Category: Featured


On the choices of God.

Consider Christianity. A world-wide belief system, two thousand years in the making. Both the source of humanity’s most despicable behaviour and the inspiration for some of its greatest art and architecture. It is the collective name for a belief system consisting of more than 30,000 variations; each of which alleges to be the truth.

Christianity’s central tenet for most of it’s 30,000 variations is that: the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent creator of the universe – the one and only true God – impregnated a virgin human woman who bore God’s only son – who is partly God Himself. This son was later tortured and murdered but was resurrected three days after his human death. He later ascended bodily into heaven and now sits at the right hand of God. Humanity is born into sin because the original man who was personally created by God from dirt went against God’s express instructions and attained forbidden knowledge by eating the fruit of a tree that bestows knowledge of good and evil on the person who consumes its fruit, which was  placed nearby by God himself. This original ‘sin’ affects all of this man’s descendants – which includes all of humanity on earth today – which condemns every human being to eternal damnation – eternal torture in a spiritual placed called Hell. That is, unless we – humans – accept that God’s son was and is real, was tortured and murdered on our behalf – was sacrificed and died on behalf of us so that our sins could be forgiven – and was resurrected and is alive again.

For the sake of argument let’s assume that this central tenet of Christianity is absolutely true.

Given that God – as defined above – is the first and final authority in the entire Universe and is the creator of all – natural and unnatural – laws, a number of the choices made by this deity is rather curious. It strikes me as rather odd that given every available option – and to God, every option is available by definition – He chose scapegoating as the one and only way for humans to have our sins forgiven and receive salvation.

Scapegoating: (from the verb “to scapegoat”) is the practice of singling out any party for unmerited negative treatment or blame as a scapegoat.

Scapegoat: (in the Bible) A goat sent into the wilderness after the Jewish chief priest had symbolically laid the sins of the people upon it (Lev. 16)

Salvation: (Latin salvatio; Greek sōtēria; Hebrew yeshu’ah) is being saved or protected from harm or being saved or delivered from some dire situation. In religion, salvation is stated as the saving of the soul from sin and its consequences.

Sin: In Abrahamic contexts, sin is the act of violating God’s will.

This choice of path to salvation (deliverance from sin and its consequences) is especially curious because God is the final judge, jury and authority in existence. God is the final authority, the only decider, the only decision maker when it comes to the salvation or damnation of a human being (and literally everything else in the Universe). There exists, by definition, nothing else which makes the binary choice between the eternal torture and eternal salvation of a human soul. Any requirement to attain salvation then exists purely to influence or finalise the decision that God makes; to fulfil or not the requirements set by God which are used by God to determine the outcome of the decision of salvation or damnation. The requirements for salvation are defined by the final authority – God – and by definition cannot be influenced by anything else.

Why, with every possible option available to him, did he choose not only a heinously barbaric act but even more perplexingly required that He himself – in human form – be tortured and murdered through that particular barbaric act? Why does God require that He be tortured and temporarily killed to appease himself? Why does God require that He in human form be made a scapegoat upon which all the sins – human actions that contract His will – of the entire world be heaped before being – bodily – killed. What is it about this masochistic/sadistic theatrical that gives God the ability to grant salvation over damnation?

Given that God is omnipotent, nothing can dictate anything to God and any decision made by God can only be influenced by God and anything that is, is only so because God chose for it to be so. Given that, God then had the choice between forgiving everybody whole-sale or requiring that he in human form be tortured and murdered and He chose the barbaric option. Why? He had the choice between forgiving Adam or condemning billions to eternal torture and yet chose eternal torture. He had the choice between requiring a three week fast followed by the sacrifice of a person’s favourite pet after painting their house green and living in a swamp for six months while learning to recite the bible forwards and backwards in three languages to attain salvation or requiring that the human form of himself be tortured and murdered. He has the option to require absolutely any arbitrary thing – help other people, make the world a better place, sing Kumbaja at dawn for three days on a mountain top – or have himself tortured and killed and for some bizarre reason he chooses the sado-masochistic scapegoating option of torture and deicide.

Why?

Given the definition of God, there is only one possible answer: it’s what He wants.

He wants billions to be tortured for eternity since by definition he can not want it and by definition will have it. He wanted to be tortured and murdered since by definition he could have not wanted it. He wants his existence to be as vague and questionable as possible. He wants people to suffer precisely as much as they suffer now and then to continue to suffer even more after they die by being tortured in Hell for eternity. He wants all of this since he has the option and power to want something different and have it; to have absolutely anything whichever way He pleases.

This level of malevolence is truly awe inspiring. Two billion people choose to worship this travesty of a being as the pinnacle of morality. Can there be anything more disturbing?

There is, of course, a much simpler explanation than living in a Universe which was designed and is directed by the most evil super being imaginable: we live in a Universe in which it is possible for humanity to imagine such an awe inspiringly evil super being.

I wonder what it means for us? That we are so willing to subjugate ourselves to the terrible mental fabrications of primitive people?

Choices: by definition, your God doesn’t have any.

I read a post by Rosa Rubicondior about a conversation that Dan Barker had with a guy called Jason Gastrich and you should probably go read it since it’s great.

Anyway, it got me thinking and I’m writing this mostly to firm up my understanding of the concept.

The basic premise is this: a god who knows the future is a god without free will, with limited power. A god cannot both know the future and be omnipotent, have free will and make decisions.

Why this is, is pretty straightforward; I’ll try a simple example.

Lets assume Yahweh, in the year 1500 BCE, knew for certain that on December 21, 2012 the world was going to end by an asteroid hitting the earth. Let’s assume he told a man called Moses to write this down in such a way that it would form part of the Talmud and later the Bible, as a prophecy. So Yahweh makes a prophesy in 1500 BCE that the world ends in fiery Armageddon in December 2012.

Fast forward to July 26, 2012. Yahweh knows on this day that the world is going to end in fiery Armageddon on December 21 by an asteroid strike and he tells a guy called Harry Llama this inconvenient truth through a vision. Now, Yahweh has been absolutely, infallibly correct about the fact of the world ending December 2012, every day for 3512 years, or about 1.2 million straight days.

Harry Llama, a bit perturbed about this revelation, gets together a whole bunch of good Christians on the 27th of July and, as the Holy Bible prescribes, they pray together to Yahweh to stop the asteroid from destroying the earth.

Now Yahweh has a bit of a dilemma. If he chooses (assuming he has this choice…) to avert the disaster and cause Armageddon to not occur at the prophesied time at the prophesied place then he would have been wrong for 3512 years. If Armageddon does not occur, Yahweh would not in fact have known that the event would occur – he would have been flat out wrong for 3512 years. This means he is not omniscient.

If Yahweh is guaranteed to be omniscient, he then can not do anything to avert the disaster as this would cause him to not be omniscient since averting the disaster forces Yahweh to be wrong, it forces him to not have known something. If Yahweh can not do something, it means he is powerless, he is not omnipotent, he has no free will.

Now, this example aside, it applies to absolutely everything an omniscient god might know. If a god is omniscient – and therefore prescient – it cannot also be omnipotent and have free will or free agency.

If a god knows for certain the outcome of a future event and then causes the outcome of that event to change, it never knew the certain outcome. If a god knows for certain an outcome and cannot change the outcome, it is not omnipotent and does not have free agency.

The god of the bible? By definition, it does not exist.

Admit it. Religion makes no sense.

Science in action.

Science: the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.

Science and the scientific method has given us… virtually everything. It is responsible for our lifespan doubling, for the internet, for medicine, for anesthetics and pretty much everything else. Look around. Everything you see is the result of the scientific method being applied to the world you live in and my personal favourite is anesthetics (a quick look at the horror that used to be medicine before the invention of anesthetics is enough to convince me that time travel is, in fact, a really terrible idea).

The scientific method is a profoundly successful process for investigating the world and is the underlying force of all human advances for hundreds if not thousands of years.

A diagram of the scientific method

The scientific method.

The scientific method is:

a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge

The techniques of the scientific method consists of a process with a number of steps to go through to arrive at a scientific theory:

a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment.

These steps include:

  • Formulating a question
  • Hypothesis
  • Prediction
  • Test
  • Analysis

A question that naturally arises for me centers around what religion – Christianity specifically – looks like when you study it with the scientific method. Interesting, I suppose is an answer. Infinitely boring is probably another answer. It depends rather heavily on what you would like to do with the outcome of the investigation. I’ve also argued before that the scientific method can and should be applied to everything, including the claims of religion, ghosts, the supernatural as well as finding God.

Looking at Christianity one might formulate the following question:

Does the Christian God as described in the Bible exist?

I think that is a fair question. It is after all the crux of what a billion people alive today allege to believe. I concede that it’s also a pretty big question and this short post won’t necessarily do it justice to it entirely but what the hell, let’s have a go. For the sake of a feeble attempt at rigor, let’s define some of the properties of the God in question by using the Bible as the source:

  • Omniscience (all-knowing) – John 16:30 the apostle John affirms of Jesus, “Now we can see that you know all things.
  • Omnipresence (all-present) – Jesus said in Matthew 28:20, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
  • Omnipotence (all-powerful) – All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” Jesus said in Matthew 28:18
  • Eternality (no beginning or end) – John 1:1declares of Jesus, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
  • Immutability (unchanging) – Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

I propose the following hypothesis:

The Christian god does in fact not exist.

I think it’s a perfectly valid hypothesis. Certainly one could propose the converse but I have a hunch that this one is more likely than the alternative so we will investigate this statement.

What predictions can be made based on the hypothesis that the Christian God does not exist? After considering the implications I feel that the following are reasonable predictions of phenomena that might be observed if the statement “the Christian God does not exist” was true:

  1. Christians who believe they converse with – some call it have personal relationship with – the deity in question would not agree or even be able to generally agree on the wishes of the deity
  2. There would be inconsistencies and contradictions in stories and texts alleged to be dictated or inspired by the deity
  3. Edicts on behalf of the deity would be inconsistent and change with time – they will evolve with society
  4. Morals and morality would be inconsistent and change with time – they would evolve with society

These predictions should now be tested to see if what they describe would happen is inline with reality: are the predictions true or not? So let’s test the predictions:

1. Christians who believe they converse with the deity in question would not agree or even be able to generally agree on the wishes of the deity [if the deity does not exist]

Do we have any empirical evidence to support the prediction that in the absence of an actual deity as the source of information that Christians would have fundamental disagreements as to the wishes of the deity? Yes, I think we do have some empirical evidence that we can put forward.

  1. There are reported to be approximately 38,000 denominations of Christianity but since many of then cannot be verified to be significant we will list only an excerpt of the major denominations that exhibit substantial dogmatic differences:
    1. Catholic
      1. Including more than 20 sub denominations that are country or culture specific
    2. Orthodox Churches
      1. Including Eastern and Oriental orthodox churches with more than 30 sub denominations
    3. Lutheranism
      1. Including more than 60 sub denominations
    4. Baptists
      1. Including more than 80 sub denominations
    5. Latter Day Saints
      1. Including more than 17 sub denominations
    6. Nontrinitarianism
      1. Including among others Jehovah’s Witnesses

    It is impossible to argue against the fact that Catholics, Baptists, Latter Day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses have irreconcilable differences when it comes to their religions even though all four proclaim to literally worship the same deity and use the same book – The Bible – as its only (except for LDS who have additive reference called the Book of Mormon) divinely inspired true reference.

  2. A good illustration of Christian disagreement in real life is an event that I posted about some time ago where one Christian denomination put up a poster in-front of their church to portray a message that another Christian denomination found to be extremely blasphemous. Whether something is sacrilegious against a God is entirely up to the deity in question, with which each denomination claim to have a personal relationship. That there is disagreement among the worshippers of that deity cannot be disputed.
  3. Another perfect illustration of Christians having fundamental disagreement is when you compare Westboro Baptist Church and… basically everybody else. Westboro Baptist Church have controversial views and they are outspoken about them and other Christians do not agree, to say the least.

2. There would be inconsistencies and contradictions in stories and texts alleged to be dictated or inspired by the deity [if the deity does not exist]

Contradictions and inconsistencies in the Bible

Contradictions and inconsistencies in the Bible

Empirical evidence for this prediction exists in spades within the book considered by Christians to be the holy and in some cases, literal words, of the creator of the universe – their God. I will list a couple of obvious contradictions and inconsistencies and link to a graphic that illustrates a huge number of them.

  1. From the Bible:

    MATTHEW 27:46,50: “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?” that is to say, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” …Jesus, when he cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.”

    LUKE 23:46: “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, “Father, unto thy hands I commend my spirit:” and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.”

    JOHN 19:30: “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished:” and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.”

    Clearly all three scenarios could not have happened even if one assumes against all available evidence that at least one had to have happened.

  2. From the Bible:

    II SAMUEL 24:13: So God came to David, and told him, and said unto him, shall SEVEN YEARS OF FAMINE come unto thee in thy land? or will thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue. thee?

    I CHRONICLES 21:11: SO God came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Choose thee. Either THREE YEARS OF FAMINE or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of thine enemies overtaketh thee;

    It is not possible to interpret SEVEN YEARS OF FAMINE as THREE YEARS OF FAMINE under any circumstances.

  3. Follow this link to an earlier post that articulates many contradictions and inconsistencies in the Bible.

3. Edicts on behalf of the deity would be inconsistent and change with time – they will evolve with society [if the deity does not exist]

We have a lot of empirical evidence where the ‘official representatives’ of the Christian deity have changed their minds with time motivated by scientific and societal advances.

  1. An obvious change in the official attitude in the Christian religion is the reversal of opinion around the theory of Heliocentrism – the astronomical model in which the Earth and planets revolve around a relatively stationary Sun at the center of the Solar System – by the Catholic Church. In the 17th century Galileo Galilei was persecuted by the Catholic Church for espousing the heliocentric view that the sun – not the earth – was the center of the solar system. He was forced to publicly recant his views and was placed under house arrest by the Church for the last years of his life.This paper by J. S. Daly provides a history and evaluation of the affair within the context of the Catholic church: The Theological Status of Heliocentrism which includes:

    We have shown that the Church has implicitly withdrawn her condemnation of heliocentrism, so that Catholics are not directly guilty of heterodoxy or disobedience if they hold that the earth revolves around the sun.

  2. Several popes explicitly granted permission to keep slaves and make slaves of people to the Portuguese government (King of Portugal, King Alfonso V):
    1. In 1452, Nicholas V in Dum Diversas
    2. In 1454, Pope Nicholas explicitly confirmed the rights granted
    3. In 1456, Pope Calixtus III confirmed these grants
    4. In 1481, Pope Sixtus IV renewed these grants
    5. In 1514, Pope Leo renewed these grants

    However, even thought the Bible explicitly approves of slavery and even provides instructions on how to manage slaves:

    1. In 1917, the new Code of Canon Law promulgated by Pope Benedict XV condemned the “selling a human being into slavery or for any other evil purpose”.
    2. In 1992 at the infamous “House of Slaves” on the Island of Gorée in Senegal, John Paul II declared: “It is fitting to confess in all truth and humility this sin of man against man, this sin of man against God.”
    3. In 1993, in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor, John Paul II took, from Vatican II’s pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world, a long list of social evils which includes slavery

4. Morals and morality would be inconsistent and change with time – they would evolve with society

Changes in the official Catholic view on slavery and the slave trade not withstanding, many if not most of the instructions for conduct in the Bible are no longer observed by Christians.

A couple from the Bible might include:

  • Anyone who dreams or prophesies anything that is against God, or anyone who tries to turn you from God, is to be put to death.
    • Deuteronomy 13:5:
      13:5 And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.
  • If anyone, even your own family suggests worshipping another God, kill them.
    • Deuteronomy 13:6-10:
      13:6 If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;
      13:7 Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;
      13:8 Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him:
      13:9 But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.
      13:10 And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die;
  • If you find out a city worships a different god, destroy the city and kill all of its inhabitants… even the animals.
    • Deuteronomy 13:12-15:
      13:12 If thou shalt hear say in one of thy cities, which the LORD thy God hath given thee to dwell there, saying,
      13:13 Certain men, the children of Belial, are gone out from among you, and have withdrawn the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which ye have not known;
      13:14 Then shalt thou enquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and, behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought among you;
      13:15 Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword.
  • Kill anyone with a different religion.
    • Deuteronomy 17:2-7:
      17:2 If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the LORD thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the LORD thy God, in transgressing his covenant,
      17:3 And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded;
      17:4 And it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and enquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel:
      17:5 Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die.
      17:6 At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.
      17:7 The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So thou shalt put the evil away from among you.
  • Don’t wear clothes made of more than one fabric.
    • Leviticus 19:19:
      19:19 Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.
  • If a man cheats on his wife, or vise versa, both the man and the woman must die.
    • Leviticus 20:10:
      20:10 And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
  • Psychics, wizards, and so on are to be stoned to death.
    • Leviticus 20:27:
      20:27 A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.
  • Anyone who curses or blasphemes God should be stoned to death by the community.
    • Leviticus 24:14-16:
      24:14 Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him.
      24:15 And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin.
      24:16 And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death.

    The distinct lack of Bible motivated killing to be found (myself as an atheist being alive as an excellent example) in the western world is empirical evidence that many of the instructions above are not being obeyed by Christians. Since by Christians’ own measure their God does not change and since many Christians use excerpts from surrounding passages to justify things like discrimination against homosexuals I think a clear case is made that once all or most of the instructions were once obeyed and now only some are obeyed and in the future perhaps none will be obeyed – in line with social reformation.

What is our analysis of the empirical evidence we have found to show that the predictions that were made by the hypothesis were true and in accordance with reality? I think that we have enough evidence to say that the hypothesis that the Christian God, as described in the Bible and commonly accepted by most Christians, does not exist, is likely to be correct.

Christians are not all speaking to the same God since none of them can agree on what this God actually wants, likes or prefers. The Bible was not inspired by or written by a being with the properties that Christians and Christianity assign to their deity since it is full of inconsistencies and contradictions which is to be expected if it were not inspired by or written by the Christian God. Christians who have spoken on behalf of their God and who have not been corrected by that God have made statements in approval of or against things that were later a reversal of earlier positions. Christian positions on issues have changed as additional information has been learned and as society has changed which is in line with the Christian God not existing. Instructions given by the unchanging Christian God to his followers are no longer being followed by Christians as those instructions are contrary to what is acceptable to society – morals have evolved – which again is a predictable and expected phenomenon if the Christian God did not exist.

Note that the conclusion that the Christian God does not exist is not a concrete, incontrovertible proof that the Christian God or any other god does not or can not exist. That the Christian God does not exist is only the most likely explanation of the way things are in light of the information and evidence that is available. New evidence might change the explanation, negate it or it might further bolster it.

That the Christian God does not exist is the most likely explanation in light of the available evidence.

Always! Be totally awesome!

 
Religion is to mortality what homoeopathy is to cancer.

Religion is to mortality what homoeopathy is to cancer.

Sometimes, now and then – very infrequently – you come across some real wisdom in a YouTube comment. ‘Wisdom’ and ‘YouTube comment’ are not words you often see together in a sentence or even on a page. Anybody who’s ever taken a minute to wade through the stinking quagmire manifested by anonymous ignorance and bigotry that usually occupies the space below video’s on YouTube will appreciate how rare a find an enlightening comment is.

It’s only the second one I’ve ever seen that’s inspired me enough to write something about it. Obviously the comment concerns religion but more specifically, the purpose of religion.

What IS the purpose of religion?

Libraries are filled with books about this subject, from many perspectives, both religious and non-religious – far too much for me to discuss in detail but some basic thoughts commonly held are:

  • “to teach morals and guidelines”, which is not acceptable since you don’t need religion to teach or learn morals
  • “teaching God’s message”, which can be discarded since it’s not based in reality: you need to prove a God exists before he (she, it?) can have a message at all
  • “help feed the poor”, which is something that secular organisations do as well, if not better

The real purpose of religion then must be those things which religion can accomplish that secular organisations can not and to be blunt, there isn’t much left when you’ve removed everything covered by secular organisations and ruled out everything not real or in accordance with reality.

Which brings me to the YouTube comment (on The Thinking Atheist video titled ‘Afterlife’):


Religion serves but one non-selfish purpose… To comfort those that can’t come to grips with their own mortality. The rest of Religion is a business… They are in it to make money. That’s it.

Religion has only one non-selfish purpose: to comfort those who cannot come to grips with their own mortality. Everything else is either done by secular organisations, mirrors business and commercial enterprise or is just plain bullshit.

Many (if not most) of the people who I know personally that cling to some form of religion – a convenient form usually – do so purely because they refuse to accept that when you die it’s over. They cling to the fantasy that they will be reunited with friends and family after they die because the thought that death is final is too terrible for them to bear. As I think back to conversations I realise that I’ve always known and my wife has always pointed this out to me  but I’ve never really articulated the thoughts like this.

The only one non-selfish purpose of religion is to comfort those who cannot come to grips with their own mortality. If you cannot come to grips with your own mortality, secularism offers scant comfort and conversely, the fantastic promise that religion offers is often too much to resist.

Atheism can only occur when the truth is more important than comfort. Some people need less comfort which makes it easier to see the truth, others need a lot of comfort which means they might never see the truth.

The massive irony though is that very many de-converts from religion feel that coming to grips with your own mortality, accepting that this life is the only life you will ever have is liberating to the extreme.

To quote a brilliant YouTube video maker, Phil Hellenes:

“Sometimes we’re at our most alive when facing the prospect of our own mortality. Maybe that means that if we convince ourselves that we live forever we never really feel alive at all…”

Always! Be totally awesome!

A Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great.

A Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great.

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. – Aristotle

I think that in that quote lies a key difference between an atheist and a theist.

Theists like Christians and Muslims are actively deterred from entertaining any kind of thought that might contradict what they believe. This is accomplished by having an all-seeing, all-knowing overseer who can and will convict and punish you for thought crime. The punishment of eternal torture and a flawless prosecutor who knows everything you think is a fantastic deterrent to entertaining thoughts that might lead to doubt.

Not being willing or able to rationally evaluate an opposing thought – like a religious claim – from the perspective of another person, is a very blunt way to avoid changing your own mind.

Entertaining thoughts that might contradict what you already believe is a cornerstone of science – scientists actively search for thoughts that might contradict established theories, even – sometimes especially – their own.

The ability to entertain a thought and examine it from multiple perspectives without necessarily accepting the premise of the thought is a mark of an educated mind and a mature philosophy because it demonstrates a lack of fear for new ideas, a solid understanding of – and trust in – your own position and it implies a willingness to change your mind. Conversely, actively avoiding entertaining opposing thoughts demonstrates a fear of those thoughts and implies an unwillingness to adapt to new ideas.

Ethics and justice

Ethics and justice, the Bible will teach you it...

There are many lovely tales of love and justice found in the Holy Bible. “What, pray tell, is the Holy Bible”, I can almost hear you ask. Excellent question! Let’s have some devout Christians tell us (emphasis mine):

Despite what the world would like to say, there is such a thing as absolute truth, coming straight out of the Word of God, and people ultimately act on what they really think is true, whatever they may say. At Antioch, we want to lay it out up front. Our doctrinal statement declares what is really true, straight from God’s Word, and our Philosophy and Mission statements flow out of our desire to act on that truth.

[link]

And:

We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the verbally inspired Word of God, the final authority for faith and life, inerrant in the original writings, infallible and God-breathed (II Timothy 3:16,17; II Peter 1:20,21; Matthew 5:18; John 16:12,13).

[link]

And:

I. Biblical Authority

Example Verses: II Timothy 3:16-17; I Peter 1:23-25

Baptists hold to the belief that the Bible and its clear, literal teachings are the final authority for faith and practice. We at least attempt to back up everything they believe with “Chapter and Verse”, and hold that anything that is contrary to the clear teaching of the Bible is not true. Such things as church councils, church leaders, tradition, and other books are often hold some authority for other Christian groups.

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And:

For the Catholic, what follows will make clear the harmony of Scripture and tradition: truth cannot contradict truth. Whether God speaks to us through the Bible or through the voice of tradition, the word spoken is always a true and steadfast guide.

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In short, the Bible is God’s Own Truth.

And, just so we don’t forget, God doesn’t change. “What do you mean God doesn’t change”, I hear you cry. Good that you should ask! Let us get some guidance from ‘the final authority for faith and practice’, God’s Own Truth, The Holy Bible (emphasis mine):

Psalm 102:

102:26 They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed:
102:27 But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.

Hebrews 1:

1:10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands:
1:11 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment;
1:12 And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.

Hebrews 13:

13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

So, God never, ever changes and the Bible is the inerrant, literal Word of God. Got that? Right, with that out of the way, I have a story I should like to tell. A parable if you will.

Not too long ago there was a gentleman by the name of Rush “Randy” Limbaugh (all characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental) and he was very close to God. As a conservative man, Randy went to church every Sunday (see, I told you it was a coincidence) and prayed to God several times a day and he read the Bible which he firmly knew was the literal Word of God. Randy was as close to God as a good, God fearing Republican could be.

Now, Randy being Randy, he got involved with several women during the course of his life. He was at various stages married to Roxy, Michelle, Marta and Kathryn and he had several sons. Notably, by Marta he had a son called Adam.

Tragically, Randy couldn’t control his… er… love for woman and the one day he saw a very attractive intern at the broadcast corporation where he worked called Betty. Now, Betty was in a relationship with Uri who worked for Randy. Randy was pretty well connected and quite devious. Through some sneaky scheming he got Uri re-assigned to a foreign office on the very day that – incredibly conveniently – incriminating photo’s of Uri were delivered to Betty. Betty broke up with poor Uri and Randy provided a convenient shoulder to cry on. He quickly managed to seduce Betty and have… er… carnal relations with her – which was cheating on his current wife Kathryn. Betty fell pregnant almost immediately – Randy was sure his God didn’t approve of birth control you see.

God didn’t like this one bit – he was incredibly pissed off – so He cursed the child that Randy and Betty had created.

Some time after Randy started cheating on Katheryn with Betty, God spoke to pastor Rick ‘Nathan’ Warren (purely coincidental fiction, I assure you) personally and told him to go and punish Randy. He gave explicit instructions on how Randy’s punishment was to be carried out.

Nathan went forth has God had commanded and hired a great stage to be constructed on the National Mall in Washington DC with all the bells and whistles – big screens so everybody in a large crowd could see the action, fancy lighting, huge sound systems, the works. Nathan then invited every devout Christian in the country to come and witness Randy’s punishment, to be carried out exactly as required by Yahweh – the creator God of the universe.

On the day of the punishment, Nathan’s henchmen brought Randy to the stage and put him in a chair off to the left of the stage where he could properly witness the events of the day. After Randy was seated, Nathan’s people brought out Roxy, Michelle, Marta and Kathryn to the stage followed by Randy’s son, Adam.

Next, Randy’s wife and ex-wives were stripped naked in front of the crowd of millions and Adam proceeded to rape them where everybody could see, so that all in attendance knew the justice of the Lord.

Later, Betty gave birth to Randy’s son but since God had cursed the child, he died a week later. Randy went on to live a long and illustrious life, sleeping with literally hundreds of women.

The end.

I will leave you to figure out the moral of that parable on your own. Now, strangely, some people might be upset by that story and I am not sure why. It is a beautiful depiction of how the justice of the Christian deity works, how much he loves people and how much he loves and respects women in particular. It is a beautiful thing is it not?

What? You don’t believe me? Come on now, you give me too much credit. I couldn’t come up with a gem of a story like that on my own – I simply don’t have the skills. Nay, I did but paraphrase a story directly from the unchanging, inerrant word of the almighty creator of the universe. I shit you, in fact, not.

The beautiful tale is found in 2 Samuel 11 and 2 Samuel 12 with the delightful conclusion in 2 Samuel 16.

Let me quote some of it, I do insist (emphasis mine):

2 Samuel 11:

11:2 And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.
11:3 And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?
11:4 And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house.

11:15 And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die.

2 Samuel 12:

12:1 And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.

12:11 Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun.
12:12 For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.
12:15 And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick.

12:18 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died.

2 Samuel 16:

16:21 And Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Go in unto thy father’s concubines, which he hath left to keep the house; and all Israel shall hear that thou art abhorred of thy father: then shall the hands of all that are with thee be strong.
16:22 So they spread Absalom a tent upon the top of the house; and Absalom went in unto his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.

And there you have it. Divine love and justice. It does make me wonder though, what kind of person – who in their right mind actually – would want to worship the being that figures that having several women raped in public by the son of their husband (I believe that’s a stepson…) and an unborn child killed for the adultery of a man is good and just? Who, in their right mind?

I figure its pretty freaking terrible to be a female Christian. Just think what it must be like to live in a world where, should your cheating bastard husband find himself a bit on the side, you get raped in public for his crime and sweet nothing happens to him. Couldn’t happen? Why not?

And Christian men? How would they feel if dear Jesus had to come down out of the clouds and had to instruct them to rape their stepmother (and possibly their own mother) in public because their father cheated on his wife with another woman and arranged for her husband to have an ‘accident’? I have to ask Christian men the following:

Yes or no: would you happily rape your stepmother in public if God told you to?

Won’t happen? Can’t happen? Why not?

If it can’t happen… then one or both the following is true: God changes and the Bible lies or – more simply – there is no God and these tragic horror stories are entirely man-made.

Seriously, there is something very, very wrong with people who believe in this horror, want to worship the monster who thought it up and who are not utterly repulsed by the thought of this travesty.

God is love? Christian morals? Right. Tell me another one.

Always! Be awesome.

The Dirac equation in the form originally proposed.

The Dirac equation. Science, winning.

I care about what is true. I care very much about what is true.

One of the things about myself that frustrates me the most is how I am often not skeptical enough. I tend to make snap truth judgements in the moment – due to excitement or distraction or whatever – and later I end up feeling like I didn’t properly evaluate the situation before accepting something as true. This is why I prefer written over verbal discourse: it allows me to properly consider my response, evaluate my position and avoid rash acceptance of claims. I recognise confirmation bias in myself and actively work to overcome it. I realise I am essentially an illogical creature and I try hard to overcome it because I care very much about what is true, about what is in accordance with fact and reality.

Fact and reality.

One could complicate the concept of ‘truth’ and discuss correspondence, coherence, constructivist, consensus or pragmatic theory or the opinions of Fromm, Hegel, Nietzsche or Kant. Or one could just stick to the simple definition of:

truth:

  • The quality or state of being true
  • That which is true or in accordance with fact or reality

What got me started on this post was seeing a picture of Penn Jillette with a quote that says something to the effect of: if every trace of every religion had to be removed from human consciousness, something similar might be recreated in its place but it would never be exactly the same. If every trace of science had to be removed from human consciousness then it would still be true and it would be rediscovered again and the discovered truth’s would be exactly the same.

I think that is pretty profound. Remove everything we know about science and find it all out again from scratch and it would be exactly like it was. The truth discovered by science will not have changed. Remove religion and the facsimile which could replace it will never be exactly the same – other than the fact that it will also be nonsense. Religious ‘truth’… changes.

The Christian God by all accounts is unchanging and eternal. From the Christian Bible:

Psalm 102:

102:26 They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed:
102:27 But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.

Hebrews 1:

1:10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands:
1:11 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment;
1:12 And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.

Hebrews 13:

13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

Deuteronomy 33

33:27 The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them.

To me, and I’m sure to most people, unchanging would mean that what I hold true today is what I will hold true tomorrow. If you ask me a question, whether it be today or tomorrow or in 20 years from now, if I was unchanging my answer would be the same, unchanging. Not changing your opinion or answer to the same question is the very embodiment of ‘unchanging’.

This alleged property of God being ‘unchanging’ poses a bit of a problem for Christianity, Islam and Judaism. It causes two problems in particular:

1. The Bible condones some pretty horrific things such as genocide, slavery, infanticide, rape, murder, child abuse and so forth.

If God does not change then he must still condone these horrible things, yet his current batch of followers decry these horrors when they happen today in the third world. I find it terribly strange how devout followers of a God who commanded genocide get outraged when the same thing happens in Africa. Take the recent obsession with Joseph Kony as an example. The man is the leader of the “Lord’s Resistance Army” (no extra points for guessing the ‘Lord’ referred to there) and he has done things – terrible things – but they are pretty damn similar to what a man called Moses did in the Bible in Numbers 31:

31:17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
31:18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

How do these outraged middle class first worlders know that Joseph Kony isn’t following explicit instructions from his God, their God? Because God wouldn’t command it? Is God not ‘unchanging’?

2. For reasons that no religious person has ever adequately explained, religious people almost always get different answers to the same question from the same deity.

Why is it that when people pray to their God, the same God, they can get different answers to the same question? Take the issue in Auckland a while ago where one church put up a billboard and thought it great while another group of Christians thought it was blasphemy. How could two Christians ever disagree over the opinion of the God with which they both have a personal relationship? Is God not unchanging or does he give a different opinion to ever person who prays?

These two issues together pose a massive problem to religious investigation into what is true and what is not. How do you know what is true if your only source of shared knowledge (The Bible for example) contradicts its self in very many places and each person’s personal ‘revelation’ is factually different from virtually every other person’s personal ‘revelation’? On what basis can you decide what is true and what is not?

Science on the other hand has the scientific method.

From Wikipedia:

Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge.[1] To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.[2] The Oxford English Dictionary says that scientific method is: “a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.”[3]

The process that science follows to arrive at what is true and what is not:

Scientific researchers propose hypotheses as explanations of phenomena, and design experimental studies to test these hypotheses via predictions which can be derived from them. These steps must be repeatable, to guard against mistake or confusion in any particular experimenter. Theories that encompass wider domains of inquiry may bind many independently derived hypotheses together in a coherent, supportive structure. Theories, in turn, may help form new hypotheses or place groups of hypotheses into context.

The scientific method has built-in safeguards – such as peer review, repeatable experiments, independent reproduction – against the many psychological properties of humans – such as confirmation bias, belief bias, bandwagon effect – that make us fundamentally illogical beings. By following the scientific method we are most likely to arrive at what is ‘really’ true, at what is in accordance with fact or reality.

When a fact has been proven scientifically it can repeatedly be proven scientifically. It is a cornerstone of the scientific method for results to be independently reproduced – every person who properly conducts an experiment should get the same results.

This is in complete and utter contrast to religious revelation and the way prayer is alleged to work. No credible evidence is ever provided by religious revelation. No second person can independently verify that a person who has allegedly had a ‘revelation’ is telling the truth or is mistaken or is completely delusional. When people pray to the same God for some reason they get different answers. The answers so different there is reported to be over 38,000 denominations of Christianity and they all claim to have personal relationships with the same deity.

What could explain this diversity within Christianity (let alone Islam and Judaism which supposedly worships the same deity…)? The answer is unsurprisingly simple: there is no God. When people claim to know what God wants they are making it up. There is no God. People who claim to know the mind of God are mistaken. It is not coincidence that God almost without fail has the same biases and prejudices as those who claim to know what he wants.

Belief without evidence is a mistake. Faith…

Faith is the surrender of the mind; it’s the surrender of reason, it’s the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It’s our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated.” — Christopher Hitchens

Simply using modern technology, using modern medicine, even eating modern food is tacit acceptance that science works and finds truth. Useful truth. Religion will try to convince you that the shape of a banana, shaped by generations of human directed artificial selection is proof that a supreme super being designed it for you. The irony is that it’s not too far off – the current shape of the banana is due to science and human intellect. I bet Ray Comfort didn’t have this particular truth in mind when he tried to sell his ‘banana revelation’ but fact is fact and empirical evidence trumps religious opinion every time.

Has a specific religion – such as Christianity – ever arisen spontaneously without the intervention of it’s adherents, in a remote part of the world? No, not one time. Copies of religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism) never arise spontaneously in other parts of the world because religions are made up by people. They can’t spontaneously arise because the deity that each alleges to worship doesn’t exist and so can’t inform people elsewhere of the religion. If Europeans had arrived in Australia (or pick any remote people in the world, Amazon, Pacific islands, China…) and found that the Aborigines were devout Christians even though they had never had contact with Europe or the Middle East it would have gone a long way towards showing Christian beliefs to be real. This has never happened. Not once. And don’t hold your breath, it never will.

Revelation is baseless opinion and it is disturbing how many people will accept a person’s word that his opinion is true without questioning or demanding verifiable evidence. You’d think by now, through the manifold scandals by church leaders that have been exposed, that people would be a bit more skeptical about the motives and truth espoused by those who claim to know the mind of God. It’s not even hard to test: ask three different church leaders what their God thinks about a subject – blasphemy is usually a good subject – and my money is on three different answers. They all claim to have a personal relationship with the almighty. It shouldn’t be a difficult thing to ask your personal friend his opinion. Three different answers, which one is telling the truth? Ask 30. Which one is now telling the truth? Ask 300? Ask 38,000. Who is now telling the truth? All of them? 38,000 different opinions and they are all truthful? Unlikely.

There is a much simpler truth: there is no god.

Science strives to find actual, empirically verified, useful truth while religion tries to sell baseless – often contradictory – opinion as truth. Give me science any day.

Always! Be awesome.

You can't wake a  person who is pretending to be asleep.

Pretending to be asleep; what being religious is all about in a modern era of pervasive and universal knowledge.

I think that proverb is pretty profound.

Basically it’s saying you cannot reason with somebody who is being unreasonable. You cannot reason with somebody who does not care about the truth, who is willing to ignore facts, evidence and the truth in favour of continuing in whichever belief they prefer.

Because I care very much about the truth and what is true, it is one of the most frustrating parts of dealing with otherwise intelligent people who claim to be religious. There is no reasoning with somebody who is acting stupid, who is forcing idiocy on themselves. Presenting facts and evidence to somebody who flat-out refuses to see it is a pointless and frustrating task.

Having said that, it’s becoming more difficult (in the developed world anyway) to pretend to be asleep. Knowledge and information is so easy to come by now that you have to work much harder to ignore it than before, which is why the global atheist movement is growing so fast. That’s my opinion, at least.

There is another saying that’s similar which says you can’t reason somebody out of something they are not reasoned into. It’s true I think. You don’t reason somebody out of the religion they weren’t reasoned into. You present the facts and hope that eventually they pull their head out of their arse and see the light. Metaphorically speaking of course.

Always! Be awesome.

I had a bit of a laugh today when my wife pointed out this status from a Facebook friend of ours. I find it terribly amusing and not just a little bit ironic.

I will never again in my life drink a Red Bull. It is one thing to have fun with ads, but completely unacceptable to depict the Jesus, whom a large number of us on this planet consider to be the Son of God in such a manner.

Seems a bit like a Muslim sentiment no? Isn’t that amusing.

The indignation comes from a Red Bull advert. It seems the poor guy had his sensibilities insulted when he read this article on South Africa’s News 24 site: http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Jesus-ad-doesnt-fly-with-Catholics-20120313 and then watched the horrifyingly offensive video.

The Red Bull energy drink’s “Jesus walks on water” campaign should be cancelled, the SA Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) said on Tuesday.

“We question the timing of the release of the advert – which seems to be part of an international campaign,” spokesperson Cardinal Wilfred Napier said in a statement.

“While the Red Bull adverts are characterised by their cleverness, we believe that Red Bull South Africa have overstepped a mark.”

Napier said the SACBC welcomed the halting of the campaign, but asked Red Bull SA to cancel it completely.

And now… for the horror video. Are, you, ready, for… RED BULL JESUS!

Well torture my ass and condemn me to hell. The horror. Red Bull Jesus.

Haha that’s pretty funny – I love it! I think the advert is great. Of course, I may be biased. Red Bull is, after all, the greatest drink the world has ever beheld.

You see, here is the problem. I asked ANOTHER Christian what he thought of the advert. And THAT Christian loved it. Both Christians talk to Jesus. Christian B reckons Jesus doesn’t have a problem with the ad. Christian A is royally pissed off.

So my question is… which one of them is lying? I mean, before approving it or decrying it… surely they bothered to get the opinion of the figment person deity on who’s behalf they are doing it right? Yea… right.

The religious will never cease to amuse me. Brain. Fail.

Inventing religion

Just because you want it to be true, doesn't mean it is true.

I have a question for… I’m not even sure what to call them. The question is for those people who consider themselves to be Christian but who don’t follow any of the traditional Christian denominations or denominational rules.

My question is this:

How did you come to the conclusion that it was OK for you to invent your own religion and how do you continue to justify it to yourself?

Let me explain.

From my point of view there are several types of Christian. By that, without getting into too much detail, to an average outsider it looks like there are Catholics, Methodists, Anglicans, Baptists and Pentecostals for example. Now I realise that’s not an exhaustive list and even in the few I’ve mentioned there are many sub divisions but I can’t very well list all 38,000 odd denominations. I think this few will serve the purpose.

There are the hard-core fundamentalist Christians and the Biblical literalists who take the religious thing very seriously. Then there are Christians that go to church every Sunday and follow the rules of whichever denomination they belong to and I feel like this is the majority of Christians  – average Christians if you will.

Then you get another kind of Christian. I’ve noticed this new kind of Christian becoming more popular and more prevalent lately. I classify this new kind of Christian into 3 sub groups (as one does with Christian denominations…): Holiday Christians, Creative Christians and Christians-By-Default.

I know a couple in each group and they are the ones I have in mind. Holiday Christians are – and you often find these in the Orthodox denominations – those Christians who go to church for the big holidays like Easter and Christmas and possibly a wedding or the odd communion in between.

Creative Christians are an interesting bunch and they’ve really been popping up everywhere recently. I call them Creative Christians because they say things like “I hate religion but I love god” or “I am a passionate follower of Christ” or “I’m not religious, I follow Jesus”. These people – I really do hesitate to call them Christians since most of them avoid even calling themselves Christian – eschew the standard religious practices in favour of… well, something else. They might even join in when one pokes a bit of fun at their more traditional Christian compatriots and their traditional Christian views. Some Creative Christians even think that religion is a bad thing! I know a couple of people who fall into this category.

And then there are the Christians-By-Default. I know very many people who fall into this category and to be honest, their ‘beliefs’ seem a little bizarre to me. Where the Holiday Christians have re-invented Christianity to be easier to live with while still keeping up pretenses and the Creative Christians have invented an almost entirely new ‘spiritual religion’ loosely based on Christianity, the Christians-By-Default have not bothered to change or re-invent anything, instead watering down a fine, if a bit diverse, two thousand year tradition to a basic, effortless superstition. For example, I know a bunch of people who call themselves ‘Christian’ who have not once in their lives set foot in a church, do not own a Bible and have never read it, who do not normally pray, do pretty nasty things and are generally pretty indecent people. Yet, they firmly believe that they are Christian and will be going to heaven – based purely on the luck of being born into a moderately Christian environment I would imagine.

I have very little respect for any of the three categories. To be fair, I have a really hard time respecting any religious person – for obvious reasons – but I do respect the ones who take their religions seriously a bit more than the ones who don’t. Anybody who claims to believe that there is a God and that eternal happiness and eternal torture is in the balance and doesn’t take it seriously is in my opinion the worst kind of…. stupid? Hypocrite? Fool? I just can’t understand how it’s possible to ‘do religion’ in such a disgustingly half-arsed way. If you believe it’s true, and the consequences are pretty damn severe, it should matter a lot. It should matter much more than anything else in the world matters.

So why doesn’t it I wonder.

The Holiday Christians that I know are a little… perplexing. They love the big orthodox church ceremonies and superstitions. Some of them claim to be Christian but they don’t read the Bible and don’t go to church any other time outside of Christmas or Easter. Some of them claim they think the Bible is rubbish but that ‘there must be something’, ‘there has to be a God’ and ‘there can’t be nothing’. And they flat-out argue this point and insist that one day I too will know (presumably when something bad happens to me). This is confusing. You have to wonder how do they arrive at ‘there must be something’ without even having so much as a Bible to refer to? What evidence could bring them to this conclusion if they admit that the Bible is hogwash and every other religion is wrong? I find their attitude very curious. It seems to me that they’ve invented a fairy tale of their very own to believe in that is really easy to follow since it doesn’t take much to get up early (or stay up late) for church twice a year while still believing you’re going to see dead friends and family in paradise. Convenient; reassuring perhaps, but baseless.

The Christians-By-Default are pretty much useless, some of them even useless as people (at least the ones I have in mind). So intellectually lazy that they couldn’t be bothered to learn the first thing about the religion they claim to be a part of. So ignorant of basic Christian doctrine they’d be hard pressed to state the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament. What’s there to say? They’ve warped a religious belief so much that the convenient superstition that now features briefly in their lives when things get a bit shitty is barely recognisable. And based on what? Nothing but what is the easiest most convenient outcome for them.

And Creative Christians? How did they come up with this new ‘spiritual Christian’ philosophy? How are they getting it right where a billion Catholics are not?

Which is how I got to my original question. How did they come to the conclusion that it would be just dandy to invent their own religion? I guess the answer lies in the 38,000 odd denominations of Christianity. It seems every second Christian invents his or her own flavour.

Do none of them find this strange? They all claim to speak to the same God. Since they all seem to be getting a different message, are they all right? Does God really enjoy this much variety? It seems a little unlikely to me since He picked only the Israelites to be his extra special people back in the beginning and showed the finger (and the ugly edge of genocide) to the rest. And that’s after granting the even more unlikely situation of this deity existing in the first place.

Before you can even begin to answer how it’s OK to invent your own religion, there are several fundamental hurdles a Christian must cross before being able to legitimately invent a new kind of Christianity.

Jesus Christ said point-blank that you have to obey all of the old laws, all 613 of them in the Old Testament. I guess if your new religion includes all the ‘old laws’, no problem there; however, none of the Christianity 2.x religions I describe above do… A bunch of them want to do away with the Bible even (for good reason, it’s chock full of bullshit and contradictions).

Which sort of begs the question of how you know about Jesus Christ without the Bible. They can’t have it both ways: either the Bible is in or its out. If its out, you can’t be a Christian and you have no other way to know about Yahweh.

Unless… Jesus is speaking to them!

But he’s not. It’s simple to prove and any honest Christian could prove it to themselves pretty quickly. They just need to pray to Jesus to put a verifiable fact that they could not possibly know into their brain – preferably one that’s really good and useful like the cure for cancer or a way to end world hunger.

That’s two birds with one stone. Nothing will happen which proves that prayer doesn’t work and Jesus doesn’t talk to anybody.

What about self-labelled ‘passionate followers of Christ’? They might avoid the ‘Christian’ label but the Bible makes a couple of suggestions about ‘following Christ’. Have they sold all their possessions to follow their deity as he suggested? Do they take no thought for the morrow? Do they ever put their own family before their deity? Do they avoid getting rich so that it will be easier to get into heaven? Every single one of the examples I can think of do exactly none of those things. And why not? If they really believe and they sure claim to believe, why do they not do the things Jesus said they should do to increase their chances? Why do they not put everything they have into this belief that is supposed to be the difference between eternal happiness and eternal torture? Or have they also edited out the eternal torture part? I find it very strange that people who claim to believe only do barely enough to satisfy their own conscience or keep up appearances.

How did you come to the conclusion that it was OK for you to invent your own religion and how do you continue to justify it to yourself.

I have a hypothesis.

Holiday Christians are desperate and a little full of crap, Christians-By-Default are flat out lazy and Creative Christians have recognised that Christianity is bullshit but are emotionally invested in it for whatever reason and so are changing arse-backwards bronze age myths into something more palatable, something more ‘modern’, something they can and want to believe but which is no less ridiculous.

If you have a different hypothesis, I’d love to hear it.

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