Category Archives: Atheism

Arrogance In Prayer

I invariably regret it when I check out the insipid stories linked through AOL News. (Old e-mail accounts are a burden.) Not only is the quality of the reporting from these junior outlets surpassed by that of any high school newspaper, the comments left, which I can’t help from browsing — are inherently vacuous. This time the story I fell upon is about an unfortunate 4-year-old boy, named Luke, who was struck by a foul ball at a baseball game. He suffered a skull fracture and is currently in a medically-induced coma. The reporter and several of those who left comments couldn’t help but stick religion in the reader’s face. The reporter said:

Luke was hit Sept. 2 at a minor league game in Niles, Ohio. We may never know why it happened, but what’s happened since should restore your faith in people. It might even restore your faith in faith.

Maybe this nutwing will never know why it happened, but I already know. And I think I may speak for all reasonable people when I say they know, too. It was a mere accident. Even the distraught mother said so in the video. And why would a well trained and responsive medical team restore my faith in faith? A commenter took the god slant further:

May God’s healing hand touch this precious young boy. I pray God is with his parents, giving them strength and faith in this critical time of his recovery. Also, prayers for the ballplayer, may he find comfort and peace.

In tragic cases such as this, religious minions are quick to grab credit for their non-existent deity. If the boy survives god will receive their praise, even though god didn’t prevent the accident. But if the boy dies, I’m sure the same minions will lay blame elsewhere, on the non-existent devil, perhaps. It’s not like the god of the Old Testament ever killed a child –well, except in some of those fire-and-brimstone stories, which are simultaneously and conveniently open to wide and narrow interpretation. That worldwide flood must have killed millions of innocent children. On the other hand, modern medicine has saved countless. Who to trust?

When tragedies occur and people insist on praying for deliverance, the one thing I find most insufferable is that humans can’t admit to themselves that they are sometimes helpless. Prayer is the delusion of certainty that humans have control over everything just by asking the Sky Daddy to intervene. And encouraging children to believe in prayer sets them up for disappointment when god doesn’t provide. Pray to your heart’s content, but don’t expect me to join in, and don’t condemn me as a heartless bastard when I don’t. Supporting modern medicine and reason is the best way to help children like Luke.

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The Dishonesty Of Christian Apologists

When arguing against religion, some atheists are quite willing to jump headfirst into the bottomless pit of bible verse, where Christians twist and shape scripture into whatever meaning is most convenient –but I’m not one of those atheists, generally. I like to avoid giving credence to a work of fiction like the bible, especially when it concerns scientific matters. I mean no one points to a line of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” and declares it to be the inerrant word of Darwin; scientific theories stand or fall on real world observations, not on faith or allegiance. In science, the evidence is looked for outside of books, not inside of them. Anyway, here we go into the Pit of Despair… don’t even think about trying to escape.

ApologeticsPress.org, a Christian publishing company that does exactly what its name suggests, routinely answers those who dare find contradictions in the bible. One of my favorite unexplained errors, which AP fails to address honestly, is Judas’ death, which occurs twice in the bible –once in Matthew, and once in Acts, with two different methods of expiration, within two different story lines. The King James Bible says:

Matthew 27:5 –  And he[Judas] cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.

Matthew 27:6 –  And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, “It is not lawful to put this into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.”

Matthew 27:7 –  And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in.

AND

Acts 1:18 –  Now this man[Judas] purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.

Acts 1:19 –  And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.

According to Matthew, Judas drops his booty and hangs himself, and then the priests take the cheese to buy a field for the John Does to be buried in. But according to Acts, Judas does the real estate deal, then takes a belly-busting, nose dive onto the ground. So, ostensibly, both the causes of death and the background stories are inconsistent and incompatible. In the former, Judas discards the silver and the priests buy the field. In the latter, Judas buys the field himself using the silver. Now, if the two books only differed in the method of Judas’ death, perhaps we could accept a single explanation as to why they differ, but since the details surrounding his death also fail to mesh, it’s a lot harder to see any reconciliation of the texts without applying some major rationalizations.

The Apologetics Press attempts to explain away the initial discrepancy with some not-so-subtle pasting. They argue that there’s only one death –that Judas’ guts did, in fact, spill out like a “bloated whale”, but only after he hanged himself and his body had rotted from decomposition:

According to ancient tradition, Judas hanged himself above the Valley of Hinnom on the edge of a cliff. Eventually the rope snapped (or was cut or untied), thus causing his body to fall headfirst into the field below, as Luke[the purported author of Acts] described. Matthew does not deny that Judas fell and had his entrails gush out, and Luke does not deny that Judas hanged himself. In short, Matthew records the method in which Judas attempted his death. Luke reports the end result. [AP’s emphasis]

So, the AP sees the holes in Matthew and Luke’s[supposed author of Acts] respective stories of Judas’ demise as an invitation for hole filling –with whatever fits the AP’s preconceived conclusion. But no where in the AP’s longwinded explanation do they even address the question of who bought the field, Judas or the priests. They completely ignore it. Apologists are in major denial when they refuse to acknowledge that the bible’s contradictions aren’t isolated misinterpretations, but interconnected, and cascading, failures. No contradiction is an island.

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Spin The Wheel Of Religion, Where She Stops No One Knows

One example of the inconsistency of religion

Trapped in the recesses of the web –like hardened chewing gum stuck for eternity in the cracks of a sidewalk– are religious forums and pseudo-news organizations with URL names beginning with “faith”, “belief”, or “answers”. They’re little worlds unto themselves, and that’s the way their readers like it. They don’t spurn reality, for they create their own; the same way Las Vegas casinos don’t cheat because they make up their own rules.

At Belief.Net a dude named David Klinghoffer has chronicled his Dialogue with Atheists. He challenged atheists to explain how life can have meaning or morality without a supernatural being bestowing them upon us. Klinghoffer stretched his argument to the extreme, though, by comparing atheists to the Joker, the supreme nihilist. He forgets, though, that the Joker also loves to expose hypocrisy.

As an atheist, I’m left wondering where religious folk find their meaning and morality. Surely it’s not in any religious text; for bestsellers like the Bible and the Quran are morally ambiguous at best. They’re all things to all people. Prohibitionists, for example, used the bible to speak against the evils of alcohol; and we know how that ended. And according to which Christians of the 19th century you consult, the Bible both supports and condemned slavery. Today, if you compare the King James version of the Ten Commandments to more modern translations here’s a hint of what you’ll find: The former says Thou shall not kill; the latter say Thou shall no commit murder. How Orwellian.

Religions are not wells of meaning and morality; they’re justifications for capricious humans. Give me reason over faith any day.

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The Big Bang: Something From Something

I find that this snippet from the debate between atheist Christopher Hitchens and grouchy Christian, Frank Turek gets me all riled up. (The entire debate can be seen here.) The reason is that author Frank Turek falsely characterizes the Big Bang as “something out of nothing” and as a “state of existence from a state of non-existence”, and Hitchens doesn’t exactly correct him on his bad science. Here in the video we have what Turek says scientists say, and over there somewhere in reality, where creationists don’t want us to look, we have what scientists actually say.

I don’t know about you, but what I’ve heard cosmologists say is that the Big Bang was the expansion of a spacetime singularity –a state of infinite density. A singularity is not nothing; it is very much something. I guess you could say it’s everything.

But Turek slyly conflates the terms creation and design, and jumps between them like a drunken ballet-dancer. But I think they are distinct. Creation can indeed be defined as something from nothing. But design is the planning of something from something else. For example, a ceramic smoking monkey can be designed, but it cannot be constructed, or created, from nothing. A ceramic smoking monkey must be transformed from a raw material which already exists –clay. I can name plenty of designed things, but I cannot think of a single material object that has been created from nothing. All the events in universe are examples of transformation, not creation.

So, the argument of “something out of nothing” is irrelevant to the discussion since no examples can actually be found in nature. The only one Turek could possible point to is the one he’s attempting to prove.

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Young Australians Revolt Against Gullibility

Young Australian Skeptics

When I was 7 years-old my favorite subjects of conversation were Bigfoot and UFO’s. I eagerly believed in both of these questionable phenomena based solely on “the evidence” provided by cheesy TV shows. Boy, was I a major drongo (Australian slang for a stupid person). Well, I would have been if was an Australian. I’m not. I’m an American, so technically I was a dumbass. But America and Australia share a common problem. Both countries are plagued with creationism and other pseudo-scientific, and anti-intellectual movements, COUGH religion COUGH. Rev. Ken Ham is an export of Australia, I’m sorry to say.

So, it’s only natural that an organization of young Australians would spring up to encourage others to be more discerning and skeptical. It’s called Young Australian Skeptics: A Sanctuary for Young Free Thinkers. Check it out, or you’ll go to hell. What, you doubt me? Do you want to take that chance? But what if you’re wrong?

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A Mild Criticism Of Richard Dawkins

I disagree with Prof. Richard Dawkins on at least one point concerning religion; I think that a lack of religion won’t cure humanity of most of its evil behavior. Religion does amplify our inherent “badness”. But atheism, while it does alleviate this “badness”, it won’t remove it from our human nature.

But overall, I dig the way Richard Dawkins thinks and writes. His thought processes are clear, informative, and reasonable. He pushes people to think for themselves.

So, it’s with great sadness that I must make fun of the cover of his “Voices Of Reason” DVD. It looks like a bargin bin religious video: Example 1, Example 2, Example 3. Prof. Dawkins, you’re not a savior, you’re a positive force. A shot of you staring off into the stratosphere framed against the perfect sunset is cheezy. I know your organization is non-profit, but still, a little more effort would have prevented you from looking like that uptight Charleton Heston.

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Faith By Any Other Name Is Just As Empty

In a Newsweek opinion peice from September 27th, writer Lisa Miller, “argues against the atheists”. The column is called “Belief Watch”, and Miller’s apologetic scribblings do the vacuous nature of religious belief complete justice. She begins by arguing that atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are unfamiliar with real believers.

First, if 90-odd percent of Americans say they believe in God, it’s unhelpful to dismiss them as silly. Second, when they check that “believe in God” box, a great many people are not talking about the God the atheists rail against—a supernatural being who intervenes in human affairs, who lays down inexplicable laws about sex and diet, punishes violators with the stinking fires of hell and raises the fleshly bodies of the dead.

When over fifty percent of Americans believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis, what are we atheists supposed to think? If we include all Christians worldwide, particularly the ones in poorer Catholic and Eastern Orthodox nations, the percentage is probably much higher. This doesn’t take into account the non-democratic Islamic nations, where Western ideas are spat upon, and where basic education is limited to males, and where people are threatened into believing in the all-powerful Allah. So, the actual number of believers in an angry, vengeful, and intervening god is probably much much higher than even Lisa Miller cares to imagine.

Apologetics is a form of faith; it’s faith in faith. Miller finishes her paper-thin argument by hauling in the invisible sacred cow.

Submitting faith to proof is absurd. Reason defines one kind of reality (what we know); faith defines another (what we don’t know). Reasonable believers can live with both at once.

Reasonable believers? Can reason and faith coexist? And how can faith define the unknown? Isn’t the unknown, by its very definition, indefinable? Here, Miller’s mental gymnastics are Olympic quality. And most believers would likely take great offense to her reducing their unshakable faith to an algebraic X. Personally, I prefer to think of all faith simply as a Y.

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