Science

Dear Christian: What Your Blog Comments Say About Your God

stephen hawking

In 2011, Stephen Hawking said:

“I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first,” he said.

“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark,”

Hawking received a tremendous amount of vitriol from fundamentalist Christians. Roofer on Fire  compiled some of the comments Christians hurled Hawking’s way:

AS A SPACE FREAK MYSELF,I RESPECT MR. HAWKING AS A PHYSICIST.BUT HE’S IN NO POSITION TO SAY THERE’S NO GOD.HE WILL KNOW THERE’S A GOD WHEN HIS LIFE SUPPORT FAILS HIM,AND STEPHEN WINDS UP BURNING IN HELL FOR ETERNITY.BUT I LOVE HAWKING’S VIEWS ON SPACE AND THE COSMOS.BUT IT’S TERRIBLE THAT HE BAD-MOUTHS JESUS AND TRIES TO GET OTHERS LOST.

I am so sorry for you Stephen Hawking! At least I don’t need science to be there where I’m going when I die! The earth, cosmos and every living thing did not originate out of thin air with one atom and even you the genius can’t see that it… takes a genius to achieve simplicity (quote Bob Seger). Unfortunately, you don’t have that quality of genius! We are not computers, we are human and our brains are 100′s of times more complicated than a computer. Of course being the intellect that you are, go ahead and quantum leap anywhere you want but you’ll never achieve the leap to Heaven like me and others who are not just believers, but testifiers of a truth that your science will never begin to understand.

Well Stephen Hawking, even if you could prove there was no Heaven, I would think you were just failing a test From God himself. I’m sad with all God has given you, that you don’t know who to thank. Its not a matter of belief. God WAS, IS, and ALWAYS WILL BE.

If you chose not to believe in God, oh YOU WILL REGRET IT WHEN YOU ARE DEAD!!!

This dear person Stephen Hawking is in pain the kind only GOD can take away.as I send up this Prayer please comfort my friend Stephen.And in your own unique way let him know you are there. Me and Facebook will do our part too by Praying showing him that GOD care’s. Stephen I like you and I think you are a very smart man may GOD Bless you your Pow for life O-dee

Dear Mr Hawking: You can continue to talk through your little computer and sound like a robot. Enjoy the rest of your life, talking crap while everyone feels sorry for you. I’ll only feel sorry for you when you find out there IS an afterlife….a good one and a bad one. And since you don’t believe in either, have fun in the bad one 

Mr. Hawking I don’t know if you even view this page, But I am here to tell you there is a God! And no matter how smart you think you are there is one that holds the key to Death and Hell. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords he is Jesus Christ. He is real! Act 2:38..If you would have Faith and Believe with me he can Heal you. He can make you whole. Sometimes he is waiting on us to make the first step. Some never will come to know Christ because they have so much hate lives. You can come to know him by – Repenting of your sins . Ask God to forgive you of your sins everyday. Even if we think we haven’t done anything wrong. Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ . And he will give you the gift of the others the holy spirit. The evidence is that you will speak in other tongues . Don’t be afraid let it happen. That is God dwelling inside of you. You telling others there is no God you will have to answer to God for the lost souls you help send to Hell.

These fine folks represent the God who said in his divine book, called the Bible:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Ephesians 5:22,23)

Please, no comments suggesting these Christians don’t represent you or that they are not “real” Christians. They are in your family, so deal with it.  This kind of behavior is all too common. I have experienced it on this blog, in letters to the editor written about me, emails, and letters mailed to my home.

Christianity is best served when Christians shut up and live according to the teachings of Jesus. Matthew 5-7 would be a great place to start.  For some reason atheists bring out the worst in Christians. I wonder why that is?

Published: July 27, 2014 | Comments: 12

Why Doesn’t Ken Ham Make Any Attempt to Prove He’s Right?

allosaur creation museum

The short answer is, the Bible says, no need to say anything else. 6,018 years ago, the God of the Christian Bible spoke the world into existence over the course of 6 literal 24 hour days. Never mind that everything we know about science, evolution, geology, and archeology tells us that  Ken Ham’s creation narrative is wrong. In the Bible Bubble™, all that matters is what God literally, word for word, said in Genesis 1-3. About 1,500- 2,000 years after creation, a catastrophic universal flood wiped out every living thing on earth, save the 8 humans and numerous animals on Noah’s Ark, exactly as it is reported in Genesis 6-8. Any other explanation, interpretation, or opinion is dismissed as false, a Satanic lie.

Tyler Francke, a Christian and an evolutionist, had this to say about Ken Ham’s unwillingness to prove he is right:

…Apparently, Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis and professional fundraiser, does not possess the same courage of conviction for his own irrational, unbiblical beliefs.

I’m not saying he is afraid of expressing what he believes, but any schlub can do that. What I’m talking about is putting yourself out there in such a way that the beliefs you claim are all-important can be publicly and demonstrably vindicated, or proven false.

That’s what Camping did, but I don’t see it in Ken Ham.

Now, you might be wondering what Ham and AiG could do, specifically, that would satisfy me. Well, I’m glad you asked.

You see, AiG’s Creation Museum recently received a pretty noteworthy donation — noteworthy in that it is the first exhibit the organization has ever owned that would actually be of interest to real scientists: a half-complete Allosaurus skeleton, said to be appraised at $1 million.

In press releases and blog posts from AiG, Ham explained that he has long coveted just such an exhibit: “For decades I’ve walked through many leading secular museums, like the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and have seen their impressive dinosaur skeletons, but they were used for evolution. Now we have one of that class for our museum.”…

…Ham and his staff claim the fossil “challenges evolutionary thinking” and that the dinosaur died about 4,300 years ago in the global flood. But they have not explained how it does any of this. They have merely assured their followers that it does, with the same heavy-handed bluster and shallow rhetoric that characterizes everything that they do.

And it is in this that we see clearly how — despite their most vociferous assertions to the contrary — Ken Ham and his fellow createvangelists are not scientists. If they were, this donation would be an enormous opportunity for them, a chance to finally demonstrate what they’ve claimed for years: that the evidence really points to a recent creation, only the mean scientific establishment lies and says it doesn’t (you know, because of the conspiracy and whatever).

No longer would they be “expelled” from the scientific process, prohibited from doing anything but waiting for the crumbs that fall from real scientists’ tables, celebrating the research if it lines up with their pre-existing beliefs and vilifying it if it doesn’t.

No, they finally would have the means by which they could prove to the world that they were right all along: That dinosaur bones contain the spongy internal structure and well-preserved soft tissue that could not possibly have endured millions of years. That radiometric dating is absurdly unreliable and gives ages that are all over the map for the same specimen. That dinosaur bones contain high levels of radiocarbon (carbon-14), which they should not if they really were millions of years old and had not been contaminated. That, under intense pressure, a bone can be fossilized just like their Allosaurus in a matter of a few months. And so on.

They would conduct their tests and experiments in the public eye, with full transparency, under the most stringent standards of peer review, because the more people who witness their long-awaited vindication, the better. Their research would be sought by the world’s top journals and would earn them the most prestigious of scientific awards. They would, at last, upend the evolutionary paradigm they have always claimed to find so reprehensible and so poorly supported by the evidence.

But they won’t do any of that. Because they are not really scientists, and because to participate in such a public vetting would open them up to the possibility of the opposite result: That, like Harold Camping before them, the beliefs they’ve staked their livelihoods on might be shown to be wrong, wrong, wrong.

Instead of sacrificing their latest windfall to the cause which they claim to be devoted to (disproving evolution and the ancient age of the earth), they have made it into a highly publicized exhibit that is clearly aimed at doing nothing other than getting more people to buy tickets to their flagging museum. Which shows pretty clearly where their priorities truly lie…

You can read the complete text of Tyler Francke’s insightful post here.

Here’s what  the Creation Museum website has to say about the new dinosaur:

Answers in Genesis geologist Dr. Andrew Snelling says the new allosaur “stands out for a few major reasons. It was found with its bones arranged in their correct anatomical positions relative to each other, rather than in a scattered assortment of bones as is often the case. Also, all its neck and tail vertebrae and 97% of the skull were found. Lastly, the skull is much larger than the famous ‘Big Al’ dinosaur at the Museum of the Rockies in Montana.”

Dr. Snelling added that the intact skeleton of this allosaur is a testimony to an extremely rapid burial, which is confirmation of the global catastrophe of a Flood a few thousand years ago.

Ken Ham, president and founder of the Creation Museum and Answers in Genesis, stated that this skeleton, dubbed Ebenezer, “fulfills a dream I’ve had for quite some time. For decades I’ve walked through many leading secular museums, like the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and have seen their impressive dinosaur skeletons, but they were used for evolution. Now we have one of that class for our museum.”

One blessing in getting the allosaur was that the Creation Museum did not seek it out. Michael Peroutka, one of the board members of the Foundation, says that this fossil is a testimony to the creative power of God and also lends evidence to the truth of a worldwide catastrophic flooding of the earth about 4,500 years ago as described in the Bible. In order to ensure that the display of the fossil represented this teaching, the Peroutka Foundation donated the fossil to the Creation Museum…

An article by Abby Ohlheiser on The Wire states:

…Despite all of the evidence to the contrary, the Creation Museum posits that Ebenezer died in the Great Flood, about 4,300 years ago, based on a couple of things: first, it was found in a layer of sediment that the museum believes was left by Noah’s flood. And second, Ebenezer was “rapidly” buried in a way that they believe is also consistent with the flood…

…Young Earth Creationist scientists are even more marginal in the scientific community, as you might expect. Despite this, Young Earth Creationist scientists are actually very good at what they do, which is more like the Jewish tradition of Midrash — elaboration on Biblical stories — than it is science.  At first, you’d assume that dinosaurs, which went extinct 66 million years ago, leaving behind a whole bunch of dateable fossil evidence, would be a problem for Young Earthers. You’d assume wrong.

John Whitmore, a professor of Geology at the Christian Cedarville University in Ohio, trekked with Snelling and a group of grad students to the site of Ebenezer’s death, in Colorado. They were, among other things, hoping to learn more about how he was buried. Everyone agrees that Ebenezer came from the Morrison Formation, a Jurassic-era rock unit that covers a large expanse of the western U.S. It dates back to about 150 million years, B.C. As the National Park Service’s Dinosaur National Monument explains, the area is rich with dinosaur fossils, particularly in its river beds, which are better at preserving skeletons. But Whitmore believes that the formation is consistent with what he would expect to see with a catastrophic event like Noah’s Flood. He told me:

“Secular geologists have said ‘this is a flood plain’ or “these are all river deposits, but it’s difficult to understand, from a secular, uniformitarian form of thinking, how a deposit like that could be made. I think a catastrophic origin for that formation and all the fossils in it is very reasonable.”

Specifically, he said, it’s consistent with what he’d expect to find following Noah’s flood.

The research methods (presented as science) behind the Creation Museum’s version of Ebenezer’s story, and every other story it tells, produce results that by definition cannot contradict the literal word of the Bible. Snelling described it to me as checking his discoveries against a “historical record,” based on the assumption that “God was there” when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth, and the the Bible is God’s literal account — transmitted through humans of “good character” — of what actually happened. As Creationist scientists like Snelling find more and more bits of evidence that “verify” what they already know to be true from the Bible, it reinforces the community’s own confidence in that theory. And, it seems, their work will always eventually verify what the Bible says. Although Snelling presents his work as science, he describes his methods as an inversion of how the scientific community works: scientists, he says, “use the present to inform our understanding of the past.” He, instead “uses the past to inform his understanding of the present.” It’s a theology, but with isotopes.

To wit, when I asked Snelling if he’s ever, in his entire career, encountered scientific evidence that contradicts the literal word of the Bible, Snelling said, “No.” He added: “but I’ve certainly at times had evidence, and I’m still working through evidence, that at first blush might seem problematical.” …

…So far, Snelling has been able to do this with nearly every problematic piece of evidence he’s encountered. Snelling gave me the example of meteorites, which don’t seem to fit with the work he’s done to attempt to disprove the methods used by scientists to date fossils and rocks. “Why is it, for example, that all the meteorites seem to give the same radioisotope signatures that are interpreted as the same age?” He told me. “What does that mean? Why is that the meteorites appear to be the same?” Scientists dated the age of the Earth as about 4.5 billion years old from a meteorite, so this is particularly problematic for Snelling’s theory, which presumes that the Earth was created 6,000 years ago.

Sure, Young Earth Creationists can always say something about why we haven’t found rocks on Earth that are as old as the Earth, but there are plenty of explanations for that. It would be better if Young Earthers could think up a reason to really doubt radioisotope dating. In fact, Young Earth Creationists have created an entire group of researchers devoted to figuring out another explanation for this problem, called RATE. One going theory, Snelling said, revolves around the idea that the chemical composition of the meteorites are indicative of the “original primordial material,” i.e. what God created on Day One…

You can read the complete article here.

Published: July 17, 2014 | Comments: 17

Which God?

greek gods

A commenter by the name of Deborah stated:

Third, you say you left the faith because of intellectual reasons. I appreciate that, because I am an intellectual myself. And being an intellectual, the idea that the world in all it’s amazing complexity just “happened by chance” is the most incredibly illogical thing I have ever heard. I have had many questions about the Bible, and I still do, but in this age of scientific enlightenment, where we know about DNA, it is unbelievable to me that an archaic idea like evolution is still being taught in the universities. Amazing.

It tough for me to know what to do with this statement because she says she is an intellectual and then rejects the vast majority of biological science.

Deborah does not state exactly which God she believes in, but I am going to assume it is the Christian God. Let’s suppose that Christians like Deborah are right, that the complexity of the universe shows that there must have been a creator. On what basis then do we conclude that that creator is the Christian God? Surely, not the book of Genesis. Taken literally, a person must believe the earth is 6,018 years old and was created in 6 literal 24 hour days. No one who understands science, archeology, and geology would make such an ignorant claim. I suppose that someone could be an old earth creationist, but this position has numerous theological problems, and is little more than an attempt by Christians to embrace science while hanging on to their belief in God. (see my recent post Genesis 1-3: Who Was God Talking To)

So, we are left then with Genesis being allegorical. Surely, we can’t gain any scientific knowledge from an allegory, right? How would we test this allegory to determine if it is true? We can’t. The greater problem with Genesis being allegorical is that it destroys the notion of original and sin and redemption, two cardinal doctrines of Christianity.

Over thousands of years, humans have created all sorts of Gods. Why are Christians so certain that their version of God is the creator God? (and there are many versions of God within Christianity) Perhaps one of the other Gods is creator or perhaps we are the creation of an alien race? What evidence is there for the exclusivity claimed by Christians for their God?

Bruce, all you  have to do is look at nature. Doesn’t it reveal to us that there is a God? Let me grant this point for a moment. Ok, nature reveals to me that there is a creator God. Again, which creator God? What evidence does nature give me to conclude that the creator God is the Christian God? At best, nature reveals a deistic God. The hands on, involved in the lives of his creation. God taught in the Bible? Where is the proof for such a God?

Christians wrongly assume that if there is any evidence that a God of some sort exists then it must be proof of their God. This is a huge jump in logic that lacks sufficient evidence. To date, no Christian has successfully produced the evidence necessary to get from A God to THE God. Apart from the Bible, there is no possible way, from nature itself, to prove that the Christian God is the creator of all.

Published: July 12, 2014 | Comments: 9

Do Atheists Want to Turn America Into an Atheist Nation?

separation of church and state

I do not know of any atheists who are working to turn the United States into an atheist nation. I do know a number of atheists who are working very hard to stop theocrats from turning the United States into a Christian nation.

Most atheists want neutrality. Theocrats want authority, domination, and control. When it comes to government and public education, atheists want Christian dogma checked at the door. We want science taught without creationism and other mythical Bible stories being part of the curriculum. Christians are free to learn about creationism at home or at their houses of worship and they are free to home school their children or send them to a Christian school. However, when it comes to the public schools, evidence-based science is the only science that should be taught in the classroom.

We want oaths and prayers to God banished from the halls of Congress and any place secular government does its business. We want the first amendment and the separation of church and state strictly applied. We recognize that the United States is a secular state and we expect the government to function as a secular state.

Atheists promise to fight those who want to make the Christian God the God of the government and public school classroom.  We promise to fight those who try to import God into the public school classroom by teaching religious dogma as science. From Scopes to Dover and beyond, we expect public school children to be taught religion-free science. We expect public school classrooms to be free of sectarian prayers. Bible readings, and attempts to proselytize school children.

We promise to fight attempts to use government funds and programs to support churches and private religious schools. Our fight is direct and to the point…there is no place in America for state sanctioned, state funded religion.

Atheists respect the right of religious people to believe what they want. We wish Christians would give atheists the same courtesy. We have no desire to turn the United States into an atheist state and we sure as hell do not intend to let theocrats turn the United States into a Christian state. We know that history clearly shows us that when church and state are one people die and freedom is lost.

Notes

I speak generally about atheists and atheism. I know I can not speak for all atheists.

Published: July 7, 2014 | Comments: 13

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Why Doesn’t the News Tell Us What We Need to Know?

I rarely watch the news. Because I am well read about current events, I know what the news channels should be talking about. Rarely does my list of important issues match the list of important issues at NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, FOX News, CNN, or MSNBC. (personally, I think Al-Jazeera English does a better job reporting the news than all of these channels combined)  The talking heads seem content to verbally masturbate over issues that have little importance. The following graphic illustrates this perfectly:

what we should know about

HT: Crooks and Liars

Published: July 1, 2014 | Comments: 4

How Many Fundamentalists View Liberals

crucifying glbt rights

I think Matt Barber, who shows evidence of being hit one too many times in the head when he was a professional boxer, speaks for a lot of fundamentalist Christians when he says:

Arguing with a liberal is like arguing with a bath mat or a fence-post. You won’t get anywhere. Still, there might be someone listening or reading who may profit from your argument. So we try…

…It is a religion. It rests on two pillars that are faith statements. Liberals will object to this, but they’ll object to anything you say, so ignore them. It’s your job to teach a youngster, or an adult who hasn’t paid much attention until now, what those two pillars are.

First, liberalism is a faith, a belief, that man is perfectible by man. If only the government is made big enough, and powerful enough; if only enough money is raised by taxation; if only the right experts (the liberals themselves) are put in charge, and everyone obeys them: well, then, everything is going to be hunky-dory…

…The second pillar of liberalism is that there is no God, or, at best, a God who is not involved in earthly doings and doesn’t mind if we ignore Him. The Humanist Manifesto explicitly rejects God, the Bible, prayer, and the afterlife. That hasn’t stopped a passel of liberal churchmen from signing onto it. They want to be seen as “smart.”

To say there is no God, or only a totally ineffectual God, is to make a religious statement, a statement of faith. Liberalism, atheism, statism, call it what you will, is religion without God.

God’s throne being vacant, the progressive wants to sit on it and do God’s job. The God of liberalism is man, and the great work of man is the almighty, and presumably all-knowing, government. For the liberal there is no lord higher than Pharaoh. As promised by the serpent in the Garden of Eden, man becomes as God, determining good and evil for himself.

This belief, that above man and the state is nothing greater, no authority to whom the rulers must account, explains much. Believing as they do, that they are as close to being God as anything can get, libs feel perfectly competent to trash tradition, ignore history, violate constitutions, redefine basic human institutions like marriage and the family (that’s how they “significantly modify our behavior” and “direct the course of human evolution”), and even defy such obvious natural boundaries as “gender” (“You can be a boy today and a girl tomorrow, depending on how you feel,” is what the gender coach teaches your kids in public school). Their rank as gods, and their stated aim to create utopia, excuse anything they say or do. It’s all for a good cause!

Christians believe this world is a fallen world, to be saved only by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. But to the liberal the whole world is a work in progress, a vast lump of clay for them to mold until they get it right…

It is clear that Barber considers people who identify as a liberal or progressive Christian to not be Christian at all. I will leave it to liberal and progressive Christians to disabuse Barber of this notion. What I want to do in this post is focus on what Barber says about political progressivism and liberalism, especially the humanist variety.

I really don’t have much to say. I agree with most everything Barber says here. While I certainly reject the notion that liberalism and progressivism is a religion, it is an ideology that focus on humanity. There is no god, so who else should we focus on? Since we have the power to make the world a better place or make it a living hell, why shouldn’t we focus on humans doing all the can to make our planet a better place to live? We have thousands of years of history that clearly shows what happens when humans defer to the power of a deity they have never seen and cannot be sure even exists. Superstition, ignorance, violence, and loss of liberty and freedom are the fruit of thousands of years of religion.

According to Matt Barber, Christianity is the one, true faith. But, even if we remove all other religions from the discussion except Christianity, history still reveals a religion that has at one time or the other promoted superstition and ignorance. It is a bloody religion that has slaughtered countless people in the name if its God. This God is the deity behind America’s imperialistic ambitions. Centuries of Americans have believed that the Christian God is the God of  America, that this God has established the United States as a city on a hill, a nation with a manifest destiny, a nation superior to all others because of who their God is.

Barber frames the cosmic struggle between Christianity and liberalism this way:

Christians believe this world is a fallen world, to be saved only by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. But to the liberal the whole world is a work in progress, a vast lump of clay for them to mold until they get it right…

And he is right. He sees Jesus as the answer to every question and problem. If only Jesus were president and the Bible was the law of the land, all would be well. While Barber would likely never be so bold to say it like this, this is his agenda. There is no other king but Jesus. There is no other God but the fundamentalist Christian’s  God. There is no other truth, no other law, but the Bible.

Is this not the thinking of the Taliban and every other group with theocratic aspirations?  Christian fundamentalists dominate almost every extreme political and social group in America, from the Tea Party to the gun nuts on Clive Bundy’s ranch. They lack the power to enforce their theological demands, but mark my word, if they ever gain control of the government, people will die and freedom will be lost. This is why we MUST fight every attempt by theocrats to breach the wall of separation of church and state.

I think an article on Liberland, written by VegasJessie, says it best:

If you compare the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s sectarian gathering this week  to the interminable violence in Iraq between Shi’as and Sunnis, it’s very clear, true democracy cannot exist where religion is paramount. It’s simply antithetical. There can’t be a mandatory worship of some version of religious fables, while attempting to grant democratic rights to all.

Fundamentalist Christians and Islamists, while different in their methodology, share more similarities than they would care to admit.  Religion as a substitute for governance is extremely detrimental to any civilization…

…According to the Christian Bible, the Earth is a mere 6,000 years old.  This roughly 4,000 year disparity between Biblical and  Mesopotamian history is never mentioned, even though we have precise carbon dating to prove its existence.   The fact that evidence exists that prove the earth is four and a half billion years old cannot be mentioned by a Republican who wishes to gain favor with the far right fundamentalists of the party. We have half of our government less willing to face the hard truth about science and more into promoting ridiculous reassuring fables as fact.  Libertarian Senator Rand Paul refuses to repudiate the idea that the Earth is only 6,000 years old!

The Faith and Freedom Coalition profess their tenets: pro-some-life (actually, just fetuses), vehemently anti-gay and judgmental as hell to those who don’t openly proclaim their thanks to this “Almighty God,” and they never mention this “god” has caused all sorts of horror both here and abroad. Does anyone notice it is a “god-given right” to own a gun, but god could care less if poor people can get healthcare? The Right Wing’s psychotic obsession with the belief in a book of mythology over what the Founding Fathers, in a most secular manner, believed (as was written in the Constitution) is mind-boggling. Now Iraq, one might say, is far more overtly savage and violent. This war amongst the factions of Islam is centuries old. But Iraq and Iran even with their Muslim population, used to have some semblance of a functioning democracy. When the Theocratic States of America decided to overthrow a fairly secular government (by comparison to the Ayatollah and Al-Maliki), we made it more impossible for true democracy. Just like Barry Goldwater predicted in his 1964 presidential campaign:

Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.

…Even though Ralph Reed and Gary Bauer have not directly pointed guns at people’s heads, they’ve exported their own Christian-version of terrorism: wherever fundamentalists have exported their religion, anti-gay laws suddenly appear in those very same nations.   “Missionaries” of the Christian faith help establish Draconian punishment for being gay and this is a form of terrorism, much like Sunni vs. Shiite terror. Women are treated like chattel and cattle and should remain out of the public forum.  The Republicans truly feel women should earn 78% for doing the exact same work as a man.  With fundamentalists like the ISIL group, women should only be seen in public to maintain decency.  Fundamentalist Christians feel women have fewer rights and never the freedom to control their own bodies.

The “Faith and Freedom Coalition” is actually a misnomer. It is an oxymoron. Imposing a version of superstitious worship on a population eliminates any possibility of true democratic freedom.

I am quite indifferent to the personal, private religious practice of others. If Matt Barber wants to view himself as a loathsome sinful, vile worm estranged from God whose only hope of a meaningful life is salvation through the merit and work of Jesus, who am I to object? However, when people like Barber want to co-op the government and force everyone to live according to the teachings of the Bible, then I am going to object. We simply can not allow theocrats of any kind to gain any further foothold. Our future depends on marginalizing and neutering fundamentalism in all its forms.

Let me close out this post by pointing out the subterfuge that Matt Barber uses in an attempt to smear those who adhere to humanism. Barber states:

“Using technology wisely, we can control our environment, conquer poverty, markedly reduce disease, extend our life-span, significantly modify our behavior, alter the course of human evolution and cultural development, unlock vast new powers, and provide humankind with unparalleled opportunity for achieving an abundant and meaningful life.”

What he doesn’t tell his readers is that this quote is from Humanist Manifesto II written over 80 years ago. The current Humanist Manifesto does not contain this paragraph. Here is what Humanist Manifesto III, published in 2003, says:

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

The lifestance of Humanism—guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience—encourages us to live life well and fully. It evolved through the ages and continues to develop through the efforts of thoughtful people who recognize that values and ideals, however carefully wrought, are subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance.

This document is part of an ongoing effort to manifest in clear and positive terms the conceptual boundaries of Humanism, not what we must believe but a consensus of what we do believe. It is in this sense that we affirm the following:

Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies. We also recognize the value of new departures in thought, the arts, and inner experience—each subject to analysis by critical intelligence.

Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing. We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be. We welcome the challenges of the future, and are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known.

Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond. We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility.

Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals. We aim for our fullest possible development and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence, its challenges and tragedies, and even in the inevitability and finality of death. Humanists rely on the rich heritage of human culture and the lifestance of Humanism to provide comfort in times of want and encouragement in times of plenty.

Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships. Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives, encourages us to enrich the lives of others, and inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all.

Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature’s resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.

Humanists are concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views. We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature’s integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner.

Thus engaged in the flow of life, we aspire to this vision with the informed conviction that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals. The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone.

I wonder why Barber didn’t quote from this Manifesto?

Published: June 22, 2014 | Comments: 11

The American Dream Delusion

life is not fair

Polly and I love to watch American Idol and The Voice. (though we prefer The Voice) We also thoroughly enjoyed watching The Sing Off, So You Think You Can Duet, and Nashville Star.

We love music and these shows allow us to see and hear some of the best never heard before talent in America. We are often reminded of how many great singers and musicians there are toiling away at out-of-the-way dives and clubs; singers and musicians every bit as good, if not better, as those at the top of the charts.

Over the years, we have heard countless contestants talk about following their dreams. They are certain that American Idol or The Voice is going to be their ticket to success and stardom. For most, their dreams will quickly be crushed. Their family and friends told them that they had a wonderful voice, often lying to the person rather than telling them the truth about their singing.

There is nothing wrong with having a dream, of wanting to be something more than you are. However, some of the dream talk we hear on these shows betray a common delusion among Americans; the idea that if we just follow our dream, whatever it might be, we will be wildly successful.

People think God or their dead Grandma or the Universe is the power behind their dream, and how can they fail with such a power behind them? But most of them do fail and they are forced to face the reality that most of us will never make it big, that most of us will be forgotten by most everyone after we die.

Countless dream-inspired singers and musicians are sure that “this is their time” and that life will be over for them if they don’t make it on the show. I laugh when I hear a fifteen year old say such things. I often say to Polly, “really? life is over for them at age fifteen if they don’t make it on the show?” Such a young age for life as they know it to be over.

Where does this kind of thinking come from?

Americans are taught from kindergarten forward that America is the best country on the face of the Earth. Everything about America is better than the rest of the world. We are taught that America is the Land Of Opportunity and that every American has the opportunity to be whatever they want to be. Children are reminded of the great American myth…anyone can become President, a myth that any cursory reading of American history will show is false.

Thousands of tone-deaf people show up to vie for a spot on American Idol. They’ve been deluded by people telling them they can sing or that they should follow their dream no matter what. If Grandma says they sound wonderful…well we know Grandma always tell the truth. And so we watch countless people make a fool of themselves as they pursue their dream.

Presidential hopefuls  travel America selling their version of the American Dream. Rarely do we consider exactly what is this American Dream they are selling. Can any of us become whatever we want to become? Can we just work real hard, as Mitt Romney asserts, and become rich like he is? Is it possible for any of us, if we just put our mind to it, to become President of the United States, like Barack Obama?

Of course not. The American Dream requires money, power, influence, and a lot of luck. Why is it that two people can take the same path in life, yet one succeeds and another doesn’t? Is this because of God, karma, or the Universe? Or perhaps it is nothing more than luck.

I have nothing against people working hard and aspiring to do great things. However, it must never be forgotten that most people who work very hard in life will not do great things. They will never have a Wikipedia page or be mentioned in high school history books. Most of us will live good lives, meaningful lives, and then die, never to be remembered again. It’s just how it is.

Does this mean we are failures, as Mitt Romney thinks 47% of Americans are? Of course not. Value is not determined by getting fifteen minutes of fame. Value is determined by the mark we make on the lives of those closest to us. If we can influence our family, our children and grandchildren, in a good way, then we have done well. So what if we never become President or land a spot on The Voice.

Americans are obsessed with fame and status and this obsession only leads to disappointment. Will, the main character on the HBO show, The Newsroom, is shown in the first episode telling a group of college students that they have been lied to. The lie? That they were special. Will went on to tell them that they weren’t special…a shocking revelation to those who heard him say this. Will was right.

Each of us have talents and skills that someone else may not have. Life is short. Instead of aspiring to be what we never can be because we do not have the requisite talent and skill, our time would be better spent doing what we are good at. (and all of us are good at something)

I have a few things I am good at, and as much as my health allows I try to cultivate these things. There are a lot of things I am not very good at, and no matter how hard I try I still am not very good at doing them. This used to frustrate the hell out of me, but I now know that I can’t be good or excel at everything. ( a tough lesson for a perfectionist to learn)

I love sports and I played baseball and basketball in junior high and high school. I played little league baseball in elementary school and as an adult I played touch football, basketball, and softball. I loved playing sports even if I wasn’t the best at it.

If there were fifteen guys that made the team I was usually number fourteen or fifteen. As a baseball player I was fast on my feet but a terrible hitter. As a left-handed basketball player I was quite skilled at going to my left. To my right? Not so good.

I didn’t have the necessary drive to be a great player. I enjoyed playing but I wasn’t going to spend hours a day perfecting my foul shot. Those who did went on to play college basketball and maybe even ended up in the NBA. Me? Just an ordinary teenage boy who loved sports but was unwilling to work day and night perfecting his athletic skills.

Writing is important to me. I work very hard at improving my skill-set. The transition from public speaker to writer has been difficult. When I started blogging, I wrote like I talked and I quickly learned that what worked in preaching didn’t work so well in writing. (this is why sermons are great to listen to but rarely good to read) Public speaking came easy for me. Writing? Not so easy.

I continue to work on my English skills. I have a good vocabulary, but I need to work on proper usage, tense, etc. I continue to be schooled about the use of commas, sometimes using too many and sometimes not using enough. This is important to me so I work on it.

Being conversant in all things “Geek” is also important to me. My next to oldest son, Nathan, is a nerd like me, and we will talk and talk about this or that technology while everyone else gives us the “what the hell are you talking about” look.  For Nathan and I (and to some degree my oldest son Jason) technology comes easy for us and we are able to quickly learn the necessary skills to use this or that technology. (and my middle son Jaime is this way about mechanical things)

I am a serious amateur photographer. I work very hard at learning the fine aspects of taking pictures. I am quite proud of the many a few of the pictures I have taken. I am glad we now live in the digital age. In the days of 35mm film, I would throw away a lot of pictures that were not up to my quality standard. These days I can just hit delete. I continue to hone my photography skills because it is important for me to leave behind a photographic glimpse of my life and those I shared my life with. I hope my children and grandchildren will be able to sit around some day and take a trip down memory lane though the pictures I have left behind.

Now this doesn’t mean I don’t have anything I still want to learn. Take woodworking. I want to learn how to craft things from wood. I fear that, due to a loss of motor skills and tensile strength in my hands, that I might not be able to achieve this, but I still want to. I work, as I can, at learning how to make things from wood. Last year, I finished my first project, making a coat rack out of oak. I used a router, drill press, sander, and miter saw to make the coat rack…and damn …it turned out nice. I even used, for the first time, spray polyurethane, and I was surprised that I didn’t have any runs or bubbles.

How about you? What is your thought on the “American Dream?” How have you balanced in your own life your “dream” with life as it really is? Are you disappointed that you didn’t fulfill your dream? Or maybe you did fulfill your dream. Was it all you thought it would be? Please share your story in the comments.

Published: June 19, 2014 | Comments: 4

Ken Ham Approves of Incest

ken ham cains wife

Not now of course, but young earth creationist Ken Ham thinks that incest before the giving of the Mosaic law was OK.

Ham writes:

…Perhaps no woman mentioned in Scripture has caused more confusion among Christians. Despite the fact that we have regularly addressed this issue in numerous books, articles, and presentations, the issue of Cain’s wife is still one of the most common questions we receive. Who was she, and why have so many believers struggled to give a biblical answer to this inquiry?

The simple answer is that Cain married his sister or another close relation, like a niece. This answer may sound revolting for those of us who grew up in societies that have attached a stigma to such an idea, but if we start from Scripture, the answer is clear.

1 Corinthians 15:45 tells us that Adam was “the first man.Genesis 3:20 states that Eve “was the mother of all the living” (NASB), and Genesis 5:4 reveals that Adam and Eve “had sons and daughters” (besides Cain, Abel, and Seth).

There were no other people on earth as some have claimed. God did not create other people groups from which Cain chose a wife, as we are all made of one blood (Acts 17:26). If He had made others, these people would not have been able to be saved from their sins, since only descendants of Adam can be saved—that’s why it was so important for Jesus to be Adam’s descendant.

Doesn’t the Bible forbid marriage between close relations? It does, but the laws against marrying family members were initially given as part of the Mosaic covenant, approximately 2,500 years after God created Adam and Eve. Due in part to genetic mistakes, these laws were necessary to help protect offspring from mutations shared by both parents.

But that’s incest! In today’s world, this would be incest. But originally there would have been no problem with it. Looking back through history, the closer we get to Adam and Eve, the fewer genetic mistakes people would have, so it would have been safer for close relatives to marry and have children.

Christians who have a problem with this answer need to remember that Noah’s grandchildren must have married brothers, sisters, or first cousins—there were no other people (1 Peter 3:20; Genesis 7:7). Abraham married his half-sister (Genesis 20:2, 12); Isaac married Rebekah, the daughter of his cousin Bethuel (Genesis 24:15, 67); and Jacob married his cousins Leah and Rachel. Clearly, the Bible does not forbid the marriage of close relatives until the time of Moses…

Ham’s argument is necessary if one reads and believes the Bible literally. In Ham’s world, the earth is 6,000 years old and evolution is the lie of Satan. However, Ham reveals that he is not really as much of a literalist as he claims to be.

Ham claims that Cain married his sister or niece. Where does the Bible say this? Where does the Bible say Cain married anyone? Perhaps people didn’t get married in Cain’s day? Perhaps Cain actually had sexual relations with his mother? Why doesn’t Ham mention this as a possibility? Ham repeats the same story when trying to explain where the children of Noah’s grandchildren came from.

According to Ham, a law against incest was not necessary until 2,500 years after God created Adam and Eve.  The reason?  “…genetic mistakes, these laws were necessary to help protect offspring from mutations shared by both parents.” Again, where does the inerrant, inspired, infallible Bible say this?

Besides, how is a human behavior not sinful for 2,500 years and then, all of a sudden, it is sinful? How can an immoral act be moral? Does this mean God changed his mind? Does this mean God permitted immorality so he could accomplish a greater good? I thought Jesus (God) was the same yesterday, today, and forever? Doesn’t Ham’s explanation lay waste to this “Biblical truth?”

SO many questions…for which Ken Ham has no answers…

HT: Tyler Francke, God of Evolution

 

Published: June 18, 2014 | Comments: 6