Archive for April, 2012

God’s Unreasonableness

Posted in The Facts and Ideas, The Narrow Path on April 30, 2012 by RWZero

A question that often comes up is why God is so unreasonable.

You know. Why does he send people to hell for 9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999 +++ years for not believing he existed during their ~75 year lifespan, or during a much shorter lifespan in which they die prematurely. Moreover, why does he predestine this. Why is that worth it, anyway. Why did he command people to cut up pigeons and sprinkle blood all over the place, lest they face his wrath. Why so unreasonable?

The only answer to this is “God’s ways are above our ways,” or “God’s sense of reason offends our merely human sense of reason.” OK. So I’m looking for an answer to two questions that I never got an answer to as a Christian, and now, not being a Christian, still haven’t heard any answers to:

1. Why do God’s “higher ways” just happen to coincide with humanity’s lower ways?

I cannot overstate this. Why do God’s “higher ways” that we “can’t understand” just happen to coincide with the barbaric ways that ancient people did understand, but now we don’t. This is kind of like a sandwich, with human barbaric ways at the bottom, us in the middle, and God’s higher ways at the top–except that the top and the bottom match.

2. Why didn’t God just create us with a sense of reason that matched his higher ways? I mean, I suppose he did (see point 1), right, but why didn’t he make it so that the more we thought about things, and the more we reasoned and examined his creation, and the better we tried to be… the more reasonable his ways become? Instead, he gave us all minds that find his mind absurd, cruel and unjust, and increasingly so upon reflection.

Bart Ehrman Points out that Jesus Existed

Posted in The Facts and Ideas on April 27, 2012 by RWZero

I will not hide my pleasure at Bart Ehrman’s having written a book aimed at debunking the Christ Mythers.

This is excellent news because I believe that Bart was, up until this point, someone who was trusted (and used in arguments) by Internet Atheists. Thus, they will not be able to ignore him and they will probably at least read his book.

Why am I concerned about the Christ Myth? Do I have a stake in this? Surely I’m not pleased about Jesus existing…

Look. It obviously helps Christians out more if Jesus existed, than if he didn’t exist. But atheists denying that Jesus existed helps Christians out far more than that.

Denying Jesus’ existence feeds Christian apologists. They get to point to scholarly consensus, they get to believe (and I guess it’s true) that even atheists can suffer from confirmation bias and mass denial of the evidence, they get to believe that the story of Jesus is so powerful that the only way to disbelieve is to deny Jesus altogether… and so on. This kind of behaviour fits snugly into a Christian worldview and laces it with a wonderful truthy-feeling zest.

So I’ll say again to any atheist or agnostic readers who may be passing through here: Please. Cut. It. Out.

Please read the excellent little interview about the book here.

By the way, mythers–ask yourself this. If there were no Christians around today (and I think it is pretty certain that one day Christianity will disappear, because they will not wait forever for Jesus to come back), would you have cause to reject Jesus’ historicity? If you and I were sitting in a space pod discussing the history of Earth, and we came upon the subject of an ancient Greek* teacher who ended up being deified, and who spawned a whole religion after him… would you go to great lengths to disprove his existence? No. You go to these lengths because you are surrounded by Christians.

* I am not calling Jesus a Greek teacher. I am making the analogy as distant as possible so you can imagine, just for one minute, how you might feel about an analogous example.

Making fun of Religion

Posted in The Facts and Ideas on April 25, 2012 by RWZero

I haven’t necessarily come to advocate making fun of Christians. But I think some Christian beliefs, and some expansion-pack Christian beliefs (like creationism) should be made fun of constantly. Incessantly. Without mercy.

Making fun of people is sometimes the only way to get them to think about their points of view. When you speak seriously to someone with these opinions, they have already achieved their goal–you are taking them seriously. As long as their view has some chance of being true, no matter how remote, they are satisfied. Speaking seriously provides this, and so the content of the argument is irrelevant. Making fun of people, however, implies *no* allowance for their position being taken seriously, and it forces people to think not just about whether it’s true… but about why anyone should consider the possibility of it being true.

Some of the most serious consideration that I gave to my faith was when I ran across blasphemous cartoons and websites on the Internet that openly mocked my beliefs.

And I think that South Park episode making fun of Mormonism is a lot more illustrative than a calm presentation of all the problems with Mormonism.

Chuck Colson is Dead

Posted in The Facts and Ideas on April 22, 2012 by RWZero

I liked him much better than John Stott.

The Accident of Birth Argument

Posted in The Facts and Ideas on April 20, 2012 by RWZero

The rebuttal to the accident of birth argument that Dinesh D’Souza makes here is flawed, and here’s why: the theory of evolution does not punish people who are accidentally born into creationist families. It’s just a blind fact, and it doesn’t count against the truth of evolution that evolution is a blind fact that doesn’t care what you believe.

God, however, is not a blind fact. God supposedly (intentionally) creates all these people who are born into Muslim families, and he requires of them that they believe Christianity, full well knowing that most of them will remain Muslims directly because of their upbringing. Then he burns them in hell for not believing in Jesus. Moreover, he saves a whole bunch of Christians who were only Christians because they were raised as Christians. This makes no sense. Hence, the accident of birth argument.

“But I made my faith my own

The reason you were thinking about making this faith your own in the first place is because you were given a huge reason to think about making it your own (that is, being raised with it).  So being raised Christian and making your faith your own is just the same thing as being accidentally born Christian. As I’ve said before, it is a lot easier to find reasons to keep on believing what you already believe than to accept it from scratch. Converting strangers has a sketchy success rate, whereas home-grown Christians “making their faith their own” has about a 100% success rate (even in people like me).

There is a Fountain Filled with BLOOD

Posted in Humour etc. on April 15, 2012 by RWZero

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

Aw, yeah baby. This is what it’s all about. Just picture that.

Take a dip.

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.

Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save,
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.
Lies silent in the grave, lies silent in the grave;
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.

Sounds great. Sources say:

“This is one of the first hymns Cow­per wrote af­ter his first at­tack of tem­po­ra­ry mad­ness.”

“‘There is a Fountain Filled with Blood,’ is a well-known hymn written by William Cowper. It was one of the first hymns he wrote after his first major bout of depression.”

I’d never have guessed.

There’s a FOUNTAIN… and it’s FILLED with BLOOD!

It’s just business as usual.

Hackney as Weapon

Posted in The Facts and Ideas on April 12, 2012 by RWZero

If there is any way to lose touch with the implications of an idea, it is simply to get tired of it.

This is why we Christians were comfortable with hell, eternal judgement, blood sacrifice, and all sorts of weird things. We were used to thinking about them.

Or were we?

It is also why I am now comfortable with living an absurd life, and the frightening prospects of infinity, death (and so on) that fell upon me when I lost my beliefs. I have thought about it so much that I am used to it.

Or am I?

The catch here, I think, is that you do not actually get used to the real idea. You forget the real idea and replace it with a dummy–a caricature–that stands in for the real thing. This dummy contains all the aspects of the thought, or experience, that depend on conscious effort, and it removes all aspects of the experience that require an involuntary, empathetic or emotional connection with the idea–the internalization, or realization, of the idea.

Suppose that a friend argues that she has gotten used to surprise birthday parties. By this, she means that every year, when her friends jump out from behind the couch, she is no longer surprised. In this case the flaw in the argument is obvious: it isn’t really a surprise birthday party if she isn’t surprised, so she has not gotten used to it. On this definition, is it possible to get used to surprise parties? If by definition we cannot get used to being surprised, is it possible that we cannot get used to other things?

When a romance fades, people say that they have “gotten used” to the other person. They may imply that they have gotten used to a romantic relationship. What has really happened is that the romance has disappeared, and it has been replaced by something else–at best, it has left only ritual activities, sights and sounds that once accompanied the it. A person whose romance has faded is not closer to romance than a young one who is experiencing it for the first time.

Fading ideas are no different than fading experiences, because each idea corresponds to a truth (or a truth claim) about the world, which is directly connected to the felt experiences of human beings. This is not hard to prove. Take, for instance, the phrase “children are starving in Africa.” For most Westerners, this phrase has become a tongue-in-cheek remark that is said after the wasting of food, or some other display of decadence. But if anyone claims that he “understands” that children are starving in Africa, notice that he will have a much different reaction if he is forced to watch a child starve, than if he is simply reminded of the fact. We notice that we can get somewhat visceral reactions out of people simply by stating, in slightly paraphrased language, what the person already claims to believe and feel comfortable with.

Our experience with insights that are sharpened by repetition (such as proficiency in math, science, maturity, social skills), and the primacy of these insights in our lives, blinds us to the plethora of insights that dull over time–and which we see most clearly the first time around. If we see them dimly the first time around, we may never see them clearly at all.