Comment by Bob, 08 Jan, 2017
I read a funny news article on the BBC web page this morning. In Brazil an old lady, a devout Catholic, had been praying every day for years to a statue of St. Anthony. That is until her granddaughter took a close look at it. It turned out to be a figurine of Elrond, an elf from The Lord of the Rings.
I imagine it would have been just as effective.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 08 Jan, 2017
Well spotted Bob, and you're right, praying to a fictional elf would have been as effective, meaning useless, as praying to a long dead religious nutter. And that again also highlights how ignorant and/or dismissive Catholics are of commandments from their God written in their Bible. God's Ten Commandments clearly state that God's servants must not worship, ie pray, to anyone but God, and that God is a jealous and vengeful god. Under no circumstances is there to be any praying to graven images or objects, which is clearly what a figurine of St Anthony is, and Elrond the elf, and even paintings and carvings of Jesus himself. Why is it that an atheist knows far more about what their God demands than do Catholics themselves? Of course we dismiss God's demands because we view them as fictional, but why do Catholics, who supposedly fear their God, do the same? Do they want to go to Hell and be tortured?
Comment by Patrick, 08 Jan, 2017
Hi John. The above Methuselah post reminds me of a discussion that I had some years ago with a girl friend. I was telling her that I didn't believe in the bible, that it consisted of myths and exaggerations, and that, for example, It was impossible for human beings to live for several hundred years. She then replied that it was nowadays no longer possible but that in the past there was much more oxygen and that due to this people could live much, much longer than presently. Some time later I was discussing with a guy from the Jehovah's witnesses and I was telling him that, the Noah's ark could not have existed for a multiple of reasons like how is it that Mr. and Mrs. tiger didn't eat Mr. and Mrs. gazelle whilst on the ark. To which he replied that there was nothing surprising about that as there was no carnivores in the past. All animals were herbivores. Whether he realized it or not, he was incidentally using some form of evolution concept to make his point.
If you have some free time and are in a good mood it's always entertaining to listen to people like Jehovah's witnesses. Never a dull moment.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 Jan, 2017
Hi Patrick. It's amazing what Christians throw up to support their faith. Let's first look at the argument that much more oxygen in the past led to 1,000 year life spans. Was there really more oxygen back in the Bronze Age? I read recently in Robert Kandel's book, 'Water From Heaven: The Story of Water from the Big Bang to the Rise of Civilization, and Beyond', that animal 'metabolism depends on the availability of oxygen, today about 21 percent of the atmosphere. It could not have worked for the first living things, because the fraction of oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere was then very small, rising above 1 percent only fairly recently (2.2 billion years ago?)'. I also read on this Wikipedia page — 'Geological history of oxygen' — that 'Since the start of the Cambrian period, atmospheric oxygen concentrations have fluctuated between 15% and 35% of atmospheric volume. The maximum of 35% was reached towards the end of the Carboniferous period (about 300 million years ago)'. On this page I read that 'For humans and many animals to sustain normal functions, the percentage of oxygen in the breathing environment must be within a small range ... between 19.5 and 23.5 percent oxygen'.
So all this shows that for most of the time that life has existed on Earth, some 3.8 billion years, there has been almost no atmospheric oxygen. In fact for the first forms of life oxygen was toxic. There was more oxygen 300 million years ago (35% compared to the present 21%), but there certainly weren't any humans around then to see if it helped them live longer. And since these fundamentalist Christians say that the creation events in the Bible took place between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago, this is a time when oxygen levels were pretty much the same as they are now. It's true to say that oxygen levels were higher in the past, meaning 300 million years ago, but utterly bogus to say they were higher a mere 6,000 years ago. It's annoying when these devious bastards find and then distort scientific evidence to bolster their fairy tales. The only reason we know oxygen was higher in the distant past, or that oxygen even exists, is because of science, the Bible certainly doesn't reveal this information. These hypocritical fundamentalists use scientific facts in their attempt to prove science wrong, without grasping how ridiculous and circular that is. If science is wrong, its methodology flawed, then the scientific facts gained through this flawed endeavour must also be wrong, and should be dismissed outright. But instead they indecently embrace the odd scientific fact that suits them, eg oxygen was higher in the distant past, while quickly rejecting the scientific facts that don't suit them, eg the distant past was 300 million years ago. The fundamentalists are telling the true when they tell gullible people that oxygen was higher in the distant past, but they're being fraudulent by implying that the "distant past" was just 6,000 years ago.
But even if there was much more oxygen 6,000 years ago, what evidence is there that this would allow people to live for a thousand years? And what does 'much more oxygen' mean, what percentage was it? This site explains why pure oxygen is dangerous: 'Is it harmful to breathe 100-percent oxygen?' And then we have archaeological evidence that shows that few people reached 100 years of age, let alone 1,000. And I'm not aware of any studies that show people living today in elevated oxygen levels live any longer than other people, they may even live less. Kandel also notes in his book that 'excess of oxygen is dangerous for the eyes of newborn infants as well as at the level of the living cell'. So the argument fails on two counts. There wasn't much more oxygen 6,000 years ago, and there's no evidence that more oxygen would increase your life span at all, let alone by 10 times.
As for saying that 'It was impossible for human beings to live for several hundred years', I'd say it was certainly improbable, and there is no evidence that anyone has, but I wouldn't say it was impossible. It wouldn't break any laws of physics. I mean, why do humans have a life span of around 100 years rather than just 10 years? Some organisms live for mere hours and other live for many hundreds of years. Whatever repair mechanisms our body uses to stay healthy for 100 years could plausibly keep it going for a thousand years. Pretty much our entire body, from bones to skin to blood, is completely renewed every few months, so why does this replacement fail after many decades? Theoretically someone could fluke being born with perfect or near perfect genes that are ultra-efficient in bodily repair and super-effective on the immune front, fighting off all diseases. So barring a fatal accident, which along with disease is what kills most people before they reach 100, it could be possible for someone to live a lot longer than 100. There is also the theory that we die when the telomeres on our DNA reduce to a certain size, like a countdown timer, but again a genetic mutation could switch that off and we live forever. Then you have stem cells which can make any type of new cell, which is how we are made as embryos, but many of these amazing abilities are switched off after birth. But again, if, perhaps due to a mutation, a body was to retain use of its embryonic stem cells, then if the body was injured and an organ or limb damaged, it could simply grow another one, an ability a few animals already have. Even humans can regrow liver tissue, but not the heart. So all the mechanisms exist in nature to prolong life, but unfortunately they haven't all appeared in humans. Or perhaps to a degree they have, since humans already live much longer than almost all animals. Be thankful you're not a dog.
A thought-provoking drama/sci-fi movie on the topic of human life-spans is 'The Man from Earth', staring David Lee Smith, Tony Todd and John Billingsley. The synopsis is that 'An impromptu goodbye party for Professor John Oldman becomes a mysterious interrogation after the scholar reveals to his colleagues he is an immortal who has walked the earth for 14,000 years'. It's not a block-buster movie with big name actors, there's no action in it, no special effects, no laughs, no sex or nudity, and even worse in the view of many, it's sacrilegious. It takes place in essentially one room, and as one person said, it's just talking heads, and they're talking about intellectual things, not sport or the sex lives of celebrities. But I enjoyed it and it's well worth watching if your video store has it.
As for the question of why the tigers didn't eat the gazelles on Noah's Ark, it is often explained as the animals all being herbivores. And like everything in the Bible, there are verses that support that view and those that don't. The few Christians that think about these things (the majority couldn't care less), usually offer this verse from Genesis with Adam and Eve to show that humans and animals were originally all herbivores:
'Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground — everything that has the breath of life in it — I give every green plant for food." And it was so.' (GE 1:29-30)
Of course it doesn't say that humans and some animals couldn't physically digest meat, merely that they were told to only eat plants, told to be vegetarians. And the implication is that they all obeyed. But things go down hill fast and next think we know a furious and vindictive God is going on a global killing spree, but decides to save Noah, his family and a few choice animal species. Apparently God wasn't too fussed on the likes of the dinosaurs, dragons or unicorns. So after horrific slaughter on a massive scale, the Bible tells us:
'Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. "But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it."' GE 9:1-4
So what's happened here? Besides Noah, his family and their petting zoo, God has wiped out the entire human race and all the completely innocent animals, because he was appalled at the growing evil nature of humans. He had hoped they would be friends with animals and only eat plants, which the Bible hints was the case, but when God tries to start again with Noah and purge the world of evil, what does he do? He immediately scraps the law about eating only plants and being nice to animals and tells Noah that they can now attack, slaughter and devour any animals they choose, and that the animals will now fear humans. God has taken an idyllic garden of Eden and turned it into a world of fear and slaughter, of predator and prey, of festering evil. And it was all unnecessary, since being an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God, he could have (should have) easily designed our bodies so that we all flourished as herbivores and lived peacefully with each other, humans and lambs walking with lions, without the fear and dread and suffering. But obviously this Bible story is just another primitive attempt by ignorant men to explain the world around them, wondering why some animals are predators and others prey, and why some eat flesh and others only vegetation. They were like na´ve children wondering how a fat Santa can get down skinny chimneys. It's interesting to see how ancient man thought, but depressing to realise that today many fools still think they got the explanation right.
So going by the above verses, it would seem that perhaps tigers and lions did only become carnivores after the flood of Noah. But if they didn't have fangs and claws and didn't stalk, terrify and attack other animals, then it's debatable if they can really be called tigers, lions, crocodiles or Velociraptors. I'd argue that they were completely different species that merely looked a lot like our modern carnivores, and since herbivores and carnivores have quite different digestive systems and physical attributes, eg fangs, along with different mental states, eg vicious predator or timid prey, then a friendly herbivorous Biblical "tiger" likely wouldn't be able to breed successfully with a real carnivorous tiger. One has genes for fangs and the other doesn't, making them genetically incompatible. So as you point out Patrick, apparently herbivorous "tigers" have evolved into carnivorous tigers. Of course God, being a powerful wizard, could have simply waved his wand and instantly turned various species into carnivores, but the Bible makes no mention of him doing this, so the obvious answer is that certain species evolved, very quickly, without God's help, into carnivores after the flood.
But of course the Christians that still believe in the silly myth of Noah's flood, the creationists, aren't willing to admit that animals can evolve, and certainly not that quickly. So we find this comment on the creationrevolution.com website: 'Did they [aniamls] begin to eat meat before the worldwide Flood? Scripturally and scientifically, the answer appears to be yes'. And on the creation.com website we find this argument:
'Actually, there is a hint in the Bible that there was pre-Flood carnivory, although I won't be dogmatic about it. That is, when Cain was enraged that God (YHWH) rejected his sacrifice, God counseled him that "sin is crouching at the door" (Genesis 4:7b). God pictures sin as 'crouching', but this means 'ready to spring forth'. The same imagery is used in Genesis 49:9, "he crouched as a lion". Indeed, in Genesis 4:7, the verb robets (???) is masculine to agree with the implied wild beast, not feminine to agree with 'sin'. So sin is like a lion waiting to pounce on Cain and consume him. Such imagery could indicate that animal predation had already started by this time. This time could be a little under 130 years after Creation...'
I agree with that view, since phrases like, 'he crouched as a lion', only make sense if lions are feared predators, and the full Bible verse clearly portrays lions as such. Of course that verse was written after the flood, when lions were predators, but when you look at the full verse written about times before the flood, clearly it also was referring to a dangerous predator: 'Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." GE 4:6-7. Again, that metaphor only makes sense if Cain already knew to fear carnivorous predators that desired to attack and eat him. So while God gave all the animals plants to eat, it appears that some ignored him and quickly started eating other animals, and since they were able to do so, clearly they didn't evolve, they were made as carnivores with the appropriate fangs and digestive systems from day one.
So again Christians can argue for either side and find Bible verses to support their argument. But even if they say animals only became carnivorous after the flood, they still have to explain why an all-loving God punished trillions of innocent animals by turning many into prey to be chased and eaten alive, when God's gripe was with humans, whom he then blessed and told to go out an kill animals. He ordered man to slaughter animals and eat their flesh. Had God forgotten why he caused the flood in the first place? But as you say Patrick, even if this argument stalls, there is a multitude of problems with the silly flood story, all of which expose it as superstitious nonsense. We looked at some of these problems in our article on a NZ Christian fundamentalist, Ian Wishart.
And you're right Patrick, it can be entertaining listening to Christians explain their faith, and great fun poking it full of holes. It's often not much of a challenge, like stealing candy from a baby or shooting fish in a barrel, but we can only respond to what they give us. Evangelists I'm likely to encounter like the door-knocking Jehovah's Witnesses are apparently among the most knowledgeable about the Bible (my friends and relatives who call themselves Christian are quite ignorant), but even the JWs are woefully ill-equipped to debate with anyone who has read some books other than the Bible. Sometimes I feel a little guilty making them look so foolish, but I quickly get over it.
Comment by Bob, 10 Jan, 2017
Going back a bit to the comment by Rene, I believe the explanation for the change of Catholic policy on burial is bullshit. The real reason for the change is that with the world's increasing population some countries can no longer waste land space on permanent cemeteries. Those countries are encouraging cremation. The Catholic Church has simply bowed to the inevitable practical problems and changed their policies.
Germany is one country with that problem. To solve it they are digging up graves after thirty years and re-using them on the basis that little is left of the body and relatives have long since ceased visiting the grave.
One thing about the Catholic Church they will give in when they know they are beaten.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Jan, 2017
You're right Bob, the Vatican's explanation on why Catholics can now be cremated rather than buried is bullshit. And as you say, every change the Catholic Church ever reluctantly makes is to fit in with real-world problems. You're also right that the Catholic Church. unlike many fundamentalist, evangelical churches, does begrudgingly change some policies when forced into a corner, but only on some things and only after long delays. One of the reasons they now allow cremation will be because lack of space requires its use in some countries, and because many Catholics were opting for it anyway, regardless of Church policy. But a great many Catholics use contraception, have premarital sex, masturbate and opt for abortion if needed, all actions against Church policy, and yet the Church has made it quite clear that they are not going to give up those policies, even though it's clear they have lost those battles. Even with a worldwide abuse scandal involving their priests having sex with children, and the apparent reality that half their priests are having sex, usually with other adults, quite a few are even secretly married, they still won't change their policy that priests must be celibate. As ridiculous and as dangerous as that policy is, and with much of the world against it, they still won't give it up. And even when they do relent and change some 2,000 year-old Church policy, it always comes under their terms, and they never concede that they were actually wrong. They always have a pathetic excuse, like the rapist who admits that he raped a woman but puts the blame on her, saying that dressed the way she was she was asking to be raped. The Catholic Church will never admit they were wrong, even when they appear to be doing just that.
For example, many Catholics say that they now accept evolution, but this is not strictly true. They do accept that life evolved from simple cells to more complex forms over billions of years, but evolution also says that this happened naturally, that there was no divine hand guiding it to ensure that humans evolved. But the Catholic Church insists that God actually created evolution, and set it going in such a way as to guarantee that humans turned up. So as much as they might pretend otherwise, the Catholic "theory of evolution" is most definitely not the same as the scientific theory of evolution. It's the same with the Big Bang theory, Catholics accept that the universe began some 13.7 billion years ago, but then again, without any evidence to justify it, modify the theory to insist that their god designed and created what scientists call the Big Bang. Only in a superficial sense has the Catholic Church appeared to have given up and accepted scientific evidence that contradicts their worldview. Only when they can think of a silly excuse to keep their god involved and in charge do they concede and make changes to bring them in line with real-world views. They are beaten of course, but they're not admitting it, every time they're forced to accept that reason and evidence conflicts with their primitive dogma, then the explanation for their backdown is always couched in god talk. Never do they admit that mere humans got it right and their Bible got it wrong, it's always that inferior man was misinterpreting the Bible, that the complexity of God's creation was too great for the early church fathers to fully grasp, and science, history and philosophy has now revealed hitherto unknown truths in the Bible. The Vatican want us to believe that every time they change some centuries old belief it's because of some revelation from God and that it's actually making the Catholic faith stronger and closer to what God intended. Unlike scientists and their theories, never does the Catholic Church admit that they ditched some belief because the evidence showed it was totally wrong.
While you don't usually hear Catholics labelled as creationists, they are of course creationists, as is every Christian, Jew Muslim, Hindu etc that believes that their god created the world and all life. They're what you'd call old-Earth creationists rather than the young-Earth creationists that believe the Earth is only 6,000 years old. But whether God designed and created the world billions of years ago or just thousands, and whether he made humans in one day from dust or over billions of years from inorganic material, eg dust, the basic claim is still that their god created the world and all life, ergo they are all creationists. Many Christians would likely be insulted if you called them creationists, they believe in science and not in Adam and Eve, but if that's the case, then the very foundation of their faith crumbles. Catholics quibble over petty details like whether you can be cremated, but if they can't admit to being a creationist and explain and defend that worldview, then it's like believing in Santa Claus but refusing to debate his existence, and concentrating solely on irrelevant details, such as what his wife's name is. By tweaking minor details like Catholic burials, the Catholic Church is implying that the big questions have been answered — yes God is real and did create the world and life — and that now only the minor bugs need to be worked out concerning how we properly worship God. There have been and likely will be a few more changes concerning Church policy, but these are just around the periphery, the core beliefs of Catholicism are rock solid. People are fooled into thinking that the Catholic Church is honestly seeking the truth and will actively make changes when new evidence arises, but this is bullshit. Catholics are convinced they already have the truth, so any changes they make are only cosmetic and ultimately irrelevant. The few Catholics that do discover the real truth become atheists, since the real truth is that God doesn't exist, not that he's changed his mind about cremation.
A Catholic accepting evolution but still having God in charge is like a child accepting that his parents, not Santa, actually put his presents under the Xmas tree, but only because Santa hypnotised them into doing it for him, because the world is just too populous these days for him to do all the deliveries personally. The child begrudgingly accepts real-world evidence of his parents' actions, but still blindly refuses to be swayed from the fantasy that Santa exists and is in control. While the child may have changed some of the minor details concerning his belief, in real terms he is just as delusional as ever, and it's the same with Catholics. They may accept evolution or that it's now OK to be cremated, but they're just as delusional as ever, because they still believe their God is real and in control. The evidence has assailed them, but they haven't given up, and for most of them they never will. Occasional concessions made by the Vatican are just a smokescreen, they are no closer to admitting that God isn't real and that the Bible is as fictional as the Harry Potter books than they were 2,000 years ago.
Comment by Bob, 13 Jan, 2017
Methuselah, whoever he was, did not live 900 years. The human body will last only approximately 100 years. There is a good reason for that. The body is made up of billions of cells. These cells are constantly reproducing themselves then dying off. However every now and again a cell will die off without reproducing. As time goes on more and more cells die off which we see as ageing. While the individual cells die randomly the average of billions of cells will see the whole body die around the 100 year mark. Of course there is more to dying than that, such as cancer and heart problems as well as infections so common in previous ages. In fact it is the death rate of young people especially children and mothers dying in childbirth which brought about this myth based on wishful thinking.
For Methuselah to live 900 years his body must have been different from modern humans running on different principles. The genes must have been different. Yet we descended from Methuselah and others at the time taking Methuselah as a genuine historical character. But we know that genuine evolutionary change takes hundreds of thousands of years at least.
Don't bother trying to explain this to a genuine fundamentalist, after all God can do anything as I have been told.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 14 Jan, 2017
Hi Bob. For the record, ridiculous life span aside, I doubt that Methuselah was even a real person. He and the other long-lived characters would simply have been stories based on the rare person that managed to fluke living out their full life span, while their children and grandchildren died around them. People would have known that long life, ie 100+ years, was possible, though not common, and would invent stories to explain why most people died much younger, which was that God had changed his mind yet again as to how long humans would live.
There's no evidence that humans have ever lived for hundreds of years, or that our bodies functioned differently back then, but as you say, you can't explain this to fundamentalists. It's impossible to reason with anyone that believes in talking snakes and invisible space fairies.
Comment by Patrick, 15 Jan, 2017
Hi John, did you know that the Catholic church has never banned Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler's famous autobiographical book? I didn't and only learned about this today whilst surfing on the internet. The Vatican had since the 9th century created an "index Librorum Prohibitorum" (list of prohibited books).
'The 20th and final edition appeared in 1948, and the Index was formally abolished on 14 June 1966 by Pope PAUL VI. The aim of the list was to protect the faith and morals of the faithful by preventing the reading of heretical and immoral books.' (Index Librorum Prohibitorum — Wikipedia)
You can see a selected list of the books/authors here.
So apparently, for the Vatican, Hitler was morally more decent than people like Galileo, Copernicus, Balzac, Hugo, Kant, Jean-Paul Sartre to just name a few.
I guess that some people will say that the Vatican could not ban the book of such a powerful man for various reasons. That might be true, but why then didn't they ban it after 1945? Why was this book not present on the 20th and final edition which appeared in 1948?
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 16 Jan, 2017
Hi Patrick. No, I wasn't aware that the Catholic Church had never added Hitler's book 'Mein Kampf' (My Struggle) to its list of prohibited books. But if I were to be insensitive to Catholic feelings and frankly honest, I'd have to wonder why it would be placed on their list? Catholics have been persecuting and killing Jews for centuries, eg the inquisitions and during the crusades, and Hitler's pogrom against the Jews was just a continuation of their work, although on a much grander scale. It would have been quite hypocritical of the Catholic Church to condemn Hitler for trying to wipe out those who they believe are the immoral heretics that had their Messiah killed. And remember that in the Bible God commands his followers to kill heretics, so for Christians it's a moral duty. While some Catholics, those that were more humanist than Catholic, were appalled at what the Nazis did, we must remember that most Nazis were Christians, and apparently in the 1930s around 33% of Germans were the Catholic version. On the Wikipedia page 'Catholic Church and Nazi Germany', I read that,
'Mary Fulbrook wrote that when politics encroached on the church, Catholics were prepared to resist, but that the record was otherwise patchy and uneven, and that, with notable exceptions, "it seems that, for many Germans, adherence to the Christian faith proved compatible with at least passive acquiescence in, if not active support for, the Nazi dictatorship".'
So while I can understand why after examining Hitler's book they never banned it, as you say, you would think that after the horrors of the Holocaust were revealed and Hitler was long dead that the duplicitous Vatican would have banned his book simply to make it appear that they were in line with how the rest of the world saw his evil deeds. But no. They had up until mid-1966 to do this (when the list was finally discontinued), but I guess this shows their arrogance and delusions of power and superiority, that they could walk a path different to world opinion and still have their followers and governments kowtow to them. I mean, what other silly bloody church is part of the United Nations? That the Vatican has any say in the United Nations is as ridiculous as giving witches a voice as well. It's a right that needs to be stripped from them, this isn't the Middle Ages.
What I don't understand is why the books of Charles Darwin were never placed on their silly list, especially since a book by his grandfather Erasmus Darwin was placed on the list in 1817, just some 40 years before 'On the Origin of Species' was published. That book has arguably done more harm to the Catholic Church and belief in God than all the books on the list combined, and yet they ignored it. People might argue that Darwin and the theory of evolution had too much scientific support for the Church to ban his book, but when it was published Darwin and his theory was relatively unknown, and anyway, fame and scientific support had never stopped the Church banning the books of famous scientists in the past, like Galileo. As well as the ones you mentioned Patrick, this passage reveals that,
'The Index included a number of authors and intellectuals whose works are widely read today in most leading universities and are now considered as the foundations of science, e.g. Kepler's New Astronomy, his Epitome of Copernican Astronomy, and his World Harmony were quickly placed on the Index after their publication. Other noteworthy intellectual figures on the Index include Jean-Paul Sartre, Montaigne, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, AndrÚ Gide, Emanuel Swedenborg, Baruch Spinoza, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, RenÚ Descartes, Francis Bacon, Thomas Browne, John Milton, John Locke, Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Blaise Pascal, and Hugo Grotius.'
The article also talks of the 'burning at the stake of Giordano Bruno, whose entire works were placed on the Index in 1603'. A book I'm reading at that the moment also reveals that 'Bruno was burned at the stake for heresy in Rome in 1600, his tongue pierced by an iron spike and his jaw wired shut'. The Catholic Church wasn't always content to simply ban books and prevent their followers from reading them, at times they decided to kill their authors as well, and not just kill them, but torture them in the process. That in the 21st century we still have millions of people devoting their lives to such a deluded and sadistic organisation is unfathomable. What makes present-day Catholics any different to neo-Nazis? They both know, or should know, what unspeakable evil their specific group has committed in the past, they both claim to understand the ideology, and yet they both still remain committed followers of the offensive dogma each group pushes.
I know many Catholics and without exception they all remain subservient to their fantasy because of ignorance, fear and apathy. Most are good people and are appalled when they hear, usually from an atheist, never a priest, of how the likes of Giordano Bruno died, and yet they still seem incapable of connecting his gruesome execution with the Church they kneel in each Sunday. If they ever hear of them, they condemn the untold atrocities committed by the Church in the past, and even reject many of the Bible stories and much of the Church's teachings that caused those atrocities, but they can't seem to grasp that to reject the very foundations of the Bible, of Christianity and Catholicism, is to turn their religious belief into an empty fašade. How could someone be a committed neo-Nazi if they condemned much of what Hitler and the Nazis did and stood for? It seems impossible. But then we have Catholics that present this paradox. Committed Catholics condemn the actions of their Church for its past horrors and even its ongoing sexual abuse against children, they laugh at silly stories of Adam and Eve and Noah and his dinosaurs, and yet they still call themselves Catholics and support the Church as it hides abusive priests from justice. Their attitude disgusts me, their willingness to turn a blind eye to the ongoing atrocities that their Church is still committing, all because they are too ignorant to understand how the world really works, and too lazy and fearful to find out.
Comment by Patrick, 16 Jan, 2017
Hi John, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I forgot to mention it, but I discovered that Mein Kampf was never banned by the Vatican whilst listening to Michel Onfray (Michel Onfray — Wikipedia) on his website and was genuinely very surprised by that. I decided to verify the info by myself and discovered that Onfray was telling the truth. Now, to make things clear, I am against censorship and don't understand on what grounds could the church decide for others about what was correct and what was reprehensible. But since there was a list of banned books, I find it most shocking that Mein Kampf was never included in it.
Comment by Ron, 26 Feb, 2017
Hi John. Yet another one of these seemingly endless stories has been aired in the media today. A story containing the usual ingredients of gullibility, brainwashing, devotees in denial, sex, money, power. Have you heard about Imre Vallyon, a so-called spiritual guru? To me he comes across as an odd cross between a preacher and a psychic. He is elderly and he runs a retreat in a nice location near Raglan, also spends our winters at retreats in the Northern Hemisphere. The Foundation of Higher Learning is what it is all about. Followers pay thousands to visit these retreats to listen to him and purchase books, etc. They are all trying to bring light into the world. Trouble is the guru has a not too virtuous past and there are convictions and a 3 yr jail term. This past has been made difficult to unravel. A young girl visited him in Raglan, with her mother to find out about a deceased relative. The trusting girl had to have a one-on-one teaching session. Under this guise he kissed her, on the cheek, he says. Nothing more. What did come out was he lay on top of her on a bed, indecently touched her, massaged her sexually and performed oral sex. He cannot recall all that except the kiss. Funny though, he offered her money. Isn't this all so sickening, yet how often do we hear similar stories coming to light? Like Ken Ring, he is also credited with predicting the killer quake in Christchurch on 22.3.2011, just 2 days before. Devotees, of course, blame "evil forces" for trying to shut them down and continue to see him as an "enlightened being".
How blind are those who cannot see?
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 26 Feb, 2017
Hi Ron. The sickening story you mention can be read here on the Stuff website:
'Foundation of Higher Learning 'guru' Imre Vallyon's followers kept in the dark about his past'
We'd never heard of Imre Vallyon or his silly retreats until this revelation about his conviction for child molestation, where he was sentenced to three years' jail. Based on his name, I initially thought it was yet another exposure of yet another guru in some foreign country for sexually abusing his followers, but no, he's a local guru stalking Kiwis. We're not even safe in 'God's Own' any more! But it's even worse than that, since he visits retreats in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, and Hungary, so who knows how many he may have preyed on. There's some evidence that he committed a sexual offence in Canada.
It's scary enough that clearly delusional people like Vallyon have access to na´ve, gullible, ignorant and trusting people, and fill their heads with spiritual bullshit, but far worse when they turn out to be disgusting animals preying on children to gratify their deviant sexual urges. And so often the followers of people like Vallyon are just as depraved as he is, since they often knew what he was doing, or heard worrying rumours of his sexual abuse, and yet they did nothing and/or even increased their support of him. Look at the depraved Catholic Church, when revelations of the widespread child abuse surfaced, instead of the Church membership imploding in disgust, the majority of Catholics rallied around the abusers and condemned the victims for not keeping their mouths shut and protecting the Mother Church.
Schools and parents teach young children to beware of strangers, 'Stranger Danger' they call it, and it works, as I've had many young kids that attend the nearby Catholic School and Church (sometimes accompanied by a parent) cross the road to avoid me on the footpath. How ironic is that, and dangerous, that they avoid someone like me that has no interest whatsoever in kids, some even saying 'Stranger Danger' as they do so, and seek refuge in a place that is infamous for harbouring pedophiles? The statistics reveal that of those children that are sexually abused, only a few percent of children will be abused by strangers, that the great majority will be abused by family members, friends of the family and people they know, such as priests and scout leaders. And of course spiritual gurus. Parents naively pull their children away from harmless strangers like me and thrust them into the arms of smooth-talking priests and gurus, and happily leave the room when the salivating bastard says they need to commune with the child in private. The 'Stranger Danger' movement, hiding as it does the most likely source of abuse, the people kids know and trust, is surely causing far more harm than good. That's not to say that children shouldn't be wary of strangers, but they also need to be taught that when a friend of your parents sticks his hand down your pants, that's not OK, even though he's your guru or priest and not a stranger.
And as you say Ron, like astrologer Ken Ring, Vallyon also claimed to have predicted the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake. And his bloody moronic followers believed him! When I read about recent scientific discoveries and theories, it amazes me how truly brilliant some humans are, and yet when I read about people still believing in spiritual gurus, not to mention the likes of astrology, homeopathy and invisible gods, it depresses me to realise how stupid the great majority of humans are, always have been, and likely always will be. It doesn't seem to matter that we've seen an explosion in knowledge about how the universe works, easily accessed knowledge, the morons will keep retreating back into the caves to consult the deluded gurus. The only thing that will change in the future is that they won't have to physically go into the caves anymore, a smartphone app or drone will do that for them. They just need to pray that they don't break down, since they won't have a fucking idea how they work. Some sort of magic?
Comment by Ron, 28 Feb, 2017
Hi John. Thanks for sharing that little bit about kids and parents avoiding you by crossing the road near the Catholic school in your response to my above post on the guru/molester. Such action, although promoted, can be hurtful to decent men. I just read a comment on the Press (Stuff) site you may wish to read. It is titled "By teaching children to fear men, we are letting our kids down". It's a good enough read, written by Ben Pobjie for the Sydney Morning Herald, in response to an article by a woman called Kasey Edwards, whose piece was titled, "Why I won't let any male babysit my children". I detect anger and umbrage in Ben's words.
Her article is also in the Stuff site today. Have you seen it yet? Not all us blokes are as good looking as we were in our youth and age can bring changes we can do little about. I am a very serious looking person and I can understand that to some young kids I could even look a bit intimidating, maybe scary to them. There are no very young girls on our side of the street, mostly boys flying past on scooters so I have not experienced that avoidance but I would find it, well, not very nice or comfortable to be honest. Teen girls pass when I'm out front but ignore me. But what to do if young girls were frequent. Smile more at them, offer them a chocolate bar sometimes or simply ignore. The 2 former ideas could easily be taken the wrong way. Sorry this is a bit off track from the silly beliefs genre but thought it a worthy little topic.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 28 Feb, 2017
Hi Ron. No, we hadn't seen those articles, so thanks for pointing them out. And no, it's not 'a bit off track from the silly beliefs genre', it is a worthy topic. It may not have anything to do with a silly belief in gods or psychics or astrologers, but believing that most men and most strangers are just waiting for their chance to sexually abuse children is a truly silly belief. It's a misguided, unfounded, dangerous belief that harms society just as much as a belief in a vengeful God or a bogus cancer treatment does. We've written about this topic before, eg 'Innocent parent or sexual pervert?', but unfortunately it's not getting any better. There are still ignorant, mean-spirited people out there, such as Kasey Edwards, the parent that won't let her children be alone with men, anywhere. I read her article before I read Ben Pobjie's reply to it, and like Ben I was immediately struck by the irrational fact that she feared all men, and had banned all men from ever being alone with her children, and yet that blanket ban didn't include her husband. Who we're assuming is a man, and she's not one of those weird lesbians that call their female partner their "husband". She even produced statistics that showed that 13.5 per cent of child sexual abuse was by the father or stepfather, and even admitted that, 'We're also not sure if we can trust our judgement. If anything, the statistics suggest that many parents aren't very good at determining which male adults are safe and which are not'. That surely means that she can't trust her own judgment as to whether her husband is a safe male adult or not. Letting her husband be alone with their children destroys any credibility she might have had.
She also backed up our claim that 'Stranger Danger' is a bit of a myth, noting that 'the Australian Institute of Criminology paper said that "in the vast majority of cases, children's abusers are known to them". Children are at far greater risk from relatives, siblings, friends, and other known adults such as priests, teachers and coaches'.
But let's agree that children are at some risk of sexual abuse, does that mean that the answer is to ban men from their lives? Of course not, the trick is to manage the risk, to allow children the clear benefits of interacting with males while minimising the chance of anything harmful occurring. Let's note that Kasey Edwards also acknowledged that there was a small but very real risk of children being sexually abused by mothers and other females, so by her logic her children should also be banned from being alone with not just other women, but even her. So where does that leave cranks like Edwards, since there is no one that we can absolutely prove is child safe, should her children be raised by robots?
But it gets worse. Children aren't just at risk of sexual abuse, they're at risk from car accidents, infectious diseases, plane crashes, jungle gym falls, bike mishaps, shooting deaths, choking on Barbie doll accessories, scalding from electric jugs, asteroid impacts, poisonous spiders, ravenous crocodiles, exploding smartphones, junk food obesity, parents who use homeopathy or prayer to treat their illnesses ... the list is endless. And depending on where children live, their risk of serious harm from one or more of these causes will be far higher than their risk of being sexually abused. So if the sexual abuse risk demands that the potential threat is removed from their life, then logically all activities that carry a much higher risk of harm and often death must surely also be eliminated. If truly serious about her children's wellbeing, then Edwards must ban cars, bikes, Barbie dolls, nature walks, and, well, even crossing the street to visit a friend. After her friend's house has been swept by security for the presence of men of course, and don't forget to check under the beds.
Kasey Edwards and her obsequious husband are ignorant fools. Rather than asking how we can all reduce and minimise the risk around child sex abuse, they instead elect to turn their house into a kind of medieval convent, and raise children that will have a psychologically damaged view of genuine human relationships. What will they be like as adults having to go out into the real world where men aren't merely seen in the distance and on TV? For example, I used to often past on the footpath a certain young mother as she walked her young child to school, hand in hand. The disturbing and insulting thing is that if need be, she always pulled her child to the other side so that she was positioned between me and her child as we passed. Clearly she believed I'd snatch her child, or at least reach out and fondle her indecently, if I was allowed to get too close. I haven't seen either of them for a while now, so perhaps the male risk just became too great — maybe the school hired a male teacher? — and the child is now home-schooled?
The belief that children should be taught to fear men, all men, since we don't know who's safe and who's not, is a seriously harmful and deeply silly belief, and one all sane, intelligent people should be fighting to dispel.
Comment by Ron, 02 Mar, 2017
Hello John. Good response to the Kasey Edwards article re. keeping her daughters away from men in her mediaeval convent. Her article drew near 500 comments. I sure would like to see more comment here on your site. The more I think of that woman the more agitated I feel. Your comment covered a great deal, actually making points that I did not find in the 70 odd that I read from the SMH newspaper. They tended to repeat too much but the vast majority were against Edwards' paranoia, women constituted a good percentage of views. The most prevalent issue was the husband not being exempted from her smug little plans. Some women were upset about her sleepover comments, one saying that little girls live for those sleepovers. Edwards did not appear to state whether or not she was abused when younger. She is an author and has a book coming out in May titled "Guilt Trip, my quest to leave the baggage behind". It's about the difficulties of being a woman and all her guilt trips, etc. Her article quotes lots of statistics but there is quite a difference between both. Factors that come into it could be what is the socioeconomic status of the community where the stats come from, lots of broken families? What sort of questions were asked? The unrepentant, almost proud of herself Edwards says one in three young females are sex abused, the figures appear to be one in four. Many commenters believe, in their own social experience, that it is much less than that. There is also this belief out there that women could never harm children. Facts and stats prove otherwise. A study by Cortoni and Hanson in 2005 showed 4-5% of young sexually abused victims were abused by female offenders. But the Dept of Justice in the USA came up with 8.3%. Others show 9% up to a whopping 25% and even that has been considered underestimated. Whatever, there is a much bigger problem with female gender offenders than many care to admit.
When someone says a man did this or that abuse, to me the complainant will be very readily believed, but if they try to say a female did it there is likely to be disbelief, neutral reaction maybe even stony silence. To finish, I was annoyed to read what you said about a young woman with her kid that you often passed, that she would position so her daughter would always be on the far side of her. How blatantly insulting. My mouth has got me in trouble sometimes, but in such an instance I would be very likely to throw a few sarcastic words her way.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 03 Feb, 2017
Thanks Ron. After we'd made our comments, I saw on TV3's new 7pm "news" show, 'The Project', that they made some brief observations on the idea of 'Stranger Danger'. The young reporter said he had been actively teaching his young children to fear strangers, especially men. I think news of an attempted child abduction was what motivated them to run their story, not the Kasey Edwards article. However we were pleased to see that he admitted that he was wrong, and the conclusion of the panel was that they had all been wrong to promote 'Stranger Danger', since the risk of attack and abuse was far, far greater from those you know, not from strangers. A policewoman was interviewed and acknowledged that kids being abducted by strangers was very rare in NZ, and because of that the Police ceased promoting the 'Stranger Danger' idea back in the 1980s. She said that almost every case of children being abducted on their way to school or the shops was by a parent that was having a custodial fight with the other parent, not by strangers. And yes Ron, I was sorely tempted to say something to that ignorant woman that always shielded her child from me on the footpath, but I fear that speaking to her would just have fuelled her paranoia, convincing her that I was watching her and her child, and for nefarious reasons of course.
As for the claim that one in three, or even one in four, young females are sexually abused, we have trouble believing that it's anywhere near that high. We suspect that studies that show high numbers are probably invalidated by the surveys asking leading or simply the wrong questions. We've seen women claiming that wolf whistles are a form of sexual abuse, that a man saying, 'Wow, nice boobs' or 'Nice legs' is sexual abuse, and conversely, even a man saying that they wouldn't sleep with a woman because she's too fat is classed as sexual abuse. Some women claim that all men are rapists, so just being alone with a man might constitute sexual abuse for those women, since they'd imagine that the whole encounter was them acting in ways to keep themselves safe and discouraging what they perceived as his sexual advances. Sexual abuse is often defined as 'undesired sexual behaviour by one person upon another', and sexual harassment can be defined as 'unwelcome sexual behaviour, which could be expected to make a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. It can be physical, verbal or written'. So when in a survey a women is asked if she has ever experienced an incident that had a sexual element where she felt offended, humiliated or intimidated, we'd expect most everyone to answer yes. Even if it was just the workplace nerd trying to cuddle and kiss them under the mistletoe at the Xmas function. And that goes for males as well. The key here is 'undesired or unwelcome sexual behaviour'. We've found that if a woman receives a compliment or attention of a sexual nature by someone she likes or is attracted to, then she normally welcomes the attention. But if a comment of a sexual nature is uttered by someone she doesn't like, then some women suddenly feel they're being sexually harassed or abused. When the office hunk says, 'Morning sexy' or pats them on the behind, they love it, but when their fat, married boss does the same, they call their lawyer. When they ogle the courier in his tight bike shorts or sigh while watching the object of their desire strip off in TV's 'The Batchelor', that's just normal human behaviour they feel (and it is), but when asked a survey question about whether they've ever felt uncomfortable, offended or humiliated over some incident that had a sexual element, they remember when that bastard from accounting kept leering at them at the office pool party, when they wore that skimpy bikini. So they tick YES, they have been sexually abused. And then they recall when they played doctors and nurses with little Jimmy when they were both eight-years-old, so YES again.
We feel that none of that is what most people should think of when the term sexual abuse is raised, since it's just normal human interaction, and humans are sexual beings. We think that many confuse normal sexual behaviour with sexual assault, where force is used to bring about undesired and unwelcomed sexual behaviour, eg rape, or any sexual act such as oral sex or fondling of the genitals where one participant is an unwilling participant. And this is where we have a problem with the claimed statistics, that one in three girls are sexually assaulted. As children most every girl would have had on average at least two good friends, and that means that every girl was either a victim of sexual assault, eg rape, or one of her two friends were. And yet of all the women we know and have known, not one admits to anyone in their group of friends being sexually assaulted as children, or even as adults. Of course some would hide the abuse, but surely with one in three being abused decade after decade, there should still be a huge number of victims that we have heard of, and a huge number of offenders in jail, or at least gossiped about in the community. We find it unbelievable that of all the people we've known over the decades, not one has come forward and admitted to being a victim of sexual assault. We know people that are homosexual, that have committed suicide, that died in road accidents, that are nudists, that are victims of domestic abuse, that have committed crimes and are in prison, that have cheated on their partners, that are alcoholics and drug addicts, and yet none of us know a woman that was a child victim of sexual abuse. What are the odds? Yes, we know that victims do exist, that sexual assault of girls (and boys) does happen, and it's something we must all work to prevent, but if it's really happening to one in three, or even one in four, young females, and presumably to a similar number of young males, why isn't it more obvious? Why isn't the Catholic Church using this evidence for abuse to take the spotlight off them, arguing that while they may be sexually abusing children, the numbers are a drop in the bucket to the community at large, and that young children have far more to fear from their real father than their church father.
Comment by Ron, 07 Mar, 2017
Hi John. This comment is about tooth fairies, eh what? Read today a piece titled 'What's so bad about the tooth fairy?'. (well, for starters the damn things do not exist)
This mum of 3, at a playground, has a 6-7 yr old boy come up to her and shows his wobbly tooth. She starts on about the tooth fairy and how he must put the tooth under his pillow etc. Seems the boys mother overheard and gesticulated wildly at her then castigated her, saying "thanks for nothing" and "we don't have the tooth fairy in our house". Could be too expensive. She was concerned about many kids today getting up to $40 for one tooth compared to when she was a kid and got $1. I got far less than that. I recall believing for a time but then becoming suspicious my mother was the "tooth fairy" [TF]. I never felt angry at learning the truth about that and Santa being unreal. But all kids are not the same. Anyway, back to the playground mum, the writer. She found out her TF was her father and was happy he filled her home and childhood with this magic. But she feels for the boy for having a mum like that, for his disappointment, for denying him the magic of the existence of a fairy, real or not. She hopes parents still keep the TF myth alive. Polls suggest she has little to worry about. Only 6% of those polled said the tooth fairy skips their house!! How absolutely unbelievable is that? Am I being a grinch here. Apart from extortionate expectations of receiving up to $40, is not the real issue the fact parents are lying to their kids, pure and simple. Have we become a nation of such habitual liars that almost nobody cares anymore, that most do not know or realise they lie? What do the parents say to the boy or girl when the realisation sets in and the tricky questions follow. Some kids will have less trust. When their parents tell them they must eat their greens, exercise more, brush your teeth daily, etc. they may start questioning what reasons do I have to. Is it true. Surely there is abundant magic and happiness in the world for children that surrounds them without giving credit to a silly non-existent tooth fairy for heavens sake. Why not give a treat up front to a child after the loss of a particular milestone tooth. Up to what age should these youngsters be still believing in this crap. A mother wrote that her 13 yr old son still believes in the TF. Bloody hell. She said "we never lied to him that it was real or fake". What a silly statement. She and many others use the cop out that the kids grow up too fast these days. I found in reading comments that so many boys, often older, believe. I find it all quite disturbing.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 08 Mar, 2017
Interesting questions Ron. How old is too old to still be believing in the tooth fairy and similar fantasies, and should they even believe in the first place?
I loved comics as a kid, and I still enjoy animated movies like 'Shrek' and 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas', but I've never had to believe that Shrek or Daffy Duck or Superman are real to enjoy the "magic" of those stories. Most people can suspend their disbelief and happily immerse themselves in a fantasy book or movie, and that includes young children. Knowing something isn't real doesn't detract from the thrill of the story, and for many, especially young children, it can actually enhance their enjoyment. If they're told from the start that pirates and dragons and evil trolls aren't real then they can enjoy the story without the fear of having to deal with evil trolls after the story is over and the lights have been turned off. I think it's nonsense that you have to lie to kids and tell them that beings like the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman and Jack Frost are real, simply so that they can have an "magical" childhood.
I'm a fan of what Carl Sagan said (and you expressed a similar sentiment Ron) about people that feel they need to lie, not just to children, but to adults as well:
'We all have a thirst for wonder. It's a deeply human quality. Science and religion are both bound up with it. What I'm saying is, you don't have to make stories up, you don't have to exaggerate. There's wonder and awe enough in the real world. Nature's a lot better at inventing wonders than we are.'
I think that society should have outgrown the likes of the tooth fairy, not that they should stop telling these old tales to children, but they should have long stopped trying to convince their children that these magical beings are actually real. Parents can and do read their kids stories about talking rabbits wearing cute little waistcoats or of a trio of pigs battling a big bad wolf, all without deviously making them believe that talking rabbits, pigs and wolves are real. Parents telling their children that pigs don't talk, and don't build houses, doesn't destroy the magic of the story or set them up for a deprived childhood. If anything, parents being honest with their children would make them better adapted to deal with the real world, more able to fit in and transition to an adult.
The commercial world encourages childhood belief in the likes of Santa and the Easter Bunny (not to mention Halloween and Valentine's Day), because they make obscene fortunes from parents lying to their kids. It's less obvious why the tooth fairy hangs on, I suspect it's just a way for lazy parents to take their child's mind off the trauma of losing a tooth. If they stop crying, an invisible tooth fairy will, for reasons that are never really explained, purchase their tooth for cold, hard cash. Welcome to the big world of business, kid. You're now a budding capitalist. But if that's the case, why aren't parents inventing similar fairies for other problems that kids encounter? Why isn't there a scraped knee fairy, a sprained wrist fairy, or a, 'I've broken my toy' fairy? Why can't you put a bike your dad accidentally run over, under your pillow, and exchange it for some serious moola? More importantly, why aren't kids told that there are fairies that protect them from strangers on their way to school? Why do parents console their children with a tooth fairy, but for everything else that childhood throws at them, they have to be told the truth? Sorry Timmy, but fairies aren't interested in anything but teeth, there are no fairies that collect hair or nail clippings. We don't know why.
There is simply no need to lie, kids can have amazing childhoods that are not lessened in any way by not believing in fairies, and would actually be improved by them learning how the real world works. In the past many parents told their children that the bogeyman was real (so go to sleep or else), so does that mean that they had better childhoods than modern kids who lack that belief? As Sagan said, kids can be enthralled and entranced by stories about the wonders of the real world, and yes, they can be entertained with stories of evil trolls and hungry wolves, but there is no good reason why parents should pick out a fairy with a tooth fetish and an egg-loving bunny from this fantastical menagerie and convince their children that while most are just make-believe, one or two are actually real.
As we've said before, most reasonable parents immediately give up the lie of the tooth fairy, Santa, the Easter Bunny etc as soon as their children start getting suspicious and asking questions. And most kids quickly get over the charade and move on, it doesn't seem to do any obvious harm. You never hear of adults lapsing back into belief of the tooth fairy or having serious trust issues throughout their life because of the silly lies their parents told them. We don't think parents need to tell these lies in the first place, but if they do they are nipped in the bud early and apparently cause no lasting harm.
So some will say, what harm is there then? Well, it could be that it facilitates belief in another fantasy being that usually does remain with people throughout their lives. We're talking about gods. Our childhood is a formative time, and if kids are encouraged to believe in the reality of all manner of magical beings, then a base belief is set down, kids adopt the habit of believing that the supernatural realm is real, and habits can be hard, if not impossible, to break. Yes, parents eventually tell their kids that the tooth fairy and the bunny aren't real, but all they're doing here is dismissing a couple of magical beings, they're not dismissing the underlying belief that the magical realm still exists. Kids grow accustomed to believing in magical beings, and as they grow up their parents finally reveal that most of them aren't real, but building on their existing belief in a magical world, they reassure their children that one magical being, God, is still very real. And it's not just their parents, but all the adults and authority figures around them reaffirm the parental claim — Yes, the tooth fairy was just make-believe, but God certainly is real. A childhood belief in the tooth fairy can only help a belief in God. If, when kids started asking questions, parents went out of their way to explain that not just the tooth fairy, but all that magical, supernatural talk was nonsense, then kids would have considerable trouble accepting the other stories about gods, which when you analyse them, are just as silly. I don't think there is any doubt that belief in the likes of the tooth fairy softens kids up for a lifelong belief in gods.
You say Ron that the woman that wrote the article 'feels for the boy for having a mum like that, for his disappointment, for denying him the magic of the existence of a fairy, real or not'. But this same woman would no doubt deny her children the magic of believing in the Norse god Thor, or the Greek god Zeus. Surely each magical being you believe in makes for a more magical childhood? The tooth fairy only deals in discarded teeth, Thor could protect you from schoolyard bullies. By her logic she would be making their childhood a poorer place by not telling her children that they were real too. If she argued, and of course she would, that neglecting to lie to her children about Thor wouldn't ruin their childhood in the slightest, and if anything it would probably save them from ridicule, then she would be correct, but the exact same argument also applies to the tooth fairy. Just as she would explain to her children that Thor was just a story, and never real, she should be brave enough to do the same with the tooth fairy from the very beginning. If she wouldn't lumber her children with silly beliefs in Thor and Zeus, then why push the tooth fairy on them?
As for how old is too old to still be believing in the tooth fairy and similar fantasies, well, certainly 13 is way too old. You'd have to be mentally challenged to still believe in such bullshit at that age. By the time you've reached your teens you should have long woken up to the lies your parents were feeding you about the tooth fairy, Santa, the Easter Bunny etc. And if you haven't, caring parents should have broken the news to you to stop you being teased and ridiculed by your friends and peers. I have no memory of when I stopped believing, or even if I ever really believed, so I was certainly quite young, and by 13 I was dreaming of girls and fast cars, not the tooth fairy. But that said, even though people of average intelligence and above should laugh off these fanciful, childish beliefs at a very young age, the sad reality is that many don't, and they go to their grave still believing that while the tooth fairy isn't real, their sky fairy still is. We may be astounded that people that should know better still try to keep the tooth fairy myth alive, but we should be equally astounded that far, far more people still try and keep the sky fairy myth alive.
Comment by Ron, 14 Mar, 2017
Hi John. Another comment on Biblical themes. Was thinking about my Catholic primary school years that I and two siblings had to undergo, being taught by the nuns and the mandatory church attendances twice weekly plus the mammoth effort to brainwash us.
I felt angry. The realisation hit home how Christianity preyed on kids and no doubt still does. I can remember how fear was a powerful factor, not taking over my childhood totally but nevertheless very much there in the background. I see it as a form of terrorism via gruesome portrayals of horrors and suffering that kids will be subjected to if they do not live good Christian lives. The Bible and Christianity can be very child unfriendly. Countless children over umpteen generations have very likely had their younger years darkened by these fears, the fear of dying while in mortal sin, as the nuns were good at telling us, with the eternal torment as a result. Kids did not have the ability to analyse what they were being told. The 2000 plus yrs of child terrorising has to be a crime of Christianity. Children traumatised by graphic stories of endless burning to ensure they will be too scared to ever question religion? I wonder if there are many young ones out there that dislike science and scientists because it/they disprove their own parents religion thus leading to shortcomings in scientific knowledge and understanding. Then there are those who let their kids die because medical help is forbidden. I read about a father who took his excited 5 yr old girl to visit an old mission in California. She ended up running out in tears. The place was full of wooden and plaster sculptures of Jesus and his crucifixion, cut and bleeding. Some very realistic. A tortured man in agony, the most famous killing in history. The 5 yr old had no savvy of all that and saw it as a chamber of horrors and torture. Her dad questioned how does a secular parent explain to a 5 yr old; "Um, well you see ... lots of people think we are all born evil, that there is this all-powerful god who wants to punish us forever in hell, but he had his only son killed so we could be saved from eternal torture. Get it?" Makes a good point in my opinion.
Apart from being horrible and sadistic, is any of it true? Very unlikely. Christianity appears to teach that kids are intrinsically evil. Not because they did anything, just for being born. That has to be a false twisted message. Plus they are told about Satan, the devil, so that instills more fear, etc. Many parents have described the devil side of it as the most traumatic for their youngsters, a number described it as abusive.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 15 Mar, 2017
Hi Ron. We can't but agree of course with everything you say. As Richard Dawkins has said, it's nothing short of child abuse. That parents and society gleefully still work together to brainwash young children into believing that such a vile, disgusting god is real is unfathomable in this modern age. And brainwash is the correct term, since children do not reason their way to belief, they are never asked to consider the evidence and decide, they are forced to believe in bullshit when they are at an age of being incapable of resisting, and too na´ve to believe that those they trust would lie to them.
Imagine a young terrified child telling a parent that they think there's a monster under their bed, and the parent assuring the child that there's not one, but actually several bloodthirsty monsters under their bed. And if the child hasn't been good, then during the night those monsters, if they're hungry, may come out and attack and kill the child as they sleep. And even if the child thinks that they have been good, their parents tell them that the monsters might easily disagree and kill them anyway. And night after night the parents retell this story to their children, recounting tales of other children that misbehaved and were killed in their sleep, they even show them graphical picture books to show them what can be expected if the monsters come out.
What decent, loving, responsible parent would terrify their children with such a story, reinforcing again and again that it's all true? And yet this is exactly the type of story that religious parents have been telling their children for centuries, only the names of the monsters change. Maybe government departments that look after the welfare of children should look at taking children off Christian and Muslim parents that insist on lying to them, and not nice, harmless lies about friendly Santa, but vile, disgusting lies about evil gods.
Comment by Ben, 16 Mar, 2017
I went to church schools. I never felt I was being abused, terrified or brainwashed; in fact many of the positive messages I received have stayed with me and shaped my life. I may have my hang ups but they were not caused by my exposure to religion. Those who went to school with me grew into well adjusted teenagers and adults.
My own children went to schools that had an emphasis on Christianity. They have all developed into fine young men. Three have more or less rejected any form of religion which bothers me not one bit. I brought up my kids to think for themselves and question everything and I am glad they do. One boy has made a choice to embrace Christianity with no pressure whatsoever from me.
My wife has for many years specialised in the field of child mental health and has dealt with hundreds of abused and troubled children. She cannot recall a single case where the abuse stemmed from religious indoctrination. The abuse she encounters comes from lack of love or parental care. Of course there are parents (and sadly teachers and priests) who claim adherence to some faith who abuse their children but their are even more parents who claim no faith who abuse children. You cannot pin all abuse on religion.
Your suggestion that children should be removed from Christian or Muslim parents merely confirms my suspicion that you are as intolerant and dangerous as the worst type of religious zealot. When I drew an oblique comparison between you and Torquemada, you appeared to regard it as an insult. You however are more than happy to insult and malign decent parents purely on the grounds of their beliefs. Like many who feel free to insult other you are remarkably touchy when the mildest of insult is directed at you.
I have my own beliefs. I do not discuss them with others. I do not force my beliefs on others. I do not dislike, insult or condemn those like you who do not share my beliefs. I certainly do not have the insufferable arrogance to suggest that those who do not share my views are any worse than me or should be deprived of their children.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 17 Mar, 2017
Going to church schools you may have never felt that you were being abused, terrified or brainwashed Ben, but you were. And if your religion teachers weren't brainwashing you into believing in a fictitious god and his bastard son, or terrifying you with images of Hell and eternal punishment for sinning, then they weren't doing their job. And of course, as should be obvious, we, and Ron, were talking of intellectual and emotional abuse, not physical abuse, although that too was present in many church schools. And lying to na´ve children is surely an abuse of trust if nothing else.
Would you support your local school if they taught kids that jackal-headed gods would punish them if they misbehaved, or that storks and not sex was the source of babies, or that aliens are abducting people from their beds as they sleep, or that astrology and alchemy are more believable than astronomy and chemistry? We doubt that you would, because of course it is wrong to fill the heads of gullible and trusting children with pure bunkum. It would be brainwashing children, and a form of intellectual abuse, because lying to children is enslaving their minds, denying them the freedom of discovering the world for themselves, imprinting nonsense on them before their reasoning skills have fully developed. In some sense mental enslavement to a false belief is worse than bodily enslavement. They'd be slaves to an imaginary master and they wouldn't even realise they were slaves. If the religious truly believed that reason and evidence supports their belief in gods, then they would let children mature intellectually before presenting them with the case for their god. If their argument for that god was sound, then the children would become believers. We don't try and teach 5-year-olds general relativity or genetics, fearful that if we don't then they'll never believe that gravity and DNA are real when they grow up. And the reality is that teaching young impressionable children that an invisible god called Jehovah or Allah is real is just as irresponsible as teaching them that invisible jackal-headed gods are real. You can't just support religious indoctrination when the school is teaching about your god. As a Christian you have to be equally supportive if your school were teaching your kids how to pray to Allah or Shiva.
You say your wife deals with cases of abused and troubled children. If she encountered the case we imagined, of a young child terrified after her parents had repeatedly told her that there were real, dangerous monsters under her bed, would your wife class her as an abused and troubled child, or would she tell her to grow up, there no monsters? We'd hope she would visit the parents and try and get it across to them the very real psychological harm they were causing in a vulnerable child. But if the parents insisted that they truly believed under-the-bed monsters were real, and it was their duty and right to instruct their child in their beliefs, would that mean the child wasn't being abused and troubled? That's certainly the belief of Christians and Muslims, that while their children may be truly upset about the stories they're told, it's their duty and right to tell them the horror stories as well as the humdrum stories from their religion. But let's remember that, as far as all the evidence goes, stories of gods are just as fantastical as stories of under-the-bed monsters.
Certainly there will be many more cases of abused and troubled children due to neglect than those terrified about what the devil is going to do to them sooner or later, but that's no reason to pretend that those troubled souls don't exist. Your wife can handle those due to neglect, and we atheists, by educating young parents, will try and protect children from having to go through life forever terrified that God is watching them have sex, and that if they enjoy it too much, they're destined for Hell. You're lucky at least that three-quarters of your kids have 'more or less rejected' belief in gods, and only one is still hearing voices. We know many people that have 'more or less rejected' belief in gods, but none of them can stop occasional relapses to the nonsense they were taught as children. They just can't shake the brainwashing completely. The devil still haunts their thoughts occasionally, especially when they seem to be having too much fun, doubly so if sex is involved. But these occasional doubts they have about sex and science are trivial when compared to the children of religious parents who refuse them medical treatments on the foolish belief that God will heal them, if it's part of his plan, or that force their children to undergo genital mutilation, which is especially harmful, sometimes fatal, to their daughters. Others teach their children that women are inferior, that homosexuals are abominations, and that heretics should be persecuted, and killed if possible. We make no apologies in our attempts to dissuade people from continuing to tell their children barbaric fairy stories under the guise that they are true. If the stories are indeed true, then they'll still be true when they grow up, so tell them then when they are far better equipped to deal with the horrors their god has planned for them. Of course logically it can't be true that Jehovah, God, Allah, Shiva and Quetzalcoatl are all running the show, so at the very least most parents on the planet are, without a doubt, unknowingly lying to their children. We atheists would argue that they all are.
Of course children that have had a religious upbringing generally don't see themselves as having been abused, either psychologically or physically, since they believe that the stories, while certainly horrific, are true, and need to be told, and that the genital mutilation and corrective beatings were ordered by God in his holy text. No caring religious parent is going to knowingly abuse their child, so the trick is to relabel your actions. An atheist parent beating their child is physical abuse, but a Christian beating their child is God-directed behavioural correction. An atheist parent terrifying their child with "real" stories of under-the-bed monsters is emotional abuse, but a Christian terrifying their child with "real" stories of monsters from the Bible is how to raise a good God-fearing child. Until Christians, Muslims, Scientologists or some other nutty cult produce the evidence that the silly and often horrific stories they tell their children are true, then we contend that they are harming their children by telling them those stories, and at the same time are reducing their ability to experience and enjoy the real world.
We also have a problem with this comment of yours: 'Of course there are parents (and sadly teachers and priests) who claim adherence to some faith who abuse their children but their are even more parents who claim no faith who abuse children'. We challenge you to provide the evidence for that claim. Most people in the world are religious believers, atheists probably account for less than 10%, certainly a small minority, and while atheists are just as capable of abuse as anyone, it's quite false to claim that abuse from atheist parents outstrips that of religious parents, that 'their are even more parents who claim no faith who abuse children'. That's like Christians who argue that immoral atheists are the major source of problems in society, because without a controlling belief in God, nothing is forbidden, and that includes all manner of crime. And yet strangely our prisons are full of mostly Christians, not atheists. The number of atheist inmates isn't even as high as our percentage in society, Christians take up the slack, meaning something in our worldview helps keep us honest.
But you're correct that we 'cannot pin all abuse on religion', and we have never suggested that we should. But we clearly don't have the time or resources to expose all causes of abuse, so we focus on that caused by religion (and other silly beliefs) and let others focus on other causes. Just because there are other causes in the abuse of children doesn't mean we should turn away from religion, since if we were to look at neglectful parents, they'd simply deflect our gaze by using your argument, and say that we can't pin all abuse on neglect you know, what about drug use, or religion? You'd have us going around in circles, with no reduction in abuse.
And Ben, clearly we're not actually arguing that children should be taken off Christian and Muslim parents that insist on lying to them. We were wondering, and maybe your wife can shed some light here, how child welfare services would react to parents terrifying their children with stories of under-the-bed monsters being real. Would they ignore a child clearly troubled by such stories, and if they wouldn't, if they would talk to the parents, would they also talk to the parents of children clearly troubled by religious stories of Hell and demons? And we know for a fact that children are troubled by stories of Hell and demons (even adults are), it's the very purpose of the stories after all, so why does a caring, humane society continue to look the other way when religious parents deliberately scare the shit out of their kids?
If our pointing out that 'decent parents' are harming their children by fulling their heads with false stories, many of which will scar the child for life, if this is taken as an insult, we make no apologies, since we will not apologise for telling the truth and attempting to reduce harm where we can. As atheists we are more than used to insults from religious folk, everything from, '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), to loving Christians telling us that we're going to burn in Hell for all eternity, and that they'll gleefully applaud our torturers. However our confidence in our stance, based on reason not faith, means that we don't feel insulted. You may view our impassioned response to an insult as being 'touchy', but it's simply our attempt to show that insults won't work on us and that we ask for evidence and reasoned arguments instead. The religious may feel humiliated and hurt when we point out how silly their beliefs are, they may feel we're being insensitive and rude to expose their fantasies, but the reality is that if they don't want our skeptical claims to feel like insults, then they should stop believing such silly things. Different people that believe in everything from gods, ghosts and psychics to chemtrails, astrology and UFOs have all claimed that we have insulted their beliefs, and by 'insulted" they really mean exposed as baseless. They are very annoyed that we don't take them seriously, and unable to respond with evidence, they resort to insults. To us, once the insults begin it's a sure sign that our opponent has dredged the bottom of their argument bin and found it empty, and so a desperate tactic is employed to cover their retreat.
You wrote that, 'I have my own beliefs. I do not discuss them with others. I do not force my beliefs on others. I do not dislike, insult or condemn those like you who do not share my beliefs'. You say you do not discuss your beliefs with others, and yet here you are, again, discussing your beliefs with others. You say you do not insult others, yet you accuse us of being 'as intolerant and dangerous as the worst type of religious zealot'. Or is that a compliment? You say that you 'certainly do not have the insufferable arrogance to suggest that those who do not share my views are any worse than me'. Wait ... what? Surely by describing us 'as intolerant and dangerous as the worst type of religious zealot', shows that you do have the insufferable arrogance to suggest that we are worse than you, or are you admitting that you're an intolerant, dangerous religious zealot too?
Unlike you, we do enjoy discussing our beliefs with others, it's how we examine their validity and improve on them, and we encourage others to do likewise. Religions have flourished because they discourage discussion and push blind faith, they shield themselves off from those that might question their dubious claims, and deprived of debate and honest dissent, their sheltered followers continue to erect barriers against a sea of scientific evidence. The plaintive cry these days is, "Respect my religion", which actually means, leave me alone, ignore me, let me corrupt children without having to explain why science and reason are tools of the devil.
Comment by Ben, 19 Mar, 2017
I am not quite sure why I continue this discussion. From previous posts you clearly think that those who have any beliefs or faith are at best deluded brainwashed nutters and at worst evil monsters who set out to terrify children and warp their minds. On that basis any discussion is pointless since neither a nutter nor a monster is likely to have anything worthwhile to contribute.
However my sense of masochism, no doubt arising from my religious education, compels me to make one further comment after which I will do something productive like count the knot holes in my garden fence.
Whatever you may think I was not brainwashed at school, unless we both have different ideas of what brainwashing means. We had a curriculum that included religious instruction and this included looking at fairy stories, as you put it, from the bible. Perhaps I went to an unusually liberal school but we were encouraged to question and dispute what we read and there were many boys who openly said they thought the idea of a God was nonsense. The teaching staff accepted those views and encouraged debate.
It was the same with my own children with the difference being that other faiths were included. You may well say the concept of a God is absurd, but absurd or not religion plays a huge part in our history and there is in my view no reason why religion should not be taught and the content of the bible discussed with children left to make up their own minds.
As I have said it is a matter of indifference to me what you do or do not believe. What irritates me is your zealotry. I can imagine that if we ever had a government that banned religion and made worship punishable by death you would be the first volunteer for the religion enforcement police.
If you will excuse me there are knot holes requiring my attention.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 Mar, 2017
We have no problem with people having beliefs Ben, we have a few ourselves, our problem is with silly beliefs. And yes, we do think that those who hold religious beliefs on important matters on nothing but blind faith are, to use your words, 'deluded brainwashed nutters'. And by blind religious faith we mean believing in something even when there is no good reason to believe it, no evidence to support it, and actually evidence and/or reasons that contradicts that belief. As Bertrand Russell said, 'When there is evidence, no one speaks of faith. We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence'.
The religious are deluded because they have been deceived, they are brainwashed because someone placed falsehoods in their mind, and they are "nutters" because these implanted lies force them to do irrational things, like beg favours from invisible sky fairies, and even do immoral, harmful things, like persecute those their fairy tells them he hates. You can't surely expect us to believe that someone who worshiped Anubis the jackal-headed Egyptian god wasn't deluded? Or that they hadn't been brainwashed into believing he actually existed? Nor can you convince us that the Aztec priests that sacrificed thousands of people to their gods weren't just a little bit evil. No doubt you'll complain that those ancient religious beliefs and faiths weren't what you were referring to? But let's remember that those pushed at your church school are ancient too. Perhaps you were referring to the faith that motivates Muslim terrorists to become suicide bombers, or that saw Christians burn witches at the stake? No ... perhaps still not what you meant by people of faith? Do you seriously believe that the only faith that counts is your modern, wishy-washy interpretation of the Christian faith? And even then you seem to be in denial that horror stories told by priests are likely to terrify children and modify their lifelong behaviour, stories of Satan and of Hell and eternal torture in its burning lakes of sulphur, where most everyone is destined because there is none that haven't sinned. Need we repeat that it's a fact that children are troubled by stories of Hell and demons, as are adults, that was the very purpose of the stories after all. Fear of the Lord is instilled in them from a young age to keep them in line, to keep them faithful. It's sheer nonsense to argue that their minds weren't warped as children when we see grown adults cross themselves and offer prayers of thanks to a sky fairy, simply because they've survived some natural disaster. You write that discussion is pointless, and you could be right. Would you consider it worthwhile to reason with an utterly committed believer in the likes of Anubis, the jackal-headed Egyptian god that we mentioned above? We suspect not, and frankly we see no difference between followers of Anubis and Jesus. Faith in one is just as silly as faith in the other, and Christians have tried and failed for some 2,000 years to show otherwise.
You say you weren't brainwashed at your church school, but you're a Christian who believes 'in a loving God and a loving Jesus', and that Jesus was the son of God, so clearly you were brainwashed somewhere. And by brainwashed we mean, 'The application of a concentrated means of persuasion in order to develop a specific belief'. We don't believe you came to understand and believe in Christianity and men walking on water without input from others. If you already believed in God before going to school, then you were brainwashed at home and your church school reinforced and increased that brainwashing. You wouldn't see it as brainwashing if your parents had already planted the lie. You say that during your church school's religious instruction classes students 'were encouraged to question and dispute what we read', that the 'teaching staff accepted [atheist] views and encouraged debate'. Well, as we've said, your religion teachers weren't doing their job. As you've already noted, Christians are expected to believe because of faith, not reasoned debate. Even Jesus said he favoured people that believed through faith rather than evidence, saying, 'blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed'. Martin Luther, leader of the Reformation in the 16th century, described reason as "the devil's bride" and "God's worst enemy". He wrote that:
"There is on earth among all dangers no more dangerous thing than a richly endowed and adroit reason, especially if she enters into spiritual matters which concern the soul and God. For it is more possible to teach an ass to read than to blind such a reason and lead it right; for reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed."
If you think that priests, religious parents and religious instruction classes are merely promoting reasoned debate, and are just as happy if children leave as atheists as god believers, as long as they've reached their stance honestly and rationally, then we think you've got a fairy tale view of religion. You may have been lucky enough to have religion teachers that didn't care all that much about your soul and what nasty things God was going to do to it on your death, but most religion teachers, as well as most priests and religious parents, try and convince children that God is real, and is coming for them. Brainwashing.
"Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees it must put out of sight, and wish to know nothing but the word of God".
"Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God."
"Reason should be destroyed in all Christians."
"Whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his reason."
And yes, we do view the concept of gods as absurd, and you're correct that religion has played a huge part in our history, but then so too has slavery, superstition, xenophobia, warfare and subjugation of women. Just because something has had a real impact on our past doesn't mean we should continue to blindly promote it. We should indeed teach kids about religion, and the impact it has had and still has, but it should be taught in the same manner that we teach the majority of religions from our history, as mythology, not as history or science. You reveal your Christian bias when you say that religion should be taught, but then suddenly you're thinking solely of, 'the content of the bible discussed with children'. You do realise that religion encompasses thousands of different religions don't you? Why, when pushing for their kids to learn about religion in school, do we never hear Christians say that they want the content of the Koran discussed with children, or the Vedas, or the Egyptian Book of the Dead?
You talk of the 'the content of the bible discussed with children left to make up their own minds', but religious instruction classes aren't offering kids the appropriate forum and information to truly reach the truth. In these classes you have a teacher who is almost always a devout Christian, and never alongside them do you have a scientist, philosopher, historian or atheist that can offer alternative views to God's creation. When kids have questions about evolution or morals, it's always the Christian that answers them, not the scientist or philosopher. Thinking that religious instruction classes aren't biased towards Christianity is as silly as thinking that visiting a Catholic priest might see him recommending Buddhism.
And thanks for ending on yet another insult. With Ken Ring indisposed, it's nice that someone is prepared to step in and remind us what immoral bastards we are, or least have the potential to become. We're atheists, and you're religious, and yet every time you want to compare us with a vile, evil individual or institution, you continually choose someone from your team. Which of course leads us to believe that to be doing truly vile and evil things you have to be doing it with religious motivation. Because of course monotheistic religions are infamous for banning and persecuting other faiths and those of no faith, and of having organised departments to enforce their beliefs, eg the inquisitions and the modern day religious police in many Muslim countries. Even today the Catholic Church still threatens followers with excommunication. Of course we do have individuals and movements that focused more on atheistic thoughts than gods, such as the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the scientific revolution and democracy, but you'd be hard pressed to find someone that tried to force atheism on believers, or persecuted them in the name of disbelief, or discouraged the discussion of new ideas. It's telling that you have to liken us to a religious zealot to insult us, that we're as intolerant and as dangerous as a person who sincerely believes in God.
You say that, 'What irritates me is your zealotry'. We're guessing that you would have said the same thing to Jesus as he hung on the cross. You would have explained that like him you have your own beliefs, but you don't discuss them with others. If you really believe something Jesus, you would have said, something important, you should keep it to yourself.
Comment by Ron, 21 Mar, 2017
Hi John. As many know today, the Bible appears to be shockingly misogynistic, full of stuff that simply implies women are very inferior in most ways. As you will know there is so much of it that choosing what to quote is rather difficult. In this comment I wish to relate some of those shockers. Two quotes do not come directly from the "good book".
A large section of Leviticus 12 talks of the purification of the woman after birth. You will note that following the birth of a son she will be "unclean" for 7 days and must purify herself for 33 days. After a girl it's double, 14 and 66 days respectively. Leviticus 19:20-22 basically states if a man rapes a female slave she is to be punished, but the man has to bring an offering, a priest makes atonement for him and his sins are forgiven. Leviticus 27:3-7 The Lord via Moses to the Israelites, where he puts a value on men and women in shekels. You will see how in each age group the man will have much more value than the woman. There is this one from the new testament. 1 Corinthians 11:3-9 It is clear that God is over Christ, who is over man and man is over woman. Further in 14:34-35 it says women must not be allowed to talk in church, if a woman wishes to ask something she must ask her husband after church. This well known one, Ephesians 5:22-24, women must treat their husbands as they do God. Wives must submit to their husbands, in everything, as head of the wife, as Christ is head of the church. Revelations 14 goes on about these 144,000 virgin men in heaven who have never been "defiled" by a woman. Yet, in Genesis, oddly, God says "be fruitful and multiply". In Exodus it's permissible to sell a daughter into slavery but not a son! This awful little quote is not from the bible but from someone called St Jerome. "Nothing is so unclean as a woman in her periods, what she touches she causes to be unclean". And this horrid gross piece from an early church father, Tertullia: "In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know you are Eve? God's sentence still hangs over all your sex and his punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil's gateway, you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. It was you who coaxed your way around him whom the devil had not the force to attack. With what ease you shattered that image of God, Man! Because of the death you merited, even the son of God had to die... woman you are the gate to hell". Vile isn't it? Everything blamed on woman. Back to the Bible and Exodus 22:16-17. If a man sleeps with an unmarried virgin then he must marry her but if her father refuses him his daughter he has to pay some dosh. Then it becomes ok. 1 Timothy 2:9-14 women must dress modestly with propriety and decency, no braid, gold or pearls or expensive clothes but good deeds appropriate for a woman who worships God. Full submission in quietness, not permitted to teach, or have authority over a man, must be silent. Judges 19, but verses 22-25 the worst. The story condensed tells us some evil men came to an old man's house who had a husband and wife guests. They demanded the male guest for sex. The old man refused, not wanting such vileness, but offered his daughter and guest's wife to do with as they wish. They took the concubine (wife) and raped and abused her all night and let her go. A bit further we are told she was chopped into 12 pieces. What would anyone get out of that story? Most of this stuff just makes you want to squirm. John, one could ask how can any Christian woman read and study the Bible's teachings and still remain a Christian. Also, do some Christian men justify abuse based on various teachings? And yet women churchgoers outnumber men approx. 60/40. Want equality? It's against the will of God.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 Mar, 2017
Hi Ron. The only thing we'd change in your comments are where you say that 'the Bible appears to be shockingly misogynistic'. It doesn't just appear to be, it is without doubt shockingly misogynistic. God and his Bible treats women as nothing more than the chattels of men, no different than a slave, donkey or a nice belt. And he expects his male followers to do likewise, and this extends across Judaism, Christianity and Islam. As you say, there is so much evidence for God's hatred of women that it's difficult to know what verses to quote. That's why some years ago we wrote this post: 'Sex, women and the Catholic Church'.
The commandments issued by God and taken up by men that women must remain silent in church, that they must not teach or have authority over men, and that 'wives should submit to their husbands in everything', are no different than what we today would force on a dog. But as unjust and inhuman as they are, the real horror emerges when that old man offers his virgin daughter and a stranger's concubine to a group of wicked homosexuals to be raped, in order to stop them raping the man. It mirrors the tale of Lot offering his two virgin daughters to another group of wicked homosexuals in order to save some male strangers. But what do these stories mean? Was ancient Israel plagued by rampant homosexuality, with bands of violent, roaming homosexuals preying on any newcomer? Apparently so. But the Judges story doesn't make sense. The men desperately wanted to have sex with the male stranger, and refused point blank the offer of the two women for sex. But when one woman (the concubine) was thrown out to them, they immediately left to spend the night raping her. Why would a group refuse the offer of two women for sex, but then accept just one woman for sex? That's the most stupid negotiation I've ever heard of. Plus they wanted to have sex with the male stranger, hence their lack of interest in the women, so why would men with clear homosexual desires suddenly be interested in spending the entire night having sex with a woman? And sharing one when they could have had two?
I think some of the Bible's authors may have been secretly struggling with their own homosexual urges, and this plays out in their writing stories that condemn such behaviour. It's a common ploy even today. But think about the Bible's underlying message. Almost the entire Bible is full of stories about men, of men protecting other men, of their fellowship and devotion to other men, and of their utter contempt for women, viewing them as filthy, evil, conniving and on the level of a dog, useful for some things, like cooking and cleaning, but nowhere as wonderful and as valuable as a "close" relationship with another man. As a heterosexual it's certainly not the book I would have written, since while there is lot's of sex in it, women are the vile villains and men are the heroes that we are expected to swoon over, like David and Goliath, even a naked Jesus on the cross. And Jesus, with his collection of all male disciples, wasn't married, when all Jews were expected to be, which suggests that he may have been homosexual. Then we have their disturbing fascination with each others penis and the state of the foreskin, and the many arguments that sex between a man and women is for procreation only, not recreation. Clearly these were not men that enjoyed spending time with women, let alone wanted to touch them or see them naked. After eating the forbidden fruit Adam was quick to put clothes on Eve, whom we can assume was the most beautiful and sexy woman imaginable, but apparently Adam got no thrill from her nudity. Me, I would have been saying to Eve, Are you kidding, it's too hot for clothes! But seemingly the female body was not to Adam's taste, and he wanted it covered. Homophobic Christians say that their god created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, but maybe based on reading between the lines in the Bible, Adam wishes God had created Steve instead.
You're right Ron that it is astounding that so many women want to be a part of Christianity, and Judaism and Islam, when their god and the holy text demands that they be treated so badly. Do they like to feel owned and controlled, and viewed as filthy and devious? Why do they willingly sign up to a group that demands they sit at the back of the bus and keep quiet? And it's just the same for homosexuals. Leaving aside the confusing and worrying homoerotic messages in the Bible, God clearly says that he hates homosexuals; they are an abomination to him and he demands that they be persecuted and killed. And of course we're talking both male and female homosexuals. So why, like so many women, are so many homosexuals struggling to be accepted by their church? Most women and most homosexuals wouldn't think of joining the Ku Klux Klan because of its racist attitudes, or a Muslim terrorist group because of its intolerant attitudes, so why do they work to remain in their religion when they should be fleeing in droves? They should be ashamed of their association with a group with such disgusting attitudes towards women and homosexuals (not to mention atheists, we're on their hate list as well). Why stick with a group that bans sex with goats but not sex with children?
I guess it comes down to most god believers being quite ignorant of what their religion really stands for and really demands, and being too lazy and apathetic to care. As long as they think their name is on the list for Heaven rather than Hell, then they think they've probably done enough. Of course news of the harm that religion is doing around the world occasionally filters through, like fundamentalists slaughtering heretics, or Christians banning the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS, but what can they do to prevent those atrocities? They don't seem to grasp that every woman and every homosexual that continues to support a mindless belief in God is giving oxygen to those atrocities. Just imagine the destructive effect if well over half the planet's population (women and homosexuals) did the right thing and walked away from a religion that treats them like shit.
Comment by Ron, 23 Mar, 2017
Hi John. Thanks for your response. Your words are so true where you say, "I guess it comes down to most god believers being quite ignorant of what their religion really stands for and really demands, and being too lazy and apathetic to care. As long as they think their name is on the list for Heaven rather than Hell, then they think they've probably done enough."
I know there is a fear among many Christians that if a discrepancy was found in the bible it would mean God is not real and the good book is not holy. Yet, as we well know, it has 100's of discrepancies. Many Christians, whether they know it or not, worship the bible, it stealthily becomes their idol. The idea that it may have an error or two is as blasphemous as stating God makes mistakes. Christians generally will have a bible or two at home but only a small number have ever read it cover to cover. Many have said that if their house was on fire the bible would be the number one item they would take with them when fleeing. Christians enjoy talking about what it says in the bible, well chosen of course, but how many actually pick it up except to carry it under their arm to church.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 23 Mar, 2017
Yes Ron, you're right that many Christians treat the Bible as an idol, and without error, which is as delusional as saying that the All Blacks have never lost a game of rugby. Of course I've never read the bloody thing from cover to cover either, but as an atheist it's not really expected. We have better things to do, and much, much better books to choose from. Christians might see this as hypocritical, but they happily dismiss Islam without ever reading a word in the Koran, and thousands of other religions that they know nothing about. And the reality is that informed atheists that don't believe in God still know more about what the Bible says than does your typical Christian who does. Something is not quite right there, and yet your typical Christian doesn't live in a bubble, so I suspect that they've heard of errors existing in the Bible and are just too terrified to look for themselves. As you say Ron, better to just carry it under your arm to church each week, consult only those safe passages recommended by the pastor, and then place it back in the drawer until next Sunday.
Christians believe that understanding the truth about God is unquestionably the most important thing to achieve in this life, and yet they all seem to waste their lives doing other things. Heathen things. In the dictionary next to the definition of hypocrite there should be a picture of a Christian.
Comment by Ron, 23 Mar, 2017
Hello John. Just how much of the bible is man-inspired. These days, more than ever, it seems to me that a heck of a lot appears man-inspired as opposed to God inspired. Most articles written by Christians naturally tell us there is no doubt, the answer is obvious. They would have to say that. Ones level of belief in God dictates ones feelings on this as well. The well known passage 2 Timothy 3:16 says "All scripture is God-breathed (inspired) and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness". Jehovah Witness folk say Paul wrote that and it means God, by means of his Holy Spirit, guided the bible writers to write only what he wanted them to write. Also there is 1 Thessalonians 2:13 "We constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God's message, you accepted it not as the word of men but for what it really is, the word of God". In Ezekiel 23 there is plenty related to prostitution etc but verse 20 is another of those that Sunday schools would say we'll give that one a miss, "there she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses". This quote from a disgusted male Christian says "just became more aware of this verse and it shocks me, this is almost porn. Am I supposed to believe a holy and pure God inspired this verse. I have problems with that. Why would God need to mention and compare penis sizes to donkeys and their ability to ejaculate, to horses? Can you imagine youths, esp. females reading this? This is gross. Why did God inspire man to write such stuff, he could have omitted it." Good points. I say it is totally unnecessary and irrelevant. I figure it was written within a farming culture where mating animals were a familiar sight, but in a book that is supposed to offer wisdom and guidance, etc.? I recently read an article written by a nameless Christian which had its sole purpose of proving that the bible is God-inspired. Period. Indisputable. His/her main theme to prove this was "fulfilled prophecy". He states, "God spoke to men telling them of things he would bring about in the future. Some have already occurred. Others have not. For example there were more than 300 prophecies concerning Jesus' first coming 2000 yrs ago. There is no doubt that these are prophecies from God because of manuscripts and scrolls dated before the birth of Christ. These were not written after the fact. They were written beforehand!! Scientific dating proves this". A little more of what he says, on a different tack. "Unbelievers throughout history have tried to find archaeological evidence to disprove what is recorded in the bible, they have failed. Proving scripture to be untrue has not been done. In the past the bible contradicted the current "scientific theories" only to be proven true later. A good example is Isaiah 40:22 where it says God sits on the circle of the earth. This was long before scientists claimed the earth was flat". To finish, the Jehovahs admitted there are errors in the bible but we must not dismiss all as it could be a fatal mistake, that we will be dismissing the true God-inspired words that abound.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 24 Mar, 2017
Hi Ron. To answer your first question, 'Just how much of the bible is man-inspired', it's far more than 'a heck of a lot', it is of course the entire book, every single word from talking snakes to talking, flaming bushes that don't burn. It's no different to wondering just how much of the Harry Potter books was woman-inspired.
As for Paul claiming that the Bible was inspired by God, Paul was an ignorant persecutor of early Christians who never met Jesus or God, so how the hell would he know? Opinion doesn't count as evidence. And no Christian believes the Muslims when they say that their holy book is an updated edition dictated by God, nor do the Christians believe the Jews who claim God's word stopped with the Old Testament. The reality is that every religious believer throughout all time claimed to have their god's word revealed to them, somehow, and clearly they are all deluded.
Regarding the passages describing prostitution and genitals, you quote a disgusted Christian: 'Why did God inspire man to write such stuff, he could have omitted it'. What arrogance, presuming that he can tell God what he needed to write. One minute God is all-knowing and all-powerful, and the next he's too ignorant to be able to write a good story and give readers what they want. Apparently God should have stuck with creating worlds and left writing books to someone with a bit more talent. It's amazing that every time a bored Christian flicks through his Bible and discovers yet another passage that they have trouble accepting, then with god-like powers they quickly proclaim that it was obviously added by ignorant man, that it's not part of God's word.
This is typical, Christians are highly offended by sex, a quite natural and necessary activity that most people happily indulge in, but they take no offence at all of all the accounts of murder, slaughter and genocide committed in the Bible, both by God and his chosen people. They condemn something that is legal and natural and promote something that is illegal and immoral. And they even promote it to children, everything from God's glorious worldwide genocide of innocent men, women and children in the flood of Noah to the contrived torture and murder of Jesus on the cross by his own father. And this Christian hypocrisy and immorality plays out nightly on TV and in movies, where our screens are flooded with highly graphic scenes of people being murdered and tortured, often in slow motion. And it's not just a single grisly murder, and the numerous replays per episode, that we're asked to watch before the police solve the case, we are forced to sit through epic battles where hundreds and even thousands of people are killed with everything from swords and arrows (think 'Lord of the Rings'), to assault rifles and grenade launchers. And then we have horror movies with the sole purpose of terrifying the viewer and showing as many innocent people getting killed in as horrible a manner as possible. And we're not expected to lose a minute's sleep over this violence and massive lose of life. People get killed every day, violence is it's an unfortunate part of real life, so why shouldn't we portray reality in our movies? Of course the scenes are fake, but the realism today is so high that we might as well be witnessing the real thing. Just how many people might your typical person, including children, have seen being killed on the big screen over the years? Hundreds killed up close no doubt, and thousands killed in large battle scenes, and thousands more in scenes of natural disasters such as earthquakes. How desensitised have we become to violent death? Last night on the TV News we were shown a real dead body lying under the wheel of a bus, a victim of the Islamist terror attack in London. They felt they had to show it to us, and that we wouldn't be unduly upset. But if there had been a nude beach in the background, without doubt all the naughty bits would have been pixelated out so as not to shock and offend our sensibilities. Not only is the portrayal of sex utterly banned from our screens, even non-sexual, innocent nudity is banned, eg a nude beach. We can be shown a woman being beaten to a bleeding pulp in her bathroom and then dragged screaming to the bedroom where she is shot in the head in front of her children, spraying blood and brain matter all over the wall, but we can't be shown a scene without a murderer, one where that same woman is walking naked from the bathroom to the bedroom, unless it's from behind and in a very low light. Call us weird, but we'd much prefer to see a loving couple have graphic sex on TV than a murderous couple graphically stab and shoot each other, we'd much prefer to see full frontal nudity than full fontal disembowelment, and if something must be censored, we'd much prefer to see deluded people praying to their God pixelated out than genitals. But our 'make love not war' view isn't shared by Christians, Muslims or Jews, they're enamoured by violence and disgusted by nudity and sex. Rather than be shocked that some talk of ordinary, innocent sex slipped into the Bible, that 'disgusted Christian' should be questioning why so much barbaric violence found its way into the Bible, and went on to become the guiding light of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
As for this nonsense about fulfilled Bible prophecy, you'd have to be living in bubble with the IQ of a burnt piece of toast to believe that the Bible has made a single correct prophecy, and ignore all the untold failed prophecies. Saying that there will be earthquakes and wars and famine in the future is not prophecy, it's simply common sense. And as we've said before, even the prophecies that Jesus made were false:
'And he said to them, "I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power."' (MK 9:1)
That's Jesus telling his disciples that he would return before all of them died, that some of them would witness the Second Coming. Yet they all died without even so much as a phone call from Jesus saying he was running late. If you're not convinced that the early Christians thought the Second Coming was imminent, here's another quote from Jesus:
"Behold, I am coming soon!"... Then he told me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near... "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done... "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches... He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." (REV 22:7-20)
Not only are those prophecies false, we're still waiting. If someone owned you money and promised that you would receive a cheque in the mail 'soon', and 2,000 years later your descendants were still waiting by the mailbox, wouldn't it be time to admit you've been conned? You'd get a better feel for the future reading 'Harry Potter' than you would the Bible. And to claim that there's no 'archaeological evidence to disprove what is recorded in the bible', only shows that these morons haven't read anything besides the Bible. There's plenty of evidence that human civilisations were being built when according to the Bible God hadn't even applied for planning consent for his new universe.
As for the claim that, 'In the past the bible contradicted the current "scientific theories" only to be proven true later', and the example given that, 'God sits on the circle of the earth. This was long before scientists claimed the earth was flat', I'm assuming they're relaying the Christian argument that God clearly said in the Bible that the Earth was a sphere, and yet men came to think it was flat, and then much later we finally realised that the Bible was right all along, it is a sphere. This is of course a false argument that sees Christians trying to claim a Biblical view that never existed in order to align themselves with science. Annoying science which keeps debunking their claims but which can't be ignored.
To start with, scientists have never claimed the earth was flat. The ancient Greeks knew that it was a sphere, they even measured the radius quite accurately. People claim that sailors like Columbus and contemporaries were afraid that they would fall off the edge of the world, but this is nonsense. Learned people knew the Earth was a sphere, only ignorant peasants, and those that wrote the Bible, ie ignorant peasants, thought the world was flat. If we look at the Bible verse mentioned, it doesn't actually say the Earth was a sphere, which is what Christians are falsely trying to imply:
'He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.' ISA 40:22
A circle is two-dimensional, it is not a sphere, which is three-dimensional. They imagined the Earth as being flat, like a dinner plate, and God is looking down from above so he sees the shape of circle. But like the plate, while it has a little thickness, it's still essentially flat. And if you imagine a flat Earth, what shape would it be boundary wise? The Bible is simply saying that the flat Earth is in the shape of a circle rather than a square or pentagon. Furthermore, their metaphors of a canopy and a tent also suggest a flat surface. You can erect a tent or a canopy on flat ground, but not on a big soccer ball. If they knew the Earth was a sphere then they would have used a metaphor that suggested completely wrapping or enclosing a ball-shaped object. Other Biblical verses that shows they firmly believed the Earth was flat are the following:
"Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor." (MT 4:8)
No matter how high the mountain is, you can never view the Earth's entire surface (not even from space), never see 'all the kingdoms'. This sentence only makes sense if the writers of the Bible thought the world was flat, which of course they did. And some more problematic verses:
"He shakes the earth from its place and makes its pillars tremble." (JOB 9:6)
Again their language reveals their ignorance. They're only familiar with flat constructions, imagining that the flat ground must have a foundation and pillars beneath it to hold it firm. When they asked, 'Who stretched a measuring line across it?', that is what you say of a flat floor, not a sphere, where you'd ask who stretched a measuring line around it, not across it. And they talk of cornerstones, and it's impossible for a sphere (or a circle) to have corners. But not for a flat Earth, a flat Earth that might be square or rectangular, which of course conflicts with the 'circle' shape made above. And do we need mention that stars don't sing together in some sort of choir? And remember that these are direct quotes from God. A related bogus claim in the Bible is this one:
"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?" (JOB 38:4-7)
"When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm." (PS 75:3)
"Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved." (1CH 16:30)
Seriously, the Earth is firmly established and can't be moved? But we thought it rotated once a day, and orbited the Sun, which in turn orbits the galactic centre, which in turn is moving? Not only is the Earth moving, it's moving very, very fast. Of course it's bullshit like that that made Christians argue that the Earth was the centre of not just the solar system, but the entire universe. And like all their other "scientific" claims, they got it badly wrong.
The reality is that there is nothing mentioned in the Bible that is actually true that other civilisations hadn't already discovered long before the Jews did. There is nothing mentioned that people couldn't and didn't figure out for themselves without the help of some god. Of course the factual parts of the Bible are trivial and few and far between — Yes, ancient Egypt was real, but the Hebrew Exodus from it wasn't — but the truthful bits are absolutely swamped by the silly bullshit, as they are in the holy texts of every ancient, primitive, ignorant, superstitious religion. But there is a lot of bullshit to work with, expressed in many varying English translations, and so desperate Christians troll through it in their ridiculous and futile attempts to argue that these ignorant Bronze Age goat hearders might really have been revealing God-delivered details about quantum mechanics, cosmology and genetics. Or that when the Bible talks of how 'she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses', that they were actually predicting the coming of Internet porn sites thousands of years later. Yeah right, we'll swallow that.
Comment by Patrick, 26 Mar, 2017
Hi John. Some years ago I bought a property and built a rather big house on it. In order to do so, I had to take a loan from the bank. As I had to refund the financial institution afterwards, I decided to take a tenant. I was lucky to rent the house to a reliable business company that paid the monthly rents without any difficulties.
Then after about four years I received a phone call from someone (let's call him Laurence) working for this company. He introduced himself to me, stated his position (senior staff ). He was not very direct and I did not understand what he wanted to explain at first, but then I understood that some staff members refused to work overtime because there was some strange noise on the property at dusk time, I explained that during the construction I never received any complaints from the people who were building the house, nor from the watchman who came at night. He also talked to me about some crushed gravel that was surrounded by grass that was present on the left side of the house. I explained to him that there was a septic tank underneath and that we decided to put crushed gravel on it as a decoration. I did not realize that some people would think that this decoration was a tomb.
Finally, he asked me that me to give him the contact details of the person who sold the property to me. I told him that it was not possible and he said that it was okay. A few months later they decided to leave the house. One of their neighbors afterwards told me that they also went to see him to discuss about the presence of a ghost. This happened three years ago and I have since then had a new tenant (also a business company) who has been happily renting the house without any ghost and never confused a septic tank decoration with a tomb.
With hindsight, I am more angry with Laurence than with the junior staff. You don't have to be a genius to figure out that the junior staff for whatever reason didn't want to do overtime and that all this supernatural silliness was just a pretext, a ploy. But Laurence, who must surely have studied at a university, took all this seriously and even phoned the landlord (me), went to see the neighbor and wanted to talk to the previous property owner.
This true story is just a trivial news item, but it shows that on our planet some people use supernatural elements to achieve their personal goals, and that some people, even intelligent and cultured ones, fall into the trap.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 Mar, 2017
Thanks for that Patrick. Like you we find it quite astounding that in the 21st century so many people still think this supernatural nonsense is real. We're not talking about natives in the Amazon jungle, these are people that have all had the benefit of a modern education, and yet they are still so easily fooled. In NZ, the 5th season of the reality TV show 'Sensing Murder' is currently screening. In it psychic mediums claim to talk to the dead spirits of victims of real unsolved murders. Episode after episode and season after season they continually and reliably fail to ever solve a single murder, and yet the show has a popular following with its deluded supporters gushing about how amazing the psychics are. It's almost as if they live in an alternative reality where the psychics actually do solve murders, rather than the real one where they fail miserably. Clearly there is a mental threshold for some humans, and when society and knowledge advanced beyond what was understood in primitive and superstitious medieval times, they had clearly already reached their limit of comprehension. To them, everything from smartphones to strange noises in the night have the same explanation — there are invisible, spooky forces at work. Maybe in the distant future when genetic boosts in IQ are possible, we can drag them into the modern world, but until then we just have do our best to limit their impact and the damage they do, the same way we toilet train a pet.
Comment by Rene, 27 Mar, 2017
(a forwarded message, but cool concept to snap minds!)
"I was told a theory from an atheist who was a former christian that believes that God will only save Atheists or people who DON'T believe in him, because he believes that those who do good just to suck up or out of fear of Hell are missing the point, and God's not stupid enough to be fooled by their motives. An Atheist on the other hand has nothing at stake and simply chooses to do good.
And to prove the point, he quotes Jesus himself: "You see and you believe. Blessed are those who do not see and yet still believe". Christians take this to be a statement of faith ... HE takes this to mean that God wants people to do good even when they don't know about him nor any rewards, and in fact may prefer it that way, hence why he never appears nor performs any miracles.
He believes God's standing back obscure, seeing how people behave and how they respond to his absence, and acts accordingly, making his absence in the world a DELIBERATE act. (ironic position from an atheist I agree, but still an interesting theory...)"
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 Mar, 2017
Yes, we've heard that argument before, but of course it fails miserably. For one, it's impossible for a committed atheist to argue that a god that doesn't exist might save him for any reason. This faulty argument seems to always come from people who call themselves atheists but who clearly still aren't convinced that God might not be real. It's utter nonsense for an atheist to argue that we don't see God performing miracles because he's testing our motives. The thought of wishy-washy atheists thinking that God will be pleased with how they're living their lives is just pathetic.
While it's certainly true that most Christians are sucking up to God and behaving simply on the hope of getting into Heaven, the Bible clearly shows that these are exactly the sort of obsequious people God wants. He desperately wants mindless followers that will sing his praises for all eternity, not atheists that tell him that we're busy doing fun things and to take a hike. So based on the Bible, which is the only information we have about God's wishes, there is no evidence whatsoever that God would send atheists anywhere but Hell, no matter how good we are and how pure our motives are.
As for reinterpreting that statement of faith from Jesus, clearly our ex-Christian atheist is talking bullshit. When will Christians, and ex-Christians, learn that you can't twist Biblical verses to suit some new agenda? Either the Bible means what it says, or it doesn't. If it's lying in just a single claim then it could be lying with every single claim. If you can argue that Jesus and God were not very good, pathetic in fact, at explaining what they meant, then every claim becomes suspect. If Jesus meant something quite different when he said, 'Blessed are those who do not see and yet still believe', that it had nothing to do with believing in God but simply in doing good deeds, then perhaps when Jesus said, 'Love your enemies', what he really meant was that you shouldn't go fishing after dark. Once you believe you can start making up your own interpretations of what the Bible clearly says, then it becomes even more of a joke than it already is.
Jesus said, 'Blessed are those who do not see and yet still believe', so if Jesus isn't a bald-faced liar, then clearly being blessed, being saved and going to heaven, all hinge on believing in him and in God. Let's also remember that in the Bible Jesus says that, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'. JN 14:6 So again, quite clearly, if you don't believe in Jesus then you won't be getting saved. Only a deluded person could read the Bible and argue that atheists could be saved by doing good and not believing.
It seems to be irrational fear that motivates these silly arguments, people clearly see that talk of gods is silly, and yet they still want to go to heaven and live forever. They want the carefree atheist lifestyle and yet they still want the 72 virgins when they die of old age.
Comment by Ben, 20 Apr, 2017
"Can science prove the existence of God?"
You may find this article of interest. I am not sending it because it proves anything but because of its rational argument; in fact it is probably a cogent argument against the existence of God.
There are two small quotes I think worth commenting on.
"I am very open about not being a man of faith myself, but of having tremendous respect for those who are believers."
Unlike you the writer does not exhibit the same arrogance and contempt of those like you who dismiss those who happen to have faith as crackpots, lunatics, nutters, etc.
My second point is:
"May your faith, if you have one, only serve to enhance and enrich you, not take the wonder of science away!"
I do have a faith but as the writer suggest I like to think this enhances and enriches me and it certainly does not for me take away the wonder of science.
I enjoy reading a rational and well reasoned argument even though I may disagree. I detest the arguments of those who dismiss anything that does not fit with their own thinking and who just enjoy belittling others for their beliefs.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 20 Apr, 2017
Yes Ben, it is an interesting article, the conclusions of which we generally agree with, that it's very likely that life is common elsewhere in the universe, but that truly intelligent life may be quite rare. We disagree with the view of many that just because the universe is huge with billions of planets, then advanced aliens could likely be visiting Earth any day now, if they're not already here. There is a huge difference between life and intelligent life, and big numbers don't guarantee the evolution of self aware intelligence. If we look at the only example we have — life on Earth — and point out that roughly 500 million different species have evolved over some 4 billion years (some 98% of which have since gone extinct), only one species out of half a billion evolved an intelligence sufficient to contemplate their own existence. Alien microbes and even alien sheep may well exist, but we don't think the universe is teeming with advanced space-faring aliens, Ó la the 'Stars Wars' movies.
Not surprisingly perhaps, the first statement that you want to comment on also caught our attention, but unlike you we thought this was the one case where he shifted from reason to nonsense. This is where he says he has 'tremendous respect for those who are believers'. Frankly this just sounds like a timid atheist trying to placate religious believers, we can't believe he really feels that way.
We can't ask him if he truly has tremendous respect for religious believers, but we can ask you Ben. As a Christian, do you have tremendous respect for believers that follow other religions? Do you respect the Muslim terrorists who slaughter the innocent with their car bombs? Did you respect Mother Teresa when she withheld medicine from the dying in her hospitals, arguing that their suffering brought them closer to God? Do you respect the priests who rape children and the bishops who then hide them from secular justice? Do you respect the evangelists who withhold condoms from Africans at risk of HIV? Do you respect the Christians who persecute homosexuals in their community, and sometimes even in their own family? Do you respect the fundamentalists who fight to have creationism taught in science classes? Do you respect the believers who welcome the threat of climate change, pollution and nuclear war because they'll all bring us closer to the apocalypse and Judgement Day? Do you respect believers who make animals suffer because their holy book takes no account of pain? We could go on and on giving examples of things believers do world wide, inhumane, horrible and despicable things, and we hope that you'd withhold your respect to those believers that commit them.
You praise the author for not exhibiting the same arrogance and contempt towards believers that you claim we do, and you imply that your outlook is the same, so that must mean that both of you must have tremendous respect for Muslim terrorists, to pick just one example, since they are of course believers, very serious believers.
We'd hope that you now realise how specious that argument is. Of course you'll no doubt complain that he didn't mean, you didn't mean, that you have tremendous respect for believers that do horrible things. You only respect believers that think and behave as you do. And if that's the case, it makes the statement a farce, it expresses a sentiment that's quite deceptive. Tremendous respect for believers means ALL believers, not just those you like.
We respect that everyone has the right to freely hold different beliefs, as long as those beliefs don't cause harm to others, but we don't have to respect those beliefs, or those that hold them. We respect people that honestly use reason and evidence to form their beliefs, we respect the method used, even though we may disagree with the conclusion reached. But we don't just blindly respect believers, because quite clearly that includes everyone, from the Dalai Lama to the fanatical members of Islamic State.
You say that we, 'dismiss those who happen to have faith as crackpots, lunatics, nutters, etc.' That's only partially correct. What we're really dismissing is your faith, your religious belief, and lamenting your inability to see how flawed it is, which is strange since you can all readily see how flawed and silly competing religious beliefs are. Many religious people are very intelligent and well educated, it's only when it comes to considering talking snakes and angels and men rising from the dead to walk the Earth as zombies, that their cognitive skills fail them. If a child went into adulthood believing against all the evidence that an unseen, powerful, supernatural being was watching over him, and following judgement would reward or punish him depending on his behaviour, and that being was called Santa Claus, then society would label him with some of your words: crackpot, lunatic, nutter. Yet if we change the name of that unseen being to God, and even though this belief is still against all the evidence, people like you say we should respect this type of believer. Why, just because lots of people have always believed in unseen gods? As Anatole France said, 'If 50 million people believe a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing'.
As for your second point, where the author said, 'May your faith, if you have one, only serve to enhance and enrich you, not take the wonder of science away!', we fully encourage this notion. He implores believers, 'don't let your faith, whatever it may be, close you off to the joys and wonders of the natural world. The joys of knowing — of figuring out the answers to questions for ourselves — is one that none of us should be cheated out of'. He's telling believers not to let their religion hide the truth of reality from them, not to settle for a comforting fairy tale, something he calls 'the illusion of knowledge', and argues that, 'To allow an uncertain faith to stand in as an answer where scientific knowledge is required does us all a disservice'. If you want answers, if you at least want a chance of discovering the truth, then look to science, not to 'an uncertain faith' that has consistently got its explanations of how the universe works wrong. Demonstrably wrong. We don't dismiss religion simply because it competes with science and our worldview, we dismiss it because its claims conflict with reason and evidence. Even the byword for religion — faith — exposes how shaky its foundation is: 'A belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence, and may exist even contrary to the evidence'.
And returning to the topic of the article, how does the search for extraterrestrial life impact on belief in God as the creator of the universe? If life is found elsewhere, especially advanced intelligent life, then clearly Earth and humans are not God's unique creation, which would just be another nail in the coffin for Christianity, Judaism, Islam etc. However, if no life is found, and it appears that the universe and life truly is so astronomically improbable as to need a god to have created it, then that scenario doesn't aid Christianity either. Let's recall that the universe started out as something very, very simple, maybe a quantum fluctuation that saw some energy turning into a very hot, dense plasma, and that for hundreds of millions of years there was basically nothing but hydrogen and helium gas. Humans are complex, but we are very recent additions to the universe, and the religious argument is not just that humans needed a creator, but the universe, the very simple universe, did too. Even our simple universe couldn't arise naturally, or so the religious argument goes, but this is where the argument goes awry. Which is more complex, a very simple, very small universe of hydrogen gas or an all-powerful, all-knowing God? Clearly this god is mind-numbingly more complex than our little ball of gas, but if this simple ball of gas is still too complicated to have arisen naturally, it needed a creator, then there is no question whatsoever that God, being far more complex, must also have needed a creator. And by the same logic, the creator of God must also require a creator, ad infinitum. The reality is that no matter how widely improbable the universe and life is, it is still far, far more likely that it arose naturally than that an all-powerful, all-knowing god that has existed for ever just happened to feel like some human company. And even then, after creating the universe, he was prepared to wait nearly 14 billion years for us to turn up. And now that we are here, the bastard hides from us.
Comment by Rene, 09 May, 2017
4 Creepy Visions of Hell From Real Near Death Experiences
still probably hallucinatory, but interesting to see that not EVERYONE sees Jesus and the bright light.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 09 May, 2017
Hi Rene. You're quite right that not everyone sees Jesus on experiencing a NDE. It's long been known, except by your typical Christian, that Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and even atheists have had NDEs, and yet strangely only Christians come away thinking that they've met Jesus. But that said, they all read like total, delusional bullshit to me. There is no good reason to even suspect that these accounts even happened, but if they did, they read just like someone describing a dream or nightmare, where all manner of irrational things happen, but we carry on as if it's all normal. Then when we wake up we invent ridiculous scenarios to try and explain the nonsense we just dreamt.
Comment by Patrick, 21 May, 2017
Hi John. I was asking myself why bookmakers never offer bets on religious stuff. By religious stuff I mean things like the return of Jesus (Will Jesus return in 2018?) another apparition of the virgin Mary in Fatima ,and so on.
Now let's consider this. Bookmaking laws vary considerably among countries. In some countries it's completely illegal, in other countries it's legal but there are some restrictions and in others it's "all the way" ... You can bet on everything except bad taste topics (Will Prince Philip live until next year?) and dead certainties. That's for legal bookies. But you also have Illegal bookies and these blokes don't give a damn about good or bad taste and will probably accept bets on anything except certainties.
So why won't they organize betting about religious stuff ? Did I mention certainties?
There's lots of religious people out there, but none of them (and most of them love money) will bet that Jesus will return next year, that Virgin Mary will make another apparition next year and so on. Money is often revealing about the true nature of people.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 May, 2017
That's an interesting observation Patrick, one we'd never considered. We don't know much about bookies and the sorts of bets they offer, but it is apparently true that some wacky ones have been offered. We heard of one offering a payout if Elvis is found alive, if aliens turn up, and an even larger payout if someone could show that they had been abducted by aliens. And of course some people would bet on how long it takes paint to dry if they thought they could make money out of it.
The truly religious will at least claim that they are utterly certain about all their religious beliefs, some asserting that the end is nigh and Jesus will return any day now, certainly before the decade is out. Can it be that those predicting an imminent apocalypse and second coming eschew money? Of course they could argue that if they're right then the extra money would be worthless to them, since they'll have been taken up in the Rapture and would be lounging around a pool in heaven, where they don't accept Earthly currency.
But until the Rapture arrives, there are plenty of other religious bets that the religious could make to ensure their final years on Earth are a little more comfortable. Like your example of where and when the Virgin Mary will make her next appearance, or where the next miracle will occur, or God turning up to testify as a character witness for a priest in his child abuse trial. Many religious folk absolutely adore money and the lifestyle it can buy, just look at the pope and all those millionaire evangelists running huge churches and TV shows begging for donations. Combining their greed with their certainty in their beliefs and their claimed hotline to God (many claim God talks to them and tells them what's going to happen), it is surprising that more don't gamble on what they supposedly know is going to happen.
Unless of course they're all hypocrites, and they secretly know that it's all bullshit, that they don't really know what's going to happen and God doesn't actually talk to them? We've met many outwardly confident believers that claimed to have knowledge of God's plans and were on speaking terms with him; but without exception, when pressed to provide some details that would confirm their silly claims, they all either refused to explain further or just made fools of themselves by spouting nonsense. Our conclusion is that beyond the confident charade, most religious believers are drowning in doubt, and know all too well that they have no idea when, or even if, any of the claims they make are ever going to happen. They know that if betting were offered on when and where various supernatural events might occur, they would be simply guessing, and that people that just guess tend to lose money.
That's not to say that there aren't religious believers that are willing to bet on their convictions, because there are, but they're out to win a free pass into heaven, not money. There are people that believe so strongly that they're prepared to die for their beliefs. Think of the Islamists, the Muslim terrorists that martyr themselves by killing not just themselves, but also many innocent bystanders. There have been many Christian groups that have committed suicide confident in the "fact" that they were going to meet God, eg Jonestown. And many individual suicides are no doubt aided by the personal belief that they were going to heaven, going to a better place, as those that grieve for them often say. There have also been numerous religious groups that predicted the imminent end of the world and gave away all their worldly possessions since they would have no further use for them. They were wrong of course, the world didn't end and they didn't die and find themselves in paradise. So if bookmakers offered bets on the chance of supernatural events happening, there are true believers out there that are deluded enough to place a bet, it's just that they're also the sort that have no interest in betting, since they know that the end is nigh, at least for them, and money is worthless when you're dead.
To a lesser extend, the rabbis, priests, nuns, imams and holy men and women of all the various religions are standing by their religious convictions, betting that they're right if you will, to a greater degree than the man and women on the street, since they're all throwing away a normal, happy life in the obsequious service of their imaginary god. But just like the religious person on the street, priests and rabbis etc wouldn't be prepared to bet whatever money they have, let alone their life, on their religious beliefs. They know as well as we atheists do, that historically whenever someone has made a religious prediction that can be checked and verified, they have been wrong. No matter how confident they may be that Jesus will return soon or that some miracle will occur, they know that the odds of it happening are truly astronomical, and only a fool would make that bet. And while religious folk are certainly foolish, they're not complete fools. If religious betting was offered, we suspect that the religious punter would quickly realise it wasn't a sensible way to try and make money. The believer would probably argue that their reluctance to gamble on the return of Jesus was due to some passage in the Bible. Of course it doesn't seem to stop the religious gambling on all manner of other things, events that they apparently have more confidence in.
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