Thursday, August 13, 2015

Thought crime translation

Every once in a while I'll think of something from the bible, a particular verse that is tied to some edict and try to relate it to other actions in life to see how it holds up for us.

What do I mean? I was thinking recently of Matthew 5:28 ... "But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."

This is yet another example of thought crime, which is riddled throughout religion, especially Christianity. Of course it's directed at men because the entire bible was written with only men in mind, so I'll update it for the 21st century: Any married person who looks lustily at someone who isn't their spouse has already cheated on their betrothed.

Sound about right? And we all know adultery is one of the top 10 commandments (there are way more than 10 if you didn't know), and breaking one of these orders is tantamount to earning a one-way ticket to the eternal lake of fire.

So, like I mentioned earlier, this got me to thinking. If merely thinking something is equivalent to doing it, then (1) why not just do it since you're screwed anyway, and (2) does this logic (and I use that word very loosely here) pertain to the other commandments? For instance, someone gets very angry at another person and fantasizes about killing that person. Did he just commit murder? If he wishes he could tell his parents to go screw because they have mistreated him his whole life, has he stopped honoring his mother and father?

This is why thoughts can't be policed and the whole idea that some deity is listening to what we are thinking is just absolutely preposterous. It's also why we don't need the threat of eternal damnation to be good people. Our thoughts are our own and if we really believed what we thought could get us into trouble there would be a LOT more believers in confession or in jail.

Grow up, theists.

Friday, August 7, 2015

This guy scared me

Every once in a while on Omegle, I stumble across someone who scares the bejebus out of me. Last night was one of those times, so I just had to post this conversation. There are people out there who, when they have no idea about a given topic, merely make up whatever they think that topic is and that's good enough for them. I believe this guy fits into that camp quite nicely. There has yet to be an instrument invented that can measure the depths of delusion that this guy exuded. At first, I thought it was going to be promising, but it quickly eroded into a pit of ignorance. Here we go:

Him: Are you religious?
Me: Nope, Funny, huh?
Him: Funny?
Me: Well, it says I like religion, but it's ironic since I despise it.
Him: Oh! Ok, yea it is.
Me: U, religious?
Him: Idk I'm into a lot of different things
Me: Like?
Him: I'm kinda christian/pagan
Me: Aren't those conflicting ideologies?
Him: Christianity is rooted in paganism. The church pretty much jacked there shit and beliefs, and labeled pagan gods as demons so they could control people.
Me: Oh, I mostly agree.
Him: I have christian beliefs, like the existence of Jesus and God and apply His message of compassion to my life, but I don't practice my faith like Christians do.
I don't care for church, rituals/sacraments, or worship. I show my respect for him in other ways.
Me: By respecting others, right?
Him: Yes, all life. That's why I'm vegan. I try to respect living creatures. Sometimes easier said than done, especially people. Pretty much the things God has made, not the things humans made in his name.
Me: Let me ask u, do you believe in evolution? I have a very specific reason for asking.
Him: I think it's possible, but I personally don't. But I don't know.

I'll interject here for a minute. I was hoping he'd say he believed in evolution because I just wanted to chat about my concern with where we draw the line in our respect for life. Since we are related to all life, why is eating only vegetables any more moral or acceptable than eating cows? Vegetation can feel things; they are living things, we are related to them. But since he didn't believe in evolution I had to take this in a different direction.

Me: Ok, well that leads to other questions for me then. Were you taught evolution at all?
Him: I live in the south in US, so of course not, lol. I only know the little bit I've looked into myself. I understand the gist.
Me: Ok, so you understand the gist, but you don't believe it, why?
Him: I wasn't there.
Me: You weren't there? You weren't there for your conception, either, but it happened. You weren't there for the holocaust, but it happened. You weren't there when the technology was invented that led to Omegle, yet you are communicating with me.
Him: As in, I don't have first-hand experience watching our species evolve as mapped out in the theory.
Me: But you don't have first-hand experience in almost everything in your life's path.
Him: It just doesn't resonate with me.
Me: Hmmm... This is interesting. So, how old do you believe the human race is?
Him: I don't know.
Me: How can you say something like "it doesn't resonate" with you and then not have any idea how long humans have been on earth?
Him: Because I don't think about these things. All I know is I am here and I didn't ask to be, so I'm trying to find out what's behind my experiences that have lead me to believe in God.
Me: Ok, just answer me this, what do you think evolution is? You did some looking into it and you said you got the gist, so I'd like to know what the gist is for you.
Him: Humans evolved into a more rational, intelligent, less hairy species.
Me: What? Less hairy than what?
Him: Why are you interested in whether or not I believe in evolution?
Me: Well, my original reasoning was because you said you cherish all life, and so do I. But when you said you didn't believe in evolution, I had to pursue that line of questioning instead. If you believed in evolution I would have had a different question for you.
Him: What was the other question?
Me: Well, it's hard to ask it since you don't believe in the fact of evolution. You're not a creationist though, right? Or should I say young earth creationist?
Him: Creationist? Like if I believe life was create by God?
Me: Well, a YEC believes in a literal bible
Him: YEC?
Me: That the earth was made roughly 6K years ago. YEC = Young Earth Creationist
Him: Oh, well I don't know about all that. I think the earth is millions of years old.
Me: Cool. That's good. It's actually almost 5 billion years old, but at least you didn't say thousands. So what are those experiences you mentioned that led you to believe in a god?

Now this guy will make you laugh and cringe. Up until this point he was pretty harmless, but then he boarded the train to Delusion Junction and I just couldn't wait to read what he had to say next.

Him: Hauntings and other encounters with spirits. Some good some bad. It got me thinking that there's more out there.
Me: And what evidence do you have for these spirits? Just personal revelation?
Him: I saw them and heard them. So I started looking into it.
Me: Do you believe in other kinds of sightings, such as UFOs, are they legit?
Him: Yes, the universe is massive so I don't think it's far off to assume there's other life out there.
Me: Excellent. Can you tell me about these spirits? And why are these occurrences a sign of a god?
Him: Through the hauntings, I learned they fear Jesus, just the mention of his name makes them run. So those experiences strengthened my belief in God, among other things.
Me: Are you telling me you conversed with evil spirits and you physically saw them run at the mention of Jesus?
Him: Conversed no. I never carry on a conversation with them. And yes, they run.
Me: So they have a physical presence? If you didn't converse with them then how do you know it was a haunting? Did these spirits carry a sign? I'm a little confused.
Him: I knew is was a haunting because they came every night. They would say things to me, trying to get my attention but I'd ignore them. And I could see them watching me.
Me: Were you ever under the influence of any type of drug during any of these? Were you nearly asleep?
Him: No
Me: So they were talking to you and took a human form and you said "Jesus" and they ran?
Him: In human form no, demons and other evil spirits are low vibrational beings. They don't usually have the energy to appear in their true form. Plus some were once human, other never were. They look like a walking shadow. Have you ever heard of shadow people? A lot of people see and encounter them. But yes, they fear Jesus.
Me: This is fascinating. I just don't know what to say. Something such as evolution doesn't resonate with you but low vibrational beings that fear Jesus does. Incredible stuff right there. Where did you come up with that explanation?
Him: Well I believe my spirit is having a human experience. I'm not really concerned with scientific explanations as to why I'm here or how humans came to be. I want to know why am I having these experiences. There so much out there that's unexplained.
Me: I could talk to you forever. Unfortunately I have to get some sleep. It's killing me because this was a great conversation and I don't want it to end. I only wish you could embrace evolution/science the way you believe in woo.
Him: Neither have all the answers. Good night.

Some of the tripe this guy was typing was beyond hilarious. Less hairy species? Seriously? He never did say what he meant by that, even if it is obvious. Running spirits? Low vibrational beings? Jesus as an antidote? This guy had an extra helping of crazy and I'm so glad this conversation wasn't in person. I don't know if I would have been able to either keep a straight face or stop from slapping him.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

From a fan of mine

In my last post, I mentioned an email exchange I had with a fan of my podcast. My co-host and I had a discussion on the show about the Pledge of Allegiance, how Americans should never expect foreigners to recite it in public settings and they really shouldn't be asking for it to be recited at all in international events.

This ticked off one of our listeners, so much so that he accused us of slamming theists all too often on our show, which isn't about atheism at all. His email basically pulled out a lot of the fallback responses from theists, like "If we are all just walking chunks of flesh then why should I believe anything you say?" etc. It was a crude email that was typical of uneducated theists only reciting what they had been fed in social media and on YouTube, as you'll see he referenced William Lane Craig, a Christian apologist and debater. I didn't keep that original email, but I did keep the rest of the correspondence we had.

You'll notice his replies are short and from the hip while mine are long and thought out. I won't fix his grammar and spelling. The first response is from me, and it comes after he said he appreciated our responses and that he would continue listening to the show.

ME: Thanks for sticking with us. I actually enjoy debating theists in my spare time and have watched just about every WLC debate out there. I have to admit he rubs me the wrong way, but I still listen to him. I think Sean Carroll did the best job of dismantling his Kalam, though I tire of philosophical arguments. I'm more of an evidence guy.

I thought about addressing your email in an entirely different way, discussing the fallacy claim, objective morality, etc., but I didn't want to turn you off any more than I may have already.

Again, thanks for sticking with us and if you want to discuss theism-atheism further I'm open to it as long as you don't let it keep you from listening to our show.

HIM: Hey buddy, thanks for the reply. Honestly, you would probably destroy me in a debate. It gets so complicated at times, I have to re-read, or re-listen about 10 times to fully understand the point! I personally think WLC is an excellent debater, he actually saved my faith! I especially liked his debate against Alex Rosenberg. I do enjoy studying philosophy of religion, as I find science doesn't always answer my questions. I thought WLC did well in the Carroll debate, especially since he is not a cosmologist. I listen to Hugh Ross for things concerning those matters. Are you convinced morality is subjective? I have to ask, do you "believe" in anything other than science? You know where I am going with this! Thanks for being so accessible, and keep up the great work on the podcast.

ME: The Carroll-WLC debate hit the nail on the head when it comes to refuting the Kalam because the KCA asks the wrong questions and Carroll proves that. It's a fine argument from the pre-Enlightenment era, but now it makes little sense. When WLC is shown his argument is false, he still continues with it, because he's merely a hired gun and is working on an outdated script. And you're correct, he isn't a cosmologist, so he should stick to what he knows. I have another argument that I believe refutes the KCA, but like I said, I despise philosophy. If you want to read my opinion on it I will gladly write it up for you. I enjoy doing this and spend a lot of time debating theists in forums.

To answer your question about science, we would first have to agree on a definition for belief. If you mean do I believe unconditionally everything science has to offer? Of course not, because that flies entirely in the face of what the scientific method is all about. Science isn't my religion, but there is no better way on this planet to decipher what is true when it comes to the physical world. The scientific method ensures questions get answered and conspiracies are all but impossible. The mere fact that science is transparent and scientists live for being double-checked and found wrong is the reason to trust it.

As for morality, yes, I 100 percent believe it's subjective and, like the U.S. Constitution, it's like a living breathing thing and can change over time, as it of course has. Even if there were a god, and that god is your god, he/she/it would still have an opinion as to what is moral, making it subjective. We are a product of our times and environment, always have been, always will be.

Like I said before, I wouldn't want this to affect our relationship. I appreciate your candor and honesty and the fact that you like our show. But if you want to keep this up, I'm game. You asked me some questions so I guess I'll just ask you one: What is your worldview?

HIM: Thanks for the reply, you're very intelligent when it comes to these matters. However, for me there is a big problem with a naturalistic world view. If morality is subjective, and we are just evolved chimpanzees, then everything that comes out of your mouth, or is printed in a science book, or even science itself, is purely subjective! How can one say that torturing somebody for fun is only subjectively bad? At least you didn't say "science is the only truth," like so many others I talk to will say. The statement "science is the only truth" by itself proves that science is not the only truth! You are too intelligent to say that, which says a lot about you.

Also, if my God did exist, he would be a maximally great being. He would be the greatest conceivable "good." Therefore, "good" would be objective. In other words, God did not choose good because it is good, but good is only good if a maximally great being possesses that quality. To answer your question about my world view, I am an old earth creationist. I have learned a lot from William Lane Craig, Hugh Ross, and Fazale Rana. I am sure I will learn something from you as well! This will not affect our relationship, I enjoy hearing about your world view.

ME: I'm so glad you responded and I must admit my response is quite long as I use some info from Wiki, responses from TTA forum members and Iron Chariots. Since you were the first to mention fallacies I assume you will be OK with me treating our correspondence as a debate and pointing out when you commit fallacies, etc.

Your first statement "If morality is subjective ..." has many problems. You said you were an old world creationist, but that still needs some clarifying. You could be a gap creationist (god created life instantly and recently), a progressive creationist (god allows for gene mutation and natural selection but intervenes at key points to guide the process to create humans) or a theism creationist (god of the bible created the universe and life through evolutionary processes.)

From the comment, I might guess you were a gap creationist because that statement about chimps means you might not understand what evolution really is. We are not evolved chimps. They are distant cousins to Homo sapiens on a geological timescale. Along the evolutionary tree we had a common ancestor, but we didn't come from chimps. I hope you don't ever make statements such as, "If we evolved from chimps then why are there still chimps?" because that is truly a gross ignorance that needs to be eradicated from this planet.

The topic of our discussion is objective morality. Based on this, your statement commits a few fallacies, including the evolutionary one I pointed out already. The examples you give are non sequiturs (another fallacy) in that they have little or nothing to do with the topic. Casual conversations are hardly subjected to such scrutiny as to be deemed important enough to be judged objectively by an all-powerful being. Same with textbooks, etc. These examples serve as a red herring in that you are avoiding the subject by invoking false dichotomies.

It's not that I disagree with the "subjective" portion of the statement, it's that it serves little purpose when trying to get to the heart of the matter, which is objective morality. What I say, think or do is purely subjective, yes. I am the subject, I am performing these acts or having these thoughts, hence they dictate their subjectiveness. It has nothing to do with determining if there is objective morality, so the examples are pointless.

Now, let's get to it. You brought up the example of torturing for fun and ask how it could only be subjectively bad. Torture is by definition unlawful abuse and/or creation of mental anguish. So any agreement is merely that people within a society should obey the rules of society. (Saying it is for fun is a nice touch but has little bearing on the degree of the act.)

For the argument to have any validity, all societies would have to agree on which types of mistreatment constitute torture, but even a cursory review of human history shows this is not the case. Violent interrogation, which one might think would be universally reviled, was perfectly acceptable to the Romans and Spartans (hell, even police/government agencies still do it).

Let's step it up to murder just for fun. Human sacrifice has been practiced by cultures around the world, as have judicial executions. The slaughter of civilians in war was widely accepted until fairly modern times. Some cultures did not consider it murder to kill people from other nations. At one point, samurai had wide latitude to kill peasants over the slightest discourtesy. Unless there is at least one type of killing that is universally considered to be murder, it cannot be argued that all societies agree that murder is wrong in any meaningful sense. This is the same for torture.

So to say these atrocities are objectively bad wouldn't quite be correct. I also think you may be confusing objective truth with objective morality. Again, let's go back to your statement. What comes out of my mouth or is printed on the pages of a science textbook could very well be objective truths, but it doesn't need an omnibenevolent deity to validate it. Those have nothing to do with morality.

You can certainly use objective tools to find out whether an action is morally good or bad, but the parameters you have to set up before doing so remain a subjective choice. One person may choose human suffering/human happiness as a parameter for determining morality, another person may choose his own well-being as a parameter and a third person may choose a religious scripture as his parameter. In the end, it all comes down to personal preference.

All fields of science have to make certain subjective assumptions to pursue objective truths. You need to subjectively value logic, reason, evidence before you can accurately gauge and measure objective truths. If you require that a science of morality to be 100 percent objective, then you're requiring it be self-justifying in a way no science can.

To quote Sam Harris in a debate he had with WLC: "If someone doesn't value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide to prove that they should value it? If someone doesn’t value logic, what logical argument could you provide to show the importance of logic?"

Your statements about "your" god commit two fallacies: special pleading and wishful thinking. While it's fantastic to be able to recognize the god you want, you are merely creating the being that best fits your worldview, a god you hope exists. No objective source of morality has ever been confirmed, nor have any "a priori" proofs been offered to the effect that morality is anything other than subjective. The moral principles theists claim to be "objective" usually coincide very well with what they feel subjectively to be true. The fact that you give this god the qualifier that he's maximally great means nothing and can't be proved. Why couldn't this god be maximally bad? And even if he did exist and was good, saying that he is the definition of good doesn't make it objective. If we as humans have to be told what is good then god is defining it for us, making it subjective.

Here is where it gets tricky and your worldview is important: Humans have been around in our current form for at least 100K years (it's closer to 200K but for the purposes of this discussion 100K will do nicely). I can produce mountains of evidence that proves this if you doubt it. We can easily show humans lived long before religion, before your god finally presented himself to us some 6K (or 2K) years ago. Did humans have objective morals then? How did we survive as a race if we didn't have a bible or personal revelation of god to keep us from torturing for fun and murdering for no reason? Why didn't we just die out from everyone committing every repulsive atrocity possible? Was god screwing with our free will and keeping us alive by squashing our urge to kill each other? That can't be, right?

Or maybe something a little more logical happened, you know, Occam's Razor and all. Maybe we formed tribes and packs, and realized it was much easier to survive when we worked together. Maybe we developed empathy through experience and protected each other from those individuals who didn't have the same moral compass as society. Then over the years we continued to learn and developed the Golden Rule, which means don't do something to someone you wouldn't want done to you. By the way, Confucius used the Golden Rule centuries before Christianity even existed so it's not a Christian concept. Also, we have witnessed empathy and morals in the animal kingdom countless times in countless acts. I can prove this, too. Where did they get their morals? God?

I have studied this from all angles and I didn't take my deconversion lightly. I can debate everything from philosophy to the bible, I can give my take on Christianity, Judaism, Islam and even Hinduism. I can discuss the historicity of Jesus, the irreconcilables of the gospels, the problems with the Old Testament, the problems with the New Testament, the contradictions riddled throughout the bible and I can hold my own with science.

I very much enjoyed this and hope I didn't turn you off. I'm pretty passionate about it and eagerly await your response. If there are other topics you'd like to discuss, I am all for it.

HIM: I appreciate your thorough response. To be honest, you're just way to advanced for me to have a proper debate with. At least I am man enough to admit it. You're very intelligent! Not making excuses, but I guess I kind of am, with a full time job, a wife and two kids, and trying to start up an early 60's surf rock band, I just don't have time to commit my life to studying all these things right now. I will say, William Lane Craig, Hugh Ross, and Fuzale Rana do address everything that you have brought up. I have been thinking, why don't you send in either your rebuttal to the Kalam, or a write up about objective/subjective morality to William Lane Craig? I am serious, you are so advanced, I think he will take one of your questions as one of his "questions of the week." I have enjoyed our conversation, and hope I havn't let you down. Please do keep in touch with me, as I think you are very kind and respectful to other people with different world views. Take care!

At this point I think he is waving the white flag and he is actually asking to stay in touch. So I just try to end it quickly.

ME: Nah, his rebuttals aren't rebuttals. But that's cool. Just glad we are cool with each other. Thanks for the kind words and I'm glad you're sticking around. If you change your mind or have questions let me know in your free time.

HIM: Yes, they are rebuttals. There is a reason why he wins every single debate that he is involved in. Dawkins is too chicken **** to debate him, most atheist agree Harris lost by a mile, Carroll was shown why none of his lame, outdated models would work, the panel voted 4-2 in favor of Craig when he debated Rosenberg, and the Atheist Wire newspaper said "Hitchens got spanked." Are you sure the reason why you don't want to send in your thesis isn't because he could easily refute it? If Atheism is so obviously true, why does WLC keep winning these debates?! Deep down you know he shows that theism is true, but you just choose to ignore that fact. Anyway, I will definitely continue to listen to the podcast, keep up the good work!

I found it very telling how one line in my brief response got him to start to show his true feelings and unleash a little vitriol.

ME: I knew you'd be back! He won all of the debates? Hmmm. Anyone who thinks Sam Harris lost his debate to WLC must be Craig's mother or have his same last name. It was the most embarrassing one-sided affair I've ever watched and I've seen a lot of them. Not sure where you're getting your info.

And exactly who told you he won the Carroll debate, theist bloggers and Christian websites? Did you watch the debate?

Of course both sides would declare victory, just like political debates when each side spins it their way in the moratorium. But Carroll didn't try to win the debate, he even said that, he just completely dismantled the antiquated KCA. Anyone who actually followed the debate and listened to what Carroll said would know he said models don't have to be perfect, they only have to be possible. It's a moot point to say they don't work.

Your rhetoric about what I feel "deep down" was comical at best and I'll let it slide. I'm an evidence guy, just like in poker. If the story doesn't add up, I'm calling your bluff. WLC's story doesn't add up in the 21st century. And neither does yours here. You played that weak card a little too early. Do you think if I really believed the Christian god existed that I would piss him off like this? LOL! And if, as you admitted, you're not equipped to debate me on your own about such issues, how do you know WLC has won anything? Because you're being told he won? Kinda like being told what to believe by the church? Hmm.

BTW:  Dawkins hates debates, but when he does agree to one he wants to be debated by legitimate clergy, not a hired gun throwing around science terms he really doesn't understand.

I have a real problem with WLC but I won't get into that here. My disdain for him came WAY after I saw the debates, so this attitude I have toward him didn't affect my objectivity when I was searching for the truth years ago. I listened wholeheartedly to him when I was at a crossroads and he just didn't do it for me.

Are we having fun yet?

Tell me, have you read the bible cover to cover? And you said WLC restored your faith. Why did you lose it in the first place, and are your beliefs solid now because of his debates alone?

HIM: Answer this question honestly, and think before you answer. Would you personally debate WLC? Also, I am not dumb enough to say if we came from monkeys why are they still here. It does not matter if one type of murder is universally accepted or considered wrong, that doesn't change the fact that it is objectively wrong to murder somebody (we're not talking self defense here). It doesn't matter if all societies agree upon one type of torture, it's still objectively wrong. What society says about it has nothing to do with it, you atheist don't seem to grasp that point. Are you familiar with special pleading? You are guilty of it, sir. Since everything is subjective, and we are all just walking chunks of matter, why do you stand up for same sex marriage? You shouldn't care about it! I know what you will say, but really you shouldn't care, even if it "infringes on your rights." Atheist are very closed minded. I need to get back to work, have a great day!

ME: Ever notice WLC ALWAYS goes first in a debate? Why do you think that is? It's because he insists on it, including many other stipulations like a favorable location, time constraints, etc. Why? Because he then uses a tactic on the level of a high school debate team by altering the topic of the debate to something he can manipulate, forcing his opponent to do one of two things: spend his 10 minutes refuting the BS that WLC just pulled, thus surrendering his 10 minutes and playing defense for the rest of the night, or he can go ahead with his prepared 10 minutes that actually addresses the subject, and then will be subjected to WLC's underhanded cries of foul, accusing his opponent of not addressing the points he brought up, and declaring his victory. It's something that ignorant audiences and inexperienced debaters fall for and is why so many theists believe this guy wins. It's manipulative and unprofessional at best.

You have not proved at all that murder or torture is objectively wrong, you are just more and more guilty of fallacies, namely an appeal to emotion and an argument from adverse consequences. Everything related to behavior and morality is subjective and no one has ever made an argument that refutes this point without trying to insert a god they can't prove exists. And even if your god did exist, like we've discussed, this god would need to be defined so I can dismantle him for you as well. You never answered my question about the bible, btw.

Your points about special pleading and same sex marriage completely miss the mark. Please point out how I am guilty of special pleading by insisting we are all responsible for our own actions and don't answer to a made-up deity. And you never state why I shouldn't care. I know why we should care, but you never state why. Please complete at least one thought in your responses.

Your strawman fallacies are beginning to show as well, lumping all atheists into your narrow view of them and then knocking them down. Empathy is one of the most valuable attributes we have as a race and those who can't recognize that are the truly close-minded. No special pleading there.

While I appreciate how busy you might be at work, I notice you cherry-pick only that which you are comfortable answering. Why is that? Many followers of Christianity choose to cherry-pick the bible and its tenants so this behavior isn't surprising.

Hope work is going well.

HIM: You never answered my question about debating WLC. I think I know why, it's because you would get your ass kicked in a debate against him. You are making all atheist look bad with your weak arguments. Anyway, I apologize for being rude, I am not normally like that. I think you guys do a fine job and do so in a professional manner. I will recommend all of my friends to listen to your podcast. I am not at all being sarcastic. Good luck to you, and have a great day.

At this point I replied to him and sent it off, only to find out he had eliminated his email address. He really didn't like me tearing apart his hero and it got to him just when I thought the exchange was going to end. He didn't answer quite a few questions I posed to him and I'm not sure if that's because he just didn't have time, he was upset by what I had said or that he just didn't want to have to think about those things. I see it all of the time when talking to theists who really haven't given any critical thinking to their worldview. Maybe he will reach out to me again someday, with a different email address I'm sure.

Why hit and run?

Lately, when I have a chance to debate theists, they have been doing what is known as a hit-and-run. We have a casual conversation, no mud-slinging or ad-hominem attacks and then they say something really asinine and split. Of course you likely have surmised that I have had these debates electronically.

Case in point: In real life I'm sort of a pseudo celebrity in that there are a lot of people who know who I am from my media companies. One of my media adventures is a popular podcast (it's not about atheism). But every once in a while a topic will come up where my worldview is expressed. I don't actually mention being an atheist, but it's clear I'm not happy with religion or theism.

Recently, a listener contacted our show to express his disappointment in my (and my co-host's) point of view, and he rattled off a bunch of theistic mumbo-jumbo. I made sure not to apologize to this guy and thanked him for his patronage and if he felt he couldn't listen to the show anymore that I would understand. He replied with a very cordial email, stating we were very classy for replying and taking the time to deal with him, etc. Eventually we ended up having a back-and-forth conversation about his worldview and mine. We debated a bit and he admitted he wasn't in my league when it came to addressing such things. I said that was fine, I'm just glad he was going to remain a listener and not be offended. But in the end, he made some ridiculous points, said I was making all atheists look bad and would be crushed by William Lane Craig in a debate and that I'd be chicken shit to debate him, etc.

So I replied and my email came back undeliverable. I wondered at first if he blocked me so I tried to email him with my personal email and it turned out he literally closed his email account. So I can only imagine he created this account for the sole purpose of contacting our show with a boatload of insults, never envisioning we would respond and actually have a conversation. (I may post our exchange on here soon.)

A week or two later, I was on Omegle chatting with another theist and we had a real pleasant debate for about 30 minutes. We started to discuss morality (absolute, subjective and objective) and it was completely cordial. Then he went on this long diatribe, made some easily refutable points and then disconnected. So I couldn't reply and I never saved the conversation so I can't post it.

I have a hypothesis as to why they are doing this. It's a virtual version of sticking your fingers in your ears and screaming "La la la la! Can't hear you! La la la!" They get in too deep with the conversation, they don't like what they are hearing (maybe it's causing them to rethink their faith?) and they throw in an insult or two and then split without having to deal with the repercussions of making said statements.

It is frustrating because I'm being cordial, taking the high road and I'm getting taken advantage of in the process. I would be a rude ass except that would just cement in their minds that atheists are evil baby eaters or whatever. Oh well.

Monday, June 8, 2015

More freewill thoughts

When I think of freewill, I think it means we are free to live as we see fit. If we want to be wicked, then we can be. If we want to be good, then we will be good. Christians often talk of freewill, that their god won't interfere with what humans do, but instead he will deal with their actions in the afterlife. I'll use Christians here for simplicity's sake, though all Abrahamic religions speak of freewill.

I've written before on freewill here.

I'm taking a different angle here, however, namely looking at god's wrath. Of course there's the instance in the bible when god hardened the pharaoh's heart, and that clearly is a case when he interfered and removed freewill from someone (Exodus 7:13, 22; 8:19). The pharaoh was evil so god intervened. I have no problem with this, but if you claim god grants freewill then this is a violation of that pact.

But let's discuss the Great Flood. Obviously this never happened. It's just a regurgitation of the Epic of Gilgamesh, probably used pathetically to convince believers that their god could smite them at any time. Here is an excerpt that explains why god brought the rains:

“The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” (Genesis 6:11-13)

So, how is this freewill? You create humans, give them freewill to act as they want, then when they do and you disapprove you wipe humanity from the face of the earth? Granted, these people may have been pure evil, and they may have deserved death for their indiscretions, but I didn't set the rules or parameters. Freewill isn't free if the threat of murder is lingering over the prospect. By killing everyone, god is in effect, taking their freewill.

A Christian may argue that these people had freewill until god levied his punishment, but I would argue god kept them from doing what they wanted. He also kept humans from dealing with their own problems, and from that moment on, freewill never exists. If you know god will kill you for your actions, and that killing could/would come at any moment, true freewill ceases to exist.

There are so many problems with the Great Flood lesson, and there are plenty of instances in the bible where freewill is infringed upon, but believers refuse to take their god to task. Why? Fear. And by being afraid to question god, you have lost your freewill.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

On the origins of Hell

First, let me say I believe in nothing supernatural, no gods, no afterlife, no ghosts, no magic, nothing. And while I would never believe Hell existed in my worldview anyway, there is actual evidence that proves Hell is man-made and not an actual thing. In a recent discussion with a theist, he claimed to ACTUALLY know about Hell, so I called him on it. Of course he just told me to read the bible and backpedaled on giving me real evidence. When I told him real research reveals how Hell came to be known as a place of eternal damnation without actually existing, he asked me for proof, so here it is:

It's not surprising that "hell" in the New Testament is used as a vehicle for control and fear, and it's no less surprising that it is the product of mistranslation and misunderstanding. To get to the root of its origin we MUST begin with the OT. The Jews wrote the Old Testament, thus starting the Abrahamic religion, and they use the term Sheol, described as a morally neutral place people allegedly go after they die. It literally means "world of the dead; a subterranean retreat, a grave or pit." In fact, in the KJV, the Old Testament term Sheol is translated as "Hell" 31 times and "grave" 31 times (translated as "pit" three times).

What's that you say, there is no Hell in the OT and the Jews don't believe in Hell? No lake of fire, no eternal damnation? Well isn't that very telling? The Greeks originally translated Sheol as Hades, their underworld, which already is skewing the original meaning. The KJV translates Hades as Hell 10 times, and as grave once. Nonetheless, Hell's origin can still be traced to the OT, but let's take a quick detour to the NT for a second.

Obviously the Jesus character was a Jew, as were his followers/apostles, and in the Greek translations of the NT, Jesus uses the term Gehenna for Hell. Some say Gehenna is not Hell, but originally was a grave and in later times a sort of Purgatory where one is judged based on one's life's deeds, or rather, where one becomes fully aware of one's own shortcomings and negative actions during one's life. But if you follow the steps of translation back to the original Hebrew, you'll learn Gehenna (English) comes from the Greek's Ge'enna (γέεννα), which is a phonetic transcription of the Aramaic Gēhannā, which of course comes from the Hebrew Ge Hinnom, which literally means Valley of Hinnom.

This Valley, aka Valley of the Sons of Hinnom, was used during Roman times (and before then) for burning bodies and trash. A little more research uncovers this Valley was used for child sacrifices by Jews and Canaanites, and these sacrifices were to Molech, Baal and even Yahweh. The Valley of Hinnom is below the southern wall of ancient Jerusalem, which is telling in and of itself, that the location is below Jerusalem. Many biblical scholars will say Gehenna is a metaphor for Hell, but of course we have the actual history of the location and no real evidence of a hell itself.

But the imagery is easily transferable even if mistakingly done so: an underworld, below Jerusalem, where the unwanted things (people and garbage) go to burn. One part of the Valley was known as Tophet, the "fire-stove" or furnace, where the children were burned alive. Excavations from 1975-80 found remains of nine burial caves, and in earlier excavations of the dump, the fire was still smoldering after centuries.

So, we have Hades and Gehenna, and when the bible was translated into English in Medieval Times, both terms became Hell, which in fact doesn't exist. It literally started as just an OT description of where bodies were buried, mistranslated to mean underworld, then it was an actual place where bodies were sacrificed and burned, located below Jerusalem. And it was during the Medieval Times the Christian church manipulated Hell as a weapon for controlling its followers with fear of eternal damnation.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Why Christianity is most popular

On one of the forums I frequent, the comments discussion drifted somehow to which religion had the most members globally. Someone tried to say it was Hindu/Buddhism and I of course had to correct him. Christianity is first with Islam a close second. I then made an off-hand comment that we all know why Christianity dominates and it's not because it's the one true religion. One of the theists took umbrage with this remark and wanted to know my feelings as to why this is true. I poked a little fun at him by asking how he didn't know why his own religion was the most popular, and he just up and left the discussion before I could offer my answer. So here is what I would have said to him:

The reasons are plenty and these aren't in any particular order of importance:

Convenience: If you want to be a Jew, there's the hassle of learning Hebrew, there's a dress code, you must attend Temple services, the food you can't eat is tasty and you must deal with bigotry.

If you want to be a Muslim, you must go to Mecca, pray at least five times a day, you can't eat certain foods, if you're a woman you must live your life covered from head to toe while living in fear as a subservient human. Plus there's the whole jihad bullshit instilled in Muslims.

Other religions have the same or similar restrictions on lifestyle that adds up to one huge inconvenience. But in Christianity? You don't have to do anything and you can still call yourself a Christian. Just ask for forgiveness while you watch your favorite reality shows featuring Real Housewives. Do whatever you want, just as long as you make an attempt to be a good person. You can do this in perpetuity. And don't worry, if you fail, just ask for forgiveness and get a clean slate.

One Christian group can accept evolution (Catholics) while another can dismiss it as the devil's handiwork (Young Earth Creationists), yet both remain Christian and both are considered correct. One can hate homosexuals, one can accept them because Jesus was loving, and both are correct. The bible is figurative, the bible is literal, doesn't matter, you're Christian. Want to pray today? Go ahead. Don't want to? That is OK, too.

Power: Christianity had/has the most power behind it, including weaponry and hierarchy (think Constantine, Crusades, Inquisition). Why are there so many Christians? If you didn't convert to Christianity, you were killed. Simple math. People believed or they died. And as families continued to raise their children that way, the numbers grew exponentially. You kill those that don't believe and you nurture and raise those that do. Again, simple math. It is easy to outnumber other religions when you are killing everyone who wasn't like you.

Money and missionaries: Christianity preys on the needy. "We will build a hut for you, but first let's gather round and discuss the miracles of Jesus. Are you hungry? We'll give you that sandwich just as I tell you the good news."

How many religions send missionaries out into the world to convert non-believers? Christians try to convert every non-believer or non-Christian they know. It's considered their duty. The other religions don't do that. It's easy to outnumber people when you have recruiters all around the world promising you stuff for your conversion, especially if you're desperate.

Christianity craves money more than any other religion, easily. How many times has a Jew knocked on your door to ask if you have a minute to talk about Yahweh? Any Muslims ringing your bell for a chance to discuss Mohammed? Maybe a Hindu has approached you to discuss Shiva. No? You don't say. Christianity loves money, it needs it, and in America it gets tax breaks so the more money they get, the more they keep. These people aren't trying to convert others for love and peace, they are being forced out to increase the flock, to increase the cash flow. And don't even think about bringing up charity, because that still ultimately benefits Christianity, and you don't need religion to be charitable.

So, you take all of these factors and it adds up to Christianity outnumbering all religions, but even with all of these reasons, Christianity is still dying and won't be on top for long. A recent PEW study shows Islam will overtake Christianity in the next few decades and non-believers will catch up as well. So, it turns out that even the threat of death and the promise of eternal bliss isn't enough to keep Jesus lovers in first place.