Religion is the answer (they’re selling)

Did you ever notice that whatever the problem, religion is plugged as the answer? Case in point: last week’s Virginia Tech shootings. A student goes haywire and kills a bunch of people–not good. Religious leaders then get asked by the faithful, “Where was God during all of this?” It seems like a reasonable question to ask of someone who believes in an omniscient, omnipotent, and omni-benevolent god.

Atheists would answer it simply that God is a figment of people’s imagination. Such things more often cause killings than prevent them. For example, 9/11, Andrea Yates, stem cell research bans, Branch Davidians, Jim Jones, Inquisition, Gott Mit Uns, Heaven’s Gate, etc., etc., etc. In this particular case, figments of your imagination are irrelevant to the reality of the shooter, so it’s obvious that your God can’t intervene. Next question?

Religious leaders know that if you’re asking such questions, you’re thinking. And if you’re thinking, you’re not blindly believing, which is bad for their business. So religious leaders shut down the line of questioning and instead promote their magic cure-all elixir: religion.

For James Kennedy, the answer to “where was God?”, is “He was hanging on the cross. (Just passing time flapping away, apparently.) “The cross is God’s ultimate solution to sorrow and suffering.” Pay attention grieving Virginia Tech students: you are vile wretches that deserve to be tortured for all eternity for your lack of faith. Kennedy will gladly sell you the cure, though, the smilin’ bleedin’ Jesus for the bargain price of a tithe. Ah, that Christian love is in the springtime air.

Ken Ham, the Answers in Genesis creationist used-religion salesman, used the tragedy to point out that if you think the answer to the tragedy has anything to do with sin, you damn well better believe in that 6-day creation he’s been flogging. The Bible is literally true, don’t you know. To translate his point, if you don’t believe in that 6-day creation crap, why should you believe anything about the concept of sin. Atheists would certainly agree with this line of reasoning. Perhaps this is why his posting was removed from the AiG web site. (Oh, and by the way, he says, isn’t it great that creationism was launched at Virginia Tech by a civil engineering instructor? Let’s pour a little embarrassment into the wound.)

For gall, Franklin Graham is hard to beat. Out of the goodness of his heart, he’s ready to send hundreds of “grief counselors” trained to convert to Christianity those who are emotionally vulnerable, “as we have done in many situations since 9/11 in New York City.” He’s even got some VT students on his web site helping to promote his extreme generosity with strings attached. I wonder if those “grief counselors” think that converting people to Christianity helps their chances of going to heaven. Franklin Graham also runs one of the groups distributing federal faith-based AIDS relief in Africa where they can get their “good news” across because their victims know that they need the provided medicine to live. Charity, indeed.

Does religion have anything to offer in the VT shooting? No. Does religion have anything to offer in any situation? No. These people are plugging religion because they make money from it. It’s all just self-serving promotion at the expense of others, just as Martin predicted last week.

4 billion years of evolution beats $1 billion in abstinence-only sex ed

Big surprise! Abstinence-only sex ed doesn’t work.

Big surprise! It’s a huge waste of money.

Big surprise! 4 billion years of evolution in making every living thing on this plant successful because of our collective ability to procreate beats out religiously motivated wishful thinking. Who could have possibly known? (Certainly not anyone who thinks that Jesus solves all your problems.)

Big surprise! It was all just a way for the religious right to get money from its shills in the government. Sadly, this blatant and obvious corruption at the expense of our youth will likely never be punished. I, for one, would like my tax money back on this one.

We’ve been saying this stuff all along, but nobody listens to us atheists. We’re immoral.

Hovind loses appeal; wife will now be charged

Okay, I know this news is a couple of days old. But I’m hoping its repeated posting here is enough to convince the small army of Hovindites who’ve descended upon this comment thread that the game is over, the jig is up, your boy is toast, and any further attempts to defend Kent by trotting out innuendos about government conspiracies or wondering whether the jail tapes are legal (they’re still up on YouTube; they are) isn’t going to change reality any more than Hovind’s “Dinosaur Adventure Land” dog park and its chintzy displays changed the reality that Earth is 4.5 billion years old and all its living things are descendents of a common ancestor. Go watch the video about the martial arts “qi” master again, getting pwned by someone who seems to be a thoroughly run-of-the-mill black belt. When fantasy meets reality, it’s like a squirrel on the highway meeting a semi.

I do feel sorry for Jo, though.

The “Thou Shalt Not Judge” Mind Game

Often, the hidden messages of a phrase carry more weight than its literal interpretation. The phrase “Thou shalt not judge,” is a fine example. It’s an adaptation from a quote attributed to Jesus, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged” (Matthew 7:1 and Luke 6:37). Although the Bible has other passages encouraging judging, the phrase in question has far more currency today, especially among liberal Christians. I believe its lasting popularity is due to a rather dark mind game that it carries with it. The mind game has several components.

First, the phrase is most often used in a context where some obvious wrong has been committed, but is being excused by the speaker. It’s one thing to acknowledge a mistake, learn from it, and make amends. It’s another thing entirely to sweep it under the rug. The hidden message is that you, too, have skeletons in your closet, so don’t draw attention to this one. Such a message is simply an abdication of responsibility.

The phrase is also often used between believers as a kind of collusion between thugs in the name of the thug boss, God. To use it is to say, “Keep your nose out of my business with the mafia boss, and I’ll stay out of your business. Otherwise, the boss will rub you out.” It is a kind of promise that if you excuse the speaker’s act of thuggery he’ll look the other way when you later commit yours. Occasionally, it’s used as a kind of religious tolerance mechanism to deal with the fact that there are thousands of sects of Christianity, each with their own unique and contradictory interpretation of the Bible. As long as the harm in question is directed against non-Christians, it should be excused in the name of ecumenicism.

At another level, using the phrase is admission that there is no solid morality on which to decide moral issues. With a lack of any sort of absolute morality from God, the speaker is left to create a smoke screen that distracts from this uncomfortable fact. The notion of an absolute morality from God is perhaps one of the most pernicious myths of the western religions.

Biblical passage is really a prohibition against being a hypocrite. That contextualized meaning has long since vanished, apparently. The hidden messages of the shorter phrase have far more utility. In the future, listen closely in the situations when “thou shalt not judge” is used. See if you can find someone avoiding responsibility for their actions or beliefs; looking to make a shady deal to downplay an act of thuggery; or hiding the fact that they don’t have a sound basis to tell right from wrong. When you catch someone using the phrase in this manner, call them on the carpet. Judge.

Stop the evil godless Congress!

On Monday, the Secular Coalition announced that Rep. Pete Stark (D. Calif.) is, according to their research, the first open nontheist in the history of Congress. This announcement came as the result of a the Secular Coalition’s “Find an Atheist, Humanist, Freethinker Elected Official” contest.

Wasting very little time, the Christian Seniors Association(a division of Traditional Values Coalition) released a statement which clearly demonstrates the anti-atheist biogtry and ignorance that made this search for nontheists both necessary and overdue.

CSA ASKS MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TO SPEAK UP AS CALIFORNIA CONGRESSMAN STARK DENIES GOD’S EXISTENCE
A Sad First in the History of the Congress

Washington, DC – The Christian Seniors Association (CSA) today encouraged members of the Congress to speak of their belief in God on the floor of the House after a liberal California Congressman made history by denying God.

Katy, bar the door! There’s a Congressman who doesn’t believe in God, so we’re gonna have us some “chuhch”. Why would it be necessary (or appropriate) for Congress to stop doing business in order to give their personal testimonies? Did Rep. Pete Stark’s announcement tie up any Congressional time?

“It is sad but not surprising that the current Congress has produced this historic first – one of its members has denied God,” said CSA Executive Director James Lafferty.

So, this is clearly a demonstration of the evils of “the current Congress”? Nevermind the fact that Rep. Stark has been a member of Congress since 1973, we need to spin this so that the Democratic takeover looks bad. Seriously though, how bad could it really be? Isn’t he just one man that flew under the religious radar? Is this really a sign of the apocalypse?

“The liberals in Congress want to throttle any school child who bows his or her head in prayer, but they want to establish a right for liberals to bash Christians and berate God around the clock.

Oh no! They’re coming for our kids and bad mouthing our god!

Ok, enough sarcasm…now I’m pissed. I suppose I should be grateful that the CSA has clearly demonstrated the very problems we’ve been pointing out. This ignorant, misdirected bigotry is the result of a very narrow mindset that has no understanding of what true religious freedom is.

They began with “there’s an atheist in Congress”, moved to “well, that’s no surprise, I’ve read Ann Coulter’s book…this is just part of the godless liberal agenda” and then graduate to blatant lies and sensationalist attacks about how we’re coming after the children.

“It is time for religious members of Congress to push back.”

Sure it is. One of hundreds of Congressmen is a heathen, so we need everyone to organize in opposition to this travesty. Evidently Rep. Stark is a huge threat to the fabric of the delusional universe these folks call home.

“We have long recognized that all of this hot air about ‘separation of church and state’ has been a veiled effort to intimidate and silence religious voices in public policy matters.

And we, the godless, have long recognized that you have no understanding of ‘separation of church and state’ and no interest in exercising tolerance toward those who hold beliefs which differ from yours. In your ignorant little minds, religious freedom only applies to those who share your fondness for fairytales.

The First Amendment is now “hot air”. Thanks.

Please explain how Pete Stark’s beliefs “intimidate and silence religious voices”. Could someone silence those crickets, please? I’m having a hard time hearing their response.

“Congressman Stark’s statement is a very sad benchmark for America. It could be the moment which defines the decline of our country or it could be the spark which marks an important day.

It certainly could and its clear which direction you’re encouraging – decline. How quickly we forget that this nation was founded by people trying to avoid the exact mindset you’re promoting.

“This is a fight which is destined to be fought in America and we think it should begin today.”

Clearly fighting is all you understand. Rational discourse is beyond you.

Crucifying the Crucifixion

Let us take a hard, heretical look at the central tenet of Christianity: the Crucifixion/Resurrection scenario, as described in the New Testament. We will begin by assuming, for the sake of argument, that the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are 100% historically accurate accounts of an actual (rather than mythical) hybrid God-man named Jesus. We will also temporarily accept, for the sake of argument, the doctrines of Creation and the Trinity.

The Crucifixion scenario appears to be founded upon a few operating assumptions:
1) Mankind is inherently sinful and evil.
2) Those who sin must die, while those who do not sin cannot die.
3) Blame (hence death) for sin is transferable to blameless creatures (including human virgins), but only by those who believe in such transferability.
4) God is completely blameless.

Putting it all together, the idea is that, by sacrificing himself to himself on behalf of mankind, the blame for all human sins can be transferred to God, thereby resolving the problem of mankind’s inherent sinfulness–for those who believe. And, joy of joys, Jesus still gets to live. How clever. Everybody wins. Right?

The problem with this scenario is, each these underlying assumptions is highly questionable:
1) Far from being inherently evil, human beings appear to have basically good intentions. Only extremely rare sociopaths go around plotting to do evil for the sake of evil. Everyone else realizes that, as a social species, our survival and well-being depends heavily upon how well we get along with each others. We’re hard-wired to be nice, and seek to become even nicer. Indeed, adherents typically convert to various religions because they think it will help them fulfill their pre-existing drive to become a better person. Religion would not exist if people were not already inherently good.
2) The death penalty for everything, including impure thoughts? (Matt. 5:17-48) Come on! Any nation that adopted such an absurdly overbearing system of law would be devoid of citizens within a week!
3) Transferring blame from someone who does deserve punishment to someone or something that does not is inherently unfair, by definition.
4) If an omnipotent God created everything according to his own predetermined plan, then he alone is to blame for everything.

Even if the assumptions behind the Crucifixion can somehow be rendered acceptable to those with even moderate reasoning ability and a healthy conscience, there is still the problem posed by the alleged resurrection. If Jesus resurrected, then in the end, he sacrificed nothing of value whatsoever. According to all four Gospels, the “death” of Jesus was both staged and faked!

If the Bible relays this scenario accurately, then God must be a seriously confused, morally debilitated monster of a deity, better suited for pity than for worship. The fake death of his Son/himself to give the appearance of taking advantage of a loophole in his own blatantly corrupt system of law, is so obviously absurd on so many levels that it is extremely difficult to understand why any rational, honest person would accept such nonsense as Gospel. If anything, the Crucifixion/Resurrection scenario makes far more sense as a ritual act of suicide, intended to convey God’s penitence toward us, for screwing things up so badly in the first place!

Believers, please try to take your faith more seriously, and strive to become better evangelists. I can testify from personal experience that truly understanding the core tenets of Christianity is the key to rejecting them.

Kent Hovind’s bizarre phone calls from jail

Definition of delusional: A guy who has cheated on his taxes and considers himself above the law, pontificating that his legal opponents should “obey the law!” I guess Dr. Dipshit doesn’t know that jails record phone calls. Let the world see what pathetic scum he truly is. He’s clearly living in his own dream world.

Prior to his conviction: The whining, the victim complex, the never ending mantra of “lawsuits, lawsuits, lawsuits!” This guy sure does love listening to his own bluster. In the first clip you will find yourself actually feeling sorry for his wife, listening to her say, with a notable tone of despair, that “I’m just hearing things [from you] that sound all the same.” Hovind’s cold reply, “Well, maybe I need to change…or maybe you need to change and accept it…Your hope is always that I will change. Maybe the hope ought to be that you will advance.”

Prick!

One wonders, how does someone this dishonest and deluded get this way in the first place? I guess it’s that when someone is this slick a bullshit artist, and he can convince himself of his own bullshit, then it becomes easy as pie to say literally any self-serving nonsense you can come up with, with unassailable confidence. Take note of the last thing Hovind says in the final clip, if you’re ready for a true Irony Meter-Breaker.

PS: Since Hovind wants to know what laws he’s broken, according to one source I’ve found, here they are: 26 U.S.C. § 7202, 31 U.S.C. § 5313(a), 31 U.S.C. § 5324, 18 U.S.C. § 2 and 31 C.F.R. sec. 103.11, 26 U.S.C. § 7212.

Half-Hearted Evangelism

One of the interesting differences I have found between formerly Christian atheists and currently Christian believers is, the former Christians among us often took our religious beliefs more seriously. That is, we took them seriously enough to look long and hard at whether or not the things we believed were actually true.

We looked into the origins of the Bible, and, like many Bible scholars, concluded that they are highly suspect, even from a Christian perspective. The Bible doesn’t mention anything about God endorsing the modern Bible canon, so upon whose authority was it assembled and declared to be the, “Word of God”? Hmm? The answer turns out to be, these books were selected not for their factual or “spiritual” accuracy, but for their popularity within the church at the time they were selected. As such, the Bible is as much a product of Christian doctrine as a source.

Not only that, those of us who studied the whole Bible–not just the carefully selected snippets children are permitted to hear in Sunday School–discovered that its contents are, to put it politely, morally questionable. See Genesis 38, Numbers 31, Judges 11, and numerous other Bible chapters extolling the virtues of deception, prostitution, theft, genocide, rape, human sacrifice, and worse. As Isaac Asimov put it, “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”

We also prayed, and discovered that prayer is just another superstition, and that the efficacy of prayer that we thought we saw in all of those testimonials was merely an illusion.

Yet, for some reason, Christians continue to cling to the belief that prayer and the Bible support their beliefs better than they support our lack of belief. Consider the following essay I recently received from a believer:

Read the Bible and Pray

Editorial #2 by Joseph Yosuk Lee

Introduction:

If you are a non-Christian, please let me warn you that this editorial is a band-aid solution in order to help you become a Christian. This editorial cannot help you become a Christian. Only God’s efficacious grace can save you. There is no way you can earn God’s grace by praying or by reading the Bible. However, reading the Bible and praying to God can help.

My Band-Aid Advice:

Whenever I talked to other non-Christians, they bitterly complained that Christianity is a religion such that the pastor brainwashed the congregation to believe in God. I told them that they should read the Bible, and they said that they have already read it. As I tested their knowledge about the Bible, they were not able to answer the important questions such as being born again and many important stories mentioned in the Bible. I told them that they did not read the Bible carefully. Many non-Christians complained that they already read the Bible, and yet they fail to notice the important messages in the Bible. This is proof that many non-Christians do not read the Bible very carefully.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Romans
10:17

Of course, there are many religious studies professors, who read the Bible very carefully and can recite more verses than the pastors, and yet they still do not believe in Christ. The reason why most religious studies professors fail to believe in God is that they probably fail to pray.

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of
thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2

When I was an undergraduate at Berkeley, I met a physics major, who told me that he read the entire Bible twice, and yet he did not believe in the Bible. I asked him whether or not he ever prayed. Of course, he never did pray, and I told him, “Not praying for a Christian is as same as not doing an experiment for a physicist.” The reason why I mentioned the importance in doing an experiment is that most physicists do not like to do experiments and want to be like Albert Einstein by reading their physics textbooks to find some theory how the universe works. So, how can you make a discovery in physics without doing an experiment? Most world renown physicists, who won the Nobel Prize, are experimentalist and are not theorists. In fact, Albert Einstein did not win a Nobel Prize for thinking about relativity. He won a Nobel Prize in setting up an experiment of the photoelectric effect. To win a Nobel
Prize in heaven, you should read the Bible, but you need to pray. Some people find a way to accept Christ by only reading the Bible. However, a person who prays has a greater chance of accepting Christ as his savior because it shows an attitude of submission.

Of course, my dad told me that he read the Bible and that he did pray, and he said, “If I prayed and read the Bible, how come I still do not believe in the Bible?” So, I told my dad about my physics friends at Berkeley, who tried to calculate the acceleration of gravity. There were about 30 physics and engineering majors in my physics class, and I told my dad that the average acceleration of gravity was calculated to be 6.0 m/s2 in our course when the acceleration of gravity is 9.8 m/s2 . So, did my physics friends at Berkeley discover the new acceleration value for gravity? My dad said, “They did not perform the experiment correctly.” I said, “You answered your questions, dad. You did not pray correctly either.” I can tell that my dad was very frustrated with me, and he just does not want to read the Bible carefully or to pray according to God’s will. My dad prayed that I get into Harvard and MIT, and he never prayed again when I did not make it to those schools. Despite my dad’s good intentions in praying for me, he never prayed that I would be like Jesus Christ. Prayer allows to conform our will to that of God’s will, but we do not take control of God through our prayer.

Last of all, there are probably some people, who did pray according to God’s will, read the Bible carefully, and yet their hearts were hardened. In order to be a Christian, God has to soften and open your heart to the gospel. Other words, there is no way that you can be a Christian by praying or reading the Bible. You become a Christian by God’s efficacious grace. Although he may not believe in God now, he can still believe in God in the near future.

Please share this editorial to your non-Christian friends by forwarding this e-mail.

Well, here I am, sharing it all. Does anyone feel like converting yet? I sure don’t. What a lame effort. It’s a bit disappointing, really. Band-Aid advice, indeed. Maybe God’s grace just isn’t efficacious enough, or something.

The author goes on with a boilerplate statement of how to become “saved”:

Steps in becoming a Christian.

1. You need to know that you are a sinner.

Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

The Hebrew translation for ‘sin’ is ‘missing the mark (of perfection in terms of thought and action).’

2. You need to know is that there is a price on sin.

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death.”

3. You need to know is that Jesus paid the price.

Romans 5:8 “But God commendeth his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

You must trust his death on the cross as the sacrifice for your own sins.

4. You need to know is that you must call upon the Lord in order to go
to Heaven.

Romans
10:13 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

‘Whosoever’ means everyone-it includes you. ‘Calling upon the name of the Lord’ means to cry out to God in prayer and ask Him to save you. Being ‘saved’ means to be saved from your sins and from Hell. You must believe that Jesus Christ is full God and full man in order to be saved. See John 3:16, John 20:28-29, and Colossians 2:9.

5. Last of all, Jesus will sanctify (to purify or make you holy) you as time progresses.

Hebrews 13:12 ‘So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.’

*Just pray and call out to God through this simple prayer like:*

Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, who deserves to go to hell, but thank you for paying the price for me. I invite you to come into my heart right now and forgive me for my sins that nailed you to the cross. Save me and take me to Heaven when I die. In Jesus’ Name. Amen. ‘He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the son shall not see life;’ John 3:36.

I lost track of how many times I prayed that prayer or one like it as a child and adolescent, often a little fearful that I didn’t follow the formula just right, or say the little prayer with enough sincerity, despite literally being in tears. Yet, when I asked this fellow his opinion of my case, he insisted that in order for me to become an atheist, I must never have been a “real” Christian in the first place. So much for sincerely believing and following the prescribed protocol! Shucky darns, I guess nobody is a “real” Christian, then!

Christians, if you want to understand why I and many other former Christians lost our faith in God and the Bible, just try, for once, to take your own beliefs seriously!

Non-Providencial Poetry

I received the following in my corporate e-mail today:

“Anyway”

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered
   Forgive them anyway
If you are kind, people accuse you of selfish ulterior motives
   Be Kind anyway
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies
   Succeed anyway
If you find serenity and happiness, there may be jealousy
   Be Happy anyway
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow
   Do Good anyway
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough
   Give the World the best you’ve got anyway


You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God
It was never between You and Them anyway.

This wasn’t random spam. It was sent, to the entire company, by a Senior VP. It’s a beautiful poem, but whoever wrote the final lines, doesn’t have a solid grasp on the first line. They’ve completely ruined great sentiments by adding the concept of a God and an appeal to eventual, cosmic rewards for good deeds.

In the final sentence, replace the word ‘God’ with; Zeus, Jehova, ‘Whatever higher power you believe in, if any’, Magical Sky Pixies or Flying Spaghetti Monster and you’ll begin to see how absurd this really is.

If I had sent out this poem (to the entire company) with the last two lines replaced with; “Do good for its own sake — and not because you want a ‘gold star’ from some deity”, I would probably be writing my resume now, instead of a blog post.

If, instead, it had ended with “Do good for its own sake — do it because it makes you happy. Happiness is its own reward.” The poem would have been motivational, true and apart from a little sappy, who could really object?

Why is it so hard for people to see that appeals to a diety only serve to diminish the value of everything?

A flower can be appreciated for its own, natural beauty. To marvel at how wonderful ‘God’ is to have created a beautiful flower is completely backward. An omnipotent God could create beauty we could scarcely imagine; a flower so beautiful that gazing upon it sent one into euphoric fits. Flowers are beautiful, but they’re not miraculous.

If there’s an afterlife, isn’t this life just a place to wipe your feet until you get to the “real” life? Doesn’t the absence of a deity make this life infinitely more valuable? If there’s no cosmic justice, doesn’t that only encourage us to treat each other well, right now?

Let’s celebrate life. Let’s celebrate variety, diversity, knowledge, compassion, cooperation, good works, exploration, achievement and discovery.

No gods required.