Saturday, September 25, 2010

"But You Choose Hell"

Recently on a podcast, someone made a statement that I have heard repeatedly from my Christian friends, “God doesn’t send you to Hell; you choose to go”.  To which I respond, “Bullshit”.  I can tell you right now that I do not choose Hell.  Of course, I wouldn’t choose Heaven either if the prick in the Bible is actually in charge as they claim.  Going to Hell is purely the fault of God.

First, God created Hell.  He could have just had us non-believers wink out of existence after we die, but he didn’t.  Instead, he created a place of eternal torment.  God is responsible for the existence and conditions in Hell.

Second, we are all supposedly born sinners and doomed to Hell unless we repent and accept Jesus.  But why are we born sinners?  Because God decided to not just blame Adam and Eve for disobeying him, but to spread the blame around a little and condemn us all because of their actions; another example of good old fashioned biblical justice.  So, from the moment we are conceived, we are already doomed to Hell.  We can avoid it by accepting Jesus, but the default mode for our existence after death is already predetermined: Hell.  Isn’t that good evidence of a loving god?  He creates a very nasty place that no one would want to go to and then blame everyone for something their ancestors did wrong so that from the moment of birth you are doomed to go there.  There is no true choice.  A true choice would allow you to not play the game in the first place, but you can’t opt out of this one. 

Even for Adam and Eve the game was rigged.  The only way that they could know that disobeying God was wrong was to have knowledge of good and evil; however, the only way to gain that knowledge was to disobey God and eat from the Tree of Knowledge.  They were damned from the beginning and due to God’s version of justice, so were we.  So, no, we do not choose Hell.  Hell is the default position established by God.  I use the term “God” lightly because no being worthy of the name would set up such an immoral system and the idea that Jesus suffered for us and offers us salvation is very warped, not generous.
By way of analogy, here is what the God/Jesus/Hell scenario boils down to.   Imagine a ship’s captain kidnaps several people, drugs them, takes them to the middle of the ocean and throws them overboard.  That is the situation that God set up by making Hell the default position.  Now imagine the first mate stands at the bow of the ship and offers to sell everyone a life vest and that the cost of the vest is everything the person owns.  This is Jesus offering salvation by giving up your life and your freedom of thought to him.  In the scenario with the ship’s captain, I know of no one, including my Christian friends,  that would disagree with the fact that the captain is an evil ass, but God/Jesus get a pass from the Christians and are considered loving and worthy of praise.

It is an immoral system that is supposedly in place and we most definitely do not choose Hell, we simply do not choose to believe in or follow despicable monsters from a theological version of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.  Those who do accept this story and consider it good, just, and moral are just as warped as the God their “holy book” describes.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Request For When I Die

As I lay dying, respect my wishes enough to say no prayers to save my non-existent soul.  You may pray as much as you wish to hasten my demise if it makes you feel better, it will do no harm to me.  Do not come to my bedside to proselytize or send a pastor or priest to do the same; allow me the decency to die in peace free from religious noise.  Do not approach my family and offer any religious sentiments; if you really care you will only offer secular words of comfort.  

When I am dead, should you care, do not pray for me or my family, but leave them to grieve without the stale odor of religious platitudes.  Do not claim I am in a better place - I am worm food - good for them, not so much for me.  Do not make false claims about my character, either good or bad, but speak the truth whatever it may be.

When I am gone and can no longer speak for myself, should you hear from someone that I have had a deathbed conversion, DO NOT believe it.  Let me assure you that there is no god that I have heard of that I believe in or would turn to in my last moments.  Reason, fairness, and compassion for all living things has been my guiding light, not some musty, Bronze Age book of fairy tales or the stories of some demented father figure.

If you are a true friend, you will honor me most by honoring my wishes.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Omni Fallacy of God (Part I)

According to those that believe, God is the great superlative in every category.  He is all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful, and he is everywhere and everywhen.  But based on what the Bible and your neighborhood church teach, these can’t all be true.

God created humanity, according to the Bible, but man is a completely flawed creature or so the churches would have you believe.  Did God create a flawed being on purpose or was it the best he could do, or didn’t he realize the flaws existed?  If he didn’t know, he isn’t omniscient.  If this was the best he could do, then he isn’t omnipotent.  If he did it on purpose, he isn’t omnibenevolent ; creating a flawed being doomed us to much pain and suffering . 

Some would argue that it was a loving gesture to create humanity with so many imperfections because only through suffering do we learn life’s lessons and finally come to appreciate what God has to offer.  I could possible buy that if the suffering were not so extremely different from person to person and if it eventually ended in a positive manner for everyone; however, this is not the case.  This supposedly all-loving god will banish you to an eternity of torture in a flaming Hell simply for not believing.   If even a mere mortal such as me finds that scenario totally reprehensible and insufficient in compassion, then how could this all-loving god find this an acceptable result.  Clearly he is not all-loving.

And what about being everywhere and everywhen?  Think about that for a moment.  If he is omnipresent, then he is right there with you through every moment of your life.  He is there when you are born and when you die.  He is there when you have sex or take a shower.  He is there when the drunk gets in his car and drives away.  He is there when moments later the same drunk plows through a sidewalk full of school children.  He is there for every beating by a bully, every rape of a child, every plane crash, every terrorist attack, and every murder.  He is there when every horrendous act occurs, but does nothing to stop them.  Nothing.   This is all-loving?  Of course, you will hear the argument about not interfering with our free will, but then these same people will talk of miracles – times when he clearly interferes.  You can’t have it both ways.  He either interferes or he doesn’t and an omnipotent god should be able to figure out a way to step in and help without affecting our free will; if he can’t he is not omnipotent.  If he choices not to, he is not all-loving.

If he is not all-loving, all-knowing, and omnipotent, then he is not a god.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Reality, Knowledge, Their Application, and Anger (Part I)

Image a large circle drawn on a piece of paper.  This circle and the space that it encloses is “Reality”.  Everything that we see or touch or hear is within this circle.  Everything that we have not experienced, but which actually exists, is also within the boundaries of this circle.  Outside the circle everything is imagination only, no true existence.  If God, angels, demons, unicorns, aliens, etc., actually exist, they are within the circle; if they do not exist, they lie beyond it. 

Now imagine tiny dots randomly spaced within that circle.  Those dots represent areas where we had gained some knowledge of our universe, our reality, the reality, when we first began to become aware of our surroundings.  A large portion of the circle is open and without dots, an indication of our level of ignorance at that time.  We knew nothing of what lurked in these areas, the places where people said “There be dragons there”. They were wrong, of course, and jumped to conclusions by making assumptions rather than being content to say “I don’t know what is there”.  Over time, these dots grew into circles of varying sizes as we gained more and more knowledge of the universe and how it works.  There are still large gaps, but much less than before; the size of the actual unknown grows smaller day by day as we discover its secrets.  There are fewer places for the “dragons” to hide.

People still try to speculate on what is in the “white space” of the circle, those areas of reality as yet unknown to us.  Perhaps we will eventually fill the circle as we discover all there is to know in the universe, but more likely, we will find that the rate of expansion of our knowledge will not keep pace with the simultaneous discovery of just how big the circle actually is.  The circle represents every planet, solar system, galaxy, universe, multi-verse, dimension, physical law, etc. that actually exists.  The circle isn’t actually getting any larger, and we are making progress to fill in the gaps, but our understanding of its true dimensions continually improves and artificially inflates our perception of the circle.  We have been working with false boundaries. 

Some like to speculate about a reality beyond reality as a method of embracing the supernatural, a place where God exists.  It is a fallacy.  There is only one reality – all that is, or was, or will be – and everything within in it is natural.  There is no evidence for anything else.  Nothing.  Zip.  Nada.  If reality is simply what is real, what exists, how can there be more than one?  They would both just be parts of the whole true reality.  And where would “beyond reality” be?  It would lie outside the circle, a fantasy.  There is only one reality no matter how distorted and different it may appear to different observers based on their health, emotional state, or personal biases.  Claims of another reality where supernatural beings, gods, exist are hollow.

To be supernatural is to be beyond natural – not natural, but the only things that are not natural in the universe are those things that are man-made.  The supernatural is merely an invention of man.  Gods, if they exist, must be natural and must therefore be subject to natural laws and are capable of being detected, examined, and quantified like anything else.  If Gods are natural though, there does not appear to be a way that they could be omnipotent, or omniscient, or omnipresent.  So are they still gods or do “gods” only “exist” outside the circle? 

But maybe we are approaching this from the wrong angle, from a limited perspective.  Perhaps there is a way of knowing that is “different” from what we normally experience.  Where does this knowledge come from and how do we obtain it...

Monday, September 06, 2010

The Fallacy of Absolute, Objective Morality and the Stench of Mercy

Many “persons with religious delusion” talk of an absolute, objective morality and this perfect moral compass is, of course, established by their God.   Absolute morality is an illusion and objective morality is incompatible with their description of their God.   Let’s take the second point first.  If God is the author of this perfect set of moral rules, then it is not objective; it is subjective and totally at the whim of God.  God could just as easily say that rape and murder are good as he could condemn them.   Some would argue that God would not be so arbitrary and that God can only do good, but if God can only do good, then he is not omnipotent as it is claimed.  There are then things that he cannot do.  Morality cannot be objective and God omnipotent at the same time; the two are incompatible.

If morality were absolute, then whatever applied to us, would also apply to God; if it did not, it wouldn’t be absolute.  Here is where God’s morality really starts to show its true colors.  In the “Ten Commandments”, it states: “ Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13), but there is no clarification.  Does this mean to absolutely not kill anything, ever?  No other humans, no animals, no plants, etc.?  It is not very clear, but let us assume that it only refers to other human beings.   Is this an absolute moral imperative?  Can we not defend ourselves?  Can we not kill in times of war?  Obviously, God does not hold this to be an absolute moral law because he not only commands the destruction of whole societies, he kills everyone on the planet (almost) all by himself.  He also established the laws for stoning people to death for such minor offenses as picking up sticks on his “day of rest”.  

The “Ten Commandments” also require that we “honor our mother and father” and yet Jesus would have us turn on our own parents as these two verses in Matthew demonstrate:
10:34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
10:35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
Clearly, setting a child against the parent is not honoring them.  God, or his alter-ego Jesus, clearly seems to be able to defy the very rules (the framework of absolute, objective morality) that they themselves created - so much for absolute morality.

There are various other instances throughout the Bible where it is clear that morality is not objective, for example, women are not treated equally in many cases, so the application of this morality is not absolute or objective, but subjective relative to the parties involved.

What happens if you violate these so called moral imperative laid down by this capricious God?  You will find that God’s justice is just as fluid as his morality.  God does not operate on a concept of justice, or so I was told by my Christian friends, he works through mercy.  Viewing the Bible and seeing the reprehensible character of God, it makes perfect sense.  God is all about power and mercy functions from a place of power, by definition.  Only those that wield power over you in some manner can show you mercy.   Mercy is an egotistical demonstration of power, of strength over weakness, of advantage over disadvantage.  It is ignorance that mistakes it for compassion.  It is most definitely not compassion.  Compassion works through empathy and an attempt to truly understand the plight of person to whom it is shown.  Mercy is purely selfish.  It is the granting of leniency as a demonstration of power and false sympathy.

If God truly operated on a basis of absolute, objective morality, then it would include an objective and unbiased evaluation of our “sins”, our transgressions.  Such a review would be guided by fairness, punishments that fit the crimes.  Similar acts of aggression or mistreatment of others would be viewed in an equal manner with similar requirements for rehabilitation and reconciliation.  There would be no bias based on what you believed or didn’t believe, but you would be judged solely on what you did or didn’t do.  However, according to my Christian friends, I am wrong to think this way.  I am mistaken to believe that the mass murderer that turns to God on his deathbed will be judged more harshly than the generous, compassionate atheist.  All that matters to God is belief in Him and only through that will He show mercy.  Well, I prefer justice to mercy.  Fairness is attuned to objective morality; mercy is just the false charity of thugs.

If believing in a merciful God, rather than a just God, is a requirement of Christianity then I am glad that I am not a Christian.  If, in the end, it turns out that a God truly does exist, the just God will understand me and at least I will have my day in court.  If a merciful God exists, then I will proudly march to the gates of Hell and plot his demise.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Change Your Life - Prepare for Everything

Would you change your whole life on a possibility?  That’s what many Christians want us to do.  On the possibility that we might be wrong about the existence of a god and Jesus, in particular, they want us to embrace the nothingness of faith and believe. 

Setting aside the ridiculous idea that you can just make yourself believe something at will, they are asking for what they themselves are not doing.    Is it possible that I am wrong and that a god exists? Sure, it’s possible, but I would say not very probable.  Is it possible that the Bible is an accurate reflection of that God and that the story of Jesus is true?  Again, it’s possible, but not likely.  They argue that the risks of being wrong are just too great to ignore and that we should believe in order to save our immortal soul from Hell.  We should totally change our lives to account for this highly improbable possibility because to do otherwise would have consequences that would be unacceptable to us.
But do they follow this advice?  No, not when it comes to other highly dangerous and more probable events.  It’s possible that a meteor could come crashing through my ceiling and kill me; it’s unlikely, but possible.  Aliens could land on Earth and take over the planet.  Again, it is not likely, but possible and very deadly.    I could be hit by a bus, catch a fatal disease, or any of an almost infinite list of other unlikely and very deadly possibilities.  All of them are more probable than the existence of a god or the discovery that the Bible is true.  But do we or they totally alter our lives to ensure that none of these items will affect us or at least do what is necessary to minimize the negative results?  Do we prepare for the worst of every improbable event, “Just in case”?  No.  Instead, we make an informal analysis of the risk and take reasonable precautions based on the probability of the event and the gruesomeness of the consequences.

Given the horrific outcome of my afterlife should I be wrong about their buddy Jesus, you would think that the answer might be “yes” and that I would change.  But the probability of God/Jesus is so remote that it isn’t worth abandoning reality just to lie to myself about a happy ending.  Plus, if they are right, the consequences of believing in God/Jesus and thus spending eternity with Him are too horrific to contemplate.  To me, that is the more horrible ending; spending eternity with a being that would torture my fellow humans simply because they wouldn’t suspend reason and morality and call evil 'good' just to save their own ass.

So their pseudo-“Pascal’s Wager” is untenable to me and they apply it lopsidedly to their own lives when it comes to all the other deadly, but improbable events that could occur.  They are not altering their lives by hoarding water, food, guns, and fuel.  They are not building bomb shelters and walking around covered in motion detectors and bubble wrap to protect themselves from even moderately improbable events let alone events as improbable as God.  When I see my Christian friends collectively preparing for imminent catastrophe from asteroids and aliens, disease and disaster, or every possible random traffic accident, maybe then I will think they actually believe in Pascal’s Wager themselves.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

It's Called Dying with Dignity

The headline for this article is clearly slanted to indicate that atheist doctors, and by association all atheists, are immoral because they are eager to end a patient's life.  Later on it softens ever so slightly to indicate that perhaps the religious are slow to act to reduce pain if it means shortening the lifespan of the patient.  I think this article fails to clearly state the obvious; the atheist doctors are doing what is best for the patient, while the religious doctors are doing what is best according to their faith.  There is more regard for the patient's wishes and level of pain in the atheist camp and more concern about religious dogma in the believer camp.  This antiquated notion of the soul and the sacredness of human life as preached from the pulpit is prolonging the agony of terminally ill patients by placing obedience to an unhelpful god above the dignity of the individual.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Jesus, or just the idea of Jesus?

Something which is true should able to withstand scrutiny.  Evidence, both pro and con, would be weighed and and a definitive conclusion presented, or perhaps the finding that there is insufficient evidence to draw any conclusion.  Likewise, when something is deemed good, we should be able to validate that claim by comparison to other "good" things, or by observing the benefits and risks associated with it.

Many Christians make the claim that God and his offspring, are both real and good.  However, when it comes to defending that notion very few are willing to stick with you long enough to defend the claim.  When confronted with a challenge to these beliefs they fall silent or spew a list of things they believe about God or their 100% certainty and then fall silent without any attempt to actually address the issues presented.

It would seem to me that if God was real and good, they should be able to easily demonstrate those facts, but they never do.  They make some sad attempts at telling us how incomprehensible God is to us intellectually ill-equipped humans all the while regaling us with their comprehension of what God thinks and does and wants.  They never actually present any tangible evidence for their claims or rebuttal for the arguments against the existence of God or his immorality.

I am beginning to believe that it is actually the idea of God/Jesus that these individuals are clinging to rather than the "real" God/Jesus.   If God/Jesus were real, they should be able to easily shut us down when we question them; however, they stubbornly refuse to even entertain the debate.  Perhaps, they are afraid that the belief they hold cannot stand up to the test and they feel it would be devastating to lose that belief.  The idea of an eternal life and a constantly vigilant father is comforting to them and they will lock themselves behind that steel door of 100% certainty and 0% inquiry to ensure that their emotional cocoon is not broken.  They are in love with the idea of Jesus and ideas can be challenged and overturned with knowledge, so they must be protected against any such attack by the most effective means possible- remaining ignorant and unwilling to respond to any challenge by simply ignoring it and going silent.  If they actually believed in a substantial being of morality, justice and love, they would take the challenge head on and demolish us with truth, irrefutable truth and silence us as we too stood in awe.  Their failure to do so speaks volumes about their claims and that 100% certainty they proudly proclaim.    

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bucolic Social Leper on The Atheist Blogroll

Bucolic Social Leper has been added to The Atheist Blogroll. You can see the blogroll in my sidebar. The Atheist blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to Atheist bloggers from around the world. If you would like to join, visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information.

The Twelve Step Program for Today's Fungelicals

(1) Proclaim existence for that for which there is no evidence.
(2) Dismiss that for which there is evidence.
(3) Reject all scientific results except those that support your agenda, even if they use the same source.
(4) Refuse to directly respond to uncomfortable questions.
(5) Always inject God when you can't answer a question.
(6) Support logic, reason, and critical thinking, except when they are applied to your beliefs, then praise ignorance and blind faith.
(7) Always try to muddy the water during a discussion; it will tire your opponent and give you a meaningless victory. 
(8) Label any challenge to your beliefs as intolerance and persecution while simultaneously being intolerant and persecuting others that believe differently.
(9) Frequently use condescending or misleading statements like "Hate the sin, love the sinner", "It's not religion, it's a personal relationship", or "Jesus believes in you even if you don't believe in Him". 
(10) Remain willfully ignorant while projecting arrogant certainty.
(11) When caught in an uncomfortable question, mention God's Mysterious Ways or point out humanity's limited capabilities and frailties when it comes to understanding the universe. 
(12) Never admit you could be wrong, especially to yourself.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Don't Mistake Passion for Anger

Many people think that outspoken atheists are angry, bitter people that lead depressing, miserable, unfulfilled lives.  Sorry to disappoint.   We are well-adjusted, productive members of society with normal home lives and the normal level of ups and downs, anger and compassion, just like everyone else.  What you are doing is confusing passion with anger.  

We are very passionate about what we see as an inappropriate and often dangerous mix of religion and politics, or religion and science, or religion and medicine, etc.  We are very passionate about calling out injustice, ignorance, and absurdities that cause physical, mental, or emotional harm or limit the rights of others.  In writing, it often looks like anger.  Even in discussion, passion can get the best of all of us and appear as anger, but passion it is.  We cannot sit by silently and watch others negatively influence the lives of is out of comPASSION that we speak.

I am not angry just because I vehemently disagree with you, but if I think your actions are causing harm because of willful acts rather than simple ignorance, then yes, in that case you just might be right - anger it is.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Asimov Was Correct

The writer of this article above gets it wrong. A proper reading of the Bible doesn't start with an atheistic viewpoint or a Christian viewpoint. The proper reading is to view it objectively as it is written and then to explore the implications that arise from that reading. If you do that, honestly, with an open mind unclouded by preconceived notions, you will find that Asimov is correct. Those that read it and find that it represents a moral, loving being are simply being intellectually dishonest with themselves.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Obama a Muslim? Who Cares?

To all those Americans that think President Obama is a Muslim despite his statements to the contrary, read your Constitution.  If you are truly a Patriot that defends the Constitution, then you should realize that his religion should be irrelevant.

Article VI, Section 3 of the US Constitution.
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I Don't Hate Myself Enough To Be A Christian

Humanity is inherently weak, unjust, selfish, prejudiced, and evil; at least that is the tune sung by many Christians, both pastors and laity alike.  Without constant supplication to a god to help us stay on track and his subsequent violation of our free will and the laws of physics (how else can he do it?) to answer our prayers, we would succumb to our supposedly baser instincts to steal, rape, and murder each other.

We are wicked; born inclined to "sin", with no ability to control ourselves.  Without a god, we would be immoral and purposeless - a meaningless mass of worthless flesh uncontrollably driven to self-gratification with no care for others.  

I don't know about you, but to me this is an awfully depressing view of humanity and one that I just don't accept.  I have a purpose without god; whatever purpose I choose for my life.  I am not depraved and indifferent to others, an uncontrollable sinner, but rather a responsible member of society.  I do not need a god to define my morality, especially one that is depicted as so despicable and immoral in his own holy book.  And I am constantly looking at ways to improve as is most of the rest of society.  Most of us are not killing, raping, and stealing; we are just trying to get by in life, protecting our families and causing no one undue harm.  I believe in the inherent goodness of humanity which is borne out everyday in simple acts of kindness to strangers and the ability of societies to work together to solve problems despite differing opinions.

If I have to believe the Fundamentalist Christian view of humanity, well, I guess I'm just not depressed enough or have low enough self esteem to be a Christian - I don't hate myself enough to be a Christian.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hate Speech? No. Truth? Yes!

If your holy book clearly places a woman's worth beneath that of a man, it is not hate speech to call your god a misogynist.

If your holy book claims your god will not tolerate persons with physical deformities in his temple, it is not hate speech to call him prejudiced.

If your god never condemns slavery, it is not hate speech to call him unloving.

If your holy book claims that God kills virtually everyone on the planet, it is not hate speech to call him violent and cruel.

If the criteria your savior uses to reward or punish is based solely on belief in him rather than your compassion and generosity, it is not hate speech to call him unjust and immoral.

If your god, savior, and religion supports all of this and more, it is not hate speech to publicly point out that it is evil.

It is not hate speech, it is truth.   

Monday, August 16, 2010

Give Credit to Humanity

"Johnny made it on the dean's list for three years in row."
"Susie just got the promotion she desperately wanted and needed."
"Billy made first string on the team."

How many times have you seen a post on facebook or heard in conversation a statement of good news like those above only to be followed by "God provides", or "it was God's will", or some variant attributing the person's good fortune to God?  

It makes me wonder if the person making the statement has any idea how debasing that is to the person who has achieved these rewards through honest, hard work.  Maybe Johnny has studied very hard every semester to make the grades necessary to be on the dean's list.  Perhaps Susie paid for night classes out of her own pocket to qualify for the promotion.  And Billy, he woke up early every morning and did an extra two hours of training to make the team.

"Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's".  Perhaps an addendum should be added to "give credit where it is truly due".   

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Political Correctness is Highly Overrated

Being “politically correct” is highly overrated and often inappropriate.  When you tell me about your wonderful day in church or the moving sermon or the church picnic, etiquette dictates that I should smile, nod my head, and allow you to drone on…and for the most part I would agree.  I am not one to attack every religious utterance, especially when it is clear that the person has no hidden agenda, despite how boring and nauseating it may be to endure it.  However, when you move on to my personal life or when you start to talk about influencing law, children’s’ education, and the rights of others, I have no qualms, in fact, I feel it is my duty, to tell you in no uncertain terms that your ideas and your religion are full of bull.

Being “politically correct” or polite is fine in short, casual conversation, but extending to other arenas is simply irresponsible.  I don’t care if it is your personal religious conviction and that I may hurt your feelings; if what you are peddling is harmful in some way to others, I will not hesitate to tell you how despicable your viewpoint is.  The truth, no matter how raw and uninviting, is preferable to allowing harmful lies to continue.

So, although I support and will defend your right to free speech, if you preach anti-gay rhetoric, or abstinence-only programs, or creationist dogma, or any other misinformed vile dogma, don’t expect a free pass.  We have become a country where speaking out against certain topics has become taboo and religion is the prime recipient of this attack-free zone.  But some religious beliefs, when turned into actions, are dangerous and immoral. 

Homeschooling your child or sending them to some religious school just so you can propagate hatred and ignorance should not be tolerated.  I am not condemning all home schools or religious schools, as some are actually good at most aspects of education.  But those parents that shield their children from scientific truths in favor of religious dogma or continue to trot out homophobic doctrine in place of equality and compassion, I have no tolerance for these.

Just a quick rant.  More on each of these later.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Samson: The First Suicide "Bomber"

Samson is depicted as a hero in the Bible, particularly in children's stories, but he appears to be less than heroic in his deeds.  If Samson represents Biblical morality, I will look elsewhere for my morals and my heroes.

Judges 14:
Samson sets up a bet with his bride's people in the form of a riddle.  The family, angry that they could not solve the riddle and feeling that they were being robbed,  threatened Samson's wife until she extracted the answer from Samson.  Samson understandably gets angry with the people, but instead of harming them, he goes to another town, kills 30 people, and uses their clothes to pay his debt.     

"19And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle."

Does this sound like the actions of a hero or a brute?

Judges 15:
Next, Samson returns to the house of his bride and finds that her father has given her away to another.  Again, Samson vents his anger at the wrong people.  Instead of harming the father in some manner, he destroys the crops of the Philistines.

4And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails.

 5And when he had set the brands on fire, he let them go into the standing corn of the Philistines, and burnt up both the shocks, and also the standing corn, with the vineyards and olives.

This results in retaliation from the Philistines who also attack the wrong party as they blame the father and daughter and burn them.  Samson seeks revenge and slaughters many of the Philistines.  The Philistines seek revenge and Samson kills another thousand with just the jawbone of an ass.  All of this death and destruction could have been avoided if Samson had just been a man and walked away.  Instead, he plays the violent hothead and continues the cycle of violence.

Judges 16:
After all that killing, eventually Samson goes out of town for sex with a prostitute; another mark of a hero.  He falls in love with Delilah who wants to know the secret of his strength.  He is foolish enough to tell her, loses his locks, his strength, and is captured by his old buddies the Philistines.  They gouge out his eyes, but for some strange reason keep him in prison long enough for his hair and his strength to return.  Silly Philistines.  Here is where Samson gets to become the first suicide "bomber".  While tied to pillars, he requests as is granted the strength from God to destroy the temple, which contains thousands of people, not just his captors and he commits suicide in the process.

 27Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport.

 28And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.

 29And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left.

 30And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.

This is pretty much all that is said of Samson in the Bible.  Based on the information, he started a chain of events with his uncontrollable anger that resulted in the deaths of his wife, father- in-law, thirty innocent citizens, thousands of Philistines soldiers, and thousands more Philistines of unknown status or relationship to the damage done to him.  What a pity he didn't take an anger management class instead.  But, of course, none of this would have been possible without God giving him his extraordinary strength.

Samson is a Biblical hero often used in Bible Studies for children.  Here is an example: .  If you notice, none of Samson's uncontrollable anger is ever mentioned.  His role in the death and destruction is glossed over and the comments at the end of the story give kids the impression that committing suicide while taking out your enemies is a good thing, possibly even Christ-like.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Enemies Far and Near

Just as Christianity was a physical danger to those in prior centuries that did not subscribe to its beliefs, so now is Islam.  In many books of the Old Testament, a barbaric, vengeful god that commands the extermination of non-believers is depicted.  The New Testament simply delays that punishment until the afterlife.  The Quran follows in the footsteps of both.

Their attitudes towards women, infidels, and homosexuals, to name just a few, may vary in practical application, but not in their conceptual foundations and both are dominated by submission to the often unethical demands of their gods (or god, depending on who is interpreting the relationship between Jehovah and Allah).
Many are concerned about the violent face of Islam that we see in terrorist attacks, honor killings, and barbaric punishments of Shari'a law.  Their fears are legitimate, we should be concerned, as these  activities are sanctioned by Islamic leaders and the Quran itself.  Christianity went through it's most violent period several hundred years ago, prior to airplanes, nuclear arms, and lethal biological weapons.  Imagine what the Crusades or Spanish Inquisition would have been like had Christianity had access to these tools of terror during its adolescence as Islam does today.

While Islam is arguably the more present danger, what would it take for Christianity to follow suit.  What would it take for Christianity to become more terroristic or to enforce its own version of Shari'a Law?  Some would say both have already begun with the evangelization of the armed forces involved in unnecessary wars, the ever increasing entanglement of religion into politics with the focus on electing Senators, Congressman, Governors, and Presidents that support Christianity in its more fundamental forms, and the overtaking of school boards by fundamentalists making decisions about sex and science with little understanding of how either one works.

Make no mistake.  We are in a battle to protect our freedoms and our lives, but it is not just the obvious external struggle with fundamentalist Islam.  The conflict also wages internally on a more subtle level with fundamentalists that claim to follow Jesus.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Which Is More Moral, Mercy Or Justice?

Mercy: the discretionary power of a judge to pardon someone or to mitigate punishment.
Justice: the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness.

If a man commits terrible crimes like rape or murder, or even lesser offenses such as theft or assault, but at the end of his life recognizes the error of his ways and comes to sincerely repent before the Christian god, he gains entry into heaven.  This is claimed by Christians to be evidence of their god's mercy.  You cannot earn your way into heaven; God must grant his mercy.

However, if another man has lead an exemplary life, one without crime and full of compassion for his fellow man, but simply cannot see any reason to believe the fantastical tales of the Christian religion or their savior, he does not gain entry into heaven, but faces an eternity of punishment.  No mercy here; and no justice in either outcome.

Of course, the Christian may say that all have sinned and any sin is abhorrent to their god, so both men are equal in the eyes of their god.  The one man receives mercy because of his honest acceptance of Jesus.  That's right.  It doesn't matter how heinous your crimes or how trivial your missteps, they are viewed as equally reprehensible to God. I find it disgustingly laughable that the being directly responsible for the deaths of millions, perhaps billions in the Bible finds even the most gentle, compassionate, and honest citizen of this planet too sinful to accept.

Of course, he can accept the good person, the rapist, the pedophile, even the mass murderer, if they pay the right price; absolute belief in God and along with it their intellectual freedom as well as their sense of fairness.  Turn over your life and place complete faith in a being that has demonstrated that he is far worse than you and you can be forgiven anything, but live a good life of reason and compassion and deny this being and there is nothing that will save you.

There is no justice in this Christian view of God.  In fact, it looks more like a religious version of organized crime's protection money scheme: "Pay me now, with your unquestioning faith, or something bad might happen and neither one of us would want that now would we?"