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The Big Picture

'Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? Morons.' -- Vizzini from "The Princess Bride"

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Possibility of Atheism (part 2 of 3)

Part 1 is here. Original article is here.

We have been examining an essay, "The Impossibility of Atheism" written by William Lane Craig, and posted in its entirety by Frank Walton. We will now look at the next section, the value of life. Unfortunately there is nothing of value in the arguments presented, as we shall see.

Value of Life
First of all, atheistic humanists are totally inconsistent in affirming the traditional values of love and brotherhood. For though he was an atheist, he was an outspoken social critic, denouncing war and restrictions on sexual freedom. The point is that if there is no God, then objective right and wrong cannot exist. As Dostoyevsky said, “All things are permitted.”
This is one of the most oft repeated logical fallacies made by Christian apologists -- read C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity and you will see it in its full blown glory. As it stands, this is just a summarized paraphrase of Lewis' argument.

It is also quite simple to break. 'objective' right and wrong is in the eye of the beholder, and he knows this to be true, even though he writes the opposite of that truth here. The deal-breaker example is Christianity itself. There are literally a thousand different Christian sects, liberal, fundamental, and conservative. Yet none of these groups can agree on what is 'objectively' moral and even go so far as to use the 'objective' Word of God to support their own moral views. Stem cell research, abortion, the death penalty, etc. All show that Craig is claiming something here he knows to be a lie. This is the problem that results though, it negates his entire argument and opens up the possibility that atheists can and do find morality outside God and the Bible. I have written on this before, but quickly it boils down to the fact that humans are social creatures, we live in societies. In order for those societies to function, certain ground rules must exist and be enforced. Without these ground rules (what he would call 'morals'), society would collapse. Rules against murder, theft, rape (one not listed in the ten commandments), perjury, etc. are all necessary for a society to function and prosper.

But Dostoyevsky also showed that man cannot live this way. He cannot live as
though it is perfectly all right for soldiers to slaughter innocent children. He
cannot live as though it is all right for dictatorial regimes to follow a systematic program of physical torture of political prisoners. He cannot live as though it is all right for dictators like Pol Pot to exterminate millions of their own countrymen. But if there is no God, he cannot.
This has to be the most ridiculous argument in Christian apologetics. He must be blind not to see the flaw here. So let me rewrite the above statement as a testimony of Christianity:
He cannot live as though it is all right for Christianity to follow a systematic program of eternal torture in hell of unbelievers. He cannot live as though it is all right for dictators like God to exterminate millions of his own creation (including women, small children, and infants).

Christians all profess to a creed where they believe that God is lord and master, that He demands strict adherence to his rules, demands worship, and threatens to punish for eternity through torture anyone who breaks his rules or improperly worships him. How is this any different than any of history's most brutal dictators? Every dictator claims to do what he does out of 'love' for his people and to protect them from outside evils.

The horror of a world devoid of value was brought home to me with new intensity a few years ago as I viewed a BBC television documentary called “The Gathering.” It concerned the reunion of survivors of the Holocaust in Jerusalem, where they rediscovered lost friendships and shared their experiences. [...]
Here is the obligatory story of the horrors of holocaust. What about the documentary about the survivors of Sodom and Gomorrah or the great flood? Oh, right there were no survivors, the bible says they were all tortured to death with either fire or water -- including small children, pregnant women, and infants.

And yet, if God does not exist, then in a sense, our world is Auschwitz: there is no absolute right and wrong; all things are permitted.
Craig solves his non sequetur with yet another lapse in logic. Because it is so easy to completely equate his God with the vilest of human dictators, the answer is equally trivial to reason out. Just like the dictator who arbitrarily decides right and wrong based on what is best for himself, so does God. Like the citizens who accept that as the final word or face the threat of torture, so do Christians accept God's dictates. But here's the kicker: the power of morality lies with the people not the dictator. The dictator thrives only if his dictates are acceptable. If the people rebel, then then dictator loses all power. The same is true of Christianity. All Christians simply agree to let God decide morality. The real morality lies in their choice, not the dictates of God. If all Christians decided to let some other source of morality become their moral values, then God loses all power of being the 'moral authority'. Thus even within Christianity the judge of right and wrong (morality) lies within Christians not God. Just because they decided to let God be the arbiter of morality, does not change that they are the ultimate deciders of what is and is not moral. (Of course, the morality of God is only to be found in the writings of the Bible.)

A second problem is that if God does not exist and there is no immortality, then all the evil acts of men go unpunished and all the sacrifices of good men go unrewarded.
This argument is based on a false assumption, one that if you reject the assumption, the logic of the argument fails. He assumes there is an afterlife, and that the nature of that afterlife is to be eternal reward or punishment. If you don't agree with that assumption, as atheists do not, then his argument makes no sense. It is reduced to "it is a real impossibility to reward or punish people while alive." If people live by the rules, work hard, then they can retire in southern florida, enjoy the grandkids, write a book, paint, or play golf. If they break the rules, prison.
One can come up with any number of extenuating circumstances where reward/punishment are not doled out on this mortal coil; car wrecks, sickness, war, poverty, failed justice system... But is that any different when there is an eternal reward/punishment in the afterlife? For example, you are a good Christian your whole life, you die, go to heaven, only to find out out that your neighbor in heaven is Jeffrey Dahmer, who had just prior to dying turned his life over to Christ. Or while you were still alive on earth, your then neighbor and friend, who was always a good moral person, who helped his community every way he could; also died, and to your great surprise, he was a closet atheist, and now in hell.

The fact is, that the reward/punishment issue is made worse when an eternal component is thrown in, it throws justice on its ear, making right and wrong worthless. If only justice here on planet Earth is considered, it is indeed imperfact, thus some evil deeds go unpunished, but the reality is, it is not possible to predict when evil will be unpunished and when it will. So the fear of justice hear is not different than justice in the eternal sense. When an eternal punishment is added, as Christians are wont to do, then justice becomes torture. Imagine being given a life sentence for by a judge for a minor rule infraction like a traffic ticket. Yet having sex before marriage (for example) and not being repentent for it will send a person to hell forever. That is not justice. It is made even worse, when no Christian here on planet Earth can agree on what is a sin and what is not, even given the bible as the sole moral guide from God.

Richard Wurmbrand, who has been tortured for his faith in communist prisons,
says, The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe when man has no faith in the
reward of good or the punishment of evil. There is no reason to be human. There
is no restraint from the depths of evil which is in man.

The English theologian Cardinal Newman once said that if he believed that all evils and injustices of life throughout history were not to be made right by God in the
afterlife, “Why I think I should go mad.” Rightly so.

This is another case of bad assumptions. Let me first give you a little analogy. Suppose you were writing a sentence in ink on a piece of paper. You realize that you had written the wrong sentence down. All you could do would be cross it out and rewrite the sentence. The mistake will always be there, but it was later corrected and thus now right.

History cannot change, all that can be done is correct it in the future by not repeating the mistake. Honor the victims of past injustices by not allowing them to happen again.

Now the bad assumption is that past injustices can be 'fixed' by reward and/or punishment. This is false. Reward or punishment of the guilty does not erase, replace, or undo the original injustice, all it can do is 'make up' for it or provide 'closure'. The status of the victim, either living or dead, does nothing to change this fact. Reward or punishment is more often than not intended for the survivors of the injustice than it is for the victim or the perpetraitor.

And the same applies to acts of self-sacrifice. A number of years ago, a terrible mid-winter air disaster occurred in which a plane leaving the Washington, D.C. airport smashed into a bridge spanning the Potomac River, plunging its passengers into the icy waters. As the rescue helicopters came, attention was focused on one man who again and again pushed the dangling rope ladder to other passengers rather than be pulled to safety himself. Six times he passed the ladder by. When they came again, he was gone. He had freely given his life that others might live. The whole nation turned its eyes to this man in respect and admiration for the selfless and good act he had performed. And yet, if the atheist is right, that man was not noble–he did the stupidest thing possible. He should have gone for the ladder first, pushed others away if necessary in order to survive. But to die for others he did not even know, to
give up all the brief existence he would ever have–what for? For the atheist
there can be no reason. [..] devoid of value
First I would like to point out that nowhere does he actually discuss 'value'. He speaks of morals (also called 'values') but not of value. Value in this context is worth. An atheist values human life greatly -- arguably even more so than a Christian. The proof is again in the Christian creed; humans are fallen, corrupt, sinners, evil, worthless, dust, vile, etc. How can a person who describes himself thusly turn around and say they value life? How can they hold that terrible a view of humanity and still say that an atheist, who rejects all that, values life less? The only way they get away with it is to misconstrue 'value' (worth) to be the same as 'values' (morality).

Atheists have no afterlife, so they must make the most of their time while alive. This is true, but only half the story. The proof is rather complex, so I will explain by example. Most Christians agree that only humans have souls, and it is this soul that enters the afterlife. As such, animals do not have souls and so they just die. But many times animal behavior has been observed that a parent will not only risk its life, but die to protect their offspring. If Craig is right, then this is impossible. His contention becomes even more absurd when we move away from animals to humans, who in addition to instinct have rational and logical cognative abilities as well. An atheist, in addition to having the same instincts as the animal example above, can reason beyond himself, and see a greater good. It is this greater good that allows selfless acts to occur. Sometimes what is best for society is what's worst for the individual. But the relationship between society and self is flexible, at times leaning towards society and other times towards self. When that flexibility is broken, as happens, we have judges and prisons.

Next Time: part 3, the purpose of life.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Christian Outlaw, Pedophile, Jeffs Caught.. In my backyard!

Warren Jeffs, the "prophet" of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, was captured today, right here in Las Vegas. (Granted that many Christians, don't consider LDS, let alone FLDS, to be a Christian denomination, but...) Christian Jeffs was accused of:
[C]harges of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution in Utah and Arizona, sexual conduct with a minor, conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor and rape as an accomplice, according to the FBI Web site.
All I can say is it is good this pervert is behind bars. I hope he goes down for 20 hard years.
I just hope the media can break away from its post-Karr JonBenet coverage long enough to mention it more than in passing.

Oh, and rest assured that the next time some fundamentalist Christian speaks up about atheists and lack of morals, I will be bringing this up again.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Possibility of Atheism (part 1 of 3)

I recently came across this apologist essay claiming to knock down atheism...

The Practical Impossibility of Atheism

[Note: in order to find the actual essay, author and references, please check here. The real author is William Lane Craig]

About the only solution the atheist can offer is that we face the absurdity of life and live bravely. Bertrand Russell, for example, wrote that we must build our lives upon “the firm foundation of unyielding despair.”15 Only by recognizing that the world really is a terrible place can we successfully come to terms with life. Camus said that we should honestly recognize life’s absurdity and then live in love for one another.
First, this reference to Bertrand Russell [15] is to:
Bertrand Russell, “A Free Man’s Worship,” in Why I Am Not a Christian, ed. P. Edwards (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957), p. 107
From this same book, Russell writes, “When the intensity of emotional conviction subsides, a man who is in the habit of reasoning will search for logical grounds in favour of the belief which he finds in himself " Ceratinly something seems amiss between the quote the author (Craig) gives and the other things Russell writes about. This means that the possibility of quote mining Russell is quite high. In fact, we find that it is 100%. Russell was referring to the despair of living in a world rife with all the scourges created by humanity (including Christians).

The fundamental problem with this solution, however, is that it is impossible to live consistently and happily within such a worldview.

Where is it written (in either Christian or secular writings) that "consistently" and "happily" are prerequisites for living? Neither Christian nor atheist can meet these criteria 100% of the time. So this is an obvious strawman, and non sequeteur. I am not always happy about having to go to work, but it is a necessary "evil" in order to provide for my family. (I do enjoy my work immensely, but there are days when it is tedious and stressful -- thus not "happy".) Craig, here, seems to want to claim that by taking on a Christian worldview, all the troubles in the world disappear. Which is not only false, but absurd to claim. In fact the most satisfying life can be ony that is not in the least "consistent"; that is always changing, full of challenge, and not always "happy". Without obstacles, that humanity can never accomplish great things. Thus claiming happiness and consistency are complete and total goals equates to a life that is completely boring and dull.

Modern man, says Schaeffer, resides in a two-story universe. In the lower story is the finite world without God; here life is absurd, as we have seen. In the upper story are meaning, value, and purpose. Now modern man lives in the lower story because he believes there is no God.

This is absurd. How is it that life based on discovery of the natural world we live in can be called devoid of meaning and valueless is beyond me. Value and meaning are fully subjective objects and no two people view them the same (this includes all Christians as well). How many Christians do you know who go to work to feed their families and consider that endeavor "meaningless" and "valueless"? I would guess the answer is exactly zero. Thus the material world is full of value and meaning, because the material world is full of people: family, friends, neighbors and those who are unknown. "God" has nothing to do with the meaning that all people, Christian and non-Christian alike, place on their lives and their efforts in the everyday world. To make that into something without meaning is to make life itself meaningless.

But he cannot live happily in such an absurd world; therefore, he continually makes leaps of faith into the upper story to affirm meaning, value, and purpose, even though he has no right to, since he does not believe in God.
Again, this is a strawman argument based on the notion that everyone's lives, in their day to day experience is without meaning, unless one attaches to it a meaing assigned by God. How is working to feed one's family worthless when it comes to an atheist, but suddenly if full of meaning when it is attributed to God? How is the happiness of friends and family suddenly null, if attributed to hard human work, and not God-given gifts? The value and worth is the same in both cases. Thus what we witness here is nothing but a rationalization aiming to say that there is some difference where none really exists.

Meaning of Life
First, the area of meaning. We saw that without God, life has no meaning. Yet philosophers continue to live as though life does have meaning. For example, Sartre argued that one may create meaning for his life by freely choosing to follow a certain course of action. Sartre himself chose Marxism.
"Meaning" according to Craig, can only happen if there is some outside frame of reference -- in his case, God. Anyone who attaches a different meaning, must therefore be wrong. The question is, why must there only be one "meaning" to life? Simple open a dictionary, any dictionary, to a random page, and read the meanings of a couple of words. What you will find is that many words have many meanings. Why is life so different? Why is it life can only have one meaning? Why is one's individual meaning not valid, but some "universal" meaning is not only valid, but the only valid answer? Another way of viewing this, is how many people have to have the same meaning, before it becomes valid? Since it takes some sort of universal acceptance before a meaning is valid, what is that threshold? I point this out, because even among Christians they cannot agree on what that meaning is.

Without God, there can be no objective meaning in life.
The problem here, is one of necessity. Why is an objective meaning necessary? That question must be answered before this type of statement can be made. Furthermore, why must "objective" meaning be universal? Again, virtually everyone places an "objective" meaning on life to which they strive to live. Here Craig either confuses or intentionally distorts what objective means. Any individual can have objective meaning to life. Objective does not equate to universal.

For the universe does not really acquire meaning just because I give it one. for suppose I give the universe one meaning, and you give it another. Who is right? The answer, of course, is neither one.

The answer, of course, is actually both. For Craig to be correct, he must prove conclusively that one meaning is false, and his meaning is true. Since this is not possible, his answer is not logical. The real answer is that there is no way to assign "right" and "wrong" to meaning without a common frame of reference. Unfortunately, the only common frame of reference is a materialistic one, that includes all human experience. Since this is the only provable case, then providing for a supernatural (non-materialistic) one is just another frame of reference, and one that is no more or less valid than the materialistic.

Sartre is really saying, “Let’s pretend the universe has meaning.” And this is just fooling ourselves.

Not true. Where is it written that the universe must have only one meaning? For example, consider a childhood book,. For one child the meaning of the book could be that the stories comforted the child and made the child unafraid to sleep. For another child the book was the only thing left after a fire, and that book is the only link to how things used to be. Since there are two meanings for something as simple as a book, does that mean both are wrong? Of course not. The flaw in the logic of the author is his underlying assumption: there can only be one meaning. This alone negates his entire argument but we shall press on.

The next point is the irony in his 'fake' quote of sartre at the end. It is even more applicable to the Christian worldview. They make up one meaning of the universe, their mythological God, chosen out of the thousands of primitive gods, and pretend it is real.

The point is this: if God does not exist, then life is objectively meaningless; but man cannot live consistently and happily knowing that life is meaningless; so in order to be happy he pretends life has meaning. But this is, of course, entirely inconsistent–for without God, man and the universe are without any real significance.

Here we see him blatantly contradict himself. He just admitted that different people can have different meanings even though he casually calls them all wrong, not he says they cannot have have meaning; a 'wrong' meaning is still meaning. To demonstrate how mistaken his conclusion is consider this simple analogy: an artist (God) paints a painting (universe). Person A sees the painting and thinks how beautiful the painting is. Person B sees the painting and thinks how talented the artist is. Now, both have come up with different meanings. But according to him, person A is wrong, and his meaning has no merit. How is this judgement made possible by him? He gives no rationalization other than if only the painting is considered, then because everyone attaches different meaning, they must all be wrong, because there is only one meaning, and it has nothing to do with the painting at all, that it should be ignored completely in favor of only the painter's talent at painting.

This can just as easily be extended into a painterless analogy as well; a truck filled with cans of colored paint crashes into a truck fillied with blank canvasses, and multi-colored swirls of paint wind up on the canvas. This person would claim those canvasses cannot a priori have any meaning to anyone, let alone differing meanings.

Parts 2 (value of life) and 3 (purpose of life) are upcoming. But don't expect any reasoning any better than what we witnessed here.

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Agape = Persecution??

Agape Press has this press release out in the internet ether...
(special thanks to Sadly, No! for pointing this out.)

"Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a bill that gives homosexuals new and far-reaching powers.

The bill, SB 1441, adds sexual orientation to already existing provisions in the state's law that prohibit discrimination on the basis of, among other things, race, national origin, ethnic group identification, religion, age, sex, color, or disability. The measure was promoted by a lesbian member of the California legislature and is now the law in that state, a fact that has filled many family advocates with outrage."

First I would like to say that I applaud this development in California politics. It is the right thing to do. However, there is a problem, and I think agape press nails it here:

"This legislation, a CRI press release points out, could potentially prevent parochial schools such as private, Christian, Catholic, Mormon, or other faith-based educational institutions from receiving student financial assistance if they also maintain a code of conduct that prohibits homosexual behavior as immoral based on their religious beliefs."

Of course they are correct, it does discriminate against Christian religions. They are correct to view this as "persecution" or an "attack in the War On Christianity." But what does that really mean?

They are being limited in their religious activities. This is evident in that they will no longer be able to persecute gays via their schools or religious establishments. But what I want to know is why they find it acceptable to demonize a given sub-section of the law-abiding American population based solely on their religious views. I mean, in the lead up to the Civil War, many Christian Southerners claimed it was their religious right to abuse and dehumanize blacks. What is the difference? They were wrong then, and they are wrong now.

So, yes, it is true that Christians are being singled out for "persecution" via this new law. But the truth is, the one they refuse to admit, is that this has occurred based solely on their own hateful and persecuting ways. To claim otherwise is to roll back the advances made as a result of the emancipation proclamation.

When religion is in the business of demonizing and persecuting law-abiding Americans, they deserve to have laws put in place to bring them in compliance with a civilized American society.

So what have we learned? That there is actually persecution going on in this country, but it is propagated by Christians against law-abiding Americans, and they are now suffering as a result of that persecution.

Update: As has been pointed out by Ed Brayton and others, this agapre press release is reduce to the absurd, because of what the discrimination law already protects: Religion. Now if religion was already given "new and far-reaching powers" via the same bill that now grants them to gays and lesbians. What is their real complaint?? It seems it is reduced to whining about some other group getting the same far-reaching powers Christians already had! Talk about Christian persecution.. "They get the same rights we already enjoyed... That means we're persecuted."


Monday, August 28, 2006

"L'Idiot" Redux

Is it even possible for a conservative to come up with an original idea?

I got a kick out of this picture from the AP:

I am reminded of this picture from the Terri Schiavo fiasco...

But then again the irony is totally out the window for conservatives. They were "pro-life" at the time of Schiavo, now they are "pro-death" fighting anti-war protestors. That seems to be awfully close to actually being "pro-choice", don't you think??

Just food for thought...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Fear and Loathing in America

Note: this post is broken into two sections, 'fear' the background information, and 'loathing' the problem manifesting itself in this country. It should be considered a draft only, as I plan to refine it in the future and add it to one of my upcoming books. Please read accordingly.

I have often written about the ignorance and dishonesty in the doctrines of Christianity. One can quickly determine that there is a direct link between human knowledge, the mysteries of the universe, and religion.

When very little was understood about the natural world, there were gods for virtually every phenomena -- gods for thunder, lightning, wind, seas, weather, fertility, well you get the idea. Those gods eventually began to disappear or be gathered together into more monotheistic gods. As the mysteries dwindled, religion began to focus on the one core mystery, the one religion originated with and was founded upon; death.

Today, we actually do undrstand death -- because we understand life. Life is a complex chemical process, that when it ceases, that final state is death. All the thoughts, feelings, awareness that makes up a human is the byproduct of the electrochemical processes in the brain and nervous system. But to the religious, life/death is more than that; they maintain the existence of a 'soul' some essence of a human that transcends the material world, somehow mirroring or superceeding the biological processes of thought and awareness. Since no theologian, let alone Christian apologist, can adequately define this 'soul', I will make no theological pronouncements on it. I will say the only component of it shown to be real, is the physical biological processes.

The mystery of death is therefore transformed into the soul and its eternal (non-material) nature. If it is eternal,they postulate, then there must be an afterlife. This being the domain of God. From there they further the postulate to include not just one, but two (or more) 'areas' of the afterlife, one --good-- controlled by God, one --evil-- controlled by Satan.

Christianity is an exercize in self-delusion. If you ask any Christian, they will tell you they believe in eternal life. But if you tell them that they really do not believe in eternal life, they are left sputtering. Exposing this delusion is crucial to gaining a real perspective on the other problems of the Christian religion.

It is straightforward to prove this as well. Let us list the points of truth, to which most Christians agrees.
1. The afterlife is supposed to be a better place, one highly desirable; free from pain and sorrow, full of love and bliss, and fully in the presence of the goodness and glory of God.
2. The material world, the one we all live in, is only temporary (for a Christian: a place to test one's faith and devotion to God and Jesus Christ).
3. The material world is loathsome, full of sin, suffering, death and temptation.
4. The existence of death is the reason for fear.
5. Human knowledge has progressed to the point now where many diseases can be cured, food can be produced to feed larger populations, the elements can be somewhat controlled (drought, floods, hurricanes, tornados, heat and cold), threats from animal predators, and entertainment to keep the human mind happy. Life expectancy has increased along with the likelihood of surviving to that expectancy.
6. Christians are taught from youth to look forward to their reward in heaven (the Christian afterlife)
7.The New Testament has many teachings about living in this world and entrance into the next.
8.The New Testament teaches a longing for the next world, heaven, and the bountiful treasure therein.
9.The apostle Paul teaches of the miracles Christians are able to perform, the laying on of hands to cure the sick being one of them.
10.Human knowledge is inferior to God's knowledge and should be shunned

Then there are the logical statements one can make and the facts and assumptions to back them up:
1.Death is the big mystery of humanity, one that is solved in Christianity via the promise of an eternal afterlife.
2.In heaven, imperfect humans are made perfect in the sight of God, as is necessary to be in God's presence.
3.As the afterlife is therefore a major improvement over this materialistic life, it is something desirable and strived for. Also it is something to be shared (the reason for evangelism...)

Here is where we run into our logical problem though, if Christians believed all that to be really true, then they would not manage their lives as they do. The way they live their lives is more explainable through the fact that death is the end of life. Period.

Consider the facts. Why would a person who believes that there actually is an eternal afterlife, and one infinitely better than this life, strive so hard to preserve this life? Consider the human knowledge of medicine, diet, engineering, social behavior; all are according to the bible worthless, yet all Christians (even the Amish) embrace them and fight for them in their daily lives. Doctors should be the anti-Christs spoken of by Paul, as they profess to cure humans with human knowledge and expertise. Those things are expressly prohibited in the bible. See: 1 Timothy 6:20 "O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge". The same goes for using engineering and science knowledge to build better homes, crops, and methods of delivering goods to where people live. All this is human knowledge, and without it, society would wither and die. But God told his people that all that was false knowledge.

Christians are supposed to bend to the will of the Father. If he refuses to heal the sick through the miracle of laying on of hands, then that person is supposed to die, or suffer through life. Medicine takes the place of God, curing the sick, healing pain and making life less sufferable. A bible-believing, God-fearing Christian should trust in God, not doctors. But what do we see? Hospitals and waiting rooms full of Christians! These Christians do not trust in God, they trust in humans, doctors. They are not willing to suffer and die, they desire to live and be healthy. If there truly was a glorious afterlife, this action would be preposterous.

Second, if a family member was ill, on the verge of death, those loving Christians by putting them in the hospital, and preventing their immediate entrance into heaven are being downright cruel. How can a Christian say to their dying grandmother, “I know your heart stopped beating, and you were on the path to eternal bliss in heaven, but I could not suffer your loss, so I decided to prevent your bliss, and bring you back to this corrupt and ugly world in which we live.” Is that love? It is pure selfishness. No real Christian would ever do or say such things, unless they knew in their hearts that there was no afterlife.

Life and death, and more importantly fear of death, are the realities of materialistic creatures. Being as humans are purely materialistic, they suffer from those realities. It is the fear that gives rise to religion. But it is death that proves no afterlife exists, at least in terms of the biblical god. For there is nothing in the bible that suggests this life is worth living, other than for its longing for the afterlife, and there is everything to gain by entering the next life, heaven. So what we witness, when it comes to Christians, is that they profess something on their tongues (Christianity and heaven) but their actions speak to their hearts (death is final). The moment a Christian sends their child to a doctor, or their parent to the hospital, they are disrupting the life that God set out for that person, and depriving them of the illness or disease that will send them to eternal bliss in heaven, so that they can continue to suffer the miserey of life on earth as explained in the bible. The first time laying on hands is shunned for human knowledge in healing, the facade of god-belief evaporates. Any protest of this truth is but a lie.

For a Christian, “Suffer unto Jesus” is a line to be spoken on Sunday or Wednesday, but not to be practiced. It also is proof, that not even Christians truly believe in an afterlife.

Fearing death is the fatal bogeyman to atheist and theist alike. How that fear is dealt with is the sole distinguishing point -- atheists strive to make the best of this life, Christians focus on convincing themselves of an afterlife, while striving to hold onto this life.

Dark Matter and Evolution

One argument creatonists (and yes I am including ID in this category) make is that their ideas critical of evolution and Charles Darwin's theory are suppressed and thus cannot gain traction in mainstream science. This has been shown false many times. Well, now we have concrete proof that this argument is nothing more than whining and a plea for attention, but hollow otherwise. So how can we draw conclusions about the vacuity of creationist complaints from an article about dark matter in a galaxy cluster 3 billion light years away? Jason Rosenhouse, in his CSICOP article, gives us the answer, and this news about dark matter is just another example.

The Jonathon Wells, Philip Johnsons, and William Dembskis all make the same claim, that the scientific elite suppress their criticisms and their proofs of "alternatives" to evolution. Jason points out that science works in just the opposite way, that big breakthroughs are strived for in science, not suppressed. Thus we come to dark matter.

Consider this passage:
"While the theoretical existence of dark matter has been broadly embraced for years -- and has now been further endorsed by some of the most prominent researchers and institutions in the field -- a strong countertheory has also grown, contending that the laws of gravity established by Newton and Einstein need modification. The group supporting this theory believes that a relatively limited tweaking of those laws, especially as they pertain to the massive nature of faraway galaxies, could explain the missing gravity better than could undetectable dark matter. [emphasis mine]"

We see that an older and more established theory, Newtonian gravity, was being challenged by physicists in order to explain away the possibility of dark matter, a very new theory on the block. In both camps, the dark matter scientists and gravity-tweaking scientists, they were racing to get their ideas proven. Creationists, on the other hand, do no science whatsoever, produce nothing to add to the theoretical (Dembski's Complex Specified Information is a useless tool able to detect nothing, and Behe's Irreducible Complexity has been shown false for every example he has provided). In spite of the fact nothing has been produced in support of Intelligent Design, they bemoan the out-of-hand rejection of their "theory."

Creation Scientists, such as Ken Ham and Jonathan Sarfati of AiG, fare no better. They only claim to take the known evidence, fossils, geology, physics, etc. and twist it to fit their theory (young earth creationism). They make the same claim that their ideas are being ignored. Dark Matter foils them as well. We see that because alternative views to dark matter (the gravity tweakers) put up an alternative view of the facts, and tried to change a well-established theory, Newtonian and Einsteinian gravity, but failed to produce evidence supporting their side. (I should state here that this particular debate is not over yet, we may still find that not enough dark matter exists to account for our observations, requiring a change to the theories of gravity.) Like gravity, the debate over evolution is not over; but a serious blow to the side of the gravity tweakers.

The problem we find is that unlike the physics community, the creationists refuse to admit defeat, and continue to toss out the same tired, debunked, vacuous ideas time after time. Only each time they repeat their old assertions, they simply look more and more desperate.

Maybe it is time for the creationists to take heed of Shakespeare
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
[Hamlet, act 1, sc. 5]

and realize that their philosophies have given up their ghosts, and accept the truth that more exists than are willing to acknowledge.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Strict Constructionists

A while back I wrote a piece about conservatives and judges. Today we are witnessing the fruits of what I was saying: conservatives are not interested in the judiciary strictly deciding cases via the letter of the constitution as they have claimed. No, they want conservative 'activist' judges plain and simple. This has been proven by the conservative outcry over Judge Anna and her stark takedown of President Bush and his warrantless eavesdropping on American citizens. They are all whining that the judge based her decision on the first and fourth amendments and FISA, the 1978 act that set up a special court to deal with state secrets and foreign entities.

I guess I should be glad for this development, they have now officially dropped their code words for their disdain of the judiciary (activist judges and strict constructionist judges) and just come out with the more honest talking point of "we don't want any judges to interfere in our takeover of American power"

Christians have always been upfront and honest in their hatred of judges, “Judge not, that you be not judged” [Matt 7:1 NKJV] but the political front of conservatism has been much more shrouded in code words – activist judges this and strict constructionist that. Now we see that shroud of obtusiveness lifted.

Get rid of all judges, and let us do what we please to form this glorious “Christian Nation.” Let us use torture, spying, and racial profiling to make it perfect, and let us condemn “social darwinism” (link to D. James Kennedy, and his Coral Ridge Ministry) while we enable it to God's greater good.
[Update: Pat Buchanan has recently put out a book entitled, State of Emergency, he employs "social darwinism" at the expense of non-whites and immigrants. See ThinkProgress for a brief rundown on the book. Combine this with the "Christian Nation" banner waving in conservative circles, and we see how horridly duplicitous these conservative Christians really are.]

Well, what can I say? having it both ways is Christian "moral absolutism" and maintaining the rule of law is atheistic "moral relativism"... I really do not know how to respond. Maybe a lobotomy and Bible camp will help me see the light.

A case of "Do as I say, not as I do"

One of the planks of conservative Republicans is the destruction of affirmative action. They say it is not fair for people who otherwise do not meet the requirements (i.e. entrance to college, job requirements, etc.) to be accepted simply because of their race.

One of my regular blog reads is Red State Rabble. RSR has a post up concerning a lawsuit that popped up last fall (see here for the article), in which a group of Christian parents were suing the University of California to lower their standards so that the graduates of a Christian high school could gain entrance to the University.

The problem is clear. Conservatives want affirmative action banned if it helps blacks, browns and other disadvantaged minorities, but want it wholly enforced if it helps Christians (who are the most disadvantaged because they are white, wealthy, politically powerful, and Christian -- you know the truly persecuted in this country). Apparently, if you're black, and your education doesn't meet the requirements for entrance into college, then it is a "no go", but you are a conservative Christian, and your education doesn't meet the requirements for entrance into college, then its persecution.

I would, of course, draw the obvious distinction, that economic and social disadvantage are difficult things to overcome, as it is with minorities; but with conservative Christians, they chose to make their children ignorant and willfully decided to fail to provide them with the necessary qualifications.

As RSR states: "choices have consequences." Indeed.

Finally, A Church Gets It Right

Whenever I debate Christians over the bible, my main point of attack is the literal dictates of the bible. What is commanded by Jesus and Paul, when laid out for all to see, becomes absurd. I have used this to point out that the Church is communistic, anti-life (pro-abortion), anti-family, anti-women, and what it supports as appropriate behavior is all but ignored today (laying on of hands in lieu of medicine, shunning secular courts of law, etc.).

So many fundamentalist Christians follow (or pretend to follow) some of the Bible, but always at the expense of ignoring other parts of it. For if all of the New Testament were followed, it would return those Christians back to the dark ages. So today an article appeared in the AP, Church fires teacher for being woman, that talks about one church that has decided to obey one particular passage in the first epistle to Timothy. The passage forbids a woman to teach, or have authority over a man. In the article, a church had just fired a woman who had taught sunday school for 54 years. The reason given was 1 Tim 2:12.

To that church I say, congratulations! At least they are beginning to follow that nonsense. I can't wait until they begin to follow Jesus' own words and force their members to hate their families, "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple." [Luke 14:26 NKJV]

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Christian Math

Over the years I've had a lot of fun when it comes to Christians and their unique way of viewing the world. One fascinating aspect of that has been "Christian Math".. Recently PZ Myers posted on Christian Calculus, and I thought this would be a good time to resurrect this old comment I made years ago at Jesus General.

During my surfing for all things Christian, I came across a publisher that mentioned something called "Christian Mathematics." Interestingly enough, God's math is not the same as our math. So, I hit upon the idea of inventing a "Christian Calculator."

For more on Christian Math, see the A Beka Book press information.
(scroll down a bit to the "mathematics" book.)

Here is the rundown of the features and functions of the new Christian Calculator:

This calculator will have the '+/-' key replaced with a 'satan' key. This key will only turn positive (good) numbers into negative (evil) numbers. There will also be a 'Paul' key that replaces negative numbers with a random (either positive or negative) number.

It will not do logarithms ('log' just sounds way too gay to be Christian), and will certainly not calculate the natural log of any number (as anything natural is materialistic and goes against God's will).

The 'function' key will be replaced by the 'grace' key. The effect of the new key will be exactly the same, only the name was changed to a more Christian word (i.e. 'function' as in 'bodily functions' and thus is a secular humanistic term).

The 'tan' key will be removed as it suggests brown people, and lord knows they know nothing mathematical, let alone be right about anything. (In future versions of this calculator, this key will return as the 'KKK' key.)

The 'cos' key will be replaced with an 'effect' key, as God has no Cause... This key will never perform any predictable function, and only God knows what it will do before it is pressed. (i.e. it is the "mystery of God" key)

Pressing the 'sin' key delivers a small electric shock to the user to remind them that astrology (signs) and all other forms of pagan mysticism are not to be practiced. (Note: this is the trigonometry key described here. It is not to be confused with the seperate 'sin' key which only functions when the 'grace' key is first pressed. This key absolves the user of one minor sin when pressed.)

The 'grace' key, when pressed for the first time, prompts the user to enter their sexual orientation ('1' for straight, '2' for gay). A built-in lie detector will determine the sincerity of the user. If the user is gay, the calculator will still work, but give the opposite of the correct answer (if the answer is 1, the result returned by the calculator will be -1). Also, after every calculation a bible verse condemning the user will be displayed.

A new feature added to the calculator is the 'Babel' key. It automatically translates any Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek into middle-century Olde English. Pressing the 'grace' and the 'Babel' keys activates the MP3 function of the calculator -- but plays only the latest 700 Club show or "Truths That Transform" from the Coral Ridge Ministries. User has the choice of which program to listen to (see, Christians are also pro-choice!).

The calculator automatically assumes that anyone who presses the 'shift' key is a feminazi and will cause the calculator to cease to function alltogether until a male (preferrably the father or husband, but a brother will do in a pinch) brings it to the nearest approved church where a minister resets it using a special keycode combination (known only to approved reverends).
(It is a known bug in this Calculator that no functions which require the 'shift' key are accessible. In the next version of this Calculator those functions will be eliminated, as they are useless in Christian Math.)

The 'exponential' key will now only work when the estimated world population is entered, the result will tell the user how many people currently living will be going to hell.

Two new keys will be added; the 'Adam' key, which takes the inverse of the number punched in (replacing the 'inverse' key), and the 'Eve' key, which subtracts one from the number punched in. (It should also be pointed out that pressing the 'Eve' key automatically activates the 'sin' key -- see above. This has the unfortunate but inescapable effect of hopelessly scrambling the answer due to the "miracle of God" mathematical effect.)

The 'memory' or 'store' key will in fact save any number entered, but when 'recall' is pressed, the only number returned will be "3.16" It will be up to the user to remember that it is referring to John 3:16.

The value stored as 'pi' will be exactly 3.0, as mandated by God, in 2 Chronicles 4:2-4. (There will be no value for 'e' as it was not mandated by God in his holy science book, and thus does not really exist.)

All statistical functions will be eliminated, as they all only serve to "lower the bar" for entrance into heaven (with the exception of the 'summation' function). 'Average' and 'mean' functions can only lower the requirements of heaven as there are only a select few who will enter heaven, but there are huge masses that will be condemned to hell. The 'summation' function will be retained, as mentioned, but in a new form. Any series of numbers entered and then "summed" up will equal '1'. This is because the only real Truth in summation is that three whole beings, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, all add up to one God. Thus any summation must equal '1'.

The calculator will have a clock function, but when the 'Joshua' button is pressed, the earth will immediately stop rotating, freeze in its orbit of the sun, and the moon will cease in its orbit of the earth. This effect will continue for precisely 24 hours.

The '6' key will be removed, as it is the number of the devil. This will prevent the user from accidentally (or intentionally, if a "Left Behind" fan) pressing 666 and thus unleashing the hounds of hell upon the Earth and the onset of the apocalypse.

Pressing the '7' key three times will return the winning numbers to this week's "powerball" lottery; but only to the user who prays the hardest.

The '8' key will be replaced with the 'Noah' key. Then only the keys '1' through 'Noah' will continue to function (the '9' and '0' keys will be permanantly disabled), but the calculator will otherwise function normally -- in other words, all future calculations will only involve the numbers 1- 8 ('Noah').

Punching in the two numbers '6' (the replacement 6 -- i.e. '6*', not the actual '6' which was removed) and '9' will activate a blackberry connection and a GPS tracking circuit, allerting the authorities that a sexual miscreant is using the calculator and result in prosecution for violating the "moral standards."
* The new '6' is a normal six with a bar through it.

If the user enters the calculation '1+1' and presses the '=' key (see below), the answer will be '2' if the user indicated "straight" (above), or '1' if "gay". This is the only calculation performed by this calculator that will return a "correct" answer, according to the 'grace' rules above. (The reason this answer will be correct is that even if gays want to get married, they will still forced to be single by Correct/Conservative Christians, thus '1').

If the user enters the calculation, '1x3' and presses the '=' key (see below), the answer will be '1' (for explanation, see the 'summation' function above).

The 'divide' key will be removed, as God is indivisible.

An 'abortion' key will be added. This key will automatically reset the number '2' to '1' on the display and then condemn the user to eternal torment in hell.

The original version of this calculator had a 'Test Tube' key (back in the 1970s). This key originally told the user how many soulless babies they were creating using in-vitro fertilization. The latest version of the calculator has since replaced that key with the newer, updated 'Snowflake' key. This new key tells the user (only if straight and married) how many Blastocyst-Americans they have just adopted and must attempt to raise -- as all test-tube created blastocysts are (now officially) human and deserving of the "Culture of Life."

If the 'Snowflake' key is pressed by a single straight male, the resulting number is the number of innocent children killed by Bush's "Holy War" to bring democracy and the "Culture of Life" to Iraq. Pressing this key with the 'grace' key tells the user how many innocent children and women they could have killed in Iraq if they had been brave enough to sign up in the Army.

A new key added will be the 'Devil' key (note: this is not the same as the 'satan' key above). Pressing this key will return the precise bible quote that explains why you are going straight to hell -- unless you head straight to the nearest approved church and repent of your sin(s), and make the appropriate tithe (see below).

A 'tithe' key will automatically calculate how much you should give to your church out of your salary. Older versions of this calculator erroneously used the Biblcally endorced value of 100%, but this function has been changed in order to accomodate the newer 'capitalist' Christians.

The 'Caesar' key will automatically contact the IRS database and all other relevant records and calculate your income taxes. It remains up to the user to actually pay this amount to the government.

There will be an additional 'Peter' key. This key will replace the 'clear' key and will only work three times, after which the calculator can never again be cleared.

However, there will also be a 'Judas' key. Once an incorrect number is entered, and the Judas key is pressed, that number will never be able to be entered again into the calculator, it will be replaced with an imaginary number (at random).

There will also be a brand new 'Moses' key added. This key will give the results of the last 10 calculations, but then they will be permanantly erased and replaced with 10 different results yet represented as the same original 10 results.

One of the more powerful keys on this calculator is the 'spies' key. Pressing this key will give the user 12 answers to a problem. However, only one (or two) of the answers is correct. The other ten (or eleven) answers are false (from the devil). The best example of the power of this key was demonstrated by George W. Bush. He used this key to determine the number of WMDs in the possession of Saddam Hussein, and subsequently started his "Holy War" against the evil brown people.

Instead of the traditional '=' key, a 'Thomas' key will take its place. This key will have the function of returning the wrong answer, but when pressed a second time will give the correct answer (according to all rules above and below).

There will be a new key added; the 'prayer' key. Pressing this key instantly links your Christian Calculator with all other Christian Calculators around the world through the built-in blackberry connection. Otherwise, this key does nothing.

Any Christian Calculator that has the number '1134' punched in, and is then turned upside down (showing the word 'hell') will automatically self destruct.

One important technical note for these calculators is that they are not, nor will they ever be, solar powered; as solar power is the invention of satan-worshipping liberal Democrats, and will never be included in this Christian Calculator.

Finally, there is the most important new key, the one that is revolutionary for calculators:

The 'Jesus' key. This one is only used when the batteries go dead. Pressing this key immediately brings the batteries back to life!!

Future upgrades to the Christian Calculator:The batteries will eventually be replaced by crude oil. The technology is not yet developed (Christian scientists are hard at work on the problem even now -- using current versions of the Christian Calculator). But when it is, the 'Jesus' key will have to be replaced by the 'Elijah' key, which will miraculously replace the oil whenever its resevoir is emptied.

No one has figured out what the new 'Jesus' key will do yet. However, if the oil power cell fails to pan out, we already have a working prototype that uses water. The user fills the calculator with water, then presses the new 'Jesus' key, the water is instantly turned into wine, and the wine is used to power the calculator. This plan is opposed by the Republican Congress and President Bush, who prefer the oil power cell technology. They claim the water/wine power cell would be economically disasterous to both the oil and wine industries. We tend to agree with this assessment which is why the new water/wine power cell has been shelved for the time being.

The feasibility of a 'faith/works' key is being studied, but the outlook is not promising. This key is proposed to replace the now missing 'division' key. The problem is that the Protestant (Pauline) view of this new key is that it should return an error -- that is a "division by zero" error. The Catholic (Jamesian) view is that this key will determine the amount of time spent in Purgatory, based on the amount of "works" performed. We are considering two different versions of future Chriatian Calculators; one for Protestants, and one for Catholics.

For a while, a 'Terri Schiavo' key was considered. This key was intended to diagnose a comatose person at a distance of a couple of hundred miles. It was based on the diagnosis by Senator Bill Frist. But when the autopsy results were made public this idea was dropped because it became apparent that Christians cannot diagnose at a distance.

Future versions of the Christian Calculator will replace the 'multiply' key with a 'loaves and fishes' key (we are also looking into shortening the name of this key as well -- some employees are considering calling it the 'LAF' key). The reason this key has not yet been incorporated is that we are not sure which mathematical base in which to perform this calculation; be it either 4,000 or 5,000.

We are furiously working on how to implement the new 'David' key for use in our military. This key will calculate how many insurgents/terrorists/Iraqis can be run over by chariots (tanks), chopped up by iron axes (M-16s), and burned in kilns (incendiary bombs) per hour by American troops and still remain in God's good graces.

Work on the 'Temple' key was scuttled by Tom Delay and the entire Ohio GOP as corruption and back-room/under-the-table dealing is now a moral value. (Although they have voiced support for similarly functioned 'Cain' and 'Abel' keys; development on these are in the preliminary stages.)

We are working to include a 'Balaam' key for the next Christian Calculator. Pressing this key will enable "talking" mode. However, we are having difficulties in getting this to work without using either a speaker or sound chip.

It has been proposed by our board to include an 'Aaron' key in the next calculator. They insist that this key, when pressed, will randomly negate the functionality of the 'Moses' key.

There is fierce debate over whether to include the proposed 'Solomon' key in the next version of the Christian Calculator. Some board members want this key to have the functionality of, when pressed, to return a dirty limerick referencing women's genetalia. Other board members think this idea is horsepuckey.

Work on the 'Job' key is already complete and ready for inclusion in future models of the Christian Calculator. This key will make any number displayed on the screen become zero, and all future numbers entered will be displayed as zero as well. This will continue until God decides otherwise, or the devil stops tempting him.

Already confirmed for incorporation into all future Christian Calculators is the latest technology found in the 'Joseph' key. Pressing this key will tell the user what the market value of his/her community would be if sold into slavery. A second 'Joseph' key will be located just to the left of this key. The function of the second 'Joseph' key will be the opposite of the 'abortion' key above, it will turn the number '1' into '2'. The neat feature of this second 'Joseph' key, is that if the 'abortion' key is accidentally pressed, the error (sorry, sin) is corrected via divine intervention.

Since the 'test tube' key was dropped from the original design and replaced by the 'snowflake' key, some additional keys have been considered as well, these include:
--the 'stem cell' key. When the user inputs '1+1' and presses this key the result will be in the millions. However, nothing further can be done with this number, nor can this number ever be cleared.
--the 'clone' key. Whenever any calculation is entered and this key pressed (as opposed to the 'Thomas' key) the resulting number can never be used in any future calculations. Otherwise the calculator will continue to operate normally.
-- The 'heal' key. When this key is pressed in combination with the 'Jesus' key, it will restore the accessibility of any number or key eliminated according to all above rules. But this will only work by permanantly disabling all the 'abortion', 'Joseph' (see above), and all replacement 'test tube' keys.
-- The 'attest' key. This key is the actual key that disables all the keys necessary for the 'heal' key to operate. It must be pressed before the 'heal' key is used.

A definate inclusion in the next model of the Christian Calculator is the 'minister' key. This key, when pressed in the company of an ordained reverend (see the description of the 'shift' key above) will reset the calculator to its factory settings.

WARNING: (Printed on the backs of all Christian Calculators)
All the keys and functions outlined in current, past, and future versions of the Christian Calculator only provide God-ordained math results. These results will in no way match the results obtained from a materialistic philosophical calculator used by secular humanists (scientists and mathmeticians) -- with the sole exception of the 'Caesar' and 'tithe' keys. Do NOT use this calculator to build houses, buildings, or any engineering project, as it may cause the collapse/destruction of the building/project. (UPGRADING this calculator with the proposed 'temple2' key will temporarily solve this problem, returning this Christian Calculator to secular calculator status for a short period of time. But this upgrade will be very expensive, and is not yet available outside of Jerusalem)

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Pompous Ponderings??

Don't ask me why, but I was perusing the 'books' section of Sam's Club today and came across the paperback version of Bill Clinton's book, My Life. Needless to say (sic), it was the only liberal-esque book available. Maybe I should be thankful that they were only selling Ann Coulter's latest book, that fluffy absurdity she entitled Godless.

But I got to thinking, in two very long years Bush is going to be voted out of office and looking for work. One would guess that some genius will press him to write an autobiography as a way to pay the bills. Now Bill's book is a thousand pages long. It hit me that Bush would most likely make his autobiography a coloring book about two dozen pages long.... Complete with page one being an American Flag, and page two being two stone tablets with the Ten Commandments . The rest of the pages will be color-by-number, and the good guys will all be 'skin tone' (any of you old enough to remember that Crayola flap??) and the bad guys all be 'brown'. The accompanying text, for example, would read, "This picture shows my tough stance against illegal immigration" and the picture would be of Bush in a dune buggy running over Mexicans. Or, "This picture shows me killing the terrorists in Iraq" and the picture would show Bush with a huge plastic turkey feeding the troops.

But then again, maybe I am just being pompous....

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Persecution in the US

The Rude Pundit does an excellent job of shredding the nonsense surrounding the Right's take on "traditional" marriage. (Be forewarned, he doesn't call himself 'rude' for nothing, his posts are rife with profanity.)

One thing he touches on that I have talked about many times is persecution. The thing I would like to make perfectly clear here is how the concept of 'persecution' is used by Christians today. In a nutshell, they consider themselves persecuted if they are not allowed by the government to persecute groups they hate. Talk about irony! When they are not allowed to persecute gays, brown people, Jews, Muslims, atheists, etc., by forcing those groups to think/behave as they desire, then it is persecution.

In the days of slavery, slaveowners of the south complained when restrictions were put on them as to how badly they were allowed to beat their slaves. It never occurred to these slaveowners that it was the slave who was being beaten to within an inch of his/her life and they were the ones suffering. The slaveowner suffered nothing but were the ones complaining nontheless. It wasn't until the emancipation movement gained strength that those slaveowners lost their grip and absolute authority over the slaves.

That is where we are today, the beginning (unfortunately the very beginning) of the "emancipation" of gays and lesbians. And the Christian masters today are screaming foul as their slaveowner forebears did 150 years ago.

It has been said that History repeats itself again and again (sic). Let us hope this is true today (but with less bloodshed). Although today if these Christians all exited to the south and seceeded, I'm not so sure it would be worth another civil war, maybe this time "Let them leave" would be a better motto.... [Granted I feel much better about them taking Alabama instead of South Carolina -- I guess I am prejudiced too!]

Just a random thought.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Marriage in the USA

Two interesting articles have appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The first dealt with a small town in Utah that had passed a resolution which defined the 'natural family' as a man and woman married with the purpose of having children and where the woman stays home as mother and homemaker. The second in the July 8 edition dealt with a group in Massachusetts, MassResistance, led by Brian Camenker, who recently petitioned Macy's department store to remove two male mannequins from a store window that promoted gay pride week.

I would like to begin with the second article as it sets the tone for post. In it, Camenker was quoted as saying, "People feel that as a society they're under assault, that you can't walk down the street anymore without having this [gay rights] in your face." If the irony of that statement doesn't smack you in the face, nothing will. There is nowhere one can go without seeing a man-woman couple and the woman is pregnant. You just know that they had had (gasp!) sex. That is certainly flaunting their heterosexuality in your face. This attitude espoused by Camenker and other hate groups is best described as "I have the right to force my lifestyle on you, and you don't have the right to choose your own lifestyle unless it matches with mine." it is the typical conservative Christian contradiction -- they say they support personal freedom, but only if everyone only excercises their personal freedom in the way proscribed by conservative Christians.

So the first article was about a small conservative Utah town. The 'natural family' resolution passed actually upset a lot of otherwise conservative people in that town, because it had the potential to discriminate against many otherwise 'acceptable' people, single moms, working mothers, couples who don't have/want children, older married couples, and unmarried men and women.

There is a very good reason I hate the Las Vegas Review-Journal; their web site sucks. Thus the reason for locating the AP and LAT articles in the place of the LV R-J article references I read. That is one thing that really burns me, our LV R-J is nothing but a paper of other people's news stories.

Ken Ham Video Edition, Part 'e'

[Note: I initially wrote this two months back, in the time since, AiG has released new videos. I have not yet reviewed them, but I cannot imagine they are any better than those I have already reviewed. Otherwise, this material is reasonably up to date..]

The two latest parts of Ken Ham's video series that have been released are focused on human races, and racism. He decides to define races in a rather interesting way (I'll explain why its interesting later). He decides that races are defined by characteristics -- skin color, eye shape, etc. Then he goes on to say that there are no races, all humans are one race -- the descendants of Adam and Eve (and more precisely, descendants of Noah). He uses genetics in a strange way to prove his point.

Ham's genetics theory consists of the Tower of Babel story, and some guesswork about Adam and Eve. First Ham guesses that Adam and Eve were brown, having genes for both white and black skin. He then mentions Noah and that we are all actually his descendants. Then comes the reason for different races (although he does not accept the idea of race, he says we are all one race -- more on that later). His explanation for black, white, brown and yellow is Babel. It scattered the once unified race all over the planet, and due to environmental pressures, the different 'races' emerged. He then goes on to say that current genetic knowledge backs up his interpretation and contradicts evolution. The only problem is that he is wrong. His lecture presentation makes much sense when one refuses to go beyond his limited set of facts and simplistic explanation. Which of course is exactly what he is counting on when it comes to his Christian audiences.

So lets move beyond Ham's little mythological tale, and point out some other facts that everyone is aware of and which resoundingly defeat Ham's fantasy. He goes on at length to show that skin color is due to gene selection based on environmental pressures. He uses africans as an example; due to the heat and intense sunlight, the extra pigmentation was useful protection, so the light skin genes were bred out, leaving only dark skin genes, thus black people. He then says that they only lost information, not gained. This explanation is only half true, and leads to his totally false conclusion.

One reason it is half true (and there are many, but require biology and/or genetics courses to explain) is that he only focuses on one trait, skin color. But there are many different traits which distinguish the races. Hair color, eye color, eye shape to name just a few (there are also other less visible traits as well, blood disorders, susceptibility to disease, and other genetic traits). When you look at his linkage of environment to genetics in only the context of skin color, it makes sense (but still inaccurate). But the moment you link these other traits as well, say skin color, hair color and eye shape to environmental factors, reality sets in, and the errors of his theory become clear. Environmental pressures cannot explain why blacks have dark eyes or dark hair, it cannot explain why asians have narrow eyes and dark hair and it cannot explain why whites have either dark or light hair and dark or light hair. Bringing in seperation of populations due to distance further disproves Ham's case, not bolstering it. The reason is that Ham wants to claim that genetic information is only lost, never gained, and his mechanism for loss can only be environment, or distance. It cannot be cultural preference either because, for example, in Ham's view no one would have narrow eyes, so preferring narrow eyes would never result in a race with narrow eyes. So now we have solid proof that Ken Ham's theory of genetics fails to explain all the facts we know about humans, race, genetics, environmental pressure selection, and other methods of selection. Since his theory only moderately fits one special case, but falls apart completely when generalized, and evolution explains everything in the general case, and the specific case Ham chose to focus on, evolution must then be the truth, and Ham's creationism the fantasy.

Evolution better fits the facts and is the whole truth -- as opposed to Ham's half truth because:
1. Ham is correct, environment does play a role in genetic selection, but not the only role.
2. Evolution uses, in addition to environmental factors, geographic factors (seperation) and time as well (not to mention mutation and selection).
3. Time and geography give rise to traits that can't or didn't occur due to environmental pressures. These would in essence, add information to the genetic code
4. Ham's premise is that environmental factors only select between present genes, his 'loss of information' but evolution has a second method, mutated and replicated genes can be selected for based on environmental pressures, an 'addition of information'

Facts and worldviews
One interesting aspect of differing worldviews is how one sees facts. Science views facts as little pieces of the truth, not themselves interpreted, rather guideposts to interpreting the truth. Young earth creationists, on the other hand, already possess the 'Truth' (the bible story) and strive to interpret the facts themselves. The difference is profound. Science presumes the truth is unknown initially, and works toward uncovering it by finding the facts that compose it. YECs by virtue of already 'knowing' the truth actually have no need for learning the facts (which is why no research is done by them -- I will discuss this in more detail later). They are left trying to re-explain the facts to fit their worldviews.

The re-interpretation of facts is quite interesting in itself. That is what we are going to consider today. As an example, let us consider the theories (interpretations of the truth) of geocentrism versus heliocentrism. We will limit ourselves to three facts; the motion of the sun across the sky, the motion of the visible planets, and the rotation of the esrth itself. Representing science, I will use Carl Sagan, and for YECs, Ken Ham.

End Note:
When I spoke of no YECs doing science, I was not saying so in an absolute sense. There are many who are in the science fields. What I was referring to were those who could potentially make discoveries which contradict biblical teachings only. Since the bible is silent on the characteristic spectral lines of isotopes, you will find scientists in that field of physics, whereas the radioactive decay of ultra-long lived isotopes like uranium and thorium suggest an old universe, you won't find many YECs doing research in radioactive decay theory. Ironically, even in fields where they disagree, like astro physics, where they dispute the constancy of the speed of light (a fundamental constant in physics) over time, they refuse to conduct any research to back up their wild assertions on these fundamental constants. This shows my initial statement to be true, that YECs do not do any science contrary to the bible and consider science to be nothing but assertions and interpretations. They are satisfied with simply saying something, and not seeing it as necessary to back it up with proof.

Finally, the "part 'e'" in the title is a reference to a mathematical quantity, the base of the natural logarithm. It was simply another little joke in a long line of little inside jokes.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Differing Worldviews

I would like to open by saying it is true that I am an atheist. With that comes a worldview, one I would call progressive (not necessarily liberal or conservative, but mostly liberal). My worldview is based on a number of concerns and facts about the reality we all live in. There are however, other worldviews. In our great nation, one prevalent worldview is that of conservative Christianity (what I've called anti-blasphemy Christianity). Another one is that of liberal Christianity (Da Vinci Christianity).

While I disagree that worldviews can be considered purely in "good" or "bad" qualities, I think some worldviews lead to very destructive consequences. In this country, the most destructive is that of the anti-blasphemy Christianity. The reason is straightforward enough, it is a worldview of "I am always right and you do what I say to avoid suffering the consequences." But the most dangerous worldview, in my opinion, is that of Da Vinci Christianity. It is one of conflicting goals and set upon itself to eat itself up. It combines a warm take on humanity, one allowing gays and non-Christians to persist in their lives, with a strong sense of theological doctrine at the other end, a real Jesus who is really God. This dichotomy causes a real problem for the Da Vinci Christians; they are linked to the anti-blasphemy Christians through doctrine -- that of Jesus Christ -- but otherwise view the world in a more rational light; one of personal freedom. When the rational world attacks "Christianity" the Da Vinci Christians band together with anti-blasphemy Christians under the big banner of Christianity, even though the majority of their worldviews are wholly at odds. Thus, the anti-blasphemy Christians in essence hijack all of Christendom and claim to speak for all 80% of Christian Americans rather than the small minority they actually represent. It is the Da Vinci Christians who hand this power over to them. (This situation is completely analogous to what happens in Islam, the moderate Muslims throw in their lot with the radical Muslims when the rest of the world attacks "Islam." Christians recognize this when it comes to Islam, but fail completely to see it happen in their own camp, Christianity. That is what makes Da Vinci Christians so dangerous, they artificially give anti-blasphemy Christians more power to accomplish their (twisted) goals due to the one lone connection, Jesus.

This coalition, if you will, is what leads to that apparent contradiction we read so much about in the news and on blogs. The contradiction being the Christian coalition (not to be confused with Pat Robertson's organization, the Christian Coalition) is a majority of Americans (80%) and in power in most all local, state, and federal governments, yet there still exists a "war on Christianity" because the minority anti-blasphemy Christians cannot get their narrow agenda to become the law of the land. This is seen in their whining about school prayer and a war on Christmas/Easter. (Here's a thought: What about their war on Halloween, another Pagan holiday -- as is both Christmas and Easter? Halloween is also a Christian holiday, yet it is the anti-blasphemy Christians who want to destroy it, and they admit as much.) Da Vinci Christians just roll their eyes, and say, hey my kids can pray any time they desire, at home or in the school, they learn their religion at Sunday School, church, and at home, they are not limited or persecuted in any sense. Anti-blasphemy Christians on the other hand think that if they cannot Evangalize to other people's children through forced school prayer, then they are being persecuted.

These 'persecuted' souls see themselves as a minority because they do not consider the Da Vinci Christians to be real Christians, whereas, the rest of the country considers both Da Vinci and anti-blasphemy Christians to be real Christians. This is where the break in perception arises, and why to most of America, there is no "war on Christianity" or persecution, because this overwhelming majority does not see any problems. It is only the tiny minority of anti-blasphemy Christians who see persecution, and believe that they are not in power.

As much as I would like to see the anti-blasphemy Christians fade into the dust bin of the stupid and insane ideas, they never will as long as Da Vinci Christians continue to turn a blind eye to this demented worldview; choosing only to focus on their "brotherhood" of Christian doctrine of Jesus Christ. Meanwhile, the rest of us continue to suffer the indignities of the anti-blasphemy Christians rantings as a result. The Da Vinci Christians will never sever their ties to the anti-blasphemy Christians in exactly the same way that we all see the moderate Muslims continuing to maintain their ties to radical Islam. The reason is clear; they cling to Jesus as do the anti-blasphemy Christians and think (mistakenly) their peaceful loving Jesus is the same as the vengeful warmongering Jesus who is set to return any moment and pull a genocidal rampage that makes Hitler look like Barney on ecstasy.

The solution is the same in both cases, and one that is very difficult to imagine happening. That being that the Da Vinci's and the moderate Muslims give up their links to their radical brethren, that being their religious doctrines. Asking any Christian to give up Jesus (or any Muslim to give up Muhammad) is not going to work. At least not until the parasitic nature of both branches of the radical religions is recognized for what it is.


Prophesy and the Bible

Back in May, I began this little journey with a prophesy by Pat Robertson, that on the face of its utter ridiculousness had made its way around the internets. This led to a discussion on the nature of revealed knowledge with Bryan at the Narrow (Bryan has since given up blogging but maintains his archives -- I will miss him, and wish him well on his noble cause of focusing on the family). Bryan took the stance that revealed knowledge was allowable if it coincided with that found in the Bible. He used as evidence of this, all the prophesies in the Bible which had come true. I maintained then, as I do now, that I was not referring to biblical knowledge, only that any revealed knowledge which said that the Bible is true is no different than the type on revealed knowledge Pat Robertson had, and which is completely unusable as proof of anything -- including the validity of the Bible. But I never said anything about the Bible itself; then. Now I am.

I suggested a few mucked up prophesies in the last post. I would like to expand on that now. First I would like to give a shout out to a real source of inspiration to me, Dan Barker. His book, Losing Faith in Faith, has a chapter (chapter 25) on biblical prophesy. He discusses the first five prophesies found in Matthew concerning the birth and life of Jesus. I will not retell what he has already written so well, rather I will bring out a point he makes and give some further examples. The point Dan makes is that there are no examples of fulfilled biblical prophesy (not a single one) . Even when fundamental Christians are asked to supply examples, they can not come up with one --- wars, wicked children, and natural disasters do not count ala Pat.

I mentioned Isaiah 7:14 in my last post. This is probably the most common example supplied by Christians, and one Dan covers thoroughly. It turns out not to be a prophesy of Jesus at all, rather a (failed) prophesy of a Hebrew leader who will overthrow the rule of the Assyrians. Simply reading Isaiah chapters 7 and 8 proves this to be true. To make this into a prophesy of Jesus is to read into it (i.e. reinterpret the supposedly un-reinterpretable Word of God) something that simply isn't there. Like I pointed out, this could be done with any passage of the Old Testament to make it into anything one wants. This is not prophesy, it is midrash. (Also like Dan Barker points out, Matthew got it wrong anyway, Isaiah 7:14 is not about a 'virgin' giving birth, rather a young woman giving birth. The Hebrew word is not virgin (they have a different word for virgin) rather it is young woman.

So why is this method of reinterpreting the Word of God not prophesy? The answer is clear; and it is one that can have no rebuttal by Christians who think this is actual real and fulfilled prophesy. This method says that anything written in the Bible can be used for any purpose to foretell anything. It is simple to reinterpret certain passages in the Old Testament to show it predicted Osama bin Laden and the September 11 attack on the Twin Towers, the invention of the computer, the Salem witch hunts, both the Challenger and Columbia disasters, and the explosion of the Hindenburgh. Any event you care to imagine can be culled from the Scriptures if enough distortion and out-of-context retooling is employed.

Here's an excellent example of how absurd it is to claim that the Bible prophesies things, and those things come true. Did you know that the gospels and Acts contain a prophesy of me, your humble jeffperado? It does. Just like Isaiah predicts that Jesus real name is Emmanuel (as we all know from that traditional Christian song, "Emmanuel"), the Bible predicts me. You see, my nickname in the past has been 'jefe', a spanish play on my real name, Jeff. Jefe in Spanish means 'boss.' Now as every Christian knows, Jesus is Lord. That is, He is the one true boss (scriptural proof of prophesy: 1 Cor 3:10, "as a wise boss I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it"). Amazing! It also says that there will be 'false Christs' who preach a gospel different than that of Paul, and I do (scriptural proof of prophesy: Gal 1:8 "But even if we, or another boss, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed"). Unbelievable! The Bible not only predicts what I will do, but connects it to me through my name! The predictive power of the Bible has no limits! Ok, maybe the cynicism is a bit over the top here, but it perfectly paints just how wrong it is to claim that biblical predictions have come true. (And believe me, I could have chosen a dozen other passages from the Old Testament to further my contention that the bible prophesied me, if I took them out of context, changed a few words, and ignored larger story in which they were embedded.)

The flip side to this idea of biblical prophesy is where the Bible foretold something that never came to pass (in other words, failed to prophesy correctly). I gave the example of Jesus prophesying that the end times would occur in the lifetimes of the current living generation. Here I will defer to the wise words of Ken Ham (and here I agree with him completely). Ken Ham has said, "Sometimes a day means a day." He used this statement in defense of a six-day creation period as found in Genesis 1 and 2. I will steal that concept from the good Ken, and say "Sometimes a generation is a generation." Jesus said that those living would witness the end times. Unless there are some 2,000 year old men living today, he was wrong. Today Christians use an alternate meaning of generation, that being era. They say we are living in the same generation as Jesus was, and that the end times are just around the corner (as they have been for the last 2,000 years). I will use Ken Ham's assertion here to claim them to be wrong, and that biblical prediction to be a failed one.

Note: a corollary to this is one of absurd prophecies bound to fail. Revelation provides ample examples of the absurd that only someone having lost all grip on reality could believe. The monsters predicted by revelation do not exist, thus could never appear on earth, meaning a prophesy that could never be true. Unless, of course, we come across some extraterrestrials who vaguely resemble the Revelation monsters -- something exceedingly unlikely.

There is a third category of prophesy that we find in the Bible, that of post-fulfillment prophesy. This is what I mentioned in my last post when I referred to Jesus and his saying that he would rise up in three days. This account was never mentioned by Paul (the first Christian writer) and only told by the gospel writers decades after the events supposedly transpired. The problem is that this is evidence of nothing. If there were records that predate the death of Jesus which showed that he had predicted his resurrection, and then records that prove his rising from the dead, then it could be claimed to be an actual prophesy. For example, if there were Roman records of Jesus' trial which recorded his claim to rise in three days, and then later Roman records showing that Jesus was indeed walking among the living three days later. This would serve as evidence (but it would not prove that Jesus actually did die and come back from the dead) that the prophesy was accurate. Instead all we have is after-the-fact attestation to the story. It would be like saying that Harry Truman foretold of the assassination of Kennedy, and supplying as proof of this a witness who swears that Truman told him, quote, "A number of years from now, a president, Kennedy, will be murdered." Since the only evidence of this is my post here, no one else could possibly take it as proof that Truman actually foretold the future. But this is exactly what Christians offer as proof of the power and accuracy of prediction in the Bible. It is as flimsy and useless as my proof of Truman's prophesy.

Next time we will return to the idea of revealed knowledge in the Bible. Is it revealed or acquired through experience? If it is revealed, then what can be used to prove it? If it is acquired, how can that be proven?