And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter. For you know how many sons your esteemed writers ascribed to Jupiter: Mercury, the interpreting word and teacher of all; Æsculapius, who, though he was a great physician, was struck by a thunderbolt, and so ascended to heaven; and Bacchus too, after he had been torn limb from limb; and Hercules, when he had committed himself to the flames to escape his toils; and the sons of Leda, and Dioscuri; and Perseus, son of Danae; and Bellerophon, who, though sprung from mortals, rose to heaven on the horse Pegasus. For what shall I say of Ariadne, and those who, like her, have been declared to be set among the stars? And what of the emperors who die among yourselves, whom you deem worthy of deification, and in whose behalf you produce some one who swears he has seen the burning Cæsar rise to heaven from the funeral pyre? And what kind of deeds are recorded of each of these reputed sons of Jupiter, it is needless to tell to those who already know. This only shall be said, that they are written for the advantage and encouragement of youthful scholars; for all reckon it an honourable thing to imitate the gods. But far be such a thought concerning the gods from every well-conditioned soul, as to believe that Jupiter himself, the governor and creator of all things, was both a parricide and the son of a parricide, and that being overcome by the love of base and shameful pleasures, he came in to Ganymede and those many women whom he had violated and that his sons did like actions. But, as we said above, wicked devils perpetrated these things. And we have learned that those only are deified who have lived near to God in holiness and virtue; and we believe that those who live wickedly and do not repent are punished in everlasting fire.
Tag Archive: God
Fox’s hit show Lucifer began its second season this week, wasting no time as Lucifer Morningstar and others continue to mock all that Christians hold dear. Last season ended with Lucifer’s mother escaping hell. The latest episode finds Lucifer, played by Tom Ellis, explaining to his therapist (played by Rachael Harris) his Dad (God) and Mom’s relationship:
Lucifer: Very well. In human terms, once upon a time, a boy met a girl, and they fell in love. They had sex. The only trouble was, they were celestial beings, so that moment created the universe.
Linda: MM, the Big Bang?
Lucifer: Never knew how appropriate the name was until now, did you? Anyway, they became Mum and Dad. They had a whole litter of kids, including yours truly. And they built a house. They called it Heaven. They were happy. Dad was… Well, Dad, and Mum… Well, Mum was rather lovely in the beginning. But things change, don’t they? Dad started going into the garage and tinkering with a little project he called humanity. Mum grew cold… Distant. And pretty soon, they were both neglecting their family.
Linda: And then one of his children started to act out?
Lucifer: Indeed. Yeah… So Dad got pissed off and tossed me out of the house.
Linda: And what did your mother do?
Lucifer: Nothing. She just stood there and let it happen. Anyway, a couple of thousand years later, Dad kicked her out, too. Cast her into Hell and put her in a cell. So, I did the same for her as she did for me. Zilch.
This season introduces to viewers a new character — a forensic scientist named Ella Lopez (Aimee Garcia). Lopez, a crucifix-wearing Christian, thinks that the Lucifer in the Bible got a bad rap:
Ella: You must be Detective Decker’s civilian consultant.
Lucifer: Lucifer Morningstar.
Lucifer: I was expecting a different reaction considering your choice of bling.
Ella: Oh. Dude, I had a friend named Adolf. Okay, Adolf. I didn’t hold it against him. And besides, I think the Devil gets a bad rap.
Lucifer: Oh. You do, do you?
Ella: Sure. I mean, what did he really do that was so bad? What, rebel against his dad? Ask some naked lady if she wanted an apple?
Lucifer: Be still my heart. Do go on.
Ella: I suppose he does run Hell. That’s not so great, you know, with the torture and eternal damnation.
Lucifer: I’m retired. And besides, I didn’t create Hell. I just worked there.
Ella: And now you’re talking in the first person. Wait. Are you…
Lucifer: The Devil?
Ella: …A method actor?
Later in the episode, Lopez answers Detective Chloe Decker’s (played by Lauren German) questions about God, angels, the Devil,and the afterlife:
Chloe: Do you believe that it all really exists?
Ella: What do you mean?
Chloe: Say, angels. Or the Devil. That sort of thing. That’s all a metaphor, right?
Ella: Maybe. Maybe not.
Chloe: Oh, okay. That’s pretty…I just thought there would be more faith in your faith, I guess.
Ella: Oh. No, see, my aunt was a nun, okay? And she always taught me that doubt was really important. Right? I mean, if you don’t question something, then what’s the point of believing it? I doubt so that I can believe.
Chloe: So, then, if you had the chance to prove it was all real or fake, would you do it?
Ella: I mean, that kind of defeats the point, don’t you think? It’s faith…
I wish more Christians would take Decker’s approach. Hebrews 11:1-6 states:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Christian apologists spend countless hours scoring the Internet looking for opportunities to rationally defend their faith. As science continues to make belief systems such as Christianity largely irrelevant, zealots fight back with worn-out, stale, irrational arguments for the veracity of their beliefs. Have they not read Hebrews 11? The essence of Christian belief is FAITH. Attempting to “prove” Christianity to people such as myself is a waste of time. I am unwilling to surrender reason to faith; unwilling to just believe. Either someone believes, or they don’t. I don’t, and Lucifer Morningstar’s tale of heaven and hell is every bit as “real” to me as that which is found in the Bible. It’s all entertainment, and these days I think Fox’s ‘Lucifer’ is far more entertaining.
This is the forty-third installment in the Sacrilegious Humor series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a comedy bit that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please email me the name of the bit or a link to it.
Today’s bit is a video titled If Atheists Went to Heaven.
Warning, many of the comedy bits in this series will contain profanity. You have been warned.
Many atheists are anti-theists — those who actively oppose theism. I have friends who are anti-theists. I fully understand why they are, and as long as they are civil in their in public interactions with theists, I have no objection. Sadly, way too many anti-theists spend their waking hours on social media engaging in shit-throwing contests with Fundamentalists affiliated with the Abrahamic religions. I do understand why atheists get into such contests. Tired of being pushed and battered by religious zealots, these angry atheists push back, if for no other reason than the good feeling they get from doing so. Religious zealots do the same, thinking that their petty, shallow attacks will put godless heathens in their place.
I walked away from Christianity in November of 2008. Since that time, I have spent a considerable amount of time telling my story and critiquing Evangelical Christianity. As long-time readers know, I have been repeatedly savaged by zealots who object to my writing. One Christian man even went so far as to threaten to slit my throat. Other “loving” Christians have called on God to judge me swiftly, hoping that I die a painful death. Some Evangelicals have even attacked my wife, children, grandchildren, and daughter with Down Syndrome. I have had enemies who, using my name, set up fake social media accounts, hoping to screw with me and my friends. It is for this reason that I am very particular about who I friend on Facebook. If I don’t know the person or they aren’t already friends with someone I know, I automatically decline their request.
As a public figure — who just so happens to be a former Evangelical pastor and an atheist — I know that public (and private) attacks come with the territory. I am willing to bear the brunt of these attacks because of the good accomplished through my writing.
One of the troubling aspects of the past eight years is having to deal with atheists who don’t think I am the right kind of atheist. I have had atheists — who are anti-theists — demand that I stop “coddling” Christians. They don’t like the fact that I tend to be an accommodationist when it comes to religion. I firmly believe that not all religions are the same; that there are some expressions of religion and spirituality that are harmless and might even be helpful to the people who practice them. Here in America, we have so many virulent forms of religion that I think my time is best spent trying to combat the belief systems that do the most harm. Anyone who can’t tell the difference between a nominal Episcopalian and a hardcore Baptist has no business saying anything about religion. Such people should at least educate themselves about the various religions of the world so they can understand their differences.
When I am asked about the God question, I give the following answer:
I am agnostic on the God question. It is statistically possible that a God, a creator, a divine engineer, or a higher power exists and has not yet revealed itself to us. It’s possible, but highly unlikely. Perhaps, in the future, some sort of deity will make a grand entrance into our time/space continuum.
Having sufficiently studied the various major world religions, I have concluded that the Gods these religions worship are the mythical creations of human imagination. I can say, with great confidence, that the Christian narrative is a work of fiction; that Jesus, if he existed at all, was a man (not God) who lived and died, end of story. I don’t expect any new evidence to be forthcoming that will change my mind.
Practically, I live my day to day life as an atheist. I see no evidence for the existence of any of the Gods humans currently worship. I do my best to live according to the humanist ideal, doing what I can to help others and improve the living conditions of people less fortunate than me.
Recently, someone asked me how I answered those who remained theistic because of what they perceive to be order and design in universe. I am not a scientist, so I am unable to adequately answer such questions from a scientific perspective. I choose, instead, to answer these questions from a philosophical and theological viewpoint. I acknowledge that atheism has no answer for questions concerning how everything came into existence. In his debate with young earth creationist Ken Ham, Bill Nye readily admitted that this is a question science has yet to answer. The difference between science and Christianity, however, is that science says, I don’t know, whereas Christianity, built on two presuppositions — God exists and the Bible is true — says, the Christian God of the Bible created everything. Of course, Christianity has no answer for the question, where did God come from? The fact is, no one knows for certain how everything came to be. I think, thanks to science, we know more now than we ever have. This knowledge has forced the Abrahamic religions to redefine their understanding of the universe. Those who refuse to do so are rightly labeled closed-minded, ignorant Fundamentalists.
But what about deistic arguments for the existence of some sort of creator God; a deity that created the universe and then went on a long, long, long vacation; a God who is not the slight bit interested in what is happening on planet earth? I readily understand how people can look at the night sky and the wonders of our planet and conclude that some sort of deity created everything. I know that most people want to believe that their lives matter — having purpose and significance. I understand why most people hope that there is life beyond the grave. We humans have a tenacious desire to live, so it is no surprise that many of us hope that after death we will go over the rainbow with Dorothy and Toto. While I have no need for such beliefs, I do understand why others might feel differently.
When I engage in discussions with Evangelicals about the existence of God, they will often point to the universe as “proof” for the existence a God. In a move that often surprises them, I grant their premise. Okay, a God of some sort created everything. How can we know that that God was the Christian God of the Bible? Perhaps one of the other Gods humans worship created everything? Perhaps it was a team effort, with numerous Gods overseeing the work of creation. The point is, no one can conclusively prove that their God, or any God, created the universe.
Once backed into the corner, Evangelicals will always run to the Bible and faith. THE BIBLE SAYS and I BELIEVE are often the refrain of those who desperately want to believe that their version of the Christian God is the right God; that their God and only their God is the creator. Sadly, Evangelicals who appeal to faith — either in the Bible or its God — fail to realize that metaphysical claims have no objective basis and are impossible to refute. When someone invokes faith — a subjective, unverifiable experience — discussion, debate, and argument come to an end. I have yet to have a protracted discussion with an Evangelical that didn’t end with the believer backing his arguments into the garage of faith. This is why I try to attack the theological and historical foundations of their beliefs. Arguing about faith is a waste of time.
While I reject the deistic notion of a creator, I am not the least bit concerned about those who hold such beliefs. They are not the people clamoring for a theocracy or demanding that their beliefs be enshrined into law. Fundamentalism is the problem, not religious belief in general. Perhaps after Fundamentalism is destroyed and its monuments to ignorance (the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter are two) are weed-covered parking lots, there will be time to critique private, pietistic religious beliefs. For me personally, I have little interest in doing so, choosing to live and let live.
Besides, for all any of us knows, our so-called universe and existence might be some sort of alien race’s game simulation. I find arguments for this to be every bit as persuasive as those that are made for the any of deities humans currently worship. Silly? No sillier than Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or Mormonism.
This is the one hundred and thirty-fifth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.
Today’s Song of Sacrilege is From God’s Perspective by Bo Burnham.
Um…there’s things I don’t want to be miss construed my act I feel off and on. I don’t wish you leave in my shell, thinking that I think I know better than people, or that I think I am better then people in general. Okay, I will put it up there. This is a song from the perspective of God
The books you think I wrote are way too thick
Who needs a thousand metaphors to figure out you shouldn’t be a dick
And I don’t watch you when you sleep
Surprisingly I don’t use my omnipotence to be a fucking creep
You’re not going to heaven
Why the fuck did you think I’d ever kick it with you
None of you are going to heaven
There’s a trillion aliens cooler than you
You shouldn’t abstain from rape just because you think that I want you to
You shouldn’t rape because rape is a fucked up thing to do
(It’s pretty obvious just don’t fucking rape people
I didn’t think I had to write that one down for you.)
I don’t think masturbation is obscene
It’s absolutely natural and the weirdest fucking thing I’ve ever seen
You make my job a living hell
I sent gays to fix overpopulation
Boy, did that go well
You’re not going to heaven
Eat a thousand crackers, sing a million hymns
None of you are going to heaven
You’re not my children, you’re a bad game of Sims
You shouldn’t abstain from pork just cause you think that I want you to
You can eat pork, because why the fuck would I give a shit?
(I created the universe you think I’m drawing the line at the fucking deli aisle?)
You argue and you bicker and you fight
Atheists and Catholics
Jews and Hindus argue day and night
Over what they think is true
But no one entertains the thought
That maybe God does not believe in you
You pray so badly for heaven
Knowing any day might be the day that you die
But maybe life on earth could be heaven
Doesn’t just the thought of it make it worth the try?
My love’s the type of thing that you have to earn
And when you earn it you won’t need it
My love’s the type of thing that you have to earn
And when you earn it you won’t need it
I’m not going to give you love just cause I know that you want me to
If you want love then the love is gonna come from you
Thank you very much
The Outsider Test for Faith (OTF) is based on the following progression of four steps, precursors of which stem back in time to many thinkers, including Anthony Flew, Robert Ingersoll, David Hume, and even Socrates:
- People who are located in distinct geographical areas around the globe overwhelmingly adopt and justify a wide diversity of religious faiths due to their particular upbringing and shared cultural heritage, and most of these faiths are mutually exclusive. This is the Religious Diversity Thesis (RDVT).
- The best explanation for (1) is that adopting and justifying one’s religion is not a matter of independent rational judgment. Rather, to an overwhelming degree, one’s religious faith is causally dependent on brain processes, cultural conditions, and irrational thinking patterns. This is the Religious Dependency Thesis (RDPT). From (1) and (2) it follows that:
- It is highly likely that any given religious faith is false and quite possible that they all could be false. At best there can be only one religious faith that is true. At worst, they all could be false. The sociological facts, along with our brain biology, anthropological (cultural) data, and psychological studies, lead us to this highly likely conclusion.
- The only way to rationally test one’s culturally adopted religious faith is from the perspective of an outsider, a nonbeliever, with the same level of reasonable skepticism believers already use when examining the other religious faiths they reject. They expresses the Outsider Test for Faith.
The OTF is based on the same kind of data that cultural relativists use when arguing that, because moral practices and beliefs do in fact vary from culture to culture as well as at different times in history, morality is not the result of independent rational judgment but rather is causally dependent on cultural conditions. All we have to do is insert the phrase “religious faith” in place of the world word morality, with one caveat. I’m not arguing that all religious faiths are false because of religious diversity or that they are completely dependent on one’s cultural upbringing. I’m merely arguing that believers should be skeptical of their own culturally inherited faith because it is overwhelmingly the case that one’s faith is dependent on one’s cultural upbringing.
The Outsider Test for Faith One More Time for Clarity
- We are all raised believers. As children, we believed whatever our parents told us, all of us.
- We were raised in our respective families and cultures to believe what our parents told us about religion.
- Psychological studies have shown that people have a very strong tendency to believe what they prefer to believe. Cognitive bias studies show this.
- Psychological studies have shown that most of us, most of the time, look for that which confirms what we believe rather than that which disconfirms it, even though the latter is the best way to get at the truth. This is known as confirmation bias.
- Neurological studies have shown that people have a sense of certainty about the beliefs they have that is unrelated to the strength of the actual evidence, as Robert Burton argues in, On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not.
- Skepticism is not usually an inherited characteristic. We must acquire the capacity to doubt what we were raised to believe. Skepticism is the adult attitude.
- When there billions of people who are certain of an inherited faith they all learned in the same manner, who live in separate geographical locations around the globe, who all prefer to believe what they were raised to believe, and who seek to confirm that which they were raised to believe, it should cause them to doubt what they were raised to believe.
- All believers who are certain of their faith will fallaciously argue that this data allies to atheists, too. If that were the case, then which faith should atheists adopt — all of them? You see, this argument does nothing to solve the problem of religious diversity, since believers still have not come up with a method that can solve their own differences. Atheists are doubters. We are skeptics. Knowing this data causes us to require hard, cold evidence for that which we can accept.
- Skepticism is a filter that adults use to help sift the wheat of truth from the chaff of falsehood. We cannot doubt that filter! There is no other alternative.
- The Outsider Test For Faith is the best and only way to get at truth if you want to know the truth. Examine your own faith with the same skepticism you use when examining the other religious faiths you eject. We cannot merely say to people that they should be skeptical without offering a standard of skepticism. . Why? Because if we ask believers who are certain of their faith to test it with doubt then, to a person, they will say they have, and that their faith is sure. But ask them to test their faith with the same level of skepticism they use when examining the other religious faiths they reject, and that will get their attention.
A Few Questions
If anyone disagrees, I have five sets of questions to be answered:
- Do you or do you not assume other religions shoulder the burden of proof? When you examine Islam, Orthodox Judaism, Hinduism, Scientology, Mormonism, Shintoism, Jainism, Haitian Voodoo, the John Frum Cargo Cult, Satanism, or the many African or Chinese tribal religions, do you think approaching them with faith is the way to test these religions, or would you agree with the OTF that a much fairer method is by assuming they all have the burden of proof, including your own?
- Do you or do you not think that a consistent standard invoking fairness is the best way to objectively come to know the correct religious faith, if one is?If not, why the double standard?
- Do you or do you not think that if Christianity is true, it should be supported by the sciences to the exclusion of other, false religious faiths?
- Do you or do you not admit that if you reject the OTF, then your God did not make Christianity such that it would lead reasonable people who were born as outsiders to come to believe it, and, as such, they will be condemned to hell by virtue of where they were born? If not, and if outsiders can reasonably come to believe, then why is it that you think the OTF is faulty or unfair?
- Do you or do you not have a better method for us to reasonably settle which religious faith is true, if one is? If so, what is it?
Let the Debates Begin
If religious believers accept the OTF and claim their faith passes the test, then at that point we have an agreed-upon standard for debating the merits of faith. If the test does nothing else, that is a good thing.
Let the debates begin.
— How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist by John W. Loftus, How to Know Which Religion to Defend, pages 106-108 and 114-117
Purchase the books mentioned in this quote:
How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist by John W. Loftus
On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not by Robert Burton
Other books by John W. Loftus
What a foolish, sad, and predictable lot. They [atheists] appear almost like a new species of humanity, a strange mutation. And like most mutations, they present a harmful, not helpful, distortion. They begin with the assumption of naturalism and, wonders of wonders, they always conclude with naturalism. They cannot find God because their philosophy allows none to exist, having excluded Him by definition. They seem not to understand that apart from their baseless assumption, their arguments ring hollow to the rest of us. The book of Ecclesiastes, while speaking in another vein, gives an excellent description of their folly. “This also is vanity and a striving after wind (4:4).
They do not see — nor do they want to see — that to begin with God gives at least a viable base for making an argument. On the other hand, to begin without Him brings with it a necessary inconsistency and gives the lie (or doubt) to everything. One cannot present a valid argument for truth, a logical argument for reason, a moral argument for good and bad. And baseless arguments are usually — and should be — considered fallacious.
Really now. is it not a bit frustrating? You [atheists] surely want to discredit my contentions. But as I have shown, you have none of the raw material from which to formulate a counter-argument. To answer me, you will need to employ reason in an effort to establish truth. But I have shown that these belong to God, and that you cannot logically use them without dismissing your atheism. You might want to challenge my arguments as unfair, but then you would be arguing on the basis of a moral structure to which your system gives no access. And even science cannot come to your rescue since it depends upon truth and reason under the guidance of morality. But even with all of this, we may have no power to stop your dissent since consistency has never been a part of your repertoire.
As I close, I ask that you recall the horizon line. True seeking requires that you do not limit yourself to the cramped valley of physicalism. Remember that the central issue is atheism against theism. Understand also that it is an artificial sham to pit evolution against creationism or an old earth against a young one. Discover the right key. Only theism is congruous with nature as we know and experience it. Atheism is consistent with nothing, including itself.
Here’s the final word: Either you must admit the fact of God or acknowledge that you have taken a completely baseless and, therefore, defenseless position.
— The Fatal Flaw by Jerry Garloch, pages 152-154
You can purchase The Fatal Flaw here.