Oh, the Irony

I had to chuckle when I read about the recent study that investigated the alleged link between homosexuality and pedophile priests, only to find no connection. The Catholic Church has been blaming gays, pop culture, and even the victims for their problems. Now, it seems they have one less group to blame. (Don’t hold your breath on them stepping up to the responsibility plate, though.)

What made this study even more delicious is that the Catholic Church funded it. It reminds me of the 2006 intercessory prayer study that the Templeton Foundation funded that showed that nothing fails like prayer. I’m willing to bet that in both cases, the funding agency thought for sure that their world view would be vindicated. Both groups each had millions of dollars riding on the bet.

Reality bites, sometimes.

I think these are both excellent uses of religious funds.

The Greatest Sin

On last Sunday’s Atheist Experience, Matt and I were talking about “end times” theology as an example of one of the negative impacts of the Bible. I have had a difficult time putting into words my feelings on the subject. I’ve been trying to capture the deliciously sadistic glee that Christians must fantasize about when they think about being swept up to Heaven prior to watching the destruction of the rest of humanity–especially of those who were not as wise as they were to believe in Jesus.

One can be sure there is no empathy in Heaven. That would involve some amount of personal discomfort that a human being would feel when observing the pain of another. Instead, the believer will be in complete bliss while watching the spectacle unfold (as well as those being tortured in Hell).

The happiness of the elect will consist in part of witnessing the torments of the damned in hell, among whom may be their own children, parents, husbands, wives and friends; … but instead of taking the part of their miserable being, they will say ‘Amen!’, ‘Hallelujah!’, ‘Praise the Lord!’.” (Rev. Nathaniel Emmons / 1745-1840)

Twentieth-century apologist C. S. Lewis likened the experience of Heaven to “transsex.” He made the analogy of an adult understanding the pleasures of heaven as like explaining the pleasures of sex to a child. The greatest pleasure the child knows is his love for chocolate, but he simply can’t imagine the pleasure of sex. By analogy, if sex is the greatest pleasure an adult knows, heaven would have something so great as to make sex seem like the passing taste of a chocolate bar. Surely, C. S. Lewis’s concept of heaven would make the would-be Muslim suicide bomber yearning for his 72 regenerating virgins seem rather quaint. (See Atheist Experience episode #413 for more.)

So imagine watching the destruction of all humanity while having a “transsex” orgy simultaneously with all the dead people who ever believed in Jesus. Even without the sex angle, the thought of this being a person’s ultimate desire takes sociopathology to the extreme.

I’ve been at a serious loss for words to describe how I feel about this. I had previously use the term “Christian snuff porn” to describe my disgust, but on Sunday’s show, I likened this rapturous desire to jacking off at a car wreck.

I expect there will be some fallout for that comment. I find it interesting that one of our producers decided to censor the comment on the version of the show that is to air here in Austin. (I do admit that I didn’t take the opportunity to explain why I made it and it may have seemed out of place.) This two second silence got me thinking though: What does it say about our society that we are so shocked by an admittedly twisted sexual analogy, but that millions of Americans yearning for complete human destruction fails to even raise an eyebrow? Why do we give tax breaks to “charities” that promote these ideas, while the atheists who point out the treason to humanity are the least trusted group in the United States? Why is everyone so concerned about Ted Haggard’s sexual proclivities, but the fact that he may have had a hand in influencing Bush to go to war in the Middle East is not newsworthy? Haggard, who was then head of the National Evangelical Association, was meeting with the White House weekly on Bible Prophecies related to the end times. Bush apparently was concerned enough about Gog and Magog to try to get then France’s Prime Minister Chirac involved. Why is this not shocking to everyone? Why aren’t we locking Bush and all of his fellow sociopaths up in padded cell? Keep them where they can’t hurt themselves or anyone else.

I suspect we’re all still too influenced by this sick little religion of Christianity, its torture device logo, glorification of suffering, and its wide path of inhuman destruction. I make no apologies for my comment, however. It’s time our silence stops.

The Bible’s greatest hits: Genesis edition

The Atheist Experience episode #606 will be about the Bible’s impact on our culture, focusing on the book of Genesis. Dust off that Bible and follow along. We’ll talk about

  • how just-so stories have been used to blame and repress minority groups,
  • how the in-group uses the stories to align with power and justified thuggery,
  • how the breeding log of Genesis provides convenient hooks for derivative religions, and
  • how so many aspects of the goofy episodes in Genesis still remain with us while the really embarrassing ones are forgotten.

In future episodes, we’ll look at the greatest hits from some other parts of the Bible.

“Stop bashing my religion”

Fairly often, we get e-mails complaining about how we are only out to bash Christianity and will we please just stop. Usually, the author will have a glowing impression of their religion and its impact on the world and we are just misinformed.

We do beat up on Christianity. I know I do. I think it’s a good thing to make people aware of the harm that misplaced faith can cause, both in the abstract and the concrete. Christianity provides many examples. The fact that most Christians are unaware of the harm that their religion is cause is compounds the problem. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s not a valid excuse.

Most of the problems we point out about Christianity apply to other religions, as well. But perhaps I am being somehow unfair to Christianity. I try to be open to criticism myself so that I’m not perceived as a hypocrite and so I’m not closed to opportunities to learn and grow.

My first response is usually, “Can you give me an example where I/we have unfairly criticized your religion?” This usually gets me no response. The only conclusion I can draw is that they are making a lame attempt to silence the critics of their cherished belief system. If you can’t provide evidence for a claim, then why should anyone take the claim seriously?

One thing I’m “guilty” of is pointing at a subgroup of Christianity such as the religious right, the fundamentalists, or the evangelicals, and implying that these groups represent the whole. Under most circumstances, this sort of generalization would be inappropriate. I do feel it is appropriate for Christianity. Christians claim that their god is the author of the one true absolute morality. They claim that their god is omniscient and created all of humanity, including Christians themselves. They claim to be able to talk with that god via prayer and that the god can guide those with faith. They claim that their god is the same as Jesus who they strive to emulated and follow. They claim that the “Holy Ghost” is the same as their god and that it dwells within believers. How is it then, that there is can be any Christian subgroup that is doing something embarrassing to Christianity? The simple answer is that one or more of these claims are false. I try to get the complainer to identify which of these assumptions is incorrect. I have yet to get a response.

Perhaps a believer can claim that they alone have the true religion™ and that everyone else is a poser. Such a claim would need to be justified, but it’s easy to demonstrate that most believers don’t think that way. Overall, Christians value tolerance of other religious beliefs, especially those of other Christian sects. This tolerance grew out of centuries of killing each-other in holy wars because none of the warring parties had any solid evidence for their beliefs. The lack of an objective reality underlying their belief systems explains the large number of competing sects of the various religions of the world.

Tolerance can be insidious, however. You often hear, “Thou shalt not judge…” especially when somebody is trying to soft peddle some heinous act to which they are a party. I view this attitude as an agreement among thugs. It means, “You don’t draw attention to how I’m screwing people over, and I won’t draw attention to how you’re screwing people over.” Practically speaking, it’s a free pass for the thugs to screw people over, which is exactly what Christianity does so well. “You don’t hold me accountable for my rape of children and I won’t hold you accountable for your obsession with trying to end the world via meddling in the Middle East.” “Let’s get together in the spirit of ecumenicism and trash the next guy.” Usually the next guy is a non-believer.

My attitude is that believers should be held responsible for the harm done based on those beliefs. We’re doing our part by pointing out the systematic problems caused by religious belief. Those who just complain about our message obviously want to evade that responsibility. Perhaps I should take heart that these people are motivated to somehow reduce their discomfort. With a little guidance, they might be encouraged to take responsibility for their religion or leave it. Either way is fine with me.

Ratzinger is a self-serving hypocrite and the press is too brow-beaten to tell the truth

In the May 12th Austin American Statesman, there is an article from the Los Angeles Times concerning the Pope’s visit to the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. (Unfortunately, I can’t find a link to the story that was printed.)

Ordinarily, I try very hard to ignore the ridiculous antics of the Pope and the Vatican. Maybe I secretly believe that if we don’t give them any attention, they’ll just crawl back under their rocks and leave the world alone. It’s not true, unfortunately. So many papers and TV stations seem to use any excuse at all to write some fawning piece on Ratzinger’s latest pontification or self-serving act of “reconciliation”.

What never fails to piss me off is that the news rarely covers the skeptical position on the issue. Supposedly, the “big controversy” of the Pope’s visit is how the Vatican is dealing with some idiot Bishop that denied the Holocaust. That’s just a minor side show compared to the issues the article failed to mention at all.

The article failed to mention that as a lad, Ratzinger was a member of the Hitler Youth. No redeeming tale of heroism or defiance of a great evil excuses his actions, just a lame half-assed apology to the effect that everybody joined up, therefore he should get a moral “passs”. When this issue is brought up in the news, it’s quickly pointed out that he defected from the Hitler Youth. They fail to mention that his defection only happened when the winds changed and Germany was facing collapse. Remember that Ratzinger is supposedly the world’s best Christian. Maybe he is.

It’s rarely mentioned how the Catholic church was embedded in German culture and that the Church never spoke up against the atrocities of the Holocaust. Yes, there were a few exceptions among individuals. The Church had a millennium plus history of persecution of Jews and I honestly believe that the church was happy to have some godly people take care of those evil Jesus killers. It was only later, after the failure of Nazi Germany that the Catholic church felt any embarrassment about what they had done. This whole bullshit propaganda phrase “Judeo-Christian” was coined to attempt to spin clean the blood on the hands of both Catholics and followers of Martin Luther, perhaps Hitler’s only rival for the title of anti-Semite extraordinaire. (Fun fact: Hitler thought that Martin Luther was so wonderful that he chose Martin Luther’s birthday to launch Kristallnacht. The Holocaust was an ecumenical undertaking.)

I don’t think I’ve ever seen it mentioned in the press that Hitler was a Catholic. He was never excommunicated by the Catholic church. God is on his side. Presumably, if you go to heaven, you’ll get to have lunch with the guy.

So when I read about Ratzinger visiting the Holocaust memorial and claiming that the event should “never be denied, belittled, or forgotten,” I get a little pissed off at the jaw-dropping show of self-serving hypocrisy. And the fact that most Americans are completely ignorant of the back story. Ignorance is bliss, as they say. The sad irony is that the few papers that would print this information would be beaten into submission by loyal Christian thugs who would claim persecution of their cherished religious beliefs (for printing facts about the real persectuion done because of those beliefs).

BIRTH CONTROL IS SINFUL!!!!

We had a caller on the March 22nd show who was hearing impaired and we attempted to interact with him via a TTY service. Unfortunately, we didn’t get very far with the caller as the interaction was so painful, but he did get out a rather strange phrase having to do with abortion. Matt and I didn’t get gist of the call, so we moved on.

Some of our sharper fans figured out what the caller was trying to say. He was quoting a rather amusing book title, “BIRTH CONTROL IS SINFUL IN THE CHRISTIAN MARRIAGES and also ROBBING GOD OF PRIESTHOOD CHILDREN!!”. It’s being sold on Amazon and it’s worth checking out if you’d like a chuckle. Especially check out the description (mostly capital letters), reviews of the book, and its price. If it weren’t so expensive, it might make a nice book for a devout family member.

So, thanks to our caller. The message finally got through.

Ray probably exists, I think…

Ray has asked for evidence that Darwin existed and, as expected, has decided to imitate his strawman view of atheists by declaring every piece of evidence unacceptable because we can’t be absolutely certain.

Here’s my response:

“Ray’s right, we can’t be absolutely certain that Darwin existed. We can’t be absolutely certain about any historical event.

But absolute certainty is a red herring, the only issue is one of reasonable certainty – that a claim has been verified as ‘most probably true’, to the best of our ability to do so. Some claims have more supporting evidence than others. Additionally, some claims require more evidence than others before they become ‘reasonable’.

The only answer anyone needed to give, and the only answer that is correct is this:

We have sufficient evidence to claim that Darwin most probably existed and that the events attributed to his life (the voyage on the Beagle, his writings, articles about him by contemporaries – favorable and unfavorable, his family line, etc) are most probably accurate.

The same is true for George Washington, though the “I cannot tell a lie” story is most likely false, and there may be other romanticized, mytho-heroic tales attributed to him which aren’t very accurate.

The same cannot be said for Paul Bunyan or King Arthur… or Jesus.

When we try to determine whether a particular historical figure existed, we have to collect the stories about them to define the personage we’re trying to verify. If the preponderance of evidence confirms a significant portion of those stories, it’s very probable that the individual existed.

If the stories are supported by nothing more than anecdotal evidence or hearsay, they’re unreliable. If they also include claims of supernatural/magical abilities, they’re better relegated to the “tall tales” bin.

Ray has mistakenly tried to represent the case for Jesus as being of a similar nature to the question of Darwin’s existence. They’re not remotely comparable – and if we find out tomorrow that Darwin never existed, that he was a fictitious invention, it doesn’t change a single thing about the science of evolution or the value of the discoveries attributed to him. The same isn’t true for Jesus.

Ray is comparing apples and motorcycles and making a childish appeal to absolute certainty where no such appeal is required or justified.”

Though that will come as no surprise to anyone.

Merry Christmas (to those celebrating it for any reason). Happy Holidays, or not, to those who celebrate something else, or nothing at all. :)

Ray’s idea of justice…

Ray wrote:

“…would you want Dahmer to go to Hell? Or are you quite happy (assuming that you are an atheist) for him simply to be dead.”

Since he’s censoring many of my responses, here it is:

I’m not Alex, but I’ll answer.

I’m satisfied that Dahmer was imprisoned for the remainder of his life and, unlike some of my liberal friends, I’d have been content to see him put to death by the state (a position that Dahmer is reported to have shared), though I generally oppose capital punishment on the grounds that the legal system isn’t structured in such a way that we can satisfactorily prevent unjust executions.

I also wouldn’t want to see him tortured, and certainly not forever. I don’t think that’s justice, it’s revenge. He was beaten to death by a fellow inmate and some might consider that justice, but that’s a very simplified view of justice that I don’t share.

Interestingly, Dahmer is reported to have repented and accepted Christ as his savior. I have no idea if this is true, and neither do you, but it does raise two points:

1. If it is true (and if your religion is true) then any decent Christian should oppose the death penalty and, instead, prefer to give convicts as much time to repent and avoid hell as possible.

2. If it is true (and if your religion is true) then Jeffrey Dahmer is in heaven, right now.

Do you think that’s just? Clearly not, as you just used him as an example of someone that you feel most people should want to see sent to Hell.

You also mentioned Hitler. Hitler was, according to his public and private statements a devout Catholic and whether or not you accept that, you must accept that you don’t know his ‘heart’ and aren’t his judge, and that it’s at least possible that he, too, could have been saved – even if only during his dying breath.

Your religious views have nothing to do with justice because they aren’t based on punishing the wicked and rewarding the virtuous. There is no system of merit associated with salvation by grace. To you, salvation is a matter of capriciousness. A death-bed conversion is more valuable to your God than a life spent as a good person.

So, your dichotomy is false on several grounds. As an atheist, I don’t have to simply be “quite happy” with the death of a murderer – I can be satisfied with a proper implementation of justice that denies the murderer liberty and, on occasion, life. Also, as an atheist, I never have to rationalize blood lust as justice or be dissatisfied that justice might be overturned by the whim of a divine dictator. I can, instead come to a proper understanding of justice that isn’t bound by bronze-age myths.

Ray’s threat of hell…

In today’s post at Ray Comfort’s blog,

Ray wrote:

“…but I don’t think that people should become Christians because of a fear of Hell. Rather, they should come to Christ out of a fear of the God that can cast them into Hell..”

I’ve submitted the following response and I don’t care if it gets posted there or not, it’s worth adapting for our blog as well.

Ray, you cited Luke 12:4-5 to justify your position that we should fear God. While I’d normally point out that this is still an absurd doctrine of fear that isn’t something I’d expect Christians to be proud of (and I will), you’ve attempted to avoid that response by claiming that there are two types of fear.

It’s curious that you quoted 1 John 4:17, yet you didn’t bother to note that it’s verse 18 from which you draw the idea of fear as torment.

The text of verse 18 reads:

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”

So, the question, Ray, is this:

What is your authority for claiming there are two different types of fear referenced in the passage in Luke?

The same word (English and Greek) for fear is used in both references (in Luke and 1 John). The passage you quoted from Luke also appears in Matthew (10:28) and relies on the same Greek word in that instance as well.

The 1 John passage doesn’t say ‘fear (phobos) can also mean torment (kolasis)’ it says ‘fear (phobos) involves torment (kolasis)’.

The author of 1 John isn’t giving an alternate definition of fear, he’s explaining that fear has/contains (a more accurate translation of the Greek ‘echo’) torment, intrinsically.

Or, more accurately, ‘fear (phobos) does (instead of ‘can also’) mean torment (kolasis)’.

This is a subtle but significant point that will be important in a moment.

Now, I’m well aware that this word (fear/phobos) has several meanings, that’s not my point. My point is that you’re claiming that it means one thing in the first sentence and a different thing in the second sentence and you’ve provide no justification for that – nor have you offered a valid alternate definition (you appealed to some sort of ‘common sense’ fear).

Let’s re-write Luke 12:4-5 substituting your definitions (or with the most valid definition to replace your ‘common sense’ pseudo-definition):

“And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid (tormented) of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear (be in awe of): Fear (be in awe of) Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear (be in awe of) Him!”

It’s worth noting that this passage is attributed to Jesus and one would presume that you consider it to be an accurate Greek representation of what he originally said.

I find it patently absurd for you to claim that this passage, is referencing two different types of fear.

Firstly, there is no indication from 1 John 4:18 that there are two different types of fear, as you claim – that’s simply an explanation that fear includes torment.

Secondly, you’re implying that Jesus was such a poor thinker that he would construct a ‘not this – but this’ comparison with predicates that have entirely different meanings and, as if that wasn’t enough, you’re implying that he was so careless with his words that translators were forced to use the same word to mean two different things (despite other words being available), even though he surely must have realized that this would lead to centuries of confusion over what he meant.

The verse is clear – ‘Don’t fear those who can simply kill you, but fear Him who can kill you and punish you forever.’

This is a clear threat of hell.

It’s clear in the Greek and in the English. Your appeal is a sophomoric apologetic that simply rationalizes your preferred softening with sophistry.

What’s worse is that even with your softened re-rendering, the text is still simply a threat of hell – because that’s the power that determines which personage one should fear.

There are only two reasons that I’ve been able to come up with for why you didn’t simply say “Yes, we’re supposed to fear God because he can send us to hell.” (A position that, while I despise it, would have at least earned you some respect for honesty.)

1. You really don’t have any firm understanding of what you’re talking about.

2. You were afraid of facing the contradiction that arises when one verse tells you to love god, another tells you to fear god and a third says that there is no fear in love.

—–

Now, as a quick end-of-post comment:

The simple truth is that the fire-and-brimstone preachers used to use this precise passage to support their message. After all, we have Jesus directly telling you to fear God because of what he can do to you after you’re dead. Ray, I believe, knows this and he knows the distaste the general public has for fire-and-brimstone preachers, so he’s twisting and turning like a twisty-turny-thing in order to convince someone – anyone – that he’s not like those guys.

He doesn’t think we should fear Hell, just the guy who can send us there – because he can send us there – but not really fear, in the sense of being terrified, but fear in the common-sense, ‘healthy respect for’-fashion.

Hogwash.

I therefore request that Fred Phelps of Shirley Phelps-Roper take a few minutes and call Ray to explain why his particular brand of exegesis isn’t Biblical. It may be more pleasant to Ray, but that’s only because he’s desperately trying to soften the message.

Ya hear me, Shirley? I’m tired of beating on Ray, it’s your turn!