Rationality Now Rotating Header Image

god

Fun with Tracts

Faith Baptist Church Tract - Page 1

Click to View Full Tract

Every now and then, I find a religious tract lying around… a movie theater, a restaurant, the top of a urinal at an all-inclusive resort in the Mexican Riviera (seriously). I always pick them up because they usually provide a fair amount of amusement. Chick Tracts are the most amusing with their over-the-top cartoons, but I rarely come across them “in the wild.” More often than not, I find ones similar to the one pictured here (you can view the full tract by clicking on the image). They’re not as exciting as the Chick ones, but tend to be entertaining, anyway.

I do find it interesting to note that I’ve never received one directly from another person. I only ever find them lying around. I assume it’s because that, for most people, it would be a little uncomfortable to walk up to a perfect stranger and hand them a tract, opening an opportunity for dialogue, but also for ridicule or rejection. I used to work in commission sales, so I know that feeling and can sympathize with the tract carrier in that regard. I am, however, always disappointed when I don’t get the opportunity to discuss the tract. I’m not a hostile or angry person, and if I had time available when given a tract, I’d happily take some time to talk to the giver to find out about their beliefs and why they believe them.

Since I didn’t have that opportunity at the all-inclusive resort in Mexico, I’m going to talk about the tract here. It won’t be quite as fun as talking to the original carrier, but I’ll take what I can get.

(more…)

Neil deGrasse Tyson on ID and Fine Tuning

I just came across this today. Neil deGrasse Tyson is speaking about intelligent design, including the “fine tuning” argument for the existence of God. He’s not so much debunking it as he is making fun of it. It’s been debunked by most rational people and the court system, so that would just be a rehash. Tyson joyfully ridicules the absurdity of both ID and the fine-tuning argument with examples that highlight the ridiculousness of each. It’s about five minutes long and very entertaining.

Dawkins vs. Comfort? I hope not.

CrocoDuckIt seems that the logic-challenged evangelist, Ray Comfort, has challenged Richard Dawkins to a debate about the existence of God and why evolution is scientific. Comfort is also “sweetening the offer” by offering $10,000 (win, lose, or draw) to Dawkins, either to him or to the charity of his choosing.

From the article:

“Sadly, I have found that even evolution’s most staunch believers are afraid to debate, because they know that their case for atheism and evolution is less than extremely weak,” Comfort said. “I would be delighted (and honored) if Mr. Dawkins has the courage to debate me, but I’m not holding my breath.”

I have a few comments here.

First, Comfort is already known to be ignorant of the topic of Evolution. He’s also known to be an outright liar about it. I have no doubt that Dawkins could heap monumental amounts of scientific evidence for Evolution onto Comfort, but it would all be ignored completely… or dismissed with Comfort’s smug and infantile “But how do you know? It takes a lot of faith to believe all that.” I don’t see any point in Dawkins partaking in that sort of debate.

Second, Comfort is known to use the most absurd arguments for his points ad nauseum (every building has a builder, prove Darwin existed, are you a good person, there’s no evidence for evolution, females and males would have had to evolve separately, atheists don’t exist, etc), despite each point having been soundly debunked repeatedly from many different sources. There’s little doubt that he would do the same thing in a debate with Dawkins. Why waste the time?

Third, Comfort’s Creationist points are absurd, unprovable, and unscientific. If Comfort wants to advance his Creationist agenda, perhaps he should take Nicholas Gotelli’s advice and publish his ideas in some peer-reviewed scientific journals. As Professor Gotelli says, scientific disproof of evolutionary theory or scientific proof of God’s existence would be “Nobel Prize winning work” and would be eagerly published by many scientific journals. None of Comfort’s arguments, however, have any scientific basis, so he’s pretty much out of luck there. It doesn’t stop him from perpetrating his lies, however.

Forth and finally, I don’t think Comfort should get the press time. Having Dawkins agree to debate Comfort would be like a battle of the bands between The Rolling Stones and a local junior high school garage band… only that the garage band members would have to be making grandiose claims about how their musical genius and instrumental skills far surpass anything that the Stones have ever possessed… and the extra publicity would just fan their flames and subject their suburban neighbors to more horrid 3:00 am “practices” at screechingly high, sound-distorting volumes, waking babies and raising blood pressures.

I doubt Dawkins is “afraid to debate” Comfort. I rather suspect that Dawkins would think the idea absurd and realize that it would be a no-win situation since Comfort has no need (or compulsion, it seems) to rely on facts, evidence, or even truth.

I sincerely hope that Dawkins declines with an appropriately scathing response… publicly enough that those interested in the topics can read the response, but not publicly enough that Comfort would get any decent press out of it. Comfort will, no doubt, use a declination to support his claim that “evolution’s most staunch believers are afraid to debate,” but he’ll do it in his own little bubble of a venue, gaining no additional notoriety, and will be refuted by his readers only.

That’s what I’m hoping for, anyway.

Poor Ray Comfort

Ray Comfort in FlamesAnyone who’s seen Ray Comfort speak or has read anything he’s written knows pretty well that he’s a couple bananas short of a bunch. Aside from the mind-dizzying irrationality of his assertions, he moves firmly into the land of untruth when it comes to speaking about the Theory of Evolution. So far so, that according to Ray’s own preaching, he’s going to Hell.

You’ve heard his shtick. It’s the same one that Kirk Cameron uses. He’ll approach someone and ask him if he’s a good person. Then he’ll proceed to ask if the mark has ever lied, stolen, taken the Lord’s name in vain, or committed adultery (based on his biblical definition). Of course, then he’ll tell the mark that he’s a lying, blaspheming, adulterous thief and is going to Hell… unless… and then Ray gives the whole Jesus solution.

I recently watched a YouTube video of Ray doing some open-air preaching in what might be Huntington Beach (he preaches there a lot, evidently). After the regular bit mentioned above and some of his classic religion-based drivel, he starts talking about evolution and goes way off into the realm of grand liars.

(more…)

Scary Church Signs

FireI try to take note of the church signs I see in my area and usually see the generic notifications of sermon times or guest speakers. A few churches, however, always try to have clever sayings out front, which is much more entertaining for me. One in particular seems to have some very clever ones and sometimes even makes me smile or chuckle.

Most of the more clever church signs are harmless puns, but every now and then, one makes me narrow my eyes and raise an eyebrow.

I saw this one yesterday:

Remember the banana. When he left the bunch, he got skinned.

It’s a clever play on words, indeed, but its whimsy hides one of the more sinister sides of religious belief… using fear as a tool to coerce obedience. Stay with the church or you’ll be doomed.

Another church sign read:

Try Jesus. If you don’t like him, Satan will take you back.

Clever. It’s also somewhat cute if you block out the image of burning in a pit of Satan-created fire for not liking Jesus.

Christianity tends to preach all about a just, merciful God and loving, forgiving Jesus. God’s love is immeasurable and glorious. Jesus is your loving and understanding savior. You’ll be swept up into glorious Heaven where paradise awaits you and you’ll be able to walk hand-in-hand with Jesus in eternal bliss.

All you have to do is believe what they tell you to believe.

Of course, if you refuse to accept Jesus as your savior and refuse to worship God in the way that is demanded, you’re going to be punished for all eternity in unspeakably torturous ways with much wailing and gnashing of teeth, doomed to spend an infinite amount of time surrounded by hellfire and brimstone and subjected to incomprehensible pain and agony.

But to avoid that horror, all you have to do is believe what they tell you to believe…

…regardless of whether it’s true or not.

There are FOUR lights! *

(* geeky Star Trek:TNG reference)

Tony Blair at the National Prayer Breakfast

During the National Prayer Breakfast, which itself causes some consternation among atheists, former Prime Minister Tony Blair gave a speech stating that “restoring religious faith to its rightful place” is crucial to our world’s future.

There’s a clip on YouTube of part of his speech. I listened to it today and was saddened. While his speech was definitely appropriate for the venue, it highlighted some things that many atheists (and some non-atheists) feel are huge barriers to civil, benevolent behavior and scientific progress in our world.

I believe restoring religious faith to its rightful place as the guide to our world and its future is itself of the essence.

The 21st century will be poorer in spirit, meaner in ambition, less disciplined in conscience, if it is not under the guardianship of faith in God.

I beg to differ. I think recent history has demonstrated, rather vividly, just the opposite. From the atrocities in Iraq (before and after the U.S. invasion) to the situation between Israelis and Palestinians to the oppression in Saudi Arabia to the sexual indiscretions of Catholic priests, religious faith has undeniably demonstrated its function as a catalyst for mean-spirited ambition, inexcusable behavior, subjugation of human rights, and horrid acts of violence.

(more…)

Looking in the Mirror

The now (in)famous London bus ads which read “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” are about to work their way onto the Toronto Transit System in Canada. As with similar ads in other places, the ads are drawing kudos and complaints from interested parties.

One such complaint came to my attention today via an article on globeandmail.com. It seems that Dr. Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition and the Canada Christian College in Toronto, is claiming that the ads are “attack ads.”

This bit from the article is what really caught my attention (emphasis mine)…

“These ads are not saying what the atheists believe, they are attacking what other people believe,” [McVety] said. “And if you look at the dictionary definition for … bigot, that’s exactly what it is, to be intolerant of someone else’s belief system.”

First, I’d like to point out that the ads specifically do say what atheists believe… there’s probably no God. That’s pretty straightforward and unambiguous.

The major point, however, is McVety’s statement about bigotry. This man, who is complaining about an atheist statement by calling it an attack, whose group, the Canada Family Action Coalition, fought against the legalization of same-sex marriage,  and who is a “prominent evangelical leader” according to the article, has the audacity to accuse someone else of bigotry? His statement is a bald-faced example of classic hypocrisy.

Sadly, however, it’s not an uncommon example of hypocrisy. It’s all too common. Fundamentalists who make accusations of bigotry need to first look in the mirror before opening their mouths.

Swearing on the Bible

Steve Wells over at Dwindling in Unbelief has a great post about Obama’s second round swearing in.

During “Take Two” of the Oath of Office, there was no Bible used for the ceremony. “So help me God” was still tacked on the end, despite the words’ glaring absence in the Constitution, but the lack of a Bible was a step in the right direction.

As Steve puts it…

The Bible, of course, is worse than useless when it comes to consistent advice on morality. But the New Testament (to avoid confusion, ignore the Old Testament on this one) is pretty clear about one thing: Christians shouldn’t swear. Not to God and not on the Bible or on anything else.

He then quotes Matthew 5:34-37

34 But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

…and James 5:12

12 Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.

…to back up his argument. That seems pretty clear to me. Not only shouldn’t the Bible be used (according to the Bible itself), but the swearing in shouldn’t happen at all! Evidently, it’s a pretty UN-Christian thing to do.

So if our Constitution requires our President to take an oath of office, which is contrary to what the Christian religion allows, does that mean that our country isn’t a Christian nation?

I love irony.

A Dark Journey

Unreasonable Faith is in the top three of my favorite blogs and Daniel Florien has completed four parts (so far) in a series called “An Evil God? A Journey Through the Dark Parts of the Bible” in which he points out some (many) of the problems with the Bible… especially when it comes to using it as any kind of moral guidebook.

He does a great job of laying out his arguments and it’s definately worth a read.

License to Sin

Anyone who’s been an atheist for more than a few weeks has heard the accusation that without religion, there’s no basis for morality. Therefore, we’re told, we can run around like crazed hedonists, raping, stealing, and killing to our hearts’ content. We know it’s nonsense and generally speaking, the person who makes the accusation must know it’s nonsense, too, because it’s just not happening.

What I find ironic is that religion provides the biggest license to sin that any self-respecting, lascivious, lusting hedonist could possibly wish for. Atheism, having no dogma (since it’s not a religion and is purely the lack of belief in a deity), gives no free pass. Because of that, atheists must maintain a much higher interest in practicing moral behavior than religious folks do.

(more…)