Monday, November 30, 2009

Gay Hating Christians Help Spread the Love in Africa

A bill currently under consideration in Uganda would make a life sentence the minimum punishment for anyone convicted of having gay sex.  Any "serial offenders" or anyone HIV positive would be given the death penalty.  Of course, these evangelic groups are doing everything they can to stop condom use, so HIV is more of a problem than it should be.  If this sounds like something that the Religious Right in the US would like, you're not far off.  If there antics aren't bad enough in the US, the "compassionate" Fungelicals are spreading their love to Africa.  Key speakers at a March 2009 conference in Uganda were - you guessed it - US evangelists.

When are these people going to wake up?  We have far more pressing issues in this world (e.g., poverty, terrorism, education) than finding out who is fucking whom and what kama sutra position they are using.  If you want to do something useful, something meaningful and constructive - GET OUT OF OTHER PEOPLES BEDROOMS!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Manhattan Declaration - Preamble

The Christian community recently released the Manhattan Declaration to inspire the masses to do better, or in other words, make sure Christian principles are intertwined with the law of the land or refuse to follow them.

Let's examine the Preamble to that document.  I will comment on the remainder at a later date.


Christians are heirs of a 2,000-year tradition of proclaiming God's word, seeking justice in our societies, resisting tyranny, and reaching out with compassion to the poor, oppressed and suffering.

A 2,000-year tradition of seeking justice?  Were the various witch trials justice?  What about the Crusades or the Inquisition?  Maybe.  Afterall, your God demonstrates a rather warped sense of justice all throughout the Bible.

While fully acknowledging the imperfections and shortcomings of Christian institutions and communities in all ages, we claim the heritage of those Christians who defended innocent life by rescuing discarded babies from trash heaps in Roman cities and publicly denouncing the Empire's sanctioning of infanticide.  We remember with reverence those believers who sacrificed their lives by remaining in Roman cities to tend the sick and dying during the plagues, and who died bravely in the coliseums rather than deny their Lord.

They wish to claim the heritage of the good Christians.  Sorry, you have to take the bad with good.  Like it or not your "hertiage" is not that of the purity that you would like to pretend.  While it's great that they acknowledge that they haven't acted perfectly, I would hardly call "imperfections and shortcomings" any substansive acknowledgement of the crimes committed in the name of God, or out of the greed of the Church, or to bring us infidels down a peg or two.
After the barbarian tribes overran Europe, Christian monasteries preserved not only the Bible but also the literature and art of Western culture.  It was Christians who combated the evil of slavery: Papal edicts in the 16th and 17th centuries decried the practice of slavery and first excommunicated anyone involved in the slave trade; evangelical Christians in England, led by John Wesley and William Wilberforce, put an end to the slave trade in that country.  Christians under Wilberforce's leadership also formed hundreds of societies for helping the poor, the imprisoned, and child laborers chained to machines.

I am not an expert on European history, so maybe it was Christians who combated slavery in Europe.  However, in America, the Christians were divided on the issue with plenty of clergy defending slavery based on Biblical writings.  This declaration likes to project the image that only Christians were involved or that they were at the forefront, but prominent leaders in the abolishionist and women's sufferage movements were Freethinkers.  People like Frederick Douglass, Lucy Colman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Susan B. Anthony (although Anthony's religious views were not as radical as the others, she continued to move away from religion her entire life).

In Europe, Christians challenged the divine claims of kings and successfully fought to establish the rule of law and balance of governmental powers, which made modern democracy possible.  And in America, Christian women stood at the vanguard of the suffrage movement.  The great civil rights crusades of the 1950s and 60s were led by Christians claiming the Scriptures and asserting the glory of the image of God in every human being regardless of race, religion, age or class.

As noted, above, the vanguard of the women's suffrage movement were Freethinkers.

This same devotion to human dignity has led Christians in the last decade to work to end the dehumanizing scourge of human trafficking and sexual slavery, bring compassionate care to AIDS sufferers in Africa, and assist in a myriad of other human rights causes - from providing clean water in developing nations to providing homes for tens of thousands of children orphaned by war, disease and gender discrimination.

Bringing compassionate care to AIDS sufferers in Africa?  Have they heard of Pope Ratzinger?  He continues to condemn condom use to fight AIDS and even claims that they have a negative impact.  He is not alone.  There are Protestant groups that are also against contraception.

Like those who have gone before us in the faith, Christians today are called to proclaim the Gospel of costly grace, to protect the intrinsic dignity of the human person and to stand for the common good.  In being true to its own calling, the call to discipleship, the church through service to others can make a profound contribution to the public good.

They are only interested in protecting the dignity of those who believe like them.  Gays and atheists need not apply.

Abolute Certainty

I recently had a discussion with an Evangelical Christian that I know about the possibility of being wrong in her belief. I asked, "My question is, despite your certainty, are you willing to admit that in the end, the possibility exists that you are wrong?".  Her response, "Nope!!! Because I know Jesus is real so therefore I can't be wrong!!!".

To me this is the problem with some of the Fungelical Right.  They will not even allow for the possibility that they could be mistaken - no possibility whatsoever.  Couple that arrogant certainty about their perception with the negative aspects of their religion, throw in a little politics, and you have a recipe for disaster.  They have the potential to become no different than those Christians that  burned witches in the past or the Taliban today.

These Christians have a worldview. Fine. We all do. But when something arises that conflicts with my worldview, I examine it, question it, and gather more information to either confirm or reject it. If I get enough evidence, I abandon that part of my worldview. It matters to me if I am actually right or wrong; it is not enough to just think that I am right, I want proof. They do the opposite, apparently. If something disagrees with their preset worldview, they automatically reject it instead of examining both to see which is correct.  They have absolute certainty that they are infallible.  Hey, everyone's the Pope!

The only way they can be absolutely certain is to have absolute knowledge. Anything less than absolute knowledge would allow for some piece of information to exist that disproves their position. If no god exists, then as far as I know, no being has absolute knowledge, so therefore, anyone would be mistaken (delusional) to claim it. If a god does exist, then god would (by most definitions) have absolute knowledge, so that means that they each think that they must be god since they have this absolute knowledge and certainty. Sorry to disappoint them, but gods they aren't.

These types of people are not open-minded by any stretch of the imagination.  If you are not open, then you are closed. A closed mind is a dead mind.  Seriously, anyone who has absolute certainty that they cannot be wrong, that it is impossible for them to be wrong, has a serious god complex.

Mental slavery is mental death, and every man who has given up his intellectual freedom is the living coffin of his dead soul. - Robert G. Ingersoll

Monday, November 23, 2009

Free Speech in Opposition To Religion - As Long As It's Not Mine.

The ACLJ (The Angry Christians League of Justice) is all fired up about the UN “Defamation of Religion” Resolution and so am I.  I agree with them that this would be a bad idea.  It limits free speech which is the cornerstone of our Constitution.  They want to remain free to attack Islam as much as they want – and they should be able to.  Heck, I’ll even join them in that fight. 

But this same group also supported the PERA Act ("Public Expression of Religion Act") which essentially would have silenced advocates of Church - State separation.  PERA would have made it prohibitively expensive to bring a lawsuit for violations of Church – State separation due to the requirement to eliminate reimbursement for court costs when the plaintiff actually won the case!  It would have denied people the ability to bring lawsuits when their rights were violated because they would have to pay for court costs even if they proved that their rights had been violated.  It, in effect, would have removed their ability to speak freely about certain religious issues.  Fortunately, this bill never became law.

I would find it laughable, if it wasn’t such a serious subject.  Essentially, the ACLJ is fine with limited disagreement with Christianity, but oh boy don’t you dare keep us from bashing Islam.  It’s hypocrisy at its finest.

Show Yourself

God, if he exists, has the knowledge to determine exactly what it would take to convince me of his existence.  He has the power to make it happen, whatever it may be.  And yet, curiously, he refuses to do so.  Some Christians would insist that he has already done this and I have just ignored it.  I doubt it.  I don’t think I could miss the kind of evidence that I would require.  The whole planet would know if God demonstrated his existence in a manner that I would accept as proof.  

Others would say that it would violate my free will if he interfered and that I must come to him on my own.  Bull.  Providing real evidence of his existence WOULD make me a believer, I agree; but only a believer in the sense that god exists.  It WOULD NOT make me a follower; I would still have my free will to reject his message- and believe me I would.    His message is one of cruelty and injustice, nothing even close to what a “God” should be.  I am more moral than the god of the Bible and so is almost everyone on the planet (maybe there are a few as bad as him, maybe).

So what is he so afraid of?  He can’t violate my free will and I already reject his message, so that can’t be it.  Why doesn’t he prove he exists if he really loves me and wants me to join him in heaven?  Because, he doesn’t exist.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Over the past few years, several cases of children dying because their parents prayed instead of seeking medical help have come to the public's attention (e.g., Madeline NeumannKent SchaibleAva Worthington, and Neil Beagley).  If this wasn't bad enough, now the court is showing it's favoritism to religion by handing down slaps on the wrist instead throwing the book at these monsters.  Instead of giving them the 25-year prison sentence that they could have (should have) received, the court handed down a sentence of six months in jail (to be served one month a year) and 10 years' probation.

This is absolutely ridiculous and gets my blood boiling.  If this were anybody else they would have put them away for as long as possible, but put religion in the mix and suddenly they back off.  Why?  Why does this country continue to show deference to religious systems that allow such cruelty?  Religion has not even proven itself to be real and yet we have to tiptoe lightly when the subject comes up and respect the beliefs of others.  Well I don't.  I don't respect any belief system that would allow such stupidity and suffering.

For once I find myself wishing that Hell were real because these parents and the judge that sentenced them belong there.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Twenty Five Years Too Late, Oprah

Oprah has announced that after 25 years her talk show will end its run in 2011.  It's about time.  I have no doubt that Oprah is well meaning and has had the best of intentions while hosting her show, but she has been the single biggest showcase for alternative medicine nutjobs and other purveyors of nonsense.

People like "psychic medium" James Van Praagh "communicating" with the dead, Jenny McCarthy with her anti-vaccination propaganda, Suzanne Somers and bizarre and dangerous cancer cures, and Rhonda Byrnes with the wishful thinking of "The Secret" are but a small sampling of the guests that Oprah has unashamedly promoted on the show.  The misinformation that these guests spout ranges from laughable to the outright deadly.

Oprah has made billions with the show, magazine, and other ventures benefiting from the gullibility of her audience.  She has taken no responsibility for the dangerous trash that these guests have tried to sell to the American public.  But you are responsible Oprah.  You have built an empire and have great wealth and power.  To quote Uncle Ben Parker (of Spiderman fame): "With great power comes great responsibility."  It's time that you start recognizing the impact that you have and take the appropriate actions to ensure that you are not endangering the lives of your fans by supporting these wackos on your show.

Goodbye Oprah.  It's 25 years too late, but goodbye and good riddance.

Right to Life?

According to a Pew Research Center Forum Survey, 74% of white, evangelical protestants think that abortion is morally wrong.  However, another survey from Pew, indicates that the same percentage, 74%, of white, evangelical protestants support the death penalty.  It seem ironic to me that the "Right to Life" group is so heavily in favor of taking life.

I know that these are not exactly the same people (i.e., some anti-abortionists are also anti-death penalty), but the trend is clear among this group - the right to life only applies to the beginning.  Sure, the people sentenced to death were found guilty and the fetuses are innocent, I understand that.  But with the number of death row inmates that have been set free because of new DNA evidence that shows that they were not the guilty party, I would think that we would be a little less diligent in carrying out executions or supporting them.  What ever happened to "judge not lest ye be judged" or "turn the other cheek"?  I am not suggesting that these prisoners should not be tried and convicted just that the viewpoint of the white, evangelical protestants is inconsistent.  Why do they not support life equally?  It seems that protecting the lives of the living is less important to them than  protecting the lives of those yet to be born.

Blasphemy Laws be Damned.

The recent push by Islamic nations to have a United Nations treaty to ban blasphemy is ridiculous - and unfortunately gaining traction.  It is a pressure to which the United States must never succumb.

I live in the United States were we have both freedom of religion and freedom of speech; two rights which I deeply cherish. Other countries do not always have these rights; however, I support anyone in those countries or the U.S. who demands them and fights for them.  While I am an atheist, I will strongly defend anyone to have whatever religious beliefs they wish.  I may not support how they act upon them if they result in oppression of others or cause harm, but I support their right to hold such beliefs.  But we must also have free speech if we are to have the freedom we require to express our religious beliefs.  This may involve expressing ourselves in ways that offend others of differing viewpoints.  Too bad.  You have the right to believe what you wish and to express those thoughts, but you do not have the right to not be offended.  Sorry, but that is the price you pay to have the right to freely express your religious beliefs.

As an atheist, I am constantly subjected to hate speech that could be taken as offensive.  I wouldn't have it any other way.  I wouldn't want any government to stifle the speech of the theists that attack my morality - or lack thereof in their view.  My task is to quiet them by convincing them that they are wrong, not by legislating their silence.

In my opinion, any country that does not guarantee the right to free speech is not properly free.  We should never bow to the pressure of other countries, no matter what the risk, if it compromises the core principles on which this country was founded.

Related Quote:
“This crime called blasphemy was invented by priests for the purpose of defending doctrines not able to take care of themselves” - Robert Green Ingersoll

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Where is the Church’s Compassion?

From the website, Catholic Answers, comes the following:

In 1968, Pope Paul VI issued his landmark encyclical letter Humanae Vitae (Latin, "Human Life"), which reemphasized the Church’s constant teaching that it is always intrinsically wrong to use contraception to prevent new human beings from coming into existence.

Contraception is "any action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act [sexual intercourse], or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" (Humanae Vitae 14). This includes sterilization, condoms and other barrier methods, spermicides, coitus interruptus(withdrawal method), the Pill, and all other such methods.

Of course the site backs this up by Scriptural references:

The Bible mentions at least one form of contraception specifically and condemns it. Coitus interruptus, was used by Onan to avoid fulfilling his duty according to the ancient Jewish law of fathering children for one’s dead brother. "Judah said to Onan, ‘Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.’ But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother. And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he slew him also" (Gen. 38:8–10).

The biblical penalty for not giving your brother’s widow children was public humiliation, not death (Deut. 25:7–10). But Onan received death as punishment for his crime. This means his crime was more than simply not fulfilling the duty of a brother-in-law. He lost his life because he violated natural law, as Jewish and Christian commentators have always understood. For this reason, certain forms of contraception have historically been known as "Onanism," after the man who practiced it, just as homosexuality has historically been known as "Sodomy," after the men of Sodom, who practiced that vice (cf. Gen. 19).

Uh, that’s it.  Onan deliberately defies God and is killed.  Perhaps the reason he was killed was because he disobeyed God, not specifically because he “spilled his seed”.  I don’t see how you can go from this one instance of coitus interruptus to a broad prohibition against contraception in general.

So under any and all circumstances, contraception should never be used – never.  So, apparently, if your spouse has a sexually transmitted disease, you should either never have sex again or risk getting the disease as well as potentially passing it on to a child.  If you already have as many children as you can afford to raise properly with adequate food and clothing, then again you should simply stop having sex or get a second job to pay for another child.  Of course all this extra work would leave you little time to spend with the new child, but that appears not to be a concern.  If your wife has some medical condition that would make childbirth a fatal proposition for her, well, too bad – no sex for you, or you could go ahead and have sex and potentially kill your wife.

These are just a few instances where contraception would be a vital part of a healthy marriage, I’m sure there are others as well.   Risk disease, death, and poverty or simply don’t have sex – some choice.  Where is the Church's compassion?

Are There No True Believers?

John 14: 12-14
14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
14:13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14:14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
Matthew 18:19-20
19"Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 
20For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

So, if you believe in Jesus, he will do anything that you ask? Anything? What if what you ask is immoral? There doesn’t seem to be any qualifier here, but let’s assume that he means morally acceptable requests. It seems reasonable that people would understand that he means that.

Billions of people claim to believe in Jesus and from some that I know or have met, I would say that at least some of them are being totally honest. Of these billions, if only one percent honestly believed in Jesus that would still be tens of millions of true believers.

So have none of these true believers ever asked for an end to hunger, poverty, war, disease, prejudice? Have none asked for world peace? Have none asked for Jesus to provide more evidence for non-believers so that all could come to Jesus? It doesn’t appear that any have. I can only think of a few explanations for this:

(1) No one has ever asked.
(2) No two true believers have ever been together and asked at the same time.
(3) Jesus lied.
(4) The whole story is fiction.

Possibility #2 seems unreasonable given the sheer number of believers. Option #1 would indicate that every single person who has every prayed has prayed selfishly. They have only prayed for themselves or close friends and relatives. But still, even if everyone only prayed for themselves or friends and family, the number of people involved would have covered nearly everyone on Earth. And yet we still have hunger, poverty, etc.

Given the outcome of prayer for Madeline Neumann, Kent Schaible, Ava Worthington, and Neil Beagley - all were children who died because the parents prayed instead of seeking treatment that would have easily cured their child - Jesus clearly didn't live up to his promise. So the most likely options are #3 and #4.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Faith or Reason

Critical Thinking
Focused, organized thinking about such things as the logical relationships among ideas, the soundness of evidence, and the differences between fact and opinion.

Characterized by assertion of unproved or unprovable principles.

Belief without, or in spite of logical proof or material evidence.

One who holds that God is unknown or unknowable.

One who does not believe that there is a god.

Those who believe in god do not rely on evidence for proof, but instead accept the existence of god on faith. In a discussion, they may occasionally try to use certain information as evidence, but ultimately they claim faith is sufficient.  If they hold these views without trying to impose their beliefs on the rest of us, then I have no major issues with them.  I simply disagree with them and hope that they will start to critically examine what they believe.

Unfortunately, this group lends support to those that I do have a major issues with --- the dogmatic faithful.  This group generally asserts that God exists, the Bible is the revealed word of God, and only through a belief in Jesus does our life have any meaning, period!  It is this group that tries to push their beliefs on the rest of us through any means possible.  Their only justification for what they believe is that the Bible says so.  They do not examine the Bible or church dogma critically.  They praise blind allegiance and are in opposition to any investigation of truth other than the Bible.  They stifle scientific progress and the benefits to mankind that flows from it (e.g., stem cell research, genetic therapies derived from evolutionary theory, AIDS prevention through contraception).

Atheism is simply a lack of a belief in god.  Some atheists believe that it is impossible to know if god exists, while others believe it is possible to make the determination, at least in theory.  So you can have agnostic atheists and gnostic atheists.  Atheism does not mean that someone is stating emphatically that god does not exist.  While some individuals may hold this view, it is not the common position.

Atheists do not base their lack of belief on any dogma or ancient scripture.  They use their minds and critical thinking skills to examine the evidence and to draw the most reasonable conclusions from the available information.  We are willing to change our views in light of new evidence - the dogmatic faithful are not.

Many people often mistake attacks on the Bible as examples of atheists being as dogmatic as the faithful.  This is not true.  A critical review of the Bible shows many contradictions and scenarios that are inconsistent with certain concepts of god.  If we define god with certain defined characteristics and then show evidence of inconsistencies related to that definition, then we can say emphatically that that particular definition of god cannot be correct.

Religion Does Not Inspire Morality

Morality: A system of conduct relating to principles of right and wrong.

Far too often we hear preachers or other religious believers ask:
 "If you don't believe in god, then where do you get your morality from?"
They don't ask us if we are moral or examine our lives to see if we are moral, instead they focus on the source of our morality.  Why? Some may ask for legitimate reasons and actually be curious to understand, but I would suspect most do it to divert the subject away from the truth - the truth that you do not need a god or a holy book to be moral.

If religious believe is the superior method of obtaining morality, then we should see believers acting in a moral fashion, but do we?

Let's compare two groups at opposite ends of the spectrum - Catholic Priests and the American Academy of Science. The former is a highly devout religious group that has devoted their lives to practicing their religious beliefs and instructing others.  The other group has a very high percentage of atheists (~90%).  Which group do we see molesting children with a higher frequency?  The priests.  I realize that this is just a small segment of the population, but if the religious method is so much more superior to the secular method, these two groups should not even be close let alone reversed.

We see scandals among high profile religious leaders (e.g., Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Baker, Jesse Jackson).  We continually hear about scandals with politicians and we all know that an atheist doesn't have a prayer of being elected.  The prisons are full of Christians and "born-again" Christians.

Oh, there will be the excuses that we are still dealing with humans and therefore believers still occasionally act immoral.  But one would think that the stronger their believe the more moral they would be. Their believe in god would sustain them through the temptation to commit 'sin'. But as we can see from the groups and individuals mentioned above that even the most devout still commit horribly immoral acts.

As an atheist, I have never committed the immoral acts that these individual have.  Maybe they should consider atheism.

While this data is not representative of an exhaustive quantitative analysis, it does illustrate that even people that are devoutly religious can be immoral. It's no wonder.  Just look at the morality of their god.

Examples of "Biblical Morality"
- Old Testament -

God murders or commands others to commit murder several times in the Bible - usually to take land for his 'Chosen' people.
God kills everything on the planet during the flood.
God kills the innocent firstborn children and animals of Egypt.
God relentlessly demands animal sacrifices throughout the Bible.
God commands people to stone a man to death simply for picking up sticks on the sabbath.
God commands parents to stone their unruly children.
Women that cannot prove virginity at marriage are to be stoned.  - No such rule exits for men.
God never condemns slavery.

Examples of "Biblical Morality"
- New Testament -

Jesus introduces the idea that nonbelievers will be tortured forever for finite sins.
Jesus supports the Old Testament Law - every 'jot and tittle' - which includes the violence noted above.
Jesus states that he is not here to bring peace, but a sword. He intends to set family members against each other.  So much for the 'family values' we hear about from the Conservative Christian Fundamentalists.
Jesus speaks in parables so that people will not be able understand his message and so, go to hell.
Jesus casts out demons and sends them into innocent pigs which then hurl over a cliff.
In Revelation, the Bible describes grisly scenes of murder and mayhem. Why not just vaporize us all?
Jesus never condemns slavery.

While this list is clearly does not cite all of the examples in the Bible, it does give a little flavor of the Bible's idea of what is moral.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What Sacrifice?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Allowing innocent substitutes to be sacrificed and blaming subsequent generations for the crimes of their ancestors is a commonly accepted practice of this just and loving god.

So god makes the rules, doesn't want to enforce the rules, but can't change the rules because that would not make him look too godly.  So he concocts this bizarre arrangement to sacrifice himself to himself to appease himself.  If we decide to look at this rationally and do not accept the validity of a substitute sacrifice or doubt that god actually sacrificed anything, this loving god sends us to eternal torment.  Nice huh?  Give us a rational mind and then punish us for using it.

And what exactly was sacrificed?  Jesus was God, after all, and was resurrected just a few days later.  A day of torture (and you knew it all beforehand because you arranged it all) an eternity of bliss sitting beside, er - yourself?

Does any of this convoluted story sound like the work of an all-knowing, all-loving god?  Does it make any sort of sense?  It doesn't to me. If we are to believe the Bible, then this vengeful, bloodthirsty god of the Old Testament suddenly felt sorry for us and tried to give us a way out - a crazy, nonsensical way out - but a way out nonetheless.  But if we don't accept it, he rapidly goes back to his old ways, actually worse ways because Hell didn't exist in the Old Testament.

I don't know if any gods exists or not. I am extremely doubtful.  I don't see any logical reason to believe, but I could be wrong.  But if a god exists, he certainly cannot be as described in the Bible; at least one would hope not. This 'sacrifice' story is just one of several issues in the Bible that do not depict a being that is even close to being what I would consider "God-like".  If I am more ethical and rational, then it is not a god.

Intolerant, Loving Christians

A pro-atheist billboard in Cincinnati was removed due to threats to the owner of the land where the billboard was located.  The message was simple and not offensive at all: "Don't Believe In God? You are not alone."  And yet some thin-skinned, hypersensitive Christians had to spread their Christian message of love and compassion, intolerance and bigotry and threatened the landowner. Why?  This billboard did not say there was no god or say anything malicious about religion - contrary to some Christian signs that I have personally observed which tell me that I am damned to burn in Hell for eternity (just travel to Arkansas or Mississippi sometime).

This situation reminds me of an Ingersoll quote that I have on a T-shirt: “This crime called blasphemy was invented by priests for the purpose of defending doctrines not able to take care of themselves”

If Christianity (or any other theistic religion) was true, it wouldn't need to be defended by blasphemy laws or ignorant thugs.

Friday, November 13, 2009

You’re Asking the Wrong Questions.

As atheists, we are often asked questions such as “What do atheists think about X?” or “What would you replace religion with, if your remove it? or “Why do you hate god?”  You are asking the wrong questions.
“What do atheists think about X?”

Why are these wrong questions?  Well, firstly, Atheism is not a detailed philosophy or set of beliefs.  Atheism is simply a response to one question, “Do you believe in a God?”  If you answer “No”, then you are an atheist.  That’s it.  There is nothing else that you can say about a person that claims to be an atheist.  While many of us generally have similar beliefs, there is no common set of beliefs that can be called “Atheism”, just the one statement about a belief in the existence of god.  So when you ask a question such as “What do atheists think about X?” we can only really tell you what our individual position is on the question at hand.  A better question is “What do YOU think about X?”

“What would you replace religion with, if your remove it?”

Nothing.  I believe religion to be like a disease.  It spreads from person to person throughout generations infected their believe systems.  It makes good people do bad things to other people based on what their particular scripture requires.  Some people appear to have a natural immunity to the disease (the non-believers) and others only carry the disease (those that claim to be Christians, Muslims, etc., but don’t actually believe that their “holy” book is infallible or should be taken literally).  So, if I could eliminate a disease from society, why would I want to replace it with something else?  Imagine a doctor telling his patient, “John, we have eradicated your cancer.  What would you like to have in its place? Smallpox, diphtheria, anthrax, or Alzheimer’s?  So again, it’s the wrong question.  People are generally good and they will continue to do good things with or without religion – millions of atheists do everyday – but some will do evil in the name of religion, so why would I want to replace that?

“Why do you hate god?”

That one is simple.  We don’t.  It is completely irrational to hate something that you don’t think exists.  What we “hate” is the cruelty and injustice perpetrated by people in the name of religion.   We are against those that try to force their particular religious beliefs on the rest of us by introducing religious tenets into secular law or secular activities (e.g., creationism in public schools, laws against gay marriage or abortion).  We are against those that pretend to offer charity, but attach religious strings to it or those that spread lies to defend their religious position (e.g., stating the condoms contribute to AIDS in order to promote abstinence only education).
Personally, I don’t hate god because he isn’t real; however, if the god of the bible were real and the bible were an accurate portrayal of god, I would despise him.  Not because he is god, but because he is cruel, unjust, and unfit to have the title “God”.

So, again, the wrong question.  We don’t hate god, we hate what he often appears to promote and what his followers do in his name.

A better question.

A better question is “Why do you believe in god?”  Why do you believe in a deity that is so cruel, violent, homophobic, misogynistic, and blood-thirsty?  And if you are either against these parts of his character or don’t believe that this is his character, why do you continue to support the religion and the scriptures that clearly illustrate him in that manner?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Character of God: The Book of Job

The Book of Job is often held up as an example of God’s mercy and goodness. If only we believe in God and do not turn from him even in bad times, we will be rewarded with God’s grace and mercy. After all, in the end, after everything Job had been through he did not turn from God and God rewarded him as described in Job 42:12-17.

42:12 So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses.
42:13 He had also seven sons and three daughters.
42:14 And he called the name of the first, Jemima; and the name of the second, Kezia; and the name of the third, Kerenhappuch.
42:15 And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren.
42:16 After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons' sons, even four generations.
42:17 So Job died, being old and full of days.

But let’s examine this “mercy” and “goodness” from God a little bit more.

1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.

According to Job 1:1, Job was “perfect”, “feared god”, and “eschewed evil”. And God being all-knowing, would know that this was because Job was truly a good man and not just because he had been successful. However, God goes along with Satan’s plan to test Job – he actually gives his permission for Satan to do anything he wishes as long as he doesn’t actually kill Job. Anything.

1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.
1:7 And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
1:8 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?
1:9 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?
1:10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
1:11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
1:12 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.
1:13 And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house:
1:14 And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them:
1:15 And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
1:16 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
1:17 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
1:18 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house:
1:19 And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

Matthew Henry’s commentary on the above is as follows:
Job's afflictions began from the malice of Satan, by the Lord's permission, for wise and holy purposes.
Satan brought Job's troubles upon him on the day that his children began their course of feasting. The troubles all came upon Job at once; while one messenger of evil tidings was speaking, another followed. His dearest and most valuable possessions were his ten children; news is brought him that they are killed. They were taken away when he had most need of them to comfort him under other losses. In God only have we a help present at all times. (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary,
Malice of Satan? God clearly gave his permission to Satan to do these horrible acts against Job. While Satan may be malicious, God is clearly no better as he allowed an innocent, pious man to be punished in the worst way possible – by the loss of his children. For any parent, this is a fate worse than death. But God has no problem with it and Henry states that it is for “wise and holy purposes”. Wise and holy purposes? How does this show wisdom or holiness? God already knew the final outcome as he knew Job’s heart and mind; Job was already “god-fearing”. Did God do this to teach Satan a “wise” lesson? If so, couldn’t he have done it in a manner that didn’t require the deaths of Job’s children? There is no shred of wisdom or compassion shown by God in this story.

Henry says “In God only have we a help present at all times”. Excuse me? Help at all times? God not only didn’t help Job, he authorized the whole thing. With friends like that, who needs Satan?
Since Job refused to rebuke God, Satan and old Jehovah tried again.

2:1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD.
2:2 And the LORD said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
2:3 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.
2:4 And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life.
2:5 But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.
2:6 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.
2:7 So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.
2:8 And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes.

So after additional God-sanctioned torment, Job still refuses to turn away from God. And his reward?

42:10 And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.
42:11 Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold.
42:12 So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses.
42:13 He had also seven sons and three daughters.
42:14 And he called the name of the first, Jemima; and the name of the second, Kezia; and the name of the third, Kerenhappuch.
42:15 And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren.
42:16 After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons' sons, even four generations.
42:17 So Job died, being old and full of days.

Notice Job 42:11: “and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him”. This verse gets it right: the evil that the LORD had brought upon him. The rest of the chapter goes on to indicate that God had blessed Job more at the end of his life than at the beginning. Matthew Henry’s commentary on chapter 42 explains further:
In the beginning of this book we had Job's patience under his troubles, for an example; here, for our encouragement to follow that example, we have his happy end. His troubles began in Satan's malice, which God restrained; his restoration began in God's mercy, which Satan could not oppose. Mercy did not return when Job was disputing with his friends, but when he was praying for them. God is served and pleased with our warm devotions, not with our warm disputes. God doubled Job's possessions. We may lose much for the Lord, but we shall not lose any thing by him. Whether the Lord gives us health and temporal blessings or not, if we patiently suffer according to his will, in the end we shall be happy. Job's estate increased. The blessing of the Lord makes rich; it is he that gives us power to get wealth, and gives success in honest endeavours. The last days of a good man sometimes prove his best, his last works his best works, his last comforts his best comforts; for his path, like that of the morning light, shines more and more unto the perfect day.
“His troubles began in Satan's malice, which God restrained”; what restraint? The fact that Job wasn’t killed is supposed to be restraint? Apparently our families are worthless in God’s eyes; as long as we stay alive to worship him, which is all that matters.

“God doubled Job's possessions. We may lose much for the Lord, but we shall not lose anything by him.”. Job lost everything of importance by God’s will. And apparent as long as you end up with a new family in the end, the loss of the old one is no big deal.

I have read several commentaries, posts, and other explanations of the Book of Job, but no matter what anyone says, I still do not see how this shows God in a good light. In my opinion, it shows God as an accomplice to murder, destruction of property, and biological attacks. It illustrates how God is willing to do anything to prove that the only thing that matters is worshipping him. Job’s life, his pain and suffering, meant nothing to God; all that mattered was showing Satan, that Job would be dumb enough to still cling to God. And to God, what’s the big deal, a little inconvenience for Job, after all he restored it all in the end (except of course his kids, he had to get new ones. He sure showed that Satan, didn’t he. Now pay up Satan, you lost the bet. What was the wager anyway? Oh, yeah, that’s right, God was playing with our lives.
Fortunately, I don’t believe in God or Bible as any sort of revealed truth about God; it’s just another big book of fairy tales. But for those who do believe in it, how can you possibly think that God is good or just or merciful in any meaningful sense of those words?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Lies and Consequences – Part I

I despise lies.  Big ones, little ones, white lies, and more nefarious ones – I despise them all.    Most of the little lies, the white lies are told to spare someone’s feelings or to avoid a perceived confrontation.    You know the kind where the obese woman asks her husband if “these jeans make my ass look fat?” and he replies “No, dear.  They look fine”.  Sorry, that’s not me.  If I am asked that I would answer honestly, “No dear, it’s not the jeans that make your ass look fat”.  I don’t reserve this just for others either, I think I am honest with myself.  I am fat, bald, old, sometimes arrogant, and overly enthusiastic about new found things (e.g., ideas, books, etc.). 

To me, the worst lies are those that you know are lies the moment that they are told – while the very words are leaving their tongues (or fingertips in the case of written lies).  You know, you filmed your kid with your camera phone doing something that they didn’t know you knew about and later they deny it.   I would prefer, or should I say demand, that others are honest with me.  When you lie and the lie is found out, you lose credibility with me.  Suddenly, I start to question whether other things you have told (or will tell) me are also lies.  It takes a very long time to truly regain my trust.

If I get so upset and mistrusting about the little “innocent” lies, imagine how I feel about the big ones.  And some of the biggest of all are being spread by the likes of Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis, The Creation Museum), Ray Comfort (“You Can Lead an Atheist…”), and other fundamentalists.  They lie about the lack of any transitional fossils in the fossil record.  They are there; go to any good natural history museum.  It’s an outright lie.  They lie about the age of the Earth being in the thousands rather than billions of years, but the science is there to back it up.  It’s another lie.  Comfort lies about what atheists believe (something comes from nothing) and what evolution is (“A dog never gave birth to a non-dog.  But that’s what atheist believe.”)  Both hogwash.  If one accepts the time tested Law of Conservation of Energy, then how could we possibly believe that something came from nothing?  An no one even slightly knowledgeable about evolution believes that it works the way Comfort describes it - as one vastly different species coming from another; such as a cat from a dog.  It’s all lies and there are many more related to abortion, contraception, morality, etc. - I'll get to those in another post.

By telling these lies, they have lost all credibility with me, not that they had much to begin with I’ll freely admit.  When I can so clearly see that these are lies, how can I possibly be expected to believe their bigger message about religion?  As much as I want these guys to fail at their evangelism, I want to offer them a little advise: choose your battles carefully and be honest.   They need to start looking at the facts and dealing with things honestly.  Then, maybe, if anything they have to offer about religion is good and meaningful; more people might take them seriously.  It would be more helpful in furthering their cause.  Of course, if they actually did stick to the truth and were completely honest, their cause would fade away into the dust of make-believe from which it comes.  Sorry guys, I guess it’s a no-win situation for you.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The "Real" Ten Commandments

In recent years, we have witnessed lawsuit after lawsuit about Ten Commandments monuments and plaques on public lands.  This post is not about whether they should or shouldn’t be allowed to stay (they shouldn’t), but concerns what people are arguing about in the first place.

We consistently see an image of stone tablets with the Ten Commandments:

(1) Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
(2) Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…
(3) Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain…
(4)  Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
(5)  Honour thy father and thy mother.
(6)  Thou shalt not kill.
(7)  Thou shalt not commit adultery.
(8)  Thou shalt not steal.
(9)  Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
(10)  Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife …

These commandments are listed (with some additional verbage) in Exodus 20:3-17.  But there is no mention of stone tablets and in Exodus 21 through Exodus 23 the commandments continue in great length – far more than ten.

The actual commandments specified on the stone tablets are defined in Exodus 34.  After Moses breaks the originals, Exodus 34:1 describes the remaking of these tablets:

1And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest.
 2And be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me in the top of the mount.
 3And no man shall come up with thee, neither let any man be seen throughout all the mount; neither let the flocks nor herds feed before that mount.
 4And he hewed two tables of stone like unto the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone.

 And then in Exodus 34:10-28, God quotes the commandments for Moses:

 10And he said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the LORD: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee.
 11Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite.
 12Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee:
 13But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves:
 (1) 14For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:
 15Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice;
 16And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.
 (2) 17Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.
 (3) 18The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, as I commanded thee, in the time of the month Abib: for in the month Abib thou camest out from Egypt.
 (4) 19All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male.
 20But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou break his neck. All the firstborn of thy sons thou shalt redeem. And none shall appear before me empty.
 (5) 21Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest.
 (6) 22And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year's end.
 (7) 23Thrice in the year shall all your menchildren appear before the LORD God, the God of Israel.
(8)  24For I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders: neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the LORD thy God thrice in the year.
 (9) 25Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left unto the morning.
(10) 26The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.
 27And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.
 28And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.

Here we finally get the phrase “The Ten Commandments”, but these are not the same commandments we see on courthouse lawns.  Why?  Maybe because they don’t support the Fundamentalist viewpoint that United States law is based on “The Ten Commandments”.  Let’s see:

The 1st and 2nd have to do with worshipping God – no laws there.
The 3rd and 6th have to do with a festival/celebration – no law for that one.
The 4th has to do with sacrifice and depending on how you interpret it, possibly human sacrifice (what exactly does redeem mean in this instance?) – again, no law.
The 5th – resting on the Sabbath, mmm, some local “blue laws”, but nothing of any moral or ethical significance.
The 7th – appearing before the Lord? – no law.
The 8th – not really a commandment, just a statement, but it actually appears to be part of the 7th, so maybe I misnumbered them.  But then it appears to only be nine commandments.
The 9th – again ritual and sacrifice – no law.
And finally, the 10th has to do with bring food to the temple and prohibitions on cooking lamb.

Do you see a theme here?  I do: worship god, observe festivals and food rituals, and oh yes, properly cook your lamb!  There is absolutely nothing of value in these commandments.  They are completely without any moral or ethical substance or significance.  Instead of saying don’t steal or murder or rape, etc. he makes sure that the commandments that were permanently etched in stone, not once, but twice, consisted of pure crap.
So if you are going to argue that “The Ten Commandments” need to be posted on public land because they form the basis of our country’s legal system, I think you need to reread your Bible.

Monday, November 02, 2009

The Character of God: The Flood

The Flood

For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.
(Genesis 7:4)


 “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.”
(Genesis 6:5-7)

Were the animals evil?  Why would god destroy every living thing on the planet just because mankind was wicked?  Why not just destroy mankind?  I can think of no legitimate reason for killing everything, except perhaps god acting out of pure rage, not thinking clearly of the consequences.  Rage? God? Yes.

“for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me”
(Exodus 20:5)

I think this clearly shows that god, as described in the Bible, is certainly capable of jealousy and rage.  After all, in the Exodus passage above, he is punishing those that haven’t even been born for the “sins” of their fathers.  At the very least he is demonstrating his capacity for injustice.

We have all heard of the flood and Noah’s ark and in Sunday School and elsewhere they try to make it “cute” for kids.  You know, a little wooden ark, with a giraffe, some sheep, etc. - a warm and cuddly scene.  They never really explain exactly what the flood would have been like.  Think about it – rain for forty days and nights.  Water would be rising steadily and after awhile, people would begin to panic.  They would be climbing onto buildings, but the water would continue to rise.  The disabled and the elderly would be unable to climb and so succumb to the waters.  Children would see their parents, grandparents, and friends frantically trying to keep their head above water only to lose the battle and drown before their eyes.  Dead bodies of animals would float by the rooftops and trees that the tentative survives were desperately grasping.  Children would die; pregnant women would die along with their unborn children – so much for god being against abortion.  Imagine the fear and agony involved with drowning.  Have you ever been underwater in a pool and no longer able to hold your breath, but not yet close to the water’s surface?  A sort of panic sets in.  Now imagine that terror magnified by the site of your spouse and children drowning next to you as you realize that you too will not survive.  Imagine what your children would be going through and imagine this whole thing spread over the entire population of the planet, including all of the animals.  The scene is unbelievable horrific.

And yet, this is the method god supposedly chose to punish humanity (and everything else) for being “wicked”.  But why punish humanity, if he was ultimately going to let them die?  If he was unhappy with their behavior, why not just instantly annihilate them?  Why all of the pain and torture?  Oh, that’s right, I forgot, I was talking about the loving god of the Bible.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Prayer in God's Plan

Prayer in God's Plan

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. 
(Matt. 6:5-6)

If God has a plan, then that plan would be based on the total available knowledge of the universe. We should expect that a perfect, omniscient, omnipotent being would have created the perfect plan. God would have thought of all possible actions and all possible effects of those actions and set in motion the best plan available. God would have no reason to ever alter this plan because by its very nature it must be THE perfect plan.

If we pray to God, then we are asking him to listen to mere humans and change his plan accordingly. We are asking him to alter the perfect plan for something less than perfect. This would seem to be not only against God's inherent nature, but also rather arrogant on our part. After all, who are we to tell God how to run the universe. Any prayer that we may make, God has already taken into account.

But perhaps God's Plan has a little wiggle room. Maybe there are alternate paths from point A to point B that would not affect the final outcome of the plan. In that case, God could answer some prayers and not others depending on whether or not it would affect some portion of his plan.

If God does answer prayers in this 'gray area' of life, then it means that God is interfering with humanity's free will. He would be interfering in the normal course of events that we rely on when making decisions. When we decide to take an action we weigh our decisions based on our knowledge of the universe and our personal history. If God can interfere in that process in an unknown and random way, we are no longer capable of making decisions 'freely'. There is information on which we are basing our decisions, that could be overridden by God in the final outcome.

If there is no God or if God does not interfere in the universe by answering prayers, then the outcome of any decisions that I make are my responsibility. I can be held accountable for my actions. If God can change the outcome of my actions based on someone else's prayer, then how can I be held responsible for anything that I do. How would I know whether the result was my fault or simply a change made by God?

If God does interfere when someone prays, does he also interfere when they don't? I would say that he doesn't, after all, the events that play out without prayer are the events already established in God's Plan. If no one asks, he would presumably allow events to unfold without interference. That brings us back to the question of all of the bad things that happen in life.

I sincerely doubt that very many people actually pray for bad things to happen to others. And assuming God is good, it's unlikely that God would actually grant their wishes. So, if no one is praying for tsunamis, earthquakes, rapes, murders, etc., then they must be key elements in the Divine Plan.

If God does exist, then he either can or cannot interfere in the natural course of events. If he cannot, then prayer is of no value and God does not live up to the definition of a god. If he can interfere, then he does so in response to prayer or he does not. If he does not, then again prayer is of no value and the Bible's emphasis on prayer makes no sense. If God does respond to prayer, then he is altering the perfect plan to cater to the ephemeral whims of humanity and in essence has no Divine Plan. One person's prayers may be in conflict with someone else's prayers. God cannot entertain both sets of prayers and so again prayer is of no value.

Jesus said:
Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 
(Matt. 18:19)

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. 
(John 14:12-14)

Apparently, no two true believers have ever gathered together and prayed for an end to hunger, or poverty, or a cure for cancer, or world peace. It seems more likely that prayers are not answered than that two believers don't exist. So again, PRAYER IS OF NO VALUE.