Sunday, October 23, 2011

Practical Atheism

One thing can be said about atheism and that is that simply put it is the rejection or non-belief in gods and this means all gods. I have read literature on atheism from many perspectives and the one I find the most useless and ridiculous is the philosophical one. I am of the opinion that philosophy is not the appropriate discipline to argue the existence of the biblical God.

“I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one less god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” —Stephen F Roberts

This now famous quote expresses my form of atheism, although I have been accused by theists of being too simplistic. But I feel that in defending my atheism I should not have to go through the trouble of trying to define for example the so called attributes of God. The question I ask is basically; attributes, what attributes? Christians can't even define the attributes of their god because they are too busy trying to interpret what the bible says they are and in what sense they are meant to be understood.

Christian apologetics try to use modern as well as classical philosophical arguments to defend their beliefs, but in doing so all they end up doing is confusing themselves as well as others with circular nonsensical arguments. For example to argue that everything that exist has a cause for its existence and then name that cause God is nothing more than special pleading which in and of itself is classified as a logical fallacy.

Regarding the beginning of all things I am simply content with the idea that it is still a mystery that science has yet to solve. We may never know in fact, but I am okay with that. But to use the God of the gaps argument to plug up the holes or mysteries that science has yet to resolve is inane. Besides the onus of proving the existence of God falls on the believer entirely. The atheist in this situation has nothing to prove. Basically I don't believe in the biblical God or any other gods because the idea of supernatural beings ruling the universe is insane and outright ridiculous.

The greatest challenge to the theist is that of trying to prove the existence of their God. Anyone who has taken the time to study the bible profoundly and without bias is bound to come out a nonbeliever. Everyone knows that proving the existence of God objectively is an impossible task I am of the opinion that whoever achieves this monumental task will undoubtedly win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Belief in God takes faith for a very good reason, the reason being that his existence cannot be proven. In other words you must accept that he exists without the requirement of evidence. God is and always will be the creation of man and a figment of the imagination.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Bible Is Outdated

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)

The above cited quote exhorts believers to study but even in today's world this is quite impossible. There are several challenges that a Christian faces when he/she takes the initiative and decides to delve into the scriptures even further than your typical church Sunday bible study. The first of these challenges is that of translations, and which one you should use for the purpose of studying. In the English language alone there are over 500 translations!

The next hurdle is that of interpretation. Depending on which Christian church you are a member of will determine how you interpret what you read. Unless you approach your bible with an open mind then your interpretation is already biased by your denomination of choice. You must also keep in mind that none of the original texts that comprise the bible exist today and that what you are actually reading are copies of copies.

Another major problem is that the bible is outdated. When studying the bible you must read it while taking into consideration its cultural context and the time period in which it was first written and refers to. Even today it is evident that there are huge cultural differences between the U.S. and the Middle East. Many people read the bible and forget that the events described in its pages supposedly happened from 2 to 5,000 years ago. You simply cannot apply some of the bibles so called moral and legal teachings to the modern world.

Putting your faith aside you will see that by modern standards the bible is chock full of inconsistencies and outright absurdities. There is nothing holy about the Holy Bible. Contrary to what many Christians think about their god it will only take a reading of the O.T. to see what a cruel and vindictive deity they serve.

The laws in the scriptures as allegedly given to Moses whose existence is questionable are cruel and seem communistic. I have always and continue to refer to the biblical god as a dictator. These are just some examples of the insanity that are biblical laws. God was very fond of the death penalty as demonstrated by these texts. In Leviticus chapter 20 it states that you shall be punished with death if you worship other gods, curse your parents, commit adultery ( have sex with someone other than your wife or husband), if you have sex with your step mom, if you have sex with someone of the same sex, if you blaspheme the name of the Lord etc. Don't take my word for it give that chapter a read for yourself.

The bible is and always has been a book of myths and is nothing more than a collection of a cultures paranoid superstitions. This is my opinion and it applies to all of the so called holy books out there.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Learned believers? LOL

One of the things that I find hard to believe is how far Christianity has come from its birth to its current state. Whoever thought two thousand plus years ago that this myth would be taken so seriously in some parts of the world that people would need college degrees and doctorates to qualify as authorities on the scriptures?

In my opinion when it comes to Christianity and the scriptures all it takes to understand them is common sense. I have no respect for a minister who holds a doctorate in theology, that is the same to me as holding a doctorate in astrology; utterly useless! Becoming an expert on superstitions and myths does not equate being an expert in the more mundane practices of the various disciplines of science such as medicine, math, astronomy, etc.

When it comes to the bible the fact that outside of those scriptures none of those fantastic tales can be verified makes the case against most of them being untrue. I am of the opinion that there is some history mixed in the scriptures but that they have been cleverly interwoven with myths. For instance, it takes a huge stretch of the imagination to believe that Samson singlehandedly slew a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass (donkey) as described in Judges 15:15.

It takes an even greater stretch of the imagination to literally believe that the tribes of Israel brought down the great walls of the city of Jericho by walking around the city for seven days silently and then finally blowing trumpets! The absurdities in the bible both in the old and new testaments are too many to count and too unbelievable to be taken seriously. But despite all of these absurdities there are many fundamentalists out there that swear by the veracity of these tales on nothing more than faith.

When theists tell me that history and archeology confirm the biblical narratives it just tells me that they are ignorant and ill informed about both disciplines. Christians have their own version of science and archeology which consists of fabricating evidence to fit their stories. In other words, their idea of science is first establishing on faith that their tales are true and then finding evidence that fits what they believe. This methodology is the complete opposite of how scientific study is approached and conducted.

In closing I would like to end with the quote from Carl Sagan which states that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” To date the church has utterly failed to prove conclusively one single story of the biblical narratives. Their so called evidences have been proven many times to be fraudulent and faulty. Unfortunately for them subjective evidence does not qualify as evidence for the naysayers and non-believers such as myself. Let’s face it, without the bible you would not have even known of the existence of any of those tales nor held any beliefs about the divinity of such tales. The fact that these tales only exist as told in the bible make these tales all the more incredulous.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Cognitive dissonance and theism

As a former Pentecostal fundamentalist who has lived the life of a fanatic, I can say that the process of de=conversion is frightening and stressful. It is different for everyone but the deeper your commitment to God the harder it is to wean yourself from those deeply rooted beliefs.

In 1990 I was a Pentecostal evangelist who had an outreach ministry that consisted of preaching on the streets on the weekends and in churches during the week. My particular ministry was what is known as a deliverance ministry which basically meant that I specialized in exorcisms. I dealt often with the so called demon possessed and used the bible and my so called believed authority in Christ to overcome the powers of darkness.

During those years I believed that I had God’s spirit residing in me, guiding my every move and delivering the possessed, healing the sick, prophesying, etc. I thought I felt God’s presence constantly in and around me. I mentally talked to myself everyday and all day long believing I was having a conversation with God.

I was at a local atheist meeting recently and several of the guests were interested in hearing specifically about what made me turn my back on God and my religious beliefs. At the time as now I can’t quite pin it down to one motive but rather to a collection of experiences. One of the things I did as a fundie was that I did not listen to so called worldly music and I did not even watch television unless it was Christian programming. I did not read anti-Christian books but I read all books that I thought would strengthen my beliefs and inform me about my ministry and how I could perform my duties to the best of my abilities.

When I was in seminary there was one issue that really had my curiosity and it happened to be the theory of evolution. I remember how I eagerly awaited the day that we would reach the chapter in our textbook that dealt with alternative theories of origins. When the day had finally arrived I recall that the instructor of the course paused when he got to the theory of evolution and there was a silence of about a few seconds. He then looked up at the class with this silly grin on his face and said: “ if you believe that you came from a monkey go right ahead, as for me… I am a child of God and was created by him.” With this statement he closed the book and dismissed the class!

To say that I was upset was an understatement, but this was the reason why I personally took it upon myself to read everything I could get my hands on regarding the theory of evolution. This included reading all of the works of Darwin and some of the then popular books on the subject. Then next thing that happened to me was that I was challenged by my pastor to read the bible in its entirety at least once so that I could understand God’s plan better.

I took up this challenge and I ended up reading the bible four times and it seemed that the moe I read the more disgusted I became. The God of the O.T. did not seem anything at all like the god I worshiped. He was a tyrant and evil to the nth degree. The biblical God was racist, endorsed slavery, got angry often over the most petty offenses, etc. He was nothing like the God of love I believed in who took upon himself the ultimate burden of liberating us from sin to save us all from eternal damnation, a fate which in reality he created lol but that is another issue altogether.

The bible also led me to question my own practices and beliefs regarding the workings of the Holy Spirit its use in the ministry and in the church etc. brought a lot of questions and doubts to my mind regarding what I had experienced in my church and ministry. Then I read a book that changed my entire life, although I don’t think that it was the authors intent to lead me into atheism since he was a Christian himself. The book was called ‘Charismatic Chaos’ by John F. MacArthur. Since I was having issues with the use of the Holy Spirit and I was a charismatic myself of course when I saw the title of this book in a Christian bookstore I was stopped dead in my tracks and bought it on the spot.

The author basically stated that the gifts of the Spirit were no longer needed or active since their only purpose was to help the church during its infancy to establish itself. By the time I was reading this book I had already come to the same conclusions and was already doubtful regarding my own experiences with the Spirit. This was the hardest part of my de-conversion for me and I was very afraid where these ideas would lead me. I was so impressed with this book that I wrote the author for advice regarding which church affiliation I should seek out. He wrote back to me with a list of churches he was affiliated with in my area although I did not visit any of them or follow through with his advice.

By the time he wrote me back a couple of months later I was already starting to pull out of my church and only attending service on rare occasions. My heart was no longer in it and my beliefs were in serious question. Because of my deep seated beliefs my fear of God haunted me for about 6 years after I left the church and it took about as long before I openly admitted that I was an atheist.

As an atheist I love reading everything I can get my hands on regarding Christianity and religions in general but it is more for informational purposes. I refute what I believe now to be nothing more than superstitious lies and false beliefs. I don’t hate Christians but I do hate Christianity and religions in general. I personally feel that they do more harm than good and that the more fanatical that you are the more prone you are to doing and believing stupid things.

In closing my point here is that it’s not easy for some theists to abandon deep seated religious beliefs. John Loftus mentioned in his book that this is because of cognitive dissonance: "Cognitive dissonance is the mental conflict that people experience when they are presented with evidence that their beliefs or assumptions are wrong." Montier (2002)

It is because of cognitive dissonance that theists have such a hard time letting go of their beliefs despite the evidence presented against them. Apologetics is a perfect example of this and demonstrates that this is true not only of the less intelligent but even among the elite. There are theists that despite their religious beliefs demonstrate a higher than average intelligence in other areas of knowledge. It is not about intelligence or lack thereof as some assume but rather about culture and upbringing.