“Atheism Is An Assumption…”

My aggregator just pointed me at a fairly heavy-handed piece that claimed “atheism is an assumption, not a reasonable conclusion from the evidence“. And while atheism is very often a conclusion (including, frankly, most of the substance of the linked piece), I absolutely agree that there are times when atheism is an assumption. Thing is, it has to be. And anyone who is not blinded by their own ideology would agree: [Read more...]

The Paradox Of The First Common Ancestor

We have no appropriate label
And it seems, well, insulting, a bit
But I really can’t see
Using “He”, or else “She”,
And it almost feels weird using “It”

It’s the most insignificant being
Just a blip—microscopically small
It may not have been strong
But it passed life along—
It’s the ancestor…thing…to us all!

The precise “when and where” it existed
Back some three and a half billion years
Can’t be known, quite precisely
(We’ve asked really nicely),
But just one was the first, it appears.

It was likely short-lived and untraveled
Left no record in stone for today
It was so un-colossal
It left not a fossil
Except, as it were… DNA

No one ever was less influential
No one ever has been so unknown!
So uncommon, so small,
No disciples at all!
And it died—or divided—alone.

No one ever was more influential
More than Presidents, Prophets, or Kings
From completely unknown
How this “first thing” has grown
To the grand-it of all living things

Ok, so this one is inspired by a really annoying post–just a small part of a post I really wanted to vivisect and devour, but which ultimately I found just too distasteful. A theologist–indeed, an associate minister–who, in this post, claims he is “not religious”. Because, you see, his particular approach to christianity is different from all other religions–in fact, he agrees with atheists about all those other religions!

He begins by invoking the muse… that is, by making the tired claim that as soon as a believer says something online, the ravenous dogs of atheism will attack. This will allow him to dismiss anything, say, I might write about his argument. A silly argument is a silly argument, and that is not an attack on a believer–it is calling a pig a pig.

He spends some time making sure you know he has seen those silly other religions, and that he finds them as silly as you do. He refers to Mircea Eliade’s “The Sacred and the Profane”, and allows that it describes religion quite well… though it does seem to have failed to encompass Protestant Christianity! Well, of course his own faith is categorically different from all these other religions! (Mind you, I read “The Sacred and the Profane” back when I was a Protestant Christian, and I was astonished at what similarities my own religion had with all these others! Indeed, Eliade is one of the eye-openers that showed me that my teachers were wrong–that my religion was not, in fact, categorically different!)

Yes, Protestant Christianity is different, because of its rationality. Seriously. Well, because of its apologetics, actually, but those are really the same thing–arguing from premises to conclusions or from conclusions to premises is just quibbling.

Which leads us to “transcendence”. Which cannot possibly be explained without a god. Order, hope, play, humor, and damnation are transcendent because ipse dixit. Evolution could not select for a belief in the transcendent, after all! (Nor peacock’s tails, nor altruism, nor pareidolia, given a sufficiently simplistic understanding of evolution.)

Lastly, he speaks of the “Paradox of Jesus”, which is the inspiration for today’s verse.

How is it that a man who lived a short life, died as a criminal, left no writings and few followers, never travelled more than a few days’ walk from his birthplace, and lived and died in an obscure corner of a vast empire end up having so much influence in the world? No other religious leader lived a life like this—all others lived lives from which you could explain their influence. And yet few have come close in terms of global and historical impact.

Really? The humble beginnings of the First Common Ancestor are more remote, more humble, more improbable by every measure than some cult-leading rabbi some mere thousands of years back. And that rabbi is followed by tens of thousands of splinter groups that interpret his words differently–globally, about a third of the population of one species. The First Common Ancestor has influenced every creature currently living on earth, from archaea to bacteria to fungi to plants to animals to the top of the evolutionary ladder, cephalopods.

Ok, if you really want to see the original post, it’s here. But if you get as annoyed as I did, don’t blame me.

The Biblical Justification For Arizona’s Proposed Law

Jesus hated homos, which he says in [find this verse]
Yes, he also hated hypocrites, but really, gays are worse
So as Arizonans ask themselves just “What would Jesus do?”
He’d engage in homophobia, like [look this verse up, too]
See, Jesus always made it clear [um, look this up as well]
Baking cakes or taking photographs could send you straight to hell
The Arizona bigots simply want the bible heeded…
They follow all the bible’s rules [citation clearly needed]

Did You Ever Consider The Possibility That Maybe God Is A Parasitic Worm?

There’s a little kid, infested with a parasitic worm
His extremities are swollen and in pain
But this doesn’t pose a problem, or disprove a loving God
As philosopher Plantinga will explain:

See, God created Eden, which his favorite—Man—beheld,
But of course, the fruit of knowledge, He forbids
It was absolutely perfect, but humanity rebelled
As a consequence, there’s parasites in kids

You can treat the kid for parasites, and have the worms removed
And observe their squirming bodies, tightly curled…
Rejoicing in the agony that must be God-approved,
Knowing this is His created perfect world

From the horrible interview at the NY Times Opinionator Blog:

A.P.: I suppose your thinking is that it is suffering and sin that make this world less than perfect. But then your question makes sense only if the best possible worlds contain no sin or suffering. And is that true? Maybe the best worlds contain free creatures some of whom sometimes do what is wrong. Indeed, maybe the best worlds contain a scenario very like the Christian story.

Think about it: The first being of the universe, perfect in goodness, power and knowledge, creates free creatures. These free creatures turn their backs on him, rebel against him and get involved in sin and evil. Rather than treat them as some ancient potentate might — e.g., having them boiled in oil — God responds by sending his son into the world to suffer and die so that human beings might once more be in a right relationship to God. God himself undergoes the enormous suffering involved in seeing his son mocked, ridiculed, beaten and crucified. And all this for the sake of these sinful creatures.

I’d say a world in which this story is true would be a truly magnificent possible world. It would be so good that no world could be appreciably better. But then the best worlds contain sin and suffering.

I would *not* say that such a world would be truly magnificent. Far more people are suffering than in a world I would create if I could. But then, I care about people; I am a person, myself, when I’m not a cuttlefish.

Maybe it is a perfect world, for parasitic worms.

Thank You, Ken Ham

Thank you, Ken Ham—

“What would change your mind?” was the question… and Ken told viewers that the bible would stand up to critical examination. Thank you, Ken Ham.

My own pastor, back all those decades ago, was a true believer, one who believed that the most skeptical investigation will support the truth of the bible. It is, in part, because of the encouragement of my pastor, that I continued to question the things I had learned in the church. My pastor encouraged me not to believe the bible simply because he did, and because he said it was true; if the bible is true, you will be able to look at all the evidence—not just a cherry-picked subsample—and the story laid down in the geological record, the story laid down in the fossil record, the story laid down in the astronomical record, the story laid down in Genesis, will all, must all, agree.

It was in part because of my pastor that I am an atheist today. I thank Ken Ham for his earnest answer, because it will lead to more atheists.

All Gods Are Versions Of The One True God (Mine, Of Course)

There are thousands of gods, so the atheists claim
And they note that they all disagree;
But I’ve figured the source of their silly confusion—
And so, you can take it from me:

Some people once worshipped a handful of gods,
Like Athena, Poseidon, and Zeus
All manifestations of one, greater, God,
A reasonable mind might deduce.

When mortal perceptions, inherently flawed,
Attempt to perceive the divine
The gods that they see are distortions, of course,
Of the true God (and that one is mine).

How sad that the fact of our fallible minds
Is the cause of dissension and wars:
All gods are versions of my God, of course,
But no gods are versions of yours.

I remember my sister once (decades ago) saying “it doesn’t really matter what you believe, just that you believe. I didn’t get it then, but I do now. All gods are manifestations of the right one, which is my one. Of course, my one couldn’t possibly be a distortion of a different god, because reasons. Oh, yeah, because that’s how my god is actually defined. The sophisticated theology version of “because I said so.”

“We Assert That Images Of The Spiritual Leaders Of All Religions Should Be Deemed To Be Respectful”

So… if, by law, religious figures
Are deserving of respect
From the meditating Buddha
To the Manson, spittle-flecked,
From the image of Mohammed
To the memory of Jim Jones,
From Joseph Smith to Jesus Christ
To dusty relics’ bones
From the ancients on Olympus
To the modern Kanye West,
I’m required to respect them
Shall we put this to the test?
Say “there is no god but Allah”;
Aren’t you disrespecting Thor?
And if “Jesus is the only way”
That’s disrespect, once more—
If we see such disagreement
On what is—or not—divine
Can you force me to respect your views
Without respecting mine?
I won’t ask for your approval
Of the way I choose to live
(Which is fine, cos we both know it’s not
A thing that you would give)
I won’t ask you bow to other gods
I know you’ve got your own…
And in exchange, the thing I want,
Is left the fuck alone.
Your holy rules apply to you;
Their holy rules are theirs
You break each other’s holy rules
And no one really cares.
I have no god I worship, so
It’s really plain to see
Your holy rules apply to you…
They don’t apply to me.

(We all are bound by civic law,
And that is quite enough;
You want me to respect your god?
My one-word answer: tough.)

Context, and Cuttlecap tip to Ophelia.