Thursday, November 9, 2017

Josephus? Ah, that old chestnut

As my email exchanges with my friend Shawn began to pile up, I could sense he was growing tired of defending the defenseless and struggling to combat my responses. As with most of my debates with people, especially via email, they result to copying huge blocks of text from someone else’s work and pasting it in their emails to me, or they search the Internet for confirmation bias and paste the links into the email and they ask me to look at it.

While I admit I like to look things up when I’m feeling stumped or my recollection is foggy, I am careful to digest what I’m reading and then I apply my own thoughts and reasoning to them as I present them to my friends or debate opponents.

In this case, I asked him to tell me why he believed in Jesus, since no contemporaneous writings describing him and his miracles exist. He sent me a link that discussed Josephus and his works. He described Josephus as a well-respected historian. I destroyed his argument, explaining to him that the references to Jesus in his works were interpolations and likely fake.

HIS RESPONSE: As for the passage in Josephus about Christ, most scholars agree it is not completely genuine. However, the whole passage is not suspect. If you read the passage again and omit the italicized words, this is what most scholars agree was written by Jos. And this passage is not the most important one. Read the article again and this scholar mentions a shorter section that mentions Christ that is widely agreed upon to be genuine.

And no where in the science of history or investigation is there a rule that says a writer needs to be contemporaneous with his subject. It would be nice, but a very well respected historian writing about the Christian movement a few years after it happened is not a problem. These Roman historians and others wrote their accounts too close to the events for any legends to grow about them. Legends take a loooooooooooooooooong time to develop.

As an atheist, you have a certain amount of faith, much like I do. If Christ was God, then He is the Creator amd was able to raise the dead. This would be no problem for an infinitely powerful being. Christ was fully human, but was also perfect and fully God.

You choose to require solid, tangible proof for God’s existence. You ain’t never gonna get it. And as such believe in annihilation after death. I choose to have faith that a Godman named Christ did walk on water, and I believe in certain things happening 1 minute after I die.

There is plenty of ancient documentation that says Christ existed. Even ancient Jewish sources recall a man walking around disturbing their peace and grip on power.

Keep in mind that guys like Dawkins, Erhman, Hitchins, and others are all displaying faith that they have got it right. They are human and are fully imperfect like the rest of us. Remember, to, that for every Dawkins there is an equally competent believing scholar who says these things did take place. No axes here to grind, these guys are theologians or biblical scholars who are simply doing their jobs.

Mr Dawkins isn’t the end of the conversation. He is a human. And has many critics, well qualified at that,  who are not impressed with his arguments.

You say God does not exist. You must qualify your statement with a “I believe” and then follow with “God does not exist.” The fact is you do NOT have proof that God does NOT exist, but you exhibit the same kind of faith that I do (in believing He does exist) to believe that He doesn’t. So you do have faith. I as well do NOT have proof God EXISTS, but choose faith. We are 2 sides of the same coin, you and I.

MY RESPONSE: Thanks for the email and before I address the Josephus points you made, I'd like to touch on your remarks about Dawkins, Hitchens and Ehrman. (I'll get to your faith argument at the end of my email).

While I respect much of what they have written, debated and lectured, their influence does not make up my stance on this subject. In what we are discussing, I haven't referenced them so I'm not sure why you introduced them at this stage. In fact, Hitch and Dawkins say very little, if anything at all, about Josephus and his works. Ehrman, does say plenty, though that is not where I have obtained my sole education on this subject.

Again, the contention that a man named Jesus who was a teacher in the first century isn't being challenged on this end, it's the divine nature that is up for discussion and what obviously would make him a god. And while I appreciate the article you linked to, I was actually supplying the much more popular, meaty and oft-referenced paragraph that Christians use as their proof. The graph you feel is more important is, in fact, not thought of as beyond dispute and is one of the references that clearly shows interpolation by later Christian scribes.

The passage in question again sends up the same red flags when using the historic method. The reference to Jesus can only be seriously entertained if Jesus had been mentioned in some earlier account, which he wasn't since the Testimonium Flavianum was written later and clearly proved to be an interpolation where Jesus was referenced. Josephus would never use a totally unknown person (Jesus) to describe James' lineage. And the line, "Jesus, who was called Christ (or messiah)" is so blatantly an interpolation. If Josephus truly believed Jesus was the messiah, he would have written so much more about him, since his sole purpose was to be a historian of these people. And it's worth remarking here that "messiah," in regards to the Jewish nation and its Hebrew bible, merely means leader or king. It in no way means miracle worker or divine. Nor does the term Christ mean anything other than the chosen one (and in the Jewish case, chosen to lead their army). There is no divine implication associated with this term.

The bigger point here is, if Jesus was a miracle worker and divine, certainly anyone in charge of recording the history of the Jews during this period would write much more than two almost-afterthought references. Josephus spilled rivers of ink describing extremely minor players in Jewish history yet can only muster up one throwaway phrase in one work and one clearly suspect paragraph in a later work, which doesn't exist in earlier copies, by the way.

This leads back to your statement about the "rule" about contemporaneous writers. While I completely agree with this, it has missed the point entirely. It's not that people aren't capable of writing about history after the fact, it's that NO ONE who lived DURING Jesus' time on earth, whose job it was to record history, wrote one word about him. Documents exist from this time, especially historical ones from this region, and yet not one word about him or his miracles. Certainly, if someone is curing leprosy, raising people from the dead, walking on water and turning water into wine, it deserves at least one mention from historians living in the region charged with recording its history. Yet not one word.

Your reference to Josephus being a well-respected historian writing about Christianity misses the mark, too. Christianity didn't begin to take shape until well into the second century, long after Josephus died. He didn't write at all about Christianity, nor was his works a "few years" after it happened. We are talking decades (nearly six to be more succinct), and his credibility has long come into question since he was quite often caught falsifying his works and used his own political slant to taint his writings.

And don't you think something as important as an eternity should not be resting on such flimsy proof? I find it fascinating how many Christians use these two highly suspect references, which still don't show he was divine or a miracle worker, as their line in the sand.

Now, let's address your "faith" remarks and burden-of-proof misstep. Faith, in religious circles, means believing in something without evidence for it. Given this definition, I, and my atheist cohorts, do not have faith. We require evidence to believe things. This is in direct conflict with faith. Now, using the definition of faith as meaning "confidence or trust" then yes, I have faith in the scientific and historic method. I don't have faith that a god exists or doesn't. Atheism means a lack of belief in any god. Agnosticism means lack of knowledge pertaining to a subject, in this case any god. The terms aren't mutually exclusive. I am, by definition, an agnostic atheist. I am open to evidence. What has been presented at this moment in history is zero evidence of anything or anyone being supernatural.

I don't have to prove a god doesn't exist, as I am not claiming anything. I certainly don't need proof that a god doesn't exist as that would be ludicrous. Prove nurples don't exist. What's a nurple? Doesn't matter. I need you to prove they don't exist. It's impossible. But I can prove a banana exists. See the difference? We aren't two sides of the same coin as it pertains to this.

I'm not asking you to prove a god exists, but I am asking that he/she/it proves it before I believe, and that is a rational behavior.

Ask yourself this, if you were born in the Middle East, would you be a Christian? If you were born in India, would you be a Christian? If you were born in Ancient Greece would you be a Christian? Why is it that exactly WHERE/WHEN you were born dictates your belief, especially if Jesus really was the one and only creator? You just happen to be born in a country that is predominantly Christian and that religion was forced upon you at an age when you believed everything you were told. If you were born in India, your parents would have raised you Hindu and you would believe in Krishna right now. Why is it that you believe Jesus is god, other than because that is what you were taught, or more accurately, indoctrinated to believe? Is it the evidence? Definitely not. I contend it's because you were told a story was true when you were a child.

And why do you use faith solely in this area of your life and nowhere else? Why give religion and divinity a pass, but research the hell out of which car or gun to buy? Seems skewed to me. And I'm not trying to shake your faith, I just want you to examine it like you would anything else.

HIS REPLY: You have asked one of the great questions of all time: was Jesus who He said he was (God) or merely a wise man? Unfortunately for each one of us, we have to decide if we agree with Jesus’ claims and the claims of His apostles, or reject His claims, pretty much based on no evidence.

If you are looking for God to appear in front of you and say “ Believe in Christ," it will never happen. The eternal wait of the agnostics is for God to appear before them and say, “Here I Am.”

This will never happen. The reason why this will never happen is that God has a rule that He will never ever break: the violation of human free will.

If God appears in front of a man and says, “See, I exist,” then the free will of that man has been breached. Then at that point, the man has no choice but to accept God and God is merely reduced to a dictator, forcing allegiance and worship. (Think about it, if an infinitely powerful and holy being appeared in front of us, we would not reject him. And remember, the Bible is clear that no man in his flesh can look upon God and live. How’s that for power and glory.)

And you are correct, Josephus should not be used by Christians at all, for any type of teaching. I merely look at Josephus as an historical curiosity.

You mentioned that something as important as eternity should not rest on such flimsy proof. Agreed. Then why do you bet your eternity on something that will never be proven while you walk on the earth, specifically that God does not exist and Christ was just a man?

Why not hedge your bets and say I will believe in Christ and have some peace of mind that 1 second after you breathe your last breath and you meet your Creator, He wont reject you. Being a Christian (I did not say Catholic) is not a bad thing. I’m talking about a genuine Christian, not a hypocrite Catholic. Or one of them health and wealth freaks like Joel Osteen. Or my buddy Benny Hinn.

I will make the following statement as clear and precise as possible: Nothing from my childhood church days has influenced me as an adult. I have systematically purged all that I have learned in the Methodist Church and based my decision to believe in Christ solely on research and thought.

The certainty of death is the spring of action. And I chose to act and believe in Christ’s claims, since I’m starting to feel old.

ME: You have fallen victim to the classic, albeit tired, apologetic blunder of raising Pascal's Wager, named after Blaise Pascal, the 17th Century French Christian philosopher. He posited that it is better to believe in god, be wrong and lose nothing than it is to not believe, be wrong and face infinite suffering.

Where do I start? First, which god should I believe in? Yahweh? Allah? Jesus? Krishna? Ra? Zeus? Thor? Apollo? There are thousands. For not believing in any of these would have grave consequences should you follow the religions that created them. I'll quote Homer Simpson for you since I know you'll appreciate it: "What if we are praying to the wrong god and just getting him angrier and angrier?" Even if we believe in Jesus, how do we know which sect or denomination? There are literally tens of thousands of them.

Also, I presume your god is omniscient, knows all, sees all, is in your head, etc.? Do you really think me saying I believe will convince this god who can read my mind? You can't just believe and "hedge my bets" as you appropriately put it.

This wager argues that you lose nothing if you're wrong about there being a god. I couldn't disagree more. You lose THIS lifetime, to countless hours of worship, worry and false feelings. You lose pieces of your life that you devoted to a lie. To spend a precious life believing in something that isn't real and devoting yourself to it, is sad.

I would never accuse you of being dishonest and I believe you when you say you've discarded the Methodist teachings you learned as a youngster. But I would have to venture a guess that while the dogma of the Methodist Church may be pure bullshit to you now, there is no doubt the seeds of fear and indoctrination of this threat of eternal hellfire grabbed hold of you and still clutch your thoughts. Not because you as an adult chose to believe it, but that it never left you. You can dismiss their rules and interpretations, but the idea that god punishes you eternally for not believing stays with you until you can use rational thought and reason.

When you dismissed Methodism, did you dismiss all belief in any God to force yourself to be born again, or did you say, "I still believe in Jesus and/or God, I just want to find which Christian dogma makes the most sense?"

Friday, October 27, 2017

This isn’t a buffet; you don’t get to choose

I’m not exactly sure how my former friend gets through the day without bumping his head or falling down more, but his following reply kinda scares me. He actually thinks scientific theory and evidence is his to decide if he believes it or not. We aren’t talking about a conversation with Cliff Clavin at Cheers. You don’t get to decide if gravity is real or not. You don’t interpret scientific findings as a layman and decide if they are full of hokum.

 He is delusional when he references seven different conclusions from 10 scientists looking at scientific results. And I almost fell over when I read his Dr.Behe comment. I so wanted to get into the whole irreducible complexity bullshit but as you’ll soon find out there wasn’t time. Does he even know the Scopes Trial is the biggest creationist failure in history? This is a person, by the way, who is only alive because of science. He is a diabetic and needs a few shots of insulin every day or he would die. I would love to ask him why he believes that needle is going to save his life but the same scientific method that proves there never was a global flood is wrong. Anyway, here is the next chapter of our debate.

SHAWN’S RESPONSE TO MY FLOOD EMAIL: We as humans have to believe something, based on some amount of evidence. The definition of “evidence” that I subscribe to is as follows: information that makes a belief more probable than not, or more probable than competing beliefs. Webster defines “evidence” as “proof” of something. Now I guarantee we will not all agree on what constitutes proof, let alone an agreed upon definition of proof.

 Now, let me tread carefully here. When science discovers something, that something has to be tested. And when the test results come back, we have to interpret those results. You and I both know that if you take 10 different people looking at the results, you will get 7 different conclusions. That’s the way it is. Simply put, my interpretations are different than yours. When we enter into the arena of people’s interpretations of evidence, this is where we all become equal.

 Yes, I said it. I just went there. We are all on equal footing when it comes to interpretations (assuming our interpretations are reasonable and leave out things like space aliens and such, which crop circle people use for the reason for crop circles). Even one of the world’s top biochemists, Dr Michael Behe (an Intelligent Design proponent) has other world-class biochemists disagreeing with him, flatly stating, “You are wrong!” I’ve read 2 of Dr Behe’s tomes, and I’ve interpreted them accordingly. You can read Darwin’s Black Box and interpret it differently. We adjust our interpretations as more evidence (see above) becomes available.

 Science is not a democracy. If one credible scientist interprets a discovery one way, and 99 scientists disagree, even if peer-reviewed, that does not make the 99 correct. A very real and little discussed problem exists in academia: that of peer pressure and fear of losing one’s job if you side with the creationists. It’s difficult to get some of these scientists to speak, for obvious reasons, and I’ve researched the topic a bit, but it appears many scientist’s public statements differ from their private beliefs.

 Yes, you are correct in questioning Dr Snelling and his relationship with AIG. I’m very familiar with AIG. I failed to mention that fact. I do not slavishly accept everything Dr Snelling states. I’m intelligent enough not to kid myself, and I firmly believe in a global flood. Even tho one of my Christian heroes, astrophysicist Dr Hugh Ross (who AIG dislikes as a thorn in its side) believes in a local flood, that is, confined to the Middle East area only, I am not swayed to that view point. I interpret the data presented as evidence for a global flood differently than you do.

 AFTERWARD: We weren’t merely chatting via email. We also exchanged friendly texts and had periodic phone conversations. During these exchanges we agreed to move on to other topics. I could’ve schooled him on so many more angles in relation to the Great Flood myth and used his own beliefs against him, such as the fact that there is mathematically no way we could have as many people on the planet that we do now if all humans were erased just 12K years ago. So we moved on to other topics, which I’ll chronicle soon.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Great Flood?

We left off with my friend, Shawn, showing some resistance to my claim that there is no way a global flood ever occurred. I must admit we had a few email exchanges that I didn’t save leading up to this conversation, but those were minor points about Christianity and beliefs. This is the portion of his emails that finally dives into his stance on the flood and my stance that science proved one never happened and that Ken Ham is a moron.

SHAWN: You haven’t taken into account all the evidences and theories of a global deluge. You summarily dismiss any idea of a flood, completely ignoring research and discoveries that have come to light in the last few decades. What are some of these discoveries? Look up what Dr. Andrew Snelling, Ph. D. (geology) has to say about the flood. He makes a good argument. Are you going to stick your finger in his face and say he’s wrong? If you do, you better have a convincing counter argument.

The flood did not hdappen 5,000 years ago. I agree with you. My personal belief is around 8,000-12,000 years ago, based upon various theories. And Ken Ham is a complete idiot. He has done more harm to the biblical view than he knows. You have to realize that there are traditional Catholic beliefs and an evangelical sub-group of beliefs about the flood. I’m part of that small scientifically minded sub-group of Christians who happen to trust that science is reliable. Catholics have adhered to Bishop Usher’s chronology: the universe was created 4004 BC and then we add up the list of genealogies and presto !!!!!! Wrong. Usher was an idiot too.

As a bible-believing Christian, I see the evidence is strong for a universe that is 13.7 Billion years old. I see strong evidence for life on Earth being millions of years old. I also DO NOT believe in the 6 days of creation, tho I am a creationist. There is enough evidence to support a big bang, stellar evolution, planetary accretion, lengthy galaxy formation, etc. Please don’t lump me, or all Christians, in with the Catholic views of creation. Science and Christianity are compatible.

MY RESPONSE: If you indeed trust in science and believe the scientific method is the best way to determine how things work/are, then we have a problem with your consistency. I will get to this in a minute, but first I'd like to call attention to your comment about the universe. You say the evidence you obtained from science books led you to believe the universe had a beginning, therefore, someone caused it. This sounds a lot like a definitive statement that you warned me against making. Perhaps you should have said, “Since it had a beginning, I feel the physics law of 'cause and effect' would dictate something made this happen, and I think this something is a someone, likely my god.” Fair?

This returns us to definitions: What do you define as evidence? I see evidence as proof, either proof that something happened, how it happened and even why it happened. So what is the evidence you have that points to this “someone” creating the universe? I really want to dive into this with you because I believe we will head into philosophy and I have quite the experience in this, too. But first …

When you say you’ve trusted science to arrive at your conclusions about how old the universe is, how old the earth is, how long life forms have been around, it makes me happy. But your consistency falls apart when it comes to the flood of the bible or the universe’s origins. By the way, I’m not sure what you think Catholics think about the flood, but they have no official position on it from the RCC POV and tend to lean toward it being an allegory or a lesson. I’m not arguing against the Catholicism angle in any of these discussions, I’m arguing against the bible/religion. I’m not lumping you in with any Catholic view of creation, so you should probably stop lumping my arguments in with a POV of merely anti-Catholicism.

So, how can you trust the scientific method for all of these incredibly difficult answers but then dismiss it when it comes to the flood? You say you haven't abandoned scientific principles, yet when it comes to this you have, and I'm not trying to insult you at all, but I wish you would pause to think about what you are saying. How do you think scientists arrived at their conclusions regarding the age of the earth/universe? Someone discovered evidence of something, used the best methods available to analyze the data, presented a hypothesis to the scientific community, allowed the scientists to vet/falsify the hypothesis and test it, retest it, etc. They did this for decades (and still do it) until it was so refined by the finest objective minds on the planet until it was accepted as the best possible scientific explanation for how the universe began and when. It wasn't one scientist's opinion and work that didn't get checked and falsified. It was peer-reviewed ad nauseam using a mountain of evidence and the most advanced technology available.

I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know here. So why is it you totally abandon this critical way of thinking for the flood? Because of Dr. Andrew Snelling and the bible? Let’s investigate Dr. Snelling with a critical mind. In one breath you list this man as offering a “good argument” and in the next you call Ken Ham a “complete idiot.” Snelling is a director at the Creation Science Foundation, which is now called Answers in Genesis, which is owned by Australian Ken Ham, your complete idiot. Snelling is a regular contributor to and sometime editor of “Creation Ex Nihilo,” the quarterly magazine of Ham’s AiG.

But here is the most shocking part: They list “two” Dr. Andrew A. Snellings within the CSF. One is a creationist scientist and the other is a consulting geologist who worked on uranium mineralization and published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The one you are holding as your expert in the flood story is the first one, the one whose ideas are not peer-reviewed and are systematically dismissed by every respected geologist/scientist in the world. The two Snellings couldn’t be more opposed on their views of the flood myth, and they are the SAME guy.

While I’m not taking Snelling’s credentials to task, he has legitimate credentials, I AM calling into question his objectivity and current credibility. While he has a geology background, CSF literature refers to him as a missionary and Protestant evangelist. As a CSF member, he MUST subscribe to the AiG Statement of Faith, which has serious implications for those looking to remain objective in matters of science and education. Within this Statement of Faith, under (B) BASICS, No. 5 reads as follows: The great flood of Genesis was an actual historical event, worldwide in its extent and effect.

Do you see the conflict here? He is forced to presuppose the flood actually happened and then tries to explain it (reverse engineering). This is a completely anti-scientific method, and his faith clouds his judgment and objectivity. There are literally dozens of these statements in the SoF that conflict with the scientific method. I could go on for pages about this version of Snelling, because people are mistaking this for his legitimate work, which has been published in numerous papers that have been peer-reviewed and vetted. It’s the main reason he was sought out by Ham and why he’s listed as a “Creationist Scientist.”

In his legitimate days, he used the standard geological column and time scale, which is accepted worldwide in the scientific community. “My” Snelling opened up his non-CSF work to scrutiny and allowed for anyone to disprove his findings using the accepted scientific method, something you rely on for the age of the earth and universe. Whereas “your” Snelling published his unproven, non-reviewed work ONLY in his own company’s quarterly magazine, ignoring hundreds of years of legitimate scientific facts and perpetuating his employer’s confirmation bias. Why doesn’t Snelling seek peer-reviewed acceptance for his work with AiG? Why did he act as a consultant for a mining company years ago and allow his findings to be published in legitimate scientific journals, only to stop doing this for AiG?

Could it be that because what he is selling can’t hold up to scrutiny? If his work regarding the great flood were to be scientifically proved to be correct/accepted, he would not only win the Nobel Prize and $1 million, but he would bring instant legitimacy to AiG and its endeavors. Yet, none of this happens. Why? This is what I mean by critical thinking.

There is, in debate circles, something called Occam’s Razor, so named after William of Ockham, a 14th century English friar and philosopher. It goes like this: Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. In other words, the story that has the least amount of bullshit is the one that likely is true. The simplest explanation is usually the right one. Are we to believe thousands upon thousands of educated geologists (who used the same method to determine the age of the earth, which you agree with, as they did to prove there was never any global flood, which you don’t), or are we supposed to base everything we believe about this one story in Genesis on the idea of one guy, whose credentials are legitimate but whose non-reviewed work and objectivity are suspect and denounced?

The difference between science and what Snelling is offering is Snelling started with a conclusion based on his faith and worked backward trying to square his circle, whereas science, which you said you trust, does the exact opposite, as it should. So, to answer your question, yes, I would stick my finger in his face and tell him he is wrong, because in my corner I have hundreds of years of real evidence, thousands of qualified scientists and a river of ink spilled in peer-reviewed journals explaining just exactly why a global flood never happened nor could we be where we are today if it did, especially only 8K-12K years ago as you believe.

When you state there’s enough evidence to support the big bang and everything that ensued, how is it you don’t see enough evidence against a global flood? It’s certainly as transparent and readily available as the evidence you used to agree with the age of the universe. And, if you continue to believe in this unsupported flood hypothesis, then I would have to take it further and ask if you believe the rest of the story (ie the animals, etc.). Science and Christianity aren’t compatible, at all. If it makes you feel any better, most Christians and Jews view Genesis and its contents as mere poetry and don’t believe it should be viewed as literal. I have done a ton of reading and watched a ton of lectures on this very fact, from church elders of numerous Abrahamic sects and denominations.

Now, about this “someone” who must have created the universe. …

I forgot all about this!

After a recent update to my iPad, I went through a bunch of my old notes and realized I never posted my series of debates with a former friend. Since I went on one of my usual hiatuses from this blog, I figured I may as well post these for posterity.

Let me start with my friend, Shawn. He always was a bit odd, a pseudo-intellectual with an Oedipal Complex, but I tolerated his intolerance and ignorance because we had been friends literally since middle school. We now live about 1,300 miles apart, but we always chatted on the phone or via computer, and when I returned home I would be sure to carve out a day or so for him and when he came here to see his parents, he carved out a day for me. Well, about six years ago we had a falling out when I continued to make time for him but he refused to make time for me.

Fast-forward to about two years ago and a dear friend of mine died instantly of a brain aneurysm. It got me to thinking and on a whim, I decided to call Shawn after not speaking for five years. We chatted for a bit and I told him why I had severed ties with him, but since my friend died, I decided it might have been foolish not to repair this relationship. He apologized for being insensitive and he admitted he screwed up and that he missed me. He was appreciative that I reached out and basically said he has no friends, that I was his last good friend.

During this conversation, he asked me if anything big had happened in my life and one of the topics I mentioned was that I came out to my friends and family as an atheist. He and I never really had religious conversations when we were daily friends, and I admit, back then I wasn’t religious but I never gave it any critical thought. And this point is interesting because when I would get together with Shawn, we would have some rather serious discussions about life, but religion never really entered the fray.

So I deliberately made sure to ask: Is this a dealbreaker for you? Does it bother you that I’m an atheist? In fact, I consider myself a militant atheist, so I need to know if you can’t be friends with someone who is an atheist because I don’t want to waste any more time. He assured me it didn’t faze him in the least and he even made a joke. I told him that made me happy because one of the other reasons I reached out to him was I was starving for some intelligent discourse. While I have a few people in my life who are smart, very few of them want to have thought-provoking conversations. I missed that part of our relationship and was happy he wanted to discuss my deconversion.

But since we hadn’t spoken in five years, we kept this initial conversation light, with the promise to explore at a later date some of the critical thinking I had done. A few days later, we chatted again and he asked me how I arrived at atheism. I told him he knew I was never religious, and he agreed, but then wanted to know how I knew there was no god. I took that moment to educate him about what atheism actually means.

It’s so important for the ignorant to understand what atheism and agnosticism really mean. After that lesson, he wanted an example of when a belief I had was shattered by evidence. I told him about Mother Teresa and how she was a charlatan who questioned her faith and basically didn’t believe. I laid out all of the facts, mentioned how she treated the sick, etc. I also told him I would email him some links to videos of documentaries about her. He appreciated that. And this is when the beginning of the end occurred.

I also mentioned the Great Flood and how preposterous that story is, that it’s a plagiarized myth (see the Epic of Gilgamesh for starters) that has been told and retold by other religions before it was written in the Old Testament. He kind of went silent here. No reaction.

A few days later, he accused me of being ”certain“ the flood never happened and that I should couch my comments with indefinite or softer phrases. I asked him if he thought there was evidence of a global flood and he said yes. He also said science led him to believe the universe had a creator. This shocked me. Earlier in this post I said Shawn was pseudo-intellectual, and I say this because he is well-read but his cognitive skills are lacking. So we agreed the flood and beginning of the universe could be topics we should debate, and we also agreed we should do it via email. That is where I’ll start my next post.

Friday, May 20, 2016

She's baaaaaaack!

For those of you who have followed my past posts about the debates and Facebook conversations I've had with my overly Catholic sister-in-law, we got into it a bit again on Facebook this week. Every once in a while, she will post something that takes a jab at atheism or atheists or science. When she posts her religious crap I just ignore it, but when she posts false shit about the aforementioned topics, I come down from the high road and let her know I'm out here and she's wrong.

This week, she posted that stupid meme that has a header on top that says ATHEISM and below it there is this tripe about the belief that there once was absolutely nothing, and nothing happened to the nothing until the nothing magically exploded for no reason, creating everything, everywhere. And then dinosaurs ... yada, yada, yada. I'm sure you can find the meme somewhere but it's not worth posting here.

So, I thought about ignoring it, but then I saw a few people had liked it. On her FB page, she has in all likelihood, two atheists that follow her, that she knows of: me and my wife. That's when I decided I had to dive in and give her shit, because she knows basically we are the only two people she could be posting this for and the fact the people were liking it meant I couldn't just let it go. These people might actually now believe that is what atheism is. So here is our exchange.

ME: As always, you post something that is completely false. If we were debating, I would point out that this meme is full of fallacies. Good thing we don't debate anymore, huh?

HER: Ok, what are the fallacies? Have scientists figured it out? The how and why?

ME: Well, the biggest ignorance in this meme is that what it describes has NOTHING to do with atheism. After all these years, I thought you would have known that by now. What this childish meme attempts to do in a handful of pathetic unfunny sentences is describe the Big Bang and origin of life, both of which have NOTHING to do with atheism. Did I say that before? That's because it bears repeating. There are plenty of atheists who have no idea how everything began and are even skeptical of the Big Bang. You see, there is nothing wrong with saying "I don't know" when you don't know. It's a much better way to live an honest life than to pretend the answer is a god, which is the God of the Gaps fallacy. The meme commits quite a few fallacies, but I think you get the point. NOTHING it says is true about atheism.

HER: Kind of like the science and religion fallacy. There are some Christian denominations that believe the two can't and don't coexist. There are also atheists who would and do argue the very point made above. I've watched them on YouTube. I am not one of those Christians who discount science and you are an atheist who admits he just doesn't know. Can you say that all atheists will answer that way?

ME: You never stay on point, especially when I show you how wrong what you post is. The point is, this entire meme is a joke and has nothing to do with atheism. It's wrong, 100 percent. While there are atheists that believe stuff like we came from "nothing" that still is not what atheism is. This meme conflates about three schools of thought, and gets all of them wrong. Would you like me to hold you accountable for the origin beliefs of all theists? Seems unfair, huh?

HER: It's absolutely unfair and is done all the time against Christians. However, I freely admit that there are Christians out there who's (sic) views I don't agree with. I also believe there are Athiests out there that you and I don't agree with and I believe this meme is directed at them.

ME: It's just a horribly ignorant overly simplistic meme that doesn't even understand the nomenclature, science or beliefs and couldn't be more wrong. There is no asterisk or disclaimer that says, "Some atheists think," it says Atheism, and that's the trouble with ignorance. It just spreads more ignorance so more people who are already ignorant have their ignorance reaffirmed. Atheism is the lack of belief in gods. Period.

At this point, she posts two memes in the comments, one is a picture of a cratered moon or planet and it says: "If natural disasters are the wrath of God, why does he keep punishing uninhabited planets and moons?" The other one is a picture of a handwritten note that says, "There is no problem too big for god to solve," with another pic below it of a starving, dying Ethiopian boy with his ribs showing that says, "Then WTF is this?"

Below these memes her comments continue...

HER: Talk about over simplifying, ignorantly.

ME: So, I'm not sure, are you combating these memes with YOUR ignorant memes as a way of striking some sort of social-media balance? Do you subscribe to the "Two wrongs make a right" philosophy? I've said my piece and we could do this forever. I just wanted to make it clear that the original meme is pure trash and it couldn't be more wrong. I only hope the people who see your feed and nodded at this ridiculous post will read these comments so they can be educated.

I wanted it to end here, as you can tell, but it was far from over.

HER: Oh stop! Stop thinking you're so much more intelligent than people who believe in God. Really, stop. There are just as many ignorant Athiests as there are Christians. That's my point.

ME: I wasn't the one who posted this meme, I merely pointed out its ignorance. Any interpretation you've read into it beyond that is completely on you.

HER: I was reacting to your comment that the people reading this needed to be educated. I think the friends liking this meme can make up their own minds about atheism on their own without you educating them. I don't think any of them appreciate your suggestion that they need to be educated

ME: What I meant by that was, if they had read that meme and agreed with it, they were agreeing with something that was completely false. So, if they read my comments correcting this meme, then they would have learned the truth, and that is the very definition of being educated on a subject. No insults on them at all and no assumption that I'm smarter than them.

HER: How can you say it's completely false? Do you speak for all atheists? You can find video after video on YouTube of atheists making these very claims and arguments. It's a meme regarding their ideas. I don't take memes regarding ignorant Christians personally because I know that's not me. I'm sure most of the likes on this post think the same.

ME: You're killing me, Smalls. The meme is NOT what atheism is. Not at all. How many times can I explain this? The meme is wrong. Atheism is the lack of belief in gods and, in my case, the supernatural, too. That is it. The effluvium in this meme is a sarcastic attempt at humor regarding the Big Bang and the origin of life, neither of which has ANYTHING to do with atheism. Any statement to the contrary is just perpetuating a lie and promoting ignorance. I don't have to speak for all atheists, but when I'm telling you the definition of what atheism is, yes, I'm speaking for all atheists. Not one atheist says atheism is this idiotic meme. You will never find an atheist, or any educated person, say this meme defines what atheism is.

HER: It's a meme. QTIP (this means quit taking is personally). I get your lack of belief. For every believer there is a hint of doubt and for every nonbeliever there is a hint of doubt. That's a fact. Are you trying to say that there are no self described atheist out there who are just basically mad at religion and/or God? Hence the attacks against God and religion memes. If I remember correctly that's where you started. If it's ok to say you "just don't know" how can you be so sure there isn't a higher being, source, power, whatever you want to call it? Scientists haven't found a source or cause for why the universe came into existence. They haven't been able to disprove a higher whatever, so why not just say you don't know if there is a God or not? Is it because that would make you agnostic and it might look like your being swayed?  Don't worry, we won't bring holy water and incense to your house if you admit you're agnostic. LOL!

ME: There are so many things wrong with your last post I don't even know where to begin, and yes, your fallacies are showing. But since you posted this meme and thought THAT was atheism, it doesn't surprise me. Atheism and agnosticism are NOT mutually exclusive. In fact, agnosticism can pertain to any subject when used non-religiously. Theism is the belief that gods exists, atheism is the opposite. The word gnostic means knowledge as it pertains to a subject, so agnostic means the opposite. I am an agnostic atheist. You are an agnostic theist. Belief and knowledge are not the same thing. I don't think anyone could ever be gnostic about anything, to be honest.

It's like it's 2013 all over again and you've forgotten everything we discussed. You are still using classic yet poor apologetics. First of all, scientists don't try to disprove a higher power, nor will they EVER try. Why would anyone try to disprove something doesn't exist? Try to disprove there isn't an invisible dragon living in my Honda.

We've been over this before yet you still return to these same points. Just because scientists don't know something doesn't mean they should leave open the possibility that a god did it. How silly is that? If that were the attitude we had always taken, nothing would ever have gotten accomplished in science and we'd still be wondering where the rain and thunder come from. It's your textbook god of the gaps fallacy. It's also you trying to shift the burden of proof. It's not on science to disprove your god.

You know, your hypocrisy toward science is quite alarming. On the one hand, you'll give all kinds of credit to the RCC for being a major proponent of science in its infancy and say you're not one of those Christians who doesn't embrace science, while on the other hand you take swipes at science ALL of the time on here, including this trashy meme, and try to give the credit to some god that you freely admit you have a "hint of doubt" about.

And asking me to not take it personally is hilarious. In the beginning of this thread, I only told you the meme was ignorant, which it still is. You're the one who keeps adding other points to discuss. And every time you do that, I keep bringing the discussion back on point. Follow our comments, I never made it personal, you did. But then again, how can I not take it personally? How many friends do you have on Facebook who have told you they are an atheist? I can only assume it's just a few. And being one of those atheists, when you post something ridiculous about atheism, how can I not take that as being directed at us? So when you post ignorance about atheism, how can I not respond?

And no, my atheism didn't come from a place of anger. You're confusing my atheism with my anti-theism. While it's true I once had a sour religious experience, I never liked religion from Day 1. But my atheism has nothing to do with that. How can I be angry at something I don't believe exists? Are you angry at the dragon that lives in my Honda? It's just a silly ignorant statement. Just like your meme.

HER: Just for clarification, I have a high regard for science despite what you think comes across in my posts. If a person lives in a bubble and doesn't want to see other's point of view, that person will never see beyond what they want to see. It's true for everyone. Holocaust deniers are a good example. There is plenty of proof and witnesses, but they will never look at it or listen to the evidence. There would be no way to convince them of anything different from what they want to believe because they don't want to believe differently. I do have a hard time with scientists who have an agenda and will twist evidence and outcomes for money or glory or whatever. I don't think you can honestly say that's never happened or still doesn't happen. I think I have a healthy skepticism, but I'm always open to learning and looking at proof and listening to witnesses. I've changed my views on many subjects  because I keep an open mind.

Back to the meme. I apologize for posting it as it was offensive to you.

ME: Thanks. And it wasn't so much offensive as it was just wrong. Love you, see you Sunday.

Her last post was probably more comical than the others because if you knew her, you would know she is about as skeptical as a sheep. And don't listen to her, she bashes science every chance she gets and only when she tries to give her god and church the credit does she accept scientific discovery.

She really has no clue as to how clueless she really is.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

They always miss the point

When there's a problem so scary that our country's populace is afraid to leave home, we look to our leaders, the ones we elected/hired, to watch out for our safety. If you're seeking to BECOME one of those leaders in the very near future, then you need to let us know IMMEDIATELY what you plan to do to solve this problem. That if we put the well-being of our children and grandchildren in your hands someday soon, you will have a plan of action.

THIS is the point the religious right/conservatives so painfully missed when they cried foul after learning of their Republican presidential hopefuls getting lambasted for their social-media call for prayers for the San Bernardino victims.

These poor families and friends aren't reading Twitter feeds or Facebook posts. They are overwhelmed by grief and mourning. Anyone with common sense would know this, so if you're going to release a statement on social media about this tragedy, common sense would also dictate that these messages are for the rest of the country. And the rest of the country wants to know what you think the answer is, not that you want us to pray.

If I'm the type of person that prays when a tragedy strikes, then I don't need politicians, who only have their eyes on their poll numbers, reminding me to do so. On the flip side, if I'm the type of person who doesn't believe in prayer, I certainly don't need to hear from these candidates that prayer is all they have to offer in this time of crisis.

When a New York newspaper says, "God isn't fixing this," it CLEARLY isn't saying you shouldn't pray for these people (if that's your thing). You can pray to Thor, Apollo, Yahweh or the Flying Spaghetti Monster for all I care, but if you somehow end up running my country, I would like to know you're going to address this issue with ACTUAL policies and do it in a timely manner. The Democratic leaders and candidates had no problem with this and none of what they said was rhetoric.

So, how many more people need to die before there's the call to action from the Republican side? Don't hold your breath. You'd have a better chance of finding Jimmy Hoffa's body than you would of finding a Republican who publicly wants to curb guns. No right-winger would ever dare come out for any type of gun control because they're deathly (and ironically) afraid of the NRA. Their comments were all-too-transparent and severely lacking.

You'll note I didn't result to name-calling here, because there is no need. The facts are clear for any rational person to see. And keep this in mind: As I wrote this, another shooting just happened in Michigan where a guy shot and killed a 7-year-old girl, put her mother in the hospital and then killed himself with a firearm.

Pray for them ... Or don't.

Monday, October 12, 2015

My thoughts on abortion

I can't really recall ever writing down my views on abortion, at least not in this blog. Many atheists are Pro Choice and I certainly side with this camp. That's not to say all atheists believe in abortion, or should I say the right to choose? Saying you believe in abortion sounds odd to me. But I'm sure there are plenty of atheists who think a woman should carry a baby to term regardless of beliefs or circumstances. I just don't happen to be one of them.

Pro Lifers tend to lean heavily on religion for their morals/beliefs/education so their default position is to believe a zygote or fetus is a baby, and a baby is a person and a person should be protected. But, scientifically speaking, a fetus isn't a baby, it's not a life. I can quote mountains of evidence that proves this fact, but this is a blog, not a thesis, so I'll just leave it at that.

Who am I, a man, to tell another woman what she should do with her body? Who am I to force ANY person to do something to their body? Who am I to force them to let something happen to their body?

Let's come at this from another direction. Would Pro Lifers want to pass a law requiring every citizen to donate spare organs when called upon? Their blood type and other bodily fluids could be categorized at birth and kept on record and the moment a need for an organ or specific type of blood comes up, they'll get a phone call. Sounds fair, right? Would they want to have one of their kidneys taken from their body without their consent? No? Why not? Oh, they don't like the idea of the government forcing them do something with their body they don't want to do? Don't like the risk required? Don't think someone else should be making their decisions?

Get the point? A woman puts her life on the line to have a baby. All sorts of complications can arise from child birth. It's also a huge financial strain. These are things I believe must be considered.

Some might say this isn't the same situation, that people choose to have sex knowing the consequences. I disagree with this uninformed and ignorant stance. First, not all pregnancies are a result of consensual sex. But mentioning rape and molestation is an easy rebuttal. Let's just ignore that for a second, even though it refutes the argument nicely. Broken condoms, failed IUDs and even botched vasectomies or tubal ligation can result in an obviously unwanted pregnancy. But again, I'll even let this argument slide.

The Pro Life stance seems to be: If you do something, you have no choice but to ride out the consequences, as in, you chose to have sex, and because a pregnancy was the result of your sexual congress, you must see this pregnancy to full term. Is that a fair enough assessment of their stance? That the pregnant woman has no choice to do anything about this, that she must have a baby in nine months?

Interesting. So, if someone chose to smoke cigarettes and it resulted in lung cancer, the smoker has no choice but to live with the cancer. You can't seek treatment for the cancer because you have to take responsibility for your actions and live with the consequences. Hey, you knew what could happen if you put carcinogenic materials in your body. It was your choice to smoke. Again, I'll ask, get the point?

Imagine Pro Choicers bombing chemo clinics. It's ludicrous.

I've actually pissed some people off, namely my family, when I posted a gut-wrenching story to my Facebook feed about a couple who aborted their pregnancy because the fetus would have been born with Down Syndrome. I posted the story because it was so sad that this couple tried for so long to have a child, using IVF to finally get pregnant only to get the news that the resulting baby would have Downs. Now, what pissed people off was their ignorance, not my intentions. They assumed I was saying all special-needs people would have been better off if they were aborted. I would in no way ever support that. It's such an abhorrent attitude to take, and I was thoroughly insulted that much of my family would even think I would feel that way.

And full disclosure, my nephew has cerebral palsy and it was my brother who took the most offense to my post. He also volunteers with a bunch of young boys who have Downs, so instead of talking it out with me to find out my true intentions, he just chose to unfriend me and not deal with it. Here is why I posted what I did. I believe in a woman's right to choose. In this couple's case, they had no other family to help with a special-needs child, they had exhausted their savings to try to have the child through surgeries and procedures so there would be no money to hire help and they just didn't have the resources to care for a child who would need life-long support as this was an older couple.

So there are always circumstances that could arise for abortion to make sense. Something like 90 percent of all pregnancies that would result in Downs are aborted for just such a reason. If you throw in other illnesses that would leave a child with a painful existence (Tay-Sachs comes to mind), then being forced to have that child is cruel and unusual punishment.

It all boils down to beliefs. Do you believe the "potential for life" is worth defending or do you believe a woman's actual life is worth defending? If it's the former, then where do you draw the line? Every male ejaculation could fall into the "potential" category, thus rendering masturbation to be a reckless murderous act. Silly, huh?

Me? I choose to defend a woman's life, and her choice.