Rationality Now Rotating Header Image


Reality, Death, and Family Cats

There’s a great post on Unreasonable Faith by guest blogger Vincent Skolny (of Avangelism.com) about kids, their understanding of death, and the nature of reality.

He writes about his three-year-old daughter’s understanding of death as it relates to a recently-deceased family cat… and herself.

A small excerpt from the conclusion:

Death isn’t confusing at all: We’re gone and won’t be seen anymore. What makes death confusing and confuses children is pretending that dead people (or cats) are really somehow still alive. Or anything other than what they are: dead and gone.

Reality is seldom as confusing as lying about it.

Religion seems to be an extremely complex avoidance of the simplicity of reality. Sure, if you get down into the details of biology, astronomy, geology, paleontology, and other sciences, there are some pretty tricky details but, in general, reality is pretty straightforward. Obscuring it with unnecessary supernatural explanations seems a bit silly.

Vincent’s daughter’s understanding of death fits Occam’s Razor perfectly.

(Just trivial FYI: The cat pictured in the index icon for this post… you won’t see it in the RSS feed, just on the site homepage… is my recently deceased cat Pokey, who lived for about 18 years old and was a wonderful, wonderful companion.)

Star Trek …and God?


Ok, Ok… I know. You’re saying this time you’ve lost it. Hear me out. The theme of many of the articles that I have written has been that religion is most certainly a man made creation. I believe the evidence in biblical text, for me at least, is clear. The Christian God is a flawed God, particularly in the Old Testament. As I began thinking about how man went about to create a God, I tried to think about how modern day fictional writers would “create” a God. Star Trek came to mind. There are many episodes of the original Star Trek that dealt with God or God-like beings. I think it’s interesting as we look at some of these episodes, how man chose to portray a modern interpretation of what a God-like entity might be like.

Chronologically the first episode to portray a “God” was titled, Where No Man Has Gone Before. In short, a crewman on the Enterprise is the victim of an energy field that grants him exponentially stronger telepathic and telekinetic powers as the hours go by. After the accident he grows increasing intolerant of mankind’s comparative weakness. He begins to consider himself a God and many of his human foibles become accentuated by his new found powers. He begins to exhibit the same traits as many of those exhibited by the God of the old testament. He becomes, arrogant, cruel and tormenting. Kirk eventually “takes care of business” before his crewman’s abilities continue to grow beyond their ability to contain him. In this episode mankind is far too immature to deal with supernatural powers of this magnitude.

Interestingly, the beings in the next two episodes evolved into their powers over millions of years. The Metrons (Arena)  and the Organians (Errand of Mercy) were powerful beings who used their abilities to bring peace and end violence. With their powers they found there was no reason for the petty behavior they were at one time capable of. They had evolved beyond the need for vengeance or wrathful behavior, a lesson the Christian God never seemed to learn (particularly in the Old Testament).

Star Trek is also full of powerful beings that are not so nice, just like the Bible.

Wouldn’t a real God, logically act more like a being who is mature and peaceful? If God is all knowing and all powerful what would be the point of  putting people through sickness, infant death, war, pestilence, plague, blight, starvation, etc. I know, we shouldn’t ask what God’s purpose is right? Well… why? Why should it be considered impertinent to ask?  Why would God have given us brains if we were meant not to use them for problem solving?

Science fiction writers come in all shapes and sizes. Some like to write about mean spirited supernatural beings and some write about gentle and loving supernatural beings. That describes the writers of Star Trek, the Old Testament and the New Testament. All three works of fiction.

Ray Comfort and Divine Injustice

876335-god_made_it_superMost evangelical bible thumpers are a parody of themselves and as such, pose little or no harm to a moderately rational person. There are however, those who appear to be well meaning , normal folk who just want to do the “Lord’s” work and help people. Many of these worry me. They appear to be harmless and as such, are left alone.

There is one man who seems to pop up on my early warning crackpot radar more than any others, that man is Ray Comfort. Ray Comfort is the man who developed the theory that the banana is inspired proof of God’s existence.I do not think Ray “Banana Man” Comfort (here after referred to as BM) is either well meaning or normal. I have spent hours watching videos of BM.

Bm has mastered the art of linguistically manipulating people. BM likes to establish an absolute such as,”lying is a sin and punishable by God”. BM then asks his prey if they have ever lied in their life. I dare say NO one is capable of saying they have not. Bm has now established you have broken a commandment ( false witness), are a liar and are due punishment from the almighty.  He then tries to summarize his point by using an ignorant analogy.

Bm says, “You have broken your “legal” contract with God. If this were in court you would be found guilty and punished”.  Bm seems to forget that in the real world we have varying degrees of guilt for different crimes, that’s why we take into account intent for sentencing purposes. We would not punish a man who steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving family the same way we punish someone like Bernie Madoff. These are two drastically different levels of theft with drastically different levels of intent and premeditation. Bm actually tells those he speaks with in his open air preaching fests that a lie is a lie in God’s eyes. If you have lied you’re a liar, period.

What kind of God would punish a person who has lived a relatively honorable and altruistic life but told a few white lies, the same as a lying, cheating pedophile? It’s the type of God created in the two dimensional, black and white mind of primitive man. The same kind of simplistic mind that would suggest that banana’s are proof that God exists and wants us to get plenty of potassium.

I Am A Monkey’s Uncle… And So Are You!

Darwin in a Birthday Hat

Well it’s a big day! Happy birthday Charles Darwin!

Since this is a birthday, I decided to keep the mood of this article on the lighter side. As I see it there is nothing lighter than a good old fashioned Chick Tract publication.

If you’ve never heard of Chick Tracts, allow me to introduce you. Chick Tracts are extravagantly drawn (not so much), ardently researched (yeah…) pamphlets (horribly misleading propaganda) meant to help instruct children (mind screw future customers of God) about the bible and God’s (fictitious super being…but you knew that) laws.

Since it is Darwin’s birthday I have chosen “Apes, Lies and Ms. Henn” for discussion. So as not to violate copyright laws,  I’ve just provided the link where you can go and read this plucky tale of  the spunky little Christian girl and her fight to prove the evil, science-minded teacher wrong.

Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait right here.

…tap… tap… tap…

Okay, finished? Wouldn’t Darwin be proud?

The only “creation” taking place in this publication are it’s “facts.” It would be very easy to go panel by panel disputing content like “But it took millions of years to change from apes into humans.” Anyone who has read Darwin or listened to the likes of Richard Dawkins knows evolutionary biologists believe life did start simply and evolve, but evolution took place  along different paths for different, but similar, species.

Dawkins describes in his Waking Up in The Universe lecture series that life developed like a tree into many different branches but we are all  primordially related to one distinct ancestor. We did not literally come from monkeys. We developed similarly along a different path.

Is Dawkins right? Was our birthday boy right? We don’t know and that’s the point. The existing evidence says yes, but science doesn’t stick with the first idea and stop searching for more answers — like some belief systems (ahem).

When it comes to propaganda like Chick publications prints, I think the best way for me to make my point, is to let the stories speak for themselves.

If you enjoyed your read of “Apes, Lies and Ms. Henn,” might I also suggest “The Little Princess.” It’s the heartwarming tale of a sweet little girl named Heidi… who gets sick and quickly dies. This one is sure to be a crowd pleasing “pick me up” for the little ones at bedtime. Nothing sends a child gently off to the Land of Nod like the thought of an agonizing death for one of their peers. These twisted stories are aimed at children and that is sad. Ugh!

On February 12, 1809 a man was born who would help make superstitious stories and religious fear-mongering a thing of the past for some of our species. Thank “God” for Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution. A theory, that with any luck, will make unfounded beliefs part of our history and not our future. So here’s to you, Charles Darwin. I give you two wonderfully evolved, opposable thumbs up. Happy birthday!

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.


What War on Christmas?

I found an editorial on iReport.com and thought it was a well-written statement about the alleged “War on Christmas” that is much touted by Fox News and many of the religious right.

The writer, Indy609, makes a clear distinction between the “separation of church and state” and a “war on Christmas,” something which seems to confuse a lot of people at Fox News. After giving examples of lawsuits and/or efforts to maintain the First Ammendment Separation, he notes…

None of these is the same as removing all religion from public life, not by the longest stretch of logical maneuvering.

Where are the lawsuits seeking to end Christian broadcasting? Where are the protests seeking to remove Christian-themed holiday music from the mall? Where are the referendums seeking to cover up the road signs in every town showing you the way to the nearest church? Who has sought to stifle candidates expressing their religious preference? When has anyone has advocated shutting down Christian bookstores? Where are the attempts to block the entryways to churches? Where are the ravenous letters opposing faith-based network programming such as “Touched By an Angel” or “Joan of Arcadia”? When one goes walking on any Main Street, America, this month, is Christmas not apparent in every direction?

Wanting to have a nativity display removed from a government building is not a “War on Christmas.” It’s an attempt to maintain freedom of religion. Put the display in any one of the beautiful churches in towns and cities across the entire country… where it belongs.

What’s the point of putting a nativity display (or other religious displays) in a government building when there are obviously more appropriate places for it? The answer? There isn’t a valid point.

Here’s a link to the editorial. http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-164454

The Meaning of Life

One question (or statement, depending on who’s speaking) I come across on occasion is how life can have any real meaning if I don’t believe in a divine creator. In other words, there’s a claim that if you don’t devote your life to serving “God,” your life can’t possibly be meaningful.

I was pondering posting my thoughts on this when I found the following post by Alonzo Fyfe of The Atheist Ethicist and thought I’d put off posting my own thoughts for now and share Alonzo’s wonderful metaphor. It gently and gracefully addresses the issue and shows a great difference between “meaning via religion” and  meaning via life.”

Here’s the link: The Meaning of Life