Monday, April 30, 2012

Christianity as comfort food

This post is about one of my most recent reminiscences of my life as a fundamentalist believer from 1990 - 1994. Most of my beliefs at the time were a combination of head knowledge as well as the investment of emotions and subjective apparently "spiritual" experiences. If you ask most Pentecostals how they know that God is real, they will most likely reply that they can feel his presence all the time or in times of need. I can certainly attest to this myself in that I too believed that I felt his presence at all times within me and around me.

At the time I was going through a lot of changes in my life, I was still single and completely committed and focused on the growth of my ministry and most importantly the task of "saving souls" for Jesus. I was a young man of twenty one years of age living with my mom, keeping a full time job, and the rest of my time was devoted to spreading the gospel and doing the work of the Lord. I evangelized to everyone and anyone who would listen to me whether it was on the  subway, bus, at work, on the street.

But there were times in my personal life where I had felt like I was alone, or when things weren't quite going my way that I was either not right with God or he was testing me or Satan and his minions had picked me that week to be their crash test dummy in this game called life. I remember many times in the privacy of my room where I would on bended knee cry out to God for hours at a time. I shed many tears of dismay and frustration when things seemed overwhelming. I would search the scriptures for a word from the Lord that would ease my fears.

One way I used to practice  in order to get a word from the Lord was to simply pray over my bible and ask him to speak to me. I would then randomly open the bible to any page and most of the time I would find something in there that I could apply to my situation. Or I would read some kind of message of comfort into the text and thank and praise God for letting me know that he was on it. These same sentiments are shared and are more prevalent in song such as the hymn 'He's got the whole world in his hands' or the ever popular song 'God is watching us' by Bette Midler.

Although I believe now that religion is a delusion it does serve a purpose, especially for the most extreme believers. By extreme I mean the more charismatic believers such as the Baptists and Pentecostals. There is a sort of comfort in believing that there is some being who cares for you and is in charge of every situation that you confront in life. But anyone who has seen tragedy up close can tell you it is a false sense of security. It's comfort food and nothing more.

What do you say to that poor child born into a family in Haiti in abject poverty? Or maybe one of 10 children born into a big family in some tribe in Africa? Places where people die of starvation, malnutrition, and just outright poverty every single day. Where is God? It's easy from the believers point of view to place the blame on the sufferers of these tragedies, and in a way they are to a certain extent correct to do so. For example what is a woman who could barely feed herself doing having children? In places like those mentioned above God does absolutely no good. But you have to take into consideration these peoples cultural and religious beliefs as well.

In the end whether a Christian or secular organization, it's not your religious beliefs that can help these people; it's people that can help through hard work and dedication. Frederick Douglas the former slave turned abolitionist said it best " I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs." God does not get you out of jams it's your actions and determination to survive and do what it takes to rectify your situation that in the end helps you triumph over adversity. 

When faced with adversity and at times even insurmountable odds you only have two options:you either have to get back up, dust yourself off, and fight on with even greater determination; or just lay there and die. There is no middle ground, depending too much on the imaginary guy in the sky would only exacerbate your situation. I find my life more fulfilling as an atheist in that everything I do or achieve in this life I can attribute it to my hard work and dedication, not to some fictional being who wants to have all the glory for what he has not done.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Christianity in a nutshell

According to the teachings in the bible there is a being whose nature cannot be defined because he is at the same time ineffable. Thanks to anthropomorphism this being has even been given a sex; it's a boy!! But this was not always the case since we also have found throughout history and in various cultures that sometimes goddesses were believed to have existed and were worshiped as well. But for the record the biblical God is in some way, shape, or form identified as a male ( the so called dominant sex).

I find it ironic that this God that so many revere and worship today was developed in a time and place where the woman was considered a second class citizen. Her only purpose for existence according to the sacred texts of the Old Testament was to serve man, and to bear children. She was to be as the King James Bible calls her an help meet/suitable helper for the man. The rest of the scriptures especially in the old testament is chock full of stories about how women are to blame pretty much for every evil known to man. It was the woman that caused Adam to disobey God's specific command to not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Although, you have to remember that it was not entirely Eve's fault for she was tempted to disobey first by a talking snake!

Because of the actions of the first couple man became separated from God due to his newly found sinful nature. As time went on man progressively got worst and the gap between man and God grew wider. It got so bad that god eventually decided to destroy man and regretted having created him. In fact, he seemed to be thinking of starting over from scratch and killing not just man but all other living creatures as well. But there was one righteous man name Noah who moved God to spare him and his family a total of eight people by making him build an ark and filling it with representatives of every animal species according to very specific instructions.

After floating around in this ark for about a year Noah and company finally landed on dry land and began to repopulate the earth once again. But of course as expected man was still corrupt because God had not completely eradicated mans sinful nature, since Noah was a descendant of Adam and Eve. So God instituted a system of blood sacrifices that many Christians say was a type of Christ and what was to come. But this system only appeased God temporarily and had to be repeated several times a year by every family and the Hebrews as a nation. So God decided to switch to plan B to end this cycle once and for all.

Plan B consisted of God coming to our humble little planet as a man/Jesus and then the plan was that as a man he was to endure hardships and temptations just like the rest of us. He was finally going to be like the O.T. scapegoat and bear the sins of the entire world both from the past and generations to come. He was then to die at the hands of man as the perfect sacrifice to God/himself to take away the sins of the world for all those that believed in him and accepted his sacrifice as atonement for their sins forever.

Oh, but wait! The story does not end there. After having died a terribly painful death on the cross of Calvary he was laid to rest, and on the second or third day he allegedly came back to life in a new glorified body and rose to the heavens disappearing into the clouds in plain sight of about 500 witnesses! Unfortunately they were all illiterate and poor and had no way to put these events down in writing and either way they still could not afford the price of writing materials anyway, so even if they were literate it would not have made much of a difference. Needless to say we have no first hand accounts of this event nor even a clue about who these 500 witnesses were.

The incredible thing is that today over two thousand years of this miraculous and ridiculous story, there are still those that number in the millions who are still waiting for this divine dead guy to come back! People to this day all over the world pay homage to him and pray to him for help with their mundane affairs. They shed tears of love and devotion for a nonexistent being and swear by every fiber of their being that they can feel his presence and some even hear his voice and have visions and dreams of him as well! I find it ironic that when you ask them what he looked like he looks just like they imagined he would based on how they were taught to believe.

Well, there you have it folks all wrapped up in a simple little article minus all the bullshit and esoteric and mystical mumbo jumbo! So all that's left is for you the reader to accept to believe this tale is true and you will earn an eternal life full of bliss basking in the presence of this loving creator. Or you can disbelieve it and await your new post death torture and eternal torment for not being gullible enough to believe in a God whose existence is dubious, and who has no interest in proving to us that he exists outside of the myths as narrated in the bible. Don't forget that a couple of emotionally charged subjective feelings etc. don't count as proof and can't be validated as such.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Latest change on my blog

As much as I hate to do this I am sorry to say that I have decided to block anonymous posters from making comments on my blog. The reason for this is that I am quite tired of anonymous posters of a certain type coming on my blog making ignorant statements, and demonstrating through those statements how deluded and intolerant they truly are.

I am willing to discuss religion in a civil manner with anyone who is willing to respect my unbelief as well. But when you start making personal attacks or ignorant statements based on your beliefs and your theology then that is where I draw the line. I am here to share my experiences as both a former fundamentalist believer and as a veteran atheist of 18 years. I am not here to argue and fight with fundamentalist who quite honestly in my opinion, based both in experience and what I've learned lack the tools knowledge wise to even discuss these matters coherently.

If you are dead set in your beliefs feel free to comment, but don't think that you can turn my blog into one of your stupid and ignorant proselytizing tools. I won't have it and if gaining converts is your goal then maybe you should start your own blog. I don't come here to win people over to atheism since there is nothing I can teach about atheism. I am here to share and inform those interested in atheism about what we generally believe or in the case of religion don't believe from my point of view.  

This blog is a place for new and veteran atheist, for theist that are interested in knowing what we think about their gods, and for those with an open mind. I will not tolerate anyone insulting neither my readers nor myself. This is a place for civil discussion about atheism, theism, and religious matters and nothing more. It is not a debate forum nor a place to bicker and fight about things that in the end are a matter of ones own personal preference and opinions.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

On biblical interpretation

As a former believer one of the things I find most disturbing about the bible is that it is never clear on certain matters. Sometimes when things don't quite make sense then people go about scrambling to find texts throughout the scriptures to try and tie it all together. Although, most of the time all they end up doing is quoting text out of context and mixing and matching verses of scripture that have absolutely nothing to do with each other or even the same subject matter.

One of the biggest issues of contention and I will use this misinterpretation as an example of what I mean, is the matter of the age of the Earth. Scientists believe based on various dating methods utilized on some of Earths oldest rocks, meteorites, etc and  their rate of decay that the Earth is 4.5 to 4.6 billion years old. You can find some great information about this in this article at right here. Also, in that article the subject of creationism and their guesses as to the age of the Earth are discussed.

When I was an evangelist from 1990' to 94' this was one of those topics I pretty much stayed away from. I was busy preaching about salvation and working on saving everyone I could possibly convince to give their lives to Jesus. But it often came up in private conversations and sometimes I was forced to address the issue. Unlike many literalist at the time, I was not convinced that the Earth was as some young Earth proponents said about 7,000 to even 10,000 years old. They also tried to make scientific claims that supported their beliefs but let's just say that there was something very wrong with their idea of science.

There was at the time a theory referred to as the gap theory that we used to try to make the age of the Earth as interpreted by scientists to fit with what the scriptures taught about the matter. Basically, what the theory taught was that in between Genesis verses 1 and 2 there was an indeterminate period of time that could have spanned into millions or even billions of years. But that was nothing more than assumptions that were being interpreted into the reading of the scriptures.

Genesis actually said that God created the Earth and everything in it in six days and that he rested on the seventh. The debate was on between theists of all sorts regarding this seven days. Were they literal seven days or was this just an allegory not meant to be taken literally? The next solution that Christians made was to not take the seven days as literal but rather interpret them according to 2 Peter 3:8 ' But there is one thing, my dear friends, that you must never forget: that with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.' Now using this verse as a reference the seven days in Genesis was now seven thousand years!

But when you read 2 Peter 3:8 out of context it appears to be saying literally that one day is like a thousand years to God. But what was the author really talking about in chapter 3? If you took a moment to read chapter 3 in its entirety, you would see that he was trying to console the faithful regarding the coming of the Lord. He is responding to the scoffers (such as myself) who mock those believers who are still awaiting the coming of the Lord. He states that the Lord's coming is delayed because he is patient and doesn't want anyone to be lost but that all should come to salvation.

I once read somewhere that any and all bible translations are by default someones interpretation as to what the text is truly saying. Anyone who can speak, read, and write more than one language can attest to this. Depending on the language two people can hear the same phrase and translate (interpret) it differently. A good place to see this in black and white is to go to this site. The site is an online parallel bible where you can read a text or verses of scripture in various available translations.

The fact that we don't have any original texts of any of the books of the bible, the difficulty involved in making copies of those texts by hand and the high margin for human error, interpretation, and translation errors, makes me believe that the bible is not and simply cannot be the word of any god. Even the most careful interpretation that takes into consideration the time the text is written and what was going on at that time, the culture from which the tales and the texts were produced etc. Does not make the bible error free or inerrant and infallible as some bone headed literalist like to state.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Wonder of Discovery

There are certain times in ones life when you come to have what I like to call a eureka moment. A short but very powerful moment in which you come to the realization of something you have been studying or trying to discover. It's one of those moments that takes your breath away, puts a smile on your face, gets your heart racing, and your blood pumping. I have had several of these moments in my lifetime both as an atheist and as a believer.

One of those moments came when I was reading the bible and thought that I had finally solved the mystery of the so called trinity and the tripartite nature of God. I was so excited and had thought then and there that the Lord had imparted that knowledge to me in that very moment. I came to believe that God was actually three different beings and when the bible stated that they were one that they were only one in plan and purpose. At that moment I guess you could have called me a polytheist but for some reason it completely made sense to me. In the creation story it said several times that God would use the words us, we, whenever he said something. So I asked myself who is God referring to in those statements?

As an atheist one of my eureka moments came to me when I came to the realization that we are literally made up of star stuff. I was watching a program on the discovery channel and when the narrator said that I remember I almost jumped for joy when I heard it. It might seem trivial to some but it was a big deal to me. I have never seen ourselves as a species as being so unique and special, I see us as just another life form inhabiting this wonderful planet we call Earth. If it weren't for the ability of plants to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen then we wouldn't be here.

It is fascinating to know that all life on this planet relies on some other life form for its continued existence. I find that very fact to be mind blowing! Carnivores and herbivores all sharing life on this planet and depending on one another for their continued survival. In the fictional garden of Eden we were strictly fruit eaters but this is just one more instance where the bible is wrong. We need certain vitamins and minerals and a lot of nutrients to sustain this body of ours in good working condition and health. Fruits just don't have everything we need.

Today I live for these eureka moments and find that discovery of any knowledge and the feeling you get with it is worth the journey. Religion just doesn't do it for me anymore, there is nothing like science. That's why God did it is to me not an answer to all the worlds unanswerable questions. I get a certain high when I learn something new, that is why I only read academic books for pleasure. I don't read fiction anymore and haven't done so since high school. I read about evolution, general biology, astronomy, comparative religion, etc. I watch movies but I love watching documentaries about science and discovering things about the world we live in and about ourselves as a species.

This is why faith is just not an option for me and it never will be. I refuse to believe that "God did it" is the answer to everything. It takes away from the journey of discovery and learning which I think is vital to each and every one of us who loves to exercise their minds. I know how religions work and how they influence the lives of their adherents first hand. It is because of this reason that religion has lost its luster with me. It's like seeing an amazing magic trick for the first time and then later finding out exactly how the illusion was created. When you see that trick done again with the knowledge of how it's done then it just doesn't have the same effect on you as it did the first time you saw it.

Religion isn't even a challenge for my mind anymore. I like writing about it and debunking it but I could never be a believer again with all of the knowledge I have gained about religion throughout the years. Religion is demeaning and oppressive to me these days, and I feel a certain repulsion for it since I managed to break free of its grasp. In closing I would just like to say that as long as there are things to discover and learn from this life, I will continue my journey. Who knows, maybe two thousand years from now people would look back and laugh at our silly religions and beliefs.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Three not so famous miracles of the New Testament

15 So they reached Jerusalem and he went into the Temple and began driving out the men selling and buying there; he upset the tables of the money changers and the seats of the dove sellers.16 Nor would he allow anyone to carry anything through the Temple. Mark 11:15-16 (NJB)

Because Mark is believed to be the oldest copy of the synoptic gospels I will use the text from there for the purposes of this post. It is my purpose to illustrate to my readers how what is referred to as the cleansing of the temple in the New Testament is not and could not have been a factual event. One of the first problems was the sheer size of the temple plaza itself. Just to give you an idea let me quote from a guide to the temple: ' The Temple Mount plaza was 144,000 sq. meters in area (172 222.6 sq yards), the equivalent of 29 American football fields.' If you don't believe me you can read all about it here

During the time of Jesus the Temple was the main market place in Jerusalem. It is hard to believe that one man and his disciples; without having to use his super powers was able to stroll into the temple plaza and start flipping tables and causing a ruckus there without having to face several possible consequences to his actions. Also, this supposedly happened around the time of the Passover and so it stands to reason that since Jerusalem was under Roman rule that the temple being a place of trade and commerce would have had a strong Roman presence guarding the area.

So here is the first little known miracle that took place during this event. It is a miracle, that if Jesus and his disciples attempted to clear out the vendors and money lenders etc. from the temple; a task that would have been impossible due to the temples sheer size, that he did not get his ass kicked and handed to him by the vendors. Remember this was a time where for blasphemy people had no problem picking up stones and stoning you to death. This is the way these people sustained themselves and their families and anyone who has a lick of sense should know; you don't mess with a man's livelihood.

The second miracle was that short of him and his disciples being beaten to a bloody pulp they didn't get their asses arrested for causing a public disturbance in the temple in the first place. The fact that Jesus and company supposedly went waltzing in there kicking over tables and as one account said he was even whipping people with a whip he made from ropes, without getting arrested is beyond reason and belief.

The third and final miracle is that Jesus did not meet an untimely demise at the hands of the angry mob of vendors whose merchandise he was tossing all over the place. Not just for tossing the merchandise but for referring to himself as the son of God in John 2:16  and said to the dove sellers, 'Take all this out of here and stop using my Father's house as a market.' By simply stating that the Temple of God was his father house he implied that he was the son of God. This certainly qualifies as blasphemy and would have got him the death penalty.

In conclusion it is because of the sheer size (the equivalence of 29 football fields!) of the Temple that there is no way Jesus and a handful of men could have driven out the vendors from the temple. Flipping over the tables and making all those people lose merchandise and money would have certainly earned Jesus an ass whooping or some jail time or both. And finally, his blasphemy would have at least gotten him stoned to death either on the spot or subsequently after his arrest.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Religious beliefs are rooted in mythology

I don't know what is going on in this world. Maybe it's just me, but I find that the validity that is given to religious beliefs are in my view insanely ridiculous. When it comes to Judaism, Christianity, and the Bible I find it disturbing that people are willing to go to great lengths to understand what is blatantly obvious given the origins of these belief systems. The fact that they are all a particular society's cultural beliefs and are not historical but rather entirely rooted in myths.

In my case it only took a straightforward and literal reading of the bible to see that it was all nothing more than myth making. I did not have to go to college to learn Aramaic, Hebrew, or Greek to see what was obvious to the discerning reader: that no matter what language you read the bible in it's still nothing more than ancient mythology. Because of the fact that these myths are intermingled with history to a certain degree, it makes historians want to give these tales some sort of validity or benefit of the doubt.

The myths that were formerly believed and observed before monotheism were all polytheistic in nature, and took a lot of effort to appease the innumerable deities that they believed to have existed. There were deities for pretty much every aspect of nature, there were local and provincial deities, etc. Think of the Catholic church and their various saints in order to see this in a much clearer light. The Catholics have an intercessory saint for pretty much every imaginable misfortune or ailment you might encounter, and so depending upon your need you may call upon one of those saints to intercede before God in your favor.

It stands to reason that in the case of Judaism someone finally got tired of praying to every imaginable deity under the sun. As a result of this monotheism was born, instead of praying to many gods why not just name a supreme God and pray to him instead? I don't know about you but this type of reasoning seems to make a lot of sense to me.

I am convinced that because of the connection with religion and politics throughout ancient history we can get some clues as to what was going on around the times these tales were made up. Otherwise, the validity of religion as a field of study is nothing more than a waste of time and effort. If you are studying for the benefit of familiarizing with what people once believed as we do today when we study Roman and Greek mythology or the religious beliefs of the Maya, Incas, etc. Then it's fine as long as you are aware that what you are studying is not factual.

That is not the case with religious studies today as it pertains to the Bible or the Koran. Because both books mix some historical facts with myths historians and religious scholars can't seem to separate the one from the other unless you are a skeptic and non-believer. One thing is certain about myths and that is that they tend to grow as a result of building off of one another. When a society is exposed to a different culture and their religion, you can later see some borrowing that has transferred into their myths and religious beliefs as a result of their exposure to a new culture.

The Hebrews wanted their own identity and so it is not so far fetched to believe that as part of this new identity they also wanted to have their own deity and religion. Something that separated them from the rest of the crowd. But even in this attempt they could not help but borrow elements from other preexisting myths from the Babylonians, Egyptians, Canaanites, and others. The Epic of Gilgamesh is but one of many examples.

In conclusion as I stated in the title all religious beliefs are rooted in mythology. That being said there should be no reason why one myth in this case Christianity or even Judaism should be held more valid than another. A myth is a myth and if we are at the point where we are going to accept myths as reality then we should not stop with the traditional beliefs why don't we resurrect some of the more ancient Greek myths? It would be quite fun to believe in unicorns and a pantheon of gods forever at war with one another. These beliefs were stupid then and they are even more sillier now in an age of learning and scientific progression.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The story of Cain examined

One of the biggest discrepancies with the Adam and Eve tale is found in the tale of Cain and Abel. The discrepancy I would like to address specifically is that of Cain's concerns after hearing the curse that God had imposed upon him for the murder of his brother Abel. In order to examine this discrepancy I will be citing verses relevant to this post from the book of Genesis chapter 4 and I will be citing exclusively from the New Jerusalem translation of the scriptures.

The first thing to note is that Adam and Eve did not have sex nor children according to the scriptures until they were cast out of the garden of Eden. Although, when they were first put into the garden they were given the instruction to be fruitful and multiply. The fact that this story is supposed to be a story of origins of all living things including the human race is evident in chapter 3 verse 20 which states:' The man named his wife 'Eve' because she was the mother of all those who live.' I mention this because one of my posters commented that the bible does not say that Adam's family were the only inhabitants of the Earth. He/she meant this as a lame defense of what will follow shortly in this post.

After being cast out of the garden the tale picks up again in chapter 4:1-2: 1 'The man had intercourse with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. 'I have acquired a man with the help of Yahweh,' she said.2 'She gave birth to a second child, Abel, the brother of Cain. Now Abel became a shepherd and kept flocks, while Cain tilled the soil.' So according to these verses Cain and Abel were in fact the original couples first born sons. This confirms my statement in the second paragraph about them not having intercourse till they were first cast from the garden.

Now the biblical narrative states that Cain and Abel both came before the Lord each with his offerings and that God accepted Abel's offering but rejected Cain's. Why God rejected Cain's offering is not relevant to this post so I wont touch on that at this time. In a fit of rage Cain kills his brother in the field and when God finds out about it he imposes a curse upon Cain. Cain's response to this curse being imposed upon him is very interesting:'  Look, today you drive me from the surface of the earth. I must hide from you, and be a restless wanderer on earth. Why, whoever comes across me will kill me!' Genesis 4:14 Problem number one; who is Cain concerned about if his parents and himself are the only inhabitants of the Earth?

In Genesis 4:16-17 we have our second discrepancy with this story:16 'Cain left Yahweh's presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.17 Cain had intercourse with his wife, and she conceived and gave birth to Enoch. He became the founder of a city and gave the city the name of his son Enoch.' That's right! It's pretty obvious what the discrepancy is here. How was Cain able to find a wife in another land if according to the scriptures his was the first family on the face of the Earth? This my faithful readers is the discrepancy I was referring to when I was speaking about the poster who claimed that the bible did not state that Adam's family were the only humans on the Earth. But as I have shown in Gen. 3:20 that is what the bible states. It says that Eve was the "mother of all who live."

I have two theories about how to explain this discrepancy. The first is pretty straightforward and simple: the story of human origins as depicted in Genesis is nothing more than local legends and myths not meant to be taken literally. By local, I mean that those people of that region held those beliefs and that those beliefs were unique to that particular culture. Although they may have borrowed some elements from other cultures that they might have previously been exposed to. The second solution is that whoever wrote chapter four regarding Cain, his curse, and subsequent lineage was not the same author of chapter 4 from verses 1-12. It's quite possible that verses 13-26 were a later addition to the story or as scholars like to call it an interpolation.

The two solutions that I have proposed above are in my opinion the only way that one can logically make sense of the discrepancy and blatant contradictory nature of the second half of the tale. Anything else would be speculation and based entirely on assumptions that have no ground to stand on and do not make any sense with the facts as outlined in the story.

In conclusion the Genesis stories about origins are nothing more and nothing less than just another one of many of the worlds creation myths. There is nothing historically true about these tales and the existence of its main characters is itself in question.  As in many ancient cultures that preceded science these tales were made up by the elders to help the people deal with the question; Where did we come from?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Pentecostals and hypnosis

As a former Pentecostal evangelist; when I left the church one of the first things I had to try to explain was how I was able to do the things I did during a typical service, let me explain. When I would preach people claimed later to have been healed, set free from demonic possession or oppression, received gifts of the Spirit they previously did not have such as speaking in tongues (glossolalia), or being baptized in the Holy Spirit.

When I prayed for people they typically fell over without me even touching them, what was more amazing which at times even shocked me; was that I was able to do this with the same effects from clear across the room by simply pointing at someone! Sometimes I would stare at someone and they would pass out and later testify that they were overcome by the presence of the Holy Spirit! At the time I truly believed that I was a man who was filled with the Spirit and had what the Pentecostals like to call the anointing. 

In the Old Testament when one was chosen King he was anointed by the priests in a ceremony which typically meant that he was chosen by God as the people’s ruler. Pentecostals on the other hand believed in a spiritual anointing that only came upon a chosen few in which God himself would pour out his Spirit upon them and grant them amazing powers for use in the ministry. These gifts are listed in the book of 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 in all the number of the gifts of the Spirit are nine. During my ministry I can honestly say that at one time or another I have utilized each and every one of these gifts. 

The first time that I began to doubt the origin of the “powers” was when I was watching a television documentary about an Indian ceremony that had to do with the dance of the serpent. Basically, there were some girls all dressed in white dresses and they were dancing around a ritualistic circle meant to conjure the spirit of some serpent deity. As the ritual wore on the girls began to mimic the movements of a snake as they supposedly succumbed to the possession of the spirit deity. They began to writhe sensually on the ground etc. I remember the first thought that crossed my mind upon seeing that ritual was “that’s not that different from what happens in my church!”

In a typical Pentecostal service it is not uncommon to see men and women alike passing out suddenly, or begin to “speak in tongues” loudly,crying, or to get caught in ecstasy as they raise their arms in the air and shout hallelujah, or even begin jumping up and down uncontrollably. All of these are interpreted as the working of the Spirit in them. But is it really? It is also important to note that a lot of these manifestations are all psycho-emotional but that is something we could talk about in another post.One of the first places I began to look for answers was in the field of hypnosis. I had seen many stage hypnotists on television specials make people do incredible things through the power of suggestion.

In hypnosis as in religion, the first thing you must do is surrender and trust the person you are surrendering to. Pentecostalism hammers into your psyche to let go and let God’s Spirit have his way with you.  A minister may place his hands on your head or shoulders and shout in your ear “let go stop resisting the Spirit of the Lord is doing a work in you.” Meanwhile while all of this is going on you have the rest of the congregation yelling “touch him/her Lord let them feel your power baptize them with your Holy Spirit!”

There is loud music meant to help you let go of your inhibitions and relax to put you in the right state of mind. Before you know it you either pass out or start speaking in tongues which contrary to what many believe who have not had this experience you are actually very conscious and aware of your surroundings when this happens.  Basically, you are in a hypnotic trance induced by the combination of previous indoctrination to your churches beliefs, the loud music, the prayers of a “holy man,” and the egging on of the rest of the congregation with supporting shouts and prayers. But this could also happen just by hearing the minister’s voice as he preaches and shouts his message of salvation at the top of his lungs.

Think of the minister as the hypnotist, his touch or stare, the yelling, the music, the egging on of your fellow believers, and you have the perfect formula for a hypnotic induction. As stated before the auto-suggestion is already taken care of with the daily indoctrinations you receive while you remain a member of that church and fraternize with the elders of the congregation. All of these things serve as tools to the hypnotist/evangelist.

I can attest that when I was an evangelist I was unaware of these techniques and utilized them unknowingly. I was basically following the standard rituals as taught to me by the church and as I participated in and observed several times a week. Not all ministers in these churches use these techniques to deceive, although there might be a few who know exactly what they are doing.

In closing, all of these phenomena are nothing more than events created in the mind. They are altered mental states that seemingly produce physical results such as faith healing or deliverance from demonic oppression or possession. A lot of the so called healings you hear about in these congregations are actually nothing more than the placebo effect in action. These so called maladies are nothing more than psycho-somatic disorders and the rituals of the church serve as the cure (placebo) of an imaginary problem.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

On philosophy and religious arguments

For this post I will refer to my trusty Sage dictionary and thesaurus by first defining the word philosophy.

Philosophy: The rational investigation of questions about existence and knowledge and ethics.

Although the study of philosophy is supposed to be a rational means of obtaining knowledge, I feel that it is an inappropriate methodology when it comes to the study of God and religion. My main reason for this conclusion is simply that all beliefs about God are based entirely on assumptions and not facts. So, technically they cannot be fairly assessed through the use of reason.

If we are to say that revelation does not count as an adequate means of obtaining knowledge, then we must begin by discarding all that we claim to know through the reading of so called divinely inspired ancient texts. The Bible, the Koran, and other holy books are just a bunch stories collected by a bunch of superstitious people in an age where science was either limited or non-existent. Of the little science that did exist most of it was tainted by superstition as are the many forms of pseudo-sciences that are prevalent today.

I have participated in forums where people spend hours debating about the existence of God or gods in general. When it comes to the biblical God they talk about his attributes and so on and so forth and I always intervene with something like: "How do you know what the attributes of God are?" I think that is a reasonable question. They either ignore me or start telling me how weak and inept my arguments are. But when you really look at the question; everything they claim to know about God is based on the biblical "revelation" of God.

Paraphrasing Thomas Paine from 'The Age of Reason' he said loosely that a revelation is only a revelation to the one claiming to have received it, but that to the rest of us even the first person he shares it with, it is just hearsay and as such they are not obligated to believe it.  It's interesting to note that yesterdays religions are today's myths. I wonder what Christianity or Judaism will look like say two thousand years down the line. Will it still be as strong and prevalent as it is today, or will it be added to the section of ancient myths in the futures digital libraries?

Another word I would like to briefly define before I continue is apologetics.

Apologetics: The branch of theology which is concerned with the defense of Christian doctrines.

As per the definition which I obtained once again from my Sage dictionary, the problem I have been pointing out in this post is made clear. The Sage dictionary defines the word doctrine as: 'A belief (or system of beliefs) accepted as authoritative by some group or school.' In this case that system of beliefs is Christianity and every other popular and not so popular religious myths.

Christian arguments are all flawed and doomed from the beginning because they all start with the presupposition that God exists, based entirely on their personal beliefs and convictions as taught to them by their churches doctrines. As with Creationism and ID they start with their conclusion and try to make the pieces of the puzzle fit their conclusion. In other words, their so called examination of the evidence is biased. It's the scientific method in reverse which is no surprise considering that apparently everything theists do tends to be in reverse.

There is nor has there ever been any evidence to support the existence of God or gods objectively, all so called proofs are of a subjective type. God has in no time made his existence known to man in an irrefutable and conclusive manner. There is no way to defend assumptions based on ancient myths and the so called divine revelations of a bunch of mostly anonymous authors. That is why I abhor the use of philosophy as a means of defending Christian beliefs. Theology and apologetics are both fields of study that are entirely based on assumptions and therefore a waste of time and effort to try to refute.

Through apologetics you can pretty much invent arguments for God to no end, since in the world of the imagination there is no room for reason and logic has no place. Making a bunch of assumptions based on lack of knowledge does not an irrefutable argument make. That is why people like William Lane Craig and company can continue to seem intellectual by defending what appears to be sound philosophical arguments. When the truth is that everything that could be said about God based on the so called revelations of ancient texts and myths of the past is nothing more than assumptions. There is not one shred of fact in all of the so called "holy texts" in the world.

The reasons I have stated in this post is why I refuse to get caught up in so called philosophical arguments for or against the existence of God. I don't like circular reasoning or question begging and it seems that the field of apologetics is chock full of both.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

He sacrificed his son, so what!

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. (KJV) John 3:16

This passage is every Christians favorite text to demonstrate the love of God for mankind and his compassion for humanity. This for all Christians is the measure of God's love. But if this is the measure of God's love then we must also pay homage to others in the bible who themselves were willing to do the same.

Let's start with Abraham who at God's requests was willing to plunge a dagger into his sons heart to prove his faithfulness and obedience to God. Genesis 22:1 states that the reason for this request of the Lord was to "test" Abraham. Genesis 22:12 states that he had passed with flying colors.

1 It happened some time later that God put Abraham to the test. 'Abraham, Abraham!' he called. 'Here I am,' he replied. 12 'Do not raise your hand against the boy,' the angel said. 'Do not harm him, for now I know you fear God. You have not refused me your own beloved son.' (NJB).

This is all good and well but it leads me to question the omniscience of God. Despite free will, doesn't omniscience mean all knowing? If this is truly one of the characteristics of the supreme deity then he must've known whether or not Abraham would pass the test or not. That being the case then what is the point of the test?

Moving on let's not forget good old Lot who was willing to give up his daughters to a bunch of rapists and sodomites in order to protect the well being of his guests who were supposedly two angels disguised as men.

8 Look, I have two daughters who are virgins. I am ready to send them out to you, for you to treat as you please, but do nothing to these men since they are now under the protection of my roof.' Genesis 19: 8 (NJB).

How noble of Lot! This clown was declared a righteous man before the Lord 2 Peter 2:4-8. Right after he was spared being destroyed with the rest of the inhabitants of Sodom he goes out and gets drunk in a cave! There are others in the bible who have put their children in harms way for the Lord and so God giving his son for the world is really not something that is unique to divinity.

History is replete with cultures that sacrificed their children to a God or even people who willingly sacrificed themselves for the sake of God. Today's extremist Muslims are a testament to that truth. Christians and atheist alike have been beaten, tortured, and maimed, for upholding their personal beliefs and convictions. People have given their lives in military conflicts for the love of country (patriotism).

In conclusion, God supposedly giving up his son to die for the sins of mankind is not something that should be admired but looked upon with disdain. More so since the "problem" of sin and the so called decline of man is one of God's own making. If he did not want us to fail then why put the damn tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden in the first place! It seems to me that this fictional deity is as stupid and incompetent as some of the creatures the bible claims he has created.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

What's the difference between murdering and killing?Not much!

“You most probably taught your congregation 'thou shall not kill' the correct translation is 'thou shall not murder' murder being the unlawful act of taking a life, killing allowed in the act of self-defense if no other option is available and self-defense not to exceed the threat posed by the attacker.”

Kill: A. Cause to die; put to death, usually intentionally or knowingly
         B. Cause the death of, without intention.
Murder: A. Unlawful premeditate killing of a human being by a human being.
              B. Kill intentionally and with premeditation.

In case you are wondering why I am defining the terms murder and kill take notice of that little quotation above the definitions themselves. An anonymous poster actually wrote that and somehow to me his definitions did not seem quite right. So I decided to consult my trusty Sage dictionary and thesaurus in search of the actual meaning of those words.

As you can see the act of killing or murdering both involve the same thing; the act of taking a life. The bible actually has two places where the Ten Commandments could be found. The first is in the book of Exodus chapter 20 and the second in the book of Deuteronomy chapter 5. But for this post I want to focus on the sixth commandment; the prohibition against killing.

In its simplest definition killing is the act of taking the life of another individual or creature, and this is not exclusive to individuals since there is also such a thing as mass murder or killing in great numbers. The two terms are in fact interchangeable the one with the other. The only difference I see in the definitions provided above is under the term murder. In the definition, the words premeditate and premeditation is implied, which basically means that you previously planned to kill someone or something. Whenever you plot to kill someone with plans and the intent of causing their death you are basically committing a murder.

People like Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, were all murderers because they all planned the killing of large numbers of people. Given this definition it leads me to believe that the biblical God himself falls squarely in this category. Anyone who has taken the time to read the Old Testament can’t help but be appalled at the wanton and senseless killing that takes place both by God himself and by his followers under his orders. He promised the Hebrews a land that flowed with milk and honey, but if we are to accept the O.T. narratives as true those lands were already occupied. What was God’s solution to this problem? Kill them all! 

Numbers 31 is one of the most appalling chapters in the entire Old Testament. It narrates the tale of the Israelites war with the Midianites under the direct command of God. What do you think was the reason for this war? Well if you read verse 3 you will come to realize that it was God/Yahweh’s campaign to exact vengeance on the Midianites.  Vengeance for what you might ask? What did the Midianites do that was so bad that God had to destroy them all? Referring to the women verse 16 says: 16 ‘They were the very ones who, on Balaam's advice, caused the Israelites to be unfaithful to Yahweh in the affair at Peor: hence the plague which struck Yahweh's community.’ That’s right, they led the Hebrews into breaking the cardinal rule of not worshiping other gods.

God then goes on to instruct the Israelites to carry out a couple of murders in his wonderful name. Let’s look at those in list form for simplicities sake. 

 7 They made war on Midian, as Yahweh had ordered Moses, and put every male to death.
8 What is more, they killed the kings of Midian, Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba, the five Midianite kings; they also put Balaam son of Beor to the sword.
10 They set fire to the towns where they lived and to all their encampments.
17 So kill all the male children and kill all the women who have ever slept with a man;
18 but spare the lives of the young girls who have never slept with a man, and keep them for yourselves.

As demonstrated in the previous verses God was using the Hebrews as his executioners of all those that did not obey his will or worship him. In this same way the so called “Promised Land” was obtained, through conquest and mass murder. I guess the sixth commandment does not apply when it is God directing you to kill. In other words in some cases God’s rules are flexible and their transgression is up to his discretion. 

Now for the greatest mass murderer of all time I introduce to you Jehova/Yahweh/ aka God. Although the bible is replete with examples of good old God committing a slew of murders, although none is greater than the one he performed in Genesis chapter 6: 5-7. The famous worldwide flood: with the intent to eradicate all living things on the face of the Earth. 5 ‘Yahweh saw that human wickedness was great on earth and that human hearts contrived nothing but wicked schemes all day long.6 Yahweh regretted having made human beings on earth and was grieved at heart.7 And Yahweh said, 'I shall rid the surface of the earth of the human beings whom I created -- human and animal, the creeping things and the birds of heaven -- for I regret having made them.'

It’s incredible that I have come across believers who rationalize this nonsense by stating that since God created us he can do with us as he pleases! They talk about what filthy vile creatures we all are without Christ and his magical redemption. We sicken God! He can’t even deal with us directly as he did in the Old Testament because we are so corrupt in his eyes. But he fails to see how corrupt he is and his so called just and holy ways! Could it be that God is blinded by his own ideas of self-righteousness? There is nothing neither admirable nor respectable about this fictional deity. When his “ways” are looked at objectively without the spectacles of faith and fear, he is revealed for what he truly is: a tyrant!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Some tips for theists

After having participated in hundreds of discussions with Christian believers, there are several things that I thought you all should know. In this post I am not trying to come off as sarcastic or mocking in any way, I just want you to be aware of some facts regarding debating atheists such as myself. 

The first thing you need to know is that although you might consider the bible as the word of your god, and its authors as inspired by said God; we don’t. That’s right; we don’t consider the bible any more valid as truth than the many Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Syrian, Roman, and Greek works that preceded it. To an atheist these works, including your bible all fall under the same classification of myth.

After the above shocking revelation, it follows to reason that arguing from the bible is pointless. Using the scriptures as evidence for example of the divinity of Christ is a waste of time, since most of the texts that you cite as prophecies of Christ are actually Old Testament texts taken out of context to conform with your beliefs.

The beauty of myth is that it can always be transformed and reshaped to whatever one chooses it to be. It can be interpreted in such a way as to confirm every presupposition you may harbor in your brain beforehand. Best of all is that when confronted with contradictory evidence the myth can be reinterpreted to enable you to embrace that new knowledge and fit it into your mythical beliefs. The best modern example of this is the big bang and the theory of evolution. After proving that the world is in fact at least 4.5 billion years old as opposed to 7,000 years old as interpreted by many literalist of the bible, Christians have found a way to reinterpret their beliefs in light of the evidence by creating their version of evolution; intelligent design.  They incorporated God into the science in order to cling to their beliefs despite its contradictory nature when faced with scientific facts and evidences.

Another important piece of advice for theists seeking to justify their insane beliefs; don’t cite scientific facts unless you are well acquainted with what you are trying to use as a defense or in some cases trying to dispel as evidence. I have seen many a Christian try to refute the theory of evolution for example by making statements about evolution that are obviously incorrect and clearly demonstrate the believers unfamiliarity with the theory itself. If you don’t know what evolution actually is don’t try to dispel it by using incorrect knowledge about it. It is a waste of time and makes you look like an ignoramus. 

Here is a tip for everyone that I think both atheists and theists alike need to know: You can’t reconcile scientific facts with faith! I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this but it just can’t be done.  The two systems utilize two very different methodologies to arrive at their conclusions. Science uses the scientific method which consists of observation, experimentation, and peer review before it is even considered as a viable answer to an unknown question. Christianity uses faith in ancient texts written by anonymous authors in a prescientific age. The same goes for the delusion otherwise known as divine revelation. There is no such thing!

Circular reasoning will get you nowhere my Christian friend! An atheist will see right through that and expose you for the incoherent babbling mess that you are. The best example of this is the age old argument that goes something like this: “How do you know that the bible is the word of God?” Answer: “Because its authors were holy men inspired by God.” Question: “And how do you know that they were inspired by God?” Reply: “Because it says so right here in 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 and 2 Peter 1:21.” Remember what I said about using the scriptures as evidence? This is what is called circular reasoning. Whenever you feel the urge to do this sing this ditty to yourself. “Jesus loves me this I know, because the bible tells me so.” After you realize what you have done do us all a favor and stop it!

Last but not least don’t come to me with wild unfounded new theologies based on a combination of both bad science and even worst theology. A commenter recommended that I familiarize myself with the works of a Dr. Mike Jarvis who in a description of a book entitled ‘God By Evolution’ states in the first line: ‘Reconciling the Big Bang Universe and evolution with belief in the Creator.’ I am of the opinion that this simply cannot be done. You can’t reconcile science with myth no matter how you twist the facts to fit your theology.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Without breath there is no life!

7 Yahweh God shaped man from the soil of the ground and blew the breath of life into his nostrils, and man became a living being. Genesis 2:7

According to the above cited text it states that we were basically formed of the ground and that once God breathed into Adams nostrils he became a living being. Recently I was having a discussion about my atheism with a young lady who could not believe that I did not accept a belief in God. So she posed the most common question that I hear as an atheist: “Where do you think we go when we die?” My reply was very simple and direct: I said that we do like all other forms of life do when they come to an end; we decompose becoming inorganic material in that we cease to exist. We no longer possess the characteristics of living organisms.

What do you think is the most basic yet essential aspect to our survival? The act of breathing is the most important thing all humans and most animal species must do in order to survive. Although the bible states that the blood is the life of a man I personally put blood at second to the inhalation of oxygen. Breathing is essential to the proper functioning of our bodies major organs without oxygen, our bodies would literally shut down. 

This can easily be tested simply by putting someone in a choke hold or having them hold their breath and restrict their breathing. I have participated and done both of these things as a teen and can attest to the efficacy of both of these techniques to cause someone to lose consciousness. The reason for the loss of consciousness is that the flow of blood which carries oxygen to the brain is interrupted. If the brain does not have enough oxygen you simply pass out, if it remains that way you can then suffer severe brain damage, and finally if it stays that way for too long death. 

The blood is essential of course because one of its functions is to transport oxygen and other nutrients to the various organs in the body but you need to breathe in order to obtain oxygen. Even before a prescientific age it is not so hard to see how one could deduce from observing the cessation of breathing that a person or animal had ceased to exist in an organic sense. As the various organs die and decomposition begins to set in it is not hard to come to the simple conclusion that one is dead. The same goes for watching someone dying because they have lost too much blood, although the functions of the blood were not yet understood in biological terms at the time.

7 the dust returns to the earth from which it came, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Ecclesiastes 12:7

 I find it interesting that in Ecclesiastes this verse can be found. I will be using this verse out of context on purpose to make some pertinent points in this post.  The rest of the chapter refers to judgment after death. I decided to look up the word for spirit in a Hebrew lexicon to try and put this text into perspective. I was not surprised to find out that the Hebrew word for spirit is 'ruwach' which included in its definition the words wind and breath.  The word for soul is 'nephesh' which also includes in its definitions allusions to wind and breath and the act of breathing among other things.

In conclusion, the basic premise of this post is that without breath there is no life. And we all basically breathe in one form or another. The act of breathing itself is one of those functions of the brain that we technically don’t have to think about. Our brains most basic functions are done without our conscious participation. The reason for this is because our most basic goal in life is to survive and propagate the species. For this we do not require the existence of a God and I am convinced that the descriptions of the bible were derived by the simple act of observation and then mythologized. The Bible is just how man would have interpreted what he did not understand at the time.

For those who would like to check the sources for this post you can do so by clicking on the two links that follow:

As usual I used the New Jerusalem Bible translation for textual references.