Proving Santa

There’s a quote you may have heard that goes something like this: “If you understand why you reject all the other gods, you’ll understand why I reject your God.” It sounds good, but there’s a problem. As soon as you say that to an actual believer, they are likely to inform you that they reject all the other gods because the Real God™ told them the others were false. What was not derived by reason and evidence cannot be refuted by reason and evidence.

With that in mind, I’d like to propose a new game that might have a better chance of achieving the same goal. It’s called “Proving Santa,” and I think it has a better shot at giving believers a chance to experience what it’s really like to be a skeptic in a religious debate.

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Four Spiritual Laws for Imaginary Gods

If you’ve got an idea in your head, and you want to know what’s wrong with it, write it down and publish it—you’ll immediately see all kinds of things wrong with it, and your audience will kindly help you too. (Seriously, they will, and you should listen.)

I’m not satisfied with my “Three Laws of Imaginary Gods.” For one thing, I’ve taken what is basically a single principle and stated it in two separate laws, and I’ve made repeated use of another principle that doesn’t even have its own law, even though it appears in the others. And if that’s not enough, I’ve thought of another law or two which really deserves their own entries. So with that in mind, and with a hat tip to Campus Crusade for Christ (or “Crude,” or “Grue,” or whatever they’re calling themselves these days), I’d like to introduce the Four Spiritual Laws of Imaginary Gods.

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The Three Laws of Imaginary Gods

This has been rattling around in my head for a while, so I thought I’d write it down. It’s the Three Laws of Imaginary Gods. I’ll put the laws below the fold, but what’s interesting about them is that all gods obey them. You can believe that one or more of these gods might be real, and you can imagine all sorts of perfectly logical reasons why they might want to obey the Three Laws voluntarily, but the fact remains that you will never see any of these gods disobey any of these laws. And that’s interesting, don’t you think?

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“Politics without God, heaven without hell”

Here’s an interesting meme floating around Facebook right now. It’s a quote from 1902 by William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army.

The chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.

The accompanying comments say “It’s a sobering word with warning still relevant for today” and “Was he accurate or what?”

Yeah, if it’s one thing the world saw in the 1900’s, it was politics without God and heaven without hell. Ironically, this was posted by “Church of God,” and while I’m not sure which Church of God, there’s a major Pentecostal denomination by that name. That’s “Pentecostal” as in the “Spirit-filled” Pentecostal revival that began about two decades after Booth warned about the rise of “religion without the Holy Ghost.” And Christianity without Christ? Really?

He did get one thing right. There is no salvation without regeneration. Of course, there’s no salvation with regeneration either, since regeneration is as big a myth as the hell we’re supposed to be saved from and the savior who’s supposed to do it. But oh well.

As you sow…

I have to confess feeling a certain amount of schadenfreude right now. For years I’ve been watching conservatives pushing themselves into an escalating cycle of dickishness, promoting tribalism, bravado, self-serving hypocrisy, self-righteous bigotry, and disregard (if not outright contempt) for the objective facts. This downwards political spiral was one of the things that led me to stop being so conservative myself: I felt shamed and betrayed by the political philosophy I was raised in, and I left it.

So I’m taking a certain amount of satisfaction right now in seeing Donald Trump running for president as a conservative. As others have pointed out, he has not been a particularly conservative person as far as his past attitudes and behaviors are concerned. But in many ways, he’s the epitome of everything the Republicans have worked so hard to make themselves into. He may not be the hero the GOP wants, but he’s the hero they deserve.

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The true shame of the Confederacy

I happened to flip on the local Christian talk radio briefly during my commute home last night, and heard an interesting conversation. They were talking about South Carolina taking down the Confederate flag from the state capitol, and how goose-bumpy they felt to see history in the making. And then one of the 2 co-hosts made a statement that really caught my attention. It was rush hour, so I didn’t have the opportunity to write it down, but as best I can recall, she said something like this.

“And of course the real shame of the Confederacy was that they used the Bible to justify slavery. God is not mocked.”

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Which definition?

Republicans are making a lot of noise right now, accusing the Supreme Court of “changing the definition of marriage.” (They’ve done focus groups and market research and found out that this meme is the one that has the most positive response from potential donors.) But in fact, the Supreme Court has not changed the definition of marriage at all, and here’s how you can prove it.

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Congratulations to everyone whose years of struggle and suffering finally led to yesterday’s Supreme Court decision upholding marriage equality. Your hard work and dedication have made America a better place for everyone here. Thanks.

And by the way, I just checked with my wife, and it seems our marriage is still alive and well, despite being “redefined” by the Court. Maybe that’s because our definition of marriage wasn’t based on oppressing others, but only on mutual love, commitment, and support. To anyone who finds that their marriage has been changed by yesterday’s ruling, may I suggest that perhaps you’ve been working under a defective definition all along.

Free markets

The term “free market” is misleading. It sounds like good old American liberty, but what it really means is a market without any rules, regulations, or consumer protections. It’s like a highway system with no speed limits, no lane markings, and no laws against running over pedestrians and bicyclists. Hey, it’s a free highway: if you got run over, it’s your own fault for being in the wrong place.

“Free,” in this context, means the biggest, most heavily-armored vehicles can drive however they like without regard for how much damage they do to everyone else. Kind of like how the too-big-to-fail banks caused a catastrophic economic crisis under George W. Bush, and were “punished” by having to haul away billions of taxpayer dollars in bailout money. But it’s not a perfect analogy. For the free highway to be more like the free market, the really big road monsters would have to get free armor and fuel at taxpayer expense, so they could continue to dominate the highways (and any territory in between the highways, if it happened to be a convenient shortcut).

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