Standing up to William Lane Craig

Lately, William Lane Craig has been demanding that Richard Dawkins debate him, and has gotten quite insistent lately as he tours England. I don’t see the point in anyone debating Craig: he’s a nobody who has contributed nothing to the intellectual world; he’s a professional debater and apologist, a rhetorical gunslinger for Christ, and there’s no purpose to enaging him (I know Hitchens took him on…but Hitchens has been our rhetorical gunslinger). Dawkins is a top-flight evolutionary biologist and a masterful craftsman of the English language. I don’t think there’s even anything interesting to discuss with Craig. So Richard Dawkins has taken the time to explain why he refuses to debate William Lane Craig. It’s a terrific put-down. I’m going to have to steal from it next time that importuning dweeb Vox Day starts pestering me to debate him.

I was pleased to see that one of Dawkins’ points was one that is not made often enough: William Lane Craig is a nasty, amoral excuse for a human being.

Why I am an atheist – Samyogita Hardikar

Up till I was 19 I had been dwelling into the murky waters of faith, mainly switching between a haphazard belief in some sort of higher power if not god per se and agnosticism of the ‘If there had been a god, then surely he wouldn’t have allowed all this cruelty and suffering?’ persuasion. Now I really don’t think there is a god. The reasons are many and most of them are obvious to and shared by most other atheists: no real evidence for the existence of god/ gods, a respect for and inclination towards a humanitarian and human-centric idea of morality, too many vulgar disputes amongst the believers themselves about who exactly this ‘one true god’ person that they all keep banging on about might be, to name a few of the top ones. But I vividly remember the moment I started thinking of myself as an out-and-out atheist and it wasn’t any kind of anger or frustration or hardcore empirical analysis that made it happen. It happened when I heard Douglas Adams speculating about the origin of god.

He says that the idea of god probably came into existence because after looking about and seeing what a well oiled machine this world was, we humans made the foolish mistake of asking the most ridiculous, naive and treacherous question: ‘So who made this then?’ ‘This’ being the world, of course. ‘Someone must’ve made it, you know? Like we make stuff?’
And from there we just went on improvising and thinking that since we’re the only ones who ever actually make anything, it must’ve been someone very like us, much more sizable and capable than us, and much more invisible, obviously.

I completely buy that theory and it may seem trivial but if we are to move on from all this violence and disharmony that happens in the name of god, we have to see the whole notion for the triviality that it is. Let’s not- for a moment- try to answer that absurd question with the first thing that comes to your mind and we’ll be fine.

To put forth a simple if slightly cheap analogy, the idea of god is a bit like non-degradable plastic. It’s man-made. It’s not found in nature. It was created by throwing a whole bunch of random stuff together. It’s a relatively recent invention considering how long we’ve been around and even if it may look like it at first glance, our lives do not depend on it. It’s a quick, immediate gratification based solution for an eternal problem which is why it’s dangerous. It seemed like a very good idea at the beginning and most people still think it’s pretty handy but now that we have it, we don’t seem to be able to get rid of it and it’s all beginning to get a bit out of hand. And lastly, living things are suffering and dying horrible deaths because of it. Atheism on the other hand is way more ego-friendly.

Samyogita Hardikar
India

Ritualized child abuse: circumcision

Want to spend an hour cringing and twitching? This is the abridged version of “Cut: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision“, and you will suffer if you watch it. It is a wasteful, terrible thing to do to a child.

One rabbi interviewed is at least honest about circumcision: “It’s painful, it’s abusive, it’s traumatic, and if anybody does it who isn’t in a covenant ought to be put in prison…I do abusive things because I’m in covenant with god.” What nonsense. What a wretched excuse for abusing children.

(Warning: lots of shots of babies getting chopped, as well as closeups of adult penises.)

The arguments for circumcision are pathetic and awful.

  • “You either believe [in the covenant of circumcision] or else nothing is true”. I’ve heard that before: it’s the argument creationists use to defend the absolute literal truth of the book of Genesis, because if that’s not true, the story of Jesus falls apart, and therefore the whole of Christianity is false. Yeah, so? Then it’s false.

  • “The mystery of circumcision is profound”. Ignorance should not inspire the kind of awe that motivates one to mutilate another person’s body.

  • The health benefits. Total bullshit. As one of the speakers in the movie explains, there have been progressive excuses: from it prevents masturbation to it prevents cancer to it prevents AIDS. The benefits all vanish with further studies and are all promoted by pro-circumcision organizations. It doesn’t even make sense: let’s not pretend people have been hacking at penises for millennia because there was a clinical study. Hey, let’s chop off our pinkie toes and then go looking for medical correlations!

  • It’s tradition. Grandpa and great-grandpa and great-great-grandpa did it, so I’ll perpetuate the cycle of abuse to my children. I have to reject that: it reduces a decision to do irreparable damage to a child to repetitive, superstitious, mindless behavior.

There is no reason, other than certain rare and specific medical conditions, for maiming anyone’s genitalia. Don’t do it to your children.

(Also on Sb)

Here’s what happens when you reconcile religion with “science”

You get mad raving nonsense.

In my opinion, Adam and Eve were born with a small organ attached to their appendix tube. An organ that produced stem cells which kept their perfect human body perpetually healthy and forever the equivalent age of thirty years old. In my opinion, this now missing human organ is the Tree Of Life depicted in the Bible’s book of Genesis; an organ that grew from a now missing 24th human chromosome in the human genome. To ‘take fruit’ from the Tree Of Life is to live forever… immortality.

As most of us know, Adam and Eve contaminated themselves by eating the forbidden fruit (cells) from the Tree Of The Knowledge Of Good And Bad. The forbidden fruit (cells) was the ingestion of cells, chromosomes, genes and DNA found in the flesh of mammals. This destroyed the 24th chromosome in Adam and Eve’s reproductive cells (sperm and egg), and also destroyed the Tree Of Life organ attached to their appendix tube. With the 24th chromosome gone from Adam’s sperm cells, and the 24th chromosome gone from Eve’s egg cells, hereditary immortality could not be passed on to their offspring, and hence, to all human beings thereafter. To ‘take fruit’ from the Tree Of The Knowledge Of Good And Bad is to positively die… mortality.

Most of us also know that God took a rib from Adam in order to build Eve. The rib was taken before Eve came into existence. The rib was taken before any kind of contamination to the human genome. The rib was human flesh, blood and bone; human cells, chromosomes, genes and DNA. The rib was made of human cells that have the 24th human chromosome that produces the Tree Of Life organ attached to the appendix tube. Adam’s rib cells are immortal human cells with 48 chromosomes (24 pairs), rather than our present 46 chromosomes (23 pairs).

My theories will also show you that Jesus was born from an uncontaminated rib cell. Jesus was born with a 24th pair of human chromosomes in his body cells, which produced the Tree Of Life organ attached to his appendix tube. Adam and Eve were born immortal (to begin with). Jesus was born immortal. My theories will show you that all human beings are destined to become immortal, after the ‘first’ death.

  • An opinion is not a sound foundation for a scientific hypothesis—or even a pseudoscientific one. Show me evidence.

  • There is no evidence of a magical small organ ever being attached to the end of the appendix.

  • We already produce small numbers of stem cells throughout life. They don’t confer immortality, nor is there any reason to expect they would.

  • A large collection of pluri- or toti-potent stem cells might have some advantages in enhancing regeneration. They’d have the disadvantage of also being a source of cancers.

  • Chromosomes don’t map to organs. Organs don’t grow from chromosomes.

  • Other apes do have 24 pairs of chromosomes. They aren’t immortal.

  • Eating fruit, or even magic fruit made of mammalian flesh, won’t selectively destroy a chromosome. And if it did, it wouldn’t have the mild consequence of knocking out an organ.

  • Where did Jesus’ mother get that uncontaminated rib cell?

  • 48 chromosome Jesus just confirms my hypothesis that Jesus was a chimpanzee. You can’t prove I’m wrong!

He goes on for many pages of absurd speculation. Did you know that when Doubting Thomas was poking around in Jesus’ wound, he was actually inspecting his appendicular organ?

(via Adam Rutherford)

Why I am an atheist – Lucretius of Mississippi

I had a happy childhood during which I was taken by my mother to the local Southern Baptist Church for Sunday School, Morning Church Service, Training Union (that’s extra night-time Sunday School for you non-Baptists out there) and Evening Church Service. As I got older, she added Youth Choir practice, Wednesday night prayer service, and Tuesday Visitation (during which we got addresses of folks who hadn’t been to church in a while, and also addresses of folks who had moved from another town and hadn’t come by to see us yet, and went out to see how they were doing.)

I remember that the message to the young folk in my small-town church was very positive. God loves you, Jesus saves, bring your cares to Him, rejoice in God’s love and love your neighbor as yourself. As I got up to about seventh grade questions started to surface about how old the world was. The message we got was that we didn’t need to worry about this. Probably, we were told, God’s days must have been pretty long back during the making of the world. Everybody had to read the Bible on their own, and nobody, not even the minister, could tell you exactly what to believe.

But shortly after that my Dad had to move for his job, (in 1966) and we were in the great huge city of Memphis. I started to hear a very different message. You could read the Bible all you wanted, but if you thought anything much different from what the preacher said, you must be in rebellion against God. And that faith stuff we’ve been telling you about? It’s great that you have faith, but guess what, we have proof too! The Bible is the literally inerrant word of God, after all!

I was a fairly well-read young Southerner and I found this to be a bit hard to swallow. It all came to a head a couple of years later during a revival. (That’s where a visiting pastor comes and preaches every single night for a week or two.) The man stood up and said that archeologists had found the ruins of Jericho, and the collapsed walls exactly proved the Biblical account. And the very next night the same pastor told the old story about how NASA computers were missing a day in the history of the universe, but it was explained in the Bible. (Believe it or not, people are still spreading this story, see: http://www.presentruth.com/2009/03/nasa-finds-the-missing-day/ )

The second story had so many holes in it that it defied credibility altogether. Um, let me think, there is a story of an eclipse in Egyptian records about 1200 BC but how could you possibly date the historical account accurately to check against your orbital calculations for eclipses during that time? Back that far, I think you would be lucky to date any event within 10 years plus or minus in Gregorian calendar terms, right? And any further than that, well, there’s enough orbital chaos you probably couldn’t really say when eclipses occurred. And besides, why in the world would NASA be worried about exact orbits three thousand years ago?

So I did make it to the library, found that sure enough, the NASA story was bunkum, as was the Jericho thing. (Yeah, there were some archeologists, and there were some old walls of Jericho, but the collapse of the walls was dated to a fire so long ago it was impossible to correlate it with any plausible date for the Exodus.)

I could go on and give more examples of crazy pulpit-talk. And of course I owe a tip of the hat to some children’s and juvenile books by the esteemed Henrick Willem van Loon (Story of Mankind, Lives, Tolerance) that prepared me for this day. Suffice it to say that from this point on, I began to accept a purely historical, non-supernatural view of the Bible and of the Church. No there is no resurrection, how in the world would Jesus’ sacrifice atone for my sins, etc etc. OTOH I had a very hard evening sitting there one day reading a book called “The Uses of the Past” by Herbert Muller that helped bring it all into focus to me- albeit in a way that seemed very hard to take, it was as if I was watching my favorite football team lose to a hated rival, it was a feeling of deep disappointment and disillusionment. I suppose I was about 15 years old.

However, I hate to disappoint the hardcore outspoken atheists here, but the fact of the matter is that I live in a part of the world where “coming out” as an atheist seems to be more trouble than it is worth. One sees the coming of a post-Christian England, one supposes that natural trends are heading the same way here without any of my feeble assistance, why should I subject myself to the inconvenience of making myself publicly heard? So I never told my parents or indeed any other member of my family.

But when I went to college, and later when I got married and had kids, I found it necessary to have a “flag of convenience.” Well, there are in fact some wonderful churches that treat people very kindly, where the preachers do not shout and scream, and you might even have a string quartet to play along with the choir, where you might go and sing some Thomas Tallis or some William Byrd or some Johann Sebastian Bach, and they tend to have very nice pipe organs. Since this is actually the sort of music I really like, I hung out there for decades, at least until my children were grown and gone.

But I have to say, living in the part of the world where I live, I still dread the sort of backlash and harassment that I imagine would ensue were I to make myself publicly known, and though I may invite the ridicule of this forum, at my age I am content to continue as I am. If I may offer one small point of argumentation in favor of staying in the closet, perhaps I could say that I think there are more pressing things than evangelizing for the cause of not believing in God. For example, science education, evolution, and climate change are burning issues where I think we should stand up against the forces of ignorance. But where I live, being identified as an out-and-out atheist is actually going to eliminate any credibility I might have and reduce any chance I have for being taken seriously or effecting any change whatsoever.

Lucretius of Mississippi
United States