Tag Archives | God

Dead people can’t talk…

Living people can share stories of ‘God’s protection’ on their lives; how he saved them from that horrible accident, how their cancer went into remission, and so forth. But dead people can’t talk; they can’t share their tragic stories of lives that ended too early, and often too painfully.

Some religious folks say it’s okay, because the dead are going to paradise! No more pain and no more suffering, only unfathomable perfection. Paradise sounds amazing! But I’m left wondering, then, why they’re so happy that God has protected their earthly lives rather than allowing them to escape to eternal bliss.

Some say that god doesn’t intervene in difficult situations because he respects our freedom of choice, but that’s not consistent with a god who supposedly does intervene in difficult situations to protect his followers. You can’t have it both ways. If god intervenes to save some, then he could also intervene to save others. The rules either exist or they don’t.

So when people thank god for protecting their lives, I think they should remember that dead people can’t talk. I won’t guess what the dead would say, but I doubt it would be ‘thank god’.

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God’s Slavery Speech: Leviticus 25:44-46

What God Said (Leviticus 25:44-46, NIV):

“Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.”

What a perfect, moral, loving God could have said:

“No more male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you or anywhere; from them, you may never again buy slaves. Slavery is a moral outrage and must end immediately. You may not buy any of the temporary residents living among you nor members of their clans born in your country. They’re people, just like you, and you are to treat them with the kind of respect you would want for yourself. They will never be your property. You cannot bequeath them to your children because they are not your property. Take the slaves you now have and make them free for life; and you must never rule over any human ruthlessly.”

(via Youtube: “The King of Kings’ Speech”)

To me, this is just one of countless examples where it seems evident that the Bible is the work of mere men who were using the ‘voice of the divine’ for social and political purposes.

Why did humanity have to wait thousands of years for the Emancipation Declaration? Couldn’t Yahweh have delivered it himself? Couldn’t he have at least not offered support for the disgusting practice of slavery? Or if one argues that he wasn’t offering support but rather creating better laws for slavery, it is at least absolutely clear that he wasn’t condemning the practice altogether even though he had the opportunity, as he was condemning all sorts of things outright in Leviticus.

Strangely, the Bible paints a picture of a God who knew slavery was bad (“must not rule over your fellow Israelites”) but didn’t bother instructing against it in the case of non-Israelites. I suppose instead of correcting this moral embarrassment, God was busy with far more important priorities… like worrying about foreskins (Genesis 17), punishing to death those who picked up sticks on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32), and commanding that nobody should wear clothing woven of multiple materials (Leviticus 19:19).

It is mind-boggling for me to imagine that an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent supernatural entity – one who can create a grand cosmos full of wonder – couldn’t have done a better job in revealing himself as well as his perfect moral insights to humanity.

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Deism and Atheism: Not World’s Apart

During a brief back and forth religious discussion, I was asked: “If you don’t have a problem with Deism then are you a Deist, as apposed to Atheist/Agnostic? Because as you know, they are worlds apart. Also what do you mean by Deist?”

Well, nope… I am not a deist. I am an agnostic atheist who considers the origins of the universe to be unknown. The view of deism that I am using is one that defines “god” as something that got the ball rolling but then disappeared or kept himself at a distance – no supernatural revelation or divine intervention.

The reason I don’t see atheism and deism as world’s apart is that they both agree with natural explanations as opposed to magic. The lone major disagreement, which I wouldn’t consider to be world’s apart, is the origins of the universe. The atheist will say “I don’t know” and wait for evidence while the deist will say “god did it”. When asked about the characteristics of this god, deists will say “I don’t know”. To me, this seems quite similar to saying “I don’t know” to the origins of the universe.

Perhaps atheism and deism would align almost perfectly if it weren’t for semantics regarding the term “god”, which a deist uses far differently than a theist does. This “god” – whatever it was that ultimately caused our origins – could be anything. This “god” could even turn out to be a natural process or element that we haven’t yet discovered or don’t yet understand.

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A few thoughts on the “Hey Brother” womb analogy

This meme has been shared by a few different Christian friends on my Facebook news feed – and it seems the message is that theism is the most reasonable approach while atheism, or a reliance on empirical evidence, is perhaps irrational. Here are a few of my thoughts:

1) Believing that something is ‘outside the womb’ doesn’t lead to Christianity…

The “do you believe in mom?” question is an attempt to parallel the experience of these unborn babies to our own human experience on earth and the question “do you believe in god?”. The problem is that since we are “in the womb”, we don’t have any reason to assert knowledge on what is outside unless there is empirical evidence. While the author of the meme knows there is a mother outside of the womb, it would be irrational for the babies to believe so unless they were presented with empirical evidence. Of course, this is sort of the point of the meme: that it seems irrational to believe that a mom exists, but one exists anyways! However, this lesson certainly shouldn’t lead to anything more than deism (certainly not Christianity).

Why believe in Yahweh instead of Apollo, Athena, Baal, Ganesha, Hades, Horus, Ishtar, Krishna, Mithras, Odin, Osiris, Poseidon, Rama, Thor, Vishnu, Zeus, or whatever other god? By downplaying the importance of evidence and rational thought, this meme leads to the view that we should believe any random untestable view to explain our existence… because somebody’s wild guess, which is nothing more than a shot in the dark, just might be right!

2) Even if you hear ‘mother’s voice’, there is no way to confirm the source…

While it is true that at some point while in the womb, the babies begin to hear and learn their mother’s voice – but again, they don’t know anything about the source. Christians will claim that they hear the voice of god speaking to them, but it seems unlikely that it is anything more than ones own conscience considering the many varying messages people hear that they all claim are from one god or another. Of course, there is always the fallback response that the devil is talking to others to create the inconsistent messages, but then how can we know which messages are from god (and which god?) and which ones are from the devil? And why does Yahweh confuse the issue further by playing silly mind games in the Bible such as telling Abraham to kill his own son, which basically teaches people of faith to follow whatever voice they hear, even if it says to do crazy things that are immoral and don’t make sense.

3) A good mommy would love her babies whether or not they chose to believe that she existed while they were in the womb.

We know that in the womb example, there is a mom after all. But it’s important to point out that any good mom would love the babies regardless of whether or not the baby knew there was a mom or cherished the relationship. In my studies, this is certainly not the case with Christianity. If you don’t believe in god and don’t have a good relationship with Jesus, then you are going to hell. The Christian portray of god is one that doesn’t care if you were stuck in a womb without any way to know for sure whether or not He exists, you either believe or you don’t believe. And if you don’t believe, it doesn’t matter how nice of a person you are, you will be sentenced to hell. End of story.

Here are a few Bible verses that support this view:

John 14:6: “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

Acts 4:12: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Galatians 2:16: “A person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.”

Galatians 3:11: “Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because ‘the righteous will live by faith.’”

Ephesians 2:8,9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Titus 3:5: “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

4) How far do you take the womb analogy?

Religions have taken the view that “there must be something out there” to the point where they have given this entity numerous names, attributed all sorts of characteristics to it including the belief that it hears our every thought and judges our every action, created holy books that claim to be given by the authority of this mysterious entity and provide moral rules that we must follow for a great reward (or else we will face a severe punishment), built massive constructs in its many names, and spend a significant amount of time trying to communicate to it to ask for help as well as praise it for everything good and apologize for all of our failures to adhere by its rules.

But why stop there? This same reasoning can of course be used to believe in other things such as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the tooth fairy, alien abductions, bigfoot, demons, and so forth. And of course, if we want to keep moving forward with this silly analogy, we could always take it a step further. Even if it turns out that there is a god and we all end up in heaven, we could always wonder if there is another “layer” to that reality. “Hey Brother, do you think there’s a SuperGod that created god?” Why not?

5) The best response is to live in reality…

We can speculate forever on what exists ‘beyond’ our senses. Maybe there is a big supernatural battle going on that we cannot sense. Maybe we live in a matrix. Maybe your brain is the only one that exists and everything else is a self-projected fantasy world? It can be a lot of fun to speculate and guess – and such speculation can also lead to a better understanding of reality as we continue to test our various hypotheses and theories. Curiosity is a good thing. However, we must be grounded by reality. We need to understand the difference between “knowledge” and “speculation” and treat each accordingly. We should not claim to know with certainty things that cannot be known, especially if such views lead to intolerance of others and close-mindedness in our continued search for answers.

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What is your best advice for finding answers?

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a theist, agnostic, or atheist… what is your best advice for finding answers on whether or not there’s a god? For me, it was probably a mix of…

  • Reading the Bible
  • Praying
  • Watching debates
  • Studying Bible history
  • Questioning
  • Talking to pastors
  • Talking to skeptics/atheists
  • Lee Strobel, Ravi Zaccharias, William Lane Craig
  • Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens
  • Reading Bart D. Erhman & F.F. Bruce (Bible Scholars)
  • Reading various theories about the origins of the universe
  • Studying psychology
  • Studying the philosophical arguments on both sides
  • Talking to friends
But if you knew somebody right now who was raised a Christian and now considers themselves agnostic although they haven’t studied the issue in detail, what would you tell them to do? Thanks in advance.
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William Lane Craig’s Three Silly Arguments For God

William Lane Craig is one of the most popular current Christian apologists, known for his debates on the existence of God and the defense of theism.

I own his book “Reasonable Faith” and have watched a number of his debates online, and as far as I can tell these are his three primary arguments for the existence of God:

A Moral Argument
1) If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.
2) At least one objective moral value exists.
3) Therefore, God exists.

A Cosmological Argument
1) Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
2) The universe exists.
3) Therefore the universe has an explanation of its existence.
4) If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
5) Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God.

An Ontological Argument
1) If it is possible that God exists, then God exists.
2) It is possible that God exists.
3) Therefore, God exists.

Now here is why these aren’t valid arguments for the existence of God:

A Moral Argument
Many people argue that moral values do not exist, saying morality is completely subjective and what is considered moral to the majority of any given society has been shown to change over time which would seem to demonstrate that there is no external source of morality. So, if morals are subjective this argument falls apart from the beginning. However, even if we grant that there are objective moral values – as atheist Sam Harris argues in his book “The Moral Landscape” – it’s nonsense to say that only God could dispense them. It’s not “either god or bust”; William Lane Craig’s “Moral Argument” for the existence of God falls apart based on a false premise: that if god does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

The assumption that moral principles cannot exist without god has no logical foundation. We cannot attribute moral principles to gods absence or presence. And since morality is only understood and agreed upon by conscious beings, perhaps the better argument would be that human consciousness, not god, forms morality. Of course, we still do not understand the origins of human consciousness, but that doesn’t insinuate that god is the answer (that would be an illogical “god of the gaps” argument).

A Cosmological Argument
If we are going to allow William Lane Craig to argue that anything that exists is either explained by the necessity of it’s own nature or in an external cause – then we can save one step and say that the original elements of the universe naturally don’t require an external cause rather than agreeing with his explanation that the magical man that created the universe doesn’t require an external cause.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we should accept point 1. I would argue that we don’t know whether or not everything that exists has an explanation. Just because religious folks use “god” to explain the universe, it doesn’t insinuate that the universe has an actual explanation. And if we are going to insert god as the explanation and say that it’s within his nature to not require an external cause, then we could insert anything as the original element and say it naturally does not require an external cause – and it’s up to us on whether or not we should call this element “god”. This “god” could even be a blueberry muffin. Once we decide that we can create any “explanation-that-doesn’t-require-an-explanation” we want and don’t allow this explanation to be tested by sound reasoning, we open ourselves up to this sort of nonsense.

I don’t see the point of calling the original element “god”, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s semantics. If William Lane Craig is trying to prove that something either always existed or appeared out of nothing, I don’t think he’ll have many people disagreeing with him. However, once he chooses to call this original element “god”, which insinuates all sorts of characteristics, that’s where the problem arises since there is no additional proof to say that an almighty entity was the original uncaused or everlasting element as opposed to anything else.

An Ontological Argument
This argument is total nonsense. You could use this same argument to say that any other gods that contradict Yahweh also exist simultaneously with him. You could also use linear reasoning to demonstrate that:

1) If it is possible that William Lane Craig is wrong, then William Lane Craig is wrong.
2) It is possible that William Lane Craig is wrong.
3) Therefore, William Lane Craig is wrong.

(This also demonstrates that even if your premise is flawed, you may end up with a valid conclusion)

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Why Can’t We See God…

Why can’t we see God? OneFuriousLlama.com has compiled a list of 15 reasons Christians offer for why we can’t see god (found via TheFriendlyAtheist). Here are the ones that I’ve heard from friends:

  1. It’s a test, or, your time on earth is a test or tribulation
  2. He shows himself all the time you just don’t realise you’re seeing him (as in nature, apparent order)
  3. He once did, people didn’t believe, people wouldn’t believe now so he doesn’t bother
  4. Only evil people ask for a sign or proof, so don’t ask, he won’t give it to you anyway
  5. He does manifests himself by answering prayers
  6. He doesn’t show himself because mere mortals couldn’t grasp his greatness
  7. Faith would be meaningless if he showed himself

On one hand, I can understand that a creator might hide away in mystery. And on the other hand, I can understand that a personal god might wish for people to believe in its existence. But I just can’t put the two hands together. I cannot understand why an almighty entity would both hide away in mystery and require people to believe in its existence. If god wants people to believe, he needs to be believable. And if he wants to hide away in mystery, he needs to recognize that his identity, character, and existence will always be questioned.

“If there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence.”
– Bertrand Russell, “What Is an Agnostic?”

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Links Galore: Overcoming Problems Without Jesus

The Onion: Man Somehow Overcomes Alcoholism Without Jesus
“Despite a lack of divine intervention by the Son of God or any other higher power, area man Tom Wendt has somehow managed to overcome his alcoholism, sources confirmed Friday. “It was causing so many problems at work and with my family that I decided to stop drinking before it ruined my life,” said Wendt, who credited his own willpower, a desire to better himself as a human being, and not Jesus Christ for the otherwise inexplicable recovery. “It hasn’t been easy, but I took a hard look at myself and made some important lifestyle changes. I’m sober almost three months now, and I never could have done it without [wife and non-supernatural-entity] Susan.” Reached for comment, Wendt’s aunt Clara, who spent years praying for her nephew, remained steadfast in her insistence that Jesus most likely had something to do with it.”

British Columbians Head to Homeless World Cup
The Onion story, of course, is satire. But it’s based on the reality that people change themselves for the better without the intervention of supernatural entities. Even in the case of ‘turning to Jesus’, the positive changes can be better attributed to a personal decision towards self-improvement and the benefits of a positive, supportive community. From the CBC article:

“Erin Backer was recovering from drug and alcohol addition when she saw a poster for the Vancouver Street Soccer League.

She joined up and hasn’t stopped playing since.

‘Through that I started going to these workshops and then I got into a job training program and then I got a work experience then I got a job,’ she said.

‘Now I have my own place and I’m working full time so it could have been something else, but it was soccer.’”

The Devil You Know
Some people, some times, can jump to the strangest, harshest conclusions…

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Playing the God Card

Do people realize how strange it sounds when they “play the god card”? You know what I mean – you hear it all the time in Christian circles:

  • “God wants me to go to [such-and-such college].”
  • “God is telling me that we should [get together or break up].”
  • “God has called me to become a [insert profession].”

The list could go on for miles – ranging from the smallest of decisions (“God told me I needed to talk to you”) to the biggest (Bush: “God told me to invade Iraq”).

The obvious problem, from my perspective, is that there is no proof that God exists – so it just comes across as silly. But let’s ignore that problem for now. Let’s pretend I’m a Christian. So now what’s the obvious problem?

Playing the god card too often makes God look like an idiot.

Consider for a moment the name and logo change for Campus Crusade for Christ to Cru. And for the sake of not sounding biased, I’ll let Rachel Held Evans, one of the most thoughtful Christian writers in the blogosphere, explain what happened using her blog post “When God Chooses Your Logo“:

I have to admit I sighed a few times as I watched the drama surrounding the organization’s rebranding unfold. Having worked for a Christian organization in the midst of a rebranding effort that was later reversed, I saw a familiar pattern emerge:

  1. Organization hires branding agency to help it change its name, motto, and/or logo.
  2. Organization announces the changes and claims that they were God’s idea.
  3. Supporters of the organization get all outraged because they think that “Christ” has been taken out of something.
  4. Organization backtracks for fear of losing donor support. (As far as I know, this hasn’t happened with Campus Crusade yet.)
  5. God looks like an idiot and Christ looks like a pawn.

In her post, Rachel Held Evans is pointing out the dangers of stating “God’s will” in business decisions. But I fail to see the difference when it comes to personal life decisions such as what I’ve seen on countless occasions:

  • 1) Friend gets girlfriend and says God brought them together. 2) They aren’t happy together. 3) They break up.
  • 1) Friend goes to college and is “called by God” to study theology. 2) Friend doesn’t get good grades or enjoy the classes. 3) Friend quits degree after one year.
  • 1) God opens the doors for friend to do missionary work 2) Friend gets ill shortly before the trip. 3) Friend has to skip the mission trip for health reasons.

In cases such as these, Christians must either admit that God has some absurdly confusing plans that we cannot understand until we’re in heaven (which is the go-to response for the person who claimed God’s will), that God is an idiot (which no atheist or Christian would claim), or that they were falsely claiming “God’s will” when God had nothing to do with it (which is the go-to response for Christian observers who didn’t claim God’s will in the questionable scenario).

Is God’s will super-specific or more general?

Rachel Held Evans explains her view:

I suppose it boils down to the age-old debate surrounding God’s will. Is it super-specific (God wants you to go to such-and-such college), or is it more general (God wants you to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him)? I lean toward the second view, which is why I’m cautious about invoking God’s will, especially when it comes to business decisions.

I also think there’s an element of insecurity at play. Anyone who has spoken up in a board room knows it can be intimidating to put your ideas out there and expose them to criticism, especially when you’re really excited about them. Defaulting to God’s will can bolster your position and make it harder for others to offer criticism. But even if it makes us uncomfortable, I think it’s important for Christians to be authentic— to acknowledge that there are actual people earning actual paychecks as they make these decisions.

If God’s will is super-specific as many Christians, Bible stories, and psychopaths will claim, it is either easy to mistake our own decisions as being god’s will or at times god’s will doesn’t make any sense (as described above).

However, if God’s will is more general – such as “do justice” and “love mercy” (I’m not going to get sidetracked on the lack of actual, practical meaning behind an ambiguous phrase such as “walk humbly with Him”) – then it seems to demonstrate that there isn’t any reality behind the idea of a personal god… that God is simply a creation of the mind, the way people interpret their conscience. Besides, if we are to assert that God wants us to do justice and love mercy, how do we know this is from God as opposed to another source?

It’s important for Christians to be authentic.

I’ll agree with Rachel Held Evans saying that it’s important for Christians to be authentic. It’s important for everybody to be authentic.

If you have evidence beyond reasonable doubt to suggest that God did something for you – something that couldn’t be attributed to your conscience, random chance, or coincidence – go ahead and say “God did it”! But don’t settle for attributing everything to God – it makes a mockery of critical thinking and reason… and even if you believe in God, it too often makes Him look like an idiot.

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Evidence For God Is Changing…

Biblical God: It’s not even a question whether or not God exists! He interacts with humans, He performs truly supernatural miracles that have no natural explanation, and He even sent his son to live with us!

Middle Ages God: We don’t know how things work. God is the magical, mysterious provider. He provides the rain for the harvest, gives us strength and courage for our battles, and sends mysterious messages through rainbows, earthquakes, and floods. He is the great unknown that we can know… as long as we listen to those who can read and interpret the Scriptures!

Modern God: Science may have evidence for a much different view of the world than what the Bible suggests… but it can’t explain everything! And besides, God interacts with us all the time! He blesses my food at every meal; He helped me pass my big test; He saved my uncle from surgery; He rescued my cousin from a car accident; and He led me to my significant other. God works in mysterious ways – mysterious ways that must not be attributed to our own human abilities, random chance, confirmation bias, or pure coincidence.

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