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Stardate 13.025

Ascent out of Darkness ~ Armchair Philosophy from the 'Silly Beliefs' Team

Skeptic

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.

First my 2 that I have witnessed. Many yrs ago we were invited to several meetings run by the NZ evangelist Bill Subritzky. During these we saw people speaking in "tongues". It was, to me, just an incoherent babble. I was told this is the Holy Spirit working through these people. But what is the explanation here? Then there were the countless persons who were "slain in the Holy Spirit". Bill S. would lay hands on them and down they would go with someone always waiting to catch them. Complete lack of dignity for females was possible but again someone was there to do the right things. Not only was healing the intention but removing demons, a sort of exorcism, was the purpose. Many of these slain individuals often uttered the most terrible sounds which is supposedly the demon spirit leaving their body. I saw this countless times and spoke to some after they got up. None of them knew what happened and felt nothing, just out like a light. Again, what is the explanation for these hard to deal with events.

These are only some things, briefly, that scream out for answers and can easily suggest that surely there must be a being, a force or an "intelligence" in control. The human brain. There is no computer on earth that can come near it. It can process a million messages a second. And the amazing 5 senses we take for granted. One, the human eye. Evolution focuses on mutation from and within living organisms but cannot fully explain the wonders of the human brain and eye and their incredible functions. How did the universe start? It had to start somehow. Science has no explanation for this. There are well known laws of the universe that are unchanging, consistent. Why? Logically it does not have to be, does it? A nobel prize winner for quantum electrodynamics asked why nature is so mathematical with rules and described it simply as a mystery. Our awesome DNA. It instructs our cells by way of a 3 billion lettered program to act in a certain way like an instruction manual. How did the info. get in there? Again no explanation. Such precise info surely cannot exist without someone constructing it.

To finish, I wish to throw this one at you. Did you realise that God is likely pursuing you? Christians would know this and they would also quote that it is Gods intention that we come to know him. Malcolm Muggeridge and C.S.Lewis experienced this and gave in. It has been said that maybe the underlying reason atheists are so bothered by believers is because God is actively pursuing them!!!

Buddha, Mohammed, Moses and Confucius all revealed themselves as prophets or teachers. They never claimed being equal to God. Jesus did. He said God exists, you are looking at him. He speaks of the father as a close union unique to all humans.

Sounds like I'm trying a conversion job on you!! Very eager to read your reaction to all this.

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',
C. J. Werleman pointed out that even people who witnessed the original disciples speaking in tongues were skeptical, the Bible noting that 'Some however, made fun of them and said, 'They have had too much wine!'' (Acts 2:13). Werleman then adds, 'I love that. 'Some made fun of them'. Of course, they did. It's fucking hilarious.' What really surprises me though, is that Peter then defends his fellow disciples, yelling to the crowd, 'These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning!'. Seriously, it really says that in the Bible. And here was me thinking that that excuse was a reasonably modern one.

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.

Exorcism 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.

Creation 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':

Books

  • 'The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design' by Richard Dawkins
  • 'Unintelligent Design: Why God isn't as smart as she thinks she is' by Robyn Williams
  • 'A Universe From Nothing: Why there is something rather than nothing' by Lawrence M. Krauss
  • 'Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe' by Simon Singh
  • 'God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist' by Victor J Stenger
  • 'Atheism Explained: From Folly to Philosophy' by David Ramsay Steele

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.

Evolution

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Jun, 2014 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by mike, 11 Jun, 2014

    John, you've probably seen this, but it highlights the futility of even debating "believers" on the subject of religion.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wb3AFMe2OQY

    The comments are interesting too. Apparently O'Reilly was provided an explanation of how tides occur based on the gravitational pull of the moon and his response wasn't "oh. I was wrong then", it was "well who put the moon there?". Hundreds of thousands of people watch this moron's TV show and think he is some guru. He is at best misguided and wilfully ignorant.

  2. Comment by Phil, 11 Jun, 2014

    Ron is, I am sure, trying a conversion job on you and failing miserably. I am also sure that your lucid exposition will not pass his mental blinkers and alter his thinking at all. I hope I am wrong in that, and he will reconnect and say he has decided to follow a course of reason, logic and learning and reject supernaturalism. I won't bother praying for it.

  3. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 12 Jun, 2014

    No Mike, I hadn't seen that video, and I agree with both you and Phil that debating truly dyed-in-the-wool believers is futile if one thinks they might reconsider their beliefs. My encounters with evangelists at my door and on street corners is similar to what I imagine it would be like debating with a bank ATM, they just don't hear anything you say. But that said, when believers make claims that challenge my worldview, I like to consider them to see if I can understand why they are mistaken and why I'm justified to hold my ground. I do it more for my benefit, since unlike most believers, not just in religion but in the untold beliefs that we all hold, I want to be as sure as reasonably possible that my views are as robust as they can be. And the only people that are going to challenge my view of gods are fundamentalist religious believers. The atheists, agnostics and lukewarm religious believers I meet day-to-day never bother discussing religion, and from what I can discern, most people have put about as much thought into their stance as I have into my favourite choice of ice cream.

    I have no problem with people who believe differently to me if they have reached their stance by being reasonably informed, honestly believe they have convincing arguments and are willing to change their view on new information. I don't mind in the least believers who want to question my atheism, if fact I welcome it, but just as I'm prepared to listen to their arguments, offer reasoned replies and change my mind if need be, I expect the same commitment from them. I have no respect for people that argue forcefully for gods (or astrology or alien abduction or whatever) based on nothing but wishful thinking and no real knowledge of the thing they are arguing for. In certain social situations I am quite prepared to point out that they are talking nonsense, but only very briefly, since I know that most likely my arguments will not register, and being a one-on-one conversation, no one else might benefit from my arguments either. But the Internet (and a letter to the editor) is different, I can spend time laying out my arguments knowing that even though the person I'm ostensibly directing them at will ignore them, unknown others might read my comments and be swayed to reconsider their stance. My time might not be wasted.

    I think that initially we have to give people such as Ron the benefit of the doubt, since we don't know who they are, what their beliefs truly are or how committed they are to them. Most people that I strike, excluding the evangelists, are merely repeating assertions that true believers have been pushing on us for centuries, and when they strike an atheist that suddenly upsets the apple cart, they ask things like, 'But haven't you heard, God doesn't need to be created like everything else does, it's a special attribute of being God evidently. That's what I've been told'. This is little different to me innocently asking, 'But I heard that Elvis died on the toilet. Is that not right?' I'm willing to be corrected if need be. We have to separate the people who are offering religious arguments merely because that is all they've ever heard, and would be willing to change their minds if flaws are exposed, from those that blindly believe in their religious arguments and want us to blindly accept them as well. The latter have no intention of considering our arguments, we are wrong, end of story. However I can speak from experience that it is possible to convince people that casually believe in gods, ghosts and visiting aliens that these things likely didn't exist. So it is worthwhile trying to initiate a discussion, at least until they storm out screaming, 'You're just bloody closed minded and you'll burn in hell for your blasphemy!'

    So I think when people offer arguments for god and against science, they shouldn't be disparaged, after all, I've probably said many a silly thing about ballet and medieval basket weaving, things I care little about. But if they continue to make arguments for their belief that are ill-founded and either refuse to consider opposing arguments or expose their flaws, then I think we can describe them as dogmatic, fundamentalist and blinded by their faith. Until then, we should perhaps consider that someone offering intelligent design arguments might just be making sure that science can indeed better explain the world before they jump ship. Again, I can honestly say that I see more people ditching religion than I see taking it up, and I'm happy to give some support that might make that move easier.

  4. Comment by Kane, 12 Jul, 2014

    Firstly, I'd like to reply to Ron's statement, "The human brain. There is no computer on earth that can come near it. It can process a million messages a second."

    This is not true. It is a common myth, but very much not true. Processing power for computers is measured in FLOPS. Flops is a measurement of how many floating point operations a computer can make per second. This is the equivalent of the number of messages the brain can handle per second.Even ordinary household computers have their processing power measured in gigaFLOPS or teraFLOPS. A gigaFLOP is one billion FLOPS. A teraFLOP is a trillion FLOPS. The only way human brains excel over computers is at reason and emotions, not the number of operations/messages per second.

    In fact, sometimes just the processing power of graphics cards alone is measured in teraFLOPS. The highest end consumer graphics card can perform 8.122 teraFLOPS of single precision floating point operations or 2.707 teraFLOPS of double precision floating point operations. This does not factor in the CPU, which can get as high as 177 gigaFLOPS in the case of the current highest end home non-enthusiast CPU (I cannot find the figure for the highest enthusiast CPU).

    And the numbers go way higher for supercomputers. Supercomputer processing power is measured in petaFLOPS (one thousand trillion FLOPS) and exaFLOPS (one million trillion FLOPS) with zettaFLOPS (one billion trillion FLOPS) now being aimed at.

    Now, on to your own statements, I agree with them. Especially us looking like gods to the primitives of the past due to our technology. This has been covered a lot in fiction as a result of the old sci-fi saying about sufficiently advanced technology seems like magic to those that don't understand it. From primitives in Stargate at times thinking that about the Tauri at times (or that they were the servants/"elves" of the god). To the Vulcan like race in Star Trek: The Next Generation thinking Picard was the leader of their gods that they had stopped believing in until then. And countless other sci-fis covering such. I think these sci-fis have this correct, as do you.

    As you have it right about us not understanding current things. There have even been recent examples of it being proven that as our technology advances we learn more. A good example is how they recently found out that Milky Way alone has 8.8 billion planets that are close to Earth size and are in the habitable zone, more than enough for everyone on Earth. Even just decades ago many thought we'd never know if there was even the chance of life on other planets. But that is only the beginning! A massive global telescope program is under way that will be so powerful that when it is done it will be able to tell if those planets have atmospheres. Will astronomers stop there? Hell no!

    And the reasons we have yet to understand many things is not because of some complexity created by God that we cannot understand, but rather because knowledge is hierarchical, in other words, because in order to understand the more advanced stuff we first have to learn the less advanced stuff. That is why it takes time to learn the more advanced stuff rather than us suddenly fully understanding human DNA simply because we mapped out the human genome.

    The first Science of Discworld book had a good section on the infinite regress issue, including an old Hindi believer being asked what the turtle that holds up the four elephants that the world stands on, and she didn't see that she was being asked about the infinite regression. She instead relied on an infinite regression of turtles standing on other turtles "all the way down". It also covers the infinite regression of some pseudo-science.

    You are also right about the religious not understanding the huge number of steps for us to evolve from monkeys. But even some non-religious people make that mistake. Bones quite accurately covered that, such as people thinking "the missing link" is undiscovered when the truth is the one people are thinking of has been discovered, and that there has always been many missing links and still is. But as that episode covered, the number of missing links is gradually shrinking.

    And as for the three beings being one, me and a friend used to joke that God would be a dream come true for psychiatrists since he has three way split personality disorder along with the biggest ever delusions of grandeur. They'd be treating him for ages, so could make good money off him for a long time.

    My father was not there for my childhood, but he has been there for most of my adult years, so even he was more a lot present than "God the father". And as someone with an absentee father during my childhood, I can say it wasn't the nicest thing in my life. So why would I want a second one in the form of God? I don't, especially since I am as ashamed of him as you are.

    Anyway, the answer to life, the universe, and everything is 42. Okay, joking aside, good article and thanks for posting it.

  5. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 12 Jul, 2014

    Thanks Kane. Yes, I agree that comparing the human brain to a computer is misleading. Computers are far quicker and superior to the brain for many applications, it's only when it comes to reason and creativity that the brain wins hands down. The human body is not the pinnacle of design that the religious believe it to be. Many other species can see, hear and smell much, much better than us. Many are much stronger and faster. Many can fly or breathe underwater whereas we can not. Some can regrow new limbs or survive freezing or withstand high pressure at ocean depths. Others can withstand substances and environments that are toxic to us. And there are many other examples of human inferiority when we compare ourselves to the billions of other life forms on the planet. Sure we excel when it comes to reason and language, but if we were designed by some god, why did he have to skimp on all our other attributes? Why couldn't he have given us the ability to regrow a damaged limb as well? Clearly the advantage we have with our brain is a fluke of evolution and nothing more.

    And yes, God would be an eternal cash cow for psychiatrists. Along with the split personality disorder and delusions of grandeur, there would also be cognitive dissonance, believing one thing and yet acting a different way. Such as believing you are all-good and all-loving while at the same time you are killing millions through disease and disasters and terrifying billions with the threat of Hell.

    Since you know that the answer to life, the universe, and everything is 42, then clearly you watch the right TV programs and read the right books. We only have to convince others to do likewise.

Oscar the Cat of Death... or maybe not
Grim Reaper 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.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 May, 2014 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Phill, 17 May, 2014

    I had not heard of Oscar before, but have heard of dogs being able to sniff out cancer. I understand that some health authorities around the world are actually training dogs for this very purpose (after all it makes a lot of sense given their highly developed sense of smell.) As to Oscar, well he lives in a hospice and happens to be found on the beds of patients who have passed on — and this is considered unusual? I mean it is a hospice after all. Of course Oscar might end being a self fulfilling prophecy, you are a patient in the hospice slowly dying and then the cat of death hops on your bed and makes itself comfortable, I cannot help but wonder if this alone helps people shuffle off. There is the story that the death rate drops over holidays then spikes afterwards (as though people were holding off dying for the holiday). There are also the many anecdotal stories of people who have willed themselves to die. Maybe we are seeing a bit of that here.

    Though I do find your analysis of the stats somewhat compelling — fifty patients over five years in a hospice — maybe Oscar is doing the opposite and keeping some of the poor beggars going longer than they might have been. Oscar the physician perhaps?

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 17 May, 2014

    Some of the points you make Phill could well be true, the trouble is no one bothered to find out, and once again the media confused a cute animal story with reality.

  3. Comment by Kane, 12 Jul, 2014

    Despite what Isa and Dosa think, the best cats can do to communicate with us is the absolute basics, i.e., purring to express happiness, a bleating meow to express hunger, the way my cat taps me with a paw to get my attention, etc. But nothing meaningful.

    Besides, a Frasier episode where the dog only heard "yada yada yada, Eddie, yada, yada, yada, Eddie, etc" comes to mind. It is the same with all animals. If they cannot understand us, how are we supposed to communicate with them beyond the absolute basics such as tapping a horse with your feet to get it to go from a walk to a trot, etc? Even verbal commands only work because animals learn to associate certain expectations and rewards with certain sounds — sounds they don't know the meaning off but know sound different to the other sounds we make.

    As for what Oscar done, I am skeptical that they can even smell disease. Sure they can track via smell, such as how my cat often goes straight to the room I am in at the time when he comes in the house rather than the room I spend most of my time in. But that does not require as heightened a sense of smell as smelling diseases.

    Hell, I am skeptical that a cat would be any good at search and rescue unlike dogs and horses — even if they could be trained as readily as those two. In fact horses have been proven to be able to be better at airborne scent based tracking than dogs while dogs have proven better at ground based scent tracking. But can cats even track ground based scents that well let alone smell out diseases? I doubt it.

    Though some cats like to try and comfort people that are suffering, such as one I used to have that would comfort me when an ankle injury caused me severe pain, but can they detect anything more obvious than discomfort and pain that doesn't even need a very heightened sense of smell, just eyes and ears that function properly? I doubt it.

    But that is vastly more believable than them having even the most pathetic psychic abilities let alone reliable ones.

    I am betting that confirmation bias has entered into the story and he has slept on the beds of patients that are not about to die.

  4. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 12 Jul, 2014

    I agree with your comments Kane, especially the bit about Eddie the dog from Frasier. Of course cats are intelligent, but as regards Oscar it's not about intelligence or even the ability to detect the presence of disease, it's about his claimed psychic ability of knowing exactly when someone is about to die. This is something that doctors struggle with, even when they have detected a fatal disease. There is a big difference between detecting a fatal disease and knowing exactly when it's going to kill someone. Only some intelligence in possession of knowledge far superior to present human knowledge might know this, and then be able to manipulate the behaviour of a cat to subtly reveal this knowledge. Of course if some advanced intelligence could do this, and wants us to be aware of an imminent death, why doesn't it just send us a text message?

    I think you're right Kane, confirmation bias probably is the most likely cause of the Oscar story.

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.

Easter Bunny 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.

Michael Hewat 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.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 19 Apr, 2014 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Graeme, 19 Apr, 2014

    Mr Hewat is my guest Sunday evening 10-11pm. That'll be Graeme Hill on Radio Live.

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 21 Apr, 2014

    Well, I listened to Graeme's interview with Michael Hewat last night, and while it was a civil intellectual debate, it didn't convince me that we atheists are ignoring evidence of the divinity (or humanity) of Jesus. If you missed it you can listen to it here. Hewat repeated his contention that Christianity wouldn't have gathered large numbers of converts if it weren't true. Graeme countered that untold religions have amassed converts on claims that Hewat agreed were false, and gave the excellent example of the Mormons, a rapidly expanding modern religion. Hewat argued that if you look into the Mormon's creator Joseph Smith he had a devious past and asked followers to believe in things like angels and golden plates that only he saw. The implication was that a character like this was just the sort capable of inventing a false religion, but Graeme responded that Paul, the inventor of Christianity, was far worse. Before his conversion, Paul actually went around torturing and murdering the followers of Jesus, and likewise expected them to believe in things such as a man rising from the dead, angels and empty tombs, things that even Paul hadn't seen. Graeme made several attempts, but Hewat couldn't grasp and wouldn't accept that Christianity could have flourished if it weren't all true. He implied that Christians who blindly believe unlikely things are being wise, whereas others, like Mormons, who believe equally unlikely things are being extremely foolish. While he could clearly see all the flawed reasoning that others used to support their beliefs, he couldn't see that the same flawed reasoning supported Christianity as well.

    He also again argued that the resurrection of Jesus was unique, ignoring the fact that many religions prior to Jesus had people rising from the dead. Hewat concentrated on arguing that those in the Bible, such as Lazarus, that rose from the dead eventually died again, they didn't become immortal like Jesus. But how do we know that Jesus, if he did rise from the dead like Lazarus, didn't also later die again of old age, or even a few months later of an infection from that spear wound? After his miraculous recovery Jesus simply buggered off, saying he had things to do, and for 2,000 years he hasn't be seen alive again. There is no evidence whatsoever that even if Jesus did rise from the dead that he is still alive now. Hewat's argument that Jesus did something that Lazarus didn't is just wishful thinking in an attempt to make Jesus special. Frankly I just find the way Jesus allegedly rose from the dead as poorly executed (excuse the pun), especially from an all-powerful god. If the purpose was to demonstrate God's power, then why hide it from everyone, since not one person saw him die and come back to life? They took a dead body from the cross and put it in a tomb, and then said when they looked back a little later it had gone. We've seen from the Old Testament stories that God is a flashy god, eager to show off his miracles and terrify non-believers. So why, in front of untold Jewish and Roman witnesses, after he had clearly died, did Jesus not rip himself from the cross, glow brightly and swoop over the crowd like Superman, toasting the odd centurion and Pharisee with lightning bolts and alight on the governor's balcony to clearly demonstrate that he had risen from the dead? How does sneaking out of a cave when no one is watching encourage people to believe you have super powers?

    Clearly the most likely explanation of the empty tomb is that the body was stolen to aid their resurrection story, or that Jesus hadn't actually died on the cross after all, remembering that even the experienced soldiers were surprised that he had died so quickly. And where did Jesus appear after his alleged 'death'? Only in locked rooms and far away from the Roman authorities who might have regretted their decision to let him go early. This is the behaviour of a man fearful of the authorities discovering he had survived, and desperate to go into hiding, which the Bible says he quickly did, never to be seen again. I know if I put some KFC chicken in the fridge and the next day found it gone, with only a greasy box remaining as evidence that it was ever there, I wouldn't immediately jump to the ridiculous conclusion that the chicken had risen from the dead. But then I'm not a Christian.

    But the piece in the interview that I took offence with was Hewat's impassioned defence of slavery in Biblical times. As Graeme pointed out, Paul supported slavery and Jesus simply made no comment on it. Neither made any real effort to stop it or even suggest that it was undesirable. Confronted by this affront to fellow humans Hewat, as do many Christians, shamefully argued that slavery back then was nothing like the slavery witnessed over the last few centuries, it was as though slavery was just another 'job'. Try and envision a Disneyland version of slavery, where slave and master are on friendly terms and essentially equal, except that the slave is, well, a slave. Hewat argued that slaves were well treated, they were an essential part of a society which couldn't function without them, and almost implied that if asked, they probably wouldn't change their lot in life. They were happy it seems, according to modern Christians. It's like a rapist insisting, I know the bitch screamed a lot, but deep down I could see she was enjoying the experience.

    I find this attitude offensive, that someone can argue that the keeping of slaves is ethical, that depriving fellow humans of their liberty is just. And even if someone argued that immediately freeing all the slaves would have created chaos for society, while this may be true in the natural world, Christians keep forgetting that they had an all-loving, all-powerful god watching out for them, so no matter what problems slave emancipation might have caused, God could have fixed it with a wave of his tentacles. But how quickly Christians forget to include God in their 'what if' stories, as if he's always on holiday when they could really have used him. It seems their God is only all-powerful in their ancient stories, never in reality.

    Arguing that slavery was OK in the past, these are the disgusting depths that people will sink to in order to excuse the clear evils in their holy books, Atheists have the advantage of being able to pick and chose the things we will believe, and this includes claims made in the Bible. We can accept that ancient Egypt and Jerusalem did exist, but disagree that demons did, and that advice to love one another is good while commandments to kill disobedient children isn't, but Christians are forced to believe it all, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the clearly ridiculous. I'm prepared to accept that some of my ancestors might have kept their fellow humans in bondage, but I don't for a minute accept that this was right. Slavery is wrong now, it was wrong then, end of story. But Hewat isn't free, he must argue that it was acceptable to own people in the past, simply because his God said it was. Slavery still exists, Hewat may be free in body, but he is a slave to a lie, that a loving God would approve of slavery and allow his only son to be tortured and then die screaming on the cross, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'

    Regardless of Graeme's efforts, Hewat finished the interview as he begun, utterly mystified as to why non-believers won't blindly accept primitive stories that a man can die, return to life and then float off for a life in the clouds, promising, but failing, to return, stories told by people that thought the world was flat and that demons caused mental illness, and that the trick was to force the demons into innocent pigs and drown them, pigs and all. What's not to believe?

Camels: more fantasy in the Bible
Camel 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.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 Mar, 2014 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Anonymous, 06 Mar, 2014

    Hi John. Just been having a read of another great letter from you, even though I have other things screaming for attention! Just want to comment on the usual of course. The glaringly obvious once again for all affected in Christchurch, the floods!!! Not long after a Pommy with a fat wallet let it be known he wanted to help restore that b***** Cathedral, one of the thousands that are relics of the 'Dark Ages' that represent one of the most terrible phases forced on and grew in a large portion of humanity. And they want to spend millions to restore this one!!! Judging by the way the population is moving away from this dreaded curse, by the time this ill-conceived idea would by completed, it would be an even larger cold, dingy, requiring a great amount of energy to keep a handful of numskulls warm — 'White Elephant'!

    The other thing too is in regard to the horrific injuries the little girl suffered in Murupara. On the TV News coverage, It showed the students at the 'Maori Immersion' School? in a circle praying!!! for the victim. As the camera panned, a very large cross on a white background appeared. I find it rather disturbing that the Maoris are pushing their so called culture, but at the same time are quite happy to incorporate the Pakeha religion that was also sadly, foisted on them. Captain Cook found them as a tribal culture only, and the only philosophy he observed during his extended encounters (first European apart from Tasman) was 'Kill or be killed'. And this is an indelible part of the very first written history of New Zealand, the Maoris having no written language or history at all and I am very skeptical of their Oral History, knowing how the 'Chinese Whisper' is proven to influence any story time and time again. (this also applies to that dreaded Bible).

    So, as fast as any progress in removing religious teaching in schools across the country is gaining momentum, the poor little pupils are getting indoctrinated with the poison in the likes of these schools. Rather a concern.

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 08 Mar, 2014

    Yes, I quite agree. Restoring that silly cathedral is a monumental waste of money, money that could be better spent on projects that would actually help people in need. Building a very expensive copy of a worthless object that simply reminds us of the ignorance of our ancestors is ridiculous. And it is depressing that some of the descendants of our primitive forebears want to emulate them, continuing to teach their ancient nonsense in our schools. Continuing to ensure that their children remain as ignorant as they are about the world. And like you, I don't understand why some Maori who are striving to return to traditional Maori beliefs and values and who (rightly in some cases) criticise colonial changes foisted on them, but at the same time willingly embrace a religion from the Middle East. I mean, both the Maori and European religions are bullshit, but if you still insist on brainwashing your children, why not brainwash them with your own lies and not those of your perceived oppressor?

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 1

Today, quite a day for earthquakes, fast rising barometer, highest land+sea tides, moon close. Jupiter opposite Pluto is ancient eq signal."

I 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.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 07 Feb, 2014 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Ron, 07 Feb, 2014

    Yes John. Ken has truly backed himself into a corner on this one. Will he come out fighting I wonder? His foot must be shot full of holes long time back.
    Ken has sent his Feb. newsletter to the masses and I see an interesting wee exercise for me to indulge. He says if your barometer rises or falls 12 points or more in a day seismic activity in your area is very likely. If this happens should I flee Christchurch? Will watch and wait on this one. Rapidly deepening, fast moving lows the exception of course.
    Also Ken has changed the Feb weather outlook considerably from his last letter. No heatwaves now like his prediction of approx 35 degrees here mid Feb. No more promise of great holiday weather in first half. Now mediocre average weather tending to cooler and wetter. To me this begs these questions; all these snippets of info are extracts from his almanac therefore this chopping and changing obviously shouts from the rooftops that his almanacs are a complete utter waste of time and money. Second, as all his weather data is based solely on the moon why then these radical forecast changes. Is the moon not still doing exactly what it has been doing for millions of yrs? Terrible really, isn't it? This screams SCAM, SCAM, SCAM!!!!

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Feb, 2014

    Yes exactly Ron, why are changes made to his forecasts closer to the time? Elsewhere Ring claims that his predictions, based as they are on the Moon, could be made hundreds of years in advance, and that he makes his over a year in advance. Once made Ring claims they are locked in and there is absolutely no reason to change them, since as you both say, the Moon isn't suddenly going to do something unexpected. His ongoing changes to match what's happening in the real world do indeed scream SCAM!

  3. Comment by Graham, 07 Mar, 2014

    Hi John. At the risk of being overwhelmed by the stupidity I decided to have a read about Hindi astrology. Without clicking on any of the links on a google search, it does initially seem as though they recognise 9 planets. However, true believers should look no further, or your reassuring world where astrologers know what they're talking about and wouldn't lie will come crashing down. Evidently Hindi astrologers consider the sun and moon to be planets http://www.findyourfate.com/indianastro/grahas.htm (where have I heard that before?). In addition to that they have two theoretical points in the sky, Rahu and Ketu, usually empty save the occasional passing asteroid, that they consider to be planets. So they've actually only got 5 out of 9 right, Mars, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn. So not even Uranus or Neptune.

    Using what I've learnt about the ancient art of Hindi astrology, I predict that Ken won't provide proof that Hindi astrologers knew of the existence of Pluto before western astronomers... well what do you know, it works!

  4. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 08 Mar, 2014

    Excellent work Graham. Your link clearly shows that Ring was lying. Sure enough we read that 'In Hindu Astrology there are nine planets or Grahas', but none of those nine 'planets' are Pluto. They provide a table of 'Grahas and their equivalents in Western Astrology', and as you say, their nine 'planets' relate to the Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn, which are all bodies that astronomers recognise, and two more 'planets' that astronomers don't recognise, called Rahu and Ketu, whose western names are Dragon's Head and Dragon's Tail respectively. As you say, these are just two theoretical points in the sky, akin to the vernal or spring equinox. They are not planets, and they most definitely aren't the planet Pluto, and nor do the Hindu astrologers even hint that either could be Pluto. Thus Ring is lying when he claims that 'Pluto... was one of the 9 planets known and named by Hindi astrologers of old'. You Graham discovered very quickly that Pluto was not part of Hindu astrology, and Ring must have accessed similar information to learn about the nine 'planets', and yet from that information he deviously concocted another lie to hide an earlier lie about the Greeks. Clearly his moral compass is spinning wildly.

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.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Jan, 2014 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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  1. Comment by Ben, 20 Jan, 2014

    I have commented before that even as a Christian I do not accept the bible as the word of God. It was written by men who interpreted what they believed to be the word of God.

    What I do believe is that Jesus existed (and as far as I am aware he was an historical figure). I also believe that he was the son of God. I also accept his words when he replaced the 10 commandments with a single commandment, "love one another as I have loved you". I also believe that he preached against the principle of an eye for an eye and commanded us to love our enemies, albeit a bloody difficult thing for us to achieve. Whatever else is in the bible the words of Jesus are words of love and peace. Whether one is atheist or believer in some God, it is not a bad philosophy to follow.

    I also find it interesting that these beliefs have persisted for over 2000 years and in spite of the distortion of Christianity by many there have also been millions who have been prepared to die to uphold the values preached by Jesus. Even today there are millions persecuted for their beliefs. I hear of nobody being persecuted because they believe in Zeus. Christians are persecuted because the teaching of Christ are dangerous. They undermine the order that many politicians would like to impose on the world.

    I do not believe all this because I am in terror of what might happen but because these beliefs actually inspire me.

    I do not expect my comment to change your views one iota and that does not bother me. I also believe in tolerance not that I practice it that well.

    My last observation was that years ago I listened to a talk by a well known atheist, whose name I have now forgotten, and he observed that even he almost started to believe when he saw some of the order and beauty around him. He gave the example of a rose. I cannot remember the entire argument but it was based that every flower had the numbers of petals in multiples of five. He asked himself the question whether such a thing could happen at random.

    There is a lot of ugliness in this world but there is much beauty. When I listen to the music of Bach, read the works of Shakespeare and Dickens and look at the works of great artists not to mention the beauty of nature that transcends anything produced by mankind, I cannot help thinking that all this is too much just to have evolved by accident. I know you will disagree but then I also believe the power of rational thought, discussion and argument is also a gift from God.

  2. Comment by Mikaere, 20 Jan, 2014

    Ben, many atheists follow the Golden Rule; one doesn't have to be a believer in a god to be moral. I cannot understand those people who think only Christians have a monopoly on goodness.

    I also don't understand your argument that beauty in nature is proof of supernatural intervention, that mathematical order in flower petals cannot have evolved randomly. You have only mentioned things of beauty. If a god were responsible for flowers and great works of art, then surely diseases and tsunamis must be part of his/her canon of works. Wouldn't your god want to follow the golden rule when creating? Wouldn't we have only orchids, rainbows and Beethoven and be free of cancer, acid rain and honour-killings? Can't nature's diversity, the distribution of good and bad, just conform to some sort of normal curve and can't humans accept that they haven't yet learned all the secrets of the universe?

  3. Comment by Zafir, 21 Jan, 2014

    Hi Ben. Very nice.

    If I was to pick and chose what I like about the Bible and throw away all the bits that I don't like, I suppose I would come up with something like that.

    Unfortunately it is completely irrational to believe that Jesus is the son of God and that he is all peace and love etc. when the source of information that says these things is unreliable. Even you discount the bible as "written by men who interpreted what they believed to be the word of God" (i.e made up by people who hear strange voices).

    A couple of verses for you:

    John 8:32 (you know the one about truth setting you free)
    Luke 14:26 (the one where Jesus reveals himself to be a radical)
    Mathew 10:14-15 (the one where Jesus instructs his disciples not to be tolerant and loving)
    Come on Ben, if you are a decent bloke it's not because of fairy tales.
  4. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 21 Jan, 2014

    Hi Ben. I'm going to start with your final thought, that while you correctly foresee that I will disagree with some of your comments, you feel that 'the power of rational thought, discussion and argument is also a gift from God'. While I see these things as coming from my parents, my schooling and evolution rather than God, at least we agree that rational inquiry is important. Thus I hope that you'll realise that my challenges to points that you make are not an attack on you personally, but a challenge for me to see whether I can justify my position. When someone says that their view is correct and mine is flawed, whether it be on religion, alien abductions or psychic mediums, then if the validity of my view is important to me I feel compelled to consider their claims. I want to understand life and the universe, and I seek the best explanations. To honestly retain confidence in my worldview, I need to ensure that alternative worldviews can't shake that confidence. When challenged, if I can't find flaws in those challenges, then I would be forced to question the validity of my worldview, and perhaps even reject it. So while many would simply say, 'I'm right, you're wrong, I'm not sure why, but I'm sure you are', and leave it at that, I'm curious to understand why you might be wrong. Working through these arguments are primarily for my benefit, not yours, to reassure me that my stance is justified, not to convince you that yours isn't. I put them online to perhaps assist others who are also curious atheists. And you're right that I'm not going to change my mind based on what you've written, but the potential is always there that I could change my mind if confronted with a powerful argument. So let's begin.

    You say that you 'do not accept the Bible as the word of God. It was written by men who interpreted what they believed to be the word of God'. Like many modern Christians, you apparently do this because of all the many errors in it, especially scientific and historical. But if God is as modern Christians describe him, why is he happy and willing to have this flawed Bible represent him? Many Christians would, if they could, delete much of the Old Testament, viewing it as barbaric, disgusting, malicious, immoral and just plain wrong. And yet this deeply flawed book is handed out to billions of Christians as the only authoritative guide to their god. Many Christians are annoyed and embarrassed by the mistakes in the Bible, so why doesn't God care? To me this is not reasonable behaviour for a god that is allegedly trying to get the whole world to believe in him.

    You confidently say that, 'What I do believe is that Jesus existed... [and] was the son of God'. Whereas I, in a heartbeat, immediately reject these claims, and wonder how you could be so na´ve. Now, before you get offended, I said that specifically to make a point. Instead of you, a Christian, talking to me, an atheist, imagine that it were a Muslim or Hindu talking to you and confidently saying that, 'What I do believe is that Allah exists' or 'What I do believe is that Shiva exists', respectively. Would not your response be the same as mine, immediately rejecting their claims and wondering how they could be so na´ve? I suspect it would be, and not for one moment would you consider whether Shiva might actually be real. And nor should you. My point is that this type of claim, 'What I do believe is that my god [insert name of god here] exists', has been voiced untold times throughout history in all sincerity by the likes of the ancient Babylonians, Egyptians and Maya, and as I'm sure you'll agree, every single time they were mistaken. Thousands of gods all now dismissed as fanciful and their followers deluded. Even though they were as sure of their belief as you are, probably even more so since they didn't have science throwing up nagging doubts, they were eventually all shown to be mistaken.

    What reasons can you offer, that won't be similar to the reasons offered by Muslims, Jews, Hindus etc., that the god that you have chosen out of thousands of false gods is real? Everyone that has attempted this in the past has failed, why should we expect your claim to be any different? And again, saying that your holy book proclaims your god, or that you've experienced his power or witnessed his miracles is exactly what a Muslim, Jew or Hindu would say. An argument that 'proves' any and every god to be real is clearly a flawed argument and thus worthless. Every religious believer wonders how competing religions can believe as they do, they can clearly see the flaws in these other religions, but are all utterly oblivious to the same flaws in their own religion. Christians refuse to believe the Muslim claim that Mohammed ascended to heaven on his horse, but have no problem insisting Jesus did the same, without even having a horse. Can you not see that if we both lived in the Middle East you would likely be arguing for Mohammed and not Jesus? Surely if the evidence supported the existence of a god, then everyone, no matter where they lived, would be arguing for the same god?

    It's far too easy to simply say, 'I believe in god X', man has done it incessantly throughout history, but not one person has ever proven that their god X is real. Christians (and Muslims, Hindus etc) need to explain why everyone that seeks a god or gods don't seek their specific god(s). The existence of multiple religions with billions of believers, rather than being evidence that gods must exist, is actually cogent evidence that billions of people can be mistaken. This is a fact. Even if a god did exist, the great majority of the world's population must be mistaken about their gods.

    Your claim that you believe in a god is trivial, since billions have already said the same thing and have been wrong. You should be wondering why your god is any different to all the rest, especially since you have no better reasons to believe, and arguably far less reasons (science again), than the ancient Egyptians did.

    You say that Jesus 'replaced the 10 commandments with a single commandment, "love one another as I have loved you"'. I disagree. In JN 15:12 Jesus allegedly said, 'My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you', and in JN 13:34 he said, '"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another'. But Jesus also said, 'If you obey my commands... 'JN 15:10. That's Jesus telling us that he has multiple commandments for us, not a single commandment. At no time did he say or imply that a single commandment would replace the Ten Commandments. In fact, quite explicitly Jesus said:

    "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (MT 5:17-20)
    Thus Jesus is confirming that God's commandments, of which there are some 613 in the Old Testament, not just the 10 that most people have heard of, are still valid. So God's commandments insisting on circumcision and against tattoos, eating shellfish and working on Saturday still stand as far as Jesus is concerned. None lose their authority until the Earth disappears, which I don't believe has yet happened.

    You go on to add that 'Whatever else is in the bible the words of Jesus are words of love and peace. Whether one is atheist or believer in some God, it is not a bad philosophy to follow'. I've already noted that I believe that good Christians are, unknowingly, living their lives as humanists, acting in ways that see them leading a good life, respecting others, loving others and trying to do no harm. This is the philosophy they are following, and it's why an 'atheist or believer in some God' can live peaceably with each other. Furthermore, you can only argue that 'the words of Jesus are words of love and peace', if you ignore where Jesus said: 'Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword (MT 10:34)', and also 'But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one (LK 22:36)'. And let's remember where he attacked the moneylenders in the temple, and also where Jesus tells us to execute those that don't accept him as king. And what about when he drowned all those innocent pigs? Was that an act of love, certainly not towards animals? Then we have the example of how Jesus responded when 'Another disciple said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead." MT 8:21-22'. Are they the words of love or the uncaring words of a tyrant? And it's worth spelling out the verse that Zafir mentioned above, Luke 14:26, where Jesus addresses a crowd, 'If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters — yes, even his own life — he cannot be my disciple'. Oh yes, that's a very loving attitude. Jesus also said, 'If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love' JN 15:10. Would that be the loving father that stood by while Jesus was tortured and killed? What human father's love would be so conditional, where love would be maintained only while his children dutifully obeyed his commands? What loving father would say, 'You haven't cleaned your room or taken out the rubbish as I commanded! That's it, get out of my house. You are dead to me'. There is no way in hell that I would swap my loving and caring biological father for an imaginary one. Even if he existed, child services would quickly deem him an unfit parent.

    Christians form a 21st century humanist view of what they think a loving relationship means, and fool themselves into thinking that's probably what Jesus meant. Even homosexuals or free-loving hippies can argue that when Jesus said we should love one another, he was thinking of them too. And what experience did Jesus even have of love? He never knew his real father, he never speaks of his adoptive father or his childhood, and he is insensitive and dismissive towards his mother. In what way is he any different to celibate Catholic priests who arrogantly profess to know more about marriage and sex and child rearing than do actual parents?

    You're correct that Christian beliefs have persisted for around 2000 years, but if longevity is a gauge of validity, let's remember that Judaism has persisted for much longer, and Hinduism much longer still. So why aren't you a Hindu? The religion of the ancient Egyptians also lasted longer than Christianity has, but eventually it was seen as false. And to repeat an earlier point, the Egyptians could also have argued that their gods must be real because of the longevity of their civilisation. And I would challenge your claim that there have 'been millions who have been prepared to die to uphold the values preached by Jesus'. I suspect that there was (and still is) a huge difference between those who believed in Jesus and those who were prepared to die for him. And yes, there are many Christians persecuted today for their belief, but again this also applies to Muslims, Jews, Hindus and even atheists. I agree that no one today is persecuted for a belief in Zeus, whereas they are for a belief in Jesus, but this doesn't mean Jesus must be real, merely that Zeus today has no followers to persecute. For the same reason, the authorities wouldn't have found a Jesus believer to persecute in ancient Egypt. Which makes one wonder why God didn't think the ancient Egyptians (or the Aztec or Polynesians etc) needed to know about Jesus! Why were the Jews his favourites to the exclusion of all others?

    You say that 'Christians are persecuted because the teaching of Christ are dangerous. They undermine the order that many politicians would like to impose on the world'. I disagree. Throughout history the followers of most every religion have seen some persecution because in the eyes of their persecutors they were clearly wrong. They were following the wrong gods, performing the wrong rituals and behaving in immoral ways. The Christians didn't persecute the Jews and Muslims because they thought the teaching of Allah and Jehovah respectively were dangerous. They persecuted them because they were offended by people that would deny the one true god, and this is why Muslims persecute Christians today, not because they fear what Jesus preaches. And the politicians that I think you refer to, Islamists seeking to impose strict Sharia law, fear democracy, freedom, equality and secular government far more than they fear Christians.

    You could have correctly argued that in some places Christians are indeed persecuted because what God teaches is dangerous, eg the insistence that we should persecute homosexuals, that we should refuse equality to women, ban contraception and that we should ignore sexually abusive priests and leave their punishment up to God. But that's God talking, not Jesus (evidently you feel there is a difference), and frankly I agree that the activities of these Christians should be curtailed.

    You mentioned an atheist experiencing some doubt when 'he saw some of the order and beauty around him', and wondered if a specific flower structure 'could happen at random'. Was this atheist a botanist, had he researched the way flowers grow? This is merely the 'argument from ignorance', where because this person doesn't know if this pattern could arise naturally, he assumes, without justification, that it couldn't and therefore must be supernatural. There are untold natural events that were once put down to gods simply because no one knew how they could happen naturally. Ignorance of how the world works is a terrible reason to believe in gods.

    You continue down this path by saying that there is 'the beauty of nature that transcends anything produced by mankind, I cannot help thinking that all this is too much just to have evolved by accident'. But surely I could equally argue that there is suffering in 'nature that transcends anything produced by mankind... too much just to have evolved by accident'. As Mikaere noted in his comment above, I too am always amazed that people see 'order and beauty' and immediately think that a god must be responsible for the world, but they never see the suffering and evil and think that maybe a demon is responsible for the world. Why not? The common argument is that God couldn't help but make the world with some evil in it, but why, as philosopher Stephen Law argues, couldn't it be that a demon couldn't help but make the world with some good in it? If the demon argument is seen as ridiculous, then so is the alternative. It annoys me when people say that they see their god's handiwork in the smile of a baby and in the beauty of a sunrise, but then deny he had any part in the senseless death of another baby or the terror of a tsunami. This cherry picking of Bible verses and world events, ignoring the evil and embracing the good, to me is a sign that even Christians realise that there are clear things that they must ignore in order to maintain their belief.

    You are apparently referring to the complexity of the world when you argue that you 'cannot help thinking that all this is too much just to have evolved by accident'. But the complexity of life and the universe is utterly trivial when compared to what must be the complexity of your god, and thus I would respond, to paraphrase you, that I cannot help thinking that this god thing is just too much to have evolved by accident. As an analogy, you are questioning whether a simple grain of sand (the universe) could have come about by accident, while I am questioning whether a complex space shuttle (God) could have come about by accident. You argue that the grain of sand had to have been made by someone, while at the same time ignoring the space shuttle, implying that it must have somehow popped into existence fully constructed. Which is more likely to have arisen naturally, a grain of sand or a space shuttle, a universe or a god? If a universe that starts off as simple chaotic particles is seen as so unlikely as to be impossible, then how could an unimaginably complex and powerful god ever arise? If the universe is unlikely because it's too complex, then God hasn't got a hope in hell of being real. This 'argument from design' is one that even children can see through, asking, 'Well if God was needed to make the world, who made God then?' Of course the silly answer normally is that no one made God, he's always existed. But surely if we're going to fall back on this answer, then it is far, far more believable that if something has existed forever, then it was a simple 'universe' and not an unimaginably complex and powerful god? Your doubting atheist argued that if we can't explain simple flower petals, then maybe we should consider gods, whereas this atheist would argue that if we can't explain complex gods, then maybe we should consider a far simpler explanation.

  5. Comment by Ben, 24 Jan, 2014

    I'll see you when we are both dead and we can debate the point then. Until then I am not in the least offended. I enjoy other people's reasoned arguments but just as I will not shake your views you will not shake my beliefs naive and barmy though they are. Carry on the good work.

  6. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 25 Jan, 2014

    Thanks Ben. You no doubt realise you make the typical Christian mistake, since if there is no god then when we're dead, we're dead, there will be no chance to do any debating, or even to realise that you were wrong. And if there is a god, you are also assuming that it is your god, and that for some reason you and I will both be going to the same place. Of course if the real god is Odin or Montezuma then we are both screwed. Christians tell me that I'm going to Hell, so is that where you expect to see me, and does Satan actually allow people to sit around with a coffee and muffin debating things? Also, if against the odds you and I do find ourselves in Hell, or even Heaven, there will be no need to debate if God or Satan exist, since we will have met one of them as we checked in. I may be a committed atheist, but even I wouldn't keep denying supernatural beings if they were prodding me with a pointy stick.

    Furthermore, I believe it is vitally important to discover the truth now, rather than wait until I die. And this is something I don't understand with many religious people, who sincerely believe that thinking the right things and doing the right things are crucial to what will happen when they die, and yet most never take it very seriously, they never put much effort into determining that the belief their parents gave them as a child is actually true. They just hope it is. If I sincerely thought that there was even a remote chance that a devil would torture me for all eternity if I behaved wrongly, then I would be seriously investigating this possibility, not waiting until I die to see if I was right.

  7. Comment by Ben, 25 Jan, 2014

    I was going to let the matter drop but your comment about the importance of discovering the truth now. I am not sure what you mean by truth but if you think that by truth you mean confirming the existence of God or otherwise you are deluding yourself. That is the whole point of faith; the truth is hidden and it will remain hidden.

    I would have no time for some omniscient being who makes himself known at regular intervals. It is a matter of faith; "blessed are those who have not seen yet have believed".

    My beliefs do not come from my parents. I would be hard pressed to say where they come from. I can't say I have put enormous effort into determining the truth of my beliefs because I do not believe it is possible.

    I have no idea whether we will end up in the same place but there is a sporting chance we might bump into one another somewhere in God's waiting room. As for hell I doubt whether anyone who argues so charmingly and as rationally you would end up in hell. I think you would be an asset to heaven; as long as you admit you were bloody well wrong.

    Do you fancy a bet?

    P.S. I would just add to my comment that hell would be landing in the same place as Ken Ring. At least in hell his temperature forecasts would be correct!

  8. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 26 Jan, 2014

    By 'truth' Ben, I mean (quoting my dictionary), discovering that which conforms to reality, to fact, to actuality. And yes, part of that is determining whether your God is part of reality, ie is true, or is merely, like thousands of other gods, a fairy tale. You believe I'm deluded in thinking that God can be discovered, since you believe he is hiding, and using his spooky powers so that we will never find him. Don't you see that this excuse is a little childish, a little too convenient, that people can and do use it to explain to their children why we can't find Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and leprechauns?

    But why is God hiding? Perhaps if God had committed mass murder and other horrendous crimes then I might understand him being on the lam and hiding from us but... oh wait a minute... he has! Is that it, is he ashamed of what he's done, and scared he'll be dragged before a court to face justice if he fronts? I suspect you'll answer that God answers to no one and fears no one, so again, why is God hiding? The Bible tells us that it is terribly important that we know him, love him, fear him, and follow his commandments. According to the Bible Jesus didn't hide, like annoying evangelists today he travelled the country interrupting people going about their daily chores. And yet for the last 2,000 years Jesus and his dad have become the divine version of Bigfoot. If the Bible is to be believed, God often went out of his way to prove that he existed. But by the end of the Old Testament and all through the New Testament God is never seen or heard from, he is merely spoken of, as we might speak of Alexander the Great. So God has gone from openly walking with our two nudists in the Garden of Eden to being the ultimate hermit, a hermit that would be happy if we can find no evidence of his presence. And Jesus, promising his disciples that he would return within a few years of his death, likewise has simply disappeared, gone into hiding. Why? It doesn't fit their MO, or modus operandi, of being confident, outgoing gods desperate to raise their profile and spread their message, and who wouldn't tolerate any nonsense or opposition on their path to world domination. And today, when they are close to being overshadowed by Islam and its god, these two are still vacationing in places unknown. And they desperately want to keep it that way evidently, striving to remain hidden. Why?

    OK, so God is hiding, but how do you know God is hiding? You don't trust the Bible, so where are you getting this information from? If God and the truth about his existence is truly hidden, then the world should look exactly as if he didn't exist. If you can somehow detect that God is hiding, then you have discovered the truth about his existence. You may not know where or why God is hiding, but you claim that he is indeed hiding, and for something to hide, it must first exist. This is the hole that people fall into when they say that God is mysterious and unknowable, but then they promptly go on to tell us things that they know about this unknowable god, for example, that he is hiding. Think about it, if God truly were an all-powerful god, why can he hide from me but not from you? If an all-powerful god chose to hide his very existence from us, we would have no idea that he did exist. So again, your reasoning evidently is that because there is no evidence whatsoever that such a god does exist, this must mean that he does actually exist but is hiding that evidence. But this has no more weight than arguing that Santa must exist because we can find no evidence for him either. It is an argument of last resort, and fails miserably.

    I don't know what to make of your claim that you 'would have no time for some omniscient being who makes himself known at regular intervals'. Really, you would reject God and/or Jesus in a heartbeat if they showed a real interest in you? Are you saying that God stays hidden because he knows you Christians hate needy gods? As long as your gods stay hidden, ignore you utterly and pretend that they don't exist, then you'll worship them blindly, but if they start to show up on your birthday or at your wedding, or god forbid, try and stop a war or natural disaster, then the relationship is over? You Christians often call God your heavenly father, so can you imagine a child saying that they 'would have no time for some parent who makes himself known at regular intervals'. It doesn't sound too believable does it? Also, Christians dream of spending an eternity in God's presence, so how are you going to cope if the thought of just seeing him occasionally puts you off? Christians criticise atheists for rejecting gods since we see no evidence, and yet you're apparently just the opposite, you believe in gods but would reject them if you ever did see real evidence? If they regularly made themselves known you'd know beyond doubt that they exist, but you'd have no time for them! Wow, I'm not sure you've thought this through.

    You tell me we can't find the truth because 'That is the whole point of faith; the truth is hidden and it will remain hidden'. Let's consider this belief in blind faith that you have, and see if it is at all sensible. If I asked you if there is evidence out there that God created the universe, you apparently would say something like, 'No, God has hidden the evidence of his handiwork, even planting dinosaur fossils to mislead us. Not that I've bothered looking mind you, since we're strongly encouraged not to look'. You quote 'blessed are those who have not seen yet have believed', where Jesus rebuked Thomas for being skeptical of his friends' claim that they had seen the ghost of Jesus. If criticising people for being skeptical of an extraordinary claim doesn't scream SCAM in your mind then I have some magic beans I'd like to sell you. As Frater Ravus said, 'Faith does not give you the answers, it just stops you asking the questions'.

    Let's set God aside for a moment and look at some other beliefs people are asked to believe in. Imagine if a mysterious email from Nigeria said you could receive ten million dollars or an alternative therapist said she could cure AIDS or Ken Ring said he could use astrology to predict the weather. When you expressed doubt and asked for supporting evidence (and I'm hoping you would), how would you respond when they all said that you should simply trust them on faith, and that you definitely shouldn't research their claims? Again I'm hoping that you would smell a rat, realise that you were being scammed, and tell them to piss off. Unfortunately many people do blindly accept the claims and demands of these scam artists, blindly accepting their unsupported claims and obediently not questioning them or discussing it with others, Think of what this entails. They have blind faith in someone they've never met that is offering them riches and/or happiness or whatever beyond their wildest dreams. The only conditions are that they can't meet or talk with the person in charge, they can't question the claims, they can't seek a second opinion, and they must trust them implicitly. If a friend was about to send thousands of dollars to Nigeria to gain access to their millions, would you respect their belief in blind faith, and accept that they must know something that you don't? Again, I hoping that you'd try and convince them that they were being extremely foolish to commit their well-being towards something for which they had no good evidence, and indeed for which there was much evidence against. Nigerian bank scams, alternative therapies and Ken Ring, for all these things you would no doubt argue that it is stupid in the extreme to believe in them on faith alone, and their suspicious refusal to produce evidence for their claims just makes things worse. Much, much worse.

    Let's now look at Jesus as a potential scammer. You've never met him, in fact you don't know anyone that has ever met him. You don't even know what he looks like. You've never heard from anyone that has actually received the rewards that are promised. If you were to look for him you know that he will hide from you. If you were to investigate his claims, you know that he will hide all supporting evidence, going so far as to even make it appear as though his claims are all false and that he doesn't even exist. And against all reason, the more indications there are that this person appears to be imaginary, the more that you will believe that they real. This is the ultimate scam mentality. There is no evidence or reason that could convince you that it was scam, since extraordinary evidence of a scam is in your view actually extraordinary evidence that it's not. It's self-reinforcing, every argument against your god is merely evidence to you that your god is easily managing to remain completely hidden from our most powerful instruments and theories. Your rock solid conviction that Jesus and his promised rewards are real is identical to the conviction that people have as they send their money orders off to Nigeria via Western Union. Neither of you can be convinced that your rewards will never arrive. Think about it, if Jesus really loved you as much as it's claimed, then why hasn't he ever called, not even a card on your birthday? People that love you don't hide from you, and money that's yours will appear in your bank account. Unless it's all a scam. When the money doesn't turn up, people then convince themselves that they haven't paid enough fees, or when Jesus seems to be ignoring them, that their faith is not strong enough. They can always 'rationalise' why things aren't working out as planned, they simply need more faith in their invisible benefactor.

    You state that it is impossible to know the truth about God's existence, that you must instead rely on faith. The implication is that faith and truth are different things, that having faith isn't the same as believing that you know the truth. I would disagree. My dictionary defines faith as:

    Faith

    1. Confident belief in the truth, value or trustworthiness of a person, an idea, or a thing.
    2. The theological virtue defined as the secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will. A belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence, and may exist even contrary to the evidence.
    Note that it talks of 'Confident belief in the truth' and 'the secure belief in God'. Belief is defined as 'Something believed or accepted as true'. Thus to have blind faith in God is to believe that you do indeed know the truth about the existence of God. While you may insist that such knowledge is hidden from me, you have evidently found a means of confirming God's existence, of learning the truth. No one talks of faith in God to mean that they uncertain as to whether he really exists. Their certainty means that they believe they know the truth. Of course the next question is whether this method of gaining knowledge is justified, and clearly it is not. Supporting the above definition (2), George H. Smith in his book 'Atheism: The Case Against God' defined faith in regard to religion thus, 'Faith is belief without, or in spite of, reason'. Any strongly held belief that has no supporting evidence and runs contrary to reason and real physical evidence is clearly a belief that is held by desire only, and has very little chance of being true. Since blind faith can allow people to believe in the most ridiculous and imaginary things, then clearly it is worthless as a tool for discovering the truth. While Christians may use faith to believe their god is real, let's remember that Jews, Muslims and Hindus use faith to believe their chosen god is real too. Likewise children have faith that Santa and the Tooth Fairy are real. So should what people claim through faith alone be trusted? Clearly not.

    Regarding your Christian beliefs, you dismiss parental influence and say that you 'would be hard pressed to say where they come from'. So your parents are what, atheists, Buddhists, Wiccan? They're not Christians, not ever wishy-washy ones? If not your parents, my guess is that your beliefs come from your culture and the society you live in. Like me you will likely live in a society immersed in one majority religion, and your adopting Jesus suggests that it is Christianity. You will know lots of Christians, but very few Muslims or Hindus. Only Christians will be knocking on your door with pamphlets, only Christian churches will be seen and few if any mosques or synagogues. As I've already said, if you lived in the Middle East you would likely be arguing for Mohammed and not Jesus. Would you say you knew as much about Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism or atheism when you chose Christianity over them? I would ague that you should only be a Christian if you know why the other major religions are false. And I don't mean the childish belief that they must logically be false because you already believe Christianity is the one true religion. Jews and Muslims use the same flawed logic. Before choosing Christianity, did you seriously consider all religions, or were you simply seduced by the religion that was all around you? I suspect this is the case, since as you admit, 'I can't say I have put enormous effort into determining the truth of my beliefs because I do not believe it is possible'. And of course your religion actively encourages you not to seek the truth behind your beliefs, with the irrational claim that it is impossible. There's that scam alert again! This is what they want you to believe, that discovering the truth is impossible, since the last thing they want is someone questioning their claims. Remember that they also once wanted followers to believe that the world was flat and at the centre of the universe, and that demons caused migraine headaches. Nothing that they have claimed in the past has turned out to be true, so why should you now believe that God is still real, but just hiding? Is he embarrassed because he got so much wrong?

    You say that you believe 'there is a sporting chance we might bump into one another somewhere in God's waiting room... I doubt whether... you would end up in hell'. Well, in a just universe ruled by a just god I'm sure you'd be right, but that's not how the Bible, our only source of information regarding heaven and hell, tells it. We're told that 'the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur' REV 21:8. Of these sins I do admit to being an unrepentant unbeliever, to being joyfully sexually immoral when compared to Biblical commandments, and to idolatry, since I'm utterly devoted to reason and I worship cheesecake. We're also told that, 'The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth' MT 13:41-42. I've already admitted that in God's view I sin, but am I evil? Yes, another verse tells us that atheists are indeed evil: 'The fool says in his heart 'There is no God'. They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good' PS 14:1 So I'm sorry Ben, there isn't a sporting chance in hell that we will bump into each other, unless you've broken some commandments as well. Have you ever eaten shellfish? I fear that you've adopted the modern but wholly unjustified belief that your God is a just God, and that surely all those horror stories about Hell are just there to scare the kiddies, like Halloween. But there is no reason, beyond modern sensibilities, that we should believe all the nice bits in the Bible and disbelieve all the nasty bits. To do this is to invent your own new religion.

    You, perhaps jokingly, say that I'd surely be welcome in heaven, 'as long as you admit you were bloody well wrong'. Unfortunately many believe this myth, that atheists are closed-minded and dogmatic, and that we will never admit to error even if confronted with overwhelming evidence. After our death and even with God prodding us with a pointy stick, we fools will evidently still argue, 'There is no God'. I think the true fool is the person who wrote this in the Bible and those who still live by it.

    Finally, as to whether we'll meet up after we die, you ask, 'Do you fancy a bet?' Hopefully this is a joke, because otherwise it is a dishonest bet. Dishonest since you have no intention, or at least no ability, of paying up if you lose! If I lost the bet you would have my word that I would honour our agreement, but if I won, I can guarantee that you would renege on our bet. Would Jesus approve?

  9. Comment by Phill, 07 Feb, 2014

    Hi guys — as always an excellent debate, but sadly I fear a wasted effort, because Teirra is obviously a HERETIC and not a true believer!!!!. For she says in part of her email "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 (sic)". I KNOW THIS IS WRONG because having listened to Doctor Kent Hovind, Ray Comfort, and Ray's very very close friend Kirk Cameron I know those six days were actual twenty four hour days and not days that lasted a thousand years and because of these three I also know the earth is only six thousand years old. Also I know creation has been proved because Ray Comfort showed that a banana was specifically created by God for man to consume, you see it can be easily gripped in the hand and is long and narrow so it's easy to put into the mouth (you know, it's bugging me I can't quite remember, but there is something else that's long, easy to grip and small enough to go into a person's mouth, perhaps if I write to Ray and Kirk they will know what I'm trying to remember.) I guess this means that poor Teirra will go to hell for getting it wrong so sad.

    Over the years I have talked to a number of people who have told me what an amazing book the bible is and if only I followed its magic teachings my life would be so much better. The immediate conclusion I have when talking to these people is that unlike a lot of Atheists they have not actually "read" the bible. They may have done bible study which as I understand it is when a some of them get into a group and read small sections of the bible then discuss them. Naturally those leading the study will not attempt to critique the holy book by attempting to examine the contradictions, ridiculous laws, or any of the really icky bits. Which is the only reason I think someone like Teirra could make her claims about what an amazing book the bible supposedly is.

    The most common argument that is thrown at me, as an Atheist, is how can I have a moral compass if I don't have the bible. Christians have asked me how can I know right from wrong without God's word. As I point out to them I pick and chose my moral principles just like them. Very occasionally some will nod and smile and change the subject, but some of them will challenge me on that and talk about the ten commandments. I then ask them about homosexuality, naturally most of them will say that's wrong, some might even quote the passage Leviticus 20:13. I then note the clothes they are wearing, and their hair style and mention Leviticus 19:19 and Leviticus 19:27, which prohibit the wearing of clothes made from more than one fabric specifically a wool linen mix, and prohibit cutting your hair and beard, this does tend to put an end to the conversation. As you know we could go on, there are, according to Wikipedia 613 separate laws in the bible and that's not including all the icky bits; the genocides, mass killings, my favourite Jephthah sacrificing his daughter because of his vow to God (Judges 11:29-40) and then there is the sex!

    Some Christians will come back at me with the "What about Jesus then?" They will then talk about how amazing it is that a man who lived two thousand years ago had this amazing effect on the world and how that must prove that he really is the son of god. I could argue this on any number of grounds; I could talk about the historical lottery where Jesus' version of Judaism got picked up by the then Super Power (Rome) and became mainstream while other religious teachers fell by the wayside. I could even make a case about the strong evidence that there was not in fact an historical Jesus and that he was a much later construct (and personally I do tend towards this hypothesis). But with Christians this is not a popular argument. So I resort to case studies, I point out that religions start all the time, some take, some don't, those that take may last for a generation or so, and a very few may then go on to become mainstream and become very powerful. One only has to look at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its origins. Joseph Smith got visited by an angel, dug up some golden tablets and dictated a new religious book direct from almighty god (which is not too dissimilar from the origins of Islam.) Now on the face of it, who at the time (assuming they had not bought Smith's tale hook line and sinker) would have dreamed that a semi-literate con-artist would be the founder of a powerful worldwide religious movement? It's not even as though Mormonism makes any sense (from the little I know of their beliefs) and yet here they are, with temples all round the world and believers in every corner of the globe. They look as though they will be around for as long as modern civilisation exists. Perhaps in another two thousand years some space-faring dude will talk about the amazing effect that Joseph Smith has had on the worlds and that this longevity proves the validity of his claims.

    The sad truth of the matter is that we no longer live in an age of Reason and perhaps even more dangerously, nor do we live in an age of Moderates. All around us the extremists grow. Their truths are fundamental and never to be tested and their eagerness to force those truths on to the rest of us knows no limits.

    Keep up the good work.

  10. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 07 Feb, 2014

    All excellent observations Phill. And quite clearly Teirra must be a HERETIC, so... break out the stake and BURN HER! And yes, I too feel that I should know of some other banana-shaped object that is sometimes put in the mouth. It's really going to bug me now until I remember what it is! And seriously, I believe that Ray Comfort has ditched his banana proof and now regrets ever using it, although I still have one of his pamphlets and books where he spends an entire chapter explaining how miraculous a creation the banana is. He's an embarrassment to NZ that guy.

    I agree too that it is now the extremists that we must fear. The wishy-washy religious types are retreating, occupying the closets that the homosexuals have vacated, but the fundamentalists, although small in number, can do great harm when they fear no human justice, accept no human ethical code and slavishly obey a barbaric tyrant. The fact that this tyrant might be (and in fact is) imaginary is inconceivable to them. Anyone so blinded to reason and human suffering is indeed very dangerous.

  11. Comment by mike, 11 Feb, 2014

    Regarding Ben's comment 'I would have no time for some omniscient being who makes himself known at regular intervals. It is a matter of faith; "blessed are those who have not seen yet have believed".', this drives me to distraction.
    The essence of this position is that the more someone holds onto their beliefs in the complete absence of any evidence the more "blessed" they are. It is patently daft.

    Aside from all that Ben seems like a non-offensive generally good human being. It's the hypocrites that really fire me up, and in the ranks of the religious they are well represented.

  12. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 12 Dec, 2014

    Indeed Mike. I read a similar comment the other day by Clay Shirky that I liked: 'It makes sense to believe in things for which there is evidence and no sense to believe in things for which there is none'.

  13. Comment by Anonymous, 15 Jul, 2014

    awesomely done. tough to convince the unconvincable though

  14. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 15 Jul, 2014

    Thanks, and yes it is tough to sway the views of those that are convinced that they already have all the answers. However I feel that gains can be made if we aim our efforts at the greatly increasing number of people that are prepared to consider new arguments. As I've said elsewhere, I suffer from no delusion that I'm going to shake the faith of fundamentalists by debating with them, but my debate does hopefully serve the purpose of highlighting how silly fundamentalist arguments are, not to the fundamentalists of course, but to those reading from the sidelines that are willing to go where the reasoning and evidence lead.

    As for the fundamentalists, dogmatic views will die with their owners, and statistics clearly show that the youth of the Western world are rejecting religion in great numbers. We must do all we can to encourage their choice of reason over faith.

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?

Astrology 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.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 10 Jan, 2014 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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Comments:

  1. Comment by Anonymous, 10 Jan, 2014

    Hi John. I too was enraged with the Double Full Page 2014 Astrological Coverage in the NZ Herald, coming at a time when they have been publishing some really great articles on astronomy, science and extreme weather happenings recently. Also, I benefited!!! recently by having my digital TV connection for free, seeing I am 79 years old, but I now have TV in my front room only, after enjoying it my bedroom for the last 23 years. Is this progress? Particularly being able to switch on to BBC when ever I awoke and it was near the hour. That was when it was re-broadcast on TV One from 12 am to 8am. That was gradually pruned back to 1-30am to 6pm followed by religious brain washing.... again! Then in April last year, gone altogether! Now I have more channels (whoop de doo!) all with dubious crap on them in the main......... as well as TV Shine!!! A virtual religious program 24 hours a day (I think) with a sign scrolling across every now and then asking for donations! Is this New Zealand, or America?? As fast as progress is made to get religion out of schools, these vermin are brainwashing the dummies who sit there with their brains in neutral watching this stuff for hours on end. It's still a very hard job to shake off the 'Dark Ages!'

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Jan, 2014

    You've had some great articles on astronomy and science in your paper? You lucky bastard! And yes, as for TV I now have some 20 channels, but I watch far less TV now than I ever did, crap reigns. One of ours is also a 24 hour fundamentalist Christian channel, decrying evolution, science in general and preaching to the faithful. I've tried watching a few of their programs, especially those arguing against science, and I've yet to see one all the way through, they really are that bad! American style creationism is making inroads in NZ thanks to TV and the Internet, and of course politicians recently approved charter schools, allowing fundamentalist religion back into the classroom. As you say, many people do desperately want to remain in the 'Dark Ages'.

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".

God saved her? What about the thousands who perished and the untold misery and grief left behind?

Then there was this vile pathetic Christian blogger who wrote, while Haiyun was killing and destroying, the following: "Greetings true christians. God hates the Philippines. Did you know that god is punishing the Philippines for the sins of homosexuality, prostitution, Catholicism, etc. We are about to feel gods wrath with the most powerful storm ever experienced. If those of you here had repented of your sins you need not have been punished. But you tolerate adultery, prostitution etc and god will make an example of you. Do not cry to god for mercy now you sinful heathens, you have already rejected him, there is nothing you can do. God will not help you. Repent or you may be on gods hit list. I will be praying for you". Halfway along this dialogue there is a picture of a body being removed from rubble with the caption "a sinner is unsaved".

The whole thing drew an angry response from many in the Philippines and elsewhere. One response group said "as much as we can, we want to install hope and remind people that god is here in the midst of all this".

A different angle came from a priest at the church of Our mother of perpetual help in Tacloban. He blessed the bodies scattered around his parish. Masses resumed 3 times daily from day one amidst the ruins as the altar was intact. Many asked him how could god let such a calamity befall this mainly Catholic city. His response was "god is not the cause of the suffering, god cannot prevent this. This is the work of nature". Asked why did it have to happen to Tacloban he said "it is difficult to explain".

So many misguided, confused people, no answers, well meaning but they know no better.

Why would god hate only the Philippines?

If people repented as the blogger said, what then? Would they be somehow walking amongst the dead, the homeless, the destruction completely unscathed or would they be killed anyway but saved in paradise on the other side? How does the blogger know the deceased lady was unsaved, I wonder?

How much help came from the church of Our Mother of Perpetual Help? Nothing stopped the masses of deaths and misery.

John, as a primary school kid I attended a Catholic school. My formative yrs there taught me certain good values but there was brainwashing and instilling fear. My thinking has changed as I've got older but am still sorting out my mind. So many questions but lacking logical answers. I now struggle with the concept of a personal god. So many hrs spent in the past praying whilst walking in the peace of the mountains and bush but no answers forthcoming. One issue that truly gets me is how can the christian god, as we are told, 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?

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?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?"
Epicurus (Greek philosopher, BCE 341-270)

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)

Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. (EX 34:14)

For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. (DT 4:24)

...for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. (DT 6:15)

They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols. (DT 32:16

He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you... (JOS 24:19)

By the sins they committed they stirred up his jealous anger... (1KI 14:22)

I will bring upon you the blood vengeance of my wrath and jealous anger. (EZE 16:38)

I will direct my jealous anger against you, and they will deal with you in fury. (EZE 23:25)

This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I speak in my jealous wrath because you have suffered the scorn of the nations... (EZE 36:6)

The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. (NA 1:2)

The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger. (ZEP 3:8)

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
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Comments:

  1. Comment by Brett, 11 Dec, 2013

    John, I'm surprised that you have put so much energy and time into responding to one obviously deluded individual. I always look forward to your poignant observations that directly affect society as a whole, including tackling leaders and those that have influence over others. However I think in this case you're wasting your time and energy.

    I would be more interested in your opinion on this:

    NZ passes royal succession law

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 12 Dec, 2013

    Brett, I actually enjoy playing a little game I call: Why is religion stupid?, let me count the ways. I know that our deluded Baptist will not be influenced one iota by my argument, but it's those that are wavering in their views that can sometimes be reached. I believe that religion has greatly affected society in a negative way, and still is, and its leaders are still deluding their followers.

    If Christians were forced to confront the despicable actions of their god in the Old Testament or asked to explain how the death of Jesus makes sense if there was no Adam and Eve, or were shown that a god that can save a mother but can't be bothered to save her innocent, defenceless children is not the act of a loving god, then they might begin to question their beliefs. I guess my problem is that I think lying to people is wrong. I hate seeing people live a delusion. As the likes of Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins have said, the universe is such an awe inspiring, mysterious, exciting, wonderful place, why do we need to invent a fantasy world to live in? Embrace reality, not a lie from the Bronze Age.

    As others have said, it is the wishy-washy religious believers in society, harmless as they generally are, that give support to the religious fanatics. And it's the religious fanatics that do the real harm, buoyed by the psychological support from millions of believers. Would the Vatican be so arrogant and dismissive regarding the child abuse claims if not for the millions of Catholics still flocking to their defence? The support is no doubt indirect and unintended, but wishy-washy Catholics give support to the child abusing priests, wishy-washy Muslims give support to the Islamist terrorists, wishy-washy Christians give support to the fundamentalist Christians who kill abortion doctors and persecute homosexuals, wishy-washy Christians give support to the creationist Christians who attack science, wishy-washy Jews give support to that zealous Jews murdering Palestinians, wishy-washy Hindus, Buddhists etc support the fanatical Hindus, Buddhists etc. One person on the Internet criticising Baptist Jim Solouki gave a quote from Sam Harris:

    'This to me is the horror of religion. It allows perfectly decent & sane people to believe by the billions what only lunatics could believe on their own'.
    To sideline the likes of Solouki, their power base must be destroyed. We need to ignore the fanatics, they are a lost cause, we need instead to enlighten the billions whose wishy-washy beliefs and ubiquitous presence give the fanatics the confidence to explode their bombs, spread their hate speech and sneak creationism into our science classes. And again, while directing my comments towards the fanatics may seem to be the opposite of ignoring them, it is merely a useful ploy to expose the flaws in religion. It's the general public whom I hope will read and understand my argument, and if I disturb a few of their beliefs then it won't have been a waste of my time and energy.

    But moving on to something completely different, my view is that the monarchy is an anachronism, and NZ should be moving towards becoming a republic. In the interim, it is only fair that changes have been made to the royal succession rules. There is of course no good reason why a woman should not be the head honcho, and this isn't just a recent thing (ie Queen Liz), think of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) and Queen Victoria (1837-1901). I would still question the succession bit though, what if the eldest child wasn't the most suitable? Should it not go to the family member most qualified for the position, but I guess I'm opening up a real can of worms with that one?

    Showing the religious intolerance that has been inherent in the system for centuries, these new changes now state that 'A person married to a Roman Catholic will also be able to accede to the throne... But the changes will not allow a Roman Catholic to accede to the throne. The King or Queen will continue to be the head of the Church of England and swear an oath to uphold the Protestant religion'.

    I find it wholly inappropriate that my country's head of state is effectively the 'pope' of the Church of England, and that they swear to push the Protestant religion at, obviously, the expense of all other beliefs. In today's society shouldn't our head of state represent all their subjects, and not just a minority who see angels on clouds, and only Protestant angels at that? If they argue that they show no preference when it comes to the beliefs of their subjects, then they are clearly failing to uphold the oath they swore to the Church of England. They are being disrespectful to their position, effectively treating it as a silly fancy dress, just something to keep the ignorant peasants happy.

    And how, in all seriousness, can the law force the monarch to adopt Protestant beliefs? Surely religious belief is a personal thing and something that has to be arrived at freely and honestly? In this day and age it is increasingly more likely that the religious beliefs of young royals will be flagging, if they haven't gone altogether. Does the Church of England really want an atheist as its head, an atheist that is simply pretending to be deluded for the sake of appearances?

    It's a shame that, unlike the USA and France, more countries, including NZ, didn't legislate for a clear separation of church and state. Our taxes shouldn't be going to religious charities, churches and schools for the sole purpose of promoting belief in sky fairies, and our head of state shouldn't be the official head of a sky fairy organisation.

  3. Comment by Brett, 17 Dec, 2013

    Very well put John. I agree the head of state shouldn't be involved in an exclusive non-taxpaying fairy worshipping club.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. Comment by Bob, 18 Dec, 2013

    Hi John. Two years ago I attended a talk given by the head of the Philipines Red Cross. It was very interesting. Unfortunately the people there experience a lot of natural disasters, storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions etc. The reason is the Philipines are situated in one of the most physically unstable parts of the world. We experience disasters here but not nearly as many as the Philipines. Storms such as occurred in Tacloban are fed by the heat energy from the tropics. Those numerous tornadoes in the U.S. are also fed from tropical heat available to the southern states. Tornadoes are unknown in Canada well away from the tropics. The earth is not a benign place. It keeps changing. In the past it has been covered in ice then no ice. The continents have moved all over the place. That creates instability.

    That ignorant idiot you quote is repeating what people thought 2,000 years ago. That was in a pre-scientific and pre mass communications age. Communication was by word of mouth and we know how reliable that is! The priest quoted is correct. How a priest can say that and still believe that prayers and belief are of any value beats me.

    To be fair to the Catholic Church there was a short list of major donations mentioned in the media. It included $13 million from the Vatican. I don't know about transport but I do know the Vatican has a charity wing called Caritas which owns second hand transport planes flown by retired airline pilots probably among others. They are used to transport relief supplies to areas where they are needed.

    The results of our recent census are gradually coming out. I did read that religious observance has decreased by 8 % since the last census. Whether that is correct or not I don't know. It is what I expected though I thought the figure would be higher. People are gradually coming out of the fog of ignorance.

  5. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Dec, 2013

    You're quite right Bob, I'm sure the Catholic Church does contribute to disaster relief, but this fact diverts us from the embarrassing realisation of why they need to. If you have an all-powerful, all-loving god on your side, why must you rely on second hand transport planes and retired pilots to extend a helping hand? This is what Catholics must ask, why their boss isn't playing his part.

    And yes, I'm looking forward to see what the latest census results are re religion. I'm just disappointed that the census questions don't actually determine the difference between disbelief and apathy. While religious affiliation to mainstream churches is decreasing, I don't think religious belief is decreasing to the same degree. Many that tick 'no religion' still believe in some being, some god, that is probably out there somewhere. It's a little bit like trying to determine how many atheists there are by counting how many belong to atheist clubs. The result will be very misleading.

  6. Comment by Romy, 05 Apr, 2014

    From what I've read thus far, your arguments are very logical, so I thought I'd point out a small hole I found.

    You were talking about how many Christians today don't believe in Adam, Eve and original sin, and that they shouldn't need Jesus if there is no original sin.

    From what I understand, most Christians believe that the whole sacrifice thing is about forgiving the sins you commit during your lifetime. After all, according to them the rules are so strict that we can't help but break them constantly. But what that means is that they can continue to believe they need Jesus without believing that the events of genesis literally happened.

  7. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 Apr, 2014

    Hi Romy. Sorry, but I don't believe you have found a hole in my argument, what you've noticed is how hypocritical modern Christians are. You're no doubt correct that many Christians do believe that the whole Jesus 'get out of jail' offer is all about sins they have actually committed in this life. But Jesus didn't believe that, and if they read and believed what their Bible said they would know that they are wrong. Let's remember that if the Bible is true and God exists then original sin exists, and what is required to be saved from it is clearly defined by God and Jesus in the Bible. And if original sin as mentioned in the Bible isn't real, then why should Christians believe that any of the other so-called sins mentioned in the Bible are real? If one error was made, why not many?

    Modern Christians may think they're being clever and sophisticated by dismissing myths such as Adam and Eve, and in the process original sin, along with Biblical verses where God says innocent people will be punished for the sins of their ancestors, but all they are really doing is saying that they don't believe in fundamental statements made in the Bible about the nature and history of God. Of course I do that as well, but I'm an atheist. I don't fool myself and attempt to fool others by calling myself a committed atheist while at the same time quietly believing that Jesus is preparing a place for me when I die.

    Christians argue that much of what God said he did in the Bible never actually happened but then turn around and say that they firmly believe in the promises made to them by God and Jesus in the Bible. Surely if one believes that God lied about most of his early exploits and reneged on his promises, why doesn't this make everything described and promised in the Bible as suspect? Clearly modern Christians are inventing their own religion, one that better fits with their knowledge of science, history and ethics. They have decided that they, not God, will decide what hoops they must jump through to get into heaven. It is this arrogance, that they can rewrite God's rules to suit their whims, that is the flaw in modern Christian belief.

    Your argument is that modern Christians believe they can dismiss the very foundation of their religion while still believing they need Jesus for salvation. This is illogical. It's like believing that Hitler committed atrocities during the war but at the same refusing to believe that his parents were real. I shouldn't need to explain the illogical thinking behind this belief, but I feel I must for the many Christians who really struggle with a similar belief. If Hitler's parents never existed then Hitler could never have existed, so he could never have committed atrocities. Likewise if the Biblical stories such as the six day creation, Adam and Eve and original sin, the flood of Noah, the tower of Babel etc never actually happened then there is no good reason to believe that God is real either. These stories are the very foundation of the Bible and belief in God, and if the foundation is flawed or non-existent then everything built on it will crumble. You can not build a true story on a lie. Jesus sincerely believed that the stories and commandments that modern Christians now reject were all true and that belief in them was essential for salvation.

    How can modern Christians believe in Jesus if at the same time they believe that what he believed was false? This is the problem that you have noticed with the original sin story.

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?

Prayer

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 Oct, 2013 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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Comments:

  1. Comment by Jonathon, 14 Oct, 2013

    The really hard bit is to work out exactly how this silly belief took hold, and under what conditions it might be amenable to reason. I've been looking at this for a long time and have made only limited progress. One possible leads:

    social in grouping. To profess (publicly at least) silly beliefs has long been used as a condition of membership of many high status groups. This is being slowly eroded with public prayers and swearing on the bible now less compulsory in courts and parliament etc. I have read that the sillier the belief, then the greater the social cohesion. More ridicule from the muggles or gentiles leads to a stronger silly belief provided the in group stands firm. The fear of losing social status and friends is strong. Cults like the closed brethren use such social control blatantly.

    I have often thought that those of us who wish to rid ourselves of superstition and unfounded confidence in unreliable info are best to form strong social clubs and groups where our desire to be rational is a condition of membership. I belong to NZ Skeptics, and I guess I should look at the Rationalist Assoc. too.

    However mainstream groups can at least be rid of the silly belief requirement. We should always challenge this, as did Ms Bullock (I think her name was) when she refused to go along with Maori tikanga that discriminated against women. More to the point is the christian prayers and ethos that has seeped into so many organizations. Church and state are not separated when you have a christian (or any religious) prayer at the opening of parliament.

    I strongly commend the writer for asking the sensible questions about the prayers and assumptions in this case. Rational people should take most opportunities to gently question what appear to be very silly and potentially destructive ideas. Again the hard bit is to know exactly how and when to say these things in order to be most effective. However I do think repetition may help provided it does not lead to the listener switching off as it has all come from the same person. The false belief (from all I have read) that there were contemporary eye-witnesses that Jesus actually existed seems to be built on centuries of repetition. The biblical scholars for example have never been confident the "gospels" were actually written by Jesus's disciples MML and J.

    A third point is that high self esteem is I think associated with social status. High SE means perceived high social status and this drives much behaviour. If we could reduce self-esteem and narcissism (which is on the rise frighteningly) then silly beliefs might be less intractable.

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 15 Oct, 2013

    Hi Jonathon. I feel that in past eras lower IQs and a lack of knowledge generally made it easier to truly believe in gods, but I don't understand how someone today can honestly say their best friend in the world is someone they have never met. I agree that many will fake belief for acceptance into groups where religious belief is the norm or to avoid alienating an extended family. But in private, and in the company of an atheist, why do they maintain their belief, even to the extent of arguing that it makes sense? You won't find me arguing vociferously over things I know little about, but even though most believers know little about their religion, they defend it forcefully and emotionally, and due to their ignorance, pathetically. As you say, most Christians erroneously believe that there is secular evidence that Jesus actually existed and that the gospels were written by his disciples. To believe so strongly in something they know so little about is mystifying. Since their belief is so important to them, and is so crucial to their future wellbeing, you'd think they'd be critically examining it to ensure they were following the correct path to salvation. But no. Christians have been instructed that reason is anathema to their God and that faith — believing without evidence, and even against contrary evidence and reason — is the way to believe blindly in the mysteries of God.

    Today everyone, religious or otherwise, would openly express their astonishment if a colleague or friend said they believed in leprechauns, fairies or even visiting aliens and would challenge them to defend this claim. We must encourage people to likewise express astonishment and ask for reasons when people say they believe some god is keeping them company. Religion will remain a blot on the landscape if we continue to lie to believers, if we allow them to believe their thoughts and actions make sense. Parents impress on their children from a very young age that it is wrong to steal, lie and kill, and that there are no monsters in the closet or under the bed. Eventually they even tell them that there is no Santa Claus. So why do so many parents refuse to tell them the truth about gods? Surely if they can accept that there are no monsters in the closet or under the bed, then there are likely none watching us from clouds either? As I've said, I can't understand why religious adults can easily dismiss all manner of monsters and fantasy beings and can use reason to resolve problems in real world affairs, but stumble and fall when it comes to thinking about one god from a pool of thousands. It's irrational, and they seem to sustain this silly belief by simply not thinking about it. Just after I wrote this comment, by coincidence I received Stephen Prothero's ebook 'Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — and Doesn't', and the first paragraph of his introduction seems to verify this view. Prothero writes of when 'a visiting professor from Austria offered a passing observation about American undergraduates. They are very religious, he told me, but they know next to nothing about religion. Thanks to compulsory religious education (which in Austria begins in elementary schools), European students can name the twelve apostles and the Seven Deadly Sins, but they wouldn't be caught dead going to church or synagogue themselves. American students are just the opposite. Here faith without understanding is the standard; here religious ignorance is bliss'.

    'Faith without understanding' is also the norm in NZ.

  3. Comment by Bob, 15 Oct, 2013

    At 93 this lady's ideas were being formed 80 years ago. She has spent all her life believing what she was told in her early years. With due respect for her she has probably been a housewife who has learned little outside the home and she has been influenced by the authority of her church. Most likely she has spent her life looking after a house and family. Outside of that she has known little and had little reason to think of anything other than scone recipes.

    I might sound like a chauvinist but in my early years working I went around homes repairing television sets. I was well aware of the difficulties of trying to explain to a housewife who didn't believe why she couldn't get good reception on channel X. I would explain that reflected signals from a building some distance away were causing the problem. Curing the problem meant shifting house. Very often she approached the problem with her limited knowledge being sure she was right. She would tell me her friend down the street had a perfect picture so why couldn't I just fix hers. No amount of technical explanation made any impression. I found however that women who worked outside the home in offices or factories were more understanding. The reason being they saw all the problems of electronic equipment and realised their TV set was little different from the copying machine in the office which needed regular attention. Of course men can be just as difficult but they are subject to more everyday experience generally than their wives.

    Before becoming a TV technician I worked in offices. Looking back I realise tradesmen are more logical generally than administrative workers. The reason is that you can't fix a washing machine with faith. You have to understand how it works. Office workers by and large work on routine which requires little individual thinking. Tradesmen are much less likely to believe in religion, the paranormal and alternative therapies. That is not meant to be a putdown of office workers but that is my experience of workers in different areas. The more experience people have the more logical they are.

    It is not hard to understand how this relates back to religion. People with limited experience know what they know and are sure they are right. That is why we get those staunch creationists. Very often they have to be hit emotionally hard to rock the foundation. A couple lose their 3 year old daughter to liver disease and feel cheated by God. They promptly lose their faith. That is of course illogical.

    Young people now are not having religion drilled into them the way it was 50 years ago. With much wider communications such as the internet they are exposed to varying views. Atheists such as Richard Dawkins would hardly have been known in the past. Even your blog reaches people easily. In the past you would have had to publish a book and get it stocked in bookshops and libraries assuming you could persuade a publisher to publish it. Religious observance is declining because young people are being exposed to more ranging views and knowledge. They can analyse religion for themselves and find it irrelevant and irrational.

    Don't be too hard on that old lady. As the present generation passes away the new young generation comes along with new improved ideas battling conservatism. That is how humanity improves pulling itself up by it's bootstraps. Fewer and fewer believe in the invisible godfather.

  4. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 16 Oct, 2013

    Hi Bob. I feel you have captured my elderly relative perfectly. This is what I alluded to in my comment to Jonathon when I mentioned people from past eras. Although I was thinking of medieval peasants the same logic applies, limited experience colours how you view the world. Although the intellectual gulf between medieval peasants and a 21st century citizen is vast compared to that citizen and my relative, she truly is a product of the last century. Unlike me for example, she has never read a book on science or religion, she has no qualifications, she has never been in the workforce, she has never travelled overseas, and she experienced her childhood when NZ was far more religious than it is now. She is in a sense a 20th century version of the medieval peasant.

    You're right that youth today are generally finding religion irrelevant and irrational, due to the vast number of books, movies and internet sites that expose its flaws, which simply didn't exist decades ago. I remember that the first book that promoted atheism I ever saw, or even heard of, was in the late 80s. It was a library book called 'The Atheist Debater's Handbook' by B C Johnson. It would be many, many years before bookshops actually stocked books critical of religion, from the likes of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. I went from being unable to find books on religion, apart from the Bible, to where I now have well over a hundred titles on atheism alone. The religious now have to actively shield themselves from a secular world that has no qualms in exposing flaws in religion.

    As for my elderly relative, I've never discussed religion with her, and frankly I think it would be a waste of time. It may be too late for her, but we must remember that there are still many younger people out there ('Bible in Schools' is not for the elderly), who have the same belief as my relative, that it is perfectly rational to put trust in someone that you've never met, and that you will never meet. We must help them see the error in this thinking, make them realise that they can be more than a medieval peasant.

  5. Comment by Mike, 16 Oct, 2013

    I don't think that IQ's were any lower in the past — I think there was less knowledge in the past, but that's not the same thing at all.

    And for literally 95% of recorded human history (4750/5000 years, give or take) there was no better explanation for "everything" than an omnipotent fairy, or one of several bunches of jealous and inbred semi-omnipotent fairies, or something similar. It is a habit I believe humanity will grow out of eventually — but I have no hope it will happen in my lifetime — although that doesn't stop me saying so in the mean time!

  6. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 17 Oct, 2013

    Hi Mike. I agree that IQ is not the same as knowledge (and that IQ is not quite the same thing as intelligence). I also used to think that IQs have probably been static over the last few thousand years, but evidently that's not the case. Clearly there have been some very intelligent people in the past, and some very stupid people today, but evidently IQ has increased over the years. This has been shown by Prof James Flynn from the University of Otago who 'researches intelligence and is famous for his publications about the continued year-after-year increase of IQ scores throughout the world, which is now referred to as the Flynn effect'. This Wikipedia article states that 'Researchers have shown that the IQ gains described by the Flynn effect are due in part to increasing intelligence, and in part to increases in test-specific skills'.

    But all this aside, like you I accept that for most of history people had a 'good excuse' for believing in gods, but that no longer applies to people today in the developed world that have had an education and have ready access to the media, libraries, the Internet etc. It's people that can use a smart phone and organise a mortgage but still can't see the stupidity in begging an invisible god that I have a problem with. A medieval peasant could rightly plead ignorance, but we can ignore this, what excuse can a family member, neighbour or colleague give today for believing in nonsense? My present gripe is not about whether religious belief could be justified in the past, but whether it can be justified now?

Psychic mediums and the afterlife
Sue Nicholson 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?

Nicholson: How about showing me what you skeptics can do? Why can't we have someone who is a skeptic go and do the test? I might do it I might not. The thing is, I don't have to prove myself to anyone.'

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:

James Randi $1,000,000 paranormal challenge
$100,000 Psychic Challenge in Wanaka, NZ
Australian Skeptics $100,000 psychic challenge
UK Psychic challenge £12,000

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.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 12 Sep, 2013 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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Comments:

  1. Comment by Aynsley, 12 Sep, 2013

    For the last 2 yrs plus I have been a subscriber to a free weekly email from a well known Canadian psychic, now resident in the USA called Blair Robertson. He has a website under the same name. Emails always have 4 predictions. My motives are devious — checking, researching, waiting. This man lives the life of riley tripping around Nth America to packed venues. His site refers to high success rates. Predictions often involve quakes as well as celebrities lives, politics and tragedies. Of course he does a lucrative business with personal readings at USD250 for 30 mins or 500 dollars for 1 hour. Problem is all my recording, research etc reveals a very poor success rate. Can find no evidence of personal readings accuracy either to justify the ridiculous price tag. He claims his insights have helped many. He often ends a sentence with the words "love and light". My suspicious mind tells me that with the likes of politics, celebrities, some research and the right contacts could easily give a good strike rate for those "predictions". Of the huge number of quake predictions I've received hardly any have been correct. Nothing happens or time frames/locations are way out. Like one for a Pacific island nation a few mths ago. It happened within 2 days but in another island nation 200kms east. He claims success re. the Christchurch Sept. 2010 7.1. Checking archives shows he mentioned a sizable shake somewhere in the sth island of nz in August!!! These 2 examples may indicate the man has a small ability or gift which he cashes in on handsomely. Problem is what real use to anyone are these mostly vague, wrong rubbish predictions?

    Conveniently he calls it all "experimentation" and "entertainment". The latter he may be required to say by law. He also says "I call it time projected empathy, where I imagine myself reading the headlines in the future". Doh. A bad prediction, he will say "I pray I am wrong" Huh? We are told to "Enjoy". Scaring the pants off vulnerable people with dire quake warnings is ok, just enjoy it's only entertainment so what the heck.There is a forum on his site to place comments after each weekly lot of predictions. I call it the I love Blair fan club. Full of inane comments like "Blair, you are awesome man" "I love you Blair", Fantastic, love your predictions, etc. etc. Many ask questions on individual predictions but of course the man himself seldom replies.

    With all this what amazes me is the silence when a prediction is wrong or doesn't come to pass but when one comes even remotely close accolades pour in. Weird stuff. Rarely someone writes to challenge and disagree. I was one of these to exercise my right re. the constant failed quake predictions. Instantly I became a criminal. How dare I. The shock, the tension was obvious. Many said little and tried to be polite but 2 vitriolic females gave it to me with both barrels. I was called stupid and an idiot. Was told "to get a life", that "I don't get it", referred to as a wimp for mentioning the word scary re. quake predictions etc. Obviously the writer has never experienced a 7.1 and thousands of aftershocks. No empathy, no politeness just nastiness in a misguided loyalty act. The man himself responded by saying some critcism comes with the territory and it never makes any difference to him. Surprise, surprise. It wouldn't would it? There is a super lifestyle and income to hold onto. What truly comes through is the incredible gullibility of so many in all this. How I would love to see you, John, enter their little forum and tear these idiots to shreds as only you could. Sadly, many unfortunates have something lacking, or have vacuums in their lives. Perhaps one of the vitriolics was partly right. I guess I don't really "get it".

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 12 Sep, 2013

    You're quite right, it's amazing that these morons can miss or easily discount the numerous obvious failures and focus instead on some rare ambiguous success. It's like the silly Christians who pick up an injured baby from a plane crash and proclaim it's a miracle — Thank God! — and ignore the other 200 mangled, dead bodies surrounding them. How can they be so blind? Clearly many are lacking in the IQ count and desperately want their fantasies to be true. As young children they were read stories of rabbits in waistcoats and fairy godmothers and glass slippers, and they believed them. They're now adults but they still think like children, and reason and logic has great difficulty penetrating their fantasy world.

    As for the likes of psychic Blair Robertson, they are scammers and like any scammer will say whatever it takes to get people to hand over money. Some skeptics claim that these psychic mediums truly believe in their supernatural powers, that they are deluded but honest in that they are fooled into believing their own hype. I don't buy this. High profile mediums have had plenty of exposure to the evidence and reasons that show them to be cheating, or at the very least, mistaken in their claims. Really low IQ people could of course remain ignorant to the truth, but successful, high profile mediums need a certain level of intelligence to run their business and dodge the skeptics. They may have initially been fooled by the voices in their head, but they must now be aware of the robust criticism of their claims and must be at least suspicious as to whether what they do is real. You can't be bright enough to con people and yet too stupid to realise you're doing it. Mediums refuse testing for a reason. Mediums shun skeptics for a reason. And that reason is that they know only too well that they have something to hide. An honest, open and truly deluded medium would welcome testing in a heartbeat, being utterly convinced that what they do is real and that they couldn't fail. They would want the world to see what they see, and to know the truth. They would hate that many in society view them as deluded, or worse, as devious cheats ripping off fragile, gullible people. Mediums like Blair Robertson, Sue Nicholson, Deb Webber and Kelvin Cruickshank are almost certainly deluded in some of their views, but they are equally aware that some level of cheating and lying is involved in their business that needs to be hidden at all costs. These people love public exposure but flee whimpering into the shadows when a skeptical question is asked. They don't seek the truth, they seek unquestioning fools with plenty of cash.

  3. Comment by Chris, 10 Dec, 2013

    Deb doesn't like pesky skeptics, and neither does the spirit world — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUQXCGX1zns. How anyone could believe that BS is beyond me.

    Keep up the good work.

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