Ascent out of Darkness ~ Armchair Philosophy from the 'Silly Beliefs' Team
|Ayaan Hirsi Ali — interview and visit|
Graeme Hill of 'Radio Live' fame has sent us a link to an interview he recently conducted with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, which is an excellent lead-up and primer to her appearing at an event in Auckland on April 9th.
Very briefly, Ayaan was born in Somalia and raised as a Muslim. As a child she was forced to undergo female genital mutilation by her grandmother. Later she flees an arranged marriage where she was to wed a stranger in Canada, a distant cousin, and she arrives in the Netherlands and seeks and gains asylum there. Through her intelligence and an amazing will and drive, and against the odds, she gains a university education and gets elected as a member of the Dutch parliament. Her education combined with her experience of Muslim, Christian and secular communities leads Ayaan to reject belief in gods and become an atheist. Anyone who abandons their religion is known as an apostate, and for a Muslim who rejects Islam, the punishment is death. Luckily for Ayaan, by the time she openly identified as an atheist, as an apostate, she was by then living in the Netherlands and not Somalia, or in any of the other Muslim countries where she had spent time growing up. She wasn't absolutely safe from Muslims that were outraged by her rejection of Islam, but she felt safe enough to become an out-spoken critic of Islam, especially its disgusting and inhumane treatment of women.
In the Netherlands in 2004, writer and movie director Theo van Gogh was murdered in the street by a fanatical Muslim, and since Ayaan had worked with him on a short movie critical of Islam, the killer left a note on the body that said she was next. Since then Ayaan has been forced to live under tight security and must generally keep her location secret. She now works and lives in the USA, and unfortunately because of the ongoing death threats still fears for her safety. Even when she visits Auckland she will still be escorted around by a security detail, since the reach of murderous religious fundamentalists doesn't stop at the border. Just rejecting Islam and becoming an atheist was enough to get her killed, but telling the world why all Muslims should reject the primitive and dogmatic elements of their religion, just made her detractors and those that hate her more determined.
I've read Ayaan's first three books, and have her latest on my tablet ready to go as soon as I finish my current read, which by coincidence is by another Muslim turned atheist, Alom Shaha ('The Young Atheist's Handbook: Lessons for Living a Good Life Without God'). Ayaan's books are not an easy read, not that they're not very well written and argued, but many of the episodes that Ayaan describes from her own life and that of other women are very confronting, and it's deeply shameful that in the 21st century we still have religious fundamentalists treating their fellow humans in such degrading ways. And not just their fellow humans in the next country or neighbourhood, but often their own daughters, sisters and wives.
And while we're at it, we need to thank Graeme Hill for all the fascinating interviews he does on 'Radio Live', with people that explain topics such as cosmology, anthropology, evolution, philosophy and critical thinking, such as Lawrence M. Krauss, Jared Diamond, Joe Nickell, and now Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Graeme is a welcome voice of reason in the media wilderness. There is a serious dearth of programs on the radio and TV that make any attempt to examine serious topics. We may get the odd sound-bite on the news from a scientist, historian or academic, but they're so short and simplified that they make the tweets that Donald Trump sends out seem like novels. Most of the moronic media seem to think that as long as people have heard of a black hole, the big bang, evolution and Muslims, then they'll somehow understand all about them too. Their work is done. What's the world come to when most people get their science and history education from silly Hollywood movies that usually aren't even 'loosely based on a true story', a story that almost always involves a beautiful woman, often in skimpy clothing?
Unlike the rest of us, Graeme is very fortunate, getting to chat with such amazing people, but thankfully it doesn't stop there, since he lets us listen in to their fascinating and enlightening conversations. Some people get to interview celebrities such as Justin Beeber, Tom Cruise and Prince Charles, but we'd rather hear Graeme interview an interesting and intelligent person with something important to say over a merely famous person any day. Of course Ayaan Hirsi Ali is quite renown in certain circles, and deservedly so, but rather than discuss an upcoming movie, her relationship ups and downs, or what she wore to the Oscars, she would rather discuss serious topics that the world needs to understand, but that many would rather not hear, and that many find blasphemous. It's worrying that your average man and woman on the street is quite negative towards Islam and Muslims in their community, and yet few know anything about the religion, or that's there's a huge difference between a liberal Muslim and a truly fanatical Muslim, just as there's a huge difference between how seriously the pope and your old uncle take their individual devotion to Jesus.
So that's our advice folks, go listen to Ayaan Hirsi Ali if you can, listen to Graeme's show in the weekend, you'll definitely learn something interesting, and for the rest of the week, try reading a book about something real and important, one that isn't about sport, fashion, cooking, gardening or the British royal family. And yes, love is real and important, but Mills & Boon books are still off limits.
|The fantasy world of gods & unicorns|
Do you like a ripping good fantasy story, one with adventures intermingled with a love story, with witches and flying serpents, evil gods and demons, heroes and villains, beautiful naked maidens and illicit sex, battles and violence on a grand scale, intrigue and betrayal, and some space aliens thrown in for good measure? Perhaps you're a fan of the Harry Potter books, or the sagas of the Viking gods such as Thor, maybe you're a Doctor Who fan, a zombie fan, a vampire fan, or perhaps you love the battle between good and evil as played out in the Star Wars universe? Like us, do you enjoy the humour of Terry Pratchett's 'Discworld' books, with their utterly ridiculous plots and characters? If you love fantasies, and can suspend your disbelief, can overlook the utter impossibility of the beings that populate these tales, all in the harmless pursuit of retreating into a fantasy universe for a little entertainment, then have you ever considered reading the Bible? It has all of the above, from talking donkeys (just like in the 'Shrek' movie) to bewitching maidens (like 'Shrek' again), or if you're into that sort of thing, maidens behaving like those in the old 'Deep Throat' porno movie with Linda Lovelace. And yes, there really are pornographic passages in the Bible.
Don't believe us that the Bible is a good fantasy read? Well, here's a testimonial we recently received from Ron:
'Hello John. For the first time I dug into some of the ridiculous stories and advice in the Bible, over the weekend, and they were good medicine. They made me laugh more than I've done in a long time. I would like to share a few here. You probably know of a number of them but perhaps some readers may not be so aware.And we agree wholeheartedly with Ron, the Bible is indeed full of ridiculous stories and advice. I think we'd heard of most of them, though maybe not the leprosy cure or the sweet tasting scrolls. Most Christians won't know of half of them, and of those that they do know, they are at pains never to mention them when debating with non-believers. As Ron says, they find them downright embarrassing, and quote only safe passages that suit their argument.
And he's right about Proverbs 3:5, 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding', it's a perfect justification for Christians to ignore and reject what they understand about the world, to reject the robust knowledge and evidence produced by scientific and historical research, and to place their blind faith in a space alien that they've never seen, and for which there is no evidence for. That commandment is identical to the demand made by con artists trying to sell people bogus investments or bogus cures, who tell their marks not to consult with their lawyers or doctors, but to simply trust them, and hand over their money.
As we learn more and more about life and the universe, the holy books of all religions, not just the Bible, become more and more ridiculous and clearly the work of primitive, hugely ignorant folk living long ago. That intelligent, educated people, like Christian fundamentalist Ian Wishart, can still take them seriously staggers belief. Seriously, any book that talks of men walking on water; stars falling to the Earth; the Sun and Moon stopping in the sky; the seas being held back by doors and bars; the Earth being flat and mounted on pillars; demons being driven out of a man into pigs; talking snakes, donkeys and bushes; men raising people from the dead, turning water into wine and staffs into snakes; snow and hail being kept in storerooms in the sky; unicorns, dragons, satyrs and flying serpents and reindeer, surely sophisticated people should quickly realise that it's all bullshit? (Oh sorry, that last one, the flying reindeer, was one of Santa's claimed miracles, after a while all the world's fairy tales tend to roll into one).
We'd like to make a few comments on some of the stories Ron mentioned, since there's always more flaws in them than first meets the eye.
Jesus and his childish hissy fit with the fig tree is one of the many, many stories that the original editors of the Bible should have rejected. It's just shows him up as pathetic, but even worse, it shows him as impotent. If he had the magical powers to make the tree immediately wither, and we know he has the power to raise the dead, turn water in wine and feed thousands by multiplying a few fish and loaves, why couldn't his magical powers bring forth some figs from a fig tree? Seems like child's play to us.
The Biblical acceptance for the incest of Lot's daughters supposedly comes from their belief that there were no men left alive on Earth, besides their father, who could get them pregnant and continue the family line as per God's wishes, ie go forth and multiply. But the Bible clearly states that while he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding plain, God spared the town of Zoar so that Lot and his family could find a place of safety. They eventually left Zoar and lived in fear (presumably of God) in a cave in the mountains, but his daughters knew perfectly well that there were men in the town of Zoar at least (and we can assume in the lands beyond the plain), so their story makes no sense. The only scenario that does make sense is that Lot raped his daughters, and made up the story of them screwing him in his drunken stupor to explain their pregnancies when they returned to civilisation. If you don't think a decent God-fearing man could do that to his daughters, then read on. Furthermore, it's highly unlikely that Lot was sober enough to get an erection and yet was so drunk that he had no memory of having sex with both his daughters, and probably on numerous occasions, as it's unlikely that both daughters became pregnant on their first attempt. We're asked to believe that these are the only three good and decent people God thought worthy of saving from Sodom and Gomorrah, he even murdered their mother for simply peeking at the destruction. And what was the crime of the people in Sodom and Gomorrah? The Bible doesn't say exactly, just that, 'the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD' GE 13:13. The usual claim is that it was sexual deviancy of some sort, and our guess, based on what happened just prior to the destruction, it was down to God's homophobia. According to the bible, a crowd of men 'called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them."' GE 19:5. Instead Lot graciously offered his daughters to the baying crowd to be gang raped in return for the safety of his two males guests. That's what a good host did in those days. He said to the crowd: 'Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them'. GE 19:8 Lot offers his two daughters up for gang rape (but they escape), then later on probably rapes them both in a cave, or at least allows himself to have sex with them while drunk (always an acceptable excuse), and these people, exhibiting such immoral behaviour, are the people that God goes out of his way to save, knowing everything that they did and would do even before they did it. He killed the men for wanting to have homosexual sex with Lot's guests, but rewarded Lot for offering his daughters to be gang raped. That most Christians know the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot, his daughters and his wife turned to a pillar of salt, and aren't ashamed and disgusted by it just shows how little time they've spent thinking about what really happened. (The two Biblical cartoons in this post are from the book by Horus Gilgamesh and Agnes Tickheathen: 'Awkward Moments (Not Found in Your Average) Children's Bible, Volume #1'.)
Following the verse forbidding the dual use of an ox and a donkey for ploughing, outdated advice that people can easily ignore today, it gives another prohibition that must still apply today, that we must not wear clothes made of different materials, eg wool and linen or cotton and nylon. God is like one of those kids who can't stand having the potatoes and the peas on their dinner plate touching. And an earlier verse states that, 'A woman must not wear men's clothing, nor a man wear women's clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.' DT 22:5 God is such a petty god, and he clearly has some serious problems. More truly valuable advice he offers is, 'Do not cook a young goat in its mother's milk' EX 23:19. I'll put a note on my fridge to remind me. That one apparently prohibits the simple pleasure of eating a hamburger and drinking a milk shake at the same time, which luckily for the likes of McDonalds and Burger King, most everyone ignores. Not the Jews though.
Following those silly verses, there is a far more disturbing commandment from God:
'If a man takes a wife and, after lying with her, dislikes her and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, "I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity," then the girl's father and mother shall bring proof that she was a virgin to the town elders at the gate ... "here is the proof of my daughter's virginity." Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town ... If, however ... no proof of the girl's virginity can be found, ... the men of her town shall stone her to death ... You must purge the evil from among you.' DT 22:13-21This is just a primitive example of some low-life buying an expensive DVD movie, watching it a few times, and then returning it to the shop and demanding a full refund, saying that they disliked it and it wasn't as good as they'd been led to believe. If the shop refuses a refund then they're stuck with a movie that they can still watch again or on sell, but if they agree they get their money back and the DVD is probably sold to someone else on the cheap. Either way they got to watch the movie, and no one dies. But how many virgins died because they weren't as sexy naked as their husbands had hoped, or weren't as obedient in the sack as they wanted them to be? How many men got to try out their wives in bed, and not happy, had them killed and moved on to the next one? Modern, educated people know that you can't medically or scientifically prove a girl is a virgin, let alone prove, after the fact, that she was a virgin before she had sex. And while primitive goat herders may not have known that, their all-knowing God from whom they were getting medical and legal advice would certainly have known that. God (if he existed), would have known whether she was a virgin, but he left it up to the girl's parents to argue her case and find evidence. Again, these stories should be explained to children (and adults) so they realise just how repulsive they are. We need to stop pretending that Bible stories are all about loving and caring parents protecting their children, and assisted by an even more loving and caring God. They're vile stories, disgusting examples of how we should act towards others, and we need to stop letting Christians hide them from children and even gullible adults.
Regarding the story of God compelling Ezekiel to lie on one side for 390 days etc, this is a perfect example of God acting as the bully that he is, torturing someone like a sadistic Mafia boss before he will grant them a favour. A correction though, God didn't tell Ezekiel to make bread from human faeces, he instructed him to use human faeces as fuel for his fire, but then relented and allowed him to use dried cow dung instead, which is a fuel that many societies have used throughout history. But initially telling him to use human faeces even as fuel demonstrates how cruel God can be, especially when we remember that Ezekiel was someone who worshiped him, God was dealing with a friend, not an enemy, not a heretic. The story also shows God changing his mind, being convinced by a mere human to change his plan because it was overzealous, which is something that should be impossible to do. If God is perfect and unchanging, then he can't make imperfect plans and can't change anything, since if you're already perfect, then any change can only make you less perfect, it can never make you more perfect than perfect. And in the Bible God is actually persuaded many times that he's made a mistake, and each time must have slipped further away from being the perfect, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful god that Christians claim he is.
As for the story of David bringing King Saul 200 foreskins to buy a marriage to his daughter, people fixate on the foreskins and fail to see the far more heinous elements in the tale. Ron said, 'I hope they don't discuss some of these passages at Sunday school!!', and of course the conniving bastards don't, but we wish they would, since more people would start to understand, and at a young age, what immoral and harmful things these people did, and are still doing, just to please an imaginary sky fairy. The more these embarrassing and revealing stories are publicised the more people will want to have nothing to do with the book that they come from. If adults keep hiding the ridiculous stories, the disgusting stories and the downright evil stories, and only tell sanitised feel-good stories to their children and to each other, then primitive, ignorant, immoral religions will keep staying around to harm society.
So what do Christians miss in that story? Why did King Saul want a bride-price of 100 Philistine foreskins? Why didn't he say his daughter was worth 50 shekels, 20 goats and a toaster? Were the foreskins ingredients for a special sauce? No, it was because Saul wanted David dead, and he believed setting such a dangerous and perverse task would achieve that, as the Bible explains: 'Saul's plan was to have David fall by the hands of the Philistines' 1SA 18:25. This is the level of morality that God and the Bible promotes. And perhaps God got the idea of how to kill Jesus, while publicly keeping his hands clean, from Saul: as Saul tried to get the Philistines to kill David, God could get the Romans to kill Jesus? Everyone needs a good alibi, right? Whether it's the humans that God supports or God himself, you just can't trust the devious bastards to not try and kill you. But there's more immorality involved than just Saul conspiring to have David killed. He could have simply paid an assassin to kill him, or set him a very dangerous task, hoping he'd be killed, a task that didn't involve murdering 100 innocent strangers. But no, Saul told him to go out and slaughter 100 foreign heathens. This from a people that say they live by God's Ten Commandments, one of which says that they must not murder people. But as we've said before, the Jews felt this applied only to other Jews, not to filthy heathens, heathens with foreskins no less. And when it suited them, it didn't even apply to their fellow Jew, since Saul is conspiring to have David, a fellow Jew, killed. And God knew all this was going on, and being on David's side, may have even helped him slaughter 200 Philistines, for God also had no time for filthy heathens. God was a xenophobe, hating everyone that didn't belong to his little Hebrew desert tribe. And let's remember that the foreskins were a bride-price, the agreed price that David had to pay to purchase Saul's daughter, a business deal arranged in the same way that he would have agreed to buy a cow. To Saul, and to all fathers throughout much of history, his daughters were mere chattels, like a good sword or fast horse, his property to sell to whom he pleased for a good price. Yes, fathers valued and protected their daughters, but only to keep them pure and in good condition, which would ensure a high price when the time came to sell them. They viewed a daughter the same way they viewed a prize cow, as a valuable asset. That's why even today at weddings the father walks his daughter into the church and the priest asks, Who gives this woman away? and the father replies, I do. This is the father affirming to the community that he legally transfers his ownership of her to another man. And if the father is deceased, then they have to get another man, an uncle perhaps, to escort her up the aisle and authorise the transfer of ownership. And it used to be that priests would say, I now pronounce you man and wife, not husband and wife as they usually do now, which suggests equality, but 'man and wife', which was seen as saying, man and servant, or a man and his property. In marriage the man remained a man, but the woman changed into a wife, having been purchased by another family. Men purchased and owned their wives the way we purchase and own cars and smartphones today. Men would trade their daughters in the same way I would trade an old DVD player. Remember Lot offering to throw his own daughters to the crowd to save two complete strangers? Today decent people would give away every valuable thing they owned to keep their daughters safe, but the Bible tells us we should do just the opposite, give away our daughters to be abused to keep an invisible God happy. Of course the religious will argue that these were different times, dangerous times, ignorant times, and so morality was different back then, but that's bullshit. They had an all-knowing God advising them, a God that even today people claim is the only source of morality, that God is the only way we can tell right from wrong. Christians can't claim that the Bible characters were ignorant peasants doing the best they could in desperate times, they can't excuse their immoral behaviour and at the same time say they were devoutly following the moral guidance of a supreme being. Since God's moral code, by definition, can't change, and the only written evidence of that code is in the Bible, then clearly giving up your daughters for rape is exemplary moral behaviour. Since modern Jews and Christians now view that behaviour as abhorrent, that can only be because they believe mere humans can devise a far better code of conduct than their God can. And they can only teach their children this human devised morality if they hide the true messages buried in their Bible stories.
As for verse where 'God will search Jerusalem with candles to find those who scoff at him', there are many Bible quotes that show God to be anything but all-knowing, that he's as limited in knowledge and power as his primitive followers. In that story God didn't know who his detractors were or where they lived and didn't know of any lighting technology better candles. It was the same with one of the plagues that God visited on Egypt, the Hebrews had to mark their doors with blood so that God could recognise them and not kill their first born child. He had no idea who his followers were and couldn't tell them apart from the heathens, the Egyptians. And when Adam and Eve hid from God in the Garden of Eden, to find them God had to call out, 'Where are you?' So depending on what Bible verses one reads, some show that God knows intimately who his followers are, and would recognise them even if they were wearing a Spiderman costume, while others show that he's as ignorant as the village beggar.
Ron's right that it's silly for God to wonder whether he should tell Abraham he's about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible presents God as if he were a man, a powerful man, but on a roughly similar level to Abraham, fallible, unsure of what path to take, unsure of the consequences of his plans. In later Bible stories God becomes all-knowing, but in the early ones he's often as limited in his knowledge as the men he's pushing around. In the next verse, before destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, God says he needs to go down personally and look to see if it's as bad as he's heard. He's not all-knowing, he needs to go have a look. And yes, why should God care what Abraham thinks about his plans, he has no concern at all for all the innocent people that he's about to slaughter? And while the Bible might claim that all the inhabitants were sexual deviants, we can't believe that all the children, toddlers and babies also deserved to be roasted alive. This story, if it has a germ of truth, is likely the result of ignorant, superstitious people trying to explain the destruction of a village by a natural disaster, and they decided to blame the homosexuals for the demise of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Want to cure acne or ensure the Sun rises tomorrow? First, find a bird and a virgin, preferably cute ones. Killing all those animals in silly ritualistic ways to cure disease was repeated in primitive religions worldwide, where blood sacrifices had to be offered to blood-thirsty gods, and often they were human sacrifices. Think of the hundreds of humans sacrificed by the Aztec to their gods, and the Bible starts out with human sacrifice too, only later does it reduce to just animal sacrifice, but then God reverts back to human sacrifice with a vengeance, deliberately arranging the sacrifice of his own son. Christians even acknowledge that this was a human blood sacrifice by calling Jesus the sacrificial lamb. Catholics actually believe they are eating the real flesh of Jesus and drinking his real blood at Catholic Communion, that it's not merely a ritualistic symbol, which would make them willingly cannibals and vampires. Even if one is to ignore the inhumane sacrifice and burnt offering aspect, every modern Christian should be embarrassed to embrace a book that contains such superstitious and bogus medical advice.
And Ron is right, apart from a handful of deluded Christians who quickly become destitute, none give away their belongings to people that ask for them, meaning not just their coat, but their house and bank accounts as well. This advice only made sense to the disciples because they were convinced that the world was to end any day now, and so possessions would be useless anyway. Of course they were badly mistaken, and 2,000 years later various Christians denominations are still predicting the end of the world, and getting it wrong yet again. And rather than give their wealth to those less fortunate, churches actually do just the opposite, they take money from the poor and use it to fund their decadent lifestyles, just think of the obscene wealth of the Catholic Church, TV evangelists and the mega-churches in the USA, even our own Bishop Brian Tamaki who preys on the poor and ignorant in society, and returns home at night to his mansion.
Ron wonders whether Jesus was lying when he said faith could literally move a real mountain. Of course we don't think it's all that likely that Jesus even existed, but if we treat the Bible stories like we treat the Harry Potter stories, then the Jesus character is either lying or seriously deluded. And of course his disciples should have immediately recognised that, since as Ron said, it has never happened, not then, not now. And if Jesus was telling the truth, it should have happened untold times, and not just mountains moving, but untold humongous obstacles should have mysteriously moved about to suit the desires of the faithful. This what Jesus said,
'I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, "Move from here to there" and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.' MT 17:20So according to Jesus you didn't have to be super-faithful to move mountains, a small amount of faith was sufficient. With just small germ of faith there is nothing a believer couldn't do; move mountains, fly like a bird, become invisible, travel to the Moon, breath underwater, turn a barren patch of desert into an oasis to rival a Las Vegas casino, all with just a simple utterance. They could do impossible things. And yet no one ever did. Of all the people that throughout the centuries we can assume had far greater faith than just a mustard seed's worth, none ever did anything impossible, none ever moved a mountain or even a mole hill. And if Christians argue that Jesus, contrary to what he clearly said, meant that the faithful could merely achieve great things, rather than actually move mountains, then why didn't they? Many of the faithful have wished to see the end of poverty or famine or war, but that hasn't happened either. Is the blatant and embarrassing lack of miracles due to the fact that not a single Christian throughout history has ever had enough faith in the existence of their God for him to grant a single miracle? Regardless of how they act, are they atheists in their heart, and God knows it?
As Ron said, 'There is great faith that Jesus spoke only the truth', but why do Christians believe this, and what do they mean by it? Do they mean that Jesus was a moral person and simply refused to lie, or do they mean that Jesus was incapable of lying? It's the second. Christians believe Jesus had divine access to the knowledge of the cosmos, that he knew what the truth was on any and every matter, and more than that, his nature, his perfection, prevented him from uttering anything but the truth. So, Jesus is just like God then? Well, this is where it gets confusing, since it seems Jesus is God. Wait ... what ... Jesus is God? Yes, apparently Jesus was just God in disguise; give him long hair, a false beard and a dirty old robe and no one noticed. Of course this twist in the Biblical story introduces a multitude of problems concerning what God/Jesus said and did, like how can Christians call Jesus the son of God if they're one and the same person, and if Jesus was God, then Jesus the man didn't die on the cross. It was all a charade. For the Christians that worship Jesus and argue that he isn't God, he really is the son of God, then that means that there is now more than one god up there in space, and they're breaking God's first commandment by worshiping a god other than God. We can see why the Jews didn't want a bar of the Jesus story, since it really did screw up all they work they'd done to promote the idea that there was only one god, and not families of gods up in space, all watching us from their thrones as all the other ancient cultures believed.
Also we need to mention that Jesus used the example of the mustard seed because, as he claimed elsewhere in the Bible, it was the smallest seed that existed. and of course Jesus aka God would know this because he knows everything and whatever he says is true. Only it's not true. There are seeds smaller than the mustard seed, for example, orchid seeds, and even in the time of Jesus some of his more learned audience would have known that. And even if they didn't, God certainly would have known, since didn't he create the orchid seed? Or maybe he didn't? So clearly Jesus wouldn't recognise the truth if it wore a short skirt and propositioned him in a dark Jerusalem alley.
Of course this is just a teaser, just a sprinkling of the fanciful tales of barbaric gods, silly and immoral humans, woeful ignorance, and yes, even unicorns, that can be found in the Bible. Look for it in your local library, or favourite bookshop, in the fantasy section. And if you enjoy your read, here's a sampling of books from our Recommended Books page that can reveal more about the hidden gems in the Bible:
|Pope: atheists better than Catholics|
News flash: The pope has finally affirmed that atheists are better people than Catholics!
Well ... duh!
And it's taken them 2,000 years to figure that out? No, it's just taken them that long to admit it. Well OK, perhaps you might accuse us of being a little simplistic here (or are we?), since what Pope Francis actually suggested was that atheists are better than 'hypocritical Catholics'. But our argument would be that all Catholics are hypocrites, including Pope Franny, which means our original statement is correct, it's better to be an atheist. So what did Pope Francis really say?
The other day Patrick sent us a link that he rightly thought might interest us:
It's a brief article so we'll quote it in full below:
'Pope suggests 'better to be atheist than hypocritical Catholic''Personally we suspect he's a plant sent in to undermine the Vatican from within, and who has more influence than the pope? And we'd agree that what the pope says is true, and rational, which are two words you never expect atheists to attach to an official statement from someone in the Vatican.
Now Ron has written, adding his voice to the pope's surprising criticism of his own grubby organisation:
'Hiya John. You may have seen a very recent news item where the Pope is giving some Catholics a rark up [see the above article] ... The Pope is regarded as a great guy these days, so I wonder could he be into the odd hypocrisy or hidden meanings at times. Unintended, maybe. There are 2 comments I make. First, when saying it is better to be an atheist, an inference can be taken that Catholics are better than atheists anyway. Second, he brings up money laundering. Would I be not out of line saying that this statement, coming from the Vatican as such, smacks of a little bit of hypocrisy?First, Ron is right that for the Vatican to condemn money laundering smacks of hypocrisy, considering the unsavoury reputation and rumours concerning the operation of the Vatican Bank. He's also quite correct that the pope is implying that Catholics, good Catholics, not hypocritical Catholics, are better than atheists, infinitely better in fact, but this is an arrogant view that all religious believers hold, be they Jew, Muslim, Pentecostal or Catholic. It comes with the territory of believing that you're God's favourite. The pope is not in any way suggesting that a good atheist is on par with a good Catholic. He's saying that when Catholics fall from God's grace, they plummet down the ladder to a point below even atheists, and atheists are down near the bottom rung, well below even Jews and Muslims. The pope is likening duplicitous Catholics to smelly pond scum and atheists to lowly worms, and suggests that when Catholics see some of their fellow Catholics involved in 'dirty business', they think, 'if that person is a Catholic, it is better to be an atheist'. But these 'better' Catholics realise that even they aren't leading a life of true piety, of true Catholic devotion, and so on being given the option of being smelly pond scum or a lowly worm, they opt to be the worm, since it's at least a step up the evolutionary ladder.
The pope attacks the Catholics that say, by the example of their daily lives, 'I exploit people, I do dirty business, I launder money, (I lead) a double life'. In other words, Catholics that are criminals and that don't care what harm they do. But why isn't the pope condemning your typical Catholic that isn't engaged in criminal behaviour, and yet is still leading a hypocritical, double life? Catholics that seldom go to Mass, that engage in casual sex, that use contraception, that blaspheme, that agree with abortion and voluntary euthanasia, that criticise the Church's view on celibacy for priests and nuns, that masturbate, that don't persecute homosexuals or treat women like second-class citizens, that live their lives as if they were atheists, and yet still identify themselves as Catholic? These typical but very 'flawed' Catholics are much better people than the money-laundering Catholics the pope condemns, but they are still a million miles from being good, pious Catholics. We know many Catholics, of varying piety — friends, extended family and associates — and while most would disagree, frankly all of them are closer to following atheistic and humanistic views than Bible-thumping Catholic views. All of them commit all or most of the sins we listed above, eg contraception, masturbation, blasphemy etc, so the reality that the pope needs to accept and acknowledge is that it's not just the dishonest and criminal Catholics that are hypocrites and leading a double life, every Catholic on the planet is a hypocrite.
The pope tells Catholics that they should 'practice what their religion preaches', but of course no one does, not even the pope himself. The above article notes that, 'Less than two months after his election, he [Pope Francis] said Christians should see atheists as good people if they do good.' But how can the pope, if he believes in the Bible, in God's Word, seriously believe that atheists are capable of doing good when God clearly states:
'The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.' (PS 14:1)So is the pope being a little devious here, pretending that God will accept atheists who do good, while at the same time knowing that we never will, that doing good is beyond us, and that Heaven is quite safe from our odious presence? Apparently not, because in this article, the pope criticises the disciples of Jesus, saying that they '"were a little intolerant," thinking that "those who do not have the truth, cannot do good"', and says that Jesus was right to correct them. The pope goes on to say that, 'Jesus broadens the horizon. The root of this possibility of doing good — that we all have — is in creation'. So can atheists do good? Who are we to believe, God, Jesus or some old pope? And we need to remember that when Jesus suggested inclusiveness when discussing the claim that 'those who do not have the truth, cannot do good', he was referring to his fellow devout Jews, not atheists. When God, an all-knowing being, and the claimed creator of atheists, says that atheists are 'corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good', that we will go to Hell for eternal torture, and this same God commands his followers to kill atheists, why should we then believe the pope when he says atheists can do good, and if we do, will go to Heaven, not Hell? The pope appears to be saying that God got it horribly wrong, and that the Bible can't be believed, but if the pope is right (and he is, the Bible can't be believed), then the only obvious conclusion to reach is that God, Heaven and Hell aren't real. Like all the many other holy books from ancient times, the Bible is a work of fiction. The pope accuses some Catholics of being hypocrites, that they don't 'practice what their religion preaches', but then he too dismisses much of what his religion has preached for the last 2,000 years.
Of course when Christians gleefully throw that above quote at atheists, they almost never quote it in full, they just mention the first bit, that we're fools to deny God, and don't follow up with the bit about being vile and corrupt. Because of course even they know it's untrue. But other than that verse, are there any other Bible verses that have God and/or Jesus asserting that atheists — non-believers — are anything but good? Yes there are, and worse still, they command that we must be killed when we're discovered. For example:
'If a man or woman living among you ... is found doing evil in the eyes of the LORD your God in violation of his covenant, and contrary to my command has worshiped other gods, bowing down to them or to the sun or the moon or the stars of the sky ... take the man or woman who has done this evil deed to your city gate and stone that person to death. ... You must purge the evil from among you.' DT 17:2-7Some may attempt to argue that those verses are not explicitly referring to atheists, but to followers of other religions, but let's remember that true atheists would have been almost unheard of in those ignorant times, most everyone would have had a belief in some god or gods. Basically, in the Bible, the God of the Jews and later the Christians, condemns as evil anyone who doesn't believe in him. For example, modern atheists try to explain to Christians why belief in God is silly, and our behaviour is clearly covered in the above verse: 'Stone him to death, because he tried to turn you away from the LORD your God'. We atheists condemn, ridicule and make fun of priests concerning their behaviour, which means a death sentence because of the above commandment from God: 'The man who shows contempt for ... the priest ... must be put to death'. We atheists violate God's covenant by working on the Sabbath, blaspheming, masturbating and eating shellfish, so again we're screwed according to this verse: 'If a man or woman living among you ... is found doing evil in the eyes of the LORD your God in violation of his covenant ... stone that person to death'. And quite obviously we atheists aren't actively looking for God, or Santa Claus for that matter, and so again we're marked by God for execution by his followers: 'All who would not seek the LORD, the God of Israel, were to be put to death'.
So rather than doing good in our communities, clearly God believes that atheists are nothing but evil bastards out to corrupt his followers, and must be exterminated. So in complete contrast to what the pope now claims, there is no suggestion whatsoever that God sees non-believers as generally good people doing good deeds and that most of us will be bound for Heaven to mingle with devout Christians who gave up their Sundays and casual sex to get there.
Of course many of these devout Christians will now argue that the above verses dishing out hate and death were from the Old Testament, and that Christians follow Jesus, a new lovey-dovey character introduced in the sequel, the New Testament. But we need to ask, who does Jesus follow, who does he get his orders from? And without doubt Jesus believed he got his marching orders from God. Christians may refer to the New Testament, but let's remember that there was no New Testament when Jesus was preaching, Jesus was a devout Jew quoting from what we now call the Old Testament. And Jesus quite clearly states:
'Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.' (MT 5:17-20)Thus Jesus is confirming that God's commandments, of which there are some 613 in the Old Testament, not just the 10 that most people have heard of, are still valid. None lose their authority until the earth disappears, which we don't believe has yet happened. So according to Jesus we atheists are still evil, and he didn't come to explain why God got it all wrong. Faced with this embarrassing verse, some Christians will dredge up Bible quotes from St Paul (originally called Saul, a Jew who had never met Jesus and actually spent his early years persecuting Christians). But on arguing that Paul overrides what Jesus said, modern Christians need to be asked, who do you follow, and who do you believe, Jesus Christ or Paul? Why is it called Christianity if you're following what Paul taught rather than what Jesus taught? And of course Christians claim that Jesus is all love and light, unlike his father who was a right vicious bastard, but to do that they have to ignore the verses that show Jesus was still following daddy's plan of world domination. For example, here's Jesus responding to a question from one of his disciples:
'But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them — bring them here and kill them in front of me.' LK 19:27His response was in the form of a parable, which Jesus was fond of, which are simple short stories with a moral or religious lesson, but this is Jesus clearly saying that killing those who refuse to accept him as their king when he returns will not be murder, it will be divine justice. Regardless of whether it is Jesus making the statement or a protagonist in one of his parables, listeners are given a guide as to how they should behave. And clearly we atheists are in no mind to let Christians and their invisible king rule over us, and so we will remain enemies, not good people that will eventualy occupy a luxury apartment in Heaven next door to fawning Christians.
Still not convinced that Jesus had rejected his father's war-mongering ways, and was more like a 60s hippy with the slogan: 'Make love, not war'? Then explain this 'loving' rant 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;' MT 10:34-37Ah yes, the sword, the favoured tool of the peacemaker. And his obscene claim that, 'Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me', is exactly what we expect to hear from arrogant, authoritarian, power-hungry cult leaders.
Let's also recall that Jesus said, 'He who is not with me is against me', MT 12:30. You either believed in him and obeyed him completely or you were the enemy. There was no middle ground, no neutral parties, no atheist Switzerland. So clearly both God of the Old Testament and Jesus of the New Testament were both convinced that believers in other gods and believers in none at all were evil and needed to be confronted and destroyed. And yet Pope Francis claims that God built goodness into the DNA of even atheists, and that 'Jesus broadens the horizon ... The root of this possibility of doing good — that we all have — is in creation'. That article began by saying that, 'Pope Francis has good news for atheists. Jesus died and was raised for them as well. His redemptive embrace was for all, not just a chosen few ... The Church wants all men and women to be saved'.
Certainly the Catholic Church wants all men and women under their oppressive control, and they'll accept not just people doing good but people that have committed unspeakable evil, everyone from child molesters and rapists to vicious dictators and serial killers. But what the Catholic Church wants isn't necessarily what God wants, and again Pope Franny is being a Catholic hypocrite, since Jesus never widened the net to include all mankind, and on this the Bible is quite clear. The Jews were God's chosen people, not the Babylonians or the Philistines, and certainly not the unbelievers. What many people today don't realise is that Jesus was a xenophobe and a racist, he had no intention of permitting non-Jews into his group. Jesus told his disciples: 'Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel'. MT 10:5-6. When a non-Jew approached him he initially ignored her, explaining that only the Jews are God's children and everyone else are just dogs in comparison. When the Jews quoted their commandment, 'Thou shalt not kill', they simply meant that Jews shall not kill a fellow Jew (although they often ignored even that commandment), and killing heathens and committing genocide to get foreign land that they wanted was something their God actually encouraged, and he often helped them with the slaughter of men, women and children. The Jews only gained Israel by killing its original inhabitants, the Canaanites. Whether people claimed to do good or not didn't matter, if you weren't doing good for them then you were destined for Hell. And here's a verse from the Jesus sequel that decreed what God and Jesus had planned for atheists. Note that we're number two on their list of people that need to be taught a lesson in submission:
'But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.' REV 21:8And of those on God's list for eternal torture, perhaps only murderers truly deserve some punishment, but not even they deserve eternal punishment. Sexually immoral in God's mind is someone masturbating, liars are people that tell their wife she looks great in that dress, and idolaters are people that worship carved idols rather than God, you know, like how Catholics worship crucifixes with Jesus on them, or pray to statues of the Virgin Mary.
But what does the pope even mean when he says that someone does good? Hitler no doubt thought he was a good person, and that his Gestapo were doing good work. We atheists think we're doing good when we explain to Catholics that they're deluded, that they've been lied to and manipulated, and that they should ditch their childish belief in invisible space beings and start living in the real world. Catholics think it's good to tell the story of their God raping a virginal young girl, then abandoning her and her child, but returning decades later to have his child tortured and murdered. Of course, since God is imaginary, it means that the shameful and cowardly rape of the young girl never happened, but isn't it disturbing that Christians proudly and repeatedly tell their young children that it did? And they don't tell the sorry as a warning, as an example of how not to behave, just the opposite, they insist that their children must revere and worship a god that would rape a young girl and murder his own son. That is doing 'good' in the warped mind of Catholics. And that's just one of many horror stories they tell their kids, they absolutely revel in the immorality of their God, while lying to their children and saying that's how powerful people should behave. Catholics think they're being good when they terrorise small children with tales of demons that will torture them forever if they break pathetic rules, pathetic rules that are impossible not to break. Meaning they are doomed to failure, and each failure simply increases their terror and fear of the future, making their lives utterly miserable. That's the Catholic idea of doing good, reducing lives to Hell on Earth.
My mother once told me the story of finding a young school friend crying. When asked what the problem was, she replied that she was to again attend Catholic confession on Sunday and was expected to confess the sins she had committed during the week. If that wasn't bad enough, revealing private things to a strange old man behind a screen, my mum's friend didn't feel she had any sins to confess, she felt she had been a good girl. When my mum naively said that she should tell the priest that, her friend tearfully replied that the priests believe everyone is sinning all the time, it's in our nature, so they accuse you of lying if you say you haven't sinned, furthermore they suspect you of really serious sins, and you simply receive even more punishment. So make up some minor sin, my mum offered, but her friend, believing in God, said that God would detect her lie, and even though she hadn't sinned through the week, she would then be sinning by lying to the priest, and to God. When that lie was revealed to the priest by God, her punishment would be even worse. There was no way she could escape confession without being punished, even though she had been good. And this little girl went through this trauma most every week. I don't know, but perhaps she changed from being a good girl to a mean little bitch, just so she could have sins to confess to an old priest eager to hear what naughty things little girls get up to. And that was the Catholic priest's idea of doing good, terrifying little girls (and boys), so clearly Catholics and atheists have very different ideas on what it means to do good.
While the media reports what Pope Francis says, we need to remember that he isn't the Catholic Church or the Vatican, most of whom vehemently disagree with his surprising new views on atheism and homosexuality etc. This article stated that, 'The Vatican has quickly clarified that atheists — they believe — are still going to hell, despite Pope Francis appearing to say non-believers could be saved through Christ if they do good'. Soon Franny will be gone like all the popes before him and the Catholic Church will quickly revert back too what Jesus said, 'He who is not with me is against me', with the view that if atheists want to be saved, then they'll need to start believing in invisible beings watching them having sex. Oh, and just stop having sex for Christ's sake. It's not an approved hobby and you're not supposed to enjoy it. So that's the options, we atheists either join them on our knees in the pews, begging for forgiveness, or we sleep in on Sundays and stay on Satan's torture list.
And that's actually the choice that Pope Franny is offering atheists, since in reality there is no conflict between him and the Vatican, they both believe that atheists are going to Hell. That's because the pope's comments are misleading (deliberately we believe), and it's not as clear cut for atheists as the headlines might suggest. In the pope's mind the reality is that atheists will never go to Heaven no matter how much good we do ... UNLESS ... we come to sincerely believe in God and Jesus, unless we renounce atheism and become Catholics! This is the 'meeting point' that the pope mentioned, where atheists reach a crossroad and rather than continue down the atheism path (towards Hell), we recognise the error of our ways and turn down the Catholicism path towards Heaven. Atheists will never enter heaven, only ex-atheists that become Catholics will be admitted. The article explains that, 'it is in doing good that they [atheists] are led to the One who is the Source of all that is good'. There is this arrogant and ignorant Christian belief that atheists will come to sense that if they're doing good, then God must exist, since good can only exist if God created it. Of course you could apply the same flawed logic to evil as well, and make evil your life's work, just to please God. Catholics try and ignore that argument. The article goes on to explain that, 'In essence he [the pope] simply restated the hope of the Church that all come to know God, through His Son Jesus Christ'. The pope explained that, 'all people, not just Catholics, are redeemed through Jesus, even atheists'. And there's the catch, no matter how much good atheists do, we would never be admitted to Heaven (assuming it existed) if we don't first agree to submit totally to the will of Jesus and his daddy, giving up our atheism in the process. And in this the Bible is again quite clear, with Jesus saying:
'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.' JN 14:6-7So the thought that the Catholic Church is recognising atheists as good people and are willing to accept us into Heaven is utter bullshit, they're still only welcoming obsequious Catholics; and true atheists doing good deeds, and that refuse to have blind faith in something they can't find evidence for, are still frogmarched down to Hell.
Personally we think Pope Francis is a little brighter and has more integrity than your typical Catholic, and is genuinely horrified with the abuse committed by his priests and covered up by his bishops, and truly does see atheists as good people. He apparently can't accept that his loving God would reward his evil child molester priests and punish good atheists, so he's creatively reinterpreting Bible verses and jumping through imaginary hoops in an attempt to show that the Catholic Church isn't the monster it appears to be. Pope Francis suggests that the Church now sees what the rest of the sane world sees, that non-believers are actually the good guys, and that by seeming to welcome us onboard the Catholic bus, the badly tarnished image of the Catholic Church can't help but be seen as a little less evil.
But we atheists aren't fooled by the pope's conciliatory claims and have no intention of helping him make Catholics feel a little more comfortable in still belonging to such a harmful, superstitious organisation. Any hint of collaboration with the Church, even if it were stripped of all it's bigotry and hatred, would still be akin to suggesting that, at its core, it possessed something real and valuable to offer the world. Which of course it doesn't, since its fundamental error would still be a childish, ignorant, primitive, superstitious and utterly groundless blind faith in an invisible sky fairy and his equally imaginary son.
The only announcement we want to hear the pope make is that the Church is closing down and donating all its considerable assets that it's hoarded over the centuries to charity, to a least try and alleviate some of the damage it's done over the last two millennia.
Last Updated Apr 2017