Rationality Now Rotating Header Image

god

I feel pretty! Oh, so pretty!

Narcissus I’ve read a number of accounts where atheists are accused of being narcissistic, because we supposedly set ourselves up higher than God… more important… smarter… too independent. We think we’re better than God, so the claim goes. I’ve always found that very odd since, by its very nature, atheism generally indicates the opposite view.

We’re not special. We’re animals, very much like all the other animals on this planet. We’re not the "pinnacle of creation" but are merely evolutionary products who continue to evolve as time slowly marches inexorably past. We are born. We live. We die. There’s no grand plan. There’s no heavenly purpose. In the grand scheme of universal timelines, we’re so monumentally insignificant that it’s hard to see how we could feel very self-important… though the accusation still remains.

Perhaps it’s because theists think of us as rejecting God or rebelling against Him… as actually believing in God, but simply finding ourselves "disinclined to acquiesce to his request," somehow thinking ourselves superior or far too dignified to pay homage to His greatness. If that’s the case, it’s quite odd. It’s not that atheists reject God. It’s that we don’t believe he exists. Rebellion is not something that can be staged against a nonexistent entity. Superiority is not something you claim against… nothing.

Maybe it has to do with a truth claim. Perhaps theists feel that we’re smug and self-satisfied in our self-proclaimed ultimate knowledge of God’s non-existence… what with all our "science" and "facts" and "evidence" and that sort of thing. But that, too, seems odd, since atheists with a sense of rationality don’t make such an absolute claim to the truth. Certainly scientists don’t! We leave the claims of absolute truth to the theists… to the Christians, the Muslims, the Jews, the Mormons, the Catholics, the… you get the picture.

We know that the non-existence of God can’t be proven, but we also know that there’s no evidence at all on the theist’s side of the fence. We also know that there is quite a bit of evidence that points toward God’s non-existence, but that there is no (nor can there be) unequivocal proof of that negative hypothesis. What we can do is base our thinking on naturally observable, testable data and go from there. Supernatural beliefs (and yes, that includes a belief in a god) don’t advance our understanding of the universe. They don’t help our survival. The don’t benefit the human race. They show us nothing about how our world works.

On the other hand, theists (fundamentalist ones, in particular) tend to believe that humans are God’s special creation, unique and cosmically important… much more important than mere animals. So important, in fact, that the universal laws were created just for man’s existence, all of them so finely tuned that just a tweak of the stellar dial in either direction and we’d be snuffed out. So important that God made a planet just for us… a virtual Garden of Eden (though we evidently borked that up long ago) created to house His epitome of perfect creation. He listens to each of our prayers and loves every one of us as individuals. He helps guide our lives, helps us through tough times, bestows his grace and attention to us, and chastises our misdeeds with a loving, caring hand.

Now I’m sure not all theists think that way, just as all atheists don’t think the same way I do. There are arrogant atheists just as there are arrogant theists. Humans are, by nature, narcissistic to some degree. It’s in our DNA. However, theist and atheistic beliefs are fundamentally different.

Theists tend to believe they are God’s special creation. Atheists tend to believe they are cosmically insignificant.

It’s easy to see where the label of "narcissist" should be applied.

Ignore Probability & Logic, Just Take It On Faith!

funny-picture-1142018091Let’s suppose you had knowledge of an impending storm that had the potential to destroy everything in its path. This very same storm was 24 hours away. What would you do to spread the message to your family, friends, and neighbors? You might phone them, email them, drive to find them or tell everyone you know to spread the word. All rational, sensible actions to take. Would you quietly call just one person and tell him to secretly meet you so that he could pass your message on for you?

This is exactly what we are meant to believe God did. With our eternal salvation on the line, God chose to speak in secret with one person at a time (Moses, Abraham, Joseph Smith, etc.) in order to spread the word. Convenient that for most of God’s or his minion’s appearances there weren’t many or any witnesses.

We are told that Jesus was born by an immaculate conception. Says who, Mary? How difficult would it be for a woman who may have bore another man’s child without the knowledge or, I’m assuming, consent of her husband to lie? Is this really that difficult to believe? Remember this was the bronze age, a time period filled with illiterate and ignorant people ruled more by superstition than reason. Imagine further that to keep up the subterfuge upon his birth, the child is told he is the son of God and was born from a virgin mother. The lie becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

Am I suggesting this is what happened? No. I don’t know and neither do you or anyone (I’m talking to you Christians) who suggests they do. I do believe that this is FAR more plausible a foundational story for Christianity than Jesus being born of a virgin mother, curing the blind, walking on water, dying on the cross and resurrecting three days later thereby washing away all my naughty deeds. This leads us to the title of this article, religion is a setup.

Why would a God purposely put into motion a set of circumstances so preposterous, so witness-less, and then penalize mankind for not following it blindly; and by blindly, I mean just on faith. Think about it. If you were going to hold people eternally accountable for their actions, wouldn’t you at least give them reasonable assurances that what they were being asked to do was what you truly intended for them to do? You wouldn’t leave your true meaning shrouded in mystery . Your expectations would be clearly defined and verifiable.

You would never couch something so important in riddles and decades old hearsay. If there truly was an all powerful and all knowing God, he/she wouldn’t either.

Ray Comfort: Tasteless Religious Businessman

Michael Jackson Commemorative BillI have written several articles about Ray “The Banana Man” Comfort. Most of them have in one way or another dealt with him being obnoxious, ignorant, egotistical or all three. This article deals with his utter lack of taste.

Since Michael Jackson died there have been an abundance of jokes at his expense circulated around the Internet.  Some of them are really funny. Hell, I’ve told a few to friends. Was I in bad taste? Maybe to some but I’m not a Christian minister like Comfort. I also will not be profiting from the telling of my jokes.

Comfort’s, Living Waters Ministries, is currently selling these adorable dead Michael Jackson tracts on their website. That’s right folks step right up and purchase your “commemorative million dollar bill” tracts.  Yep, one stop shopping, tasteless religious propaganda and snake oil all on one convenient website!

All joking aside this is incredible. Not only does Comfort shamelessly use Michael Jackson’s image to promote his agenda, he’s PROFITING from it.

The million dollar question: Will you go to Heaven when you die? Here’s a quick test. Have you ever told a lie, stolen anything, or used God’s name in vain? Jesus said, “Whoever looks at a woman …etc.,etc.”

Since the death of Jackson they are actually promoting the sale of these tracts by calling them, “commemorative”. As much as I don’t care for Comfort’s smarmy way of pointing fingers at sinners on street corners, even I did not think he was capable of stuping this low. Truly shameful. I guess Comfort forgot Matthew 21:

Matthew 21 -And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,  And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

Look out Ray Comfort. If Christ does come back  (disbelief suspended) I think he’s heading right for your ministries.

God Hates Children

God told me to!

In the Indian village of Solapur, residents mark the birth of a new child by tossing the newborn from a 50 foot Muslim shrine onto a sheet below. The bizarre tradition is over 500 years old.

God has ordered some pretty despicable things to be done during his tenure over mankind. The destruction of entire cities, blights, plagues, multiple smitings, disease, pestilence, and genocidal floods. It’s an impressive resume by any mass murderer’s reckoning to be sure but there’s more! God loves to torture and kill children or gutlessly order his minions to torture and kill children.

Every night on the evening news we hear about murder, rape or any number of brutal crimes being committed.  Horrible to be sure but society does become immune. Rarely is the water cooler abuzz with talk of any but the most disgusting of these crimes, unless a child is involved. Our society finds, rightfully so, that crimes such as this involving children are of the most heinous nature. It’s a fact that more often than not, child predators are the first to be beaten or killed by their fellow inmates once incarcerated. Even criminals agree that these choice individuals are fair game for a rather rude introduction into our penal system. God help himself should he ever take up residence within the American penal system, for he would certainly be due a beating.

God has always had a special place in his heart for children. I suppose that’s why he at times singles them out for his own particular brand of cruelty and barbarism. Jesus may “love the little children” but God…not so much. Here’ s some of God’s greatest hits:

  1. In the name of God, Jewish males have the grand fortune of being subjected to ritualistic genital mutilation.
  2. Children who fall ill are medically neglected by those of the Jehovah’s Witness cult.
  3. Children are tossed off buildings in parts of India for good luck.

These are examples of a modern day misinterpretation of God’s will by man, you say? These are not actions that God would ever have endorsed, you say? Nice try. These are actually rather “meek and mild” examples of God’s depravity. We can look to God’s divinely inspired instruction manual, the bible, for some of his most horrid and genocidal greatest hits.

    Do not withhold discipline from your children; if you beat them with a rod, they will not die. If you beat them with the rod, you will save their lives from Sheol.
    (Prov. 23:13-14)
    Pardon me if I don’t begin singing, “My God is an Awesome God”. God is not only in favor of strict discipline but he fully endorses all out beatings.
    From there Elisha went up to Bethel.  While he was on his way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him.  “Go up baldhead,” they shouted, “go up baldhead!”  The prophet turned and saw them, and he cursed them in the name of the Lord.  Then two shebears came out of the woods and tore forty two of the children to pieces. (2 Kings 2:23-24 NAB)
    God  only knows what he would have done had the small boys taken his name in vain. Maybe he could have resurrected them and killed them twice. …”my God is an awesome God”…(keep singing, keep singing).
    If even then you remain hostile toward me and refuse to obey, I will inflict you with seven more disasters for your sins.  I will release wild animals that will kill your children and destroy your cattle, so your numbers will dwindle and your roads will be deserted. (Leviticus 26:21-22 NLT)
    NO, not the cattle!! Yes in God’s eye the loss of children is equated with the loss of one’s livestock.
    I could continue in this same vein, citing example after example of God’s pitiless hatred for those who are weak and guiltless but I think you get the point. I haven’t even begun to touch on all of the instances where God ordered the death of children for the inequities of the parents or their parent’s parents. God’s big on generational smiting.
    A society can often be judged on how it treats its weaker members. How a civilization treats its handicapped or helpless children can tell you a lot about that civilization’s foundational morality.  Christians love to suggest that God provides society with a moral compass and that atheists are immoral. Well I don’t kill, mutilate or maim helpless children. I don’t order others to do what I don’t have the guts to do myself, while holding eternal damnation over the heads of my witless  accomplices and I don’t worship anyone who does.
    If these forementioned acts are the acts of the loving Christian God then I want nothing to do with him or his ignorant, mentally retarded followers who would support such cruelty. Make no mistake, to be a Christian means you DO support these acts. The bible is allegedly the inspired word of God and is therefore infallible. You simply CAN’T be a Christian without believing God is omniscient and  omnipotent. If you truly consider yourself to be a Christian you are a willing supporter of all of these vicious decrees.
    …”my God is an awesome God”…(keep singing, keep singing)

Dale Neumann let his daughter die

Dale and Leilani Neumann There’s been a lot written in the atheist and skeptic blogospheres lately about Dale Neumann, who killed his 11-year-old daughter Madeline by refusing to take her to the doctor, instead choosing to pray for her recovery. He’s been charged with second-degree reckless homocide (back in March of 2003) for his daughter’s death from undiagnosed diabetes. Madeline’s mother, Leilani, has already been convicted of second-degree reckless homicide and faces up to 25 years in prison, according to an MSNBC article.

On Thursday the July 30th, He was the last person to testify in his trial, stating that he felt that he couldn’t take his daughter to the doctor without disobeying God. He evidently read from the bible during his testimony, preaching to the jury about his faith and God’s ability to heal.

Dale Neumann said, “Who am I to predict death when death is an appointed time for all of us?”

From the MSNBC article

Dale Neumann told the jury he didn’t seek medical help for his child because “I can’t do that because Biblically, I cannot find that is the way people are healed.”

He added: “If I go to the doctor, I am putting the doctor before God. I am not believing what he said he would do.”

[…]

Prosecutors say he should have taken the girl to a hospital because she couldn’t walk, talk, eat or speak.

Instead, Madeline died on the floor of the family’s rural Weston home as people surrounded her and prayed.

Prosecutors say that she couldn’t walk, talk, eat, or speak and should have been taken to a doctor. Lynn Wilde, who testified in Newmann’s defense, said that she thought Madeline had the flu and that she looked a little pale and was weak. She also made noises and moved her head.

Wilde, a loyal member of Neumann’s Bible study group, testified for the defense as Neumann’s attorney tried to show the father didn’t know how ill his daughter was. Wilde said the five adults and three other children at the home prayed and took communion in an effort to heal the girl. She went home and took a nap, expecting the Neumanns to call later and say Madeline was fine and walking again.

“I believe in the power of prayer,” Wilde testified.

Madeline died about two hours later, whereupon someone called 911.

Two points come to mind. First, the instantaneous one, is that both parents should be locked up for murder. Neither should get off on an insanity plea, though, in my opinion, they are both clearly insane… also negligent, abusive, ignorant, and immoral. Their daughter would probably still be alive had they sought medical treatment when she exhibited symptoms. She would have had an even better chance had she received regular checkups prior to developing outward symptoms.

That’s the point that most of the blog entries I’ve read have emphasized and I agree.

The other point that came to mind (and some blogs have probably brought this up, too) is that, if other religious people believed what they profess to believe, they would all do the same thing that the Neumanns did. If they believe in a god who is all-powerful, loving, and benevolent, who can heal the sick and perform miracles, who created the very universe by simply willing it to be so, who listens to and answers prayers… then why would they do anything other than pray for their sick loved ones?

Lynn Wilde said, “I believe in the power of prayer.” How many other religious believers make the same statement of belief? How many profess to believe it absolutely? Yet how many of them act as if they believe it absolutely? I doubt the numbers are very large.

Most people take sick children to the doctor. Most people go to the doctor themselves when symptoms indicate something serious. Most people take pain medication when they have a headache. Most people behave in a rational way that has nothing to do with believing in an all-powerful, loving deity… despite any claims to religious belief they may profess.

So I have to conclude that, when people actually act on their professed religious beliefs… when they trust in the “power of prayer” and their benevolent, loving deity to do what’s right for their children… when they refuse to get professional medical treatment for serious health conditions, instead choosing to do nothing but pray… when they put their full trust in their almighty god to save them… people die and they get convicted of murder.

They should be convicted, but it underscores my point… that most people who claim to be devout religious believers and who claim to put their full trust in their god really aren’t and really don’t. They put their trust in other people… doctors, nurses, firemen, policemen, engineers, scientists, teachers… friends.

That’s where the trust really belongs, anyway.

More fun with church signs

A recent change to the sign of a local church provides this:

Love, not time, heals all wounds.
God needs your love, too.

I like the sentiment of the first part, though I think time plays a part, too. However, the second part gave me pause and actually got me thinking about something that’s puzzled me about theistic religions.

If their God is perfect, why would he need your love? Actually, why would he need to have created mankind at all? Taking it further, why would he even have bothered to create the universe? No matter what reasons are given, they all attribute human needs and characteristics to God. Needy? Bored? Curious? Jealous?

I would think a perfect god would never have needs… or wants. If he’s perfect, then that’s that.

Has anyone heard any really rational reasons for God’s demands of obedience? …or for his creating everything in the first place? I’ve yet to hear one, even from my religious friends.

Ricky Gervais: Darwin was wrong.

Since I haven’t been posting much lately, I thought I’d toss in a little bit of humor courtesy of Ricky Gervais. I just caught this on Unreasonable Faith and wanted to share because everyone can use some laughter to brighten up their day.

Fun With Church Signs

PrayerTonight I passed a church that frequently updates their sign with (sometimes) clever sayings. Today, they have the old saying, “After all is said and done, usually a lot more is said than done.”

There’s nothing innately religiousy about that phrase… except that it immediately struck me as a perfect analogy for prayer.

If you’re relying on prayer, then all that ever happens is the saying… and none of the doing… since prayer is basically mental masturbation under the guise of religious piety. As a popular bumper sticker says (Hooray for bumper sticker psychology!), “The hard work of one does more than the prayers of millions.”

If prayer truly worked and religious-minded people actually believed that it worked, it would seem that prayer would solve every problem. It doesn’t, of course, and therein lies the basis for explanatory shenanigans… as follows.

If a prayer is made and the wish comes true, it was God answering the prayer and is a delightful, miraculous experience, be it large or small. If a prayer is made and the wish doesn’t come true, then it wasn’t God’s plan for it to happen or the non-answer is a test of some sort. It never means that God wasn’t listening.

If I pray for a flipped coin to land heads up, what will happen is that my prayer is answered roughly fifty percent of the time. It’s a miracle! The other fifty percent of the time, God chose not to make the coin land that way.

A funny thing, though… if I don’t say any prayers (because perhaps… I don’t know… there’s nobody listening?), then the coin will land heads up (are you ready for this?) roughly fifty percent of the time!

Amazingly enough, anyone that believes in prayer will dismiss that little example by calling it trivial or nonsensical. Of course God isn’t going to intervene in something so silly. That’s a useless request. However, those same people will, no doubt, claim divine intervention for small things like a cool breeze or for help with the tricky loading of a lawnmower onto a truck or for the serendipitous discovery of a ten dollar bill blowing down the sidewalk. It seems there’s a double standard in operation there.

I will concede one possible benefit of prayer. For some people, it no doubt makes them feel calmer and more at peace. However, the same can be said for meditation or a quick nap or deep breathing or even spending time with friends, all things that can be used to accomplish the same effect without the superstitious notion of a all-powerful voyeur.

It’s not that God isn’t listening. It’s that he doesn’t exist.

Psycho Fan Stalks Shawn Johnson

Shawn JohnsonThere was a story in the news today that Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson was being stalked by a psycho fan, who has since been arrested. The man left his family and drove from Florida to California where Dancing With the Stars was being filmed in hopes of being with Johnson.

Evidently, his car contained two loaded guns, duct tape, zip ties, a “map to the victim,” and love letters. He believed he was meant to have a child with Johnson.

Why did he believe this?

Documents also indicated O’Ryan “believes that she speaks to him personally through the television set and through ESP.”

I’m not sure what the psychological diagnosis is for something like that. It’s probably not schizophrenia, but that’s what pops into my head. It leaves no doubt, however, that the guy definitely has some mental health issues.

After reading the story, my initial reaction was that he was pretty crazy and that it had to be pretty nerve-wracking for Johnson… and I believe that.

My next reaction is the point of this post. If you take away the duct tape, zip ties, and the loaded guns (or maybe not in some cases), you basically have a guy that’s considered crazy because he was hearing a very specific voice speaking only to him.

How is that any different from people who claim that God speaks to them?

I don’t think that’s an unreasonable comparison. Christians routinely talk of having conversations with God and some actually say that they hear God’s voice. In religious circles, this is viewed as a wonderful, spiritual thing… even when God commands someone to kill his son.

Hearing someone else’s voice, however, is seen as a sign of psychosis. Sometimes even hearing God’s voice is seen as a sign of psychosis when “God” is telling the listener to commit a crime (outside the bible).

It seems that hearing voices is considered spiritual in some cases and psychotic in others, regardless of the speaker. How do religious believers know which is which? Supposedly God told Abraham to kill his son. Was Abraham psychotic? Some murderers have claimed that God told them to kill people. Are they psychotic? The book of Genesis says that God told Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge. Was Adam psychotic?

In each case of supposed divine communication, someone hears one or multiple voices. Christian interpretations of these incidents are completely inconsistent. Some claims of godly discussions are seen as wonderful… others as dispicable and crazy. Shawn Johnson’s stalker heard a voice, too, so for Christians to see him as crazy seems disingenuous at best. Their religious stories are chock full of people hearing voices.

Personally, I’ll chalk it up to insanity.

What I really meant to say was…

Oops!As I’m sure you are aware, some Christians interpret the bible mostly as a fictional story filled with allegories and examples showing how we should live our lives. Some other Christians seem to not “interpret” the bible at all, instead taking it at its literal word, insisting that everything is true in exactly the way it is written.

I usually don’t have much of a problem with the first group, much like I don’t usually have a problem with those who interpret Aesop’s Fables as fun made-up stories with accompanying moral lessons. If Aesop-readers started speaking as if real talking foxes were actually disgruntled over not being able to eat grapes, there would be a different issue.

The bible literalists are the ones I target in this post. I find that, right at the beginning of the bible, we see that God is either not all-knowing or he is a liar. There are a number of biblical passages that show this, but I’m going to start right in Genesis chapter two.

God tells Adam that he can eat from any tree in the Garden of Eden except… the Tree of Knowledge. So far, so good. Other than setting Adam up for failure (and already knowing that Adam will fail, being all-knowing and whatnot), this is a relatively straightforward rule. Here’s the exact quote from the King James Bible.

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Genesis 2:16-17

That’s pretty simple. Eat from any tree in the garden whenever you want, just don’t eat from the tree of knowledge because on the day you do that, you’ll die.

Wait… you’ll die? That day?

If you continue reading Genesis, you’ll see that Adam and Eve both lived long after they chomped on the forbidden fruit. Strangely enough, that’s what the serpent told them. So did God lie and the serpent tell the truth? …or did God make a mistake when he just thought that Adam and Eve would die that day. It’s got to be one or the other because according to the bible, they most certainly did not die that day.

(more…)