Thursday, November 28, 2013

Don't squash a child's critical thinking

Today I saw a commercial for a local theme park, and I have to admit it ticked me off a little. The commercial opens with a child, about 10 years old or so, making some astute observations about the Santa Claus myth. It's something most of us go through, realizing the stories and details associated with Santa Claus don't make much sense when looked at logically. He asks questions such as, "How can he fit down a chimney? What if there isn't even a chimney? How can he get all of those presents in one bag?" etc.

For most children, the realization that Santa isn't real is their foray into critical thinking. They look at the myth, compare it to everyday life and come to the correct conclusion, that Santa is just a made-up character to make the holiday more exciting. 

If parents embrace this realization and nourish their child's quest for knowledge, then the child could be free of superstitions and indoctrination. But in the commercial, the parents take the child to this theme park where there's a special Christmas exhibit and Santa is there. The mom tells the child to ask those questions of Santa himself, and the kid looks at the chubby fellow in awe. The kid, at 10 or so, is certainly old enough to not believe in St. Nick, so I'm not entirely sure why these parents would want to have a child still believe in this story as he heads for puberty. But then again, if the parents are Christians then the answer is clear.

I'm not against kids believing in Santa Claus, even if it is another method of control through lies. But when the boy figures it out, don't perpetuate the lie; let him know he is becoming an adult and that you're proud of him because he used his mind and figured it out by himself. 

But, Santa Claus these days is serving as a prep course for just another magical lie: god. His story is linked to Christmas, the "birthday" of Jesus, so it's a conveniently short step from believing in one magical character to another. 

If the child doesn't believe in Santa, however, and he uses the same critical thinking when it comes to religion, then he might just become a free thinker for life and indoctrination will be a thing of the past.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Being an atheist during the holidays

I am taking a brief break from writing about the existence of Jesus for a timely post.

As my first post-deconversion holiday season approaches, I felt it was appropriate to get my thoughts organized regarding Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Of course I have been non-religious for decades, but this is the first holiday season where everyone who is close to me now knows I don't believe in gods and oppose all religion. 

So, what do I think of Thanksgiving and Christmas as a now-secular person? Thanksgiving is a peculiar holiday because it marks when America was brutally stolen from Native Americans, so first it's vile. But, I can see the value in taking a day during the year to reflect on that which you are grateful; it's just sad that it coincides with the stealing of land and the killing and raping of Indians. 

The other reason it's a peculiar holiday is believers are quick to claim Thanksgiving as a religious holiday. There's nothing religious about it. When they choose to thank some invisible man in the sky, that's a man-made tradition, but it certainly doesn't mean the day is for Christians or Jews, etc. If people want to say grace, that's their prerogative, but I have to admit it's going to be a little awkward the next time I'm in the presence of it, especially if those saying it are aware of my beliefs. 

Should family and friends be given equal say, like political figures on television stations during an election year? What if I were a Jew and someone thanked baby Jesus like Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights? A Jew doesn't believe in Jesus, so can we thank Yahweh, too? What if I were a Satanist? Would you mind if I thanked Lucifer for the stuffed turkey? Why not? It offends you? Welcome to my world when you thank your god. In the past I have been forced/pressured to read a phrase or two as part of a group grace and I have been asked to announce what I'm thankful for in a sort of roundtable discussion before we ate (My response was, "I'm thankful we don't do this at my house.").

We generally don't celebrate Thanksgiving with my religious family anymore and we just keep it a small affair with our kids, so this won't come up unless we venture out somewhere else again. But Christmas is an entirely different animal. 

Will I celebrate Christmas given that Christ is baked right into the title? Here's the deal: Christmas doesn't have to be religious. In fact, its origins are rooted in pagan rituals and the celebration of the winter solstice (Most holidays are celebrations of new seasons, such as Easter-Spring, Halloween-Autumn, etc.) 

Saturnalia, famously described by Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory, was an ancient Roman festival that honored Saturn, the god of agriculture, on Dec. 17 (eventually expanded through Dec. 23). The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice in the Roman Forum, followed by a feast and gifts. Hundreds of years later, when Rome came under Christian rule, Christmas morphed into the winter solstice holiday. So, while Saturnalia could be considered religious, it certainly wasn't Christian, and just because Christians murdered their way into Roman leadership doesn't make the winter solstice religious.

So, can this holiday be secular? Certainly. I can celebrate the fact that the shortest days are behind us and the warmer weather is on the way. Carol of the Bells and Jingle Bells are two of my favorite songs and they are in no way religious.

Also, I can be happy my friends and family feel this day is important for them. What I don't care for is the disgusting commercialism and pressure to make this day special by exchanging mostly meaningless gifts. I also reject the overall notion that anyone who doesn't believe in the Christian Christmas or the exchanging of gifts is a grinch. I despised this tradition for years, and now it only makes sense why.

But has it affected me, being an atheist during this time? Perhaps. I already see things very differently. Last year, my wife (also an atheist) was a major contributor to a Christmas food drive party, but this year, while we will still be donating a ton of food to a secular charity, we won't be attending the food drive. Why? The charities that will be the benefactors from this party are religious, and while religious groups can be helpful, a lot of them aren't good for goodness' sake. Many choose to withhold their contributions until the needy hear a sermon, etc. When people are hungry, feed them, don't convert them. So, yes, my views have changed.

Will I see my religious family on Christmas? Yes, and if religion is a part of that day, I will just remain silent and remember that I love my family above all else. But in my mind I'll know that Christ, if he did exist, certainly wasn't born on that day and Christmas is really just a celebration of putting the cold weather behind us and feeling the warmth that's on the way.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Was Jesus Christ real? Part III

Please read these in order, so go to Part I first.

One of the reasons I'm breaking down the argument against Jesus' existence is because of the mountain of evidence (or lack thereof). It would be quite a long read if the entire argument were laid out in one post. 

Today I want to focus on the crucifixion. You may be asking yourself, "If you don't believe Jesus existed, then why address his crucifixion?" 

It's just one piece to a puzzle that depicts bible writers/fabricators as poor storytellers who obviously lacked an ability to research facts of the times and who clearly had no training in being historians.

The crucifixion of Christ supposedly took place in Rome, and at that time Rome was the world's most advanced civilization. What helped make Rome so advanced was its legal system; its courts were fair and above contempt, despite what you might see from Hollywood. When an alleged crime was committed, defendants weren't put to death without a trial; they received due process, just like today in America and other civilized countries.

Yet, if you read the story of the crucifixion, you are told Jesus, an innocent man, was brought in front of Pontius Pilate, a judge in the Roman court system. Pilate knew no charge was brought against Jesus and found him not guilty, yet when the mob demanded Jesus be crucified, he placated them by having him executed anyway. Really? The entire democratic world owes its legal system to the Romans of this age, but we are asked to believe a judge would send an innocent man to death to appease a group of idiots? 

This doesn't sound like history to me; it sounds like a bunch of illiterates trying to square their own circle of lies. Speaking of squaring a circle, Marshall Gauvin makes a great point in his 1922 piece regarding Christ as a lamb.

"On the theory that Christ was crucified, how shall we explain the fact that during the first eight centuries of the evolution of Christianity, Christian art represented a lamb, and not a man, as suffering on the cross for the salvation of the world? Neither the paintings in the Catacombs nor the sculptures on Christian tombs pictured a human figure on the cross. Everywhere a lamb was shown as the Christian symbol—a lamb carrying a cross, a lamb at the foot of a cross, a lamb on a cross. Some figures showed the lamb with a human head, shoulders and arms, holding a cross in his hands—the lamb of God in process of assuming the human form—the crucifixion myth becoming realistic. At the close of the eighth century, Pope Hadrian I, confirming the decree of the sixth Synod of Constantinople, commanded that thereafter the figure of a man should take the place of a lamb on the cross. It took Christianity 800 years to develop the symbol of its suffering savior. For 800 years, the Christ on the cross was a lamb. But if Christ was actually crucified, why was his place on the cross so long usurped by a lamb? In the light of history and reason, and in view of a lamb on the cross, why should we believe in the crucifixion?"

Again, it's difficult to believe in a crucifixion if you don't believe the person who was crucified even existed, but let's take it a step further. We'll assume, for the moment, the Jesus of the bible had existed. This person performed all sorts of miracles and fantastic deeds (feeding the hungry, curing the blind/leprous, etc.), so why would any rational person want to kill him? 

Sure, the Jews believed in irrational things (just read the Old Testament for proof) but surely they would recognize the benefit of having a fellow like Jesus around, even if they didn't believe he was the Messiah. He was a good man, right? Preached forgiveness, was kind and loving. ... How does this warrant life's greatest punishment? The Jews were civilized; they weren't savages. Certainly some middle ground could be found. After all, he was a Jew himself! Were they so unreasonable? I can't help but see this as another lie to tell the story the authors wanted to tell, rather than this being a historical document.

Part IV likely will wrap up this series. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Was Jesus Christ real? Part II

Before you read this, be sure to read Part I first.

Paul, whose existence also is in doubt for some, was charged with expanding Christianity, yet he never met Jesus. His entire relationship with Christ came in a "vision," which we would today call a hallucination followed by a reservation in a padded cell.

But I'm exploring the existence of the Christ, so for now we'll give it the benefit of the doubt that Paul lived. Feel free to do the research, though, because many Christian scholars reject most of his epistles and they question whether he actually wrote them and they doubt he even existed.

But again, we'll say he did exist and did write the 13 epistles, which predate the four gospels. Given the facts surrounding these writings, it is understood that they were written by someone who lived in Jerusalem when Christ was teaching there. 

If the son of god was in the same town as Paul, performing miracles, and if the details of Christ's life were known throughout the first century of Christianity, wouldn't it be obvious that Paul, an apostle, should have known about him? But Paul admits he never saw Jesus, and his epistles prove that he knew nothing about Jesus' life, works or teachings. There's no mention of Christ's virgin birth. And why is that? Maybe it's because that myth hadn't been invented yet.

Most of the gospels focus on Christ's "miracles," yet again Paul makes zero mention of them in his epistles. There is no logical reason that Paul would be privvy to these miraculous achievements and not even breath a word of them in writings that were supposed to document those times. Again, why is that? Maybe because those "miracles" never happened and those stories hadn't been fabricated yet.

How about the greatest sermon ever given? Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is the most famous sermon ever given, and is still referred to and quoted today, right? Certainly an apostle and contemporary would know about this teaching. Hmmm, Paul says nothing of it. Christ invents the lord's prayer during this sermon and Paul never heard of it.

To quote Marshall J. Gauvin's 1922 piece:

"Paul, the greatest writer of early Christianity, the man who did more than any other to establish the Christian religion in the world—that is, if the Epistles may be trusted—is absolutely ignorant of the teaching of Christ. In all of his 13 Epistles he does not quote a single saying of Jesus.

Paul was a missionary. He was out for converts. Is it thinkable that if the teachings of Christ had been known to him, he would not have made use of them in his propaganda? Can you believe that a Christian missionary would go to China and labor for many years to win converts to the religion of Christ, and never once mention the Sermon on the Mount, never whisper a word about the Lord's Prayer, never tell the story of one of the parables, and remain as silent as the grave about the precepts of his master? What have the churches been teaching throughout the Christian centuries if not these very things? Are not the churches of today continually preaching about the virgin birth, the miracles, the parables and the precepts of Jesus? And do not these features constitute Christianity? Is there any life of Christ, apart from these things? Why, then, does Paul know nothing of them? There is but one answer: The virgin-born, miracle-working, preaching Christ was unknown to the world in Paul's day. That is to say, he had not yet been invented!"

Paul invented Jesus from his vision en route to Damascus. He was merely a figment of Paul's imagination. Only years later was Christ the person invented in the gospels. He was given a holy ghost for a father and a virgin for a mother. He was made to preach, to perform astounding miracles, to die a violent death though innocent, and to rise in triumph from the grave and ascend again to heaven. If Jesus really existed, Paul certainly would have known of him and his work, yet he didn't. There's only one explanation for this.

In Part III, I will explore the supposed crucifixion.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Was Jesus Christ real? Part I

I've been contemplating writing a series on here about whether Jesus really lived. But it might be a long series and I wasn't sure if I wanted to put in the effort. I'll give it a shot, but if I run out of steam I'll post a link or copy and paste a great piece written in 1922 that really dives deep into the evidence and surmises that he didn't exist.

So, what do I think? My entire life, even after I initially became an atheist, I thought he was at least a person. It seems awfully difficult to think he didn't walk the Earth given how many stories there are about him. But then again, there are plenty of stories about Zeus and Apollo, too. Could Jesus be made up? Could he be an idea rather than an actual person?

I suppose our first question to obtain our answer needs to be: What proof do we need to be convinced a person exists? Well, since we can't see him now that rules that out. The next method is pictures. No photography existed then, so that's out, too.

Given his supposed existence came at a time when technology was non-existent, we have to rely on first-person accounts, in other words, we need to learn about him from people who actually saw him. Guess what? That doesn't exist either. How do we know this? Well, for one, no one is alive who is more than 2,000 years old. "What about the bible?" you may ask. It's full of stories about Jesus, right? Not really. The entire story of Jesus is relegated to four gospels, which were not written by the actual people they are so named for, but are "according to" accredited.

These gospels are far from consistent (see my earlier post about them) and they're even further from accurate. And again, these aren't first-person accounts; they are stories told about a hundred years after Jesus allegedly lived, and through countless storytellers, writers and editors. We have ZERO original documents from the bible, meaning any scribe could have added or subtracted anything he wanted while transcribing or translating. And considering all of these details, one can hardly look at the bible as a historical tome, in fact almost nothing in the bible is fact.

So where does that leave us? We have no photos, no first-person accounts and no original documents. One way historians look to confirm facts from the past is through contemporary writings. What did the writers of that age have to say about Jesus? Nothing. 

According to the gospels, Christ performed miracles in a very public manner, and he was on the radar of authorities, obviously, if you believe the story of his crucifixion, which allegedly happened in front of scores of people. Are we to believe, after all of these remarkable (and public) scenes/miracles, that history failed to record his name? 

Though I often scoff at the fact that the bible and Jesus were associated with goat herders and uneducated men of the Middle East, the actual age was a time of great thinkers (philosophers) and scholars (historians), especially in Rome and Greece. This means every important fact or moment was noted/recorded by these great minds. 

Some of the finest writers the Jewish race has ever produced lived in that age. And yet, in all the writings of that period, there's not one line, not one word about Jesus. Great writers wrote extensively of minor events, but not one of them wrote about the mightiest character who had ever appeared on Earth; a man who fed thousands with a few loaves of bread, brought people back from the dead and arose from the dead, himself.

John E. Remsburg, in "The Christ," compiled a list of 42 writers who lived and wrote during the time or within a century after the time of Christ and not one of whom ever mentioned him.

The following paragraph comes from the aforementioned 1922 piece. 

"Philo, one of the most renowned writers the Jewish race has produced, was born before the beginning of the Christian era, and lived for many years after the time at which Jesus is supposed to have died. His home was in or near Jerusalem, where Jesus is said to have preached, to have performed miracles, to have been crucified, and to have risen from the dead. Had Jesus done these things, the writings of Philo would certainly contain some record of his life. Yet this philosopher, who must have been familiar with Herod's massacre of the innocents, and with the preaching, miracles and death of Jesus, had these things occurred; who wrote an account of the Jews, covering this period, and discussed the very questions that are said to have been near to Christ's heart, never once mentioned the name of, or any deed connected with, the reputed savior of the world."

So, given the methods we use today to determine facts, we have yet to find anything verifiable that Jesus actually lived. In Part 2, I will discuss Paul, who was charged with spreading the word of Christianity, and how he may have made up Christ in order to grow his flock.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

It's only weather and concrete

Why is it whenever a weather catastrophe happens, religious people ask their deity to help those who are afflicted by this tragedy, and why do they ask others to pray for the same thing?

I suppose these believers could subscribe to the thought-process that their god isn't responsible for weather. If they feel that way then I can somewhat respect their prayers to these deities. Why? Because at least they are rational about how our atmosphere/weather works and are just asking their god to help with the suffering the survivors are experiencing.

Of course, this can't be true, either, because any person who believes there is a god who can ease the suffering of these individuals, would have to believe their god is omnipotent and omniscient. And if that were true, then their god could indeed affect the weather. If that's the case, then this god allowed the catastrophe, so why ask it to help NOW? Hasn't your god shown just what he thinks of these people by allowing the typhoon to rip through their country and kill 3K people? And NOW you want him to intervene?

The recent travesty in the Philippines inspired this post, and more accurate, the posts on Facebook by family members made me write this. It started with their requests for friends and family to pray for those affected by the typhoon. But then the ultimate insult to rationality in the form of a picture of a concrete statue of Jesus made me laugh. It was posted to FB and underneath the photo this caption: Sign of hope.

How unbelievably ignorant and insulting! Imagine, a few tons of concrete in the shape of a man (who may or may not have lived) survived wind and rain! Never mind the nearly 3K people who died or the billions in damages done to the country. And what exactly is the hope this piece of cheap concrete (that you wouldn't even buy at a flea market for $20) suppose to instill? That god can survive weather but humans can't? That Jesus is there for them? Where was he when those poor people were drowning and dying of blunt force trauma to the head after debris hit them traveling 200 mph. Pathetic.

The statue even looks as if Jesus is welcoming the storm. Did the idiots who captioned this picture also mention that a brothel and gay bar just behind the statue withstood the typhoon, too? It's a miracle!

Grow up people. As I've said before, god is NOT in the rain, sorry Evy.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Like sands through the hourglass ...

Here's something to blow your mind: Go outside at night, hold up your hand over a dark patch of the night sky, and make a tiny circle between your thumb and forefinger about the size of a dime. In that dark spot, about 100,000 galaxies, each containing billions of stars, can be seen with a powerful enough telescope. There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all of the beaches on Earth.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

My 50th post!

This is my 50th post here, and I'd like to revisit a topic: Perhaps you read my post about In God We Trust on American money and "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. Briefly, these two phrases were added in the 1950s during the Cold War because the USSR was a "godless" country and America wanted to be the polar opposite.

The last time I checked, America was NOT a Christian (or any other religion) nation. In fact, it is the only country in the world that has it written into its founding documents that we are to remain secular, that church and state must remain separate. And it's brilliant foresight, because our Founding Fathers (which in itself is offensive to Native Americans but that's for another post) came to America because they were being persecuted for their religious beliefs. That's why we're here, and that's why we accept anyone looking for freedom.

Our country was not founded by Christians or Jews; it was founded by a cornucopia of brave religious and non-religious leaders. Lately, I've been seeing a lot of posts on Facebook bitching about the Pledge of Allegiance and how when they were kids "We said the pledge with 'under God' in it and that's they way it should be.

This is a perfect time to return to the Native American angle. While a lot of American Indians assimilated into Christianity (likely in fear of following their dead ancestors), many of them have their own religion. We stole their land and basically forced Christianity on them. They still live here as citizens, yet our money and pledge doesn't reflect the beliefs of all of them.

How about the Muslims or Hindus who are American citizens? Are they not part of "All men are created equal," which easily supersedes any pledge or monetary phrase? Are they less important than Christian god-fearing Americans? If you're answer is yes, you're a racist and/or a bigot. If your answer is no, then how would you like it if "one nation, under Allah" was in the pledge?

I also find it hilarious that the word immediately following "under god" is "indivisible."

And of course what about non-believers? They make up 20 percent of America. Should they not be considered? Imagine if our laws only applied to 80 percent of our constituents. "I know I was smoking crack, Officer, but it's not illegal for me because I'm an atheist." Ridiculous, right?

Or maybe you'd be OK with "In Krishna We Trust" on our money. If this offends you in any way or makes you feel a tinge uncomfortable, then you know how non-believers, Muslims, Hindus, etc., who live here feel. This isn't the Land of the Majority; it's the Land of the Free and that also means we're free from religion in our government.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The true meaning of survival of the fittest

While they're not prerequisites for being an atheist (there are none actually, other than having the stance that there's no verifiable proof of anything supernatural or godlike), natural selection and genetic variation/mutation are cornerstones for opening the eyes of many people, especially the ones on the faith-vs.-reality fence. These two variables make up Darwin and Wallace's Theory of Evolution, which is a proven fact of science.

If it's not immediately obvious why this is a huge component to many atheists' worldview, think about a Christian and his bible. Genesis, which is supposed to be the word of the Lord, describes the making of the world in six days, and when the math in Genesis is added up, the Earth should be about 6,000 years old. It also says all living beings, including humans, we're made by god during this period. 

But, because of science, we know none of this is true. The Earth is 4.6 billion years old, and evolution proves all living things came from a single-called organism and eventually LUCA, which stands for Last Universal Common Ancestor. Life has been on this planet for millions of years. So, imagine being a Christian with a curious mind, one who doesn't exactly buy the Genesis myth, and you learn we're a product of natural selection and genetic speciation. All of a sudden, your views on god and religion start to tear at the seams.

Being an atheist means having a rational mind. It means you have to use critical thinking when you look at your life and when you consider your future ... and past. Non-believers look at the planet and all of its living things and think it makes much more sense that we all came from one spark of life and evolved over billions of years through gradual change, rather than some inexplicable deity snapping his fingers and making dinosaurs and humans roam the Earth together 6,000 years ago.

Here's a fun way to screw with a Young Earth Creationist. Ask them if they believe we can see some stars that are 50,000 light years away, which is true and there are plenty that are millions of light years away. When they say, sure, I think there are stars we can see that are that far away, ask them how it is that we are seeing them? If it's 50,000 light years away, that means it has taken the light of that star 50,000 years to travel close enough for us to see it. If they stare at you like a deer frozen in headlights (or in this case starlight), that is when you tell them they just admitted the universe is at least 50,000 years old, totally refuting Genesis. And then you can clue them in that the universe is at least 13.7 billion years old, which is scientific fact.

Now, back to natural selection. It's exactly what it sounds like: Nature selects those best suited to survive its surroundings. What does that mean? Imagine two species of birds living on an island, and the nectar of life is nestled deep inside a long fluted flower. Nature is offering sustenance to whichever bird can get to it. So, which species survives, the birds with long slender beaks or ones with short fat beaks? The long slender beaks will reach the nectar, remain strong and will mate with other long-beaked birds, while the short beaks will eventually die off. It's a harsh view of life, but that's the way we evolved. 

Sometimes a genetic mutation will give one species an advantage over another. There is a species of sloth that has one finger that is freakishly large and longer than the rest. It uses this finger to reach deep into the small holes of tree bark to fish out bugs. This mutation made it much more adapted to live in the trees, giving it a distinct advantage over other sloths. To some believers, it may look like their deity made these species and put them in the specific places in the world where they could survive, but does that really make any sense? If you think that, then how come 99.9% of all species that have ever lived are now extinct? Free will? Now that's funny.

But, survival of the fittest doesn't mean survival of the strongest, as shown by my aforementioned bird example. The long-beaked birds weren't stronger than the short-beaks, they just fit in better with the surroundings where they lived. If the short beaks were on an island where they needed to use the leverage of their stubby beaks to break open nuts then maybe they would be the survivors while the long-beaks would have starved. And in the case of the long-fingered sloth, it literally means it "fit" better than its  competition.

One final thought on survival of the fittest not being a synonym for strongest: When an asteroid crashed into the Yucatan Peninsula 65 million years ago, it created an ice age that wiped out all of the dinosaur giants. But, tiny marsupials went deep below the ice and lived underground to survive, eventually becoming upright walking bi-peds (that means us to be more to the point). And certainly a T-Rex is stronger than a marsupial, right?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Inexplicable? Maybe. Miracle? Not so much.

Miracle. It's a word used far too often, and far too liberally in place of the correct words, such as remarkable or amazing. It's also fallaciously attached to perfectly explainable things, such as the human body healing itself or even feats in sporting events. (Al Michaels lost all credibility as a sports journalist when he screamed "Do you believe in miracles? YES!" after some inferior U.S. athletes beat superior U.S.S.R. athletes in a GAME of hockey. Remarkable? Sure. Miracle? Not so much. Perspective is often lost in sports.)

Every time something remarkable or odd happens that can't immediately be explained, the routine boilerplate response seems to always be "miracle." This is especially prevalent in the religious realm, where people spend millions of dollars on pilgrimages to look at sprinkler-stained glass that resembles an image that reminds them of some deity or spiritual leader, or they spend their money bidding on pieces of toast that look like some biblical figure.

It's sad, really, when people gravitate toward these poor attempts at capturing supernatural or magical existences because of their own shortcomings and fears. When a painting in Greece begins weeping, the religious sheep flock and claim it's a miracle without ever having a non-biased third-party scientist visit the site to investigate the obvious fraud. And why? Because it IS a fraud, and those perpetrating it don't want that known, lest they will lose the attention and obvious publicity (and money) they are reaping from it.

Does anyone really think if a miracle could be performed from some supernatural being, that they would choose some amateur oil painting on canvas as their vehicle, and merely make that painting weep from its painted eyes? Some miracle. Why not go to Grand Central Station and hold a news conference? And what exactly is this supernatural event conveying when it makes a painting weep or a tree-knot grow in the shape of Jesus' face? That they once existed? That they are sad? Why be so cryptic? Why not just come to Earth and tell us? Because there are no miracles, just coincidences and frauds.

A baby comes back to life in a third-world country hospital after being declared dead by a doctor who got his degree in a Wal*Mart and we are supposed to believe some deity lowered his hand and sparked life back into this baby, right? So, there's no chance this hospital was on hard times and could use an influx of cash and patients, which is the usual outcome from such a story? And there's never any cahoots going on, it's always on the level and perfectly legit, right? No one ever does anything for attention, like make up facts about something (like the guy who said his son floated away in his weather balloon).

What really burns my toast is even dictionaries fall for the hyperbole. A miracle is an event that defies natural law. That's it, and given that nothing defies natural law near as we can tell after centuries of scientific fact-finding experiments, then a miracle has never happened. But Merriam-Webster and even Oxford feel a need to insert divine intervention into their definitions. What's the problem with that? I'll tell you: Has anyone proved there is a god, an afterlife, a supernatural occurrence? Then how can you put that in a definition, that god intervenes on behalf of the inexplicable? It gets back to my God of the Gaps post. If the feeble-minded can't explain it, then god must have done it.

Wouldn't it be great to be a surgeon, to literally hold someone's heart in your hands, make it stop beating for a procedure, make it start again, stitch them up, cure them of their ailment, watch them come out of anesthesia, look you in the eyes as you tell them they are cured, and they say, "Praise the Lord, it's a miracle!" Really? Nine years of medical schooling and at least another year of residency and the doctor gets no credit? Good, next time let the doctor play another nine holes and you can just pray for your clogged aorta to clear itself. Let's see what happens then. 

Ever notice medical miracles are always things that can easily be explained by medicine and precedence? How come no limbs are growing back? I've touched on this in the past so no need to bludgeon this point.

But even if there were a god and supernatural beings, does that mean inexplicable events are miracles? Do these sheeple really believe that god is making a painting weep or bleed while nine million children die each year of starvation or poor living conditions? Are you so arrogant that you think burying a dime-store statue of some biblical figure upside down in your front yard is the reason your house sold? Pathetic.

Stop using the word miracle. It should only be used when describing the possibility of something that suspends natural law. Want an example? "It would be a miracle if the sun turned into a ball of cotton candy," or "If your dead grandfather dug his way out of the casket he was buried in two decades ago and rang your doorbell, that would be a miracle." It's not OK to say, "It's a miracle my eczema cleared up," or "It's a miracle the Vikings won the Super Bowl."

Grow up, improve your vocabulary, do some critical thinking.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Inventing your own god

In researching religion, including chatting with family and friends about it, I've discovered something comical, and almost hypocritical about people and their gods. I am utterly amazed by how many people believe in a god of their choosing. By that I don't mean they chose the Christian god or Allah, etc.

What I mean is, when the topic of god or a higher power comes up, everyone has their own version (their own personal Jesus, to quote Depeche Mode) and just about no two are alike. To paraphrase Susan B. Anthony, I find it remarkable how everyone's god fits their needs and desires, rather than them following a deity for what something officially says it is. You'd be surprised at the answers or comments given. Here are a few:

"I don't really believe in a god, but I think there is definitely an afterlife."

"I believe all gods are the same god."

"I believe in nature and that something bigger than us created it."

"My god will accept anyone who is good."

The list goes on and on. Such naïveté. Do they even hear themselves when they utter this nonsense? Let's break these down. 

The first one says there's an afterlife but they really don't believe in a god. What led them to believe this? What proof or prior experience pointed them to this contradictory statement and belief? So it's OK to accept something as supernatural and exists without a creator, but a creator existing is something you can't subscribe to? 

At least believers have some book of myths on which to base their beliefs. Their statement is just odd. Of course I'm not saying it's not true, because we can never know, but to just come up with these self-therapeutic hypotheses with no basis in anything is immature and wishful-thinking at best.

The second statement about all gods being the same is hilarious because the second you do any research or read any holy book you learn that just can't be true. And if you subscribe to any religion and think or speak this phrase then you're a blasphemer. It's crystal clear in each religion that they have the one true god. If you look deep into the statement it's yet again wishful-thinking. It makes them feel better in case they have the wrong god. And again they have no basis for this; it's just them making up something without fact, which is irrational, irresponsible and immature.

While the third statement is pretty harmless, it cherry-picks from some sort of religious background. If there were a god, wouldn't it make sure that some sort of proof exists? If you point to the bible or koran, then saying you believe in nature is blasphemous as well. People don't just get an opinion on what deity is responsible for any of this. How are they forming this opinion? It's only because they are clueless it fits their needs and feelings. You love the flowers and trees and it makes you happy? That's sweet, but it's not a deity. You aren't religious; you're a hippie.

As for god accepting anyone who is good, that's a nice sentiment, but you first need to define which god you mean. Is it a god you've invented, because that makes you no different then any other god-inventing religion except you're not using it as a front to steal from parishioners. So, which god? Let's use the Christian god. If you've read your bible, and of course you haven't, you would've learned you can be nice all you want, but if you're gay, you're going to hell. If you're nice but have a relationship with a married person, you're frying for eternity. Get the idea? 

Many people say atheists are only atheists because they want to sin. These people have no idea what logic means. If there were an omniscient deity who could read your mind and watch your every move, does becoming an atheist turn off this god's vision and ability to know all? If there were an omniscient, omnipotent god, an atheist knows perfectly well it would be able to see what the atheist was doing, so those sins would be accounted for. 

When someone says this, it sounds to me like these people have no faith in their own god and actually believe if we don't think there's a god then we will get away with sinning. Atheists don't become atheists to sin; they are atheists because there's no proof of anything supernatural in this world. If anything, atheists do more good than any religious person because whatever good we do, we do it for the act of being good, not for heavenly reward or fear of eternal damnation.

The reason I brought this up was because when someone says god will accept anyone who is good, most of the time they are just making up their own rules to cover for the fact that they've been lazy in their own religious dedication. It's just more wishful-thinking. When they say atheists don't believe so they can sin, it's no different than saying god will accept you if you're good. On the one hand, an atheist doesn't believe to get away with sinning, on the other hand, the theist imagines an all-forgiving understanding god so he can get away with not being devout.

The bottom line is, making up opinions on what you'd like god to be is ridiculous. If there is a god, he's what he is and you don't get to mold him to fit your needs. The second you open your mouth and offer an opinion is the precise moment you show your ignorance and prove just how irreligious you really are, and if there is a god, you're likely pissing him off.