Tuesday, July 30, 2013

One helluva workday

Recently, I had a discussion with a believer about the Book of Genesis. The conversation went something like this: 

Me: You do realize Genesis is merely poetic and not literal, right? 

Them: No.

Me: So you believe god made everything in six days?

Them: Yes, but days doesn't mean 24 hours.

Me: Really? What does the word day mean to you?

Them: Well, in this case it means a long time.

Me: Could you be a little more specific? And could you tell me where you're getting this fact from?

Them: Day just means a really long period, and this comes from the interpretation.

Me: But how many minutes in a "long period?" And who is doing this interpretation?

Them: I don't know how long a day is in the bible, and my church is interpreting the length.

Me: Do you hear yourself?

So, at this point, after I let this person talk for as long as I thought it took for them to see the light, I offered this:

Me: For 2,000 years, Christians have been taught that Creation Week was six literal days, that god did everything in six days and rested on the seventh day (which is perplexing given that an omnipotent god could have just created everything in an instant, plus he wouldn't need a vacation when he was done anyway).

This point was merely floating out there with no real response, so I persisted.

Me: In fact, this idea was so ubiquitous and sacrosanct that if someone challenged it they were labeled a heretic and could have been tortured for heresy by the church.

Them: Well, times change, and we are learning what was really meant by a day.

Me: What I think you mean to say is science is proving that Genesis isn't indeed fact, that man wrote this book and it wasn't the actual word of your god. But, I won't put words in your mouth, I'll let your god speak for himself to show you that Genesis meant six literal days. In Genesis, it says: 

"And the evening and the morning were the first day." —Genesis 1:5
"And the evening and the morning were the second day." —Genesis 1:8
"And the evening and the morning were the third day." —Genesis 1:13

There is no misunderstanding or misinterpretation here; an evening and a morning is one full day, and this is how it was written. 

At this point the believer retreated to their normal stance of not being smart enough to interpret the bible properly. 

Me: Well, what about Exodus? 

Them: What about Exodus? 

Me: Even Moses proved Genesis meant six literal days. "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the Earth . . . and rested on the seventh day." —Exodus 20:9-11

So, by reading that, are you telling me humans are supposed to work "a really long time" for each day? Are our workweeks supposed to take as along as god took to create everything?

No answer from the believer. I said, "This is what always happens with religions. Science proves something, and a lot of times that something doesn't fit or even agree with the bible, and because it's irrefutable, religious leaders are forced to come up with some twisted logic (that contradicts what they themselves believed for centuries) just to make their scripture fit in with the cold hard facts of reality."

Finally, in his book Atheist Universe, David Mills wrote:

"A non-literal interpretation of these passages is thoroughly dishonest and wholly disingenuous. Scholars additionally pointed out that in the original Hebrew text of Genesis, the word 'day' is yom, which, when used with an ordinal—e.g., first day, second day, third day—refers invariably to a literal 24-hour period throughout the entire Bible. So there was never any doubt voiced—or even contemplated—that 'day' didn't mean 'day' in the Book of Genesis."

I guess the point of this is to show believers that the bible isn't literal or even 100% factual. The website christianitydisproved.com has this logical argument:

• If the bible is 100% factually accurate, then the universe is not billions of years old.
• The universe is billions of years old.
• Therefore the bible is not 100% factually accurate.

Why do I care? Because when people take the bible as literal truth, it tends to not work out so well for others (e.g. slavery, genocide, murder, ethnic cleansing, infanticide). 

Think for yourselves, do the research, be educated, not indoctrinated.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Einstein hits the mark, of course

Occasionally I am going to use quotes from famous agnostics/atheists to help understand that some of the brightest minds in history found believing in god to be trite and foolish. If these people are all infidels destined to spend eternity in hell, then it's going to be one, ahem, hell of a party when I get there.

Albert Einstein, likely the greatest mind ever to live, is obviously known for his contributions to science. He also was an atheist, despite the believers trying desperately to claim him as their own. One of the reasons for this was because he sometimes would use the word "god" as a metaphor and it would be misinterpreted. He often had to refute the claims that he believed in god, which was a shame because his time was of course better spent pondering the true mysteries of the universe. Here, in a New York Times piece from 1930, he really hits the mark with science and morality.

"It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept, which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere . . . Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The non-power of prayer

I don't like to offend anyone. It's not my nature to hurt people, and when I do hurt them I feel terrible for such a long time, probably too long, and always apologize. So I don't say this lightly: It is so painfully obvious that prayer is the largest crutch in the universe. It's one thing to believe in a deity, but to sincerely believe prayer works is beyond delusional and is a refuge for the feeble-minded.

Imagine a parent who so blindly loves her drug-addicted son that she continues to enable his habit through denial and excuses. When we witness this from the outside, it's clear as day to us that the boy is taking advantage of his mother and she is blinded by her love for him. She will do anything for him, except the right thing, which is to call him out on his lies and deceit and cut him off from her until he learns through tough love.

Now, substitute the mom with a believer and the son with a god. The believer will pray to their god, just like the mom will talk to her son and ask if everything is all right. And when the son continues to let her down by lying and doing drugs, she resorts to denial and makes excuses for her son. When the believer prays for something and it doesn't happen, they make excuses and enable their deity (God will answer my prayer eventually; God has a plan; God just said not yet, who am I to question his timeline?) and use denial if anyone challenges the effectiveness of prayer. 

And just like when you can plainly see this boy is lying to his mother and using her, why can't these believers see that prayer doesn't work, that religion is lying to them and giving them false hope? 

I've often used the phrase, "When you step outside ..." and in this case it couldn't be more poignant. When you step outside of prayer and look at it without blind, mindless faith, what you'll find is 100 percent variance that doesn't need excuses, it's just pure math. When you ask for something and it doesn't come true, it's not some deity denying you because of some master plan, it's because no one is listening. It's merely natural variance, indiscrimination, que sera sera.

I'd like to present an interesting non-biased double-blind study on prayer. It was used as an example in at least a couple of books I've studied. And this study is only one of dozens that have all had this same outcome.

A doctor and his team monitored 1,802 patients at six hospitals, all of whom received coronary bypass surgery. The patients were divided into three groups. Group 1 received prayers and didn't know it. Group 2 (the control group) received no prayers and didn't know it. Group 3 received prayers and did know it. Prayers were delivered by the congregations of three churches (Minnesota, Massachusetts and Missouri). The praying individuals were given only the first name and initial letter of the surname of each patient (presumably that's enough for an omniscient deity to locate these patients). They were told to include in their prayers the phrase "for a successful surgery with a quick, healthy recovery and no complications."

The results, reported in the American Heart Journal (April 2006), were clear-cut. There was no difference between those patients who were prayed for and those who were not. What a surprise. 

There was, however, a difference between those who knew they had been prayed for and those who didn't know one way or the other. I bet you have already surmised that the ones who knew they were being prayed for had a better recovery, right? Quite the opposite, actually. Those who knew they had been the beneficiaries of prayer suffered significantly more complications than those who did not. The power of prayer doesn't hold up, not even a little. And this result is not an anomaly, it's absolutely the norm, which again seems so obvious.

Religious people will be quick to dismiss this as mere coincidence, but if the results favored prayer, all religions would be quick to count this as proof of a divine power and praise god. Instead, they will continue to live in denial with wishful thinking, useless praying and can't-lose logic. 

What do I mean by that? Christians say god answers prayers in one of three ways: yes, no and wait. How can you lose? If what you want happens, he said yes. If it doesn't, he said no. If it happens eventually, he must've said wait. That's can't-lose logic, a popular theme in religion, because if there's a scenario where real logic steps in then faith has no place, and religions can't afford to lose parishioners.

Let's again remove ourselves from being offended by terminology and substitute god with a sack of potatoes. Let's say you need $500 and pray to the bag of potatoes. The next day your accountant calls and says she discovered an error in your tax return and you'll be getting an additional refund of $650. The bag must have said yes! 

Or maybe six months after praying to the bag, your aunt dies and leaves you $700 in her will. That means six months ago the bag of potatoes must have said "wait."

Or, if you never received any extra money sent your way, then the bag must have said no. It's absolutely wishful thinking and infallible attributes given undeservedly to a god. 

Petitionary prayer is rendered moot with an omniscient god since that implies he'll already have taken all of the information about our needs and desires into account when deciding what to do. Remember, he has a plan, right? His benevolence implies he will act in our best interests unless there is a good reason not to (and if there is such a reason, our prayers will not remove it). Prayer, then, should never change a god’s mind; petitionary prayer should never work (and of course it doesn't, but not because there's a god with a plan).

In my research, I discovered a website called Why Doesn't God Heal Amputees? Though I think the site hammers this point ad nauseum, it's the perfect point nonetheless. Ever notice how prayers that get "answered" can ALWAYS be explained by random occurrences? Why is it that god never actually answers the impossible prayers, such as growing back a limb or curing a child of Down Syndrome? 

Let's try an experiment: If you're a believer, identify someone in your community who lost an appendage in a war or car accident; go to your priest or pastor and have him ask the Sunday congregation to go home that night and pray to your god to grow back this leg or arm for this poor individual. And I don't want to be misunderstood here: If the person is fitted for an artificial leg or arm, that is not a notch in the win column for your god. I mean a real arm or leg needs to grow back. Let's see what happens. Have them keep praying for this every day until it happens. Will all of those prayers reach this god? Will he continue to say no when so many people want this? He's omnipotent, right? Surely growing an arm is mere child's play for a god who created everything.

Of course all of this wouldn't happen because the priest would look at you like you were an idiot. And why is that? Because real miracles don't happen (I'll post something on this phenomenon in the future) and they don't want to pray for something that so obviously won't happen. Again, they can't afford to have any doubt in their followers. And the enablers will surface no doubt, saying something so reprehensible as, "God has a plan and he must want this person to be disabled for a reason." 

One final word on prayer: The pope, which is a man-made title/position and arrogantly appointed "infallible closest person to god," prays every Easter for peace, and every year peace is NEVER achieved; if anything, war escalates with each passing year. If the person closest to god can't get him to intervene then who can? Presumably he's the holiest person on earth, and his prayers fall on deaf ears every day. If god can hear prayers, and he's omnipotent and omnibenevolent, wouldn't peace on earth be something he'd like to see? 

If your answer is war is a byproduct of freewill, then why pray to god for peace? And if we have freewill, then why give us commandments? Using freewill as an argument is just another way for the believer to be an enabler to their god.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

On the existence of hell

It stands to reason if I don't believe there's any god or anything supernatural because of lack of evidence, then why would I believe there's a hell, or even a heaven? But for the sake of argument, let's say there's some all-knowing watchdog in the sky (and in our heads). 

To make my point, we should look to David Mills' Atheist Universe. He chose for his example Stalin and Hitler, which history justifiably regards as evil madmen because of their inhumane tyranny, torture and murder of people who, in the dictators' minds, stood in the way of their goals. 

He said, if we conclude the Christian god would create hell to deter behavior he disliked (murder, masturbation, rejecting Jesus and/or the holy ghost, premarital sex, non-missionary sexual positions, homosexuality, etc.), knowing beforehand, as only an omniscient would, the majority of humanity would, as a result, suffer eternal torture, then we would be forced to also label this god as evil and sadistic because he likewise would've inhumanely tortured individuals to accomplish his goals. 

Hitler and Stalin tortured/killed millions of innocents, but this god would have tortured BILLIONS if we were to believe everyone who "sins" or isn't a believer in that faith goes to hell. The difference here is (besides the math), once Hitler killed you, your suffering was over, but god tortures you for eternity. Heaven's justice doesn't fit the crime.

Christians may then defend this train of thought by stating their god gave us freewill. They say we control our eternal destiny by accepting or rejecting Jesus as our savior and following his rules. But, again, they invalidate their argument by asserting god is omniscient: He possesses total knowledge of the past, present and future. Thus, the fact the majority of humanity would "forsake Jesus" (and would therefore suffer an eternal roasting) was recognized by god before he chose to create hell, before he chose to create man, before he chose to give man an eternal soul, before he chose to make the eternal destinies of souls contingent upon "accepting Jesus," and before he chose to create a devil to deceive man into forsaking Jesus. 

If this god is truly omniscient, as Christians believe, then he would've foreseen his "Master Plan" would be disastrous for humanity. Yet, according to biblical doctrine, he crafted his plan of contingent salvation, so that billions of individuals, whom he brought into existence, would be consigned to eternal damnation. He, therefore, would bear direct responsibility for any suffering. So, if god were existent, I couldn't believe he would create a hell, otherwise he certainly wouldn't be benevolent. And if he were omnipotent then why not create a race incapable of sin? If you're going to blackmail us into worship, then why not just make mindless souls to do your celestial sucking up?

In the New York Times in 1955, Albert Einstein said, "I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own—a god, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms."

Spoken like a true genius.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Back to the bible, and Jesus

In the last post I made about the bible, I asked if Jesus really was a better "alternative" to Yahweh. I say "alternative" because most Christians believe they are one in the same. This bipolar identity lends itself to a deity do-over, which I find incongruent (again) with the omniscient god. Wouldn't a god, with limitless ability to see the future, know his grotesque treatment of humans would be seen as, well, grotesque? 

Wouldn't the need for a kindler, gentler savior be foreseen? So why the two versions? Why not just be Jesus to start? Why be this horrid dictator and then change your gameplan? God must've known this would be the case, right? I'll tell you why, because the bible was written by ignorant men and not a perfect lord. This version of god wasn't having the effect its conjurors imagined, so they re-imagined a kinder being.

So, is the New Testament better? Is Jesus better? You might think that at first glance, but a careful reading of the NT will have you arrive at a resounding no. To start, in Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus says he doesn't come to abolish the laws of the OT but to enforce them, and that every one of those laws will be upheld until the end of time. So I guess that means he planned to follow through on what dad started, sort of like George W. Bush and his dad when it came to Iraq and Saddam.

As a quick aside, I find it so convenient for believers to utter the phrase "The bible is too complicated to be interpreted without years and years of study, so I can't presume to know everything about god's intent." This is pure hogwash and gibberish. Again, these stories were supposed to be written by, experienced by and told to mostly illiterate people wandering the desert. I find it nearly impossible to believe the stories told here can't be understood by us, with 20 centuries of advancement, evolution and education under our belts vs. our desert-dwelling predecessors. Why would god want his word to be too complicated for his simple folk to understand?

And why is it that the religious clergy can understand/interpret better than the secular braintrust that produced geniuses such as Einstein and Dawkins. Is it perhaps because they want it interpreted the way they want it to be rather than what it actually says? Susan B. Anthony may have put it best: "I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires."

Certainly I'm on the same intellectual level as even the most rudimentary deacon, no? And how can stories about rape, incest, slavery and genocide be misinterpreted? How can they be parables? 

Back to Jesus. I once mentioned his similarities to other deities who predate Jesus, and I may explore that in the blog some day, but for now I want to show why I think Jesus wasn't all he was cracked up to be.

Here's a chestnut from the "good book" about Jesus: A woman begs Jesus to give her child an exorcism, but he says, why would I help you, a non-Jew? He refused to help her until one of his followers stepped in and convinced him. Does a loving, peaceful deity for ALL mankind turn away a woman and child in need? And would he belittle them as non-Jews? Would the all-knowing perfect Jesus need advice from a follower? And for that matter, don't his followers believe he led a perfect life without sin? Wouldn't his initial refusal of this woman be a sin? Love thy neighbor?

Jesus also said, as he looked for disciples, and I'm paraphrasing, "Those who don't hate their families cannot follow me." I'm certain the believers interpret this to fit their needs, that Jesus just meant I am salvation and you need to follow me. Or that there's an alternative definition of hate that means love, anything to make your messiah look innocent.

In another part of the NT, a man is found collecting sticks on the sabbath (I assume this was Saturday, but that's another whole can of worms for another post.) and is brought before Jesus, who says, of course, he must be killed. And he is. ... for collecting sticks!!! That's it, not collecting sticks to kill someone with or to worship, but collecting sticks, likely needed to build a fire to stay warm. Death, ordered by the kind, loving Jesus. I suppose it's just another parable, right? My simple mind just can't find hidden meaning in actual death I guess, and that's death over kindling.

If Jesus could heal a blind person, as he did in Mark 8:22-26, then why not just heal blindness? What's the point of it? Why have this ailment on earth when it serves no positive purpose and can be cured by Jesus? 

Too many things point to incongruity and less-than-benevolent behavior when it comes to Jesus, and all of this without even mentioning his conception and birth from a virgin, his disdain for his mother, Mary, and his forgiving of a sinner on the cross, but not for a sinner in the bed of their same-sex partner. 

Jesus stated, "Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation" (Mark 3:28-29). 

Imagine, the only unforgivable sin is denouncing some spirit you can't possibly know or see. Yet, killing and raping is forgivable. And why is it Jesus (and clergy) gets to forgive people's sins, but doesn't give any consideration to the person who was sinned against? Only the affected has the right to forgive the sinner. 

Let's say a man kills your mother. If he repents then Jesus forgives him, but where does that leave you? You are motherless and the murderer is ultimately on his way to eternal glory. Where is the heavenly justice? This kicks the teeth in to those who espouse their religion as the only way to have morality on this planet. Why be moral if the only thing you can't be forgiven is to blaspheme the holy ghost?

Perhaps someday I'll also get into how in the bible Jesus and his believers self-fulfilled the prophecies of the OT (don't forget, they knew of them beforehand, which defies the definition of a prophecy). Also, if Jesus was the lord, why would we be impressed or surprised by him fulfilling these prophecies since he could make them come true by his sheer will?

You need to step outside of beliefs and faith to be rational, something most people are unwilling to do. But if you do, and you don't make up excuses and some twisted logic to square your religious circle, you'll see this doesn't add up to a perfect being, but rather just a man, if that.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Free thought means I'm in a cult?

In a lot of my research, which included watching debates between believers and nonbelievers, reading atheists forums and books, I noticed a lot of the believers wondered why freethinkers were so angry. And while I don't agree with that stereotypical premise, I have a feeling why this belief is out there.

For me, a lot of the disdain in my tone and voice (when it is there) comes from years of wasted time, and I'd be lying if I didn't feel like I had been betrayed. I can't pinpoint the source of that betrayal, but it's likely if anyone is to blame it is me. I blindly believed what I was told because I had no choice. The dogma was forced upon me during my formative years and I failed to investigate further the moment I had doubts. Instead, I just ignored it.

Once a person leaves a religion, especially one that makes you fear a made-up dictator, you tend to feel a tremendous weight off your shoulders, but you also can't help but realize there were years of wasted time. For me, I can never get that time back obviously; I can never have those guilty feelings remedied, and only now can that fear subside, but that still doesn't help that young boy who was told he'd eternally burn in hell for taking a pack of baseball cards from the local convenience store.

This can explain why nonbelievers seem strident and angry, because they not only resent these aforementioned reasons, but they also don't want others to be infected by religion and deity myth.

Other reasons for "anger" might include the righteous telling us we are damned, wrong, ignorant, etc., when in fact we are likely the furthest from ignorant anyone could be. When someone leaves a religion, a decision that large is not to be taken lightly, so research and deep thought is required. 

And when these believers try to "save" you, they believe it's their duty, and the condescension and arrogance can easily trigger anger in the freethinker. When I recently told a family member of my atheism, I was asked if I had joined a cult, followed by the comment that it seemed like I had been indoctrinated. I, of course, made it clear that they were the ones who were indoctrinated and I had merely used critical thinking and reason to arrive at this point in my life.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

One small step ...

It was 44 years ago today we landed on the moon. Why am I writing about this on an atheism blog? I feel like it's one of the greatest scientific accomplishments in our history, and science is one of the major reasons people are atheists. By humans leaving this planet and landing on an alien world, it showed we aren't bound by the former center of the universe. 

Though we knew long before this date that the earth was round and revolved around the sun, this event nonetheless was the culmination of an exhaustive journey that began with the will to dispel those Bronze Age theories. It also proved the moon wasn't made of cheese, which may sound silly, but many people believed that as fact, which is no more silly than an all-knowing being in the sky watching your every move and listening to your every thought.

Anyway, thanks NASA for showing us we don't have to remain with our feet on the ground, and it's OK to reach for the stars.

Speaking of NASA, just to bring this back to atheism, I heard a lecture once where a story was told of American iconic astronaut John Glenn. Decades after his successful career, he was picked by NASA in 2001 to go back into space aboard the shuttle. Upon his return to space he looked down at Earth and said the planet looked so beautiful that you could tell the existence of god, or some other similar nonsense. Christians ate it up and it made headlines. 

Unbeknownst to Glenn, Hurricane Michelle was making an even bigger headline, ripping through the islands and claiming 22 lives. If Glenn's loved ones were in the path of Michelle's destruction do you think he would have felt the same way? When you ask religious people about such destruction and why god would allow it to happen, they say he works in mysterious ways, absolving him of any wrongdoing. But when nature doesn't kill anyone with a twister in Kansas, for example, then god gets all the credit and is praised. Again, it's the no-lose logic that allows Christians to make their god infallible, when reason dictates it actually just proves nature is indiscriminate and god isn't in the rain.

Friday, July 19, 2013

In God She Did Not Trust

Not a lot of Americans realize this, mostly because they weren't alive when it happened, but "In God We Trust" on our money and "under god" in the Pledge of Allegiance were only added during the Cold War, because Russians were fascists and politicians wanted to distance America so far from those nonbelievers that they added these phrases. So weak-minded and transparent.

What I find even more hilarious is the Susan B. Anthony silver dollar, which has In God We Trust on it, but she was an agnostic. Do you think they would have suggested her had they known this? Don't think she was an agnostic? Here's her most famous quote, one of dozens anti-religious quotes from her.

"I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires."

She did so much for women, and when she spoke up about her non-belief she noticed it tended to overshadow her efforts with more important issues, so she mostly kept silent on religion. But when she did speak about god and religion, she was succinct and courageous.

"My religious superstitions gave place to rational ideas based on scientific facts and ... as I looked at everything from a new standpoint, I grew more and more happy."

"To no form of religion is woman indebted for one impulse of freedom."

"The religious persecution of the ages has been done under what was claimed to be the command of God."

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Jesus loves Twitter apparently

How can any Roman Catholic read this and not think it is utterly disgusting and hilarious at the same time? You couldn't make this crap up if you tried. The very idea that (1) purgatory exists and (2) that these charlatans can guarantee you will be spared some time there by following the pope's Twitter account is beyond reprehensible.

Here is the story

So sad, how did I ever believe any of this religion?

More on morality and critical thinking

I remember vividly the last time I was in church (not to attend but for a relative's ceremony), and this was when I was still struggling with my faith, or at the very least having doubts in a god. And I recall looking around at the parishioners during one of the service's many group recitations and I just couldn't help but feel like I was in the midst of a cult. I wasn't trying to be malevolent or viscous in any way, nor was I mocking anyone, but I just turned around and looked at these people repeating in unison an antiquated prayer or punctuating the priest's sermon with amen or some other worship phrase, and I was purely aghast.

I had visions of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians or Charles Manson and his followers. I know this sounds horrible, but it just seemed so mindless to me, almost trancelike. I bring this up because sometimes I wonder if these people, and other devout believers like them, actually think for themselves at all when it comes to faith. I've mentioned critical thinking on this blog before, and I readily admit I never practiced it seriously until well into my adult life, but I also never went to church on a regular basis and had to routinely sit through this ritualistic behavior. If I had I can assure you my quest for truth would have begun a lot sooner.

And when these religious zealots choose to open their mouths to try to defend their religion do they actually hear what they're saying? Or give any thought to the answers they offer? I can truly see why these believers are called sheep, and it may be consoling to them, but it is so transparent to me. Don't think, just follow. Ugh.

Here's an example of what I mean about not thinking: Christians say they get their morals from the bible and from god and wonder how I can have any morals. So, when I ask why they do the right thing, why they don't steal or kill, they inevitably say, "I don't want to go to hell," or "I want to please god." But by saying that they've trapped themselves and they answer their own question about me and my morals. Here's the reason: Suppose, for a moment, we can prove without a doubt there's no god, no afterlife and no eternal damnation as a consequence to "sin." Would they then steal or kill? If they answer yes, then they're really just a horrible person driven by fear, which their omnipotent god would now know is their true character, what's really in their heart, and would punish them for thought crime. If they say no, then they prove they don't need a god or his book to be moral, thus answering their inquiry as it pertains to me.

Just because I'm an atheist doesn't make me incapable of understanding that doing onto others as I would have done to me is a solid concept that long predates Christianity. Animals have acted in the best interest of the pack long before we were walking upright, and they certainly don't have any moral sky camera watching their every move and judging them. There's no way early humans could have survived without this practice.

If I were to act in an immoral way on Earth, I wouldn't need to be held accountable in some afterlife fiery court system. I would be held accountable right here, right now, by those who surround me. Law and order would make sure justice prevailed, if the offense was severe enough, and if it were just me being a jerk then those around me would be sure to let me know with their actions and remarks. Society will hold me accountable for my actions and deem the necessary reaction, not some vindictive god. 

Don't ask me how I get out of bed in the morning. I do it every day because I have purpose; I have the love of a fantastic woman (not to mention parents, siblings, children and grandchildren) to motivate me to be the best person I can be. I now marvel at the universe around me, because I know of the remarkable odds it defied just so that I might breathe its air, and isn't that infinitely more impressive and rewarding than owing it all to some omnipotent dictator?

Dawkins' response to "What if you're wrong?"

This answer, which came after Richard Dawkins read excerpts from his incredible book, The God Delusion, was in response to an ignorant Liberty University student who asked him, "What if you're wrong?" about there being no god. For the uninitiated, Libery University is a religious school that was run by the charlatan Jerry Falwell, a place where they believe dinosaurs were on earth a few thousand years ago. They even have bones on display and claim they are somewhere around 4,000 years old, despite zero proof and no carbon/radioactive dating tests done, of course. Keep in mind this is a university with a science department.

But Dawkins' response, while a little terse, is spot on and legendary in the atheism communities. Here it is and then I'll comment further.

This is so eloquent and succinct, even if it is sarcastic. Why is it that people can't step back for a moment to realize this? What if I were born in Afghanistan? I'd be dissecting the Koran on here and leaving my Muslim faith behind, laughing at the prophet. If I were born in Ancient Greece, I'd be defying Zeus. Why are those gods any different? Because of some book of choice in the place of the world where I just happened to be born?

Some Christians may actually try to say we don't believe in Zeus or Thor because those are myths, to which I would laugh. First, they weren't myths to their respective believers in their time, and second, what makes them so certain their god isn't a myth? Their book was written by idiots in the desert. Zeus sent lightning bolts from the sky to prove his existence; why doesn't Jesus or Yahweh do something like this? Oh, is it because we know where lightning ACTUALLY comes from now? Of course it is. We grew up as a society and became educated about the world around us. Shouldn't we do the same thing with Jesus?

Such arrogance on the part of religions, but they have to be arrogant otherwise they run the risk of losing their coffer-fillers to rational thought.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Big Book of Multiple Choice, Pt. III: Yahweh and Morality

One of the more appalling things I unveiled during my due diligence was the bible's lack of morality, and what makes it even more appalling is the fact that people mindlessly say it's the foundation for their morality. 

They also often spout off that unbelievers can't be moral without religion and without a sacred text, but that's not only remarkably inaccurate but utterly contemptible. How dare they say people are incapable of having a moral compass without a god. If the bible is the basis for morality then I don't want to be moral in the eyes of those who believe this tripe.

Christopher Hitchens, the late columnist and brilliant orator, was an antitheist, meaning not only didn't he believe in gods, but he absolutely didn't want there to be any god. He often doled out this challenge during his many debates with religious leaders and theists: Show me any moral deed or statement done by any believer that a nonbeliever can't do. It can't be done. Then he would follow that by asking if you could think of any immoral deed done by a believer in the name of religion. Of course dozens spring to mind. Point, Mr. Hitchens.

This segues nicely into Yahweh. If I'm being perfectly honest, until I started this quest, I had no idea who Yahweh was. And this is testament (pardon the pun) to the Catholic Church conveniently covering up the Old Testament and trying to focus solely on Jesus (as if he were any better). I absolutely never knew who Yahweh was, and funnily enough, the first time I ever heard that name was in a U2 song, and I had no idea what they were singing about, I just liked the album. Here's a particularly poignant verse:

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, tell me now
Why the dark before the dawn?

The bible is its blatant slap at morality all the while being held up as the basis of morality in religions. Such hypocritical thinking. Some examples: approved and promoted slavery, (Yahweh tells Moses to instruct his followers about the conditions under which they may buy or sell slaves -- or bore their ears through with an awl -- and the rules governing the sale of their daughters), genocide, murder, rape, misogynism, chauvinism and child abuse, among other atrocities. 

Speaking of Moses, after coming down from Mt. Sanai (a place that has yet to be discovered by the way), Moses has the commandments that say (among others) thou shalt not kill, and yet he and his followers proceed to murder thousands of people that very afternoon because they lost faith, melted down some gold and made a calf from it. 

“Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.” -- Exodus 32:27

On that day, about 3,000 people were killed. That's 3K innocents murdered in the name of religion. Sound familiar, 9/11 victims? Some devout Christians may point to the fact that these people lost faith and worshipped a "false" god, which I find ironic, and say that means they weren't innocent. I would argue these people didn't have commandments to follow yet, and they certainly did nothing to deserve death.

When people use the excuse that these atrocities were accepted because it was from another time, I have to ask, then how is Yahweh omniscient? He sees all, past, present and future. Slavery is abolished now, and considered by "god's children" to be a bad thing, but god couldn't see that just 2,000 years ago? Wouldn't a god know we would find this practice to be reprehensible someday? Do we know better than Yahweh? And why is it that there is no more slavery? Aren't Christians defying god by not practicing slavery, something he demanded and encouraged? Or are we just civilized human beings who can recognize a wishful-thinking fable written by uneducated slave owners? Are we wretched human playthings more advanced than this "deity" after all?

Here are some more great moral tales from the bible:

Before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham's nephew Lot was chosen to be spared with his family because he was righteous. Two male "angels" were sent to Sodom to warn Lot to leave the city before the brimstone arrived. Lot welcomed them into his house, whereupon all the men of Sodom gathered around and demanded Lot hand the angels over so that they could sodomize them: 

"Where are the men which came into thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them." -- Genesis 19:5.

Yes, "know" has the euphemistic meaning of anal sex. Lot refused, giving at first blush the appearance that God was correct in his assessment of Lot as the only good man in Sodom.

But then this: "I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof." -- Genesis 19:7-8. 

Talk about child abuse, sex slavery and downright poor parenting. By the way, angels intervened here (as they so often do when it comes to gruesome tests of loyalty to Yahweh) and they blinded the townsmen.

If Lot is the person god felt was moral and worthy of saving, then believers can all breathe a little easier when it comes to "Judgement Day." To add a little more to this morality gem, Lot loses his wife, who is turned into a pillar of salt because she had the audacity to look back at the fireworks when god instructed them not to. 

And, finally, after the remaining family settled in a cave, Lot's horny daughters raped him (after getting him drunk on consecutive nights) and they both were impregnated. And why is this glossed over by Christians? Because there were no other men around so it's OK to have incestuous sex with dad, despite a populated town residing just a few miles away. 

Great morality; what a lesson to teach children. But they don't teach this to kids, they only pick and choose what they want their youngsters to learn, like a salad bar of religion and morality. You can't cherry-pick from a book that stands for something; it defeats the purpose of the book and sullies its meaning, hence rendering it worthless. If you can't love the book for its faults, then you can't truly love it, just like a child.

But intervening angels were nowhere to be found when this next story is told, and it eerily echoes Lot's tale. In Chapter 19 of the Book of Judges, an unnamed Levite (priest) was travelling with his concubine in Gibeah when they spent the night in the house of a hospitable old man. While they were eating supper, the men of the city beat on the door, demanding the old man should hand over his male guest "so that we may know him." In almost exactly the same words as Lot, the old man said: 

"Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house do not this folly. Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you; but unto this man do not so vile a thing." -- Judges 19:23-4. 

Again, the misogynistic ethos comes through, loud and clear: Enjoy yourselves by humiliating and raping my daughter and this priest's concubine, but show a proper respect for my guest who is, after all, a man. But the guardian angels weren't there this time, as we shall see.

The Levite handed his concubine over to the mob, who gang-raped her all night: "They knew her and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go. Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man's house where her lord was, till it was light." -- Judges 19:25-6. 

In the morning, the Levite found his concubine lying prostrate on the doorstep and said callously, "Up, and let us be going." But she didn't move. She was dead. So he "took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into 12 pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel." -- Judges 19:29. 

And lest we forget when god ordered Abraham to make a burnt offering of his son. Abraham built an altar, put firewood upon it, and trussed Isaac up on top of the wood. His murdering knife was already in his hand when an angel dramatically intervened (sound familiar?) with the news of a last-minute change of plan: Yahweh was only joking after all, "tempting" Abraham, and testing his faith to use his righteousness as an example for future generations to follow. 

Anyone who says Abraham knew Yahweh wouldn't make him kill his son is contradicting their definition of faith. If Abraham had true faith, as so many are led to believe, then he wouldn't be thinking that god wouldn't make him kill Isaac, he would be happy to kill him. Also, if Abraham truly was thinking that god would, at the last minute, send a lamb and spare his son, then wouldn't the omniscient Yahweh know Abraham was merely going through the motions and not genuinely being faithful?

Morally, I can't help but deduce Isaac would suffer tremendous unrecoverable psychological trauma. Yet the legend is one of the great foundational myths of all three monotheistic religions. And Abraham's betrayal of his son is dismissed as a mere allegorical lesson to honor god above all others. Sick. 

And you can draw the parallels to how god would sacrifice Jesus later in a turn of the tables, but this is a false premise in that Jesus really didn't die because he was "resurrected" and essentially being delivered back to his father, the exact opposite of what would have happened to Isaac. Would Isaac have been resurrected? Don't count on it.

And we find a story just as similar, and again, with not such a "happy" ending.

In Judges, Chapter 11, the military leader Jephthah told god that, if god would guarantee Jephthah's victory over the Ammonites, Jephthah would, without fail, sacrifice as a burnt offering "whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return." Jephthah did indeed defeat the Ammonites (more genocide). His daughter, his only child, came out of the house to greet him first. What did this idiot expect, a stranger to emerge from his house? Where was the intervening angel then? Nowhere, as Jephthah ultimately cooked her. 

I bring up these stories for the inevitable questions I will face as I reveal my atheism. As I mentioned earlier, people will no doubt ask how can I be moral if I have no god guiding me? It's actually an insulting question, but the naive/condescending ones who ask it will not realize they are insulting me because of their innate religious blinders. 

The truth is people don't need scriptures or a fear of eternal hellfire to do the right thing. There are countless examples of tribes and packs practicing solidarity to protect each other, long before religion and deities.

Many Christians actually believe the golden rule (do onto others as you would have done to you) is their invention, when in fact it easily dates to at least 500 BC and Confucianism. It probably even appears earlier than that but no need to pinpoint it any further. It's clearly a concept we have followed centuries before gods were around.

Here's a true story to prove the point.

At 8 a.m. on Oct. 17, 1969, the Montreal police went on strike. You'll remember that this takes place in passive Canada where front doors are always unlocked and violence and crime are almost nonexistent. 

By 11:20 a.m., the first bank was robbed. By noon, most downtown stores had closed because of looting. Within a few more hours, taxi drivers burned down the garage of a rival limousine service that competed for airport customers; a rooftop sniper killed a provincial police officer; rioters broke into several hotels and restaurants, and a doctor killed a burglar in his home. 

By the end of the day, six banks had been robbed, a hundred shops had been looted, 12 fires had been set, 40 tons of storefront glass had been broken, and $3M in property damage had been inflicted (not to mention a handful of deaths), before city authorities had to call in the army and the Mounties to restore order. 

Certainly most (if not all) of these people were Christians. Where was their morality that god and his "good book" had instilled? People don't need god to be good, they just need morals ... and police. In fact, if religious believers make up 90-95 percent of the world's population then why do we need police? Because mankind isn't perfect, and god and scripture certainly aren't where we get our morals, and if we do, it definitely isn't powerful or believable enough to render police obsolete, as Montreal proved. Morals are innate, not instilled, and certainly not coerced. 

According to statistics from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Christians make up almost 80 percent of the prison population. Atheists make up about 0.2 percent. The godless don't fill prisons. Published studies also indicate a child's risk of sexual abuse by a family member increases as the family's religious denomination becomes more conservative, that is, when the teachings of scriptures and other doctrines are taken more literally. Similarly, the probability of wife abuse increases with the rigidity of a church's teachings pertaining to gender roles and hierarchy.

As Richard Dawkins wrote in his book, the God Delusion, "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully." 

After reading the OT, how could any freethinker disagree? Is it perhaps that these attributes sound exactly like the Middle East unwashed, uneducated, misogynistic men of the Bronze Age, rather than a deity? Can't we deduce that god didn't invent man, but man invented god?

Obviously enough people actually felt back then what Dawkins has shrewdly pointed out now, that Yahweh was impossible to love and follow, which explains why the New Testament was fabricated, to present a kindler, gentler deity. But was he? Was Jesus a better version of Yahweh? I guess we'll find out.

I say fabricated because it's beyond coincidence that the attributes of this "savior" resemble or downright mimic scores of other mythological deities. The list is far too long, but any search of non-Christian religious/cultures' sacred texts will in fact prove this. Start with Mithras, Krishna and Dionysus, who predate Jesus, and you'll be amazed. And you can find plenty more.

I'll move on to the New Testament and Jesus in my next post.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Big Book of Multiple Choice, Pt. II

It's laughable, to put it mildly, when followers remark how the consistency and historical accuracy of the bible is what makes it infallible and proof of god. But let's return to Genesis for just a moment before moving on. 

It takes the learned reader mere moments upon opening the book to see the inconsistencies and ridiculousness of this fable. In nearly one breath you can read how god said, "Let there be light and there was," then days later he created the sun. Wasn't the sun from where the light came? Christians will say god was the first light, which is absolute nonsense, and creationists will also remark that the plants and all living things god created before the sun lived off of his light. 

By the way, I won't make too many references to creationism and its lipstick-on-a pig version called Intelligent Design because it is the most vile insult imaginable to the real intelligence in this universe. I'd like to thank the good people who sat on the Wallingford (CT) Board of Education in the '60s and '70s who recognized the importance (and fact) of evolution and had it taught in my school, not succumbing to religious nutjobs. But if anyone wants to defend ID, I've done plenty of research with Darwin, Dawkins and Einstein and am willing to debate.

I bring up such biblical discrepancies and hyperbole because there are millions of people, much of my family included, who actually believe this Genesis drivel as fact, despite their own religious leaders admitting god didn't create the Earth in six days (and don't try to interpret the bible's length of a day to square your circle; the book was written by men who meant 24-hour days) and people didn't live to be 900 years old, either.

In short, if god created the universe as a special place for humanity, he seems to have wasted an awfully large amount of space where humans will never make an appearance. He wasted a lot of time, too. Instead of six days, he waited nine billion years to make Earth (that's the amount of time from the 13.7 billion years ago when the Big Bang occurred to when the Earth really formed), another billion years or so to make life, and then a few billion years to make humanity. Humans have walked on Earth for less than one-hundredth of one percent of Earth's history, though most Christians think humans have been around the same amount of time as the Earth. 

But if you choose to still believe in Genesis, then gnaw on this for a moment: Why would an infinitely powerful god even need six days? Wouldn't he have the ability to create everything in an instant? And, why would he then have to rest when he was done? Omnipotent gods don't need vacations or lunch breaks!

There are countless inconsistencies, contradictions and alarmingly insulting ideas in the bible and I can point out most of them if pressed. But instead I'll remark on one or two of the bigger ones, the ones people rely on so heavily for their beliefs.

As stated in my last post (The Big Book of Multiple Choice, Part I), I promised to get to the gospels. The inconsistencies here are pure folly, though not surprising given the decades-old recollections and circumstances. Very quickly let's examine the genealogy for Christ, which is so contradictory it's almost insulting. Matthew takes 28 people to get from David to Jesus while Luke takes 43, and almost no names on the lists are the same. How can that be? Surely this family tree can be retraced, even if the recollections are only a few decades later.

Why do the gospel "authors" have such radically different stories about what happened? A good place to first explore this angle would be with Jesus’ resurrection, because the resurrection of someone (the messiah) is an important event, yet the gospels don’t agree on where and when he first appeared. 

Mark 16:14-15 - Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene but it’s not clear where (in older endings of Mark, he didn’t appear at all, but it was later embellished apparently).
Matthew 28:8-9 - Jesus first appears near his tomb. 
Luke 24:13-15 - Jesus first appears near Emmaus, several miles from Jerusalem. 
John 20:13-14 - Jesus first appears at his tomb.

You might think these are semantics, though "miles away" hardly seems irrelevant, so I'll delve deeper.

Who sees Jesus first? Mark says Jesus appears first to Mary Magdalene then later to “the 11.” 
Matthew recalls Jesus appearing first to Mary Magdalene, then to the other Mary, and finally to "the 11.” (By the way, don't you just love how the mother of the "messiah" is referred to as the other Mary?)
Luke says Jesus appears first to “two,” then to Simon, then to “the 11.” 
But John remembers it differently than all three: Jesus appears first to Mary Magdalene, then the disciples without Thomas, then the disciples with Thomas.

The gospels agree the empty tomb was found by women (though not on which women), but what did the women do? 

Mark 16:8 - The women were amazed and afraid, so they kept quiet.
Matthew 28:6-8 - The women ran away “with great joy.” 
Luke 24:9-12 - The women left the tomb and told the disciples. 
John 20:1-2 - Mary told the disciples the body had been stolen.

I also find it interesting that women of this age were considered sub-standard (to be kind), lower-class citizens good for just bearing children and submitting to rapists, yet the entire foundation of who found the empty tomb is based on the testimony of women who wouldn't be allowed to even think/speak in public, much like it still is in the Middle East today.

Now, if someone rises from the dead, his actions should be significant, but the gospels don’t agree on Jesus' ensuing actions.

Mark 16:14-15 - Jesus commissions “the 11” to preach the gospel.
Matthew 28:9 - Jesus lets Mary Magdalene and another Mary hold his feet. 
John 20:17 - Jesus forbids Mary to touch him because he hasn’t ascended to heaven yet, but a week later he lets Thomas touch him.

When Jesus rose from the dead, how did his disciples react? 

Mark 16:11, Luke 24:11 - Everyone doubts and/or is scared at first, but eventually they go along with it.
Matthew 28:16 - Some doubt, but most believe.
John 20:24-28 - Everyone believes but Thomas, whose doubts are eliminated when he gets physical proof.

After Jesus "rose from the dead," he also had to ascend to heaven. But where, when and how did this happen? 

Mark 16:14-19 - Jesus ascends while he and his disciples are seated at a table in or near Jerusalem. 
Matthew 28:16-20 - Jesus’ ascension isn’t mentioned at all. 
Luke 24:50-51 - Jesus ascends outside, after dinner, and at Bethany and on the same day as the resurrection. 
John - Nothing about Jesus’ ascension is mentioned.
Acts 1:9-12 - Jesus ascends at least 40 days after his resurrection, at Mt. Olivet.

First, this is one of the biggest "miracles" of all; the entire Christian movement is based on this event, yet these four men can't consistently recall how it happened, in fact they contradict each other. Of course these stories contradict each other! They weren't there and the myths are entirely based on hearsay!

And second, if god is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent (I told you in my last post these terms would make a lot of appearances), wouldn't he ensure these facts would at the very least be corroborated and edited by capable hands? If he gave us "commandments" carved in stone (twice by the way) you'd think he could have the stories of his son (or himself if you can believe that) told correctly. Wouldn't he want a unified peace/following on earth? But I'll get to god (and peace) in later posts.

This post is already much too long, so I will have to have more parts dedicated to what I found in the bible. But I also promised to write about a study done in the '80s on flash-bulb recollection so here it is, because it dovetails so well with the aforementioned inaccuracies and discrepancies.

This is an excerpt from "Atheism and the Case Against Christ" by Matthew McCormick that explains the study.

"Reports about important events taken right after the event vary significantly with our recollections of the event months or years later. But our sensation that the memories are accurate remains just as strong. Shortly after the news of the space shuttle Challenger disaster went out, Ulric Neisser and Nicole Harsch had students in a psychology class write an account of where they were and what they were doing when they found out. Then, 2.5 years later, they had those students write another record of what they were doing when they heard the news. Before they reread the earlier record, the students predicted their memories were accurate. But when Neisser and Harsch compared, the details matched in fewer than 10 percent of the paired accounts. More than 75 percent of the accounts had significant errors, some of them dramatic. Yet, even when confronted with this clear evidence to the contrary, many students refused to believe that their later memories were inaccurate."

What can we learn from this? These college-educated students witnessed the life-altering event (the flash-bulb analogy, meaning it's a brief highly significant moment that leaves an impression) and almost immediately wrote down their account of the incident. Then just 2.5 years later they are grossly inaccurate in their recollection and indignant to those inaccuracies. 

What does that mean for these gospels, which weren't recorded immediately, witnessed by uneducated, illiterate, poor desert dwellers (who thought the sun revolved around the earth, which was flat), told as anecdotes for generations, then written down sometime between 30-100 years after the fact, copied numerous times and edited and embellished (there are obvious additions that were made because the vernacular and style didn't mimic closely enough that of the age in which most of the gospel was originally written).

How accurate could these gospels be? Not very, as it turns out. And if these aren't accurate, then that means the entire Christian belief system is again resting on shaky ground. Historically accurate? Not so much.

The Big Book of Multiple Choice, Pt. I

The Holy Bible is the sacred text upon which all Christianity is founded (I won't bother with Jews/Old Testament or Muslims/Koran for now). Despite the bible not actually being a book until centuries after the fact, this collection of stories is what serves as a guide and inspiration to billions of people, so I supposed it was as good a place as any to begin my quest for the truth.

There is a common saying in unbeliever circles that anyone who reads the bible front to back would most certainly be an atheist upon completion. I can vouch for this statement, though I continued my research long after reading it. And I find it beyond ironic that judicial courts use this book as a way of encouraging someone to tell the truth. Put your hand on the book of myths and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you Flying Spaghetti Monster.

So where to begin? How about at the beginning? The book of Genesis, after centuries of hardcore fanatics insisting everything in there actually happened, we now learn it is quite often looked at as mere poetry. Why? Because even blind-faith followers can see the writing on the wall. But herein lies one of the major problems with followers and their sacred text: Either the book is true or it's not, you can't cherry-pick and bend your will to make these stories conform to your beliefs. What does it say about your religion when the one pillar you rest it on is built on shifting sand?

Did you know there are more than 50 versions of the bible in English alone? How can anyone justify this fact? It's easy to see why there are something like 30,000-plus denominations of Christianity, and this gets back to cherry-picking. Did you read something in the bible you don't like? That's OK, remove it and create another version and denomination! How is this the word of the lord? Thanks be to editing. Speaking of cherry-picking, did you know the gospels were chosen to be canonized from a host of stories? And that they were written between 30-150 years after Jesus died? And these gospels were told, retold, written, edited, copied and copied and copied and embellished? Of course they were, and we have no original copies, not even the first copies of the originals.

Plus, there are so many other gospels, including ones from Mary Magdalene, Thomas and Judas. Why aren't these in the bible? Because they didn't fit the message of course, because they likely told a version the leaders didn't want told. And people wonder how the government has the gall to hide truths from us.

I'll return to the gospels a little later, but I need to get back on point with Genesis. I titled this post "The Big Book of Multiple Choice" because it's here we find our first contradiction, and we didn't have to wait long to find it. In Ch. 1 we learn god created Adam and Eve at the same time, but just one chapter later we learn Adam was lonely while performing his duties for god, so god said I'll create Eve. First, this contradicts each other, no matter how you look at it, so wouldn't the lord want his book to be edited properly and consistent? Second, I was raised Catholic, meaning I was told god was omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omnipresent. Wouldn't god already know he was going to need to create a counterpart to Adam so they can procreate and spread the seed and word of god? Why would he need to witness Adam being lonely to kick start his brain? This "omni" argument will surface a lot during my research.

But if many theologians and religious leaders are starting to shy away from Genesis as truth, then how can we justify Original Sin and its consequences since obviously Adam and Eve never happened? And for that matter, how can we justify Jesus (if a person ever so existed) dying for these sins? As an aside, Original Sin is nowhere in the bible. Sure, Christians will bend the words to make them fit their claims, but nowhere is Original Sin mentioned nor is the idea of this "ancestral" sin being attached to every person at birth even explored. It is a man-made load of hokum meant to intimidate people into bringing their newborn children immediately into their church. It's just another tactic of fear, something that populates Christianity like a virus.

I will return with Part II, a look deeper into the other books, including the gospels, a study done regarding flash-bulb moment recollections, and Yahweh of the Old Teatament.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The start of something big ...

I really can't believe it has taken me this long to apply critical thinking to something as profound as my religious beliefs. Given that I am in my fourth decade as a journalist, a profession that forces me to be skeptical and curious, you'd think I would have given some thought to something as important as religion.

But there's a good reason for it: I've never had much use for a god. You see, I was raised Roman Catholic, but not because my parents were overly religious; they were both raised that way and it was just what you did for your children in the late 20th century in New England. In retrospect, I never really bought into the dogma, and if an eight-year-old with a vivid imagination finds the bible's teachings to be a bit ridiculous, how can an adult be expected to buy into this fable?

So I suppose I did, after all, use some critical thinking as a youngster, just not with a mature mind. It was more rebellion and resentment. My contempt for my religion was borne from the "sacrifice" I had to make each Saturday morning fulfilling some worthless comical ritual (after attending school all week) while my parents never gave up any of their Sundays to practice the same religion they were forcing me to learn. My critical thinking concluded there was some hypocrisy going on, but now as an adult how could I blame them?

My biggest enjoyment at catechism, other than the moment when we were dismissed, was erasing "IS GOD" from my white textbook where it once read "CHRIST IS GOD" and spelling out my first name CHRISTOPHER. That was the extent of the respect I had for Jesus and his story, which may sound ironic given I was conceived Christmas morning and named after him.

But my disdain faded once I completed the final ritual (confirmation) and didn't have to do anything in the name of Jesus anymore. After I was freed from the bondage, I never gave religion another thought. Sure, I prayed when the mood struck me, but it was mostly robotic, mindless repetition of words I didn't believe, and only when I needed/wanted something, which never felt right anyway.

About a decade later, I wanted to get married, but the church wouldn't let me. Why? Because my fiancée was divorced with children. It didn't matter that she was raised Catholic, attended Catholic schools and knew more about the religion than most of its false worshipers who knelt every Sunday but had no idea why. This elitist act of snobbery was par for the course in my mind, and the ensuing request for $700 to cleanse my wife's sin was the final nail in the cross for me. From that moment on, I considered myself anti-religion and avoided church and any god like the plague.

Nearly two decades after that, I found myself face-to-face with religion again, but this time it was fanatically coming from inside my family. I can honestly say it is this reason that I decided to give religion one more shot, but not in the blind-faith-do-as-we-are-told manner, but rather with a journalist's thirst for truth using logic and reason. I wanted to see what all the hubbub was about, I wanted to see if I could be inspired. And I was, but not in the way you may think.

In future posts, I will explain all of the critical thinking and research I have explored over the past year that has led me to the place known as atheism.