Sunday, January 27, 2013

It's all in your head!

    “Cogito, ergo sum” is a principle first introduced by Renee Descartes that translates from Latin to English as “I think, therefore, I am.” I never gave this principle much thought until recently, when I began to wonder about cognition and self-awareness. Theists have been making futile and nonsensical attempts to attribute self-awareness and morality to an external source such as their God. They attempt to make the argument that we are unique from other life forms on this planet due to our being created in the image of their imagined deity. 

    One of the most important things to keep in mind when discussing anything with theists is that they are always arguing from the presupposition that the bible is true. When they search for evidence in the sciences or philosophy or any other secular discipline they always try to make the evidence conform to their presuppositions and beliefs. The bible teaches them that the Earth, moon, sun, and stars were all made for man. That man was put here to tend to the earth and to live for God and to worship him etc. 

14And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, (NIV).

    Notice that these verses say nothing about the universe! That’s because the authors were speaking about what they knew at the time about the world they lived in. They had no idea that the stars were actually suns, or that there was a vast universe beyond the heavens. Their idea back then of a great achievement was to build a tower that reached unto the heavens; which at that time was believed to be the dwelling place of God. Genesis 11:4

    The people of Israel were commanded to: 5. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5). This is what this post is all about! Luke 10:27 includes the word mind in this commandment and I think that that is the only thing that he gets right. The first problem here is that you can’t love the Lord with your “soul” since its very existence has never been proven; you can’t love him with all your heart since your heart does not produce emotions. The only way you can love the Lord or love anything or anyone at all is with your mind!

    In its simplest interpretation I believe that Descartes was right. The mind is the seat of consciousness, awareness, and emotions. The very idea that you have the ability to think, reflect, recall, or have any idea at all is all a product of the human brain. I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that biology explains everything we need to know about our existence on this planet.  There is no need for any esoteric and ridiculous explanations which in my opinion only complicate the matter further. Christians in particular are stuck with seeking a reason for their existence. They can’t accept that they are just another product of evolution and part of the animal kingdom.

    Consciousness or self-awareness does not require a God, but rather it is a product in my view of the evolution of the human brain. You don’t need to be a neurologist or medical doctor to figure this out, just do a little reading on the subject matter based on what we already have discovered through science without all the mystical woo man has invented.  For instance, one of the most important muscles in the human body is the heart. Without the heart the human body including the brain would die.  Simply because in order for our bodies and organs to function properly they require oxygen; this oxygen is distributed throughout the body by cells. The heart receives deoxygenated cells and pumps them to the lungs which in turn pump newly oxygenated cells back to the heart for distribution. If you want to learn more about this process I found a pretty straight forward article on it here.

    It’s true that our brains are like the computer processor and it's sort of like the controller and conductor of all of our bodily systems functions; it too requires oxygen. If you don’t believe me, then have someone put you in an arm in triangle choke and you will see what I mean. This is how you make someone go unconscious, and believe it or not it only takes about 30 seconds when it is applied correctly.

Why do you think it is that people pass out when they are being choked out? The answer is simply because their brain is unable to function without oxygen. When you block the carotid arteries on both sides of the neck you have interrupted the flow of oxygen to the brain and as a result rendered your opponent unconscious. 

    The reason you are conscious and or aware of anything as I have stated is because your brain has evolved and that can be explained biologically. Our brains and even our bodies and their vestigial organs etc. are clear evidence of evolution in action. Without the woo you are literally what you think! If you think you are worthless you will develop self-esteem issues. If you think that you are always sick you will develop all sorts of psychosomatic disorders. Everything we are down to our senses, emotions, etc. are as a result of the mind.

    Subjective experiences of the divine, ghosts, the paranormal are all created in the mind. The gods themselves, and this includes all gods, are the product of the human mind. Without the brain you can’t think, feel, see, hear, or even exist. Descartes got it right with those three simple words: “cogito,ergo sum.”  I couldn’t have said it better myself! You are what you think, and you think because you are. 

Note: All biblical quotations are taken from the New International Version of the bible.

Monday, January 21, 2013


I would like to talk a little bit about the book of Genesis and what it represents, but before we do that I would like to share an excerpt from Easton's Bible Dictionary to help us understand where the word genesis came from and what it means.

"The first book of the Pentateuch (q.v.) is called by the Jews Bereshith, i.e., "in the beginning", because this is the first word of the book. It is generally known among Christians by the name of Genesis, i.e., "creation" or "generation," being the name given to it in the LXX. as designating its character, because it gives an account of the origin of all things."

There are several things I would like to explain before I begin to help clarify some of the information given in the definition of genesis. Pentateuch is a reference to the Torah or what is often referred to as the five books of Moses which are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The roman numeral LXX or 70 is a reference to the Septuagint which is a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures. Now that we've got that out of the way, let's get this show on the road.

The very last section of the last sentence in our definition gives us a clue as to what the book of Genesis is generally about. It is "an account of the origin of all things." In Genesis we read about the origin of the earth (not the universe). We are also told about the origins of all forms of life such as land, air, and sea creatures. Nothing is said about microscopic life such as germs and microbes that also share this planet with us and even inhabit our very bodies!

There are several clues in chapter one of the Genesis narrative of it's mythological character. The first one is that it makes creation in its entirety seem as if it was all made for the benefit of planet Earth. This is most evident in Genesis 1:16,17 which gives the reason for the creation of the sun and the moon and the stars as being created for the sole purpose of giving light to the earth. There is also an interesting verse 14, that states that the lights were also created to separate day from night, and to mark the seasons, days, and years. Genesis is believed to have been written around 1400 BC but humans have been observing the stars for thousands of years before that.

We learn of the first time humans began to copulate obeying Gods command to be "fruitful and multiply." Genesis goes on to tell us about the first homicide when Cain murdered his brother Abel, or the first time man disobeyed God (the fall). Genesis is a book of beginnings and its stories serve as narratives that try to describe how many things came to be.

A reading of Genesis from chapter 1 through 3 will make it more than clear to anyone whose mind is not cluttered by faith that the entire narrative of the beginnings of life and the earth are entirely based on myths. This is expected from a society who is not known for their scientific knowledge but more for their folktales and superstitions.

In conclusion, if the bible is a book of beginnings it may better be described as a book of the beginnings of superstitious beliefs as narrated by a superstitious author from a bronze aged society. There is nothing scientifically accurate about Genesis creation story that even comes close to what we have learned about origins through the theory of evolution, genetics, and other sciences. It's time to leave the superstitions of the past in the past and embrace life in the modern world.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Christianity is a superstition

Earlier today my wife asked me what at the time I thought was an interesting question. She asked me if Christians are supposed to believe in superstitions. In my reply without thinking I blurted out that they should since their belief system is itself a superstition. After a moments thought to my reply I decided to look up the dictionary definition of superstition. I once again consulted with my Sage dictionary and thesaurus and was very pleased with its short yet precise answer.

"An irrational belief arising from ignorance or fear."

Based on this definition let's analyze it against what we know about Christianity. First off let's look at Christianity as an irrational belief. What exactly is an irrational belief? It's a belief that is neither logical and has no foundation in facts. For example: I believe that if I threw a ball up into the air that because of what I know about the laws of gravity that that ball will come right back down. Is it irrational to believe in trolls, fairies, demons, angels, unicorns, dragons, etc.? I think it is, simply because outside of the realm of fairy tales we have no objective foundation for believing in those things.

A belief that has no evidence whatsoever to support it is most likely a belief that is either irrational or a belief that it is best to hold off judgement till more information becomes available. Many try to make Christianity palatable to a modern world by dismissing the miraculous claims in the bible. But the biggest miracle of all is the one that needs to be dismissed in order to see how ridiculous Christian beliefs really are. The belief that a man claiming to be the son of God or God incarnate depending on which gospel you read, rose from the dead. Afterwards he ascended to heaven not before promising to return "soon."

Let's put this into perspective; assuming that Jesus died in 33 A.D that would mean that it has been 1,980 years since his departure from the earthly plain of existence! How soon is soon for God? It's hard to believe it but there are people today that still think that their imaginary hero of myth is one day going to come descending on a cloud with the armies of heaven in great power and glory! Like the flat earth believers they stubbornly assert that this prophesy is inevitably going to happen. Does that sound rational?

According to the definition these beliefs (superstitions) are derived from ignorance or fear. The theists are definitely ignorant about God and who or what he/she/it may be. They bicker about his will and what the bible means about this or that. It's incredible but today there are around 35,000 Christian sects in America alone. That would be 35,000 groups of believers who disagree on what they claim to believe! The most amazing thing is that they are all reading the same book and coming out with all of these different conclusions. And finally, they are all bearers of the truth!

I have said it before that fear is in fact the driving force behind Christianity followed by ignorance, in fact, it is this ignorance that inspires that fear no matter how unfounded it may seem. Our most primitive fears were driven by ignorance of the world we inhabit, nature, the universe, the unknown. Diseases were caused by demons or God's displeasure. Natural disasters were caused by God's wrath or I should say the gods since polytheism was quite popular before Judaism, Christianity, and Islam came along.

Man created gods to explain what they once did not know or understand. The gods did it was the standard reason for everything whether it was good or bad. Those days were driven by superstitious beliefs as are believers today. Christianity is just one more superstition in a long line of superstitions in general. There is no evidence that there is a God who cares about you or is made happy, sad, or angry because of how you respond to him. Your actions are inconsequential to a nonexistent being. Your beliefs might give you comfort for now but it will not take away the sting of death which all biological organisms just happen to experience. The idea of an after life is just as irrational as the negation of this life.

Religious beliefs are nothing more than the denial or reality. Of course this life is hard at times, and for some it never seems to let up, but denying your problems by imagining that there is some divine being with a purpose behind them is ridiculous. Burying your head in the sand will not make the reality of this world go away. Face your fears and crush your ignorance with knowledge so that you can put away your foolish superstitions and begin to enjoy the things you like to do in this life. You don't need permission to be happy, especially from an invisible guy in the sky. Life is what you make it, and only you can make it better for yourself through hard work and dedication.

If a superstition is irrational and it's based on ignorance and fear then I don't see how Christianity can escape being a superstition. It has all of the elements that are expected of irrational and unfounded beliefs.  Therefore in conclusion in my view Christianity my friends is in fact a superstition. Christians are modern day people who are helplessly and voluntarily stuck in the dark ages.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Useless bickering

One of the things that I hate to see the most on a blog or as a blog comment is what I like to call the blame game. Let me explain what I'm talking about here. The blame game is played when an atheist or a theist point to each others worldviews as being the cause of some of history's worst atrocities.

Theist like to relate atheism to communism and such figures as Stalin, Lenin, etc. while atheists, and I myself am guilty of having done this when dragged into playing the name game point to the bloody church history. We like to specifically point to the various inquisitions and crusades and witch hunts etc.

The funny thing is that in all reality none of that is relevant since it is not necessarily the ideologies or worldviews themselves that cause these problems but the individuals who take such beliefs to the extreme. People are just people and there are bad people and good people regardless of what those individuals may believe.

If we have learned anything from fundamentalist religions or communist regimes it's that from intended good can also come evil. This is similar to the slogan "guns don't kill people, people kill people." The gun by itself is just a tool to carry out that killing and even on some occasions killing is justified as in a life and death situation where you are required to defend yourself to stop a crazed maniac from murdering you or to save another.

In every group of individuals there is always going to be a few rotten eggs, but people have a horrible tendency to generalize. They make blanket assumptions based on the actions of a few within a group and state that everyone who is an atheist is a communist, murderer, or immoral while everyone who is a Christian is a hypocrite, liar, and murderer.

If you are going to argue about theism or atheism it would serve you best to stick to the subject and stop being distracted by playing the blame game. These types of arguments are pointless and completely unproductive and do nothing to support or deny the beliefs from either side. A simple rule to follow would be to stick to the facts about what can be known about a persons beliefs since just as there are atheists that don't agree on many subjects there are theists who don't entirely support the views of their fellow believers.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Agnosticism and proving a negative

One of the many reasons that I don't get involved with apologetics or philosophical arguments for or against the existence of God is that both methodologies in my opinion just lead to circular reasoning with no satisfactory conclusions. I don't think that agnosticism is a reasonable position for the reasons that I will outline here. In this post I will only address two positions; atheism and agnosticism and I will argue for the former as the most logical conclusion.

The encyclopedia Britannica defines atheism and agnosticism as: atheism, in general, the critique and denial of metaphysical beliefs in God or spiritual beings. As such, it is usually distinguished from theism, which affirms the reality of the divine and often seeks to demonstrate its existence. Atheism is also distinguished from agnosticism, which leaves open the question whether there is a god or not, professing to find the questions unanswered or unanswerable.

We know what theism is so we are not even going to waste time on that one. I personally find the last part of the definition for agnosticism as particularly interesting. The position of agnosticism basically states that the question of the existence of God us unanswerable. I disagree with this conclusion simply because it is entirely based on the premise that you cannot prove a negative. The fact that you can't disprove the existence of God does not make it true or even probable that he exists. Doing so is simply jumping to one huge fallacious conclusion based entirely on assumptions.

Stating that God exists basing your conclusions entirely on assumptions as a positive claim without any evidence, that includes circumstantial evidence whatsoever is outright ridiculous. Besides, when it comes to the claim that there is a God the onus is entirely on the theists. Trying to prove what a theist claims as true and real is in and of itself illogical and unreasonable.

It's like me making the claim that a man of his own will and power could fly if he ran fast enough and flapped his arms hard enough. Is it necessary for me to jump from the ledge of a cliff to prove my point? It is quite obvious that we are not biologically built for flight.

Here is my problem with some popular philosophers on this issue: on the one hand they state that religions are man made, and on the other they claim that they cannot prove the existence of God. I don't understand how anyone could make these contradictory claims in the same sentence or article. I am of the view that religious beliefs are entirely man made and a cultural phenomenon. Man created God or gods and not the other way around. Like other ideologies of man religious ideas, beliefs, and views have evolved.

Man has worshiped the forces of nature, animals, imaginary beings, ancestors, and man himself at one time or another. Some of our more ancient cultures have worshiped many gods and have espoused polytheism. The Abrahamic faith most likely started out as a polytheistic religion and eventually evolved into a monotheistic faith. Today's three major religions of the book are based on the Hebrew faith and have evolved into their own belief systems with slight differences. Once you recognize that religious beliefs are man made then it is illogical to then go ahead and claim that you cannot disprove the existence of gods or the biblical God so therefore there must be a least a probability that he/she/it exists.

I personally can't disprove that elves, fairies, gremlins, or even Sasquatch exist. So does it follow logically that there is a probability that they do exist? This to me is just another form of circular reasoning and a very tricky one at that. Going as far back as we could in history to the earliest known religious practices and religions and seeing how they have evolved demonstrates to me without a doubt that these beliefs are false. Faith and so called divine revelation are not a valid means of obtaining knowledge and science has proven this over and over again.

In conclusion, it is my opinion that once you come to the conclusion that the belief in gods or God and religions are all entirely man made there is no other conclusion but atheism. Agnosticism is not an option until the supernatural can be reasonably and conclusively proven to exist. It's not rocket science it's just simple observation and study of what is known about the world we live in.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Christian catch 22

It seems to me that theists have forgotten their mission as believers in Christ, and are ignoring the rules regarding resistance to their message. Today's Christians just like those of the crusades are trying to win converts to Christ not just through the preaching of the word but by force. As in the dark ages they want to make belief into an obligation not voluntarily, but rather compulsory.

According to Matthew 10:14 after Jesus commissioned his disciples to preach the coming of the kingdom to the "lost sheep of Israel" he then told them: 14. "If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town." Jesus, according to the various narratives in the scriptures gave you the option to accept or reject his so called message of slavation/ restoration. The rest of the chapter talks about how the apostles will be persecuted by authorities and gentiles and other religious groups etc.

The funny thing about this is that I have read the bible cover to cover a total of four times and I have never come across any divine mandate or commission for world dominance. Yet it seems that this is what the church has been trying to do ever since it was accepted by the Emperor Constantine and received the backing and military might of the Roman empire. After about 200 plus years of hardship and persecution you would think that the church would have learned through experience a few lessons of compassion. But history has shown us the complete opposite.

Once the church was in full power and recognized as the church of the Roman state, the first things that they did was to exact revenge against the former persecutors. They began a campaign to eliminate all competing religions and compel everyone to accept the Christian faith. Once they were done doing that, then they began turning on other Christian sects which they decided to label heretics because they did not agree with their orthodox views.

If I understand the bible correctly, Christianity was supposed to be a religion based on compassion, love, and peace. Of course Jesus is recorded as saying in Matthew 10:34 :  “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." But in the context in which this passage is set I understand this to mean that there will be strife among ones family, friends, relatives, and even strife within communities because of the new teachings espoused by Christ. Although believers are told to spread the gospel throughout the world they are not told to compel or force people into believing. The choice to accept or reject Christianity is the only free choice I believe that Christianity affords. Beyond that, upon acceptance; you have given up your will to that of the will of God and your newly found beliefs.

But Christians even in today's world are combative. Although it is no longer with sword or in the case of the modern world through the use of modern warfare and military might, they still seem to want to rule the world. In fact I am of the opinion that apologetics as they are used today to so called defend the tenets and beliefs of Christianity is wrong and perverse. Apologetics is good for instructing believers who may be confused about certain aspects of their beliefs. But as a tool to defend the faith it fails miserably. In my opinion in the simplest way possible that I can think of saying this, it's like comparing apples to oranges.

In fact, 1 Timothy 6:20,21 admonishes Timothy (believers): 20. "Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21.which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith." Other biblical translations translate "turn away from" as avoid or shun. Theists according to this texts are supposed to be non-confrontational, but as history has shown us this has never been the case.

In 2 Timothy 2:15,16 this same principle is reinforced: 15. "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 16. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly." In other words opposing beliefs within and without the church and discussions of such things are to be avoided. But theists through apologetics and the misrepresentatons and misinterpretations of the sciences seek to do just the opposite of what they are commanded.

This is the Christian catch 22, they are supposed to preach the gospel to the world but at the same time be peaceful and non-confrontational about it. Their job as followers of Christ simply put, is to preach the gospel or good news as they like to call it. Like a business man they lay out a proposition before those they want to reach and you have the choice to accept or reject that proposition. Forcing your beliefs upon society through such conniving measures as political manipulations, and trying to force your gods laws onto the rest of us through legislation is simply not very Christ like or Christian.

Christians are doing exactly what they did during the crusades and the inquisition. They are trying to force their beliefs on the world and some of the more extreme groups would love nothing more than a full blown theocratic society. In a previous and more barbaric age they could simply imprison, burn, and torch you at the stake for not confessing faith in their beliefs. But in today's more civilized world those methods have been outlawed so they must resort to other means such as gaining favor with politicians and using that favor to influence laws in our country that favor their beliefs.

Christians don't care about the rights of others they only care about their own beliefs and rights that they seem to assume that they have earned. In this country theists of all denominations and sects are allowed to worship freely. But that is not enough for them, they want us all to worship with them regardless of our race, creed, or religion. The problem is that they are nothing more than a bunch of psychotic sheep without a shepherd. The many Christian sects in the U.S. alone (around 35,000) attest to the many disagreements amongst them.

In conclusion, theists should adopt the policy of live and let live. You may believe that you are not of this world and that is fine, but you are currently in this world and so you must adapt like the rest of us are forced to do. If someone does not accept your message don't go off on a rant about how they are immoral or the children of Satan etc. Try praying for them in your own private time with your imaginary guy in the sky. Stop being so confrontational and leave those of us who don't want to be bothered alone.

Note: All biblical quotations are taken from the New International Version of the bible.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Religion is here to stay!

I often search the internet for blogs that I may find of interest regarding Christianity and atheism, and I have recently been bothered by the naivety of some of my fellow atheists. I feel that regardless of your reasons for the hope of the end of religion; that this hope is the equivalent of the theists hope that Jesus will return "soon." I think that the desire for the destruction of religious beliefs and institutions are nothing more than a pipe dream.

When it comes to religious beliefs ignorance is bliss. Most people that accept a belief system such as Christianity on faith don't take the time to do any research before they give their life to Christ. They don't normally read up on the history of the church from a secular text book or some other unbiased source. Once they become members of a congregation and accept its beliefs they are then taught about their belief systems through biased materials provided by the purveyors of that particular system. It's sort of like buying an expensive used car without having it inspected by a qualified mechanic and taking the sellers word for it that you are not buying a lemon but a car that runs like new.

It is this quality of blind trust that in my opinion gives religion the edge over atheism or other competing systems of belief. I call this blind trust faith, and I call faith the ultimate equalizer. Faith does not ask questions, faith does not delve into thought exercises about what you have chosen to believe, faith does not require any evidence to substantiate it at all. All that is needed for faith to be successful is your willingness to believe that what you are being taught is the truth. Indoctrination combined with subjective so called "spiritual" encounters with the divine is sufficient to convince the believer that he/she is on the right track.

But you have to sincerely ask yourself believer; that if subjective experiences are all that is needed to substantiate your faith, then what could be said about all those other competing religions that claim to have similar experiences? Stating that they are being duped by Satan and his cohorts, or that they are misled through false doctrinal beliefs does not suffice to dismiss their claims as real as the ones you claim to experience.

In the book of Hebrews 11:1 faith is defined as: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." I am using the NIV for this definition because I feel that it is contains the clearest language and the easiest to understand. Christians are sure that the bible narrative is true, that Jesus rose from the dead, that their sins are forgiven, and that some day they will be granted a place along with the righteous in the presence of their Lord. But what gives them this assurance is not based on any evidence since in my opinion no valid evidence could be had. But rather it is based on their acceptance of what they are being taught and have read in the scriptures.

Jesus allegedly confirmed the virtues of faith when he admonished Thomas in John 20:29 by stating: "Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Christianity thrives on hearsay and not evidence. Believers accept what the so called "inspired" authors of the bible tell them. It is this quality that gives this religion its assurance of stability no matter what evidence is presented to the contrary.

I've said it before and I'll say it again that as long as there are gullible people, there will always be believers. For instance; a careful reading of certain passages in the N.T. will demonstrate that Jesus himself promised that his return would occur during the lifetime of the apostles. He was what is referred to as an apocalyptic prophet. He even told his disciples to go around preaching that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. He sent them amongst the Jews and gave them specific instructions on what to say and what to do when their message was not accepted.

After commissioning them to preach the coming of the kingdom and telling them to only preach to the lost sheep of Israel and not to the gentiles he tells them that: "When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes." Matt. 10:23 and later in the same book of Matthew he informed them that:  "I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." Matt. 16:28. As we all know this prophecy did not come to pass and despite this damning evidence against the truth of the message of Christ we still have Christianity thriving two thousand plus years later.

If you knew of this information have you ever wondered why? It's because Christianity is a belief system that thrives on faith. A little tweak to the word here and there and it's all better. Here is an example of what I mean. Although it is quite obvious from the texts that I have shown that Jesus promised to return in the lifetime of his disciples, and in one other verse he even says it will be during their generation, theists have reinterpreted the texts to smooth over the failed prophecy.

In Matthew 24:36 and other similar passages Christianity is given an indefinite extension on life by simply stating: "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." This is the mantra of all modern day believers regardless of the evidence against their faith. Or even worse, they come up with all types of insane reinterpretations of what Jesus really meant when he said he would be back during the lifetimes of the disciples.

Where I reside I find that religion also thrives amongst the poor and also the so called minority races in this country. There is literally up to two or three churches per block where I live at of every conceivable sect of Christianity you could think of. Latinos and Afro-Americans can't seem to get enough of Jesus and it seems to me that the various cultures derived from these two are highly superstitious as well as gullible. I am of Puerto Rican descent and the only atheist in my entire family that I am aware of. But regardless of what my family knows or doesn't know about the bible God is very real to them. Although in their life and conduct they don't show it they are content to believe they are saved simply by believing and accepting the myths.

So in conclusion, it is my opinion that no matter how hard we work at trying to educate the public or in trying to expose the myths, there are always going to be believers. There will always be religions even if Christianity fell the people will simply trade in one religion for another and keep the ball rolling. There are some out there that are willing to go out on a limb and learn about their beliefs from secular sources with an open mind while being religious, but those in my mind are few and far between. Like it or not, religion is here to stay!

Note: All bible quotations are taken from the 1984 New International Version

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Theists have a one track mind

Lately I've been wondering why it seems to me that theists have a one track mind. I have been knocking some theories around my head and upon reflecting on my own experience I think I have found the solution. The bible actually has a story that explains this pretty well and I would like to share that story with my readers with a little modern twist. I would like you to see this story from a secular point of view and no longer from a position of faith.

We find the narrative to our tale in the New Testament in the books of Matthew 14:22-33; Mark 6:45-52; and John 6:16-21. Specifically, it is the fantastical tale of Jesus walking on the sea of Galilee to rejoin his disciples who were instructed to go on ahead in their boat after the miracle of feeding the multitude with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes. Before I outline the important aspects of this tale I would like to take a moment to point out some discrepancies between the three gospels that narrate it.

Matthew and Mark agree that the final destination of the boat the disciples were in was Gennesaret. John on the other hand claims that the final destination of the boat was Capernaum. The only problem with this is that the distance from Capernaum to Gennesaret is three miles apart. So which one was it? So we have our first discrepancy which happens to deal with location. Next I tried to figure out where the feeding of the multitude took place, only John is bold enough to give an approximate location: he places it near Tiberias according to 6:23.  Now taking Tiberias as our starting point on Johns account we will see even more discrepancies.

In the gospel of Mark the disciples are instructed to take the boat across the sea of Galilee to a point near Bethsaida 6:45. Verse 53 states that when Jesus rejoined them and the made the crossing they landed at Genessaret. The problem with this is that Genessaret and Bethsaida are about 9 miles apart in the opposite direction from one another! The bible does not indicate that they made a pit stop at Bethsaida nor that they landed there and had to board the boat again to head to Genessaret. Basically they were instructed to go one place that was about 9 miles away from where they finally ended up.

Finally, Matthew is the only gospel that narrates the aspect of the tale that we are going to be dealing with here. Mark and John both omit the miracle of Peter briefly being able to walk on water in response to Jesus command to join him. Now this little narrative will help you to understand the reason why believers are so closed minded when it comes to discerning discrepancies in the gospels. Even when they are made aware of those discrepancies they fall back on illogical and fallacious reasoning based on faith. In my opinion faith in and of itself is not even a valid way of obtaining knowledge on anything. When you see the words faith and fact or the interpretation of faith as fact you are actually seeing an oxymoron. Two contradictory terms with different meanings that don't even belong in the same sentence if interpreted literally.

Our narrative is found in Matthew 14:26-31 where after seeing Jesus walking on water the disciples were terrified and thought it was a ghost. Jesus then identifies himself and Peter asks him that if it was truly him if he could come join him across the water. Jesus calls him out and he steps out of the boat and walks towards the Lord. Verses 30 and 31 are key verses in order for us to understand why theists are so bone headed.

30 but then noticing the wind, he took fright and began to sink. 'Lord,' he cried, 'save me!'
31 Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. 'You have so little faith,' he said, 'why did you doubt?'

There you have it in verse 30! When he took his focus away from the Lord he began to sink. And Jesus then chastises him for having little faith. Peter was distracted by the winds and the storm and was afraid. Theists interpret this as an analogy for life and the many challenges it poses in adversity and tragedies etc. Personal struggles and inner turmoils are to not be faced alone but through faith in the power of Christ. Theists only see Christ in everything they see and do and believe and human reason and logic as folly since in their minds all true knowledge comes from God.

Paul made this point abundantly clear in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 which I will quote verbatim here:

26 Consider, brothers, how you were called; not many of you are wise by human standards, not many influential, not many from noble families.
27 No, God chose those who by human standards are fools to shame the wise; he chose those who by human standards are weak to shame the strong,
28 those who by human standards are common and contemptible -- indeed those who count for nothing -- to reduce to nothing all those that do count for something,
29 so that no human being might feel boastful before God.
30 It is by him that you exist in Christ Jesus, who for us was made wisdom from God, and saving justice and holiness and redemption.
31 As scripture says: If anyone wants to boast, let him boast of the Lord.

There you have it! I hope that this post has helped other understand the mentality behind the faithful and their inability to accept contradictory knowledge about the world in comparison to what their faith has led them to believe.

Note: All biblical quotations are from the New Jerusalem bible translation.


Friday, January 4, 2013

Hypocrisy is not a virtue

When I think of a theist, particularly the more fundamentalist types, it brings to mind a particular set of words: I think arrogant, boastful, and condescending. I might be stereotyping here but it seems that every theist I have encountered either in person or online is the proud possessor of the aforementioned qualities. This is particularly true when they are trying to convert you to their beliefs or as I prefer to call them superstitions.

The above mentioned accusation is especially true when you inform them that you were once a former theist or believer yourself. I consider myself to have given the biblical deity more than a fair try and to have educated myself thoroughly on what at that time I once professed to believe. I will even go as far as to say that I have gone further into my beliefs and practices in those days than most. I prayed constantly, fasted often, read the bible on my own and in church daily, and when called upon to preach I preached and ministered to the flock of my home church and other local churches I was invited to preach in.

As a Christian I read the bible from cover to cover a total of three times in English and once in Spanish. I’ve read the book of Mormon, and the New World Translation of the bible (Jehovah’s Witness translation), and most of the key JW proselytizing materials. All this: to inform myself and be ready to counter competing belief systems I might come across during my street ministry.  I laid hands on the sick, gave some a prophetic word of the Lord, cast out demons from those with apparent demon possession or oppression. I did all of these things believing with all my heart that God was using me as a vessel to carry out his will and to strengthen and minister to his flock and those without a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

One thing I find most offensive is when I am discussing my beliefs (atheist) now as opposed to then with a theist. I get the standard; “maybe you did not have a true conversion experience,” or “you were not as committed to the Lord as you thought.” If this response is not arrogant or condescending then I don’t know what is! It’s a literal slap in the face is what it is. But in all fairness, the theist is not entirely to blame. You see as opposed to what many think, the bible teaches this us against them mentality. It gives believers this superiority complex and the idea that they are above the rest of the human race that disagrees with their beliefs. This is one of many contradictory teachings of the bible that is seldom addressed. 

On the one hand as it is adequately demonstrated in Jesus alleged sermon on the mound, believers are instructed to be poor in spirit, gentle, upright, merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers. (Matthew 5: 3-11). But historically, what the Christian faith has given the world is the complete opposite. Christians are instructed in Matthew 7:1,2
1 'Do not judge, and you will not be judged;
2 because the judgements you give are the judgements you will get, and the standard you use will be the standard used for you.
Yet it seems that being human makes this little commandment impossible, since we are all opinionated about something and tend to judge everything and everyone around us. While Christians are told to be meek, mild, patient, and longsuffering etc. they are told how important they are in the eyes of God. The bible teaches that they shall inherit the earth and that they are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). They are told that they are not of this world but chosen by God (John 15:19). Christians are expected to focus on the things of the spirit and on pleasing God alone. The bible makes a clear distinction between the world (us) and the man of God (them). Our lives are different as well as our ambitions and goals.

In James chapter 4:4 the church is admonished “Adulterers! Do you not realize that love for the world is hatred for God? Anyone who chooses the world for a friend is constituted an enemy of God.” The love of the world over the things of the spirit is equated with adultery which is basically being married and engaging in an illicit affair with someone who is not your legal partner (unfaithfulness). But in the religious sense it is being unfaithful to God.

As I have demonstrated, while the bible admonishes believers to be humble etc. It also strokes the egos of believers by telling them how special they are. How much more significant they are in the eyes of their imaginary guy in the sky as compared to the rest of us who refuse to believe the myth. Is this not a formula for disaster? Church history has thoroughly confirmed this by being one of the bloodiest histories ever recorded. Of course you may argue that man used the bible and misinterpreted its meanings for evil, but then you would have to try and justify the Hebrews actions for doing the same things as written in the bible as being commanded directly by Yahweh. The early church believed that they were doing what was right before God by eliminating all nonbelievers, heretics, pagans, etc. but they learned from the bible itself that this was okay.

Christians claim their beliefs to be absolute truths without any evidence and yet they claim that secularists, scientists, and nonbelievers are arrogant? Isn’t this the same as the pot calling the kettle black? This is the greatest and most shining example of hypocrisy ever known. And what does the bible say about hypocrites? In the book of Revelations 3:15,16 in an admonishment to the Laodiceans it says:
15 I know about your activities: how you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were one or the other,
16 but since you are neither hot nor cold, but only lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth. 

Even your God hates hypocrites! Before I close I would like to point out that I looked up the word hypocrite in the Merriam Webster online dictionary and was surprised at the definition it gave because it is so fitting to this post. Could it be divine intervention on Gods’ part? Does he want me to point this out to his people? Here it is: 

1: a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion
2: a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings   

According to your bible one of the things that God hates most is a lying tongue (Proverbs 6:16), and if you’re being a hypocrite then you are living a lie and are therefore a liar.

Note: All biblical quotes come from the New Jerusalem translation of the bible.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Miracles, faith, and fundamentalists

When I first became a fundamentalist Pentecostal believer I was 14 years of age and it was 1984. I was always told for as long as I could remember by my mother that the only true church of Christ was the Pentecostal church. I was eventually converted in my high school by a young man named Michael, he was always witnessing to whoever would listen either in the hallways or the lunch room where he eventually met me. It did not take long to convince me of the truth of his faith because I was already taught at home that God was real. 

Although my mother did not attend church she claimed a firm belief in God based on her alleged personal supernatural encounters with the divine. She raised me on tales of having heard the voice of God, having dreams and visions where she saw herself in heaven, being miraculously rescued from dangerous situations by divine intervention, and seeing her name in a vision written in the book of life! What I did not know about my mother as a child was that she was a schizophrenic and had been diagnosed with a slew of other mental disorders. To this day she holds to her beliefs but lives as she pleases and is not a big fan of institutionalized religion. She claims she is saved based on her previous alleged experiences and does not give a damn about what anyone has to say about it. Not to mention that she knows nothing about what is really written in the bible, or what it has to say about some of her own contradictory behavior.

One of the things that distinguish the Pentecostals and other fundamentalist churches from some of your more mainstream sects of Christianity is the apparent signs and wonders (miracles) that accompany their teachings. They are referred to as charismatics because they have an extraordinary ability to attract others to their faith. There is lively music, dancing, and a huge emphasis on the so called gifts of the Holy Spirit. They speak in tongues and people swear that they have been healed of their sicknesses through nothing more than the prayers of the faithful or a gifted servant of the Lord.
Pentecostals base their beliefs on the miraculous aspects associated with their faith entirely on Mark 16:17,18  
17 These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes in their hands and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.' 

What they fail to realize is that these verses are believed by most scholars to have been added to the text sometime later. Most scholars agree that the book of Mark ended with verse 8 which states that ‘the women came out and ran away from the tomb because they were frightened out of their wits; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.’ Here is a short article on why many scholars agree that Mark 16 ended in the eighth verse and that verses 9-20 are believed to be later additions to the text .

Pentecostals are also literalist when it comes to the scriptures so no matter how impossible or implausible a tale in the scriptures may be, their answer to the naysayers would be that nothing is impossible for God in accordance with Luke 1:37 and other similar passages throughout the bible. They also get support for their beliefs and practices in worship from 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 which specifically names 9 gifts of the Spirit:
8 To one is given from the Spirit the gift of utterance expressing wisdom; to another the gift of utterance expressing knowledge, in accordance with the same Spirit; 9 to another, faith, from the same Spirit; and to another, the gifts of healing, through this one Spirit; 10 to another, the working of miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, the power of distinguishing spirits; to one, the gift of different tongues and to another, the interpretation of tongues.

This has led to what I refer to as miracle mongering. A night of worship at a Pentecostal church is like a night at the circus. One hell of a show is given with people passing out all over the place; what they refer to as being slain in the Spirit. Others speaking in tongues or rather yelling in tongues, sometimes you get someone apparently interpreting what is being said, and others giving words of prophesy to the adherents.

When I was an evangelist I found that one of the things that turned me off the most about the church was how the miracle mongers would flock to the altar if they saw you demonstrate what they believed to be the working of the Holy Spirit in some form or another. If they saw you whisper in someone’s ear they assumed you were giving them a word from the Lord and came running to the altar. If they saw someone or several people pass out at your spoken word or when you laid hands on someone they flocked to the altar. Most Pentecostals that I encountered during those days were biblically ignorant. To this day they are expert cherry pickers who conveniently choose from the scriptures what they want to accept and what they want to ignore.

These people did not come to church to receive knowledge or learn the word of God, they came for the so called confirmation of the word through the outward display of God’s power. They came to feel God’s presence and power in their being. They wanted to be “blessed” and speak in tongues and get caught up in the miraculous and the unbelievable without a care in the world. I too at one time was on a quest; I too, was a miracle monger. But all of that faded away as my knowledge increased. Even in those days as a believer I was inquisitive and questioned every one of my experiences and analyzed those of others.

One thing I have learned from my experience as a believer and now as an atheist is that you can’t easily shake the faith of someone who has had a myriad of subjective experiences that they believe have come from the divine. Knowledge is power, but you have to be willing to allow it to mold you and follow the evidence to where ever it may lead. This takes courage and it is entirely up to the individual believer to take that journey. It is my opinion that as long as there is gullibility there will always be faith in the improbable and the impossible.

Note: All biblical quotes are taken from the New Jerusalem bible translation.