Ascent out of Darkness ~ Armchair Philosophy from the 'Silly Beliefs' Team
|Ghost stories, or how to terrify kids|
Do you think that adults that terrify young children with horror stories — true horror stories — are acting responsibly? And by "true" we mean stories that are actually fictitious, but the children are falsely lead to believe that they are true. Are parents being good loving parents if they fill their children's heads with stories of invisible beings that exist in the world, some of which are out to do them harm? Of course most parents tell their young, naive and impressionable children scary stories, such as the one about the three pigs and their run-in with the Big Bad Wolf, but do any parents leave the kids thinking that the story is actually true, and do any kids seriously believe that talking pigs and wolves are real? The harmful scary stories we're referring to are the ones that feature ghosts, haunted houses and evil spirits, things that parents are often reluctant to dismiss as mere fairy tales. And while kids can quickly see that in the real world pigs don't talk or build houses, they can't readily see that spirits aren't real, because of course they're said to be invisible, and things do go bump in the night.
The other day we received the following email:
'I just wanted to know about what you think about ghosts, hauntings and possessing. My daughter has nightmares and can't go to sleep because she keeps thinking of dead people, dolls etc. I hope you understand what I mean. If in any case these are real (and I know that they can be faked too), maybe you could explain the likelihood of these things happening or something, so I know nothing like that would happen to her, so she will be safe from the fear of it all.As we've already said to our correspondent, the short answer is that there are no ghosts, no houses being haunted and no bodies being possessed. Her daughter is being scared by things that don't exist, and have never existed. After watching movies like Shrek, the Smurfs and Garfield, kids don't suddenly start believing in green ogres or blue Smurfs or talking orange cats, because sensible, caring parents tell their children that they aren't real, that they're just silly stories made up for fun. But when it comes to stories and movies about ghosts and haunted houses, many parents let their children believe that they could be real, when they should be doing their utmost to assure their kids that ghosts, good or bad, are not real, and that they have nothing to fear from them because they don't exist. They're just made-up stories, and where stories of Shrek the Ogre are designed to make them laugh, ghost stories are deliberately made up to scare them. And the thing is that both kids and adults like to laugh at stories and also like to be scared by stories, but when the story is finished, we must remind ourselves, and especially our children, that there are no evil ghosts, or nice ghosts, or even friendly ogres.
So why is it that kids, and many adults too, come to genuinely fear meeting a ghost but not the Big Bad Wolf? Why, at a reasonably young age and without fail, do children happily and readily give up belief in the likes of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and a myriad of other talking animals, but many struggle to lose their belief in ghosts, spirits, haunted houses and other paranormal nonsense? Why do they continue to believe in unseen ghosts but not unseen leprechauns? Why do they think that unseen malevolent spirits might have caused a speeding car to slam into a bridge, but not an equally transparent evil troll living under that bridge? Why do they suspect that a poltergeist might have caused a lamp to fall, but not gremlins? As they matured and learnt more about the world and as their critical thinking skills improved, they dismissed untold fantasy beings, such as Santa, as childish nonsense, and untold beliefs, such as babies being delivered by storks, as primitive thinking. Time and time again beliefs they had accepted unquestionably as young children are reconsidered in the light of new information and thrown on the trash heap.
I mean seriously, in what way is Casper the Friendly Ghost any more believable than Shrek the Ogre or Olaf the Snowman from the movie 'Frozen'? So why do children, and it must be depressingly acknowledged, a huge number of adults, go through their lives believing in ghosts, spirits and haunted houses and harbour a fear of being possessed or attacked by one of the more malevolent versions of these wispy entities? They hear a mysterious bump in the night and immediately think ghost, whereas when they see a fleeting movement in their backyard during the day, they think kids, a roaming dog or even a burglar, but never an ogre or a dancing snowman. Why not?
God, that's why not. Isn't it amazing that so many of our woes in life all come back to a primitive, superstitious, irrational belief in unseen gods? Of course some might argue that many people that believe in ghosts and spirits and haunted houses are not all that religious, they know or care little about gods, some might even claim to be atheists. And this is true, but the fact is that although they don't realise it, their thinking about ghosts is informed by religion, not by science or medieval architecture or gardening or any other interest they may have. Still don't see the connection? Let's explain.
The things our correspondent is asking about are 'ghosts, hauntings and possessing', and their connection with 'dead people', all of which are causing nightmares for her daughter. So what is a ghost? My dictionary defines a ghost as,
That definition raises another term for ghost — a spirit — and my dictionary definition for spirit is,
To haunt or possess simply describes the behaviour of these ghosts or spirits, what they do to fill in their days or nights. To haunt means to 'To inhabit, visit, or appear to in the form of a ghost or other supernatural being', and the possession of a person means 'The state of being dominated by evil spirits'.
So to return to the common definition of a ghost, it means the 'spirit of a dead person, their soul'. Now what enterprise or what groups have ever claimed that humans have souls, immaterial souls, and that on death these souls depart the material body to become spirits or ghosts? Only one: religion. Throughout history thousands of religions have all promoted the belief in humans having a soul, defined as, 'The spiritual nature of human beings, regarded as immortal, separable from the body at death, and susceptible to happiness or misery in a future state'. Religion, and only religion, has since time immemorial pushed the belief that the human spirit survives death and continues to exist in a form that can at times be detected or sensed by the living, and that even when unseen, the ghosts of the departed are often still watching us and messing with us. Every culture for thousands of years has wondered and worried about the wellbeing of the spirits of those that have died. From the ancient Egyptians constructing gigantic pyramids and conducting elaborate funeral rites to safeguard the spirit of the Pharaoh and the Vikings dying bravely in battle to ensure their spirit went to Valhalla, to the ancestor worship of Asian cultures and the rituals performed by Maori to placate the dead, belief in ghosts or spirits has been widespread and ongoing. Even today in more enlightened times, when someone dies religious adults (and even those who are not so religious), tell their children (and each other) that grandma has gone to a better place, that she's now watching over them from Heaven. We're told that her spirit still exists and will be with us forever, that she hasn't really left us. The phrase 'Rest in Peace' is what people intone at funerals, with the clear implication that grandma isn't actually dead, but merely resting. Her ghost is reclining on a comfy sofa that's floating on a cloud, and she's spying on us through a pair of opera glasses.
So since adults go to such great lengths to convince themselves and their children that the spirits of their departed loved ones still exist, and are watching over them, even protecting them, then naturally they must wonder when something strange happens; a bump in the night, a door slams by itself, the curtains flutter for no apparent reason, the body suddenly feels a shiver, or a movement is caught out the corner of the eye, but then nothing is seen, are these things signs of a spirit, of a ghost moving about, of grandma trying to communicate? If you're taught from a young age that spirits exist and ghosts are real, then of course you're going to start misidentifying unusual, but completely natural, events as having a supernatural cause. Just as people that know little about the night sky often mistake the planet Venus for an alien spaceship, people often mistake a sneaky cat in a darkened room for a ghost.
Without religion, without a belief in supernatural gods that create spirits in the first place and give them a home to return to, there would be no belief in ghosts or haunted houses or bodily possession by evil spirits. When our car or smartphone "dies" we don't think that the car or phone's spirit carries on. No, they simply cease to exist as working items, they are "dead" and gone. End of story. We may even miss them, but it would be utterly ridiculous to pretend that their spirit still exists in another realm, and that occasionally our old phone calls us and then hangs up before we answer. But this is exactly what religion does, unwilling to accept death as the end they invent this nonsense that everyone that has died is still floating around as invisible ghosts, spying on the living, even sitting on our sofas and sleeping in our beds. But what's wrong with that, the religious will say, wouldn't you want your departed family to still be watching over you?
But think about what that means, that the likes of Hitler is also watching over us, and that creepy old guy that used to live down the street. Oh no, they cry, Hitler is locked away in Hell, whereas Grandma and all the nice dead folk are in Heaven, and only people in Heaven are free to watch over us and wander the Earth. But again, think about what that means. You spend years pulling the curtains so that one neighbour doesn't spy you in the shower or undressing, and yet God has created an enormous amphitheatre of perverts, hundreds of millions all watching you in the shower, and where pulling the silly curtain is a waste of time, since they can see through walls. If someone believes in spirits, why do they fixate over one neighbour who probably isn't even looking, and not care in the slightest about hundreds of millions of spirits watching them? I don't care how nice a person your granny was, I don't want her and her friends watching me get dressed, or even critiquing my choice in books.
And contrary to the religious belief that evil spirits are safely contained in Hell being endlessly tortured, if the majority of ghost stories are to be believed, especially as told in movies and books, then it's almost always evil spirits, ghosts, demons and curses that are threatening the living in some way. Even movies that have good ghosts still seem to have them battling evil ghosts. If Casper the Friendly Ghost was the only ghost story we had, then adults would have lost interest in ghosts long ago. Let's remember that Casper was called "the Friendly Ghost" because he was unusual, in that all the other ghosts weren't friendly.
You'll often note that if you talk of ghosts and spirits with people that they never start out mentioning religion or God, but once you raise certain problems with ghosts then the explanations offered will nearly always move to talk of heaven and Hell, which of course implies the Christian God, even if they don't mention him by name. If you ask how, when a person is alive, their immaterial soul can communicate with their material body, then they argue that God has the power to do seemingly impossible things. If you question why scientists can't detect ghosts, when they can detect, measure and explain other particles and forces that are invisible to human senses, believers always fall back on the claim that ghosts are supernatural, outside the world of science, which again takes us back to religious beliefs.
This is why children quickly lose their belief in the likes of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, but not in ghosts and haunted houses, because adults that they trust lie to them. When they confront their parents with their skeptical concerns about Santa, fairies and talking bunnies, their parents immediately come clean and admit that it was all a harmless game, that they, their friends and society at large all conspired to make it appear that Santa and his friends were real, and yes, it was all a huge lie. But essentially a harmless lie, and we're telling you the truth now before it gets out of hand. And well done kids for seeing through it, you really have matured intellectually. There is no attempt made to continue the charade, once children express real doubt, then the truth is revealed and that is the end of the matter. Never again is any effort made by adults to drag those children back to a belief in silly, invisible beings.
But what a different tack we see when these same children express real doubt about ghosts and spirits, things that are just as silly and unbelievable as talking bunnies. It's not everyone thankfully, but still we get a majority of parents and adults, much of society in fact, reassuring their children (and each other) that ghosts and spirits are indeed real, or if they don't actually come out and say they're real, their silence and refusal to quickly dismiss them suggests to children that they are likely real. Of course these adults don't believe that Casper the Friendly Ghost is real, but they certainly belief that the soul is real, that this soul or spirit leaves the body on death, and that this disembodied spirit is what we commonly call a ghost. They also believe strongly that these spirits, souls, ghosts, call them what you will, are part of their God's supernatural world, and thus to dismiss spirits as superstitious nonsense would be to dismiss God as superstitious nonsense. Spirits and God are inextricably linked, shake your child's belief in spirits and you immediately shake their belief in God. If spirits don't exist, then the human soul likely doesn't exist, and if adults are wrong about the human soul existing, then might it be that they're also wrong about God existing?
Parents continually reassure their young children that there are no monsters under their bed or in their closet, that the monsters they fear exist only in fairy tales and make-believe movies. And surely this is what rational, loving parents should do, allay the very real, understandable fears of their children with the truth. But when it comes to allaying their fears about ghosts, many parents are torn, wanting to comfort their child, but at the same time not wanting to destroy their child's belief in ghosts, because of course the parents themselves think ghosts are real. Well, the Christian sort at least, maybe not the Hollywood version exactly, think the 'Ghostbusters' movie. But let's remember that while the story in that movie was fictional (no, honest, it was), believers in ghosts will assure you that it was based on the exploits of real ghostbusters. Even where we live we have a team of ghost hunters investigating reported sightings and just hoping they don't get slimed as they wander through creepy old houses at night. But as silly as the 'Ghostbusters' movie was, and as terrifying as many other ghost movies are, parents are reluctant to dismiss belief in ghosts because to do so would be to dismiss an important part of their religious beliefs, beliefs they are naturally trying to instil in their children. Let's remember that, if you believe the Bible, even Jesus appeared as a ghost to his followers after his death. To dismiss ghosts and spirits is to dismiss the word of the Bible, the word of God.
So should parents terrify their vulnerable children by allowing them to believe in ghosts? No, of course not. And we're not saying that parents deliberately terrify their kids with scary ghost stories, but once kids hear the stories, hear the claims that ghosts and spirits are real, a belief that their parents don't actively deny and even encourage by talking of the spirit of grandma, books and especially graphic Hollywood movies then take over, and next thing you know, ghosts have crept into their nightmares. What we're saying is that parents should make a genuine effort to acquaint themselves with how the world really works, realise that there are no gods, and then they can honestly tell their children the truth, that just like Santa, magic dragons and unicorns, ghosts don't exist either. There are unfortunately many real things in the world to fear, things that truly can harm you, such as poisonous snakes, murderers, vicious dogs and earthquakes, so it just seems so stupid to make up imaginary threats to add to our list of real fears.
Of course believers in ghosts and haunted houses will demand to know how we know ghosts don't exist, and if they don't, why do many adults say that they do? The simple response to that challenge is that we can't prove ghosts don't exist, but since there is no good evidence that they do, then it is rational and reasonable to conclude that they don't. Just as we can't prove that fairies, trolls, gremlins and leprechauns don't exist, the lack of evidence for them, and the scientific theories that explain the world without them needing to exist, means that we can safely say they aren't real, at least until someone catches one. Of course there are people that say they have evidence of ghosts or of communication with spirits, just as there are people that claim to have evidence of alien abductions, witches, Bigfoot and the remains of Noah's Ark. The thing that all these diverse believers have in common is that they all consistently fail to any produce evidence that someone that isn't already a committed, dyed-in-the-wool believer would accept. Someone that believes in the existence of ghosts, or aliens or Bigfoot, is claiming that there is something extra in the world, something the rest of us can't see, so the burden of proof is on them to prove their claim. It would be foolish to expect the skeptic to prove each ghost sighting to be mistaken, since no matter how many sightings are debunked, it can easily be claimed that another ghost has just been sighted somewhere else. The debunking of sightings would be endless, and no matter how many were debunked, it would never prove that a real ghost wasn't hiding just out of sight. But believers in ghosts could end the debate tomorrow by producing just a single ghost, or good evidence of one. Just one is needed to get science investigating ghosts. Psychic mediums, those that claim to be in frequent communication with the spirits of dead people, could also easily prove their existence and confound and amaze us doubting skeptics, but they too refuse to reveal what they know. In fact they actively hide their skills, saying factual but mundane stuff that any idiot could just guess, and purposely making mistake after mistake to give the impression that they're just making things up.
It probably won't come as a surprise to readers when we say that simply claiming something, no matter how extraordinary that claim might be, is deceptively easy, the far more difficult thing to do is to produce evidence that your claim is actually true. Scientists have made claims about neutrinos, black holes, dark matter and weak nuclear forces, all things that we can't see, and that are actually very difficult to detect, but they have worked hard to produce strong evidence that these things actually exist. Believers in more things that we can't see — ghosts and haunted houses — want the world to take their claims seriously too, but rather than produce evidence, they just want us to take their word for it.
We've argued that it is religion that informs our belief in ghosts, it is religion that fleshes out the details of where ghosts come from, how they appear to us, and what they might be up to. Without religion there would be no idea of ghosts. In the past books built on this belief in ghosts, curses and haunted places, but now it is Hollywood that carries the torch for ghosts, that shows people exactly what ghosts look like, how they behave and what they desire. Today when people describe ghosts they are usually describing what they saw in a movie. But we've got news for these people. Hollywood movies where poltergeists terrorise a family, where a spirit possesses a teenage girl, where villagers fight supernatural forces to lift a curse, where ghosts of the dead come back to help the living, where archaeologists accidentally invoke the evil spirit of a long-dead mummy, these sorts of movies should not to be thought of as evidence, anymore than 'Shrek' is evidence of ogres or 'Independence Day' is evidence of marauding aliens. How many people know that the 'The Amityville Horror', a movie that actually claims to be based on a true story, was a complete lie? While the house and family were real, nothing in the movie concerning ghosts terrorising a family ever happened. The entire story was a hoax made up by George and Kathy Lutz and lawyer William Weber over a bottle of wine, simply to make money. It was as real to them as 'Star Wars' was to George Lucas. And a while back we wrote about how a local TV current affairs show told lies about ghosts in 'How to fake a haunted house'. There is no truth to be found in ghost stories, but there certainly is money to be found.
So again, ghosts only exist because of religion. If people stopped believing in gods then belief in ghosts would disappear too. Without gods, without the supernatural, without a realm for the spirits to come from and return to, then people would hear a bump in the night and wonder what had fallen over, not think that ghosts were roaming the halls, or they'd feel a cold draft across their neck and think, I must close that window, and not, I wonder what my dead granny is trying to tell me?
We're sure that parents wouldn't tell their kids that an evil bogeyman was going around killing children as they slept, and yet the frightening reality is that many adults are perfectly willing to allow children to believe bogus things that they must know will terrify them, like the belief that evil spirits doing who knows what are wandering the Earth. We find it utterly reprehensible that many parents allow their trusting young children to believe in, and be terrified by, ghost stories.
|Numerology — another silly belief|
Have you heard of numerology? It's a low-key form of divination that's been around for thousands of years, and like astrology, it claims, falsely of course, to be able to reveal your character and your future. It does this by examining the magic power that numbers apparently have. Numerologists don't have the exposure that astrologers have, you won't read their bogus predictions in magazines or in your newspaper, and while most people know what astrological sign they are, few will know, or care, what their numerology number is. There is of course a very good reason why numerology isn't well known, and why you didn't learn about it in science class. It's because it's complete bullshit. Although don't be fooled into thinking that because astrology is better known and they have their horoscope books for sale in bookshops that it isn't complete bullshit too. Of course it is. Astrologers along with a handful of god botherers have by some unfortunate quirk of history managed to keep their silly belief in the public eye, whereas numerologists, along with those that believe in a flat Earth or that storks deliver babies, have struggled to keep their silly belief relevant in the modern age. Our talk of such nonsense was motivated by Ron who writes,
'Hi John. Whilst on a net site a box appeared telling me I can get a free report from a Numerologist simply by supplying my birth date and name, then click. I tried but never received a report that was to tell me stuff about myself and future ups and downs, etc.The Wikipedia article on 'Numerology' states that,
'Numerology is any belief in the divine, mystical relationship between a number and one or more coinciding events. It is also the study of the numerical value of the letters in words, names and ideas. It is often associated with the paranormal, alongside astrology and similar divinatory arts.'We'd say that thanks to Ron's skeptical research, he's now got numerology accurately labelled. It is indeed a big scam, a waste of time and nothing but pseudoscience, and this more detailed article on numerology agrees, stating that,
'despite all the pseudo-scientific pretentiousness that is part of the process, Numerology is nothing more than an elaborate form of deception, relying upon gullibility and self-delusion.'What follows isn't an in-depth debunking of numerology, it's more about questioning how people can accept not just numerology, but belief in astrology and gods and other wacky ideas for which a smattering of reason should have long ago written off as primitive superstition. While we're no experts on numerology, we are familiar with its basic claims and understand enough about it to realise it is utter bullshit. Believers might view this as arrogance, dismissing something without first examining it in depth. But just as we can dismiss belief in Santa as childish nonsense without knowing what all of his reindeer are called or how many children are on his delivery list, likewise we can confidently dismiss numerology without knowing exactly what effect different numbers have, or whether Pythagoras and Newton believed in it. If we were to accept beliefs based on what famous people from the distant past believed, then we would have to believe the world was flat, that the Sun goes around the Earth, that demons cause mental illness, that blood-letting can cure any disease, that whites are superior to blacks and men superior to women, that slavery is acceptable, that all matter is made of just four elements, earth, wind, fire and air; and a million other false beliefs that were thought true in the past. Any belief that must reject what modern science says about its claims, and instead must look to what some comparatively ignorant person from the distant past claimed, is immediately showing how flawed it is. We're not saying the likes of Pythagoras and Newton were stupid, we're saying that they were ignorant, that is, lacking the knowledge available to us today about how the world actually works. If what some ancient person claimed was actually true, eg numerology works, then modern science would quickly show that it is indeed still true today. Gravity sucked back then, it still sucks today, poison killed back then, it still kills today.
As Ron says, numerology is very much like astrology. It was yet another attempt by primitive, superstitious people in the dim past to try and understand man's place in the world and how the cosmos was influencing our behaviour. Everyone was religious and superstitious, and quite ignorant of how the natural world worked. Most everyone believed that some great mystical power had created the world and its inhabitants, and that everything happens based on some grand plan. Let's acknowledge that a plan implies a planner, that a plan encompassing the entire cosmos is grand indeed, and that any planner that can design and create the universe and life, and control how it unfolds, is by normal definition called a god. So numerology apparently needs a powerful god at the base of any explanation as to how it works, but a different god to that found in any religion. Naturally people tried to understand what part they were to play in this plan, what their purpose was, and so they looked everywhere for signs and patterns that they thought might give clues to their destiny. Some sought to interpret their dreams for hidden messages, some sacrificed animals and examined their entrails looking for answers, some looked to the movement of the heavenly bodies and wrote horoscopes to predict the future, some prayed and pleaded with invisible gods to simply reveal his plans for them, some resorted to magic spells to discern the future, others read people's palms or the tea leaves in their mug, some thought that by shuffling and spreading out tarot cards they could see the future, and equally stupid people thought that by converting birth dates and names to numbers they could gain an insight into the future.
That they would come up with such nonsense is all quite understandable, since these were primitive and ignorant times, but that insatiable desire to understand the world has indirectly led to the advanced scientific knowledge we now possess. Our current theories rest on untold false theories that were eventually proved wrong and thrown on the rubbish heap of mistaken ideas, but failures often point you to the correct path. It's no mystery that all those silly beliefs litter our past, what is a mystery is that many modern people still choose the clear failures of the distant past over the proven successes of the present.
The reality is that it's surprising that they even believed in numerology thousands of years ago (and all the other forms of divination bullshit), since there are so many problems with it. Even among practitioners there is differing explanations, meaning guesses, as to how numerology works, since no one has ever managed to detect the occult forces that they imagine imbue numbers with magical qualities. On one website pushing numerology we read that,
'Numerology is the study of numbers, and the occult manner in which they reflect certain aptitudes and character tendencies, as an integral part of the cosmic plan. Each letter has a numeric value that provides a related cosmic vibration. The sum of the numbers in your birth date and the sum of value derived from the letters in the name provide an interrelation of vibrations. These numbers show a great deal about character, purpose in life, what motivates, and where talents may lie. Experts in numerology use the numbers to determine the best time for major moves and activities in life. Numerology is used to decide when to invest, when to marry, when to travel, when to change jobs, or relocate.'Numerology's claimed connection to the occult is enough for intelligent, educated people to dismiss it as fanciful. My dictionary defines occult as: 'Of, relating to, or dealing with supernatural influences, agencies, or phenomena'. Since we know that the supernatural doesn't exist, there can't be any occult or 'supernatural influences' that are impacting on human behaviour or character, or determining when it's the best time to quit my job. Numbers are just mental concepts and can't have a 'cosmic vibration' the way a crystal could. Try going to the store and asking for a box of 5s or a kilogram of 7s. Numbers are no more physical things that can vibrate than are leprechauns. Nor are numbers 'an integral part of the cosmic plan', since a cosmic plan implies a creator of that plan and of the cosmos. With that nonsense we are back to the primitive and superstitious thinking that invisible gods created the cosmos and have a plan for us all. Back to the harmful lies that some creator has planned that some of us will be drug addicts or serial killers or destined to die as babies in horrific house fires, while others, while possessing no merit whatsoever, are destined to live long lives of affluence and power. While certainly not complete, we nevertheless have an amazingly broad understanding of the cosmos, from the very small to the very large, and not once has a supernatural influence ever been detected, nor is there any reason to believe that we need the supernatural to explain anything, nor is there any evidence that suggests that the cosmos is unfolding based on some hard-wired plan.
It's also not true that religion rejects numerology because of its connection to the occult, since the occult is simply the supernatural, which is just another term for religion, so for religion to reject the occult would mean rejecting itself. When a religion, eg Christianity, rejects numerology, they do so not because numerology is making supernatural claims, but because it's making supernatural claims that don't match their supernatural claims. And the reality is that Christianity and Judaism does accept a form of numerology, that some numbers have mystical meaning. Think of the special place the number 7 has in the Bible, plus other numbers that appear often for no reason other than they are obviously somehow special. And don't forget the Number of the Beast, 666, although recent research shows that it is a misprint, and it was originally written as 616.
So science rejects numerology because there is no evidence for it and a mass of evidence against it, while religions reject it solely because it's seen as a competitor in the supernatural stakes.
Let's look at some of the practical difficulties with numerology. Ask an American when man first landed on the Moon and they'll say July 20th, 1969, but ask me, a Kiwi, and I'll say it was July 21st. And we're both correct, since we live on a spinning planet with a designated international date line and so date wise the USA is a day behind NZ. An American and Kiwi could both be born at the same moment in cosmic time, and thus under the identical occult influence, and yet their birth certificates would record two different dates. Thus a numerological analysis on each of them would reveal different information, based as it was on different dates, but it should be the same since they were both born at the same moment under the same occult influence. It's similar with astrology, non-identical twins are born on the same day under the same cosmic influence and yet they're often different in character and in the future events that happen to them, and yet according to the basic tenets of astrology they should be clones of each other. Of course thousands of years ago when numerology (and astrology) was being dreamt up, everyone lived in the same place on a stationary world so no one had to worry about international date lines and conflicting dates for the same event. And just as astrologers don't worry that all the constellations have moved since ancient times, numerologists don't worry whether you were born in the USA or NZ. When you're working with bullshit, there's no need to be all that accurate with dates.
Another problem with taking a date and converting it to a single number, meaning a specific 'cosmic vibration', which then reveals a person's character, is to decide which of the many calendars that have been devised by humans over the millennia accurately reflects the actual dating system that the cosmic plan was built on. A date in the present Gregorian calendar is quite different to one that replaced the old Julian calendar in the 16th century. The likes of the Egyptians, Babylonians and Maya all had their own calendars, with different numbers of days and months, and even today the Muslims still have their own calendar, as do the Jews, so if you were born in Iran then your birth date would be very different on the Muslim calendar compared to the Gregorian calendar. Under numerology each calendar date would give completely different results, even though they were in reality referring to the exact same event. We now consider January to be the first month of the year, since Jan 1st is New Years Day, but that wasn't always the case. Until the 16th century Christians celebrated New Years Day on March 25th, so clearly January wasn't the first month of the year for them. The Jewish New Year falls in September or October, and the Chinese New Year can be in February. So in all these cases where January wasn't the first month of the year, if you were born in January then your birth month wouldn't feature the number '01'. The same would apply to the Babylonians and Greeks who devised numerology and made it popular. Whatever occult influences or cosmic vibrations were at play in the month that would much later come to be called January and much later again come to be called the first month, that month would have had a completely different number than it does now and thus a completely different occult influence. Thus putting in the ancient number for January would produce a prediction quite different to what putting in '01' would now do. But whatever number the ancients gave the month of January compared to us now, the Earth in January was under the same cosmic influence as it is now, the number is irrelevant to what happens on the ground. In ancient times in the Northern Hemisphere, January was winter, in modern times, even with our new calendar, it's still winter. If the Babylonians or Greeks correctly discovered what numbers related to what parts of their year, then numerologists should still be using the original numbers. For example, if the Greeks recorded the time of year we now call January 1st as the 3rd day of their 5th month, ie 03-05, giving it a cosmic vibration of 03+05=8, then how can modern numerologists claim that same date is really 01-01, which gives a cosmic vibration of 01+01=2. Modern numerologists have clearly allocated magical numbers to the days and months of the year based solely on an arbitrary numbering system that arose when we changed our calendar in the 16th century. There is no way that the universe was created on the cosmic vibration of a few very specific numbers that exactly matched the calendar of the Greeks and yet still somehow matches exactly the very different calendar that we now use.
And it's not just dates that magically change and yet somehow still remain accurate over the centuries. The claim is that as well as converting your birth date to a special occult number, each letter of your name is converted to a special occult number too. But just as calendars have changed over time, so too have languages and alphabets changed. Contrary to what some Christians believe, Jesus did not speak English in the manner of the King James Bible, and in fact his name wasn't even Jesus. But amazingly our new alphabets and names have remained perfectly in sync, comic vibration wise, with those of ancient times. Ron thinks, correctly we believe, that he was born on a random date and his parents could easily have named him something other than Ron, and so he wonders how a random date and name could miraculously match up with a part that he is apparently destined to play in some grand cosmic plan. But was his birth date and name as random as he believes? Did his parents really have a choice?
The numerological argument is that life is unfolding according to a cosmic plan, meaning nobody's birth is random, every birth is planned with a purpose in mind. So by looking at the date you were born numerologists claim you can discern what sort of person you are, and were designed to be, understand your character and personality better, and glean some guidance on the path that has been planned for you. We guess their logic is that prostitutes have to be born at specific times, when certain cosmic vibrations align, and environmentalists have to be born at other specific times, and on top of that, prostitutes and environmentalists must both be given very specific names that complete the creation of a human that is now hard-wired to live out a specific destiny. Of course all this implies that there is no such thing as free will and we are all just mindless zombies created to play a part in some cosmic plan. Babies are only conceived and then born to match this plan, and clearly parents are brainwashed into naming their children with specific names, since if they could call them anything they wished, then that would screw up all the magic numbers and the whole cosmic vibration thingy, and stuff up the grand plan completely. So whether you like your name or hate it, don't blame your parents, since according to numerologists, they apparently had no choice in the matter.
But let's assume you're the gullible sort and you've done your sums, thankfully very simple sums, and have converted your birth date and name to a single digit. Who do you consult to find out exactly what that number means and what your future holds, are you destined for greatness or a life on the streets? If you only know of one numerologist then it's not a problem, you simply ask them, but the embarrassing reality is that there in no unity in numerology, no common voice. They all agree that numbers can be used to divine the future and reveal human character, but how one relates to the other, which numbers reveal which destiny, is a matter of contention. As the Wikipedia article on 'Numerology' notes, 'Different methods of interpretation exist, including Chaldean, Pythagorean, Hebraic, Helyn Hitchcock's method, Phonetic, Japanese, Arabic and Indian'. So who do you believe? Since they say all different things, clearly they can't all be right.
This conflict among practitioners is nothing new in the world of pseudoscience, paranormal and superstition. For example we find the same thing with astrology, where you must choose between Western astrology and Eastern astrology, each of which splinters into numerous smaller factions, all of which give different interpretations and explanations as to how the whole thing works (or, actually, doesn't work). And religion is probably the worst example of infighting, each group of fanatics insisting that their interpretation of the supernatural world is the correct one. How can Christians have the arrogance to argue with atheists when they can't even convince other Christians that their particular interpretation of the supernatural is correct? And it's not just a couple of groups, it's not just Catholics debating with Protestants. At the last count we saw, there are now over 44,000 different Christian denominations in the world, each arguing that they are right. Ditto with the Muslims, think Sunni and Shia Muslims killing each other over the matter of interpretation, and they too splinter into smaller factions. It's the same with the Jewish, Hindu and Buddhists religions, each is made up of different factions insisting that they alone have access to the correct interpretation, and each consistently refuses to front up with evidence to prove their case.
Numerology and these other beliefs have been in existence for thousands of years, and researched and argued over continuously, and yet there is more dissent now than there ever was. If numerology worked, surely by now we would be seeing complete unity among its practitioners, with centuries of accumulated evidence eventually all pointing clearly to one interpretation and one explanation. And the same applies to the likes of astrology and religion. If astrology worked there would only be one version worldwide, the one that worked, and if there was a god, one that there was clear evidence for, then there would only be one religion, not thousands. And in fact it would be even simpler than that, because there wouldn't be just one religion and one version of numerology and one version of astrology etc, since we must remember that it's not just Chaldean numerologists arguing with Pythagorean numerologists, Christians arguing with Muslims, and Western astrologers arguing with Eastern astrologers. Numerologists, religious believers and astrologers each believe that they have the answer to how the world works, and if one group did produce the evidence that their explanation was true, it would immediately prove all the others false. If the cosmos was created and works as numerologists claim, then it logically can't also work in a completely contradictory manner as the astrologers or god believers claim. But all these numerous silly beliefs do still exist, arguing not just between themselves, but with others that say the world works in a completely different way. After many millennia of trying, none have been able to produce the evidence that their particular silly belief isn't just a, well, silly belief. None have a record of successful predictions and achievements in explaining the world.
If numerology worked and was the correct explanation, why is it that most people know little or nothing about it? And it's the same with religion and astrology, since while both are more well known, most people still know little about them, even though they may claim to be believers. Almost no one, even though they may claim to believe in religion or astrology or numerology, lives their lives based on their silly belief. They, consciously or not, have grasped that there is one group that has indeed over the centuries accumulated powerful evidence that points clearly to one interpretation and one explanation as to how the world works. It's called science. While they may still talk of their belief in religion, astrology or numerology, it's still science and its technological products that they turn to when they work, study, fly, drive, relax, eat and get ill. Unlike religion or astrology, there is no Western science and Eastern science. The explanation that explains gravity in the West is the same as that in the East. Science has achieved the unity that continually eludes those that seek religious, numerological and astrological explanations, and that unity has come about because of the clear evidence that exists in the world, evidence that everyone has sought for centuries and that has now been revealed and unambiguously gives the answer to life, the universe and everything. Which is that it's all perfectly natural. There was no creator involved, there is no god with some grand cosmic plan that is using the cosmic vibration of numbers or the movement of heavenly bodies or the threat of eternal torture in Hell to control how humans live our lives.
For millennia people have struggled to understand the workings of the world around them, and have dreamt up untold silly beliefs, from gods to magical numbers, in attempts to find answers. It should be blatantly clear to anyone of average intelligence that every one of thousands of explanations has failed miserably, except that offered by science. We are having this online discussion thanks to science, not thanks to numerology or angels milling about on clouds. It really is quite astounding that people will use the Internet, a tool that proves the success of science, to argue that numerology and its magic numbers are what's really driving the world.
|Angry God causes NZ earthquake|
OK, so here's the background, a devastating 7.8 mag earthquake occurs in NZ causing two deaths and massive damage, and after the relatively recent Christchurch quakes, everyone's going, 'Oh no, not again! What's going on here?' We suspect most are aiming their pleas for answers towards scientists, but out of the shadows, and perhaps buoyed by Donald Trump's recent shock success, comes Christian fundamentalist Bishop Brian Tamaki, of Auckland's Destiny Church.
Tamaki graciously decides to reveal to us all exactly what caused the earthquake and the subsequent suffering. In a nutshell: homosexuals. Building on an earlier sermon to his deluded flock, Tamaki now clearly places the blame for the recent earthquake at the feet of homosexuals and their sexual sinning, and those of us that support their right to life and liberty. And coming up behind homosexuals as people to blame were murderers and other "sinners", ie you and me. In Tamaki's view this earthquake was clearly God striking at those that displease him, a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah if you will.
Of course this is nothing new. Without fail, everywhere in the world, religious fundamentalists always insist that natural disasters aren't natural at all, that their god is actually using nature to cause death and destruction and punish us for some indiscretion, minor or otherwise. Woefully ignorant about how the natural world really works, and in thrall to a primitive fantasy, they spout disgusting and offensive accusations that make us ashamed to acknowledge that we belong to the same species as them.
Looking around the media and social media we see that Tamaki is being quite rightly condemned for his hateful accusations, so rather than repeat that argument, we're going to take a different tack and argue that Tamaki is right, in a sense, and many of his critics are wrong, lying even, to hide an unsavoury truth.
We have nothing but contempt for the likes of Tamaki and other fundamentalists, but the reality is that when they stand up and talk about their religion, they are the ones being true to the word of their god. In confronting Tamaki and his ilk, we're frustrated and annoyed when the media and liberal Christians all express outrage and essentially demand that he retract his slanderous statements about God and Christianity in general. But why should he, have they not read the Bible?
Fundamentalists are the true believers, they are the ones obeying God's commandments, they are the ones truly serving the wishes of their god. They are being honest and faithful to strongly held beliefs, even though those beliefs are anathema to the rest of us, as well as being utterly bogus. By that we mean it's irrelevant whether God is real and wants homosexuals dead or not, either way, that attitude is disgusting and offensive. Even if it could be shown that God did indeed command that action, it still doesn't make it the right thing to do. But of course fundamentalists are deluded twofold. One, because they think persecuting homosexuals is the ethical thing to do (since their god says it is), and two, because they think that the invisible being that ordered that action is actually real.
Of course we exaggerated a little there, fundamentalists like Tamaki are far more loyal to God's commandments than most Christians are, but even they draw the line by refusing to actually kill homosexuals as their God demands. Thankfully God has very, very few real true believers.
If we look at the liberal Christians, the public, and the media, most of whom will have had a religious upbringing, with many still believing in the God of the Bible, why are they so angry at Bishop Tamaki when he essentially reads out aloud one of God's commandments from the Bible? Is it that they're ashamed (they certainly should be) of what their God is doing or asking them to do? By attacking Tamaki and accusing him of, essentially, lying about what God demands and what the Bible says, are they hiding, both from the public and from themselves, the truth of what a hateful, cruel, vindictive bastard the God they all worship really is? Surely even the most wishy-washy Christian knows enough about the Bible and God's word to realise that God is one nasty piece of work? (And we should all be very happy that he's a fictional character. His followers cause untold suffering as it is, imagine if we had to contend with a real god throwing lightning bolts at us as well?)
So why are Tamaki's critics incensed by his claims that God punishes sinners, have they forgotten when God, their God, wiped Sodom and Gomorrah from the face of the Earth for the sins of a few? He even punished Lot's wife for taking a quick glance at the destruction as she fled, turning her into a pillar of salt. Have they forgotten when God stepped up his game and wiped out every single living thing on the entire planet, bar a tub full of his chosen pets, all for the sins of a few? On the TV3 News item detailing Tamaki's claims that earthquakes are caused by sexual sin, the Reverend Helen Jacobi of Auckland's 'St Matthew in the City' was asked for comment and confidently stated that,
'It's completely ridiculous to think that God would do anything like that. God doesn't punish people for anything.'So clearly Reverend Jacobi hasn't heard of Sodom and Gomorrah or Noah's Flood either. What are they teaching them in seminary schools these days? What about that nudist couple, Adam and Eve, surely she's heard of them? Didn't God punish them both dearly for making an innocent mistake, and then in a fit of rage transferred that punishment onto every innocent human that was yet to be born? Perhaps Reverend Jacobi has heard of the Ten Commandments, where God explains that not only does he definitely punish people, he even punishes innocent children for the sins of others:
'I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation ... ' EX 20:5If you think that must be a misprint, here's another Bible verse reminding all Christians that it's not:
'The LORD ... does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.' NU 14:18The Bible is awash with God punishing people, or demanding that his followers punish people, for all manner of silly 'sins', including a raft of sexual sins. It also includes numerous examples of God manipulating nature to ensure his will is carried out. Do you remember God stopping the Sun in the sky so his followers had more time to slaughter even more heathens for not believing in him, or parting the Red Sea and then drowning all the Egyptians, or the 10 plagues that God visited upon thousands of innocent Egyptians simply to punish the Pharaoh? To claim that 'God doesn't punish people for anything' is utter bullshit. Well, you know, assuming the bible is true.
So why does the public condemn Bishop Tamaki for honestly conveying what the Bible says, and yet vocally supports the likes of Reverend Jacobi who stands up and openly lies about what the Bible says? Why does the media not call her out on her blatant lies, since any journalist would surely know about Adam and Eve being punished and expelled from Eden, about Noah's Flood and punishment for sexual sinning, and perhaps even about 'original sin' and how most of us are going to be punished severely on our death by being sent to Hell? Why doesn't the honest journalist say, 'Well, actually, I looked up that book Bishop Tamaki was quoting from, and it seems he's right, his God does punish sinners with "natural" disasters, and he certainly does have a strong dislike for homosexuals. He calls them an abomination and orders his followers to kill them'.
So again, why do the majority in society proudly stand with those that openly lie about what the Bible says and loudly condemns the handful that are actually telling the truth about how God acts in the world?
No doubt they'll mirror NZ's Human Rights Commissioner when he labelled Tamaki's claims as 'disgusting'. They'll condemn Tamaki's claim because they find it offensive and ignorant, and it certainly is. But the reality is that Tamaki is only quoting the word of God. So essentially the commissioner and society are calling the Bible disgusting, and God's actions disgusting. But if you point this out to them, they'll deceptively try and argue that they are criticising Tamaki's views, not the views of the Bible or God. But again, Tamaki's views are those of the Bible, he's merely quoting God's word, so no matter what spin they want to put on it, they are indeed calling God's word disgusting and offensive.
The thing that we struggle with is not how fundamentalists like Tamaki can believe in God after reading the Bible and naively believing what it says, it's how most Christians can still say they believe in God after dismissing most of the Bible as false.
Liberal Christians and the media hound fundamentalists like Tamaki, condemning what they say, implying that they're lying, suggesting that they're hateful, misguided zealots, all in a desperate attempt to hide the embarrassing fact that fundamentalists are actually revealing God's real history and relationship with the world. The gutless media implies by the way they handle outrageous claims from fundamentalists that God wouldn't act in the way they are describing, that he's a loving, caring God. And they interview other Christians to support that view, instead of honestly saying that, according to the only book we have on the matter, the fundamentalists are right and God would be a real bastard if he were real, but don't worry, he isn't.
Everyone should be condemning and exposing fundamentalists like Tamaki when they make such offensive and patently stupid claims, but we should also be condemning and exposing the liberal Christians and supportive media that believe in the exact same God. Thankfully they side with us non-believers and refuse to follow God's immoral and irrational commandments, and they refuse to believe in the silly creation and flood nonsense, but by then all they're left with in the Bible is the erotic poetry, some bogus history and a recipe for bread. These days your typical Christian is tolerated (or should that be ignored?) solely because they've stopped talking honestly about the Bible and what it says that God wants his followers to do. Ironically, Tamaki is a pariah because he's being too honest about what the Bible says.
The media certainly needs to expose the offensive and dangerous nature of fundamentalist claims, but it also needs to expose the deceptive and foolish nature of liberal religious claims as well. And this goes for all religions, such as Islam and Judaism, not just Christianity. We shouldn't be condemning Tamaki for misrepresenting the Bible and the loving nature of God, because he isn't, we should be challenging him over his unwarranted belief in the Bible and the existence of God in the first place. Expose his belief as primitive, superstitious nonsense and the ethical nature of the claims made in that silly book simply vanish. No one pushes the commandments of a god they don't believe in. Likewise we should be challenging liberal Christians like Reverend Jacobi as to why she refuses to accept God's word, ie the Bible, in all its barbarous entirety. The media shouldn't just be going after the easy targets, the fundamentalists, they need to make all those that claim to speak for some god defend their extraordinary claims. Christians who claim that God will punish us for certain behaviour, and who support their claim with clear evidence from the Bible, are criticised and denounced, and yet Christians who claim that God loves us and would never punish us, suppressing clear evidence from the Bible to the contrary, are embraced and lauded. The reality is all Christians, the fundamentalists and the liberals, have one thing in common, they'll all silly enough to believe in God.
|Euthanasia and the morality police|
When you hear someone bleating on about the sanctity of life, about how it's their job, their crusade, their duty to protect human life, then you normally expect that you're being harangued by some arrogant, deluded and sanctimonious Christian, often a Catholic priest. But now in NZ we have the police claiming that they also have some higher calling, who argue that the first duty of the law is to protect innocent life. Which is all well and good when they're talking about protecting people from being harmed by others. But it's not appropriate at all when the police claim it's lawful for them to harass innocent people who aren't harming others. By their actions recently, it seems the police have joined the pro-life movement and think that it's their job to protect life from conception to natural death. Apparently annoyed that they've lost the fight to keep abortion illegal, it seems that they're going on the offensive to keep voluntary euthanasia illegal.
We say this because the news got out that the police had taken upon themselves to harass some members of the public who attended a public meeting on euthanasia. Rather than simply visit the meeting like honest people would do, the sneaky bastards set up a checkpoint nearby, and pretending that they were checking for alcohol, stopped people leaving the meeting and sought personal details from them. They then later visited at their home several people that had been at the meeting, even searching some of their houses. Many of these people were elderly people, whose trust in the police will now be shaken, and we don't blame them.
According to one article, 'Police admit targeting pro-euthanasia campaigners in drink-drive operation',
'Inspector Chris Bensemenn confirmed this afternoon that the checkpoint was set up close to where the meeting was being held in Lower Hutt with the purpose of "identify[ing] people attending an Exit International meeting".And the article also noted that this embarrassing revelation 'comes just weeks after police raided the homes of elderly women in Wellington and Nelson, sparking accusations of political interference with long-time euthanasia campaigners'.
What makes police think that they're NZ's moral crusaders, and that they should join with the Church in dictating to people how they must conduct their private lives? We're talking of suicide and voluntary euthanasia here, and for the record, we're all in favour of the worldwide movement to have voluntary euthanasia made legal. It already is legal in some countries, and of course it's secretly happening all the time even in places where it isn't legal. And contrary to what police inspector Bensemenn claimed in his media statement, suicide isn't illegal in NZ, although it used to be, and in the dim past, centuries ago, people who had committed suicide were refused a Christian burial, they had a stake driven through their heart (did silly Christians think they were vampires?) and their body was buried at a remote location, often in the middle of some crossroads so their spirit couldn't find their way home. No, don't laugh, this is what Christians believed, and to some degree still do. Worse still, the property of the man who had committed suicide was seized and his innocent wife and children thrown out on the street, destitute. Because of their ignorant, blind belief in a vindictive god, that's what good Christians did to each other back then.
But thankfully today common sense and secular law has taken precedence over silly beliefs and Church law, and as much as the Church still views suicide as sinful, they no longer control our lives. They can rant and preach as much as they want, but they can't invade our homes, detain us on the street or charge us wth crimes and have us thrown in jail. So we should finally be free to live, and die, as we choose. But no, along comes another organisation to assist the Church's moral crusade, one that can invade our homes, detain us on the street, charge us with crimes and have us thrown in jail. The police. Even though suicide isn't illegal, the police can simply lie about why we're being stopped, questioned, searched or detained. They can intimidate us, demand to know what we have to hide if we refuse to let them search our homes, threaten us with arrest, bug our homes and phones and follow us as we go about our lawful business. We used to think that police alcohol checkpoints were checking for drunk drivers and keeping our roads safe, now we discover that it might all be a ruse to spy on elderly people or people that know elderly people, and determine what their view on suicide and voluntary euthanasia is.
Of course detaining people without due cause or under false pretences is illegal, and now that the deviousness of their action has become public, the police have been forced to admit that what they did could well be illegal, and they are now under investigation by the Independent Police Conduct Authority. Barrister Michael Bott's opinion was that 'the actions of officers involved in the checkpoint was "an abuse of police power".' We have no doubt that it will be found that using bogus alcohol checkpoints to spy on people legally attending euthanasia meetings will be deemed illegal and totally unjustified, but at the same time no one in the police will be reprimanded or punished. They'll just be told not to do it again, which is just another way of telling them they need to find another way to spy on these people without getting caught.
But why the police fixation on suicide? All their initial talk seems to revolve around them saying they're simply trying to protect life, it's what the police do. In the above article, 'Bensemenn said information gathered through the checkpoint had "enabled police to provide support and information, to those people who we had reason to believe may be contemplating suicide".' This is twice that this police inspector has claimed that they were targeting people that 'may be contemplating suicide'. But when they're reminded that suicide isn't against the law (even though the police shouldn't need reminding), they then quickly shift their focus, saying that they're worried that people are helping other people commit suicide, which is illegal. That's true, but does that actually make good sense, that's it's illegal for an informed adult to help another informed adult do something that's perfectly legal? Where else does this ridiculous situation apply? It's not illegal to get a tattoo or visit a prostitute, and so quite naturally it's also not illegal to give someone a lift downtown so they can get a tattoo or visit a prostitute. It's not illegal to paint your house, nor is it illegal to help someone by giving them the tools needed to paint their house. It's not even illegal to own a gun, or to lend it to a licensed adult. And it's not illegal to commit suicide, but confusingly it is illegal to do anything to help someone else commit suicide. That makes no sense. It appears to be a law that accidentally got left behind when suicide was made legal. But it's a law that the police, paradoxically, are prepared to waste time and resources enforcing even if they must break other laws to do so.
But the irrational behaviour of the police doesn't stop there. They're not just fixated on stopping people from helping other people when it comes to suicide, they're (unknowingly?) influencing how people legally commit suicide, meaning that by their actions they're (deliberately?) making suicide as horrific as possible.
What do we mean by that? Well, if I were contemplating suicide, I could legally buy rope, guns, knives, poison, plastic bags, plastic tubing etc in order to hang, shoot, slash, poison, suffocate or gas myself. And the police would take no notice of my purchases or what I might have in mind. When I turn on my gas oven or walk out into the surf, the police don't rush over and wrestle me to the ground, fearful that I'm about to commit suicide. There are untold ways people can commit suicide, nearly all of them very gruesome and painful, and the police do nothing, and can do nothing, to prevent them. But there is one way to commit suicide that isn't at all gruesome nor painful in the least, and that's the taking of certain drugs, the result being that you peacefully drift off to sleep and simply don't wake up. Your family won't find you hanging in the garage or discover your blood and brains splattered over the kitchen wall or have to dredge your bloated body from the local river.
So the reality is that we have numerous truly horrible ways of committing suicide and one humane way, so what does the law, backed up by the police, do? They allow us to legally, easily and cheaply obtain any of the tools required to commit suicide in a horrific manner, both for the person committing suicide and for those that discover the body. And then they make it illegal, expensive and extremely difficult for people to obtain a specific drug or drugs that would facilitate a humane and peaceful suicide for all involved. The police know that no matter how many elderly people they pick up off the street and interrogate, suicides are still going to happen. They apparently just want to ensure that that those that do commit suicide, and those that find them, suffer as much as humanly possible by ensuring they use a primitive method that people in medieval times were familiar with.
So instead of investigating people that might be considering murder, rape, violent assault, theft, drug dealing or driving while intoxicated, the police are instead hounding law-abiding elderly folk on the their way home from a public meeting. Instead of stopping people from harming others, the police are instead wasting time illegally trying to prevent people from doing as they wish with their own life. Let's again repeat that suicide is not illegal, and while some people may view it as deeply sinful, along with sex outside marriage, homosexuality, abortion, working on Sunday, prostitution, masturbation and eating pork, the reality is that the law permits people to freely do all these things if they so choose.
If on their moral crusade the police illegally discover that your life is becoming insufferable and then illegally search your home and discover an illegal euthanasia drug, they will seize that drug and charge you, but they will leave you surrounded by numerous other suicide tools. They will merely deprive you of the one method that you could have used humanely to end your suffering, and thereby force you to set up that noose in the garage or step in front of a bus and hope that whatever you now fall back on will actually work and not just make things worse. By hunting out people that have managed to somehow obtain those illegal euthanasia drugs, the police haven't prevented a suicide, they have merely changed the suicide method for those that are committed to ending their suffering.
NZ is not a police state, it's hoped that we don't have the equivalent of the Stasi, the East German secret police, watching our every move, and that the police aren't taking it upon themselves to police us not by what the law states but by how they feel personally, falling back on some primitive, superstitious notion that life is sacred and that some god owns our bodies and gets to control how we live and how and when we die. Even if they consider suicide and voluntary euthanasia as sinful as abortion and masturbation, the fact is that we are each in control of our own body and life and have complete freedom to do with it as we wish as long as we don't harm others. If the police can't stop their personal views and prejudices from interfering with their police work, then they need to quit the force and join the Church or pro-life movement. At least then they could stop us on the street with an honest purpose.
|Yet another silly argument for God — #TAG|
We've all met them, those annoying and frustrating Christians that produce the most ridiculous reasons for belief, and will argue that black is white, up is down, and that light is made of silly putty. But some years back we noticed that the Christian fundamentalist, creationist website 'Answers in Genesis' was starting to advise its readers that when debating with atheists they should avoid using certain arguments. Why? Well, because they don't work and they just make them look stupid; Christians that is, not atheists. So when we were asked our view of an article on the 'Answers in Genesis' site pushing yet another 'new' argument for God, one that claims that 'atheists really do believe in god', we were intrigued. Worried that as atheists we might be living a lie and coming across as hypocrites (well, OK, not that worried), we decided to take a look.
The article is by Dr. Jason Lisle and is titled: 'What Is the Best Argument for the Existence of God?', and comes to the conclusion that something called the 'transcendental argument for God' should now be the argument of choice for creationists. We were told it claims to provide a 'devastating, conclusive argument few have attempted to refute, none of them successfully', and so we assumed it wouldn't trot out any of the old tired, flawed arguments.
We apologise that our post is longer than Lisle's article, but as atheists we've discovered through trial and error that simply saying, 'You're wrong and we're right', is not as persuasive as we'd hoped. So we've spent a little time trying to explain why Lisle's argument fails, since clearly Christians struggle with this. Many are simply confused when confronted with creationist arguments, and us quickly saying that it fails because it's clearly logically fallacious won't convince anyone.
And sure enough Lisle's article began well, with Lisle assuring us that his argument wouldn't be one of the silly ones, many of which seem to have been around since the Dark Ages (and refuted not long thereafter). He relates a hypothetical conversation (debate) between a Christian and an atheist, where the Christian makes eight quick and concise arguments for the existence of God and the atheist just as quickly and concisely shows them to be false. And that's not just our 'biased' view as atheists. Lisle himself acknowledges that 'the arguments do not come close to proving the existence of the biblical God'.
Actually the eight arguments are still the common arguments used by most Christians, and we'd recommend atheists read and use the given responses when they encounter them. It's one thing to tell Christians not to use certain arguments, but it's surprising to see Christians actually providing cogent arguments that atheists should use against them. So thank you Dr. Lisle.
But after giving eight failed arguments for God, Lisle then completely and utterly destroys any integrity and intelligence we thought he might have had when he then writes:
'It should be noted that all the facts used by the Christian in the above hypothetical conversation are true. Yes, God is the first cause, the designer of life, the resurrected Christ, the Author of Scripture, and the Savior of Christians. Yet the way these facts are used is not decisive. none of the above arguments really prove that God exists.'WTF? The so-called 'facts' used by the Christian are most definitely not true. If it was an accepted and proven fact that 'God is the first cause, the designer of life, the resurrected Christ ... [blah blah blah]', then it makes no sense that we're even having this discussion. If it's an accepted fact that God the creator exists then there wouldn't be any atheists to debate with. As their belief in God goes, Christians only devise these silly arguments because they can't rely on brute facts that are obvious to all and sundry. The claim that Paris is the capital of France is a fact, as is the claim that sheep are real and that grass is green. Claims that the Tooth Fairy is real or that Big Foot has been found or that a Muslim terrorist will be rewarded with 72 virgins on his death are not facts, they are unsupported beliefs. A fact is describing something that has demonstrable existence, something that has been proven to be objectively real, and is something that every reasonable person, no matter their religious beliefs, will accept as true.
Can you imagine an atheist saying, 'I agree that it's an undeniable fact that God is the creator of the universe, but I certainly don't think that God exists'. Umm ... what? Dr. Jason Lisle has only found the need to develop his argument and write his article because it is not a proven fact that God exists, therefore it most certainly can't be a fact that this unproven god is accepted as the creator of the universe and life. Claiming that it's a fact that God created the universe and life is as silly as claiming that it's a fact that Santa delivers toys at Xmas. Certainly some childish people believe both these things, but it's a sign of insanity to claim they are facts.
In claiming that it's a fact that 'God is the first cause, the designer of life... ', Lisle is suggesting to gullible Christians that atheists clearly know the truth, we're exposed to it everywhere we look, but we're just too damn stubborn and we perversely refuse to face the facts. We're like those people that blindly insist that the world is flat when all the evidence — all the facts — clearly show that it's a sphere. Christians are assured by Lisle that God is an accepted fact, so it's not a matter of finding evidence for God, that was done long ago apparently (yeah, right), the problem is to discern why silly atheists deny these accepted facts. Of course we deny them because superstitious, unsupported, contradictory, illogical beliefs are not facts at all, they are not true, or at least have not been shown to be true. Lisle's argument essentially begins by saying, If we assume that the following lies and fantasies are actually true, are real — are facts — then we can prove that talking snakes are real.
So clearly Dr. Lisle, a man with a PhD in astrophysics, can no more be relied on to produce an intellectual and honest argument for his god than can an ignorant evangelist that failed playschool. But let's carry on and look at what other nonsense and delusions he promotes as he builds towards his killer argument. After agreeing that atheists easily find flaws in those eight Christian arguments, Lisle writes,
'Nonetheless, for each one of these arguments, the atheist was able to invent a "rescuing device." He was able to propose an explanation for this evidence that is compatible with his belief that God does not exist.'What Lisle is saying here is that atheists haven't actually found flaws in Christian arguments at all, we've merely employed a 'trick', what he calls a 'rescuing device', that is able to fool less sophisticated Christians into thinking that their argument is flawed. Lisle agrees that 'most of the atheist's explanations are actually pretty reasonable, given his view of the world', but thinks that the real problem is that 'Christians and atheists have different worldviews — different philosophies of life'.
Lisle has effectively said that no matter what evidence or logic or cogent reasoning there is that appears to challenge Christian belief, it's all just an atheist trick, a cunning and devious 'rescuing device' that we've invented. Even if Christians can't figure out why an atheist argument is flawed, they can sleep easy knowing that it is flawed — somehow. Lisle claims that the Christian in his hypothetical debate,
'was arguing on the basis of specific evidences with someone who had a totally different professed worldview than his own. This approach is never conclusive, because the critic can always invoke a rescuing device to protect his worldview. Thus, if we are to be effective, we must use an argument that deals with worldviews, and not simply isolated facts.'Note how he talks of 'specific evidences' and 'isolated facts' and argues that the focus on evidence and facts is harming the Christian case. But evidence and facts are objective; if the evidence shows that the universe is 13.7 billion years old, you can't just ignore it because your worldview suggests it's only 6,000 years old. Lisle wants Christians to turn away from evidence and facts because they're only damaging their faith, not helping it. But think about it, if their god created the universe and life, then shouldn't the evidence and the facts clearly point to that conclusion? Why isn't the evidence bolstering their worldview and tearing the atheist worldview to shreds? They can't just ignore the evidence and facts, they need to develop their own 'rescuing device' that clearly explains why a date of 6,000 years is being wrongly interpreted as 13.7 billion years. There are indeed different worldviews, but there can only be one that describes the real world, and if the 'specific evidences' and 'isolated facts' support a naturalist world, then that is the worldview all reasonable people should believe in.
Lisle argues that 'the critic can always invoke a rescuing device to protect his worldview', which is true, so how should we test that so-called 'rescuing devices' are actually real explanations that prove something and not simply tricks or delusions? If you tell a child that Santa is not real, that we've explored the North Pole and found no sign of him, a child could 'invoke a rescuing device' and argue that we haven't seen Santa's base at the North Pole because he has alien cloaking technology. But the child can produce no evidence for his claim, while we can produce much evidence against it. So while the child and adult both argue for different worldviews, the evidence only supports one, so it's not to worldviews that we should look, but to evidence and reason, and these will reveal which worldview is true. If the increasing evidence repeatedly shows no fingerprint of God and consistently shows God claims to be false, then it's only reasonable to prefer a worldview that has no god in it. Every worldview ever produced throughout history has always derived from observation of the world. They used the best evidence they had to inform their worldview, and the best of these worldviews changed accordingly as new evidence came in, with many going extinct. The problem with the Christian worldview is that it became fixed thousands of years ago, and now confronted with conflicting scientific evidence, Christians are desperately trying to find ways to change the evidence so that it agrees with their primitive worldview, a worldview which is long past its use-by-date.
Atheists are not really atheists
As pathetic as Lisle's argument has been so far, it gets worse. I mean, really surprisingly bad, as if written by an eight-year-old that was home-schooled by a low IQ fundamentalist. Lisle writes,
'The Bible teaches that atheists are not really atheists. That is, those who profess to be atheists do ultimately believe in God in their heart-of-hearts. The Bible teaches that everyone knows God, because God has revealed Himself to all (Romans 1:19). In fact, the Bible tells us that God's existence is so obvious that anyone who suppresses this truth is "without excuse" (Romans 1:20). The atheist denies with his lips what he knows in his heart. But if they know God, then why do atheists claim that they do not believe in God?'That any intelligent adult can believe such bullshit is truly mind-boggling. Lisle goes on to argue that 'God is angry at unbelievers for their wickedness', and that our cunning solution to escape his wrath (one worthy of Baldrick from the TV comedy 'Blackadder'), is to pretend that he doesn't exist. That's like saying that a young child with abusive parents can find safety and comfort by pretending they don't exist. The silly thing is that Lisle recognises that a child denying his father exists 'would hardly be rational', meaning that the child would be irrational to make such a claim. And yet the core of the argument for God that he develops is that atheists both know God exists and are perfectly rational; he talks of 'The fact that the atheist is able to reason'. But since we deny knowing that God exists that means we can't be both. Like the child, we can know God exists and act irrationally by denying him, or we can be truly ignorant of his existence and act rationally to explain why we deny his existence. But we can't know of his existence and rationally deny his existence at the same time, as Lisle claims we do. So that's one flaw with his argument.
And why has simple and rational disbelief suddenly turned to wickedness? If we know God exists then our denial is irrational, so we're just harmlessly insane, not wicked. If we're truly ignorant of his existence and rationally, and honestly, argue that point, then how does that make us wicked? Whether atheist claims are irrational or rational, if God exists he knows why we argue as we do, and he knows that we are not knowingly denying him to anger or annoy him. So why are we wicked?
Of course we can never prove to Lisle that we're genuine atheists, but there is an obvious major flaw with his argument, one that he has already advised Christians to be on the look out for. We'll quote one of Lisle's eight Christian arguments here, and why it fails, because it has special relevance to his 'atheists are not really atheists' argument:
'Christian: "The Bible claims that God exists, and that it is His Word to us. Furthermore, what the Bible says must be true, since God cannot lie."So his argument that there are no real atheists fails becasue it's a circular argument. You have to believe in the Bible before you can believe his argument about what the Bible says. But of course Lisle can't use a passage from the Bible (Romans 1:19) because that's what we're arguing about, it's what we're trying to prove or disprove. Imagine if a child tried to prove to you that Santa Claus was real by producing a children's book about Xmas in which Santa claims, 'I produce all the toys for good boys and girls and deliver them in one night'. Would you believe that child? Only if the child could first prove that Santa were real might you look at that book in a new light.
But Lisle knows what a circular argument is and why it's worthless and misleading, he gave the example above, and then he added, 'Some of the above arguments are very weak: appeals to personal experience, vicious circular reasoning... ' Note how it's not just circular reasoning, but vicious circular reasoning. So why does he then use the same 'vicious circular reasoning'? Does he hope that gullible Christians will think that while it looks like a circular argument, it clearly can't be, since he's warned them not to be so stupid?
So, now that this fool has convinced himself that atheists aren't real, using an argument that he recognises as flawed, he writes that, 'Therefore, we do not really need to give the atheist any more specific evidences for God's existence. He already knows in his heart-of-hearts that God exists'. In other words, lazy Christians don't need to debate with atheists anymore, and subject themselves to embarrassing defeats, because atheists already know the truth. Christians can now smugly refuse to engage with atheists, refuse to defend their faith, because the war is already won. Atheists believe in God. End of story. Hallelujah brother.
Of course just because the form of argument that Lisle employs is hogwash, that doesn't mean that God hasn't revealed himself to atheists, merely that Lisle hasn't shown that to be the case. But is it at all rational that atheists know that God exists and yet still choose to pretend to the world that he doesn't? Lisle claims that,
'Atheists are strongly motivated to not believe in the biblical God — a God who is rightly angry at them for their treason against Him. But the atheist's denial of God is an emotional reaction, not a logical one.'Oh, come on! If we know God is real and we know all too well what the bastard is capable of, we should be the most motivated people on the planet to make amends and get back on his good side. What a totally insane argument it is to insist that we atheists are knowingly provoking an all-powerful beast and nonchalantly bringing about indescribable suffering that would never cease. We know that if we simply acknowledged the obvious and sought forgiveness that we would be set up with a luxury apartment in Heaven on our death, so why wouldn't we tell the truth about God? And remember that everyone knows we're lying because they've seen God too, so we know we're not fooling anyone. So what do we gain with our transparent lies? Creationists may believe that we atheists are stupid, but no one is that stupid that they'd knowingly set themselves up for eternal torture. Why make such a sacrifice when we have nothing to gain and everything to lose? Lisle also claims our 'denial of God is an emotional reaction, not a logical one'. If that were true our emotions would see us running blubbering to God begging his forgiveness. But the reality is that our denial of God is a logical reaction, because we see no evidence for God or need for God. We no more fear God's Hell than we do Darth Vader's Death Star.
Christians make the silly argument that we hate God for something he did, so that's why we deny him, but that's a moronic stance to take. We could say that we hate Hitler for what he did, but you don't see atheists denying that Hitler existed. We condemn his actions, but we don't deny that he was ever real. Billions of people have died refusing to accept that Jesus is real, and not one has relented at the last moment and admitted that they had known all along that he was real. Yes, there have been some deathbed conversions, but they don't count since people will say anything when threatened with torture, ie if you don't want to go to Hell you need to accept Jesus.
So no, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that God has revealed himself to atheists. Or anyone.
There's another problem with Lisle's Biblical claim that God has given us all clear evidence of his existence, and that's the embarrassing fact that other Bible claims say just the opposite. Basically they all revolve around faith, or as one Christian website said: 'We live by faith we don't need signs', and they gave the following Bible verses to support their view:
'The Pharisees came to Jesus and began to ask him questions. Hoping to trap him, they asked Jesus for a miracle from God. Jesus sighed deeply and said, "Why do you people ask for a miracle as a sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to you."' Mark 8:10-12Note that last line that says you shouldn't even trust 'your own understanding'. So if you had an inkling, as Lisle claims we all have, that God has revealed to you that he made the world and you understand that it's not as natural as it seems, you should reject that understanding and rely solely on faith. So why is faith the linchpin of Christianity if, as Lisle contends, 'everyone knows God, because God has revealed Himself to all'? Even Jesus promotes faith over revealed knowledge when in the Bible he criticised Thomas for needing physical proof that he was real, and praised those that believed on blind faith alone:
'Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."' JN 20:29Faith is that final thin strand that Christians cling to when they can't find a sliver of evidence to support their belief. And it's not just atheists that deny being privy to knowledge of God, most Christians do too, with even Mother Teresa writing in her final years that her faith was waning, that she was struggling to accept that God actually existed on faith alone. Perhaps it's our stubborn wickedness that leads atheists to deny that God revealed himself to us, but what explains why devout Christians also sincerely say that they have no innate knowledge of God?
So who's right, should we believe in God because he 'has revealed Himself to all', as Lisle contends, or should we believe the majority of Christians that contend that it is blind faith that sustains them, since as Jesus said, 'no sign will be given to you'?
Christians assert that God is in our hearts and in our minds, snooping around, so he must know that his attempt to reveal himself to the world's population, or simply waiting for us to come to him through faith, has failed miserably, since the great majority, some 70 to 100 billion humans that have ever lived, have been utterly ignorant of God. That's not to say God didn't try, but he must realise that he's failed to make himself known. As we've said, even most Christians admit that they have never encountered or experienced God, and they believe on faith alone. But if we are to believe something on faith, without evidence, and even against the evidence, then why not believe in someone genuinely good, like Superman? Why believe in someone that even if we believe in him completely, is still likely to torture us?
The problem with morals
But if you're a Christian that knows some atheists who still stubbornly refuse to admit that they've met God, Lisle writes that 'With gentleness and respect, we can show the atheist that he already knows about God, but is suppressing what he knows to be true ... he is simply a walking bundle of inconsistencies'.
First, we think he's already burnt his 'gentleness and respect' bridges since he's already described atheists as liars known for our wickedness. And how do you gently tell someone that they're going to be tortured for all eternity, while maintaining the impression that you respect them?
The first inconsistency that Lisle considers is how atheists that don't have the benefit of God's moral code to guide us can possibly be moral, and yet clearly most of us are. Of course the argument that Lisle goes with is utterly bogus, based as it is on the false premise that he's already developed that people that don't believe in God do ... umm ... believe in God. Lisle argues that since only believers in God — Christians to be specific — can act morally, then things that don't believe in God, the examples he gives are animals like lions, chemicals such as baking soda, and atheists, will all behave amorally, and at times downright immorally. His ignorant argument is that we atheists apparently believe that animals, chemicals and atheists are all just chemical accidents blindly doing what chemicals do, completely lacking any ability to think about morality. Christians don't believe the chemical accident bit, but they do believe that humans are completely lacking any ability to think about morality. But, and this is the important bit, humans can learn how to act morally if they're willing to accept the moral code that God is offering. Without that moral code from God, then humans have no choice but to act like animals; killing, raping and stealing with no thought of the consequences. But this means that Christians are arguing that they personally, as humans, have no idea whatsoever about what is right and wrong. They're saying that without their God whispering in their ear, or without having previously read some relevant commandment in their Bible, they would have no idea how to act morally. They're not holding back from committing murder and rape because they can understand why it's wrong, and can understand how it harms people, no, they're holding themselves in check simply because their God told them to. They're blindly obeying orders from their master, nothing more, nothing less. There is no empathy or sympathy involved, they simply fear the wrath of their lord should they disobey his commandments. If God told them to attack a city and kill every man, woman and child, the true believer would do so in a heartbeat. Don't believe us? Then read your Bible.
Atheists would argue however that we don't commit murder and rape because we, in our pathetic little naturally evolved brains, can grasp the harm we would do to others by committing these acts, and not wishing to inflict harm, we voluntarily choose not to rape or murder. We atheists can immediately and by our own volition refuse to commit heinous acts, whereas Christians when confronted with the same choices have to hesitate, and say, 'Hang on, let me check my Bible'. Because again, Christians argue that without their Bible and it's instructions on morality they would be utterly lost, utterly incapable of choosing right from wrong. That's the argument that they use to condemn atheists as wicked. Christians say they need to be spoon-feed a moral code from the Bible, believing that it's the only thing that separates them from animals, and since atheists ignore the Bible, as do lions and sharks, then clearly atheists must be as lacking in morals as are lions and sharks. You often hear Christians say that without God anything, meaning any evil, is possible. Christians fear that if they suddenly lost their faith then they would quickly succumb to committing rape and murder, meaning they fear that they wouldn't know how to behave without God's guidance. And it means you really shouldn't use them as a babysitter for your kids, in case they suddenly wake up from their dream.
Let's digress for a moment. Christians claim that we humans have free will, the ability to make completely free choices, because God gave it to us. Christians are forced into making this argument because we apparently do have free will and there is no good evidence in nature that suggests God is real, thus it's up to each of us to decide if God is real. Christians also use the free will argument to try and explain why there is evil in the world, but that's a story for another time. So why is God hiding from us? Well, if he had signed his creation and was regularly appearing amongst us, then naturally we would all be forced to accept the obvious: God is real. And if we are forced to make a particular choice then we don't have free will, at least not in that particular matter. For example, we have free will to decide whether or not to eat pizza, but no rational person would argue that they have a choice over whether to believe if the Sun is real or not. We can argue about what it is, but not that it's not real. But God, as the story goes, gave us freedom of choice because apparently he didn't want robots or zombies that had no choice but to worship him. God wants us to come to him freely after recognising that what we read in the Bible and witness in the world means that God is real and the best choice. Even we atheists understand that, we like to think that our friends genuinely like us, they're not just pretending to be our friends because we're rich. So when people say, Why doesn't God just appear in the sky, then all these religion vs religion vs science debates would be settled, Christians reply that God won't do that. Because if he did then everyone would have absolute proof that God is real, and thus God would have taken away our free will to decide for ourselves concerning his existence. By appearing God would have forced everyone to believe in him, and it would be completely irrational to go on denying his existence. So God hides his existence from us and only those that genuinely seek him out will find evidence that he's real. Or so the Christian myth goes.
OK, so what's all that got to do with the silly claim that 'atheists are not really atheists'? Well, Lisle (courtesy of the Bible) has explained that 'God has revealed Himself to all' and 'God's existence is so obvious that anyone who suppresses this truth is "without excuse"'. So Lisle is arguing that God has revealed himself to everyone, not just atheists, forced himself on to us all, so clearly if that is the case then he has taken away our free will and our ability to choose to go to him freely. You might think that we still have the ability to deny the obvious, deny what we know is true, but if we did that, just to spite God, knowing that we would cause ourselves immeasurable harm, then we would be the fools that the Bible says we are. And we're not fools. So no, if the Bible is telling the truth then God has taken away our free will and has turned us into mindless sycophants for his eternal choir. But maybe you're now confused, didn't we say that other Christians, also with support from the Bible, argue that God won't reveal himself to us so as not to destroy our free will? Yes we did, and this just highlights yet another glaring and embarrassing contradiction in the Bible and Christian thought. The more you think about God and the Bible the more ridiculous it gets.
Further to the Christian contradiction that God gave us free will but has also revealed himself to us, Lisle accepts that 'Many atheists behave morally'. But how can this be if there is only one moral code, that handed down by God, and we atheists ignore it? Well, Lisle implies that when God reveals himself to atheists he also apparently downloads his moral code, it sneaks in unseen like a computer virus. So when we atheists behave morally it's apparently because God's moral code is running quietly in the background, and that code is, unbeknownst to us, dictating our behaviour. So, according to Lisle, when we atheists choose not to rape or murder, it's not because of free will, it's because God is stopping us. God's hidden moral code is hijacking our normal amoral or immoral atheist tendencies and forcing us to behave like good Christians. This can be the only explanation from a Christian perspective, since if God's hidden moral code isn't making us moral, then that means that atheists can be moral without God, which of course is impossible in their view. Either way Christians have a huge problem to answer. Obviously atheists are moral, and if atheists can be moral without any knowledge of God and his moral code, then clearly morals exist independently of God. And what's not to say that atheists haven't devised a better set of morals than Christians? But if atheists are only moral because God has secretly forced his morals onto us, then God has destroyed our free will and we are nothing but mindless automatons. The first scenario reveals a God that is superfluous since atheists have devised an even better moral code without God, and the second reveals an unjust god turning free-thinking atheists into robots dedicated to serve him. That's worse than slavery because we don't even know we're being controlled. The first is a god we don't need, the second is a god we don't want.
We'd even argue that atheists are more moral than religious folk, meaning that religion is actually limiting the moral code that humans are naturally able to generate if left alone with our thoughts. Atheists don't become suicide bombers or persecute homosexuals or say rape victims should marry their rapists, so it appears that religious moral codes corrupt our inbuilt moral code. Remove a belief in God and people tend to become far more ethical, not less.
To further his argument regarding morality and atheist inconsistency, he asks us to consider,
'the atheist university professor who teaches that human beings are simply chemical accidents — the end result of a long and purposeless chain of biological evolution. But then he goes home and kisses his wife and hugs his children, as if they were not simply chemical accidents, but valuable, irreplaceable persons deserving of respect and worthy of love.'Lisle expresses real surprise that atheists, the products of purposeless evolution, can somehow view their families (and others) as 'valuable, irreplaceable persons deserving of respect and worthy of love'. Note how he implies that this is how believers in God behave, and that you have to believe in the Bible to be able to view others as valuable and worthy of respect and love. So how do atheists do it? And yet this is the same Bible and same God that commands his followers to slaughter disobedient children, homosexuals and atheists, allows them to sell their daughters into slavery, prevents women from teaching men and wives from asking questions outside their homes. In a fit of anger he killed every person on the planet (bar one family) and even had his own son tortured and killed. Rather than be surprised that atheists treat other people with love and respect, Lisle should be wondering why Christians do. Let's remember that all those vile commandments are still in the Bible, and while most Christians feel they should ignore them, God has never revoked them. Is that because he's too busy, or because they still stand?
So it's a big mystery why Christians today generally treat others with love and respect. No, it's not, we're just kidding. They ignore those commandments in their Bible because they know they're primitive, ignorant, vile, unjust and downright barbaric. And they know God won't throw a bolt of lightning at them because deep down they're pretty sure he isn't real. And there's no mystery with evolution creating atheists that are nice either. Just because something is an accident doesn't mean we can't value the result. I may accidentally meet a stranger and we become great friends, but just because our meeting was accidental doesn't mean we can't and shouldn't value our friendship. Because atheists do indeed talk of the 'long and purposeless chain of biological evolution', Christians childishly assume that atheists must therefore view everything, including our families, as purposeless. Evolution had no purpose in creating humans, but now that we're here, and have evolved the ability to love, then we can simply make the most of that emotion, even though it wasn't planned for. The ability to love is not inconsistent with evolution, any more than is the ability to fly for birds.
In another example of atheist inconsistency, he questions why atheists think murder is wrong,
'In an atheistic, evolutionary universe where people are just animals, murder is no different than a lion killing an antelope. But we don't punish the lion! If people are just chemical accidents, then why punish one for killing another? ... The concepts that human beings are valuable ... all stem from a Christian worldview. Such things simply do not make sense in an atheistic view of life.'Of course his first statement — 'In an atheistic, evolutionary universe where people are just animals, murder is no different than a lion killing an antelope' — is clearly false. In most western countries, and certainly in NZ, we effectively do live, as far as murder and our treatment of it is concerned, 'In an atheistic, evolutionary universe'. Our justice system is secular, meaning it functions as if atheists are right, and there are no gods to worry about. Scientific investigation into murders works on the assumption that evolution is true. Police only look for real offenders, never for demons. Also most everyone from judges, lawyers, scientists and detectives to sales assistants and school kids do indeed accept that humans 'are just animals'. Intelligent animals certainly, but still just animals. Most people know that we're closely related to chimps, and more distantly related to koalas. But having said all that, no one argues that 'murder is no different than a lion killing an antelope'. So again there is no inconsistency since no atheist is arguing that since we don't arrest lions for murder, we shouldn't arrest humans either. Again Lisle can't accept that humans could naturally evolve the ability to value the life of another human being. He believes that his God must tell us that humans are valuable, it's not something we could ever discover for ourselves. But look at the animals that Lisle separates from God and his morals. Many place great value on their families, sometimes dying to protect them, and animals like elephants grieve over the death of family members. It's not just humans that find value in the lives around them, but surely the actions of elephants don't 'all stem from a Christian worldview'? Have you ever seen an elephant in church? Contrary to what Lisle claims, the actions of humans, elephants and chimps in caring for and valuing those in their community all makes perfect 'sense in an atheistic view of life'.
As for Lisle's claim that, 'The concepts that human beings are valuable ... all stem from a Christian worldview', typically he offers no proof of this. Let's remind everyone that humans were valuing other humans for thousands of years before Christianity was invented. They didn't need God to tell them that murder and rape were things to avoid. So even if we did find the fingerprint of some god on our sense of morality, clearly we should be looking at one of the many gods that turned up long before Jesus found the energy to drag himself out of bed.
Let's repeat that what Lisle is arguing here is that if atheists truly didn't believe in God then we should be behaving as amoral animals, ignoring and even mistreating our families. In the arrogant Christian view only believers in God can show love and respect towards others, and since atheists do actually do this, then clearly we must believe in God too. Let's repeat that it is the scary belief of devout, fundamentalist Christians that if they suddenly stopped believing in God then they would immediately start abusing their family, and anyone else nearby, since they believe it's only their faith that keeps them decent. Lose that and they would become uncaring animals. To argue otherwise is to argue that humans can be moral without God's rod and guiding hand.
As we've noted, Lisle accepts that many atheists do behave morally, and clearly the implication is that we do so because we believe in God (even though we refuse to acknowledge that belief). But if our belief forces us to behave morally, all be it in a zombie sense, then clearly this means that God belief, which we all have whether we want it or not, forces everyone to behave morally. And yet clearly there are many devout believers in God committing atrocious acts, and there has been throughout history, from the numerous examples of genocide in the Bible, inquisitions, slavery and witch burning, through to sexual abuse of children, persecution of homosexuals and suicide bombers in crowded markets. So if even denied-God-belief is sufficient to keep atheists moral, why isn't fully acknowledged, shout-from-the-rooftops God-belief enough to keep the rest moral? If it can keep atheists in line, without us even realising it, why isn't God's moral code stopping Christians from raping children?
The reality is that the great majority of people throughout history and around the planet have always been against serious crimes such as murder, rape and dishonesty, and they have loved their family and respected their friends. All these people were from vastly different cultures, languages and religions, and the only thing they really had in common was their humanity. No matter their religion, most everyone was against murder for example. Of course Lisle would argue that God had instilled in them his moral code, but if he was capable of revealing this to everyone throughout time and at every location, why was he not capable of clearly revealing his existence to them, as the Bible claims he did? Because let's remember that for much of human history Christianity was completely unknown, and even today the great majority of people still don't believe in the Christian God. Our point is that in their personal lives most people have always behaved in a reasonably moral way, except when religion made them do terrible things. They generally weren't rushing around murdering people, abusing their children and stealing from their neighbours. Again the only thing they had in common was that they were all human, not that they all believed in the same god, which they most certainly didn't, since there have been thousands of different gods. Their morality derived from their humanity, and they worked out forms of behaviour that made living in groups safer, more enjoyable and more rewarding. Society can't flourish if everyone is killing and stealing, so it's not rocket science to understand that men and women would develop a code of acceptable behaviour that one must abide by to be part of a community. And things like love, caring and respect are part of being human, everyone seeks them, so clearly they too would become part of the behaviour code, what we now call a moral code.
But this moral code, created as it was by fallible humans, has clearly changed over the centuries. At one time it was good and right to own slaves and burn witches, and the Bible says it still is, but humans looking outside religion have decided that the way some humans want to treat other humans can change, so now the latest version of the human moral code says slavery and witch burning is unacceptable. We can do that because we atheists control our own destinies, and can right what are seen as injustices, whereas if we were truly 'bound by a universal objective moral code' that is set out in the Bible by the Christian God as Lisle claims, then our Christian neighbours would still own slaves and we'd be hiding our atheism, fearful of being dragged out and stoned to death.
Lisle goes on to state that 'absolute morality simply does not comport with atheism. Why should there be an absolute, objective standard of behavior that all people should obey if the universe and the people within it are simply accidents of nature?'
But again he is making a bogus argument, since atheists do not claim that 'absolute morality' exists, that there is 'an absolute, objective standard of behavior that all people should obey'. Absolute can mean 'Perfect in quality or nature; complete; unconditional; total; not to be doubted or questioned', and yet none of those definitions apply to the atheist view of morality. We accept that our morality, our ethics, are not perfect nor complete, and that they can be questioned. They've changed in the past and we're sure they'll change in the future. We don't view a moral code as objective, as in something existing out there in the universe, like a black hole just waiting to be discovered. We view a moral code as something that humans must create for ourselves. How might we do that? Well, humans have evolved to have emotions and the power of reason, and ancient man (and woman) would have realised that how they behave towards others can greatly influence social living. And humans are social animals. They understood that some actions harm others, and that reducing this harm, as a group, could make for a better life for everyone. They then tried to make it clear to everyone what actions could be deemed right, good, helpful and moral, and what actions were seen as wrong, bad, unhelpful and immoral. For thousands of years people have been wondering how to lead a good life and asking how we should treat others. Study of this today is what we call ethics. Every culture on the planet throughout history has developed some form of moral code, it's what humans do, but they were all different in their details, even though most of them included prohibitions against murder, rape etc. But there clearly wasn't some 'absolute, objective standard of behavior' just lying around waiting to be discovered by each emerging culture. Every human group or tribe had to invent their own moral code, and modify it as circumstances changed. Lisle is claiming, with no proof, that an absolute, objective morality exists and asks how atheists can explain that. There is nothing to explain since no such morality exists. It's like asking atheists to explain the Tooth Fairy.
Lisle also argues that atheists are being inconsistent by denying the right of some minority religion (ie Christianity) to impose their morality on the world, because in doing so we're imposing our views on them and acting as hypocrites. Of course atheists have never had the power to impose our views on anyone, nor would we want to. Like many Christians, Lisle confuses atheists with secularists and anyone who isn't a fundamentalist Christian. And it is secular governments and their citizens, made up of both non-believers and believers (including Christians), that together agree to make certain behaviour illegal. And yes, some atheists might proffer a code of ethics that we'd like people to follow, but we'll try and persuade people with rational arguments, not threats of a stoning, excommunication or eternal punishment in Hell. As atheists we do support legal enforcement against certain behaviour, eg murder, rape, theft and driving on the wrong side of the road, but only because allowing that behaviour would cause great harm. We accept certain controls on our behaviour because it's something we must do to live in a safe, peaceful society, but we don't support controls on behaviour that harms no one, like working on a Sunday, masturbation or wearing a cotton/polyester shirt, just because some invisible god was offended. And what if we can't all agree on what behaviour should be controlled? Well, that's why we live in a democracy and not a theocracy, which allows us to debate, discuss, compromise and develop a code that the majority accepts. And that code still won't be absolute and objective, it's merely a code that society creates to enable it to function efficiently. And if need be it will be modified. Yes, people will be refused certain freedoms, like being able to drive on either side of the road, but to live in society there must be some rules.
Let's quickly look at Lisle's argument from another angle. Lisle claims there are logical inconsistencies between an atheist's disbelief and our behaviour, something we deny. There is nothing inconsistent with atheists honestly and rationally rejecting belief in a god we have no knowledge of, and see no evidence for. Our carefree behaviour matches our disbelief since we honestly believe there is nothing to fear. What would be inconsistent and irrational behaviour is the scenario Lisle paints, where atheists know all too well that God is real and is going to torture us for all eternity if we don't acknowledge him, and yet we freely choose to ignore him for no good reason. Now our carefree behaviour doesn't gel with our belief in God. We should be scared shitless, so why aren't we? How does Lisle explain that inconsistency?
But we think Lisle is on the right track, there are embarrassing logical inconsistencies out there between beliefs and behaviour, but for Christians, not atheists. As we've already mentioned, with regard to love and respect and how they treat others, Lisle should be wondering why Christians ignore their God as much as they do. They say they obey God's moral commandments as set forth in the Bible, but they clearly don't. They no longer stone atheists to death, nor disobedient children, homosexuals and psychics. They don't burn witches, deal in slaves or make rape victims marry their rapists. They wear cotton/polyester shirts, they work on the Sabbath, they make false idols, they commit adultery by looking lustfully at others, they're envious of their friend's new iPhone, they let women teach men, they get tattoos, they eat shellfish, they swear oaths in court, they pray in public, and yet all these behaviours and many more are prohibited by their God. On top of all that Christians, even Lisle, reject many of the 'scientific' explanations offered by their God, such as the world being flat and resting on pillars, that God keeps snow and hail in storehouses, that the sea is held back by doors and bars and that God hurls lightning. Surely this worldwide, blatant Christian behaviour reveals huge inconsistencies for Lisle to explain? If Christians accept that God is real, the Bible is his word, and he must be obeyed, then why do they ignore, deny or question so much of God's word? How could an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God have got a single explanation wrong in the Bible or have killed in a fit of rage a single human whose life has real value? That Christians could be so convinced that their God is real and the Bible is true and yet live their lives ignoring so much of it is a monumental logical inconsistency.
Of course us lowly atheists have a possible explanation. The blasphemous lifestyle of Christians is perfectly consistent with their hidden suspicion that God isn't real at all, and so they're perfectly safe eating shellfish, masturbating and enjoying science documentaries, all on the Sabbath. Of course Lisle will disagree, so it's now back on him to explain the glaring inconsistency of why he isn't stoning atheists as his God commands.
The transcendental argument for God
And now we get to what Lisle sees as the most glaring atheist inconsistency. How is it that atheists (in the guise of scientists, historians, philosophers etc) can make observations, collect evidence and use reason and logic to develop devastating arguments and a worldview that argues against gods? How is that possible if they're not getting help from God? You don't see lions building particle accelerators. These atheists must be stealing God's knowledge ... right?
Dr. Jason Lisle's claim to fame (within the creationist world) is apparently his defence of something called the 'transcendental argument for God', or TAG for short. He argues that,
'the best proof of God's existence is that without Him we couldn't prove anything at all! The existence of the biblical God is the prerequisite for knowledge and rationality.'Basically that means that if you meet an atheist with an IQ higher than a gerbil, then that atheist, although they'll childishly deny it, is being helped by God to think rationally. But then, strangely, with God's tutoring atheists go on to make fools of Christians, which makes one wonder what God is playing at. However, it's not for us to understand God mysterious ways, so Lisle goes on to confidently say that, 'It is a devastating and conclusive argument, one that only a few people have even attempted to refute (and none of them successfully)'. We read on the 'Encyclopedia of Creation Science' that,
'Dr. Lisle promotes the argument as being philosophically impregnable--irrefutable. This argument is by no means successful in all situations. It will not work on opponents who are especially stubborn or ignorant. An opponent must be intelligent enough to understand that he has been defeated, and honest enough to admit that he has no refutation to the transcendental argument.'Well, we're about to ruin Dr. Jason Lisle's day because we'll explain why it's childishly easy to refute. Not that Lisle is likely to read any of this, or accept our criticism of his argument if he did. His job in life is to keep Christians deluded, and we really mean that. Even though he has a PhD in astrophysics, he works not as a astrophysicist but for 'The Institute for Creation Research'. Don't let the word "research" in the title fool you, it's basically a creationist church where fundamentalist Christians sit around reading their Bibles (in offices, not labs), inventing silly arguments for creationism, and criticising the work of real scientists.
Apparently Lisle's article is a reprint of a chapter from a book edited by fellow creationist Ken Ham, 'The New Answers Book 3: Over 35 Questions on Creation/Evolution and the Bible'. Ham is responsible for the silly Creation Museum in Kentucky, which features a dinosaur with a saddle, not just as a gimmick for kids, but because these idiots sincerely believe that man and dinosaurs lived together peacefully, and thus people would have ridden them as we now ride horses. We're not even sure that you can honestly call a building full of exhibits based on fairytales a museum, a place that normally displays objects of scientific and historical value. It's like telling kids that the 'Star Wars' movie is a documentary.
The type of argument Lisle is offering is a logical argument that presents us with premises; true statements that when we consider their connections they lead us to conclude that the focus of the argument must also be true. The focus or purpose of Lisle's argument is to convince us that God exists, and he attempts to do that by stating some accepted facts about our world and from those facts we must logically conclude that God is real. We move, if his argument is sound, from not realising or believing something, to believing that something.
Before we look at Lisle's argument, here's a common example of an argument (or syllogism) showing the general format:
Premise 1: All men are mortal.When you consider the two premises, the conclusion logically follows and must be true. By using Lisle's actual text from his article we can lay out his argument in the same format:
Premise 1: 'Laws of logic owe their existence to the biblical God.'If you can't immediately see that there's a major flaw in Lisle's argument, then let's repeat it after replacing God with Santa Claus. We haven't in any way altered the logic of the argument, which is what it's all about:
Premise 1: Laws of logic owe their existence to Santa Claus.So if Lisle's argument is sound, we've just proven that Santa exists, and that he actually created the laws of logic, not God. With Lisle's logic you can prove anyone from Zeus and the Tooth Fairy to Donald Duck and Darth Vader exists, and that they created the laws of logic. Clearly this is absurd, so clearly Lisle's argument is hogwash.
So why is Lisle's argument misleading hogwash? If logically the conclusion must be true, and yet clearly it's not, then what went wrong? Well, the main problem is that a conclusion is only true if the premises of your argument are accepted as true. In her excellent book, 'Thinking Clearly: A Guide to Critical Reasoning', Jill LeBlanc explains,
'Premises must always be more certain (likelier to be believed) than the conclusions they support. Arguments work by leading someone from something he of she already accepts and believes, to something new.'So clearly Lisle's first premise destroys his argument. It states that the 'Laws of logic owe their existence to the biblical God'. It's another example of Lisle using a circular argument. Let's remember that the sole purpose of Lisle's argument is to prove the existence of God, and yet he boldly implies in his first premise that everyone, Christians and atheists alike, already accept that God exists. Lisle is assuming in the premise the very thing he's trying to prove. His first premise is essentially saying the same thing as his conclusion: God exists. So it's not an argument, its just a story. If atheists were to agree that the 'Laws of logic owe their existence to the biblical God', then we are agreeing that God must exist. There is no need for Lisle to continue with his argument because apparently we atheists have already been tricked into revealing that we accept that God created logic.
Lisle's argument is a bad argument because that first premise is not one that the intelligent, informed, rational people he's aiming his argument at, in this case atheists, or Muslims and Hindus for that matter, accept as likely to be true. And ditto for Santa and the other characters. You might take exception with us replacing God with Santa, and complain that it's ridiculous to think that any informed adult would base a serious argument on the premise that everyone accepts that Santa is real. But we want you to recognise how ridiculous it is for someone to make such an assumption, because although Lisle is talking of God rather than Santa, it's the same flawed logic. The majority of the world do not accept that Santa or God is real. Arguments only work if everyone can first agree that the premises are reasonable, but if a premise is flawed, then you can ignore the conclusion no matter what it appears to prove. And as we've shown, with a flawed premise you can prove any nonsense you want, such as Santa creating logic.
Yet more creationist lies...
But let's not leave it there, let's look at some more flawed thinking in Lisle's silly TAG argument. It's still based on the nonsense that 'atheists are not really atheists', that 'God has revealed Himself to all', and that we know that the Bible is true. On that 'Encyclopedia of Creation Science' site they wrote that,
'Lisle takes great pains to make it clear that it is not a profession of belief in the Biblical Worldview that is required, but merely that the Biblical Worldview (the belief that what the Bible says is completely true) is true.'So again, for his argument to work you have to first believe the Bible is true. Clearly these idiots don't understand the logic behind how arguments work. But anyway, here's Lisle explaining why we know God (and not evolution) created logic:
'Laws of logic stem from God's sovereign nature; they are a reflection of the way He thinks. They are immaterial, universal, invariant, abstract entities, because God is an immaterial (Spirit), omnipresent, unchanging God who has all knowledge (Colossians 2:3). Thus, all true statements will be governed by God's thinking — they will be logical. The law of non-contradiction, for example, stems from the fact that God does not deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). The Christian can account for laws of logic; they are the correct standard for reasoning because God is sovereign over all truth. We can know some of God's thoughts because God has revealed Himself to us through the words of Scripture and the person of Jesus Christ.'But again, all that guff is no different to the Santa argument we used above. If people with different beliefs can all use the same argument to 'prove' their belief and disprove yours, then clearly the argument is worthless. A Muslim could claim that his god created logic by simply writing: 'Laws of logic stem from Allah's sovereign nature ... blah blah blah ... because Allah has revealed Himself to us through the words of the Koran and the person of Mohammed'. A Hindu or a Jedi Knight could do the same by inserting their characters, so unsupported statements like that reveal nothing about reality. They're not part of an argument, they're part of a fairytale. Fanciful claims of invisible gods should only be taken seriously if they can be bolstered by solid evidence, which of course they can't. If they had been, then there would be no need to develop the TAG argument in the first place, since we would already have evidence of God's existence, and would believe in him.
And it's a bit of a joke to talk about God and 'The law of non-contradiction' in connection with 'the words of Scripture', when the Bible is absolutely riddled with contradictions concerning God. Have they not read it? Even to talk of the 'unchanging God' is something that is illogical. Think about it. Before he created the universe God knew that he had no worshippers. After he created man to worship him, God now knew he had worshippers, so God's thoughts are now different to what they were previously, so God has changed. Every time God learns something new, eg that Eve has eaten the forbidden fruit, means he must change. And he did change, from a loving father to a mean, unjust landlord throwing his pets out onto the street (or what passed for streets in those days).
Lisle then explains the problem atheists have with logic:
'However, the atheist cannot account for laws of logic. He cannot make sense of them within his own worldview. How could there be immaterial, universal, invariant, abstract laws in a chance universe formed by a big bang? Why should there be an absolute standard of reasoning if everything is simply "molecules in motion"? Most atheists have a materialistic outlook — meaning they believe that everything that exists is material, or explained by material processes. But laws of logic are not material! You cannot pull a law of logic out of the refrigerator! If atheistic materialism is true, then there could be no laws of logic, since they are immaterial. Thus, logical reasoning would be impossible!'All creationist nonsense of course. Let's start with Lisle's description of a 'materialistic outlook' and his claim that the laws of logic can't be part of that view 'since they are immaterial'. He's wrong, as my dictionary definition of 'materialism' shows:
'The theory that physical matter is the only reality and that everything, including thought, feeling, mind, and will, can be explained in terms of matter and physical phenomena.'Note that materialism does include immaterial things, such as 'thought, feeling, mind, and will'. Lisle probably stated that atheists have a materialistic outlook rather than a naturalistic outlook just so he could mislead people as to what materialism actually means. So there is no contradiction or inconsistency in believing in both materialism and the laws of logic. So what are laws of logic? They're not laws in the same sense as those issued by the justice system, they are simply thoughts, ideas and observations that allow us to better understand reality. They weren't formed by the Big Bang, they don't exist out there somewhere waiting to be discovered, they were formed in the minds of many humans over centuries. Many animals demonstrate remarkable feats of logic, although of course they have no concept of the 'laws of logic'. You don't have to be able to write out the 'laws of logic' to be able to use logic, but when someone does so, then we get superstitious Christians that argue that they couldn't have thought of that by themselves, God must have told them. Lisle argues that,
'The fact that the atheist is able to reason demonstrates that he is wrong. By using that which makes no sense given his worldview, the atheist is being horribly inconsistent.'The reality is that evolution working in a materialistic universe is perfectly capable of explaining thoughts that involve logic. It makes perfect sense in our atheistic, naturalistic worldview.
But what if atheists couldn't make sense of logic, or why humans resemble chimps, or why lightning hits golfers? If we were at a loss to explain the world, as people were for most of history, would we be forced to conclude that Lisle is most likely right? This question reveals another false assumption that runs throughout Lisle's argument. Well, the arguments of most religious believers to be honest. It's a fallacy called false dichotomy or false dilemma, where the person making an argument falsely implies that we only have two choices, either he's right or we're right. Meaning that disproving one option automatically proves the other. Lisle argues that if he can disprove atheism then logically Christianity emerges the victor. He doesn't have to prove Christianity true, he just has to prove atheism false. Here is a typical statement by Lisle:
'The atheist cannot account for (1) the existence of laws of logic ... [blah blah blah] ... But of course, all these things make perfect sense on the Christian system.'If the reader agrees that the atheist seems to be at a loss to explain the world, then because Lisle has peppered his entire article with the idea that if atheism fails then Christianity wins by default, the reader comes away favouring Christianity as the likely correct answer. Of course a Hindu immediately sees another alternative, and argues that neither the atheist nor the Christian is correct, and our world only makes perfect sense under the Hindu system. A Muslim would argue that none of us are correct, that only Islam makes sense.
The most Lisle's argument could do is to confuse people and make them unsure what to believe. It could easily shake their confidence in scientific evidence, and overwhelmed by the complexity of it all, perhaps convince them that the universe does indeed need an intelligent designer. And unfortunately that does appear to be the goal of the intelligent design/creationist crowd, to invent convoluted arguments designed to confuse and generate doubt rather than actually do real research to find real evidence to support their claims.
But even if Lisle succeeds in making people think that there must be something out there that created all this, we must remember that that something could be an advanced alien playing around in its lab, the ancient Greek god Zeus, or some god that we've never heard of. Lisle's badly flawed argument in no way helps people rationally decide that if a creator is needed who that creator might be. Of course Lisle does repeatedly claim that the creator is the Christian God, but what we're saying is that his argument provides no reason or evidence to support that claim. Lisle would need a completely new argument for that. And if such an argument existed we can assume Lisle would have produced it, rather than going with the childish crap that did.
Even if Lisle were correct and atheists are at a loss to explain certain aspects the world, we don't feel as though we're forced by logic to therefore embrace Christianity as an explanation. Or Hinduism or Islam etc. There are other options still. Our choice would be 'none of the above'. Of course we can't yet explain everything, not even close, but our worldview and the huge amount of evidence supporting it suggests that explanations are likely possible, maybe in the distant future, and that they will be naturalistic in nature. Of the millions of explanations we've generated so far, and that prove their validity by going on to create working technology, not one has required a supernatural element. What caused the Big Bang and created life? Atheists are content to say we simply don't yet know, but history clearly demonstrates that there is no evidence that it was anything but a natural process. We've encountered and eventually solved many mysteries in the past, none of which required a god, and likely we'll do the same again, but even if absolute answers elude us, we'd rather live honestly with a mystery than dishonestly with a comforting lie. Atheists simply don't feel the need to rush back into a church whenever we encounter a mystery.
To all you Christians out there, by all means throw up your hands and admit that you can't understand how the laws of logic arose, or why the grass is green and the sky is blue, but just because you personally can't understand something doesn't mean that Jesus must be the answer. Let's remember that in the dim Christian past every time someone encountered something they didn't understand, from lightning and food poisoning to earthquakes and rainbows, the explanation was God. We now know they were demonstrably wrong. They didn't know they were wrong, but we do. So when Lisle talks of what doesn't make sense, what truly doesn't make sense is throwing away everything we've learnt over recent centuries and once again adopting the religious worldview of a medieval peasant.
So, to recap. Dr. Jason Lisle began his article by asserting that everyone, meaning atheists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus etc, and not just Christians, accept as a fact the claim that the Christian God created life and the universe. Any credibility he might have had is destroyed right there. Building on this clearly ridiculous belief, he explains that his argument makes sense because all atheists are actually undercover Christians. Which of course makes no sense at all. We explained that to support his 'atheists are not really atheists' argument he uses a faulty form of reasoning called circular reasoning, which when other people wrongly use it in their arguments he correctly exposes as 'vicious circular reasoning'. Apparently being deceptive is OK if you're being deceptive for God.
Lisle claims that there are clear inconsistencies between what atheists say we believe and the way we behave. If we're saying we're just 'chemical accidents ... molecules in motion ... the end result of a long and purposeless chain of biological evolution', then Lisle argues that this means we shouldn't be able to love and value our children, want to punish murderers or understand logic. But clearly we do. And Lisle's answer to this apparent paradox of why atheists that should be wicked act morally instead, is that we were actually created by God, not evolution. And atheists know this, it's seared into our very psyche, the result being that knowing the truth means it's impossible for atheists not to subconsciously use their knowledge of God to act like good Christians, all the while wearing a confusing atheist hat. We are God's zombies, thinking that we're rebelling while unknowingly still running God's software.
Of course the reality is that the inconsistencies Lisle thinks he sees are mere mirages, created by his sheer desperation to reclaim natural processes as his God's handiwork. Every time he says that something makes no sense, what he actually means is that it makes no sense to someone totally immersed in a worldview dreamt up by ignorant goat herders several thousand years ago. If Lisle wants real, verifiable inconsistencies, then he needs only to look at the world around him and compare it to the stories in his Bible; stories of a flat Earth resting on pillars, talking snakes, men rising from the dead, stars falling to Earth and angels watching us from the clouds. Now those are the real stories that don't make sense.
So in conclusion, Lisle's argument is like reassuring a three-year-old that Santa exists. If you come to it already believing in God, then it works, and if you don't then it doesn't. All it does is give false hope and comfort to those Christians struggling to accept reality, and terrified that this life, the one they're wasting on their knees in church, is all they get.
|You, your God and your genitals|
Recently we were alerted to yet another silly claim from a true believer, a creationist convinced that he's found clear evidence for God; that it's always been right in front of us, if only we would look down and accept the obvious. Warning: it involves looking down your pants, or possibly not, since you can probably recall what's down there.
Anyway, here's the email we received:
'I don't know if you follow Brendan McNeill's blogs, on most subjects he is someone I generally agree with. But where religion is concerned he spouts the most incredible nonsense. I thought you would enjoy this one:On reading his article, Brendan informs us that he has 'concluded that one of the best arguments for God's existence is ... you ... your existence is at the very least profound evidence of a Creator'. Evidently his argument 'all comes down to sex', specifically that 'we are either born male or female', or to quote another of his comments, men and women have 'different but complementary sex organs'.
That's right, the fact that on our 'Silly Beliefs' team, I possess a penis and Rachel doesn't, is apparently 'profound evidence of a Creator'. Who would have thought, certainly not either of us! We've been looking to science for evidence, when apparently we should have just dropped our pants and made comparisons. I must admit that the interaction of male and female genitals have often entered my thoughts over the years, perhaps more than is considered healthy, at least from the perspective of this so-called Creator, and yet not once, thankfully, did theories of God's existence ever intrude to disrupt my thoughts. But then I'm an atheist, and while it seems weird to me, I guess Christians are used to threesomes in their sex lives; them, their partner and God.
We initially looked at just critiquing Brendan's claims that our genitals show clear evidence of godly design, and our debunking of his specific argument can be found here, further into this post. But then we thought that like us, we guess you've encountered Christians who believe they've found clear evidence for God's existence in all manner of things, not just genitals; everything from a beautiful sunset and a baby's smile, to the 'laws' of physics and of people miraculously recovering from a bad cold after praying to Mother Teresa. I mean think about it, they say, what use would evolution have for causing primitive humans to see beauty in a sunset, and a how can we have the 'laws' of physics without a lawgiver to first issue them? And now we have Brendan's argument, where we are expected to reject evolution because it's quite silly and oh so improbable that it created (just by chance) a penis and then thought, Hey, I better create a vagina to go with that. What are the odds of that happening, right?
While in their details these design arguments for God appear different, they're actually all variations on a theme, they all suffer from the same serious flaw, and once you recognise that flaw then all the many arguments can immediately be dismissed. And the theme we're referring to is when creationists (be they Christians, Muslims, Jews or whatever), employ this general argument: 'It's impossible that that thing arose naturally, so God must have created it'. The 'thing' they're denying can be anything from evolution and the universe in general to something as specific as a baby's smile or our genitals.
You've probably heard the silly creationist argument that the odds of humans evolving by random chance from pond slime is similar to a hurricane striking a junk yard and accidentally assembling a working Boeing jumbo jet. In other words, it's never going to happen. And of course they're right, but only because the argument itself is flawed, based as it is on a serious misunderstanding of evolution. However a core element of their argument is valid, and by this we mean judging an event on the likelihood or probability that it might have happened. Creationists apparently have no problem looking at all manner of 'natural' events and working out how ridiculously implausible it is that those events could have happened without divine intervention.
But the problem here is that they only ever consider whether 'natural' events are likely to have happened, eg evolution versus hurricanes making jets, they never compare the probability of evolution being true against the probability of God being true. In his article Brendan writes that he hopes we have 'grasped the improbability of human beings simply evolving into male and female', and in the comments that follow his article a fellow creationist called Chris also noted that, 'I think the main point Brendan was raising, however, was more around the extreme improbability [of human genitals]... which ... is hard to move past'. But again, this flawed argument from creationists is only telling half the story. If you're going to decide on whether something is likely real or not on the basis of probability, and we agree that this is a very good, rational stance on which to base an argument, then you must consider and treat all claims equally. Chris says that, 'It seems to be, on the balance of probabilities, that the most likely explanation is that we were created by an all-powerful, all-loving God'. Both Chris and Brendan are quite demanding that we consider how probable it is that scientific claims are true, which is entirely reasonable, but they clearly refuse to subject their religious claims to the same considerations, they won't turn the probability spotlight onto their God claims. Chris offers a list of seven so-called 'scientific claims' concerning the origin of the universe and life that he says makes the naturalistic worldview everything from unscientific to extremely improbable. Note the apparent confidence that science and probability can and should be used to judge the reliability of claims, and we applaud this confidence, but again note that creationists never apply the same tools to a similar list of God claims.
Let's just consider his first point, since all his following points hinge on whether the first gives us cause to worry. If God falls and breaks his leg at the first hurdle, then we know he's out for all the following hurdles. For his first point, Chris says, 'All the raw materials of the universe popped out of literally nothing (unscientific)', meaning that we should dismiss that claim because it doesn't make sense. Let's overlook the fact that it's not quite what science claims, but what's the Biblical alternative? They claim that God created the universe 'ex nihilo'. That phrase sounds impressive until you discover that ex nihilo means 'out of nothing'. So here we have Christians criticising science for suggesting that the universe could come from nothing (actually that 'nothing' is maybe a quantum fluctuation, which is not exactly nothing) and yet their religious belief says essentially the same thing! Of course they'll argue that God can make something out of nothing, and so clearly the crucial thing is to have a god in the wings to perform the magic. Note that while both claims may initially appear similar, for the religious version to make sense an all-powerful god must somehow magically be added to the mix, immediately making their version more complicated. And Christians believe that a universe is far more likely to contain an all-powerful god than just boring hydrogen gas. That's a bit like spying an ordinary mailbox and claiming that it's far more likely to contain a family of living dinosaurs than it is to be empty. It seems that when you have a god in your corner, or in your universe, impossible things can happen that could never happen in real life. In Genesis 1:3 we see this wizard at work, and read that on the first day of creation, 'And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light'. These Christians blindly believe that God, not by firing up his particle accelerator or setting his phaser from STUN to LIGHT, but by simply speaking a command, instantly created what we call visible light, a form of energy, from nothing. And yet they have the nerve to challenge the claims science makes as unbelievable? Of course some of you might point out that the light didn't emanate from nothing, it came from the Sun. But no, according to the Bible, and surely God wouldn't record the events in the wrong order, he didn't create the Sun until three days later. So what was the source of this light, is God naturally luminescent? Using the seven so-called 'scientific claims' that Chris makes, a similar list can be made detailing how God supposedly created the universe and life, and if you think the scientific version, the one well-supported by evidence, is extremely unlikely to be true, it's still heads and shoulders above a magical version featuring an invisible sky fairy shouting, 'Let there be light', into the gloom.
We simply can't understand how Christians can see nothing at all improbable and unscientific, if not downright laughable, with ancient unsupported claims that an unseen god belonging to a primitive, xenophobic tribe made the entire universe in six days from nothing, merely by wishing it to happen, and then made a fully functioning adult human from simple dust. Seriously, how blind must they be to readily accept the childish, primitive, conflicting stories in the Bible as perfectly reasonable and not at all improbable, while consistently dismissing the well-supported evidence behind the Big Bang and evolution and numerous other fields of science as extremely improbable and unscientific? And ironically, they're even using the Internet, a marvel of science and technology, to effectively argue that science is nothing but smoke and mirrors.
No matter how vast and old the universe is, no matter how complex life is, God is by definition bigger, older and far more complex. If a simple universe comprising nothing more than uniform, chaotic energy couldn't arise from 'nothing', or couldn't have existed for ever, then how illogical and unreasonable it is to suddenly claim that an unimaginably complex, living, thinking being with magical powers could have arisen from 'nothing', or could have existed for ever! And if God were real, there are only two options here, either God has existed for ever, twiddling his proverbial thumbs for an infinite time, and only just recently deciding to create the universe, or God popped into existence at some time in the distant past, either fully formed or in a more primitive form that then evolved to the point where he became all-powerful and all-knowing. But again we come up against that problem. If someone claims that a very simple universe that is less complex than a brick couldn't have existed forever, and couldn't have suddenly popped into existence, then how can that same person reasonably argue that an unimaginably complex and inconceivably powerful god could have existed forever, one that desires sexual intimacy for some reason? That's like saying that they can't for one minute believe a 5-year-old child could learn to ride a bike and yet they have no problem believing a one-day-old baby could fly the space shuttle.
This is probably the biggest problem we have with the existence of God. If the greater universe, meaning whatever our known universe arose from, couldn't have existed forever and couldn't have evolved from simple to complex without outside help, then clearly neither could God. And yet it's argued that God has always been the same, he never changes, he has always been unimaginably complex and powerful. If it's argued that something very, very simple cannot exist without the help of a god — it's impossible — then how can something very, very complex exist without the help of a god, that complex thing being God himself? Why isn't God impossible for the same reason they say a natural universe is impossible? If we go through a list of things, say, some energy, a cloud of hydrogen gas, a grain of sand, an amoeba, a worm, a mosquito, a parrot and a human, with each thing more complex than the last, and ask if each thing could exist without a god creating it, Christians will tell us that each is impossible because they're all, even the hydrogen gas, far too complex to arise without God creating them. If we then ask if any of those things are more complex than God, we're informed that, No, they're all unimaginably simple compared to God. So, unimaginably simple things all require the efforts of God to exist. So if it's impossible for even simple things to occur naturally, how is it that an unimaginably complex thing like God could be placed on our list, and suddenly Christians would say that they have no problem believing he could exist naturally, but that worm, don't be stupid.
We're sorry to labour the point, but Christians really struggle with this, even though they repeatedly harp on about how extremely improbable the natural universe and life is, and they try and give the impression that they actually understand something about logic and probability. Read their creationist magazines or watch their TV shows and they're forever explaining how the probability against a simple cell existing, let alone the human mind, is a one followed by a zillion or so zeros. But they fail to grasp that if you dismiss a natural universe because the odds against it existing are so great as to be impossible, then logically you must also dismiss God because the odds against God existing must be far, far, far greater, and even more impossible. If the human mind arising naturally without help is extremely improbable, then why isn't God's mind even more so? This thinking is nothing new and complicated, it's just their argument against evolution turned back on to their God.
Yes, we know that believers will insist that God has always existed and that God is the one and only thing that never had to be created, apparently he just is and always has been. But what badly weakens their argument is that they can suggest no reason why this might be the case, and can provide no evidence that it is the case. So we shouldn't even call it an argument, it's nothing more than wishful thinking. Of course there is some logic to their view, since whether we're believers or atheists, thinking of God or a godless universe, we can all imagine that perhaps we don't have to explain where God or the universe came from, since perhaps the answer is that God or the universe has existed forever. As atheists we have no problem saying that some 'greater universe' might have existed forever, although we have no idea what that really means, but the logic of the human mind suggests that 'something' has to stretch back into infinity, since as soon as you pick a start point in time, someone will ask what came before that. Here both the atheist and the believer struggle with the same mind-blowing concept of infinities and boundaries, both in space and time. But if we both accept that 'something' must have been the cause of our observable universe, the rational question is to ask which of several options is the most likely to be the real answer. Surely one option is more scientifically plausible than the others, and maybe one option, no matter how unlikely or weird and how difficult it is to understand, is still far more probable than others? We are forever evaluating mysterious events based on what reason would suggest is the most likely explanation, and we call people irrational when they reach conclusions that clearly go against the balance of probabilities. Think of when you see a leaf moving in the backyard, do you think the wind or fairies? When someone knocks on your door, is it more likely to be a friend or a vampire? So confronted with the reality of our universe, should we think natural causes or a desperately lonely god with plan?
If we all agree that something has to have existed forever, isn't it far, far more likely that whatever that something is, it's more likely to be something very simple, like empty space, or an energy field, or an elementary particle like a quark, rather than a thinking, walking, talking, flying, spell-casting super god? This is another example of them demonstrating that when confronted with two options, they can't compare them and try and grasp which is the more probable and which is the most improbable. They always get it wrong, thinking that one complex thing (God) is far more likely to happen than many or even one simple thing. They dismiss the simplest option because, wait for it, it's improbable, and argue for the most horrendously complicated option, because, and their logic escapes us here, the God option must be true because it's so extremely improbable as to be off the chart. As atheists we've lost count over the number of times we've suggested to a creationist that maybe a very simple, early version of the universe has existed forever, and thus it never needed a god to create it. And they reply, Don't be silly, how could something have existed forever? And we think, really, this from someone who insists that their God has existed forever? Do not they not hear themselves?
And this is why we lose no sleep over the fact that science can't (yet anyway) explain what happened before the Big Bang or how life arose from non-life. No matter how complex the details of cosmology and evolution are, no matter how improbable it is that the universe and life turned out as it did, the very argument that creationists use will always — ALWAYS — show that no matter how simple or complex or how likely or unlikely the idea of a natural universe is, it is always far, far more likely to be true than the idea of a universe with a super god in it. We atheists are only claiming the existence of one thing, a simple universe, whereas true believers are claiming two, a simple universe and a complex god, and they have the audacity to claim that two things are more likely to exist than one. Let's remember that they're trying to convince us that the Big Bang and evolution theories are so badly flawed that they should be rejected, and their argument is that we should use logic and reason and look to what's probable and scientific and reject what's not. And yet anyone that does this shouldn't fail to realise that this makes belief in their God far more unlikely, it actually makes us more convinced that God isn't real, not less. By insisting that we use the tools of reason and science they actually shoot themselves in the foot.
OK, so the above shows that it doesn't matter what thing a creationist highlights as being too improbable to exist naturally, since it always leads to the realisation that their argument logically rules out God as well. But since we wrote the following text first, where we debunked the specifics of Brendan McNeill's article: 'One of the best proofs of God's existence...', we might as well include it, for those of you that still think that your genitals have the godly stamp of perfection on them.
According to Brendan, 'For human beings to exist on this planet, and to reproduce ourselves, we need both male and female, similar but different in design, but with distinctly complementary sex organs'. And in his mind this arrangement could only have come about by deliberate, intelligent design. Brendan further reveals in the comments following his post that he's a fundamentalist Christian, fully accepting that Adam and Eve were real people, from which all humans descended. We wonder if he still puts a stocking up for Santa? But we digress, since once you bring God into the equation, you can't then say that humans could only exist by having 'distinctly complementary sex organs'. Surely with God anything is possible? He could have given women the power to simply say, 'Let there be a baby', and lo, there was a new baby on the kitchen bench when she arrived home. As David pointed out to Brendan in the comments following his article, God could simply have made humans to clone ourselves. There are many species that reproduce asexually, and very successfully. So God was quite familiar with cloning, and more than happy to employ it as a means of reproduction. Also, Christians believe that God creates and plonks a soul into each of us, which is what apparently separates humans from the animals, so why doesn't the lazy bastard just create a body to go along with the soul, he's all-powerful after all, and then he wouldn't have to fixate over all that messy sex stuff that goes on under the covers? And one of the most famous characters in the Bible managed to reproduce without ever using her God-given genitals, the Virgin Mary. So if you're a believing Christian, then clearly you should realise that it's very easy for God to get na´ve young women pregnant without their consent (what we atheists call rape), and thus it would have been child's play for God to have created humans that could exist and flourish without needing genitals or to engage in sex. Thankfully he didn't go down that path.
In fact, rather than support the God idea, human genitals speak against a creator and intelligent design. Adult males produce millions of sperm every day compared to females which front up with one egg a month. What overkill, surely an all-intelligent God could have made a more efficient spermatozoon, one that could get the job done without billions and billions being wasted? Also the majority of pregnancies result in spontaneous abortions, usually before the woman even realises she's pregnant, meaning the reproduction process fails more often than it succeeds. Hardly a good design. Would you fly if planes crashed more often than not? And if our genitals are specifically created for reproduction, and we're clearly designed to get great pleasure from them, what sort of moron would also think it was a great idea to make them dual purpose, to also use them to urinate with, to excrete waste from our bodies? And even worse, just over the fence, a mere stone's throw from our genitals, is the site of an even more toxic waste disposal outlet. I mean, really, where was the planning oversight on that idea? And why did God design humans to be sexually receptive 24/7, capable of desiring sex and able to receive pleasure every hour of the day? These days there may be only one live birth for every thousand or so times the genitals get together, which is a gigantic waste of resources. And let's remember that God has an irrational aversion to sex and goes to ungodly lengths to control how men and women use the genitals he designed for us, so why did he make them so much fun to play with? Apart from the likes of humans, bonobos, chimpanzees and dolphins who have sex for fun, most other animals only engage in sex for brief periods during their lives, and that sex is often over in seconds. A duck can get an "erection" (technically an eversion) in a third of a second, and then copulate and ejaculate just as quickly. It's perhaps debatable whether some even enjoy it, and for some animals there isn't even any contact between the sexes. It's simply something they're programmed to do at certain times. Also most mammals, including all primates except humans and the spider monkey, have a bone in their penis called the baculum which give them instant erections, whereas human males must rely on a less reliable hydraulic system using blood. So why is it that human males, God's favourite and ultimate design, sometimes need Viagra to have sex, and yet the lowly apes get a reliable penis bone? And let's look at the design of the female genitals. How many millions of women have died throughout history during pregnancy or childbirth, all because of poor design? On being born babies don't hop up and run around like lambs and calves do, solely because they are born before they are sufficiently mature. And an early birth has to happen, otherwise they would become too big to pass through the birth canal. As it is the skull isn't one solid piece, the separate plates don't meld together until well after birth, again to allow the head to be small enough to fit through the vagina. And even then, it is by all accounts a very painful experience for the mother. Who with half a brain couldn't think of a better design for giving birth? Doctors, who aren't anywhere near as intelligent as God supposedly is, have devised the caesarean section, so we've often wondered why God didn't use that method, only much improved? Women could have a flap on their side that sealed seamlessly with some organic Velcro, and giving birth would be as simple and as painless as getting some leftover pizza from the fridge.
Of course, as regards women, the surprising thing is that Christians will quickly point out that these aren't design flaws, God actually wants women to suffer in childbirth, punishment for Eve believing what a snake had to say. We aren't saying we're surprised because they think that adding a talking snake somehow makes their story more believable — well OK, we are, it's a bloody talking snake for Christ's sake! — but we're also surprised because they somehow believe that by revealing God's unjust, embittered, oppressive and harmful treatment of Eve (and indeed all women), that it will somehow endear us to their loving god, and their god argument. All it does is expose the shameful sexist attitude of God and the Bible stories, where a clear double standard applied, since Adam received no equivalent punishment, even though he also disobeyed God. And even if Eve deserved punishment (which she didn't), what sort of just and loving God punishes not just Eve, but billions upon billions of women who had done nothing wrong, and hadn't even been born? Then we have menstruation, and again who couldn't think of improvements? If we look at the male duck again, its penis can expand to be as long as its body, and once mating season is over this huge penis, relative to its body size, is reabsorbed back into the body, and another grows next season. No mess or waste. Why couldn't God use the same design with women, simply have the microscopic, unused eggs reabsorbed? Even if they have to be expelled, why did he have to make women feel miserable as it happens? Clearly that's nothing but deliberate torture. And personally, we refuse to worship evil torturers.
In fact God was so repulsed by the sex organs that he'd designed that he declared in the Bible that women who were menstruating or bearing children were to be deemed unclean and must be avoided. Regarding menstruation they were to be kept isolated for one third of each month, and they would also be unclean and isolated for one week if they gave birth to a boy. But they would be even more unclean if they gave birth to a girl, and must be kept isolated for two weeks. Because of course girls are quite filthy compared to boys. But men don't get off entirely scot-free either, if semen touches their skin they must wash their entire body and they will still be unclean until the next day. If God was so freaked out over the functionality of his genital design, why didn't he just revert back to asexual reproduction, which was much less messy? Or why didn't he make improvements to remove what he saw as the yuk factor? We mere humans have figured out how to make chocolate milk, so surely he could have added flavouring? Couldn't an all-powerful, all-knowing god do that? I mean, doesn't it reflect badly on God's abilities, just leaving things the way they were when clearly he wasn't happy, since it's us that have to live with his flawed and messy design? We could understand a human designer revealing his latest project and saying, Sorry, I know it's a long way from perfect but it's the best I can do, after all, I'm not God. But this other turkey is God, so why did he roll out an inferior design that he had numerous reservations about, and force us to put up with its many flaws? And it's not good enough to simply issue an instruction manual that says, Note, these organic appliances may foul up from time to time, and when they do, keep them well away from food and other humans.
So while the method of human sexual reproduction may be horrendously complex as far human design abilities go, for anyone to describe our genitals as the most perfect imaginable, designed as they were by a perfect god, then clearly that person is a deluded, ignorant, religious fool. Religion has always been a reactionary force, always one step behind. It takes what are observed to be brute facts about the world eg genitals exist, and then tries to invent fanciful stories as to why an imaginary god would make things just that way, and no other way, even though we can all imagine other, better ways that things could have been made. Because for true believers it's a terribly inconvenient and embarrassing fact that this world is clearly far from perfect, they find themselves spending their lives making excuses for God, explaining why their loving god gave us smallpox and why he stuck humans with a messy reproduction method that fails more often than it succeeds. It's true that smallpox and spermatozoa are way beyond what humans could have created, but at the same time they're way below what a perfect god would have created too. It just doesn't make sense to look at everything, whether good, bad or indifferent, and say, God did it. Not if you're also going to insist that God is perfect, all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving. There's only two things that would create a world that had elements that were good, bad and indifferent. One would be an intelligent designer that was apathetic, amoral and limited in what they could achieve, and such a being doesn't deserve the label loving or God. The other option is the mindless, naturalistic process of evolution. And since there is no evidence for any sort of intelligent designer, not even a pathetic one, and overwhelming evidence for evolution, then clearly it's evolution that explains why we're here and experiencing messy, ungodlike orgasms.
And briefly, why is it that the scientific evidence and even common sense appears to clearly support evolution if God designed everything independently? Why do humans and bonobos look and act so much alike, and share much of our DNA? Why aren't fossil human skeletons found mixed in with dinosaur skeletons? How did humans change a wolf into a Chihuahua without any help from God? The evidence screams evolution, so why did God create millions of totally different species and then fudge the evidence to make it appear as if they're all related and that they evolved after all? Why did God deviously put a fake 'Evolution' stamp on life rather than his personal, unique stamp of manufacture? Why is he always hiding his presence and work from us?
To support his 'evidence' concerning our genitals, in his article Brendan spins a fanciful tale that involves you, Charles Darwin and a time machine, where he attempts to expose the lie that is evolution, but all it really does is display Brendan's gross ignorance of evolution. In his scientific fable he suggests that life first moved from the sea to land '(perhaps)' millions of years ago, when in fact it was hundreds of millions of years ago. We guess that he says 'perhaps' to imply that maybe it wasn't millions but only thousands of years ago, which would fit with the creationist version where God only made life some 6,000 years ago. You might think we're being pedantic in pointing out that it was hundreds of millions of years ago, and not just millions, but let's remember that evolution only makes sense if it has these unimaginably long time spans in which life can slowly evolve from single cells to annoying Christian evangelists. Brendan has presumably researched the scientific evidence, so he should accurately relay that information, regardless of whether he believes it or not, and not carelessly shrink the time span which might lead people to think that maybe there hasn't been enough time for these changes to have occurred. Furthermore it clearly wouldn't have been a microscopic 'single celled 'thing' crawling out onto dry land for the first time' as Brendan tells it. It would have been a complex multicellular animal, the likes of which first appeared some 300 million years before the move to dry land. Think of the difference between a single-celled bacteria and a fish, it's like comparing the complexity of a hula hoop with the space shuttle. And then Brendan implies that a single sexless human-like thing containing trillions of cells evolved from this sexless single celled 'thing', and then this sexless pre-human then somehow evolved, split, 'into not one, but two similar but different 'humans'', ie male and female. All he's doing is just retelling the Biblical creation story in Genesis with a scientific twist, where an asexual Adam becomes sexual Adam and sexual Eve. He argues that for a sexless pre-human to suddenly evolve into 'both male and female must be considered an evolutionary longshot', and for us to think that this 'evolutionary longshot' would also happen independently again and again with 5,000 other asexual mammal species, well, it's 'never going to happen'. But of course it's never going to happen because this scenario is complete nonsense. There was never a time when humans or any mammal species weren't made up of both male and female individuals. Humans evolved some 7 million years ago, and yet, as this Wikipedia article explains, 'sexual reproduction first appeared by 1.2 billion years ago ... [and] All sexually reproducing eukaryotic organisms derive from a single-celled common ancestor'. So sex and males and females evolved long, long before humans or even mammals appeared. 5,000 mammal species didn't have to figure out how to have sex, since very mammal species evolved with sex differences already hardwired into their genes. Brendan hopes we have 'grasped the improbability of human beings simply evolving into male and female', and of course he's right, because it never happened. There was never a time when there wasn't both male and female humans, and the impossible magical transformation never happened because it never had to happen. When he says it's ridiculous to think that some pre-human that is neither male nor female — think of a naked Barbie or Ken doll that has no genitals — could suddenly, magically, somehow split into a male and female version, and do this without having sex, because of course they can't have sex until they first get the male and female versions, then of course it sounds ridiculous. But it's only ridiculous because he's trying to suggest that human sexuality arose, according to the scientific version, in the same way that it did in the Bible story, by magic. If you try and pretend that you're presenting a scientific account and yet you only relate primitive religious ideas, misunderstood concepts and outright falsehoods, then of course it's all going to sound unbelievable. For science to make sense you have to tell the truth, explain what really happened, and stop whinging that it doesn't make sense from a religious perspective. All the varied creationist arguments fail because the creationists don't understand science, or if they do, they distort it to make it sound silly. This from the people with the talking snake.
In Brendan's fanciful time travel story he has Charles Darwin admitting that there are obvious flaws in evolution and that he only invented the theory to become famous. Of course Darwin would instead have pointed out to Brendan that he has a woefully poor understanding of evolution, and that human sexuality did not evolve magically as it did in the Bible. Also Darwin had no desire to be famous, he put off publishing his work for years and even when it was published, others, such as Thomas Huxley, who was known as Darwin's Bulldog, promoted the theory, while Darwin shunned the limelight. Brendan admits that he made up this silly story about Darwin and the single celled 'thing', but at the same time he clearly wants us to believe it's core message. It's what they call a straw man fallacy, where someone creates a silly argument and falsely attributes it to an opponent. And because we can all see how silly it is, we are expected to assume that the person making the statements, in this case Darwin, is equally silly. Thus we're expected to dismiss Darwin and evolution as clear nonsense. But this is only possible because we are considering an invented fairy tale, something that is far removed from what evolution really says. We've been tricked into turning our attention to a straw man, a decoy which we find easy to knock down, while the cogent scientific arguments for evolution are left unseen and unconsidered out the back somewhere. A common example of a straw man argument put forward by creationists is to ask why monkeys still exist if humans evolved from monkeys? This only seems like a problem if you don't understand evolution, which of course has never claimed that humans evolved from monkeys. The reality is that both monkeys and humans evolved from a common apelike ancestor in the distant past. Monkeys are not our parents or grandparents, they're more like our distant cousins, and no one wonders why their cousins are still around. Anyone that has to resort to deviously misrepresenting what science claims to win their argument may win a convert, but they have lost their integrity, and our respect.
After reading the article, David questioned Brendan's grasp of evolution and mentioned breasts and nipples. So let's consider Brendan's explanation for why males have nipples, where he says that 'God created Adam first, and from out of Adam's body he created Eve ... essentially both male and female were formed from the first singular human template'. You may be familiar with that story, the one where God put Adam to sleep and created Eve from a rib taken from Adam's body, and even today some silly Christians think that consequently men have one less rib than women. The rib story might explain why women have nipples, they were blindly copied by God from the male design, but it doesn't explain why God put nipples on Adam in the first place. After writing this we discovered that David also asked this obvious question of Brendan in a later comment, who sidestepped an answer with this wimpy reply, one we've all heard far too often from creationists: 'There are answers to the questions you raise, it's just a case of knowing where to look in order to find them'. Typically he made no suggestion as to where this might be. We're to receive no help in finding God it seems. Just as many Christians do in their weaker moments, we struggle to understand why God makes it so bloody difficult to sense his presence. Not even a fossilised footprint. We understand why the likes of Julius Caesar can't help us understand why he acted as he did, because he's dead, but supposedly God is still alive and well, and has the power to effortlessly communicate with everyone at the same time. And we're told he desperately desires this personal communication, which just makes the silence even more inexplicable.
So let's look to science then, since it couldn't be more willing to share its knowledge. Apparently the nipple is a modified sweat gland and breast milk is just souped up sweat, which is used to feed and nourish newborn babies. So again, why did Adam, with no babies to feed, need them? Were they arty, or perhaps they served the same function as racing stripes on a car? Brendan is in a sense correct in that males and females both have nipples because both read from identical human genes which always code for nipples. The reality is that all human foetuses start life as female, it's only about six weeks down the track when in male the Y chromosome causes male differences to start to accumulate. However by that stage the foetus that will become a male has already formed nipples (and ducts and some breast tissue) and so gets to keep them even though they serve no purpose. An intelligent designer would have deleted them from the male design, but we evolved rather than being designed, and evolution has no interest (or ability) in removing cosmetic flaws. Just as the same genes create nipples on both the male and female foetus, the same thing applies to the penis and the clitoris. They both begin to form from the same genes and tissue and then differentiate depending on whether they're reading from a Y or X chromosome, becoming a penis and scrotum or a clitoris and labia respectively. Ditto with the male testes and female ovaries, all have the same genetic origin, but then they diverge and yet they still interact. It's not magic, it's evolution.
Further to that silly myth that Eve was created from a rib taken from Adam's body, some Bible scholars have put forward a cogent argument that in the original myth it wasn't a rib bone that God removed, but Adam's penis bone instead, the baculum, which explains why human males now don't have one. The argument is that ancient Israelites would have known, being quite familiar with animal and human skeletons, that humans lack this penis bone, and they decided that the reason is that God removed it to make Eve. It also explains what is called the raphe, the seam that runs on the underside of the penis and scrotum. It's where God closed up the flesh after removing the bone. There are further reasons to support this argument based on the original Hebrew text, such as where it talks of bone and flesh which were also words for penis. If true, we think it is quite likely that early prudish Christians would have deliberately replaced penis bone with rib bone when translating the Bible.
Primed by the Adam and Eve fantasy, in the comments section Brendan again struggles with the false religious view of evolution that men and women 'must have both 'evolved' or been created at the same point in time (what could possibly have preceded them?) in order for them to mate and reproduce'. The major problem here is that creationists can only visualise non-life suddenly turning into a single celled 'thing' which then turns into fully formed male and female humans. They can't imagine the untold preceding steps involving hundreds of millions of species over billions of years. They can only imagine some slime suddenly transforming into Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, which as they correctly point out, is never going to happen. Bacteria are probably the most prolific and successful form of life on the planet, and have been around almost from the origin of life billions of years ago, and long before multicellular organisms arose. Bacteria mostly reproduce asexually, but they can also reproduce sexually if the urge takes them, in the sense that they swap genes with other bacteria, and so sexual reproduction is not something new, not something that just arose recently when some guy woke up with an erection and wondered what it was good for. Fish were having sex long before mammals evolved, and single celled 'things' were hooking up long before fish evolved. Brendan asserts that 'there is no evidence that evolution has produced a single mammal species, and human beings in particular'. Maybe Brendan needs to get his head out of his Bible and visit a farm or a zoo, or maybe just look in a mirror. Better still, people like Brendan really need to read some books on evolution written by evolutionists and not Bible-thumping creationists.
Brendan goes on to explain that while God 'could have made a human that reproduced itself, there is something about sexual intimacy that reflects the kind of intimacy that God wants to have with all of his creation'. First, this is just making pathetic excuses to explain what they see in reality, saying that sure, God could have made a world without killer sharks, smallpox, earthquakes, rapists and serial killers, but he loves us so much that he decided not to be so mean. Let's remember that most animals have sex, so clearly God must desire sexual intimacy with them as well, and yet he happily sits back while other animals are eating them alive, so apparently he gets his thrill watching them have sex and then floats away. Is he oblivious to their suffering, suffering that he deliberately planned, or is the experience of a terror-filled death another 'kind of intimacy that God wants to have with all of his creation'? Second, what the hell would God really know about sexual intimacy? To feel sexual intimacy requires having genitals, and getting them up close and personal with another person with genitals. God is an asexual wisp of imagination, at most all God could be is a voyeur, a peeping Tom spying on people having real sex. It's kind of disgusting to think that God put in me the desire to have sex just so he could get off by watching me have sex. And is that why so many of God's priests and minsters are caught having illicit sex with children and parishioners, they're just putting on a show to titillate and satisfy God's urges?
Brendan reckons that God, 'In producing male and female and the desire for intimacy, he is reflecting something of his own character in us'. If only humans engaged in sex then this might make some sense, but again nearly all animals have sex, and for many there is no intimacy involved whatsoever, often it's nothing but outright rape. Plants also have sex, so do single celled 'things', so are we expected to believe that plants experience and exude sexual intimacy for God to feed off? Why didn't God make sex unique to humans? Again this is nothing but a religious believer trying to take a brute fact — sweaty, hairy, scream-out-loud sex — and inventing a childish reason as to why his imaginary sky fairy might have invented it.
We're also reliably informed by Brendan that 'in the creation story in Genesis God did make the first man and woman 'in his image' with the prospect of immortality. However, as a direct result of disobedience sin entered into the equation, and sin produces death. This is why Jesus appearance is good news, because he conquered sin and death on behalf of all mankind'.
Even though many passages in the Bible describe God as having human physical attributes, these days most Christians don't believe that we were made 'in his image', they don't believe that God actually looks anything like us. They think he's more like invisible energy, at most he might have some tentacles. But let's assume for the sake of argument that the Bible is telling the truth, and I look a lot like God. So why does God have a penis and testicles? If he doesn't have such reproductive equipment, and why would he since there is no Mrs God, why did he put them on Adam, remembering that at that stage he had no intention of making a female human to connect with Adam's penis? And for that matter, why do Christians always refer to God as 'He', as a male, if he doesn't have a penis? Wouldn't the lack of male sex organs make him much closer visually, especially with those nipples, to a female? But after a quick scan we find that God has no sex organs of any sort, so shouldn't we call God 'it' rather than 'he'? I don't call my computer 'he'. Rather than saying 'he', shouldn't we say that 'it' hates homosexuals (due to misuse of those God-given sex organs), and 'it' created the Ebola virus?
So anyway, with no Biblical evidence to the contrary, God created Adam with a penis, and was totally taken aback, according to the Bible, when Adam wasn't turned on by any of the many sexy animals he paraded before him. We know that Adam may well have tried sex with various animals, which would explain why God gave him a penis, but we also know that while sex with different species is possible, his sperm would have been useless in creating any new life, so why the testicles? It's certainly a mystery. Only after he spurned all the cute animals did God then decide to create a female version of Adam, using a 'rib' from Adam to create a woman. Up until then, clearly God had created Adam's penis and testicles with the purpose of having sex with animals, bestiality was to be the norm apparently. If not, then why did he have genitals, and how would he reproduce if, as Brendan insists, 'to reproduce ourselves, we need both male and female, similar but different in design, but with distinctly complementary sex organs'? With no Eve planned for, just animals, how was Adam ever going to populate the Earth with humans, even just male humans? All the animals God created had male and female versions, remember that murderous business with Noah's Ark and two by two? So why didn't God initially create humans with male and female versions? Well, he did actually, and unbeknownst to many Christians, if you read Genesis there are two very different stories, or to be accurate, two very different myths, describing God's creation of humans.
And Brendan is being a little sneaky here since his 'in his image' quote is from a quite different Biblical creation story from the rib creation story he quoted previously. In this other creation myth man and women are both created at the same time by God and his friends, who are also gods: 'Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness ... male and female he created them' (GE 1:26-28), whereas in the later rib story (GE 2:4-22) man is made first from dust and woman made later as an afterthought. Brendan picks and chooses the creation story that best fits the argument he's trying to make, while not revealing that there is more than one version. But it's true, well according to the Bible, that God initially intended Adam and Eve to live forever, and that sexual reproduction was, in the first creation story, planned from the outset — 'God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it' (GE 1:28). But as we've pointed out before, this was a foolish plan. We have an overpopulation problem now, and that's with people dying after so many decades. The Earth would have quickly become a hellish, overcrowded nightmare with insufficient resources if no one died, and if everyone was busy having more kids with no access to contraception. Clearly this creation story with immortal and horny humans was invented by primitive, ignorant man who couldn't imagine there ever being more people than there was land. But why might there be two clearly conflicting creation myths in the Bible? Our guess is that in the first version man and woman are made together, suggesting equality, and the second version was added later by some patriarchal, misogynistic bastard to make it clear that man was God's clear goal, and that woman only came along later as someone to serve man, or as God says in the Bible, 'I will make a helper suitable for him'. The second version is to destroy any idea of equality between the sexes that might be implied in the first version, and was the first of many Biblical passages that set woman up as a second class citizen. Of course you might also wonder why they simply didn't edit the two versions and make one that combined the elements that they desired from both, while removing the glaring contradictions. Of course the Bible would be a hell of a long smaller and a completely different book from what it is today if its compilers had edited out these contradictions, along with a mountain of others that the Bible contains. No modern editor would let so many glaring errors remain in the text, and it's a bit of a mystery why the Bible has so many conflicting stories, where clearly at the very least only one can be true. Of course back then almost no one could read, so generally they never noticed the contradictions in their holy scrolls, and it's the same today, since while almost everyone can read, very few actually bother to read their holy book, so generally they still never notice the contradictions.
But regardless of which story we believe, our newly created humans found themselves in a natural paradise. The Bible tells us that 'The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame' (GE 2:25), and so naturally soon opened the world's first nudist resort, botanical garden and petting zoo, calling it The Garden of Eden, and eagerly sat back to await the invention of the Internet so they could advertise it. But like any good story, fate intervened, specifically a talking snake, which ruined their hopes of franchising their business plan, and Brendan informs us that sin and death soon arrived on the scene, apparently because God refused to look after his humans or give them a second chance. This was long before the idea: Three strikes and you're out. But fear not, Brendan assures us that 'This is why Jesus appearance is good news, because he conquered sin and death on behalf of all mankind'. Of course God waited a long time between Adam and Eve and the arrival of Jesus, so a lot of people never heard the good news. But worse still, even though Christians assure us that Jesus 'conquered sin and death', we look around and what do we see, sin and death everywhere. Neither sin nor death has abated in the slightest since Jesus (aka God) pretended to die on the cross. And what's the response of the silly Christians? Apparently we can all beat death, all we have to do is die first. How the hell have we beaten death if we're dead? How can we hope to achieve our life's goals and desires if we're bloody dead? It's surprising how many people fall for this scam, that God will give them a good life and end their suffering, all they have to do is die. This is a God that could easily give them a good life here and now, while they're alive to enjoy it, with their loved ones, but no, he promises to deliver on the good things in life when they're dead and of no use whatsoever. And their loved ones that are left behind never complain because they don't realise that God isn't real and hasn't delivered on his promise.
But Brendan assures us that 'Jesus offers immortality to all who believe / put their trust in him. This is basic Christian theology 101'. And how does this loving god respond to people unfortunate enough never to have heard of Jesus, or that were brainwashed as children to believe in other gods? Or what about those that genuinely seek Jesus but all their pleas go answered, with Jesus too busy to send even a quick text? Jesus sends them all to Hell to be tortured for all eternity. That's the horrible and disgusting part, that even though they didn't come to believe in Jesus, he still gives them immortality anyway, just so he can repeatedly and gleefully ram hot pokers up their arse forever. That's apparently what a loving god does, and that folks, is basic Christian theology 101.
And to show that it's not just Brendan that's a little confused about evolution, in the comments following his article a fellow creationist called Chris came to his defence, and with a mystified tone of voice, he wrote,
'Why would millions of years of evolution, which honed the human species so perfectly and created such intricate components such as the human eye (itself a challenge to explain...) leave a redundant body part such as the male nipple? This makes no sense under evolution...'On the contrary, male nipples make perfect sense under evolution and no sense under intelligent design, and merely exposes Chris' ignorance of both evolution and intelligent design. Only an intelligent designer concerned about aesthetics and cosmetic niceties and wasteful use of material would go out of his way to remove a redundant body part, the existence of which had no impact whatsoever on the survival of his prize pet. The very fact that Chris wonders why evolution wouldn't go back and redesign the male human to remove those worthless and silly looking nipples implies that Chris views evolution the same way he views God, that evolution thinks about these things, worries about them, and then plans and executes a new design to remove them in the next model. Unlike God, evolution is not an intelligent designer, it's a mindless, natural process that couldn't care less that humans might wonder why males have nipples, it doesn't even know that humans can wonder about anything. We should expect to see harmless, redundant body parts if evolution is true, but not if humans are the result of an intelligent designer, because God, who according to Chris has 'honed the human species so perfectly', would have taken great pride in his work and made sure everything was perfect and fit for the purpose. The fact that males still have worthless nipples shows that there was no god to perfect his design.
And let's dwell a little longer on this religious notion that the human body is perfect, since how could a perfect being design and create anything but a perfect body. It's laughable that Chris trots out that long-demolished old myth that the human eye is of such a perfect design that it could never have evolved. If our eyes are perfect, why do so many people have to wear glasses, why do some suffer from colour blindness, glaucoma, cataracts or macular degeneration, and why are some people born blind? Why hasn't God issued a planet-wide recall to correct these defects? What does your guarantee say? And why didn't god design our very delicate eyes with a protective windscreen like we thought of doing with our cars, or with goggles? The fact is the eye evolved independently numerous times in nature, all with totally different designs. The eyes of bees, hawks and the octopus all have features superior to that of the human eye, so why didn't God incorporate the best elements from across the many eyes he designed into the human eye and give us the best eye possible? Why can bees see wavelengths of light that we can't, and why did God design the nerve system of the octopus eye correctly and then assemble the human eye backwards? Was it an accident, and if so, why didn't he fix it in a later version? There is no doubt that our body is horrendously complex, but anyone who claims that its 'design' is perfect and couldn't be improved on has to be a moron that has never even considered the matter. As we've already said, male chimps get a handy penis bone, human males don't; women suffer and often die in natural childbirth; most everyone suffers from back problems at some time; with age our hearing deteriorates and our bones become brittle; our bodies are vulnerable to attack from numerous deadly microbes; our teeth break and rot and don't regrow like those of elephants and some sharks; our sense of smell is pathetic compared to the likes of a dog; our genes can mutate and give us cancer and a host of genetic diseases; our flesh is susceptible to tiger and even mosquito bites, we don't have gills to allow us to breathe underwater; the placement of the male scrotum increases the chance of males suffering from hernias; and on and on we could go, describing flaw after flaw with the body and imagining design fixes that would improve it. And it's mere human intellect that's visualising ways the body could be improved, and if we can imagine them, then God most certainly must have realised what changes to his design were needed to give us, if not perfect bodies, at least better bodies than what we have.
And it's not just our bodies that don't show the clear fingerprint of intelligent design, it's also the planet and the greater universe. Need we remind you of the many, many things that God deliberately, and dare we say it, maliciously, incorporated into his design to do us serious harm, everything from deadly viruses and sharks to earthquakes, lightning and tsunamis. Even carnivorous dinosaurs, since we must remember that in the creation story they were created alongside humans. What sort of intelligent designer, with the happiness and welfare of humans as its major concern, could think that creating the bloodthirsty Velociraptor and Tyrannosaurus Rex was a good idea? If God did create the world specifically for our benefit, why is around 75% of the planet covered in cold water that we can't breath nor drink? Much of the land is unsuitable for human life; too hot, too cold, too dry, too high, too toxic, too many dangerous predators etc. Humans, certainly humans without modern technology, can only flourish on a very small fraction of the Earth's surface, and not above it or below it. What human would design a home for their family with so many rooms and areas in that house that were deadly to enter? And size-wise the Earth is only a minute speck when compared to the solar system, which is an even smaller speck compared to the galaxy, which in turn is completely lost in the vastness of the universe. Nothing that we know of outside the Earth is pleasant to humans, everything wants to kill us; the universe is one humongous killing field. Transport a human to any random point in the known universe and the odds are astronomical that they will die horribly within seconds, since nearly everywhere is cold empty space, with the next spot being super-hot stars. The chance of materialising on a planet is so remote as to be nigh impossible, and even if it did have an atmosphere, it would almost certainly be toxic. So if an intelligent designer deliberately designed and created the universe for humans, why the hell did he make it so deadly, not to mention so huge? Why does our galaxy have hundreds of billions of stars, and why are there hundreds of billions of galaxies? It can't be the old religious nonsense that the stars were made like jewels in the sky so we can appreciate their beauty and God's handiwork, since humans can only ever see some 6,000 stars with the naked eye. The eyes God gave us simply aren't good enough to see any more, it took human ingenuity to invent instruments to reveal what our less-than-perfect eyes can't see. So why did he make trillions and trillions of stars that almost no one will ever see? We can't even see all the planets God made in our own Solar System, on our own doorstep. On top of that, we'll never get to visit even the minute handful of planets and stars that we can see, let alone all the rest, so it makes no sense for God, from a human perspective, to have made them. And if he wasn't making them for our benefit, then for whose? Does God have another family of favourites out there somewhere? Even if we are to remain on this planet, resigned to the fact that we'll never get to properly explore the universe, we're still not safe from the universe at large, since any of the following design elements could spell the end of human life on Earth: asteroid impacts, gamma-ray bursts, black holes, cosmic rays, supernovas, solar flares and coronal mass ejections. If God created the universe for our benefit, then he failed miserably. Earth isn't our springboard to explore the greater world that God made for us, it's our prison. It just doesn't make the slightest bit of sense for Christians to claim that they see deliberate design everywhere they look. But a humongous, deadly universe that we'll never ever get to experience directly makes perfect sense if it resulted from a natural process. A natural process that wasn't thinking and worrying about how fragile humans might cope with being stuck on a little backwater planet alongside man-eating tigers.
So was the universe and life created by an intelligent designer? Oh please, give us a break. Even the Bible says, '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. So for Christ's sake all you religious believers out there, stop thinking like na´ve children. Actually we're being totally unfair on children here, since untold children have had the intelligence to ask their religious parents, But daddy, if God made everything, who made God? And following the example of their loving God and how he treats challenges to his existence, they probably received a good beating for their insightful question.
All this creationist nonsense revolves around a woeful ignorance of how the natural world works and a blind, sincere belief that what they do see around them could only have come about by magic. Why is the grass green and the sky blue? Well, it's because God made it that way. Isn't it obvious, it's all designed to be the way it is because God likes certain colours and designed us to like them too. After all, what's the chance that humans evolved to like blue skies and then by random, evolutionary chance our sky just happened to turn out blue? Highly unlikely, in fact I think I smell a god. Or is it early onset dementia?
|Tolerance, acceptance and the Bible|
A friend in the USA recently recounted an article about a local school:
'A Wisconsin Christian school that receives federal funding is demanding to see all applicants' birth certificates to make sure none are transgender. St. John's Lutheran officials admit they can't legally discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, but say they're letting students with a "sinful lifestyle" know "where we're coming from" to avoid having "to weed them out" after they're enrolled.'My friend then added, 'This kind of Christian bible interpretation leads me to think that your atheist philosophy isn't such a bad idea. I always thought one of the things we were supposed to get out of the bible was tolerance and acceptance'.
That sort article about the Wisconsin Christian school discrimination is annoying but unfortunately not surprising. It's all too frequent we're afraid to say, even in NZ that doesn't have the obvious religious battles that the US does. Many Christians in NZ, Catholics especially, still hate everyone that isn't heterosexual just as much as they do in the US. What I don't get is how a school that receives federal funding can take that stance, knowing it's illegal, and not lose its funding? Or not be taken to court for a hate crime? Unfortunately it all gets rather complicated when the law concerning human rights allows someone freedom of religion, and freedom to practice the beliefs of that religion. If a religion believes something that is abhorrent to non-believers, eg their God hates homosexuals and commands that they do too, the law demands that we non-Christians must at least tolerate their hatred of homosexuals. Other secular laws say they mustn't go on and kill homosexuals, as their God also demands, and most Christians, Jews and Muslims, out of fear of the law, thankfully never go that far.
As distasteful as the actions of the above school are to people like myself, fundamentalists like that are the ones actually taking their belief in their God and the Bible seriously. But it's reassuring to know that they are a minority; we should take comfort in the fact that most Christians are far too lazy to take their religion seriously, and are far more enamoured with the likes of Facebook, pizza and bikinis than in obeying God's commandments from their Bible, or even reading it to find out what they are. I've said in the past that I have, in one sense, more respect for fundamentalist Christians (and Jews and Muslims) than I do for your typical modern, liberal Christian, which are what most of my friends, associates and relatives are. The fundamentalist will stand up for what they believe. They'll openly condemn homosexuals, and the likes of abortion, contraception, masturbation, euthanasia etc, and will sincerely affirm that the world was created 6,000 years ago, that evolution is a lie and that we all came from Adam and Eve, the world's first nudist couple in the world's first nudist resort. Well, they don't mention the nudist bit, but I've found it embarrasses the hell out of them when you describe them as nudists, because of course they were. My argument is that to honestly call yourself a Christian and insist that the Bible is the true word of God, and that you obey God no matter what, then you must believe, without exception, what God says in the Bible. That is the one and only source of information about God and his laws. If you sincerely believe that God made everything and makes all the rules and morals that you must follow, and that you'll be judged on how well you followed his commandments, and punished horribly for all eternity if you fail to meet his demands, then how can you not openly condemn people that you see offending God by breaking his laws? Indeed, in the Bible God demands that you take action, and since he is the master and you are the servant, what choice do you have? Only atheists are justified in thinking that we're free to do as we please, that we're nobody's puppet, under nobody's control, and can sleep in on Sundays with no guilty feelings. Christians are told how they must live, rewarded for good service and punished for disobedience. An atheist's world is one of personal freedom, God's world is anything but. A true believer's existence is one of lifelong servitude to an invisible tyrant, forever fearful that they'll make a mistake and evoke his wrath.
OK, I view these outspoken fundamentalists as ignorant, immoral and sometimes dangerous people, people that society could well do without, but I do admire their strength and confidence in standing up for what their Bible and their God demands they stand up for, even though they know that much of society will condemn them rather than support them. That must take some conviction. While I certainly don't hide the fact I'm an atheist and a skeptic, you won't find me haranguing Christians as they attend church or handing out leaflets on critical thinking outside a psychic medium's stage show, so I have some understanding on what it must take for fundamentalists to publicly confront people and say things that they know will likely shock and offend them. They stand on street corners pushing their views, I don't. But having said all this, I still get tripped up on why rabid fundamentalists say that God finds homosexuality an abomination, which is true, and that they're only following God's wishes by revealing this fact, but then they refuse to obey God's wish that said homosexuals be stoned to death. How can they say that God has made two clear demands of them, 1) that they must hate homosexuals, and 2) that they must kill any homosexual they discover, and yet they disobey God on demand #2? It's what God demands of his followers, he's not giving them a choice or asking a favour, you know, if they're not too busy on Facebook. I know that if I truly, truly, truly believed in God then I would be killing homosexuals wherever I found them. We're told that punishment in hell for all eternity for not obeying God is astronomically worse than any punishment I could receive on Earth for murder. And it's not murder in God's eyes. If I was a true Christian, how could I not believe that? And yet it seems that even the most rabid fundamentalist doesn't believe that God's wrath could be anywhere near as bad as a few years in prison. Thus I'm not sure that any Christian truly believes in what the Bible says and what God demands. They'll say and do the most objectionable things, but most are careful to stay within the law, clearly more fearful of human law than God's law. And yes, there are a few in prison for murdering homosexuals and abortion doctors, but even they most likely ignore many of God's commandments, eg, they often get tattoos, eat shellfish or work on the Sabbath. Every Christian seems to believe that they have the right to pick and choose which of God's commandments that they follow, and which stories in the Bible they'll believe and which they can dismiss as myths or allegories. The fundamentalists believe the most of course, but even they find stories or demands in the Bible that even they can't act on or accept as true. I recently read the following in the book, 'Atheism: A Guide for the Perplexed' by philosopher Kerry Walters:
"one's belief in God should be the nucleus around which all other beliefs revolve, and the believer's subjective relationship to his God-belief should be more intense than his relationship with any of his other beliefs. In other words, genuine belief in God should outweigh all others in centrality and intensity because the authentic believer holds nothing to be more real than God. In practice, though, many believers — most of them, suspects Kierkegaard — don't give God-belief pride of place. Their belief is marginal, although occasionally leaping to center stage in foxhole moments of crisis or ostentatiously invoked in solemn tones when it's self-servingly expedient to do so. Their daily existence, their interpersonal relationships, their self-identity and their working assumptions about the world are for the most part untouched by their compartmentalized God-belief. The belief remains impersonally abstract. It's a pseudo-belief rather than a genuine one, and its holder is actually a de facto nonbeliever rather than the believer he thinks he is. The position is more subtle than garden variety hypocrisy, but it's just as ancient. The author of the Christian Book of Revelation roundly condemns "tepidity" in the faithful, a characteristic strikingly similar to de facto nonbelief (Rev 3: 15-16)."Most religious believers are bigger hypocrites than they are believers.
My friend said that he 'always thought one of the things we were supposed to get out of the bible was tolerance and acceptance'. Unfortunately, no. He couldn't be more wrong. It should be clear that the Bible isn't making polite pleas for tolerance, far from it, it's making threatening demands for our obedience. It's modern secular law that's insisting on tolerance, and fighting with religion every step of the way.
So while these days most Christians, and even most church sermons, will often preach about tolerance and acceptance, that's certainly not what the Bible offers. I get really peeved when religious nutters try and perpetuate the lie that, courtesy of the Bible, their religion and their God is the key to moral behaviour. That it's good Christians that are the ones really practicing tolerance and acceptance, and struggling to convince us uncaring non-believers to do likewise. But the Bible, the Word of God, tells a very different story. If we look at sexuality, God doesn't say we should tolerate and accept those with differing views on sexuality. If you are a homosexual, you are an abomination and must be killed by those faithful to God. What about masturbation, is it a sin or should we tolerate and accept those that we suspect of committing this disgusting act? Nope, sorry, the Bible's quite clear, it's a sin and no toleration is allowed. I didn't know this growing up, but the word onanism (which I had never heard of back then) means masturbation, and comes from the character Onan in the Bible, and that story is one of the main reasons why masturbation (being a form of contraception), is a terrible sin according to God.
If you're a male and you masturbate then you have sinned against God, since you've ejaculated with no chance of getting a woman pregnant. In Genesis God's command was to go forth and multiply, not go forth and pleasure yourself. In fact in the dim past the church decided, and this is no joke, that it was better to rape your own mother than masturbate, since rape might at least create new life. If you felt horny, the priests argued that you should rape someone, since the sin, while certainly serious, would still be less serious than masturbation. I have no idea if any devout Christian on leaving the confessional ever took them seriously, but based on the other atrocities that Christians committed throughout history, it wouldn't be unthinkable that some did. And while we're on rape, did you know that in the Bible Jesus, ie God, actually blackmails rape victims to forgive men that have abused them, which must incude rape? In his book 'Sex & God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality', Darrel W. Ray notes:
'Sarah Hargreaves, a rape counselor and group facilitator, writes:Note that this blackmail only applies to women having to forgive men for raping them, there's no equivalent verse aimed at men having to forgive women if they sin against them. It's disgusting to think of Christians further traumatising rape victims by insisting that they forgive their rapist or else God will fuck them again by sending them to Hell! On the bright side, it seems that the Bible has no problem with women masturbating, so enjoy yourselves girls, but we're sure that your typical Christian assumes that there no doubt is a passage somewhere, and if asked where in the Bible would probably reply as Homer Simpson once did, 'Uhh ... somewhere in the back'.
Does the Bible say we should tolerate children that speak back to their parents? No, they must be dragged into the town square and stoned to death. Should we tolerate or accept someone that gets a tattoo, eats shellfish, criticises your religion or picks up sticks for firewood on the Sabbath. No, no, no and no. Death is the word you're looking for, not tolerance. Should Christians tolerate someone who refuses to accept Jesus as their king? When Jesus was asked that question, he replied with an allegory that effectively explained that they must be dragged in front of him and killed on the spot. Not much acceptance there, and strangely, not many Christians reveal that homicidal side of Jesus.
Christians only quote Jesus saying fluffy things like, 'Love your neighbor as yourself' (Luke 10:27) and 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you'. (Matt 5:44). Failing to mention his more negative and harmful thoughts to their followers or potential recruits is nothing but deceit. They actively suppress the negative quotes from Jesus such as the following:
Here's another embarrassing quote from Jesus:
'Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man's enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.' (Matt 10:34-39)Of course most Christians avoid those embarrassing passages and argue that the barbaric commandments or "Law" from the Old Testament, such as demanding that, depending on the circumstances, a virgin who is raped be stoned to death or forced to marry her rapist, these laws have been rescinded with the coming of Jesus and the New Testament. But this is patently not true. In the Bible Jesus himself clearly says:
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. None lose their authority until the Earth disappears, which I don't believe has yet happened. Of course some Christians can no doubt quote something from Jesus, or someone professing to know the thoughts of Jesus, that suggests that many of God's embarrassing commandments have been revoked. But this just illustrates that the Bible is contradictory and muddled, able to support whatever view you wish to take, as long as you pick and choose your quotes. That is why Christians in the past who either supported slavery or opposed it, both fuelled their arguments with quotes from the Bible, and it's the same today with homosexuality, Christians on both sides use Biblical quotes to argue their case. Because the Bible is a mismatch of stories written over hundreds of years by an untold number of authors, all with differing agendas and beliefs, no matter what argument you want to look at and which side you take, whether it be regarding homosexuality, female equality, politics, flat Earth vs round Earth, or should kids be allowed to read the 'Harry Potter' books, you will find a Bible quote that supports your stance, no matter what it is. Any book of rules that is chock full of contradictions and clear falsehoods and, depending where you look, argues both for and against some proposition, is worse than worthless, it's dangerous. The above Biblical cartoons are from the book by Horus Gilgamesh and Agnes Tickheathen: 'Awkward Moments (Not Found in Your Average) Children's Bible, Volume #1'.
Of course today most Christians do speak of love and tolerance and acceptance, because that's what most humans, not just Christians, want. At the same time they don't mention the truly horrific things that the Bible says God did and still demands that his followers do. In fact most Christians aren't even aware of the true horrors in the Bible, since the churches go to great lengths to avoid ever mentioning them. When occasionally some fundamentalist church, school or individual does come out with some offensive and immoral demand, most Christians rally around and insist that isn't what the Bible really says. In fact the offensive statement is usually exactly what the Bible says, it's just that most Christians don't realise it, or don't want to admit it. I've yet to meet an honest Christian who, when made fully aware of them, isn't horrified at much of what went on in the Bible, not just by man in God's name, but by God himself. For example, do you know that after God instructed Moses to return to Egypt to demand the release of the Hebrews, Moses dutifully set off with his wife and child, but on the way God tried to kill Moses!! WTF? The Bible gives no explanation why God tried, and failed (!?), to kill someone that was willingly obeying his demands. Why do Christians worship a god that would behave in such a despicable manner? Mainly because they don't know the truth about God. The churches and their priests and ministers don't tell these stories.
In his book 'The God Delusion', Richard Dawkins probably wrote the most apt description we've read of God:
'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, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.'And again, most Christians would vehemently disagree with that description, but in our experience, only because they haven't read the Bible, and if they say they have, then they haven't understood it. For example, most people have heard of Sodom and Gomorrah and of Lot's wife being turned into a pillar of salt by God. That's usually about all they know though. If we look at the story of Lot and his daughters, why did God watch and approve of Lot offering his two daughters to a crowd of men for them to rape, then later watch and do nothing to stop the same two young women getting their father drunk on two occasions so they could have sex with him? This is the same God that was so angry when Lot's wife took a backward glance at his destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah that he killed her on the spot. Why did a quick glance from the wife send him into a killer rage, but the two daughters screwing their father and the father earlier offering them both up to be raped didn't anger or concern him at all? And we know he watched it all because he's God, and God is everywhere and sees everything, and this is confirmed by the incident with Lot's wife. The very instant she glanced behind he saw it and killed her. And there are many more worrying problems with the Lot story, without even having to look at other stories, which of course all have their own problems. Now ask yourself this, if you knew one of your neighbours was secretly spying on a second neighbour who was treating his daughters the way Lot did, and this first neighbour also killed the second neighbour's wife because she annoyed him, would you condemn them both, and call the police, or would you praise them and argue with anyone that would listen that they were acting morally?
When I put these questions to door-knocking evangelists, they either aren't familiar with the true consequences of the story, or if they are, dismiss them by saying that it was God that did that, not Jesus. and yes, God could be a bit of a bastard, but Jesus was a real nice guy. But as any knowledgable Christian will tell you, the 'Son of God' bit shouldn't be taken literally, since God and Jesus are actually the same person. So what God knew, Jesus knew, and what God did, Jesus did.
I think many good, caring, decent people sell themselves short. They falsely credit their decency to some God, as if to say, Hey, don't praise me for loving my kids and not raping my cute neighbour, I'm only being nice and obeying God because I want the reward when I die. When in fact that's all bullshit, good people would still be good people even if they had never heard of their God. And as I've said before, if religious people really decided to read their holy book and obey their god, then they would turn into truly immoral people. When radical Muslims fly aircraft into skyscrapers and blow themselves up in crowded markets, when radical Christians hurl abuse at the funerals of homosexuals and attack abortion clinics, when radical Jews shoot Muslims farming on the 'Promised Land', they all do so because they really do believe they must follow their god's commandments to the letter. Thankfully, truly good Muslims, Christians and Jews are the ones that refuse to take their holy book all that seriously, and instead let their humanity dictate their behaviour towards others.
When I encounter annoying Christians that insist our morals come from God, I often say that atheists do good because we want to, whereas Christians only do good because they've been told to (with heaven as a carrot, and hell as a stick). If the Christian response is that they also do good because they want to, then I ask, So what's God got to do with it then? You seem to be arguing that doing good is something you decide on your own? And frankly, any religious person that doesn't immediately know what is right and wrong, and how we should treat others, but instead must go off and consult their holy book, is as dangerous as hell. Mainly because their holy book was written in the distant past by primitive, ignorant, fearful men who saw strangers as enemies, women as chattels, genocide as an acceptable way to get more land, and natural disasters and events as their god's handiwork. And anyone that consults and blindly follows such outdated, barbaric and immoral commandments is sure to be at odds with decent 21st century men and women.
And thankfully the reality is that most Christians are decent people leading decent lives, and most are accepting and tolerant of others that lead different lives and believe different things. But they're accepting and tolerant in spite of their Bible and its commandments, not because of them. However, when one does occasionally hear Christians, whether fundamentalists or the wishy-washy, cherry-picking weekend version, spouting offensive and discriminatory views, I'm always left with the nagging thought: How can they be so blind, if not downright stupid? They're like adults that still believe in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. They're stunningly ignorant of science and the origins of their god, and yet they have no problem whatsoever correctly dismissing competing religious beliefs as childish nonsense. I can understand why they push their version of religious dogma — they naively believe it's true and that it's what their god wants — but I can't understand why they believe it's true in the first place. They tell us that their faith in their god is the most important thing that they can have in this world, it dictates this life and the afterlife to come, and yet they can't be bothered to really prove to themselves that their god, as opposed to the Muslim god or the Hindu gods for example, is a god that even exists. They only discuss their belief when hiding in their churches or religious schools or huddling with like-minded Christians, and then only to affirm their belief, never to reason about Biblical mistakes and contradictions, immoral commandments or inconvenient scientific facts. Again, if a sane, intelligent adult said to a Christian that they believed in Santa Claus or Allah or fairies at the bottom of the garden, the Christian would quite rightly assume that they were deluded and would offer numerous cogent arguments as to why Santa, Allah and fairies don't exist. And yet the cogent arguments as to why their fantasy being also doesn't exist eludes them. Are they so terrified of living their life without the guiding help of an invisible sky fairy that they have to invent one, and then must spend their life suppressing the knowledge that he's no more real than Peter Rabbit or Thomas the Tank Engine? Perhaps in primitive times we could forgive ignorant peasants for believing in such nonsense, for being so terrified of the dark and the unknown, but this is the 21st century with easy access to real, well-supported knowledge, so it's way past time that they grew up.
An so endth the lesson, or should that be rant? But when religious nutters discriminate against people by claiming they're leading a 'sinful lifestyle', and as an atheist I too would clearly fit into their view of a 'sinful lifestyle', and they base their argument on nothing but an ancient book written by ignorant Bronze Age goat herders, then I take it as a personal insult.
|Might I be wrong about everything?|
In this post we want to look at a thought process that can make it very difficult for people to accept, or even suspect, that they may be embracing a silly belief. It's something called confirmation bias. Let's quote Michael Shermer from his excellent book, 'Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition and other Confusions of our Time'. He writes that confirmation bias is an
'extremely powerful cognitive bias that makes it difficult for any of us to objectively evaluate a claim.'In another of his books, 'The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies — How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths', Shermer writes that the confirmation bias 'is the mother of all the cognitive biases', and 'is best captured in the biblical wisdom Seek and ye shall find'.
Meaning that people will often find the answers they desperately want to find by only looking in places where they expect to find positive answers. If a Christian has a worrying question about evolution as it relates to God's involvement in life, they'll ask a priest or fellow Christian rather than an evolutionist or an atheist familiar with evolution. And as that old saying regarding the Bible goes, 'Beware the man who only reads one book'. Ditto with believers in other silly beliefs, such as astrology, alien abductions, homeopathy, Reiki, the lost city of Atlantis, and that mediums can talk to the dead, believers in these things usually only read the books that support their specific beliefs. And unfortunately there is a mountain of crap available to support almost any nonsense you name. Believers in mediums will read all the books from their favourite medium, attend all their shows and workshops, but they will never be found reading the books by skeptics that expose the mediums as frauds. They seek support for their belief, whatever it might be, and never seek out disbelievers to learn why they doubt. If they do encounter a disbeliever and their arguments, it's amazing how readily they can discount what they hear as nonsense. Why, they almost laugh at the suggestion that they might be mistaken, the way I do laugh when a Christian says I'm going to burn in Hell for my refusal to accept Jesus into my life.
While the confirmation bias isn't new to me, I've come across mention of it several times in the last few weeks, and it got me thinking — shock, horror — could it be me that's under the spell of the confirmation bias? In fact I've always been worried ... no, perhaps concerned is a better word, that I might be mistaken in some important matter. After all, I have laboured under false beliefs in the past. I once believed in the likes of Santa Claus and the tooth fairy, although in my defence I was very young and I was lied to by people I trusted.
But the reality is that I don't read many books written by the likes of religious apologists, alien abductees or those that claim to talk to the dead, and of the few I have read, I've had no trouble finding flaws in their arguments. But am I subconsciously avoiding them or dismissing their arguments because I believe they're arguing for something I don't agree with? Perhaps I am, because after all, that's what the confirmation bias does, it hides this bias from the very person that has it. It often takes someone else to recognise the bias in others.
I believe I have detected signs of this bias in believers in everything from gods to UFOs, although seldom am I able to convince them that they're viewing their pet belief through rose-tinted spectacles. But no doubt they think the same about me. So should I be worried that it's me that's cherry-picking evidence and arguments to match my worldview? Is it me that's safely cocooned in order to protect my outlook, surrounding myself with books, movies and friends that affirm my views while shunning those of an opposing viewpoint? After all, I attend 'Skeptics in the Pub' meetings but never church. I read books by atheists, skeptics, scientists and philosophers, but not evangelists, psychic mediums and alien abductees. I happily watch 'Star Trek' movies but not 'The Passion of the Christ'.
Of course I believe I am aware of all the important arguments that believers in gods, aliens, homeopathy, astrology etc use, since I've encountered them in the books that criticise them. I don't believe you have to read all the actual books by believers to understand their arguments, just as you don't have to read all, or any, of the 'Harry Potter' books to dismiss magic, witches and wizards. Once you've convinced yourself that Santa Claus isn't real, you don't have to then go on and check out those flying reindeer. But mightn't the confirmation bias make me think that?
OK, so maybe I am unknowingly shielding myself from the truth of gods, talkative spirits, probing aliens and miraculous natural cures. Am I the deluded one? How would I know? Is there a way to lessen the chance that it's me that's going down the wrong path? Well, just as 'science contains a special self-correcting mechanism to get around the confirmation bias', maybe I'm employing a cheap version of that mechanism and I'm trying to get other people to check my conclusions, so that if I'm spouting nonsense, then as Shermer said, 'someone will sooner or later catch you on it'.
So, although I'm not sitting in the pews annoyingly questioning Christians on Sunday, or attending all the psychic medium shows that visit town, I'm not hiding for fear of hearing something that may shake my conviction. I wear a 'BORN AGAIN ATHEIST' button, my car features anti-religion stickers, I'm open with my love of science and reason and my dismissal of pseudoscience and the paranormal. For years I've encouraged people to pull me up on some claim if they believe I'm wrong. I want people to discuss these topics with me, I enjoy the intellectual debates, and I want them to explain why they're right and I'm missing the point. If I'm guilty of confirmation bias, then I'd welcome anyone to at least try and help me see the light, to point out the evidence I'm ignoring and explain why my arguments are flawed. But it almost never happens. I've heard in the past of people saying that they've had trouble getting door-knocking evangelists to leave, but my experience is that when I reveal that I'm an informed atheist, and I give them the opportunity to explain why my viewpoint is a blinkered viewpoint, they can't leave quickly enough. And as I mentioned in a previous post — 'Is your neighbour a nutter?' — I've worked with people for years whom it was later revealed were seriously religious ... I've discovered that I had relations that believed in the superiority of the likes of homeopathy and colour therapy over modern medicine. I have other relations and acquaintances that believe the moon landing was a hoax, that aliens built the pyramids, and that dark powers are trying to kill us with deadly vaccines and chemtrails. Others visit psychics for advice or think that their horoscopes reveal the future. But the thing is that almost all these people hid their wacky beliefs from me.
So I'm reassured that I'm not viewing the world as I do because of confirmation bias since surely everyone, or at least many, would confront me and try and expose the weakness of my stance. But again, none do. I'm certainly convinced that the confirmation bias is a real and 'extremely powerful cognitive bias', but I sincerely doubt that I'm under its spell, not because people can't persuade me that I might be biased in my views, but because they don't even try. And their determined preference to hide their beliefs from my gaze and their steady refusal to engage in friendly discussion concerning beliefs for which they feel strongly, suggests to me that confirmation bias is at play in their minds. They have adopted, largely unknowingly, a strategy that allows them to ignore troubling arguments concerning their silly belief, and out of sight is out of mind. They may have convinced themselves that it's not polite to publicly discuss personal and contentious views on religion and such, and perhaps risk an altercation, but this is just one way confirmation bias might allow people to avoid encountering evidence and arguments that might cause a crisis of faith.
Also, since 'science contains a special self-correcting mechanism to get around the confirmation bias', and I base my worldview largely on scientific evidence, unlike, say, the religious who base their worldviews on ancient holy books written by primitive, superstitious desert nomads, books which have no self-correcting mechanism, and books which are fighting not just science, but each other, then the odds are greatly in favour of my worldview being correct, based as it is on objective science rather than numerous subjective religions. Surely I can gain much confidence in the fact that universities worldwide teach the physics, evolutionary biology, geology, cosmology, history etc that match perfectly with my worldview, whereas none teach the beliefs that I dismiss, such as intelligent design, astrology, and communication with the souls of the dead. The learned men and women that make real discoveries about the universe and life, and produce amazing technologies based on their findings, are without exception following science, and those that make unsupported claims about gods, miracle cures and probing aliens produce nothing of value, but much that is harmful. Surely by siding with views that gave us antibiotics, condoms and the Hubble Telescope, rather than views that gave us homophobia, the terrorists of Islamic State and Catholic priests raping children, I'm more likely to have chosen a worldview that sees humanity and reality as it is, not as true believers naively wish it was.
On the bright side, if I am mistaken in my views, apparently no one that I ever encounter knows why, and so they simply say nothing. Which to me strongly suggests that supporting science and dismissing all the nonsense hiding in the shadows is likely right, and certainly the most rational view to adopt.
|Evidence for psychic powers missing|
Disappointingly we have noticed that the old TV series 'Sensing Murder' is being given a repeat screening. That was the Reality TV series that looked at real unsolved murder cases and attempted to resolve them by getting psychic mediums to talk to the dead victims and name their killers. Although we only got to see the NZ version, these shows were made in numerous countries around the world and gained quite a following, in NZ at least. But amazingly it completely escaped the attention of their fans that, even with the help of psychic mediums, not a single murder case was ever solved. Not one, worldwide. We looked at some of 'Sensing Murder' episodes and accused the psychics and the series production team of fraud, and we assume that this is what motivated an annoyed fan of all things spooky to send us the following comment:
'How pathetic not to believe in psychic powers, the mind boggles. So much proof but always people that try to dismiss it.'Yes folks, even in today's enlightened times there are still morons that insist psychic mediums are really talking to dead people. Clearly our offended believer in psychic powers thinks that they are on the right side of the spooky debate, and that their comment/insult will cause us to rethink our stance. But why would it? How is it really any different to someone offering the following similar challenge:
How pathetic not to believe in Santa Claus, the mind boggles. So much proof but people always try to dismiss him. How do you think kids get their Xmas presents if not from Santa? Explain that Mr Smartypants!And we would argue that for every single deluded believer in psychic powers, we could likely produce many believers that say Santa Claus lives at the North Pole and is really delivering toys at Xmas. So clearly the fact that a lot of na´ve, unsophisticated people believe in something ridiculous is no proof that it's true.
Our aggrieved poster claims that there is 'So much proof' out there to support his delusion, but typically for believers in nonsense, strangely they always forget to include it, or even hint as to what this proof might be. They conveniently ignore this proof because of course it doesn't exist, they have simply imagined it. We doubt if they even understand what proof or evidence means. We just wish that some of these believers were a little bit more committed and serious in backing up their claims, but at most all they do is say silly things like ... umm ... the psychic knew that the person they were wanting to contact was dead, that their grandfather was old, and that their mother was a woman ...
Also typical for these deluded believers is the assertion that we merely 'try to dismiss' the proof that they claim is out there. We don't simply try, and presumably fail in their view, to dismiss the work of psychics, we do absolutely debunk it. We doubt most critics have even read our exposÚ of the 'Sensing Murder' episodes and their fraudulent psychics and production crew. We say this in all confidence because they make no attempt to point out flaws in our arguments or evidence. Just as a child believes in the reality of Santa Claus, they blindly believe in the reality of psychics and thus they 'know', without even considering our arguments, that whatever a skeptic says against psychics must be wrong. It just must be.
So, we challenge any believer to produce real, solid evidence that spooky psychic powers exist. And we shouldn't need to say this, but I feel we must, sincerely claiming that your pet psychic can really, hand on your heart, talk to people that are rotting under six feet of earth or were burnt to a crisp in a crematorium is not evidence that your psychic is telling the truth. Do believers not understand that for some moronic and/or dishonest psychic to pretend that he or she is talking to a dead person is child's play? All it then requires is some gullible idiot to believe them. It's no different to me claiming something outlandish, for example, that I'm writing these comments on a spaceship orbiting Jupiter. How can you prove I'm not? However, since there is no good reason to believe that I could actually be on a spaceship orbiting Jupiter, it's reasonable to conclude that I'm lying or, like our psychics, deluded. How many parents believe their young children when they say they have an invisible friend that they can communicate with? None. So why do many of these same parents then go on to believe some seedy, low IQ psychic when they say that they're chatting with invisible friends?
And where is the everyday evidence that spooky psychic powers are at work in the world? If psychics were achieving the things that they and their gullible followers claim, then society couldn't fail but notice. But do we again need to remind people that psychics worldwide have not solved a single murder that they've investigated, not one, not ever. Even though they claim to be communicating with murder victims, as well as the spirits of missing people, and a multitude of dead people that could resolve an untold number of mysteries, at the end of the day nothing is ever resolved. The murderers are still unknown and at large, the bodies are still missing, and the mysteries are still mysteries. Psychics stumble from day to day adding to their perfect record of absolute failure, they are truly incompetent, and yet their stupid followers never realise that they haven't been told anything new. If spooky psychic powers were real then we couldn't help but notice, psychics would have solved all the unsolved crimes, found all the missing bodies, located all the lost treasure, exposed all the people planning terrorist acts, and accurately predicted our future; all the plane crashes, all the celebrity deaths, all the earthquakes, all the election results. But they never reveal anything that your average teenager couldn't have guessed. They are by any measure pathetic failures. That's why you don't see psychics working for governments or the military or the police, or anyone in fact. Psychics haven't managed to convince any organisation that they're anything but deluded fools or devious con artists. The handful of psychics that lurk in the shadows, without exception, all work for themselves. They help no one but themselves, and the small fortunes they can make with their travelling sideshows and private readings to unsophisticated folk go towards feathering their own lifestyle, never towards alleviating the true mysteries of the world.
There are people with flying skills working for our airlines, ones with medical skills working for our hospitals, and ones with investigative skills working for the police. So why is it that people with so-claimed psychic powers never work for anyone except themselves? Like pilots, doctors and detectives do, why aren't psychics contributing to the welfare of society? Surely their true psychic powers would put them on the level of superheroes? Why do psychics refuse to use their powers to find missing children or warn about disasters, but will happily tell anyone that their dead granny loves them, if they first give them enough money? Psychics could make an amazing contribution to the safety and welfare of society if their powers were real, and the clear fact that they don't can only be because their silly powers are make-believe. Think of the huge number of psychics that there must be worldwide, you can't tell us that not one is willing to go public, ditch their lucrative private readings, and use their powers to actually help people? You know, find those missing kids before they die, rather than wait until they die like all the other psychics do, and then simply pretend to talk to their dead body. We say to every psychic out there with a conscience, rather than just revealing your party tricks to paying customers in a dank little hall somewhere, if you demonstrated to the world that you actually had the psychic powers that others merely talk about, if you show that you really can solve murders, find missing bodies, predict disasters and find lost car keys, then the world, including the skeptical, scientific world, would be your oyster. A public and proven psychic would garner immediate worldwide celebrity, they could ask for and would be given obscene fees by everyone from governments to wealthy individuals desperate to learn some sippet of vital information from the other side. And even if wealth and celebrity are not what drives them to help others, surely just being able to prove us annoying skeptics wrong would be reward enough. But no, it seems that neither extreme wealth and fame, nor feelings of altruism — simply wanting to help others — nor a desire to prove their critics wrong is enough to motivate a single psychic into coming forward, and proving to the world at large that they're not just lying to people stupid enough to believe in primitive, superstitious nonsense.
And the scary thing is that there are really a lot of stupid people out there for psychics to leech off. A few weeks ago we saw a Facebook page advertising a free Skeptics in the Pub event for that day, where 7 people had recorded that they were going along for a casual chat with like-minded folk on matters of skepticism, science and reason. That skeptical page also linked to a Facebook page advertising a later event for the same city featuring psychic medium Kelvin Cruickshank, of 'Sensing Murder' fame. On that page, some 326 people had recorded that they were going, and over 700 more had recorded that they were interested in going. And on top of that there will surely be a lot of people going to see Cruickshank that haven't bothered to note their intention on that Facebook page. If people wonder why mediums run these silly sideshows if they don't have psychic powers, well clearly it's for the money. Kelvin Cruickshank is taking his 'Soul Food' show to 24 cities around NZ at $65 per ticket, plus booking fees. Before he even had the first show, 9 venues were already sold out. If we assume that the number going to that one show is typical for all shows — 326 — that will rake in $508,560 for Cruickshank, just over half a million dollars. If all those interested in going actually went, Cruickshank would make over one and half million dollars. Even if only a hundred people went to each show, Cruickshank would still make $156,000 for under 50 hours work. That's around a week's work for many people. Crime certainly does pay. And yes, fraud is a crime.
So there you have it, over 1,000 people going, or interested in going, to one of Cruickshank's shows, prepared to pay good money to listen to something that is complete crap. An ignorant moron pretending to talk to dead people, and an army of gullible fools happily paying big money to be lied to. All willingly going along to be ripped off. In one city over 1,000 interested in superstitious nonsense and only 7 people interested in discussing how the public is largely ignorant of all these scams, ignorant of science, reason and reality. We suspect this proportion between believers and skeptics is probably somewhat similar all over NZ. Of course there will be many intelligent, skeptically minded folk that never bother going to a Skeptics in the Pub event, but equally there will be many believers in psychic powers and spooky stuff that can't be bothered to pay to watch mediums at work. Watch someone claim that they're talking with the dead granny of some complete stranger in the crowd.
So if the ratio of believers to skeptics in society is somewhere around 1000 to 7, that means that less than 1% of the population have evolved beyond the ignorance of a superstitious peasant from the Middle Ages. Of course we can't read too much from this one comparison, but it is worrying that the ratio isn't 50:50, or even 80:20, but is closer to 99:1. Clearly we skeptics, we very few skeptics, need to do a lot more before even a small proportion of society stops believing in souls, ghosts and gods. And with TV screening mindless crap like 'Sensing Murder' and 'Keeping up with the Kardashians', along with schools neglecting to teach courses in critical thinking, ethics and comparative religion, while still offering 'Bible in Schools', then sadly the lying fools that call themselves psychic mediums will find willing audiences for many years to come.
And even though there are apparently a lot of believers out there, we still don't expect a single one to respond and offer any evidence that those psychic powers are actually real. It seems that they would prefer to simply talk about their fantasies with friends than demonstrate their validity to skeptics. We suspect they're afraid of what they might discover. They've already lost Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, they're reluctant to lose another cherished belief. It's almost sad really, people unwilling to grow up when the real world doesn't match their fantasies.
|Catholics and child endangerment|
Our attention was brought to an article where it was revealed that 'The Catholic Church of Montreal plans to bar priests, volunteers and all those involved in faith education from being alone with children'. Rene, who sent the link, noted, 'Finally, tangible action to deal with repercussions of child rape by the Church!!!'
While any move that puts shackles on predatory priests and their deviant associates has got to be a good thing and long overdue, I question the true motivations of the Catholic Church. Also, if simply telling a priest that they're not allowed to be alone with a child will solve the sex abuse problem, and they'll blindly obey, then why in the past didn't the Church simply tell their priests that they weren't allowed to have sex with children? Since when did rules or morals bother priests that were salivating over a cute child?
Clearly the most effective method of preventing filthy priests from having sex with your child is to stop introducing them to the priests in the first place, stop taking your child to places where it is known the priests lurk, and stop giving the priests the opportunity to groom your child for weekend sleepovers. It's not rocket science, I don't understand why Catholic parents, or just Christian parents, keep putting their children at risk. It's like saying, 'Every time a put my kid in the lion's enclosure at the zoo he gets attacked and mauled. What am I doing wrong?'
In our view, this policy is an attempt to protect the Church and its priests, not its victims. Franšois Sarrazin, chancellor of the Montreal Archdiocese, said that 'while the church has been rocked in recent years by allegations of sexual abuse of children, those allegations aren't always founded. "To give [their story] importance, a child can give an account of an incident that isn't always true," he said.'
Note how Sarrazin talks of 'allegations of sexual abuse of children', he won't even admit that it's gone well beyond mere allegations; many priests have confessed and many more have been found guilty. Instead, Sarrazin suggests that it is the children that are lying and this policy is needed to protect the poor, innocent priests from becoming victims. In another article about this policy, its author also appears to smell a rat. She writes that the policy will, 'provide a "safety net" against allegations of abuse'. The policy is designed, first and foremost, to protect priests from 'allegations of abuse', rather than protecting the children from the priests. And Sarrazin again looks at it from a priest's point of view, saying, 'Imagine if you are alone in a room and a child accuses you of hitting them, how will you react?' Again, it's apparently the poor priest that is at risk of becoming a victim from a predatory child. And Sarrazin also misrepresents what the accusations have mostly concerned, suggesting that the abuse scandal is about priests hitting children rather than forcing sex on them.
The second article notes that,
'Globally, the Catholic church has paid tens of millions of dollars in compensation and costs relating to child sex abuse. An investigation by the National Catholic Reporter last year concluded that the US church alone had incurred costs of nearly ú4bn. Two years ago, the Vatican said that 848 priests had been defrocked and more than 2,500 had been sanctioned. But the church has also been accused of systematically covering up crimes committed by priests.'I agree with both Carlo Tarini, who represents survivors of abuse by priests, when he said that, 'the move was "too little, too late", and the church was trying to protect itself from legal action', and also David Clohessy who described it as 'window dressing', and added that,
'The single most effective step would be to publicly disclose and discipline every cleric who committed or concealed child sex crimes. That immediately protects children ... We've literally seen hundreds of policies, procedures, protocols and pledges like this that sound good on paper but are virtually never enforced. So we are extremely sceptical'.While the priests, bishops, popes and the bureaucracy of the Vatican are the true evil behind this child abuse, now that everyone knows about it, Catholic parents must also take some responsibility for still deliberately and knowingly putting their innocent, brainwashed children in harm's way. Catholics are knowingly endangering their children, so when will we see the first legal case where the parents are charged alongside the priest for being an accessory to the child abuse? Parents can be charged for recklessly endangering their children, so why doesn't handing your child over to an organisation that is infamous for child sex abuse count? Admittedly parents don't know which priests are pedophiles and which aren't, but they do know without doubt that their Church has a terrible and proven reputation for child sex abuse, so why are they allowed to gamble with their child's safety in such a heartless and reckless way? When will the law start to protect vulnerable children from, not just the priests, but from the delusions of their parents? What sort of parent are you if you're prepared to run the risk your child being repeatedly raped by an elderly priest, just to ensure that some priest fills their head with childish lies about a talking snake and a vicious god that's going to torture them for all eternity if they ever use a condom or refuse to spit on a homosexual?
Last Updated Feb 2017