Tag Archives | Faith

In the News: The Dangers of Superstition & Faith

BBC – Burundi albino boy ‘dismembered’

The dismembered body of a young albino boy has been found in a river on the Burundi-Tanzania border, reports say. The boy, aged nine, was taken from Makamba province in Burundi by a gang that crossed the border, the head of Burundi’s albino association said…

In Tanzania, the body parts of people living with albinism are used by witch-doctors for potions which they tell clients will help make them rich or healthy. Dozens of albinos have been killed, and the killings have spread to neighbouring Burundi.

ABC News – Teenage girl found dead after exorcism

A 13-year-old girl suffocated after she was strapped down and doused with water by her father and a monk who were trying to expel an “evil spirit”, according to Japanese police and media reports…

Reports said the girl’s parents had turned to the monk after the youngster had suffered several years of mental and physical ill health that doctors had not been able to resolve. The monk, who belongs to a religious group deriving from a Buddhist sect, said the girl was possessed by an evil spirit, the private network TBS said.

Her parents had taken her to one of the group’s facilities equipped with a water pump and made her go through the dousing practice about 100 times before.

OregonLive – Parents defend using prayer, not medical care, in faith-healing baby’s death

On Tuesday — the second anniversary of David Hickman’s death — his parents took the witness stand and told jurors that there was nothing they could have done to save their newborn boy. Even now, they said, they would do nothing differently.

The Hickmans are charged with second-degree manslaughter for failing to provide medical care for David, who was born two months prematurely and lived less than nine hours. Doctors said the baby would have lived if he had been taken to a hospital — the standard response for premature babies born at home…

The last link is so sad. I urge you to read the entire article. You gotta feel for the family, they were doing what they thought was right. Unfortunately, their faith in God blocked their ability to make a rational decision.

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The Arrogance of Prayer Requests

Religious people see prayer as a beautiful thing – a way to connect with the creator of the universe, a means to give thanks for all the wonderful experiences we are able to enjoy, and an opportunity to ask for a helping hand every once in a while – either for themselves, a loved one, or a special cause.

And, although there is no proof for god’s existence, asking for divine intervention once in a while doesn’t seem like too big of an issue, right? Sure, praying for food prior to a meal seems like a silly practice – since even religious people understand how they are impacted by unhealthy food choices. But as for other prayer requests, most believers see them as 1) beneficial if there is a god and 2) harmless if there is no god… so what is there to lose, right? How could it possibly be unethical to ask God, if he exists, to help you get a job, or to boost your memory during a test, or to protect you as you travel?

Here’s the problem: If God doesn’t intervene all the time, personal prayer requests are the height of arrogance.

According to Christians who try to explain away the problem of pain and suffering in our world, God does NOT choose to intervene all the time because God has given us the freedom of choice to live our lives and deal with the consequences of our own decisions as well as the decisions of the rest of humanity throughout history.

Yet, Christians also believe that prayer requests can harness the power of God to change things – often to benefit a specific person or community. They believe this because it says so throughout the Bible, whether it’s Old Testament stories or New Testament messages.

However, if you look at this combination of beliefs more closely, it means that when a Christian is praying to God to help them get a job, they are praying for divine help so that they will be chosen for a particular job instead of somebody else (or instead of a nationwide 0% unemployment rate). And when they are praying for a memory-boost prior to a test, they are praying that they will have an unfair advantage over the rest of the class (or instead of asking God to boost the memory of all humankind). And when somebody prays for safe travels, they realize that accidents will naturally happen but ask for God to protect them from such things rather than somebody else (or instead of asking God to put an end to motor vehicle accidents for once and for all). Essentially, Christians are praying for extra-benefits in this world as opposed to the rest of humanity.

“To think that the ruler of the universe will run to my assistance and bend the laws of nature for me is the height of arrogance. That implies that everyone else (such as the opposing football team, driver, student, parent) is de-selected, unfavored by God, and that I am special, above it all.”

-Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith

If a Christian believes that God does not intervene all the time, since God has instead allowed us to face the consequences of free-choice, yet also believes that prayer can cause God to intervene once in a while… why waste prayers on ones own selfish or minuscule desires? Why not instead have every faithful believer pray for god to put an end to world hunger, cancer, and AIDS?

Why waste prayer requests on a job search, a test, or safe travels? Why waste prayer requests on specific surgeries? Why waste prayer requests on the health of specific marriages? Why waste prayer requests asking for sunny days or rain? If God only intervenes once in a while, then such prayer requests are the height of self-centered arrogance.

And what’s worse is the common response to supposed “answers to prayer”.

Of course, whether or not there is a god, sometimes prayer requests become reality. There are successful surgeries with and without god, sunny days happen, and people eventually find jobs. However, the most sickening idea about claiming that God intervened in order to cause such things is the idea that some people are singled out and their requests are deemed worthy by an Almighty Supernatural Being while the vast majority are left to suffer the consequences of the natural world. It’s an incredibly naive and egotistical way to think. In fact, it seems as though God would be far more ethical to either intervene all the time or not at all, rather than choosing to intervene once in a while to help people out of not-so-special circumstances.

Besides, if only the all-merciful and omni-benevolent creator of the universe was kind enough to help out a few sinners (aren’t we all) once in a while, why not turn his powers to all of the millions of starving children, cancer patients, and AIDS sufferers throughout his majestic world? Perhaps he could even lend a hand without first requiring belief or propitiation…

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Maybe God is Sleeping?

1 Kings 18:25-28 (NIV):

Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “O Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed.”

Was it fair for Elijah to mock Baal in this regard?
The Bible seems to justify Elijah’s mocking of Baal as a method to embarrass believers for irrational beliefs and demonstrate that Baal was not a true God. But would any Christian be so bold to put Yahweh to such a test today? “No” seems to be the obvious answer because, as Christians will say, “God doesn’t work that way” (even though he did in the Bible story I’m referencing).

But, as the prophet Elijah said – “surely he is a god!” – surely God would be able to defend himself. It seems as though the whole world is shouting louder and louder – but “perhaps he is in deep thought, or busy, or traveling”? Or perhaps God just isn’t there, as the story in 1 Kings concludes in regards to Baal.

Did this story disprove the power of Baal?
The Bible story insinuates that the story disproved the power of Baal. But any good believer knows there are still ways to maintain faith. Maybe Baal just doesn’t work that way. Perhaps Baal decided not to intervene, rather allowing humans to have free choice, as he watched his prophets get killed. Maybe Baal even allowed Satan to light the altar for Elijah (as Satan is always trying to trick us) as a test to see whether or not his followers would be faithful. Besides, it would only be painful for his prophets in the short-term. Surely they would trust his judgment here – knowing full-well that he would soon reward them with eternal life in the Baal-version of heaven.

So if this story is true, does it disprove the power of Baal? It’s either a very obvious “yes”, the story disproved the power of Baal (and equivalent modern-day stories should disprove the power of God) or it’s a muddled response with ridiculous theological implications saying “no”, the story did not disprove the power of Baal (and we can never conclude that any ridiculous supernatural claims are untrue).

Were the believers justified to believe in Baal out of blind faith, or were they acting irrationally?
Think about it – what reasons did the prophets of Baal have for believing he would listen to them and light the altar on fire? They surely had small evidences along the way – as they were willing to slash themselves with swords and spears out of faith that Baal would listen. Now that is faith!

Just because the believers of Baal had faith doesn’t mean they were right. As the Bible story demonstrates, they were wrong. No matter how much they believed Baal would listen to them based on their previous experiences and views – that were most likely based on circumstantial evidence, confirmation bias, and blind faith – Baal simply wasn’t there.

Now replace “Baal” with “Yahweh”. Just because Christians have faith doesn’t mean they’re right. No matter how much they believe Yahweh is listening to them and responding to them based on their personal experiences and views – which are based on circumstantial evidence, confirmation bias, and blind faith – Yahweh simply isn’t there.

Or maybe god is sleeping…

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Ellen White: “Our Faith Must Rest On Evidence”

Here are a few quotes from Ellen White’s world-famous book, Steps to Christ. All these quotes are taken from chapter 12, “What to Do with Doubt”:

“God never asks us to believe, without giving sufficient evidence upon which to base our faith. His existence, His character, the truthfulness of His word, are all established by testimony that appeals to our reason; and this testimony is abundant. Yet God has never removed the possibility of doubt. Our faith must rest upon evidence, not demonstration. Those who wish to doubt will have opportunity; while those who really desire to know the truth will find plenty of evidence on which to rest their faith” (Paragraph 2)…

…When we come to the Bible, reason must acknowledge an authority superior to itself, and heart and intellect must bow to the great I AM” (Paragraph 12)…

…There is an evidence that is open to all,—the most highly educated, and the most illiterate,—the evidence of experience” (Paragraph 16)…

To see the quotes in full context, click here to read the entire chapter.

I agree with the first quoted paragraph – that if there is a loving God he shouldn’t ask us to believe without giving sufficient evidence upon which to base our faith. But the only reasons and evidence that Ellen White suggests as acceptable for belief in this chapter are: the Bible, the Spirit, and personal experience.

Did she not realize that every believer in every religion has placed their faith in unprovable holy books and personal experiences that are automatically interpreted as some version of “god” even though there are alternative explanations?

By saying that “when we come to the Bible, reason must acknowledge an authority superior to itself”, Ellen White seems to suggest that we should leave our reasoning and search for proof at the door (or at least in our pocket) and accept the Bible as the truth. And I know many would agree with her. But yet they wouldn’t agree when somebody from another religion applied the same reasoning to their holy book, such as: “When we come to the Book of Mormon, reason must acknowledge an authority superior to itself”. All of a sudden we have a problem. Any religion could say such a thing; it doesn’t mean that the holy book is true, it just means that people accept it as true rather than examining the evidence for and against it.

Ellen White then suggests that experience is the evidence that God offers to everybody so that they may believe. It seems she doesn’t recognize the fallibility of personal experience – or that real experiences can be interpreted in ways that aren’t true. Every religion relies on personal experiences, yet clearly not everybody’s experiences lead them to believe in the Christian version of God. While Christians interpret their experiences to say the Christian God was involved, others take their experiences to say that Buddha, Allah, Vishnu, Krishna, Waheguru, Shiva, El Cantare, Ahura Mazda, or whoever else was involved. And naturalists offer alternative explanations which require no supernatural beings.

I just don’t see how the Christian interpretation of events – without any evidence to verify such claims – should be considered sufficient for each individual in the entire world to believe. In essence, the evidence that Ellen White thinks we should rely on to prove God is 1) placing a holy book beyond reason in order to accept it and 2) interpreting personal experiences as “God” without examining alternative explanations.

I’m sorry, but this just isn’t good enough for me. If there is a God, I need real evidence. I need something that can not only be observed, but also tested for accuracy. If there is a loving god, He shouldn’t rely on humans to accept him based on the mysteries in our world and He shouldn’t expect us to attribute everything good to Him without having a good reason to believe that He was involved.

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Miracles for Sale

Derren Brown – a British illusionist, mentalist, and skeptic – offers an inside view on the scam of “faith healing”. With the cameras in hot pursuit, Derren chooses an unsuspecting member of the British public to adopt the guise of a pastor and miracle worker. His chosen one then has six months to learn the trade and perform faith healing miracles live in Texas.

This TV special isn’t intended to speak against faith or Christianity, but it does provide insight on the frailty of the human mind and how our brains can be manipulated by emotional situations, confirmation bias, and hope. Ultimately, it debunks the idea of faith healing and criticizes the practitioners who are profiting on the faith and hopes of others.

From DerrenBrown.co.uk

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Why Faith Isn’t Enough

Since opening this blog, I’ve been overwhelmed by the love and support I’ve received from non-believers and believers alike. Dead serious – if every believer in the world had the open hearts and open minds that I’ve seen and experienced in the past 24 hours, this world would be a much better place.

Unfortunately, I see religion as a whole as a potentially destructive force, because not everybody has the hearts and minds of my friends. Instead, many religious people will focus on the differences, judge others who believe something else, and ultimately close their minds to other possibilities. This type of attitude scares me.

My friends have told me that believing in God requires faith – that God reveals himself in a personal way. And I get it, people hold on to the most incredible experiences in their lives and attribute something supernatural to them. It’s seems natural to do so. But still, my question is:

How do you know that this experience is from YOUR God?

You see, people of ALL religions have personal experiences that they believe are from God. I’ve heard Christians explain that they believe that the Christian God is performing miracles and creating personal experiences even for people who believe in other religions – He loves them that much. I’ve also heard Christians state that Satan could be doing such things, to keep those believers in the false religion.

But let’s turn the table…

Isn’t it true that another God could be creating personal experiences for you, because it loves you? Or is it possible that a devil could be doing such things in order to keep you in a false religion?

Belief in God must require more than faith.

If you only want to believe that there’s a supernatural power up in the sky and that you don’t know what it is, that’s fine. No harm, no foul. You can believe in such a being based on faith – and it’s simply not a debate as we would only have personal experiences to judge. But once you bring a holy book into the equation it becomes more difficult, because now we have more to go on than just faith. Now we have stories that we can compare to evidence. Now we have details that can be compared to history and science. Now we can test it to see if it’s valid.

My point here isn’t to say that the Bible is true or untrue. I’ll get into that another time. Instead, the point is that in order to believe that your religion is right, you need more than faith. In order to be a Christian, you need evidence that validates the Bible as being true compared to all the other holy books, compared to historical evidence, and compared to what science shows us about the world. Faith isn’t enough.

“But faith is enough… for me!”

People have also told me: “You may need more than faith, but faith is enough for me!”

What a terrible thing to say.

I can understand going on faith alone to believe you have a brighter tomorrow or even that you’re going to live forever. That’s fine for positive things. It doesn’t mean they’re true, but it’s fine. However, you should have more than just faith to go on when your book asserts that people who don’t agree with your beliefs are going to hell. You should be interested in validating such a destructive belief. You should make sure that this book is tried, tested, and true – that it is validated by history and science.

Even suicide bombers are acting on faith. Don’t you wish they would have tested their beliefs first? Don’t you wish they would have seen that their beliefs are not true?

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