patient and that patient and sleeping here and there because each of these patient visits would be times when Oscar visited and they didn't die. If Oscar was seen weekly or even daily on the ward and didn't just walk in and through and out again, then each time he paused or had a snooze near a patient that didn't die would count as a failed prediction. If he did live in the ward and wander the corridors and in and out of rooms, and since most cats spend a good proportion of every day sleeping, where did Oscar sleep for every hour of every day of those 36.5 days when he couldn't be seen near a patient? Only once in every 36.5 days (on average) could he be seen near a patient. But I suspect that Oscar was being a typical cat for every one of those 36.5 days, sleeping where he pleased, near this patient and that patient, but because they didn't die, staff simply ignored what Oscar or any of the other five cats were doing.
So no, I don't believe Oscar could sense impending death. There is certainly no good evidence that he could, and not one other example of death predicting cats has come forward since Oscar was publicised. So just as the silly 'Sensing Murder' psychics have not solved a single murder worldwide, this would suggest that the story of Oscar the cat is just as silly, promoted by an unjustified belief in spooky nonsense and nothing more.
|Unbelievers ignoring the Easter Bunny|
Are atheists hanging onto our disbelief solely through a stubborn unwillingness to face the facts? Many Christians insist that we are in denial, and yesterday I read an article in the NZ Herald by Michael Hewat, vicar of the West Hamilton Anglican parish, that again argued that we atheists are missing the big picture.
Entitled 'Unbelievers ignoring evidence of Jesus', Hewat says that the theme of his article is to question 'How big a part does reason really play in attitudes towards religion, and how reasonable is atheism?' Since he was writing because it is Easter, of course Hewat could have equally lamented that unbelievers are ignoring evidence of the Easter Bunny. Regarding atheism, unfortunately Hewat makes no serious attempt to determine if it is a reasonable stance. He makes no mention of the scientific, historical and philosophical arguments for atheism and why he thinks they are flawed reasons to adopt atheism. His argument seems to be simply that it's reasonable to believe in Jesus, atheists don't believe in Jesus, therefore atheism isn't reasonable. Of course it's misleading to imply that it's only atheists that don't believe in Jesus, the fact is the great majority of the world's population don't believe the silly belief that is Christianity, including Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, Wiccan and agnostics, so atheists are just a very small proportion of those that Christians need to win over. But Christians won't ask if Islam or Hinduism is reasonable because they know that the valid criticisms they have formed of other religions can equally be applied to them, so best not to mention them. The view seems to be that while others may believe in false gods, at least they do believe in gods, it's a start. However the points Hewat makes to promote Christianity and denigrate atheism are typical of evangelists, so it's worth taking the time to expose the flaws.
Hewat is justifiably worried that Christianity is declining in the Western world, and that this is 'not good news for the Christian church' due to a 'loss, not only in numbers but also in influence'. But he finds solace in the fact that Christianity is finding new converts 'in the Two-Thirds world'. But is this a good argument for a discussion about reason and religion? To show that Christianity is declining in countries where the population is more highly educated and increasing where the population is poorly educated is surely an argument that informed reason causes people to reject religion whereas ignorance causes people to embrace it? My experience is that truly informed reason plays a huge part in people's attitude to religion, and generally serves to distance them from it.
I suspect Hewat is suggesting that the attitudes that atheists display towards religion are based on something other than reason, that if we only used reason we would see how ill-informed we are and would immediately accept Jesus into our hearts. I think Hewat confuses reason with blind faith, since his article gives no good reasons to believe in Jesus, only trite explanations as to why Christians have faith in Jesus.
One of the few comments I do agree with is when he says that atheists 'think Christianity at best foolish, at worst dangerous, [and] any decline is heartening'. But of course he doesn't believe that the atheist view has any merit, and makes references to those 'who know little or nothing of either the Bible or good biblical scholarship' and who 'lack any substantial evidence to pit against the New Testament writings (leaving only their own unattested hypotheses)'. By 'unattested hypotheses' I guess he's referring to scientific and historical critiques of claims made in the Bible.
In his article Hewat trots out a well-loved Christian argument that atheists 'have the problem of providing a reasonable explanation for how a nascent Jesus movement won converts'. Really? Clearly he knows little about atheism.
The argument is that their god — Jesus — must be real since people could never convince hundreds, then thousands, then an entire civilisation to believe in a fantasy. And yet this very thing has happened thousands of times throughout history, but with other gods. The same flawed argument could be used to insist Zeus, Apollo, Thor, Ra and Quetzalcoatl must all be real too, otherwise how could the respective nascent Greek, Roman, Norse, Egyptian and Aztec religious movements have won converts and have gone on to become the state religion? Even today, the number of believers in Islam are on the road to surpassing those of Christianity, so by Hewat's logic the supernatural tales recounted in the Koran must be true, since there is no other reasonable explanation to explain Islam winning converts. An even clearer example of how flawed this argument is would be to repeat Hewat's argument, but change the character involved, and insist that non-believers like me 'have the problem of providing a reasonable explanation for how a nascent Santa Claus movement won converts'. I don't believe Santa is real, but he certainly has millions of devout believers. How is this possible if Hewat's argument is valid, that converts equals truth?
Of course it takes little thought to explain how the Muslims, ancient Greeks and Egyptians, children hanging up stockings, and Christians all managed to come to sincerely believe in fantasies. They were ignorant, gullible and na´ve, and they were manipulated and lied to by people that they thought they could trust. And Christians like Hewat will argue in a heartbeat that the Muslims and the ancient Egyptians and followers of thousands of other non-Christian religions were mistaken, they were wrong, their gods were imaginary, and that they didn't need real gods to build a religion. But how could false gods gain and hold sway over entire civilisations for centuries if they weren't real? It's unreasonable to expect false gods to gain a foothold and win converts, this is Hewat's argument, and yet history provides thousands of examples that gods don't have to be real for people to die for them. It is extremely close-minded for Christians to somehow fool themselves into thinking that their ancient gods must be real when thousands before them weren't. This is the real problem for Hewat, why reason should politely turn a blind eye when it come to Jesus, but not Zeus.
So while this demolishes the argument that Jesus must have been real simply because so many believed that he was, Hewat would no doubt move on to arguing that we have much better evidence for Jesus than we do for Zeus, noting in his article 'That evidence exists, in the form of the testimony of eyewitnesses, and is as reliable as such evidence can be'.
He's referring to the Gospels, but he's utterly incorrect to describe them as eyewitnesses testimony. None of the anonymous gospel writers were eyewitnesses to the events they describe, none had ever met Jesus, and may not have even been born when he allegedly died. The names Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were added to the Gospels by the early church fathers years after they were written to give the (false) impression that they were written by disciples of Jesus, and as even Hewat acknowledges, the Gospels themselves were written decades after the events they describe. I believe it is quite dishonest when Christians continually refer to the Gospels as eyewitness accounts, when they were at the very least recounting hearsay, which is defined in law as: 'Evidence based on the reports of others rather than the personal knowledge of a witness and therefore generally not admissible as testimony'. So clearly the Gospels are no real evidence at all. Yes, they did relate events that the writers insisted really did happen, but then so too does the text in every holy book, scroll or parchment of thousands of other religions. Again, why should we believe the claims in the Christian holy book but not the Jewish or Muslim holy book, let alone the claims made by the ancient Egyptians or Aztec?
Christians suffer the delusion that because Jesus is so well known worldwide, then how could his life and death not be based on real events? But the same could be said today of characters such as Captain James T. Kirk, Darth Vader and Harry Potter? We actually know far more about these people, and exactly what they looked like, than we do Jesus, but that's no reason to believe they might be real. Vast numbers of books have been written about Jesus, but Christians need to remember that they are all just opinion pieces and critiques of a single book, the Bible. They are no different to the many books that discuss the science, ethics, history and storylines of the 'Star Trek' TV series and movies, and their existence can not be taken as evidence that the 'Star Trek' universe might be real. So I reiterate, there is only one ancient book that ever bothered to mention that someone called Jesus lived and had amazing adventures. So why did no one, not even the Gospel writers until decades later, bother to write down the story of Jesus? As we've noted elsewhere, from an historical perspective, many scholars have shown that there is no evidence that Jesus of Nazareth ever existed. Other than the New Testament of the Bible, there exists no other written document that mentions Jesus as an historical figure. The writings of Josephus and Tacitus that mention Jesus have been shown to be clear forgeries by the early church. At the end of an article by Frank R. Zindler — Did Jesus Exist? — he lists 38 other Jewish and pagan historians and writers who lived during the time, or within a century after the time that Jesus is supposed to have lived. If Jesus really did do all these miraculous things that the Bible attributed to him, it's surprising that none mentioned him.
The embarrassing fact for Christians is that there are no independent reports or evidence that go anyway towards corroborating their claims that Jesus even existed, let alone performed miracles. Again, if we are expected to believe accounts of supernatural shenanigans in a single ancient book called the Bible, why shouldn't we also believe similar accounts in the holy books of other religions? Many other ancient religions spoke of gods being born of virgins, of being killed and rising from the dead, and all before Jesus was even born. If we are expected to believe that this sort of thing could happen in Israel, why could it not also have happened before that in Egypt? Why is this miraculous event plausible in one religion but totally unbelievable in all others? And if Christians argue, as they do, that none of these miracles ever happened in these other religions, why isn't it reasonable and logical to assume that they didn't happen in theirs either? What evidence, beyond the hearsay of an ancient holy book, is there to show that their belief isn't just as silly?
Hewat makes many statements that he believes are utterly reasonable and should be accepted as good, rational, logical evidence that his god exists. But this is an arrogance and naivety that believers in all manner of silly gods exhibit.
When arguing for the resurrection, one of Hewat's arguments is 'that reason must also allow that, if Jesus is in fact God's only son, all things are possible for him'. Of course this is as silly as saying if Santa is real then flying reindeer are real, and if flying reindeer are real, then Santa must be real too. Hewat even admits that 'This is a circular argument, but it is hardly devoid of reason; and if Jesus is the only person ever to have been raised, it does vindicate his claim to uniqueness'. He realises and acknowledges that his argument is a logical fallacy, that it is flawed reasoning, and yet he still argues that its conclusion should be accepted as valid! How weak must a person's argument be when he is forced to knowingly use faulty reasoning to make his case? And even his claim that 'Jesus is the only person ever to have been raised' is incorrect, which any Christian should know, and it just makes his argument even more erroneous. In the Bible Jesus raised two people from the dead (that I can remember), including Lazarus, and many were raised from their tombs when Jesus died on the cross. So being raised from the dead is hardly unique in the Bible. Christians seem to forget that. And as I've already mentioned, if we are to believe what's written in holy books, people were raised from the dead in other religions before Jesus, so again, not unique in the slightest.
Hewat also makes the oft-repeated argument that 'If Christ were not raised then he was no more than a good man and a great teacher', but even this claim can not be supported by an honest reading of the New Testament. For example, Jesus was a bigot, he supported all of his father's barbaric and unjust commandments, and he even counselled his disciples that they should execute those that wouldn't accept him as king. Even the respected Christian author C.S. Lewis in his book 'Mere Christianity' wrote:
"That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is the Son of God: or else a madman and something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you may spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."Another very weak argument that Hewat offers, similar to the one above, is that 'reason must also account for the dramatic change in belief, not only of Saul but of all Jesus' followers who had abandoned him at the cross. If not a real experience of Jesus' resurrection, what inspired them to give their lives in defence of his claim to be the risen Christ?' Here Hewat implies that only a real miracle from a real god could bring about such a 'dramatic change in belief', and since the cold-blooded killer Saul changed into Paul, this can only be explained by a real god. But what about the two Britons who recently had a 'dramatic change in belief', converting from Christianity to Islam, and went on to slaughter an off-duty soldier on a public street? If Hewat is right, that a 'dramatic change in belief' must be evidence of a god experience, then Allah, the Muslim god, must be real, and Jesus was nothing but a mere mortal. And of course there are untold examples, now and throughout history, of people undergoing a 'dramatic change in belief' that did not involve a 'a real experience of Jesus' in any way. Think of religious people like Charles Darwin who went on to become non-believers, apparently Hewat has no conception of anything that could inspire them to change their path in life away from religion. Hewat is willing to highlight converts to his god as proof of his existence, but ignores the multitude of belief changes that clearly have no involvement with his god. So a 'dramatic change in belief' should be viewed as nothing more than a person changing their mind, on the surface it says nothing about whether the reasons they changed their mind are valid.
As an aside, note that Hewat talked about 'all Jesus' followers who had abandoned him at the cross'. Isn't it amazing that Christians who have never met Jesus and never witnessed a single miracle, and are still waiting for his return after two millennia, believe in him blindly, and yet the followers of Jesus who knew him intimately and had witnessed untold miracles and the hand of god at work, often refused to believe what he said and quickly abandoned him when he was arrested. If even these superstitious and ignorant primitive people that knew him well were doubtful that Jesus was divine, why are modern Christians so quick to believe? But of course the Biblical stance seems to be that the ancient people of Bible times were just very stupid. There are untold stories of where people knew only too well that a real god would punish them horribly if they did a certain thing, and yet the fools went ahead and did it anyway. Of course I don't believe that ancient people were so stupid, so the other option is that silly stories of them behaving in stupid ways are all just bullshit.
Hewat says that 'There is no such thing as proof of God, but there are reasonable grounds for believing that he has revealed himself in Jesus Christ'. But this is as empty as me saying that 'There is no such thing as proof of Santa Claus, but there are reasonable grounds for believing that he has revealed himself in the department store Santas'. Of course Christians will insist that what happens in the Bible stories are reasonable grounds for belief, but what are the reasonable grounds for believing that the Bible is true in the first place? Remember that the Jewish Torah, the Muslim Koran and the Hindu Vedas all make the same claim of authenticity. Hewat talks of reasons, so what good reasons are there, independent of the Bible, for belief in God that don't just keep referring us back to the Bible? What reasons are there to doubt what science, history and philosophy have revealed to us in recent times? Why is it that every new discovery demolishes another claim made in the Bible rather than confirming one? Seriously, as evidence goes, children have more evidence that Santa is real: they've met him, they have photos, and they receive presents from him each year. There is more justification to believe in Santa than God. Hell, even as an adult I've received mail from Santa, and yet I still doubt his existence. So what hope has a god got of swaying me who never tries to make contact and is deliberately hiding from us?
But Hewat actually isn't that worried about God, he argues that the 'Christian faith depends entirely upon the credibility of one person: Jesus', that 'Christianity lays no claim to truth apart from Jesus... that he was the divine son of God', and that 'Arguments about creation, suffering and the failures of the church are secondary issues'. OK, so how might we judge the credibility of Jesus? He wrote not a single word about his views, and nor did a single writer of the time. The few that did eventually write about him had never met him. Thus before we can judge the credibility of Jesus, we must determine the credibility of the handful that wrote about him decades later. But the authors of the gospels are unknown, and from what they wrote, it is clear that some had never even been to Israel, and they made untold contractions about his life, so clearly some, if not all, were telling untruths. There are numerous points over which the gospels conflict, some claims must be false for others to be true, so therefore the gospels are not wholly reliable in what they claim. Since the credibility of the anonymous gospel authors is suspect, then logically the credibility of the characters they write about must be even more suspect. The Jesus we read about in the pages of the Bible loses all credibility since we can't trust the authors of the Bible. And we must speak of the entire Bible and not just the New Testament and the gospels, since Hewat claims that Christians believe Jesus 'was the divine son of God'. What God might they be referring to? Why the God of the Old Testament of course, but Hewat subtly implies that Christians are not so sure about what in the Old Testament might be true, with admissions that they make 'no claim to truth apart from Jesus', and that 'Arguments about creation, suffering... [ie Old Testament claims] ...are secondary issues'. But how can Hewat be utterly convinced that Jesus is the son of God, if he's not totally convinced that all those silly stories about God are actually true? If the stories about God creating the world and life in six days, about Adam and Eve and the flood of Noah, about God demanding that Abraham sacrifice his son and enjoying a good burnt offering, if all these stories about God are suspect, or if we're totally honest, utter bullshit, then why should we even believe that the God of these silly stories is real? And if the God Christians read about in the Old Testament is just a myth, along with all the stories he features in, then it's utterly impossible that this mythical God could have anything but a mythical son. I find it astounding that Hewat can hold an unshakeable belief in the reality of the son but is not so committed to the reality of his father. But of course this is an embarrassing problem that most Christians have inherited, embracing the son while hiding his father in the closet, pushing the love and compassion of the New Testament while disowning the injustice and barbarity of the Old. Let's recall how Richard Dawkins described God in his book 'The God Delusion':
'The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction. Jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive blood thirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, megalomaniacal, capriciously malevolent bully.'And it wasn't just modern authors that could see God for what he was, Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, wrote that 'The Christian God is a being of terrific character — cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust'.
Christians, breaking many commandments in their Bible, even from Jesus himself, place Jesus above God, with Hewat arguing that Christianity is all about Jesus, God is secondary, that we can certainly believe what they said Jesus did, but perhaps not so much about what God did. But if you admit doubt concerning the foundation stories of your belief system, then everything that comes later is suspect. No God means no Jesus. Christians can no more deny God than Luke Skywalker can deny Darth Vader, as embarrassing as he might be as a father.
Hewat even argues that 'secondary issues' such as whether God actually created the universe and life might never be determined, that 'if reason alone could settle such arguments, they would have been settled by now'. I don't know how to break it to Hewat, but these issues have been settled. His God did not create anything, suffering is not brought about by his whims, and the failures of the church can be explained, in past times, by Christians committing atrocities because they were obeying his commandments, and in modern times by morons electing to pray for help from fantasy beings rather than getting off their knees and actually making a difference themselves.
Hewat, like many who make fantastical claims, fails to realise that the onus is on them to provide the burden of proof. If someone claims that they've seen a god, Bigfoot, the tooth fairy or an alien, they must provide evidence to support their claim, it is not our job to prove they were mistaken. If I said I could fly like Superman, you'd insist that I prove it, you wouldn't accept my challenge that you prove that I couldn't fly. And yet Hewat insists that 'Any reasoned rejection of Christianity necessarily requires a reasoned rebuttal of each of these claims, but particularly of the resurrection'. This is as childish as you saying I should believe in Santa until I can prove he doesn't exist, which is impossible.
But all this aside, it is actually quite easy to make a reasoned rebuttal of Christianity's claims. Let's remember that throughout history mankind has created thousands of religions with thousands if not millions of gods, and even Christians agree that every single one (bar one) of these thousands or millions of gods were false, mere figments of the imagination, created by ignorance, although people believed in them just as fervently as Hewat believes in Jesus. The evidence for God and Jesus is no better than for Zeus or Shiva, so reason would suggest that Jesus is likely just as mythical as Zeus and Shiva et al. Plus in modern times we have voluminous scientific and historical evidence showing that events that were once attributed to various gods can all be explained as natural rather than supernatural. Gods are superfluous. So clearly reason produces atheism. We don't need to even argue about why the gospel writers couldn't agree about the resurrection details, this is like debating whether Santa is married and ignoring the most important question of whether he even exists in the first place. God doesn't exist, ergo his son logically can't exist. If there was no divine son to be crucified then there was no son to resurrect and no god to do it anyway. This is the reasonable stance that Christians must challenge before we will be interested in debating about what happened in some mythical tomb.
It's strange that Christians insist that atheists must rebut everyone of their Biblical claims before we should be able to express disbelief in the Bible. And yet Christians readily express disbelief in the claims made by the likes of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and atheists, so are we expected to believe that they have only done this after a reasoned rebuttal of all the various claims? Of course not, most devout Christians are utterly ignorant about other religions and the academic arguments for atheism, so they are quite hypocritical in insisting that atheists should express a degree of belief in their god until we have rebutted all their claims, to their satisfaction.
The reality is that educated, intelligent, well-informed thinkers will reject belief in gods when we have demolished all the religious arguments to our satisfaction, whether the religious find that acceptable or not. If they are dismayed that this is the way that the civilised world is going, then they need to rebut our arguments or retreat to their churches and accept their fate. That like Zeus, Thor and Apollo before him, the time has come for Jesus to join his fellow gods in the mythical hall of fame.
So to answer Hewat's question, 'How big a part does reason really play in attitudes towards religion, and how reasonable is atheism?', reason is swapped for faith by the religious, and atheism is the only reasonable stance if it is truth that you seek.
|Camels: more fantasy in the Bible|
The other day I came across an article that made me reconsider my worldview: 'Camels cast doubt on accuracy of Bible stories'. It begins thus:
'Camels are mentioned in Biblical stories involving Abraham, Joseph and Jacob as well as other famous characters. But archaeologists have found that the mammals were not domesticated in Israel until centuries after famous figures were said to have ridden them. They claim this shows that text in the Bible was compiled long after the events described in it and challenges the holy book as a historical document'.A similar article in my local paper was even clearer: 'The humped ungulates played no role in the lives of the Biblical patriarchs and were almost certainly inserted into the story by the authors or editors centuries later... [probably because they] could not have imagined a world without camels'. Just as seemingly they couldn't imagine a world without gods and demons.
OK, so this revelation didn't really shock me, and although I've never thought about camels being in the Bible before, I have criticised movies of ancient Egypt showing camels when they didn't yet have them. Like the Bible writers, Hollywood has assumed that camels were always in Egypt.
But let's look at that article title again: 'Camels cast doubt on accuracy of Bible stories'. If someone were to read it and then say they're now having second thoughts about the Bible, I'd reply: Really, it's the presence of camels in the Bible that concerns you? I really doubt if someone could read the Bible and come away saying that it was all quite believable, apart from that bit about the camels, surely that can't be true, how gullible do they think we are? A similar article is titled: 'How the existence of camels undermines major parts of the Bible', whereas surely a more apt title would be: 'Oh dear! Yet another problem with the Bible'. It's almost as if this discovery about camels is the first major flaw that has been discovered in the Bible stories, that up until now everything else has stacked up scientifically and historically. I mean really, saying that the mention of camels casts doubt on the accuracy of the Bible is a little like saying that discovering dinosaurs and humans didn't coexist casts doubt on what we see in 'The Flintstones'. It should be obvious to all intelligent, educated people that the stories in both the Bible and 'The Flintstones' are fantasy. It shouldn't require the radiocarbon dating of camel bones or a course in paleontology to make one suspect the Bible or 'The Flintstones'.
I mean, think about it. What other elements in the Bible might have been added with no real knowledge, or concern even, that they were factual? Hmmm... well, there's that Jesus guy of course. There's no good evidence that he was real. Not a single person that allegedly knew him wrote a single thing about him, that was left to some anonymous gospel writers that made up some stuff long after he was dead. No one outside the Bible writers, for example the Romans, ever mentioned Jesus, and not one single writer in the Bible had ever actually met Jesus. And look what silly stuff they made up, claiming his mother got pregnant while remaining a virgin, that he could walk on water, turn water into wine, raise people from the dead, and even raised himself from the dead after he was unexpectedly crucified. Embarrassingly for Christians though, rather than stay around and prove to the world that death was not final, he promptly went into hiding and hasn't been seen since. How convenient. We are expected to have blind faith that somewhere Jesus is still alive and well, and for reasons beyond our comprehension he can't reveal himself. Some sort of tax evasion perhaps?
And if pregnant virgins and people rising from the dead sound a little unbelievable, let's not forget the talking snake in the Garden of Eden, and the less well known, but equally silly, talking donkey. And let's not forget Moses and the burning bush that also talked. Then there was that ark that old man Noah built to contain representatives of every living species on Earth while god flooded the entire planet, which if true, would be the most monstrous and sickening act of slaughter ever. Then there was the time that the Sun and Moon stopped in their tracks for a whole day, plus the time that a third of the stars in the sky fell to earth. Luckily no one got burnt, and apart from the Bible storyteller, even noticed. Let's not forget the miraculous parting of the Red Sea and then a repeat performance with the River Jordan. That's not something you see every day. What about biblical claims that the world was created in six days, and that light was present before the Sun existed? Then we're told that the world is flat, it rests on pillars and doesn't move, with the Sun going around us. Did you know that according to the Bible man walked with dinosaurs, hail and snow is kept in storehouses and the oceans are contained by doors and bars?
Frankly, if everything in the Bible for which there is no good evidence was edited out (along with the disgusting bits supporting slavery and hatred of women, foreigners etc), you would be left with a rather boring leaflet. From an historical and scientific perspective, believing the Bible stories is akin to believing that Brer Rabbit really was thrown into the briar patch by Brer Fox, after he begged him not to.
Of course it's good that yet another error has been found in the Bible stories, and silly miracles aside, quite revealing that they couldn't even get ordinary history correct. But their mistake with camels won't sway the religious, since anyone that can believe in talking snakes and men rising from the dead will easily believe that the science is wrong. Probably the work of Satan fudging the data.
|Ken Ring caught out in another lie|
With a few minutes to spare yesterday I felt like a laugh so I clicked on Ken Ring's Twitter page, and not one to disappoint, Ring delivered with this Feb 1 tweet:
"Ken Ring @kenringweather Feb 1I was amused that Ring could be so ignorant as to believe that the planet Jupiter being opposite Pluto was seen in ancient times as a warning of an imminent earthquake, and that intelligent, informed people would believe him. Clearly this man believes that we are all as ignorant as he is.
But maybe you're thinking, perhaps ancient astrologers did think, albeit erroneously, that there was an earthquake connection with Jupiter and Pluto, in the same way that they thought that comets were omens of impending disaster? But you can't remember, maybe you were sick the day they covered ancient astrology at school? So should we give Ring the benefit of doubt, after all, Ring portrays himself as an expert in ancient astrology, an expert in the Sun, Moon and planets, and he repeatedly reminds people that, 'Perhaps you forget that I have a university science education'? So surely he must be quoting from a reputable source?
But no, this isn't a rare example of Ring knowing something that others don't, this is another blatant example of Ring deviously inventing a lie to deceive those that mistakenly and foolishly believe in him. And his arrogance no doubt convinces him that no one will detect his lie, least of all his farmer clients, since he told us back in 2010 that 'Some of these farmers can't even read or write'.
So why am I convinced it's a deliberate lie on Ring's part and not just some controversial interpretation of some ancient astrological text? It's simple, the ancient astrologers could never have suggested that Pluto had a connection with earthquakes as Ring claims is the case, because embarrassingly for Ring, the ancients had no idea that Pluto even existed. Pluto was not discovered until 1930 CE, by Clyde Tombaugh. Pluto cannot be seen with the naked eye, and the planets Uranus and Neptune weren't known to the ancient astrologers either. And by ancient we're talking around 2,000 years ago. Not even the far more recent Sir Isaac Newton whom Ring falsely claims was an astrologer knew of these planets.
There is no way that Ring can claim he was simply misled by some ancient text about Pluto, since clearly none exists. And just a few days before his tweet we reminded him that the ancients didn't know of Pluto's existence. He had claimed that he was using 'the astrology of Archimedes' or 'the science as it was then', that is, beliefs from over 2,200 years ago. Of course Ring may not have read or understood my comments, but let's remember that Ring pushes his profile as an expert in these matters. As a self-acclaimed expert he should know that the ancients could never have written about Pluto. Ring cannot be quoting an ancient claim or belief about Pluto. His tweet is an invention, a deliberate deception, a contrived lie on his part. Lacking any real understanding as to why an earthquake might happen, Ring is forced to once again invent a lie to promote his scam, and consequently his shameless dishonesty drags him deeper into the sewer.
Update: Having no doubt read this post, Ring evidently felt compelled to assure his clients that the ancients did indeed know of Pluto's existence, and 3 weeks later made the following claim in a Yahoo article: 'Pluto, now called a dwarf planet was only 'discovered' by Western astronomers in the 1930s, but it was one of the 9 planets known and named by Hindi astrologers of old'. This is bullshit. The planet Uranus is faintly visible to the naked eye, but I know of no evidence that the ancients knew of it. As for Neptune and Pluto, they are not visible to the naked eye, so there is no way that ancient astrologers that had no telescopes could have been aware of them. Furthermore, Ring claims they knew of 9 planets, so that is even one more than we know of today! I challenge Ring to produce the historical evidence that ancient astrologers knew of Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and one other planet. And by evidence I don't mean that one of his fellow mystics saw these planets in a dream. (Update: See comment #3 below to see where Ring got his info from.)
And note Ring's anti-science attitude shining through once again, belittling 'Western astronomers' who have tried to falsely take credit for having 'discovered' Pluto sometime 'in the 1930s'. Ring is wedded to ancient astrology and desperate to show, by fair means or foul, that his ancient astrologers knew everything about the universe and that modern astronomers are just rediscovering it. But of course it is a lost cause, little different from trying to prove the world is flat.
|God. What's not to believe?|
We recently received a followup comment on one of our articles on religion, and it surprised me as to how many
errors a fundamentalist Christian was able to cram into their reply. So I took it as challenge to expose some of these errors, and finally, I wondered what would happen to society if fundamentalists did once again gain the upper hand, if everyone went back to viewing the world as a medieval peasant did.
We were discussing the Shroud of Turin, and highlighting that many people need more than blind faith in the Bible to believe in god, I had asked why many seek evidence for their belief, and received this reply from Tierra:
The terror is "That God only backs one religion" and that theirs may be wrong. People use religion for dangerous control reasons, but not GOD, he uses it as a way of salvation for teachable people. God wants us to study and question everything we are taught and not take Man's word on it. All scripture is beneficial for teaching 2 Timothy 3:16. The Bible is the only book that you can read about the founding of the earth and the first 3 chapters explain creation, the order in which things were created, )and no the world was not made in 6 24 hour days the Bible explains a day to God is a thousand years to us) and in chapter two how death came into the world. Now talk about getting an proper education. Anyone who relies on man for truth will be sorely disappointed. You show me one man who tells the truth and its is probably a man/woman who is just good at lying and fabricating stories. Mankind apart from God is incapable of anything good. I have no fear in anyone proving the Bible a lie it is impossible. And it is impossible for God to lie. God says in the Bible that it is a stupid man that does not believe in him. Some translations say the man who does not believe in God is a fool. I would never want God to feel I am stupid or a fool. So question the Bible all you want, it is infallible, it is only the teachings of a man who uses God word for material gain that is terrified of your questions. The Bible is in complete harmony with itself, it is mankind that twists what is says so they can deceive people and when ask to explain further they say God is a mystery and those are the people to beware of. I feel no terror when people ask me about God and when they don't believe in him it doesn't shake my faith at all. I feel sad for them because in John 17:3 This means everlasting life there taking in knowledge of you the true God, and the one whom you sent forth Jesus Christ. So their life is at stake. For a man who lived 3,000 years not to exist and yet the whole world knows his name is ludicrous in itself. It is people who do not believe the Bible that are in error and in terror because the end of life for you is death. Death is what you are living for. Sad very sad. If there is no creator and a plan to fix all this sickness and death then what hope do you have because death is the end of everything. And as far as needing material things to prove God exists such as statues that cry tears or a shroud claimed to be Jesus isn't necessary and God warns about such things. Too much time is spent and wasted on proving whether it is a real artifact or not, and guess what? In your articles you have proven that man is mistaken or a liar and yet you still trust man's word over God, What are you scared of? Why do you still after proving all these conspiracies on your site, have more faith in man than God? Where is the logic in that? Do you actually read what you write? You have supplied so much proof in the area that mankind is deficient in. I feel it is you who might be terrified of a higher power other than man. Just because you do not believe in God does not make him unreal. And if you actually read the Bible and let it interpret itself you will be amazed at how much you are mistaken about it... And science has its place and I give it is due credit and I love it. Especially chemistry and biology and I am intrigued with geoengineering. But it has its place just as everything else and doesn't deserve higher recognition than God because it is from man whom you have proven is fallible even more that the Bible.You correctly realise Tierra that as regards the various religions people believe in, 'The terror is "That God only backs one religion" and that theirs may be wrong', and yet you don't seem to grasp that yours could just as easily be wrong too! Which one of thousands of potential gods are you thinking of, and how can you sleep at night fearing that you could easily have picked the wrong one? I'm not afflicted by your terror, and thus sleep peacefully. History is full of false religions that preached with your confidence as to their validity, and now people, like you and me, wonder how they could have been so gullible. And modern history is showing that Christianity is well on the way to following in their footsteps. Every advance of science pushes religious belief further into the shadows.
You claim that 'People use religion for dangerous control reasons, but not GOD'. Good grief! Have you not read the Bible??? It's chock full of your vicious, barbaric god trying to control people. Think of the Ten Commandments, a list that god invents solely to control the behaviour of people. Think of god telling us that if we do not believe in and follow him he will torture us for all eternity. Think of god telling the Hebrews which countries to invade, and how they were to kill everyone, except the cute virgins. Think of god telling people to kill homosexuals, witches and disobedient children. Think of god controlling what we eat, what we wear, when we can work, who we can be friends with and who we can have sex with. Think of god even telling me I can't masturbate! And you say he's not trying to control us? Bullshit! We are his servants, his slaves, to be controlled and punished as he sees fit. Your god is obsessed with controlling his playthings, and will kick them out of gardens and flood entire planets if they don't meekly obey his every whim. Even Jesus said, 'You are my friends if you do what I command'. JN 15:14. This is not what true friendship is about, Jesus confuses friends with servants!
'God wants us to study and question everything we are taught and not take Man's word on it', you say. Let's recall that from the very beginning god was aghast at the thought that man might gain knowledge, think for himself and become powerful. Remember his first words to Adam: 'And the LORD God commanded the man... you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge...' Gen 2:16-17. Then we have the tower of Babel story where god once again stepped in to stop mankind from making progress through knowledge. Plus there is Paul quoting god as saying, 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate'. 1 Cor 1:19. You can't use your Bible quote that 'All scripture is beneficial for teaching' to claim that 'God wants us to study and question everything...' All that Bible verse is saying is that we should believe everything written in the Bible, that it useful for understanding the world, and that we should question everything a man says when he's not quoting the Bible. God doesn't want us to study and question what he has written, only what his opponents say. Nowhere in the Bible are god's followers encouraged to doubt his commandments, his explanations, his powers or his promises. And when people do, they are duly punished. Followers are to have the utmost blind trust in god and question him not, while blindly accepting that everyone else is lying. And if your claim were actually true, then I would be god's favourite, not you, since I'm questioning everything the Bible has taught us, while you are simply taking a man's word that the Bible is true. You are ignoring your god's wishes, not me.
You state rather naively that 'The Bible is the only book that you can read about the founding of the earth'. What about the holy books of the Jews, Muslims and Hindus, not to mention the creation myths in the holy books of untold religions throughout history, eg the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Aztec etc? But of course the Bible, Torah, Koran, Vedas etc are all books of mythology, their creation stories are all myths. But all is not lost, have you not heard that there are actually other books that discuss the origin of the Earth, they're called science books, and unlike the Bible, all are supported by a great deal of evidence. Of course they won't mention the Earth being flat or being mounted on pillars or even hint that it might have been constructed by some god a few thousand years ago, since science books try to deal in facts. Your claim reminds me of that important warning: Beware the person that only reads one book!
You say that to get a 'proper education' all people need to do is read Genesis. I would argue that reading and believing Genesis would only serve to destroy what real knowledge a person possessed, and turn them into an ignorant, superstitious servant of an imaginary tyrant. To believe that the Universe was created in six days, or even over 6,000 years, is to accept fairy tales. To blindly believe that 'death came into the world' because a naked woman accepted an apple from a talking snake is something that even children struggle with. Why when the god is called Zeus and it's a swan that talks, or it's Shiva and a talkative elephant, you can immediately recognise these stories as myths, but put similar stories in the Bible and suddenly you can't see why they are silly? Teaching kids that gods, demons, angels and fiery dragons are real and that the world is at the centre of the universe is the very opposite of getting a 'proper education'.
You believe that 'Anyone who relies on man for truth will be sorely disappointed'. And yet your silly Bible, which you foolishly rely on, was written by man! That must be why I'm sorely disappointed in it. You even suggest that deep down you know the Bible is bullshit, by saying, 'You show me one man who tells the truth and its is probably a man/woman who is just good at lying and fabricating stories'. We're told that the men that wrote the Bible were apparently telling the truth, and yet you argue that in these cases they would actually only have been 'good at lying and fabricating stories'. On this point I agree with you. And looking at the bigger picture, you no doubt want me to accept that you're telling the truth in what you write, but by your own admission, you are 'probably a man/woman who is just good at lying and fabricating stories'. You have argued that I should not rely on any woman to tell me the truth, that she is most likely just making up stories. Or are you the one person on the planet that tells the truth? Like Jesus, are you somehow different from the rest of us?
You go on to say that 'Mankind apart from God is incapable of anything good', which is no doubt connected to your claim that 'God says in the Bible that it is a stupid man that does not believe in him'. The funny thing is, I don't feel stupid. Clearly you know nothing of the world, either now or from history, to make such a baseless claim. Billions of people that don't believe in your sky fairy are performing good actions every second of the day, and I don't believe you can be ignorant of this fact. I've never met anyone who didn't know in their own mind that they were very, very wrong in claiming that non-believers are 'incapable of anything good', and yet they were still prepared to offer this bald-faced lie, destroying any integrity they might have had. Anyone that would claim such a clearly false thing would likely claim black was white if god told them to, or meekly agree to sacrifice their own son. You say, 'I would never want God to feel I am stupid or a fool'. Don't worry, god doesn't think you're stupid or a fool, and neither does Santa or the tooth fairy, for the same reason.
You write that you 'have no fear in anyone proving the Bible a lie it is impossible'. That's what the ancient Egyptians and Romans and thousands of other religious believers no doubt said about their holy books, and now they all sit on the shelf under 'Mythology'. And for most intelligent, educated people, the Bible was placed on that shelf long ago too. And you add, 'And it is impossible for God to lie'. Of course god can lie, he's all-powerful, there is nothing god can't do. I can lie, are you admitting that I can do something that god can't? But clearly the Bible shows that god can lie, that he can plan to deceive people, eg 'The Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee (1 Kings 22:23) ', and ' "And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. (2 Thessalonians 2:11)' If the Bible was like Pinocchio's nose, it would have stretched past the Moon by now. You say, 'question the Bible all you want, it is infallible'. Yeah right, and so are the 'Harry Potter' and 'Peter Rabbit' books. Have you forgotten the silly bits about the Earth being flat and mounted on pillars, that hail and snow is kept in storehouses and that the sea is held back by doors and bars? There have been entire books written detailing how ridiculously wrong the Bible is. Snakes and donkeys that talk are not real, and never have been.
You argue that 'For a man who lived 3,000 years not to exist and yet the whole world knows his name is ludicrous in itself'. Firstly, I'm surprised that you don't know that Jesus allegedly lived 2,000 years ago, not 3,000, but I guess it doesn't mention that in the Bible, that being the only book you trust. Secondly, you shouldn't be so arrogant as to believe that the whole world knows the name of your long dead carpenter. Thirdly, these errors aside, the argument is simply not valid. Just because many, many people are familiar with a name from history does not mean that they had to exist. Along with the name Jesus, people are equally familiar with the names Zeus, Thor and Apollo, so by your logic these gods must have existed too! Is that true? Was Atlantis real because people have heard of it, and must Bigfoot be real too because we've all heard of him?
You say that 'It is people who do not believe the Bible that are... in terror because the end of life for you is death. Death is what you are living for. Sad very sad'. What utter nonsense. We atheists live for the thrills, challenges and excitement, for laughter, for learning new things, and for the friendship and love that life offers. It is only you Christians that have this morbid fascination and fixation with death, clearly you just want your pathetic god-given life to be over, so that your real life and the eternal party can begin. Consequently you squander the only life you will ever have. Yes there is 'sickness and death' in this world, in some places and times sickness and death on vast scales, and let's remember that there is only one being in your view capable of creating suffering on this level, or on any level. Your loving god! Let's recall Isaiah 45:7, 'I make peace and create evil. I the Lord do all these things'. You say that your creator has 'a plan to fix all this sickness and death', and evidently all you have to do is die. That will certainly fix your suffering. And how impotent must your creator be that he couldn't create a world without it being riddled with suffering and evil? I know you'll say that he couldn't create a world without evil, for a reason you can't explain, but then how did he create heaven then, or is it riddled with evil too? And I agree that far too many people waste their time worrying about crying statues, burial shrouds and whether some god is listening to their prayers, but let's remember that it's only religious people that waste their life in this manner, not atheists.
You believe that in our articles we 'have proven that man is mistaken or a liar and yet you still trust man's word over God'. You ask why 'after proving all these conspiracies on your site, [you still] have more faith in man than God? Where is the logic in that?' You are wrong, we have not 'proven that man is mistaken or a liar'. We have only tried to show that individual men and women throughout history that believed in invisible gods were mistaken or lying. Only you believe this nonsense that if one man lies then all mankind is lying, or if one woman is mistaken then all mankind is mistaken. If your claim were true, that all claims by mankind are indeed the results of mistakes or lying, then clearly god doesn't exist. Let's remember that it is only man that has ever spread the message about gods, and since man can't be trusted, or so you claim, then we have no good reason to believe any man or woman is telling the truth about gods. And let's also remember that no god has ever walked the Earth to show mankind that they are real. Sure, some men and women have told stories about this sort of thing, but remember that according to you these people can not be trusted when they speak of their divine encounters. So unless god visits each of us personally, we should not believe in him. We can not rely on our fellow man to be doing anything but 'lying and fabricating stories'. Your words.
But again, this is your argument, not ours. We argue that individuals are capable of lying, of being mistaken and of falling for silly conspiracies. We have shown that some people are na´ve, ignorant, gullible and downright stupid, and that some others deviously take advantage of these people, sucking them into religions, scams and conspiracies. We have not argued, let alone proven, that men and women who are scientists, historians and philosophers are mistaken in the worldview that they offer, or that they are lying with the evidence they present. Just the opposite in fact. Again, your mistake is to believe that just because we accuse the Bronze Age desert nomads that wrote the Bible of being mistaken or lying, then we are actually accusing all mankind throughout history of being untrustworthy. Not at all, we only have a problem with people who think they see invisible gods everywhere, or see men rising from the dead, or believe that snakes can talk.
I had to giggle when I read this comment of yours: 'Just because you do not believe in God does not make him unreal'. Do you not understand how empty this claim is? Perhaps if I change the name you might grasp the problem: Just because you do not believe in Santa does not make him unreal. Have we seemingly just shown that Santa could be real too? Of course not. Clearly there is a major flaw in any argument, the structure of which seems to suggest that god or Santa or even Wile E. Coyote might be real. Another problem with this argument is that it can be used by both sides. Changing a couple of words, but keeping the same logic, I can say to you, 'Just because you do believe in God does not make him real'. Both your statement and mine are true in a trivial sense, but all we can learn from these statements is that our beliefs, whatever they might be, have no impact on reality. Our beliefs and desires do not create or influence reality. God and Santa either exist or they don't, it doesn't matter what you and I believe. Personal beliefs need to be put aside and replaced with evidence of what is really out there in the real world.
You maintain that 'if you actually read the Bible and let it interpret itself you will be amazed at how much you are mistaken about it'. I have read parts of the Bible, and read much more of scholars critiquing the Bible, and the more I read the more I believe that it is the Bible's authors that were mistaken, and badly so. But again, why should I believe anything written in the Bible, were not the translations that everyone reads written by man, who you insist can't be trusted? Can you explain why I should trust the men that wrote about talking snakes rather than the men and women who say snakes don't talk?
You reckon that science 'doesn't deserve higher recognition than God because it is from man whom you have proven is fallible even more that the Bible'. Of course science is fallible, but it has a stunningly impressive record of success in explaining the universe, and it's only getting better. Whereas the Bible descriptions of how the universe and life began and works is nothing short of laughable, and has been proven so time and time again. So actually science does deserve higher recognition than God, or Zeus or Batman, because it's real and proven and the others are just make-believe. By using the Bible, if god's followers can explain how to create a new antibiotic, design a fusion reactor, or how to predict earthquakes, then I'll take them more seriously, but until then I seem to have learnt more things of value from watching 'Star Trek' on TV.
Finally, do you fundamentalists never seriously consider what life would be like if people and society actually came to swallow your nonsense? It is only man's resourcefulness that allows us to have this discussion over the Internet in the safety of our comfortable homes. If in the past the intelligent and curious among mankind had chosen to rely on what the Bible taught and to behave in the way the Bible demanded, then clearly we would still be leading a primitive life style, little different to that described in the Bible, and we would still be ignorant, superstitious, miserable and fearful. It's disappointing that people such as yourself argue that we should return to this way of thinking. But of course like most fundamentalists you would no doubt insist on keeping all the good things that the likes of science, democracy, justice and equality — all things that go against Biblical teaching — have given modern society. You would hypocritically thank god for the wonderful life he had provided, while ignoring the embarrassing facts that non-believers had actually created it, and that god was still glaringly absent. Of course once schools reverted to again teaching what the Bible taught and the reinstated inquisitions again sought out those that didn't believe, it wouldn't take long for our advanced and ethical society to collapse, and things like computers, MRI scanners and electron microscopes would soon become museum exhibits, things that only our ancestors used and understood. Women would be sent back to their place in the home, homosexuals and atheists would again be executed in the square. People would spend their spare time scanning the sky for the return of Jesus or for witches off to an orgy with Satan. Doctors and medicine would be replaced with prayer and faith healers and life expectancy would plummet. The cosmos would again become mysterious, shiny jewels placed in the sky by god. I don't think fundamentalists grasp just how quickly and seriously society would degrade if we went back to really, really believing that their barbaric god was watching us in the shower. Fundamentalists exist happily in modern society only because of a fundamental right granted by secular authorities that allow them to hold their superstitious nonsense in one hand and a smartphone and human rights in the other. They naively seem to believe that if everyone suddenly took the Bible as gospel and infallible, that society would continue pretty much as it is, with the only changes being that everybody would say 'Thankyou God' when a surgeon or fireman saved their life, and that when kids ask what makes the sky blue and the grass green, they can simply answer, 'God does'. Of course this view is mistaken, society would collapse and abject ignorance would return to claim most everyone, not just the fundamentalists. Fundamentalists will, ironically, only remain happy and comfy if they forever fail to suck others into their nonsense.
|Outmoded beliefs set to crumble|
I've just caught up on the Jan 2nd edition of 'The Southland Times', and noticed this encouraging prediction two paragraphs into a full page colour article:
'In 2014, outmoded beliefs start to crumble'.No doubt you'll be thinking that this would be welcome and long overdue news for a quintessential skeptic and atheist such as myself? But you'd be mistaken, since who was it that made this prediction? A bloody astrologer, that's who! And no, surprisingly this time it wasn't Ken Ring offering his astrological forecasts, although barring a timely alien abduction, his forecasts will no doubt soon follow. No, this forecast among a multitude of others was compiled by astrologer Tanya Obreza and was called the '2014 Yearly Horoscope Forecast', not to be confused with Ken's 2014 forecasts. There was no hint that Tanya is a Kiwi astrologer, not that it matters, since astrology works no matter where you live. Well, what I really mean is that if it did work, which of course it doesn't, the same forecast would apply no matter where you lived.
Of course if there were anything to astrology, looking at that above forecast suggests that it's just predicted its own demise in 2014, so I find myself wishing it good luck. And what other beliefs has this astrologer tagged to fade away? Unfortunately, typical of all astrologers she's very vague on specifics, but I would argue that religion too will start to crumble, or should that be 'continue to crumble'? I note that Tanya specifies 'outmoded beliefs' rather than false beliefs, outmoded meaning 'unfashionable, obsolete, fallen into disuse'. So an outmoded belief isn't necessarily false, it's just that people can't be bothered with it any more, such as the belief that men should tip their hats when meeting a woman. And certainly both astrology and religion are becoming increasingly unfashionable, especially with the young. Regarding atheists, the largest and growing group in society today are evidently amongst the youth. I don't think it's because they've considered the arguments for and against gods, almost none will have, it's just that most don't care, in the same way that I don't care who won the 1967 Eketahuna Presbyterian Church scrabble competition, if there even was such a thing. See, I just don't care. But I also don't care why religion is becoming unfashionable, and dare I say embarrassing, although I can take a few guesses. I'm just pleased it is. I say embarrassing because many religious people today are seemingly very reluctant to reveal their religiosity. You don't see people in restaurants saying grace and in NZ you don't see people in public offering prayers to god, unlike the USA. At dinner parties you can openly ridicule belief in gods and demons and most everyone either agrees or stays silent, and today it's almost more acceptable to say you're going to a brothel than going to a church. And who wants to admit membership to a church that prevents those with AIDS from using condoms or whose priests are raping little boys, or a church who can't decide whether homosexuals should be accepted or persecuted, or a church that believes the world is only 6,000 years old and that nudity is shameful, even though Adam and Eve were nudists? Of course many people do willing belong to these different churches, but they are less than willing to make this known in social situations. I've worked with people for years and didn't know they were religious, that's how well they hid their beliefs. Some I once discovered were even holding Bible meetings in their lunch hour, but around me god was never mentioned. Decades ago it would have been the atheist that kept his views to himself while the religious spoke freely of god's obvious handiwork, today the role is reversed. And thank god for that!
But of course we can have no confidence in astrological predictions, so I fear I was rather foolish in entertaining my fleeting optimistic thoughts that the silly beliefs that many people hold might start to crumble in 2014. Back when the world was supposed to end in Dec 2012, some people claimed that what would actually happen would be a huge evolutionary jump in human consciousness, with everyone suddenly becoming aware of the truth behind the universe. Clearly that didn't happen either.
But as for astrology, who believes in it these days? Actually, clearly a lot of people do since it is ubiquitous; in our daily papers, on the radio and Internet, and sold in all 'good bookstores'. But do you know anyone that openly admits that they believe in astrology, besides Ken Ring? I haven't met any believers for many years. But like religion, they're obviously still out there, just too embarrassed to admit that they run their life by following superstitious nonsense. But of course they don't really let their silly belief run their life, again like people that claim to be religious, they just follow the predictions that they like and completely ignore those that they don't. And like the religious, they usually know almost nothing about the basis of their belief. These are people that wouldn't know a planet if they saw one, and couldn't pick out the constellation of their own star sign in a police line up.
Of course it would be great if we could believe the forecasts of astrologers, and that this prediction of silly beliefs crumbling was indeed going to come true, but if astrologer Ken Ring has taught us anything... oh wait a minute... he hasn't. But... quite unintentionally his astrological weather and earthquake forecasts have demonstrated something important, that the planets and the starry constellations don't care a fig about what we get up to, and even if they did, they have no way of bringing it about. Naturally this is not what astrologers will tell you, they are convinced, or at least want you to be convinced (you won't buy their books otherwise), that the heavens influence events on Earth from the moment of your birth to the time of your death, when Odin welcomes your soul into the hall of Valhalla for an eternity of feasting and rabble-rousing. Assuming you've died a noble and heroic death of course, otherwise you get to spend it line-dancing with Hitler and Catholic priests in Hades. But between birth and death, it's the spooky astrological influence of the distant cosmos that evidently dictates your life, deciding whether you will be confident, witty and gregarious or a social misfit that's good with computers, whether you will be lucky in love or a 40-year-old virgin, whether you will be savvy enough to run your own astrology scam or too inept to see that there are no angels watching us from clouds. We're told that the planets and the constellations, in ways that no one can explain, can magically dictate our personalities and our behaviour and predict our future, as well as manipulate the natural world, causing our weather, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
So why, according to astrology, will 'outmoded beliefs start to crumble'? The article explains that 'Two powerful cosmic forces — Jupiter and Saturn — put forward strong arguments for change. ...it's in your best interests to hear these wise planets out'. Really... I mean, really? Have they read and considered the strong arguments from these two planets? Did they find them convincing? Who but an ignorant moron could believe that two huge balls of gas hundreds of millions of miles away could even think, let alone wisely construct arguments and present them to us Earthlings for our consideration? In other forecasts I read that 'this is a year when the planets encourage co-operation and compromise', and that 'Uranus has promoted you to stay productive, but at the same time Neptune continues to encourage your sense of adventure. Not a problem'. Not a problem? It's a huge problem when a major newspaper prints a full page of bullshit like this, fooling gullible people into thinking that there is something to astrology. We've been told how very expensive it is to run a full page colour advert, so surely this information must be important, right? Yet how can people be so stupid as to believe that the cosmos is conspiring against us, using its spooky influence to run our lives against our will? And its not just our lives that the cosmos is manipulating either, as astrologer Ken Ring claims that the 'ancient astrological energy grid of the constellations' has designs on the Earth as well, with statements such as, 'we have a Mars/Jupiter conjunction streaming through the Cook Strait, which is the location of the quakes. An added factor is that Pluto is over the North Island'. Sure it was Ken, just as deluded fools thought that the Star of Bethlehem was over that stable in the Middle East. Who would have thought that planets that most people have never even seen could cause so much bother? What business is it of theirs anyway? Why are they so interested in our lives? Why aren't astrologers asking these vital questions and demanding answers? Aren't they at least curious? I know I am. And do those tin foil hats that I've seen, that block people and military satellites from reading your mind, work against the astrological forces?
To make things worse, I'm always torn when I look at a horoscope. I know by my birthday that I'm a Gemini, but I also know that based on the constellations overhead when I was born that I am actually Taurus. So which horoscope should I read and believe, Gemini or Taurus? Perhaps you're a little confused that I was born under two star signs? Actually it's not just me, everyone has two star signs, and no one who believes in astrology is actually the star sign they think they are. As explained in this article, basically the star signs that are assigned to the 12 zodiac constellations have all moved since they were first thought up a couple of thousand years ago, and astrologers have never bothered to keep up with the changes. It's like your elderly parents continually talking about their neighbours the Smiths, and you having to remind them that the Smiths moved out 20 years ago, the Joneses live there now. If born in early June 2,000 years ago I would indeed have been born under the Gemini constellation, but Gemini has since moved out and Taurus has moved in, so now anyone born in early June is Taurus, not Gemini. But astrologers won't tell you this, although they all know it to be true. They don't tell you because since astrology doesn't work anyway, it doesn't matter what star sign you think you are, one is as good as any other. Everyone is familiar with the existing star signs and dates, so why bother changing it? Especially since it wouldn't make it work any better, or at all. Of course there are many other obvious problems with astrology (and religion and talking to the dead etc), but they're only obvious if believers rationally consider what it is they are believing in, which of course they don't. And it is this blissful ignorance that allows them to have utter confidence in their silly belief.
So a full page of astrological nonsense, and the following day the paper still had its usual daily horoscope and Bible reading. Plus I notice 'Sensing Murder' is being repeated on TV. As silly beliefs go, 2014 isn't off to a promising start.
On the bright side, Tanya tells me that sex wise, 2014 is chock full of 'wanton days' for us Taureans. So something to look forward to then.
|Disasters and God's jealous wrath|
What part do gods play, if any, in the world's 'natural' disasters? Is an angry god stalking the Earth striking down the wicked with unnatural disasters, or at the very least, is a compassionate god plucking the chaste and pure from natural disasters? Ron raised this question the other day with the following email:
Hi there John. Was recently reading some articles on the record breaking typhoon Haiyun that ravaged areas of the Philippines and its deadly aftermath. I feel for those so badly affected that survived but many quoted comments astound and even amuse me and fit in perfectly with much you have written in various articles. Many in the city of Tacloban, which is 95% Catholic, are saying it was an act of god. A mother of 9 who spent 5 days in a church turned emergency shelter said "oh, there is a god, he saved us". Asked why then such a devastating storm? She answered, "because there are so many bad people, this is his punishment".I've been thinking about Ron's comments, and reading more of the Christian blogger's accusations that he mentioned. The recent disaster in the Philippines is of course heartbreaking, and as Ron noted, it once against throws up those deluded irrational claims from victims that 'there is a god, he saved us', even as they recount their tales of suffering and loss. How saved are you if your family, friends and/or neighbours have all been horribly killed, your home has been destroyed, you are surrounded by disease and starvation, and the disaster will cost your country billions to recover from? Really, you call that being saved? On top of that, the manner of your escape from death can be simply explained by natural causes, no recourse to divine intervention is needed. If I was a believer and my innocent family had been mercilessly slaughtered around me, I wouldn't be dropping tearfully to my knees to thank some invisible fairy for sparing my life, I would be angrily demanding to know why he executed my loved ones, and insisting that he immediately resurrect them. He's done it before evidently, but only with his own family it seems.
Asked to explain god's deadly wrath, this deluded believer answers, 'because there are so many bad people, this is his punishment'. But why are the innocent being punished alongside the guilty? Is that fair? Is her god such a weak and ineffectual god that he must strike wildly and broadly at entire communities in the hope that the bad people will be caught in the slaughter? Is he incapable of surgical strikes that will smite only the guilty parties? The all-powerful god I heard about as a child could have struck down every wrongdoer instantaneously with a well-aimed lightning bolt or an unseen heart attack, with not one single innocent bystander being harmed. So why do devout Christians worldwide effectively argue that my vision of god is a fantasy, that the real god, the one Christians believe in, is wholly incapable of this miraculous retribution that strikes solely at the guilty? Why does their vicious god have the finesse of a terrorist detonating a powerful bomb in a crowded market, all to settle a grudge with a single stall holder? Is god utterly incapable of smiting a single person without inflicting deadly casualties on innocent bystanders, or does he just not care that the innocent die on these murderous rampages of his? Who but a maniacal tyrant would throw a deadly tsunami or tornado at a community merely to strike at some prostitutes on the high street? And who but an ignorant, deluded Christian would argue that their god was doing the best he could? Hell, I'm no god, not even a minor one, but even I, armed with a man-made assault rifle could easily kill a handful of sinners (eg child abusing priests) without harming a single innocent person. So why can't god do it? By all accounts he has somewhat more powerful weapons than me and is reputedly more intelligent, able to devise cunning plans that I couldn't even dream of. Oh, and he has that cloak of invisibility. How useful must that be? And yet he still goes in ham-fisted, slaughtering untold innocents and often missing his real targets completely.
Of course as an atheist I find it astounding that people can somehow see the hand of god in these disasters, but I also wonder how believers with even a modicum of critical thinking can fool themselves into detecting his divine presence. As is typical of these disasters, one believer said that they wanted to 'install hope and remind people that god is here in the midst of all this'. Is he really? And he's doing what? Nothing, absolutely nothing, that's what god is doing. We've all seen the TV news footage, and never is there one incident that is clearly supernatural, with every single case of people being rescued and given aid clearly down to human effort. If god is strolling invisibly around these disasters, it is solely to gloat.
And then we have that priest that admits that 'god is not the cause of the suffering, god cannot prevent this. This is the work of nature'. Of course this makes no sense. Clearly the priest believes god exists, but at the same time insists that this god is incapable of causing the disaster or preventing it. How can an all-powerful god, the very god that made nature, not be powerful enough to cause or stop a bit of wind? The priest's answer that 'it is difficult to explain', is a major understatement if I ever heard one. If one believes in an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving god then how can you with a straight face say that 'god cannot prevent this'? This problem of evil has long been discussed, and it is childish that the religious still can't see the problem with their notion of god.
"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
As Ron says, these believers might be well-meaning, but they are misguided and confused. The people of the Philippines might have asked the Church of Our Mother of Perpetual Help for help, but the only assistance they received came from humans and their secular relief organisations. Even god's company, the obscenely rich Vatican, was embarrassingly absent from the relief effort. No fleet of Vatican helicopters could be seen distributing food and medical supplies while they waited for their god to arrive, which of course he never did.
Ron also mentioned the problem he has with a personal god that could 'punish billions of innocent people over millennia with disease, suffering and death all over a trivial little act of disobedience, that is eating an apple'. Of course this goes against all ethical notions of justice, that the innocent should be punished. It is disgusting and offensive to argue that it is just and right to torture even babies for an eternity for an action that they never even committed. That Christians worship a god that is so barbaric and unjust is staggering. Of course ethics aside, there is a major problem with this notion of original sin in modern times. Christians tell us that all humans are born with original sin solely because the world's first nudists, Adam and Eve, ate some forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge. (It's a myth that the fruit was an apple, the Bible makes no mention of what the fruit was. And clearly, we all know that you don't gain much knowledge by eating an apple.) Because of this minor infraction, God, complete bastard that he is, thought it would be entirely fair and just to not just punish Adam and Eve but the entire human race to come. God decreed that every human would be born with original sin, because of the nudists. Not because they were nudists or were having uninhibited sex all over the place, but simply because Eve wished to reduce her ignorance of the world and ate some fruit. Then, much, much later, god came to regret this injustice. (He changed his mind which he's not supposed to be able to do, since in doing so it shows that his first solution was wrong, and god supposedly can't make mistakes.) But rather than just rescind the sentence or remove the stamp of original sin from each newborn, in his sadistic mind he decided to rape a virgin, get her pregnant, let her son grow up and then torture and slaughter him, and this bloody sacrifice would be a sign to all humans that god had forgiven their inherent original sin. This was the best plan an all-knowing god could think of. And amazingly a lot of people bought this story. The modern problem with this story is that while all Christians still believe in Jesus and original sin, the majority of Christians, apart from fundamentalists and creationists, accept that Adam and Eve never existed. It was just a story that clearly never happened. But if Adam and Eve never existed then they could never have eaten that fruit. Thus they could never have sinned in god's eyes. If the original sin never happened, then the inheritance of that original sin from Adam and Eve to you and me could never have happened. Thus if this notion of inherited original sin is bogus, then we don't need to be forgiven for a sin that we don't have. If we don't need to be forgiven, then we didn't need Jesus to be tortured and slaughtered as a sacrifice on our behalf for a sin that doesn't exist. Any Christian that doesn't sincerely believe in Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, a six day creation and all that other silly stuff, and today most don't, has no justification to believe in original sin and thus no need of Jesus. Jesus is superfluous, promising to cure Christians of something they don't even have. Sounds like a scam to me.
As for the Christian blogger that Ron mentioned, he proudly notes on his blog: 'I'm Jim Solouki, an American Southern Baptist Christian born again in Jesus'. Of course he is vile and pathetic when he states that:
'God is punishing the Philippines for their tolerance of homosexuality, prostitution, Catholicism, and other sins... God hates the wicked, and the wicked will die by His hand so that they may be punished eternally in Hell... God has killed at least 1200 heathens with Haiyan, and there may be more to come! Join with me, my brothers and sisters in Christ, to pray that God's plan of retribution against the heathens and sinners will be complete. God will bring complete devastation upon the Philippines, and they will be wiped clean'.He also claims that 'And yes, God hates Vietnam too, but more importantly Cambodia....' Elsewhere he writes that:
'The Japanese, much like the Jewish and Roman Christ-killers, loved to torture people, especially Christians... As Christians, how can we help? The answer is simple. We need to give our leaders the authority to use nuclear weaponry yet again... The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings are mild compared to what the Lord has in store for sinners! He will destroy Japan, He will bury the Japanese, and He will have His vengeance'.And Solouki's hatred isn't just reserved for foreigners, he notes that:
'It has happened in my country. Ever heard of September 11th? Or Hurricane Katrina? Or any other natural disasters or terrorist attacks in the US? That was all allowed due to a divine judgment against America. God hates sinners all around the world'.
It is offensive and disgusting that this Christian wants people to pray with him that fellow humans will be killed and then tortured by god, and that we should convince governments to nuke Japan into oblivion. But I'm speaking as an atheist and a humanist. My horror at what he is promoting comes from the fact that I'm not a Christian. Of course many Christians will argue that they too find what the likes of Solouki says as abhorrent, but I would ask why? If they are true believers, if they truly believe what is written in their Bible, if they understand what their god commands of them and how their god will act towards them and us, then they should be right behind these rabid fundamentalists, accepting that nothing happens without god's knowledge and will.
But these offended Christians are speaking as humanists, not as true believers. They don't believe their god could be so barbaric, unjust, immoral, uncaring, vindictive, repugnant, petty and cowardly. They should read their Bible. They are Christians of convenience, secular for six days of the week and religious for a bit on the other day, dismissive of creationism, Noah's flood, angels and miracles, and supportive of science and human justice systems. They pick and choose from the Bible, adopting what they like and that fits in with their lifestyle, and rejecting the rest as primitive superstition. They redesign god into a god that fits their modern expectations, removing his offensive attributes, deleting the shameful historical events, and sidelining the claims that conflict with scientific and historical knowledge. They fail to grasp that it's impossible to do this. Humans can change their minds. We can acknowledge that past laws were unjust, that past actions were immoral and shameful, that past beliefs about the universe were wrong. But we can't deny that real past events never happened just because we are now embarrassed over how our ancestors behaved. True believers arguing that god is a kindly old soul that never hurt anyone is like neo-Nazis arguing that Hitler wasn't involved in WWII. What happened in the past can't be changed, but humans can learn from their mistakes and take new paths. The problem is that wishy-washy Christians think that god, like humans, can also learn from his mistakes and change his ways. Showing monumental ignorance, Christians subtly imply that the petty, vicious god described in the Old Testament has matured into the loving and just god described in the New Testament. As one Christian replied to Jim Solouki:
'jim you don't need to preach us about the bible because we know it, you read only the old testament read also the new testament, and you will know about GOd, God is Love and He Loves everyone, i think you belong to cult religion'.In fact it is this person that belongs to a cult, in the sense that they have deviated from Biblical dogma. They fail to understand that god, unlike humans, can't change, he is immutable. God is claimed to be perfect, and you can't improve on perfection. If you make any change to something that's already perfect you can only make it worse, not better. Thus nothing about god can ever change. Whatever attributes god had in the Old Testament stories must remain. If he was originally a petty, vicious god that had an unnatural fixation with a single tribe of humans and sex, then this is the way god will remain. And yet the premise of the move from the old to the new testament is one of change, with god realising that he's been a real bastard and vowing to change his ways for the better. But again, unlike humans, god can't change. If the Old Testament stories are true, if that god is real, then that is the god that true believers are stuck with. They can't just keep reinventing him (yes, I know they do) every generation to make him better fit in with their lifestyle and modern beliefs. While I strongly disagree with religious fundamentalists, I have more respect for them than I do your typical Christian that is continuously reshaping and watering down their religion to suit themselves. At least fundamentalists remain true to god's word to a much greater degree than the wishy-washy Christians. Of course even the fundamentalists like the American Southern Baptist Jim Solouki refuse to accept all of their god's commandments. He rightly tells us that:
'God is a jealous God. He tells us that in the Bible. God punishes sinners. Look at the Old Testament. It is obvious from the Bible that God IS a punishing God'.But tellingly, and thankfully, Solouki refuses to punish sinners himself, even though his god demands it. If Solouki truly believed and was truly fearful of his god, he would be dragging homosexuals, disobedient children, witches and atheists in to the town square and executing them, as god demands. The fact that he's leaving it up to god to punish sinners shows that he's actually more fearful of human authority than god's authority. So clearly there is still some doubt even in the most fervent fundamentalist.
Interesting, when Solouki made the above comment, someone called 'Young Faithful' replied with:
'God is a jealous god? Jealousy? That equates to envy, which is one of the deadly sins. Boy, you must have been worshipping the devil'.This just proves my point, that fundamentalists are often right and wishy-washy Christians are ignorant of what's in the Bible, ignorant of what their own god professes over and over again. A quick search of my Bible shows that Solouki is correct, that 'God is a jealous God'. To show that he was a vindictive, jealous god that was not to be crossed, here are some Bible quotes of god trying to get his point across:
I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me... (EX 20:5)And this example can be repeated over and over again, generally when fundamentalists claim some attribute of god or something that god did that typical Christians find offensive, the Bible, the true word of god according to all Christians, supports the fundamentalists. But while fundamentalists accept all the Bible as literally true, even they struggle with god's nature. Spot the flaw in the following from Solouki:
'Join with me, my brothers and sisters in Christ, to pray that God's plan of retribution against the heathens and sinners will be complete'.This shows that even stupid fundamentalists can't grasp what it means to be an all-powerful god. Why would god need the prayers of his insignificant servants? Do they think that god needs their support? What arrogance. As if god wants their opinion! And how could god's plan of retribution possibly fail? If you're an all-powerful god then nothing can defeat you, and certainly not a few pesky heathens and sinners. This is just another example of the religious failing to understand their own claims about their god, failing to think full stop. It amazes me how the religious, even the fundamentalists, continually belittle their god and demote him to some lesser being. They call him all-powerful, but then admit that he may not be able to complete his plans, or that he has no weapon powerful enough to target the sinners without inflicting collateral damage, or that he has no control over Satan and his demons. They call him all-knowing, but then admit that he didn't know that Eve would disobey him and eat the fruit or that humans would disappoint him forcing him to kill them all in a worldwide flood, and they claim he still doesn't know which of his priests are raping little boys. They call him an all-loving god, but then admit that he slaughtered untold numbers because they weren't his chosen people, tortured Job over a bet with Satan, that he raped his son's mother, then deserted her, then killed his son in a human sacrifice. It's bad enough that Christians insist that we should all worship this monster, but that they can't see how stupid their silly god claims are is frustrating.
So are fundies right to rant as they do, is god pissed with humankind, with our modern Sodom and Gomorrahs, or are the wishy-washy Christians right, that god is simply trying to rescue as many as he can from natural disasters, but is just overwhelmed? Is any of this actually happening? No! There is no evidence whatsoever that natural disasters are anything but natural. No whiff of the supernatural can be detected. The religious are no more justified in seeing the hand of god in a tornado than people in the distant past were to claim that similar storms and calamities were caused by the gods Zeus or Apollo. And isn't it strange that Christians will giggle at the childish thought of Zeus tossing a lightning bolt at some peasant, but take it very seriously that their god might have done the same in the Philippines?
Don't get me wrong, I'm very pleased that your typical Christian readily condemns what is nothing but offensive hate speech from these fundamentalists that gleefully rejoice in the suffering that their god is doling out. I see it as a positive that in order to criticise these true believers then these wishy-washy Christians must reject much of their own religion and adopt a humanistic outlook instead. Without realising it, they are moving along the path of reason that might see them throw off religion altogether. The atheist and the wishy-washy Christian are united in the belief that no all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving god would visit disasters on a community, blindly killing the innocent just to kill a few people that were satisfying a sexual urge that this god forced on them in the first place. Thus both the atheist and the wishy-washy Christian look for natural explanations for disasters. And on finding them, the wishy-washy Christian is one step closer to disbelief and one step further from their god.
When the wishy-washy Christian argues with the fundamentalist, and sides with the humanist, they are actually giving voice to their own doubts about their religion. And to informed atheists at least, they are also revealing their ignorance of their religion, and this ignorance, an ignorance inherited by their children, is pushing them further from the religion that their ancestors knew. What typical Christian from one or two centuries past would have accepted evolution and the Big Bang theory while dismissing the Garden of Eden and Noah's Ark as mere myths? What Christian would have supported or tolerated homosexuality, contraception, abortion, prostitution and female bishops, or friendships with Jews, Muslims and atheists? Or what about supporting the belief that there is no hell and that all religions are equally good, just different paths to the one true god? Just as St Paul altered Christianity so much that Jesus himself wouldn't have recognised it or accepted it, modern wishy-washy Christianity is so far removed from the Bible stories and the Biblical god that it must surely be time for another rewrite, for yet another new testament.
Or, following the Bible's sage advice, they could just put their book of gods on the mythology bookshelf alongside those of other gods that have long since been revealed as just make-believe:
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. (1CO 13:11)Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Dec, 2013 ~ Add a Comment Send to a Friend
|Are you there God? ... Helloooo?|
Speaking with a relative the other day, she told me of a recent incident with her 93 year old sister who resides in a rest home. Her sister's phone was accidentally unplugged and for over a week she received no calls. When contact was reestablished her sister was distraught and in tears. Why had her family and friends failed to make contact all week, she asked? Being religious, she said she had repeatedly implored her god for help, 'Lord, what have I done to deserve this punishment? I've lived my life to fulfil your commandments. Why have they all deserted me? Why has even my sister forgotten me?' Of course this silly behaviour is nothing unusual with religious nutters who continually beg their god for answers and favours, but it does highlight an inability to ask the right questions and reach sensible answers.
When she hadn't heard from her sister in over a week she panicked and assumed the worse, that she had somehow offended her, or worse still, had offended God. One week with no contact and all hell breaks loose, conspiracies are concocted. Of course she had spoken with her sister thousands of times throughout her life, but just one week of silence was enough to convince her that something was wrong, very wrong. And yet for over 90 years there has been complete silence from that other friend of hers, the one she turned to for help and answers — God. Not hearing from her sister for a week caused her to question their relationship, but not hearing from her god for over 90 years has given her no cause for concern! Even on this occasion, having asked her questions of God, it didn't shake her belief that she received no response or help from him. Why do the religious interpret the actions of someone who continually ignores them as love?
If I had a friend who consistently refused to return my calls, texts and emails, who locked the door and hid behind the sofa when I visited and quickly crossed the street when they saw me coming, and this went on for months, let alone years, then I would assume that our friendship had ended for some reason. I would be lying to myself if I continued to assert that we were still close friends. And yet this elderly woman has never even met her dear friend that she calls God, and none of her other friends have met him either. She hasn't even spoken to him on the phone or received a letter from him. At least I would have the considerable advantage of knowing that my ex-friend really does exist, and we were once friends. In over 90 years this God who she claims is a close friend has never made contact, she doesn't know where he lives exactly or have a phone number for him, and these embarrassing facts evidently don't worry her one bit. One week of silence was all it took to question her relationship with her sister and other friends, but a lifetime of silence is not sufficient to make her wonder about her relationship with an invisible god. Of course you might argue that the reasoning ability of someone in their 90s is likely to be diminished, but she, and all the other believers in this god, spend their entire life claiming that their most dear friend in the world is someone they have never met or spoken to. It's not a signal of old age, this delusion that someone who loves you like a father strangely refuses to have anything to do with you. He's missed all your birthdays, not even a card, he has seemingly deleted your number from his contacts list, and he's been mysteriously cut out of all your family photos, but the religious still grasp the virtual reality straw that there must be a good explanation as to why their loving friend, a friend that they couldn't even pick out of a police line-up, actively hides from them.
Again, this woman was intelligent and alert enough to realise that a mere week with no calls from friends suggested that something might be wrong. And she was right, but for the wrong reasons. Her friends hadn't deserted her, her phone was simply unplugged. But over 90 years of silence is still not enough for her to question God's existence. She has obviously fallen into the belief that not hearing from God, unlike her friends, isn't unusual, it's actually normal to hear nothing. Religious indoctrination and blind faith stops her from realising that it's not just that she hasn't heard anything, but that she hasn't heard anything for 93 years!! And it's not just her. No one on the planet has heard anything for thousands of years. How long are they going to wait before sending someone to knock on God's door? He must be quite old by now, has he fallen in the bathroom and broken a hip? The religious have this childish knack of deluding themselves. If they ask God for some favour and nothing eventuates then they fool themselves into believing that God said no. Of course they didn't hear God say no, they simply infer a 'no' from the silence. However your parents, your bank and that person you ask out on a date can all actually say no when they mean no, they don't use silence as an answer, so why can't an all-powerful god say no? The religious aren't stupid (well not all of them), they can readily grasp problems with all manner of real world concerns, but they have great difficulty in recognising problems that concern their god. They're like adults that converse intelligently in social situations and then revert to going 'Goo goo, gah gah' when interacting with a baby. Intelligent, educated, rational adults who are also religious believers regress to primitive, ignorant, irrational adults when their god is discussed. And unlike the cute baby talk, they don't seem to realise that they're doing it. And of course it's nigh on impossible to reason with people who blindly accept superstitious nonsense. They don't feel there is a need to understand why their god doesn't make sense.
I don't understand how people can sincerely claim to have a deep, caring, loving, personal relationship with someone they've never met or communicated with or even seen at a distance. Falsely believing that you have a genuine relationship with a famous movie star is bad enough, but it's even more perplexing when people claim real relationships with imaginary beings. Normally people with delusions like this reside in mental institutions, since their illness is clearly psychological. But if the fantasy being that people claim to be in an intimate relationship is called God, then for some strange reason they are allowed to walk the streets and to claim they're sane, when clearly they're not. Call your invisible friend Zeus, Thor, Napoleon or Marvin the Martian and you'll find yourself committed or trialing various psychotropic drugs. But call your invisible friend God, Allah, Jehovah or Jesus and society will not only ignore your delusion, they will often encourage it. They will pretend to see and hear your invisible friend, although revealingly no one will compare what he looks like or what he says.
Surely when you put away your teddy bears and dolls and stop sucking your thumb then you should also grow out of believing in invisible friends? But a huge number of people, the great majority in fact, never do. Throughout their life they keep talking to empty rooms as if there was someone there, and when times are tough, or their favourite sports team isn't winning, they beg this invisible friend for help. But invisible, immaterial and mute beings continue to do what they do best and act as if they are not even there. And the religious tell us this is normal.
When I asked why her sister doesn't worry that God never talks to her, I was told that she feels she has a great relationship with God, she talks to him all the time. But as they say, anyone can talk to God, or even dead people, what they neglect to highlight is that God and dead people never talk back. Why is there this lack of two way communication, and why don't people get concerned that no matter how much they talk, plead and beg, God never responds? Never! If a parent yells at her unseen children in the next room and receives no response, would she not quickly assume that her children are not where she thinks they are, or at the very least are ignoring her? Ditto with gods. If over many years you continually direct queries to where you believe a god to be and yet receive no response, then surely you should start to suspect that you're addressing an empty room? But the religious don't sense anything is amiss. They don't get annoyed, affronted or offended that they're being ignored, for years on end. Why don't they care that their god has apparently deserted them, and not just them personally, but everyone? Why don't they consider that a loving god, if he existed, would surely have replied by now? Why don't they feel silly talking to what is, to everyone else, an empty room? And why aren't other people worried about them? Why do intelligent, rational, caring friends continue to overlook this clearly weird behaviour, friends who understand how delusional it is to beg favours from invisible friends? If you had a family member or friend who had recently started picking up the TV remote and talking into it as if it was a phone, and when asked what they were doing, they said they were talking to alien friends on Venus, would you not suspect they had developed serious mental problems and seek help? Of course you would. But if this same person, without even the aid of a TV remote, says they are talking to some invisible being that is all around them, society treats this as being quite sane — aliens on Venus, don't make me laugh, but an invisible god that hides from us, now that I can believe!
Most people say they respect those that talk to God, but at the same time they would make a psychiatric appointment for those that claim to talk to Zeus, and yet God and Zeus are one and the same, they are both imaginary gods. It is very silly to believe in imaginary gods, and that means all of them, not all of them bar one. Why can the religious use a smart phone, even change TV channels and yet not see this? Why is it beyond them? Do the religious all have the equivalent of a 'STUPID' switch that is subconsciously thrown when it's time to think about their god? Apparently so. How else can you explain their monumentally stupid actions when it comes to believing in their invisible friend?
|Psychic mediums and the afterlife|
Last weekend psychic medium Sue Nicholson gave an address at the NZ Skeptics Conference, and reporter Rachel Tiffen covered it briefly for a TV3 news item.
Many people are wondering why a medium would be silly enough to want to talk to skeptics. Of course skeptics do want to talk to mediums, but the feeling isn't mutual. Most mediums fear skeptics as vampires fear crosses and garlic. When I heard that weather astrologer Ken Ring was demanding a speaking fee of $5,000 plus travel and accommodation costs, plus continual professional security protection to appear at the NZ Skeptics conference, I wondered 'What would be next, paying psychic mediums to give a reading?' Now we hear that a psychic medium has indeed appeared, although not to give a reading, and we don't know if she received a speaking fee. We hope not, but why do it if not for money? The only explanation would be that she hoped to convince one or two skeptics that she was the real deal. If asked, and if I was comfortable with public speaking, I would talk to a church group or UFO abduction group for free if only to potentially enlighten one or two believers. But that said, my approach would be very different to that taken by Nicholson. I would research the arguments of my opponents and go armed with evidence and well thought out responses, I wouldn't simply ask people to trust me as Nicholson evidently did (see this review). It reports that the following question was put to Nicholson:
'Skeptic: You could humiliate us skeptics by accepting one of our challenges and demonstrating that actually you do have these powers. Would you agree to be tested?What a pathetic response, but utterly typical for a medium. Why would you want to test skeptics first or even at all? It makes no sense. Skeptics aren't claiming to be able to talk to the dead, only mediums are. After stumbling, Nicholson eventually finds the answer she was looking for: 'I don't have to prove myself to anyone'. But of course this is bullshit, the only reason she was at the conference, assuming she wasn't paid, was to prove she wasn't a fraud. She obviously cared what the skeptics thought of her medium claims, and went there to set the record straight.
TV3 reporter Rachel Tiffen asked Nicholson, apparently in relation to her appearance in TV's 'Sensing Murder' show: 'How many cases did you solve?' Nicholson replied: 'Well, there's one been solved, Sara Niethe'. While it is true that Niethe's boyfriend has been convicted for causing her death (accidentally he claims) and jailed, he wasn't charged until three years after the 'Sensing Murder' episode where Sue Nicholson and fellow deluded medium Deb Webber pretended to investigate Sara Niethe's disappearance. The claims they made on the show, that she was 'beaten and murdered after a drug deal turned sour' do not match the police case, the body has still not been found, and apparently nothing revealed by the mediums led to the boyfriend's arrest. The fact remains that not one of the many cases investigated by the 'Sensing Murder' mediums (or any case worldwide in fact) has been solved due to the silly readings provided by psychic mediums.
On the offensive, Nicholson said she had been 'shadowed by a TV crew... while working who found no sign of cheating'. We assume she is referring to her 'Sensing Murder' work, but this is very misleading. Not only are TV crews are not experienced in detecting the cheating employed by psychics, those TV crews were actually part of the scam. We have already exposed many examples of the 'Sensing Murder' TV crew actively participating in creating a false view of what the mediums have claimed. Geoff Husson, Director & Associate Producer of 'Sensing Murder Insight' even admitted to us that they had faked segments of the show. This admission followed us embarrassing psychologist Nigel Latta over his childish claims that he had shadowed psychic Deb Webber and also found no sign of cheating.
Evidently irked by this suggestion of cheating, Nicholson said to the reporter: 'I've always said, "Put me on a lie detector"'. But what about what she said to the skeptics: 'I don't have to prove myself to anyone'? Why the contradiction? Why offer to be tested to the reporter when she refused with the skeptics? Two reasons I suspect. She will know that the reporter won't take her up on the offer, plus it will look good on TV volunteering to be tested, whereas in a room full of skeptics there could well be one that has access to a lie detector and is prepared to spend the time and money to run the test. She may also know that lie detectors are not very reliable, and can be beaten. Furthermore a lie detector, even if it worked as claimed, could only determine if Nicholson was lying. If she is truly deluded and honestly believes that the voices she hears are dead people, then the test is only looking at Nicholson's mental state. It says nothing whatsoever about the afterlife being real. It would be like giving a two-old child a lie detector test on whether he believes the Tooth Fairy exists. It is testing the child's belief, it's not looking for the Tooth Fairy. Skeptics don't want to give mediums silly lie detector tests, they want to test to see if the mediums can produce evidence of receiving information from dead people. Most psychic mediums suggest that they are more than willing to be tested when speaking casually to their fans or the media, but they nearly all refuse and act offended when real skeptics ask to test them. As was mentioned on the news item, James Randi is offering ONE MILLION DOLLARS for one demonstration of psychic powers. This offer has been available for many years, not just the two years the item claimed. It hasn't always been one million dollars, but it has always been a prize that would be well worth claiming. But as we've mentioned elsewhere, psychics just DON'T want to be tested. The last thing they want is the world to know that they failed a real test. And it's not just Randi's test, here are just a few that they could take:
No psychics are lining up to take these controlled tests, several of the famous ones in the US have point blankly refused to take them, and the handful of unknowns that have tried have all failed. It seems the famous psychics that you and I have heard of know perfectly well that they couldn't pass these tests, and that includes Sue Nicholson. They won't even risk it for a million dollars but say they can do it every night on TV or stage. Nicholson was offended by the reporter's questions, saying, 'Put me on a lie detector', but all this is just a front, they have no intention of taking part in any test and being exposed as a fraud.
Instead they target the gullible in society. Nicholson is evidently on a national tour at $58 a ticket, and we heard on the radio that a fellow 'Sensing Murder' medium is also travelling the country: 'Soul Food Tour — An evening with Kelvin Cruickshank'. Cruickshank is even greedier and is charging $65 (plus ticketing fees). His advert claims that 'He astounded people with his incredible ability to communicate with the spirits in the hit TV series Sensing Murder'. This is just as bogus as saying Batman astounded people with his crime fighting skills in his hit movies. It's not real you morons, it's just make believe. It's depressing to see how stupid many people can be. A friend of a friend told her that she and four friends are going to a psychic evening this month, not sure which one, but at an average ticket price of $61.50, that's around $300 into the pocket of some scammer. Not all scams are run from Nigeria. If we say that 200 morons turn up for each of the many evenings held around the country, that's $12, 300 for a couple of hours work. If they have ten evenings, that's $123,000 for a few hours of lying and making up nonsense. And disappointingly people are lining up to be lied to, and paying for the privilege. The mediums may be too stupid to grasp that they are deluded, that they fail continuously in revealing anything important, but why do so many of the public fail to grasp how pathetic the mediums' claims are? It's ignorance of course, but why are they apparently so happy to remain ignorant, why choose to believe in people that fail consistently at what they do? But it's apparently more than just gullible, apathetic and lazy people choosing to believe in nonsense. Even many skeptics accept at least some of the claims made by mediums. In this regard they are little different to the believers, they can't be bothered to think too deeply about the claims being made. These claims are about the nature of the afterlife.
In the news item we were told us that 'The sceptics say they would love to see irrefutable proof of life after death', and I've heard many prominent skeptics express this view, that they would love the afterlife to real, but this desire aside, they don't see any evidence for it.
Well I'm one skeptic that would hate the afterlife to be shown to be real. I'd accept it if the evidence stacked up, but I wouldn't be at all happy with this outcome. I say this because the afterlife can't be the paradise many imagine it to be.
In our article on NZ psychic medium Jeanette Wilson we looked at some of the ramifications if the afterlife was real (Read it here). We explained how we will have lost all sense of privacy, in that while we are alive we are nothing more than cheap entertainment for dead people. They don't need porno movies or reality TV, they have us to watch. And when we die, going by the comments made by mediums, we will remain 'frozen' in the state in which we die. Toddlers will remain toddlers and the elderly with dementia in wheelchairs will remain that way for an eternity. Many people mourn the death of a loved one from some horrible affliction, but add that at least their suffering has ended. But unfortunately it can never end if there is an afterlife. The dead will continue to suffer, since when the mediums see someone's dead granny, she is still in her wheelchair and still can't remember what her name is.
Many skeptics pride themselves on being rational enough to see that the afterlife doesn't exist, but unfortunately not rational enough to realise that the afterlife as imagined can't exist. There is a difference. For example, purple chimps don't exist, but there is no physical reason why they couldn't exist. At the same time no giant 'King Kong' apes exist, but in this case there are physical reasons why they can't exist. It's not just that this superstitious afterlife called eternal paradise doesn't exist, it can't exist. Most skeptics apparently view the afterlife just as believers do, where dead grannies and great uncle Bob carry on their 'life' as if they weren't actually dead. Much of their time is spent spying on us here on Earth, which suggests that the afterlife isn't very interesting. Most views of the afterlife are based on Christian views, meaning there will be no marriage, no sex and no joining up with deceased partners. Thus the god running the afterlife would have to make considerable changes to everyone's mind, utterly removing the desire for sex or marriage, and since there can be no sins committed or even considered in the afterlife, all these desires or flaws must be deleted from the mind. These changes would radically alter everyone's personality. The psychological things that make us human, from an addiction to chocolate and a craving for excitement to love at first sight would cease to exist in the afterlife. Everyone in the afterlife would appear as if they'd suffered severe brain damage, and were no longer as you remembered them.
Even if these feelings weren't suppressed by some god, an eternity of experiences would soon dull them so much that they would effectively disappear. How long could you eat chocolate before you became utterly sick of it? A week, a year, a thousand years? Just a blink of an eye in regard to eternity. What are you going to find to look forward to for the rest of your death? Let's say that in life you were an adrealin junkie, you loved thrilling activities like skydiving, motor racing and roller coasters. But all these activities are based on risk, and when you're dead there is no risk, so the emotional buzz would be severely reduced if not gone altogether. Even if the thrill is still there, how many times could you do these things before the novelty worn off, a thousand times, a million? What are you going to do then? If these pastimes were what made life worth living, how can you be happy in death if they disappear? In life we all have things that make life fun and interesting, and we realise that if we lost these things then what's the point of living? No matter what you do in the afterlife, you would very quickly, in terms of eternity, grow utterly sick of it. Like a caged, bored animal in the zoo with nothing new to do you would go mad. It may take centuries or millennia, but that period of time is just the very beginning of your stretch in eternity. We've seen people with severe Alzheimer's Disease who are leading pathetic lives, but they're mentally unaware of this fact and consequently are often quite happy and content. Not because they are leading valuable, meaningful lives, but simply because they know no better. If an eternal afterlife existed then the god in charge would have to mess with our memories and desires so that we didn't get bored. He'd have to remove our memories of endless skydiving or chocolate binges or that we'd seen the 'Star Wars' movie 7,000 times already so that we'd experience them as something new and exiting. But now we would just be in our own 'Groundhog Day' movie, except we wouldn't realise it. We would be 'living' the equivalent of a human life over and over again, our memories being reset each time we got bored with life. It's not eternal life and happiness if you don't remember your previous lives, your loves and adventures.
Ask yourself what makes your life interesting and worthwhile. Do you have an activity that you look forward to, maybe travel, sport, music or picking up women? What keeps you engaged each day, perhaps work, education or exposing scammers? Do you get excited about a new concert, book or movie? Do you have goals such as raising a family, curing cancer or being the first woman on Mars? Whatever it is that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning, all this will cease to motivate you once you are dead and safely residing in your heavenly apartment. What will there be to 'live' for? No family to support, no career to advance, no bills to pay, no lover to satisfy, no study to complete, no work to occupy your day, no activities to practice. In short, no reason to even exist. Of course some Biblical accounts claim that you'll be so busy praising the Lord that you won't have time for anything else anyway, but I would argue that if this is the case, you will go insane even quicker than if left to your own devices. To make people want to get up to simply praise the Lord he would have to utterly strip away their humanity and turn them into mindless machines. Which is actually what the Bible does demand, dismiss your reason and serve your god. The afterlife is not about you, it's about mindless servitude to a vain, egotistical, narcissistic, conceited, jealous god. It's not an afterlife I'd want to be true.
There is also the inconvenient problem that if the Biblical afterlife did exist, we must remember that nearly all of us would be going to an afterlife in a place called Hell. If our loved ones are waiting for us, they do so from a flaming tar pit in Hell, not a lavishly appointed suite in Heaven. To desire the afterlife to be real and yet blindly refuse to acknowledge that the commonly accepted view of the afterlife comes from the Bible is denial in the extreme. A Bible that promises souls consumed by 'everlasting fire', of 'weeping and gnashing of teeth', and of people 'tormented day and night for ever and ever'. With all this in mind, why people, believers or skeptics, would say they would love the afterlife to be real is beyond me. They obviously haven't read anything about it beyond what they heard as a child.
Of course there is the argument that when we die our mind is stored in something called a soul which floats off and joins other souls. These aren't controlled by a god and don't live in heaven, they simply float around unseen spying on us, and pestering psychic mediums who have the ability to see and hear them. Of course they don't have bodies, so any physical activity they may have enjoyed is gone forever. Likewise they apparently have no ability to influence events in the real world, which must be very frustrating. However, going by the conversations they have with mediums, their intellect and memories deteriorate considerably on death, so it's a good thing they can't interfere. Much of their life's details are forgotten, but like a loyal dog they seem to remain tied to living family members. Their soul doesn't appear to age or mature or increase in knowledge, even though they've been floating around for decades or centuries. A soul that 'died' at age six will always describe itself as being six, and elderly souls will always see themselves as being elderly, with their thinking remaining elderly. If they died in the tenth century their knowledge of how things work hasn't advanced from then. That said, some also claim to know the future, which must make life very boring. There would be no sense in a soul reading a book or watching a movie because knowing the future would mean they would always know how it ends. No surprise means boredom. Eternal boredom means no reason to live which brings on suicidal feelings. But being already dead there is no escape. Insanity awaits.
We suggest that believers and many skeptics who wish that souls and the afterlife exist have given no thought to how ridiculous their afterlife descriptions are. If they did think about it, they would realise how illogical their claims are and how horrendous the afterlife would be if it could somehow exist. Like agnostics who leave the door open for god through ignorance, those that desire the afterlife to be real can maintain this wish only through ignorance. We challenge anyone to explain how souls could even exist, let alone could carry on an existence as described by mediums and the religious. If souls exist they can not be the person that you knew as granny. Granny's personality and memories would have to be stripped from the soul for it to exist happily in some afterlife, which would effectively mean the death of granny for a second time. What lives on isn't granny but an imposter brainwashed into believing they are.
Last Updated Jul 2014