Wednesday, 27 May 2015

The Christian message

When I was growing up, I believed there was a god, so did everyone around me. I was probably over 10 before I knew there were people who didn't think God was real.

Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and that ruined everything for everyone, forever, apparently. Kind of sucks that God put the tree there knowing Adam and Eve would eat from it, therefore condemning all mankind. Why not just put the tree outside the Garden of Eden? 

Talk to an everyday Christian and I'm sure they'll tell you the Christian message is about love and helping people. They'll cite the charities set up and run by Christians, groups that go out and feed the homeless, Christian orphanages, Christian hospitals, and so on. 

They won't tell you that in many cases, before the homeless person can receive a meal, they have to listen to a sermon about how bad they are, and that they need Jesus to save them. They won't tell you that there are dozens of secular charities all over the world helping people too. People helping people is a human trait, not a Christian one. 

If the Christian message was *just* about help and love, even if it did come with a bit of 'y'all need Jesus' it would probably be an overall good thing.

Although individual Christians may differ, the Christian message is one of homophobia, sexism, fear, and shame. 

From a paper titled "Atheism, Secularity, and Well-Being: How the Findings of Social Science Counter Negative Stereotypes and Assumptions" By Phil Zuckerman 
Concerning the acceptance of homosexuality and support for gay rights, atheists and secular people again stand out (Linneman and Clendenen 2009; Hayes 1995b). When compared with the religious, non-religious people are far more accepting of homosexuality and supportive of gay rights and gay marriage (Sherkat et al. 2007; Burdette et al. 2005; Lewis 2003; Loftus 2001; Roof and McKinney 1987), and are far less likely to be homophobic or harbor negative attitudes towards homosexuals (Altemeyer 2009; Rowatt et al. 2006; Schulte and Battle 2004; Aubyn et al. 1999; VanderStoep and Green 1988; Kunkel and Temple 1992). According to a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life Survey (2008), 60 percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans support gay marriage, compared to roughly 26 percent of Protestants and 42 percent of Catholics. According to Newport (2008), 76 percent of Americans who never or seldom attend church consider homosexuality morally acceptable, compared with 21 percent of weekly and 43 percent of monthly church attenders
In 2013 the Vatican ex-communicated Fr Greg Reynolds, an Australian priest who is supportive of marriage equality.1 

In 2012, before Australian Parliament voted on the subject, Christian church leaders (Anglican, Catholic, and Greek Orthodox) had messages against marriage equality read out to, or distributed to congregations, across Sydney.2

Passages from the bible such as Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 have anti-homosexual messages. The details above show that that message is getting through. 

It's significant to note that not only are the non-religious far less likely to be against marriage equality, but among the Christians, those who attend church less often, are also less likely to be against marriage equality. The Christian message *is* anti-gay. When you find a Christian who is not homophobic, it's despite what Christianity tells them, not because of it. 

The prime example, among many, of sexism is the bible is 1 Timothy 2 11:12
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.
Exodus 21:7 Leviticus 12 1:8 Leviticus 21:9 are three more of many examples. 

There is an interesting defence of 1 Timothy 2 11:12 (and God being against women in general) here by Lenny Esposito. Lenny concludes that God is not against women because...Men are entrusted with leading the church. Women are entrusted with bearing children and providing them with a Godly and secure home life so they may become Godly adults making an impact on our society.
I don't know about you, but to me, that sounds pretty sexist. 

There are plenty of Christians who aren't sexist. I would guess that every Christian I know personally isn't sexist (at least, not overtly). But they're not sexist despite what Christianity teaches them, not because of it. To this day there are no female priests in the Catholic church. 

I grew up terrified of hell. I was worried that anything I could do would send me there. I knew Jesus wanted to save me from hell, of course, but what if I didn't pray right? What if I did 10 things wrong but forgot one, so only asked for forgiveness for 9 of them? Would Jesus still save me from hell, even if I forgot to ask?

It didn't take another person to be around for the worry to be present either, because God was everywhere, he was always watching. Whatever I did, he was there. It felt like he was just waiting for me to slip up. I was all too familiar with him wiping out the planet because he regretted making humans in the first place. Why would I be spared if he regretted making me? 

Hell was the hardest thing for me to give up when I left religion. What a thing to do to a child? 

Christianity seems to survive on a culture of fear. Fear of hell. Fear of God. Combine this with the shame they force on you for being human, the idea that you *deserve* hell for being who you are, and the Christian message here is a terrifying one. One that tells people to hate themselves for being human.

The Christian message is centred on our flaws. On how being human means being sinful. That we need to beg for forgiveness for being born human, and that if we don't we're hell bound. Christianity tells us that homosexuality is wrong, that women just aren't as good as men. It's message is that we are slaves to God. We're here to please him, and we're meaningless without him. 

Maybe there is a bit of love and goodness in the Christian message, but from my experience, the balance definitely falls on the side of the awful. 


Friday, 22 May 2015

Respecting Christian beliefs.

Dear Christians, 

When you ask me to respect your beliefs, what is it you're asking me to respect? 

Is it the idea that I deserve to spend eternity in hell just because I don't share your belief? 

Is it the idea that, because a woman was tricked into eating a piece of fruit, by a *talking 
snake*, that all of humanity is subsequently flawed and full of 'sin'? 

Is it the idea that when your god regretted making humans, he killed them all, including all babies and children, and killed all the animals? 

Should I respect the idea of forcing children to live in fear of hell?

Are you asking me to respect the idea that homosexuality is an abomination and that if a man lies with a man, as with a woman, he deserves to die? 

Is it the idea that I can beat my slaves as much as I like - providing I don't beat them so badly that they die within three days? 

Are you asking me to respect the idea that I shouldn't suffer a witch to live? 

Do you want me to respect the idea that a rapist, or a murderer, can get into heaven, as long as they find Jesus and are saved, but I can't get into heaven as an atheist? 

Is it the idea that to save humanity from his very own plan, god sent himself to Earth, as his own son, to then sacrifice himself as his son, to himself as his father, in order to save us from hell...which is his idea and plan in the first place? 

Am I to respect your belief that it's more important that a child is raped, than your god impact the free will of the rapist? 

Are you wanting me to respect the idea that a human sacrifice is the only pathway your god could have chosen in order to get people into heaven? 

Is it the idea that when allegedly presented with an empty tomb, you think the explanation of 'a man rose from the dead' is more reasonable than 'something else happened'? 

Sorry to tell you, as much as you think I should respect your beliefs, I just can't. 

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Stupid atheist beliefs meme.

You know the one. I'm sure of it. But, in case you don't...

I see it quite often and I'm sure you do too. Most recently in this tweet directed to me: 

As you well know, this meme is wrong on every level. I'm going to write a deconstruction to send to anyone who sends me this in the future. 

"Atheism: The belief..."
Wrong. Although there's always discussion around this, atheism is not the belief of anything. It's just not believing there's a god. 

"that there was nothing..."
I don't know what was there before the big bang happened. Neither do you. Nor does anyone else. Was it nothing? Was it a 'singularity'? Was it a 'kind' of nothing that physicists see differently to how others see nothing? Speculation abounds. But I don't know anyone who says it was 'nothing'. How can 'nothing' exist? 

"and nothing happened to the nothing"
One of the more ludicrous lines in the meme. I'm not sure what happened, but clearly 'something' happened. 

"and then nothing magically exploded for no reason,"
I didn't 'magically' explode. It didn't even explode, it expanded. And it wasn't, of course, for no reason. The Lawrence Krauss hypothesis 'A Universe From Nothing' explains a possibility to do with events at the quantum level. I don't understand it fully. I suspect no one does, maybe even Krauss himself. But what we can understand for sure, it wasn't magic. That's the theistic position. 

"creating everything"
No, not 'everything'. Initially it was mainly helium and deuterium. It's not like we think iPods came out of the big bang. Unless this means 'everything that was in existence at this time'. This this may be the only correct part of the meme. 

"and then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason what so ever"
Actually it didn't 'rearrange' itself. Gravity took effect. Over a very long period of time, stars formed, then went supernova. Elements such as carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen, things essential for life, and evolution, were created in stars, not the big bang. The explosions of stars sent these heavier elements into the universe, for gravity to again have an impact on. The process repeated for billions of years. Eventually galaxies and solar systems, with planets like our own, formed. Some planets are no more than rocks, some have atmospheres and environments, some a gaseous giants. This is explainable naturally, and very well understood. No magic required. Also, whatsoever is one word.

"into self-replicating bits"
'Self-replicating bits' did come into existence, but it was in specific environments for reasons which are explained and understood by chemistry, not a mysterious rearrangement of cosmic dust. Combinations of heat and electricity and other environmental factors caused amino acids and proteins to form in oceans that were not like today's oceans that existed in environments not like today's environment. These cells are the building blocks of life from which tiny, single-celled, replicating organisms formed. It didn't happen magically, again, that is the theistic position. 

"which then turned into dinosaurs."
No. Just plain wrong. Life first appeared on Earth about 3.5 billion years ago. When the Earth was about 1 billion years old. Dinosaurs first appeared in the Triassic period, which was about 231 million years ago. So the 'self-replicating bits' didn't 'turn into dinosaurs'. It was a process of evolution which took about 3.2 *billion* years to happen. 3.2 billion years worth of slight changes from generation to generation to get from self-replicating cells to what we know as dinosaurs. This meme idiotically makes it seem like we think it happened in one step.

"Makes perfect sense"
When you remove the stupidity of the original meme and replace it with facts and reality, yes, it does make perfect sense. 

It's a funny kind of feeling to be told what you think is stupid, but an adult, who in 2015, thinks we're all doomed because a woman who was made from a rib, was talked into eating a magic piece of fruit. 

By a snake. 

Feel free to send this through to anyone who sends you that meme :) 

Monday, 11 May 2015

Without god, what's the meaning of life?

It's common for theists to ask without God, what's the meaning of life? I got into a frustrating discussion about that recently. 

The initial question must be, of course, what's the meaning of life if there *is* a god? Even if there is an afterlife must there be an after-afterlife for the afterlife to have meaning? As Bret Kreis (@sgtawesome1ea on twitter) said "How many turtles deep must we go?" 

What is meant by 'meaning' anyway? When it comes to the meaning of life I think 'meaning' is like when people talk about being 'spiritual' - it's a word often used, but not really understood. 

What if negative thinking theists are right, and without god life does have no meaning? So what? I'm not aware of any obligation for something to have meaning for it to be enjoyable. A sunrise, a thunderstorm, and a rainbow can all be enjoyed and I'm pretty sure there's no meaning behind them. They are what they are. We have a life, can we not just enjoy it for what it is? 

During my discussion about life's meaning, the person I was talking to said "It's not logical that such highly developed life forms as humans are here for no reason.

The statement seems somewhat contradictory. The person is arguing that humans were put here by god, but also says that we're 'developed'. Maybe it's just an error of language, but things that develop don't appear 'as is'. A history of evolution by natural selection (with the odd mutation thrown in) is a far more reasonable and satisfying explanation for why there are humans on Earth than 'they appeared magically'. 

You'll note that rather than 'no meaning' here the person uses 'no reason'. When it comes to the big question of life, reason, purpose, and meaning seem to overlap somewhat. 

There are reasons there is life on earth but I don't believe life is on Earth for a reason. Humans are the products of a series of natural events. We can get from 'life' to 'human' with no god required. We're not the end result though and we're certainly not the goal. Providing we don't wipe ourselves out somehow, we'll evolve over time to become a species that will no longer be considered homo-sapiens. We're a stepping stone from one life form to another. We may even split into two or more species. Imagine a world where we homo-sapiens are the common ancestor to two or more of Earth's future inhabitants. 

Humans seem to suffer from a certain arrogance that comes from our self-awareness. We're aware of our own mortality. We know that if we're lucky we get maybe 8 decades on Earth. Some of us get a bit more, too many of us have far less. With the realisation that this is such a brief amount of time comes a desperation for there to be more to it for it to 'mean' something. It's like we think we're owed something, just because we realise life ends. But as I said above, can we not just enjoy it for what it is? It seems to be good enough for the rest of the animal kingdom. I don't think I've ever met a dog that wasn't happy and enjoying its life. Does it think there's 'more'? Does it think its life has to have meaning or purpose to be enjoyable? I don't know for sure, but I highly doubt it. Give a dog food, water, a rub on the belly and a stick to fetch and they're pretty content. Why must we have the promise of something more to make the most of life? 

Unlike our canine (and bovine, feline, equine, lupine, delphine, etc..) friends, many humans fear the idea that this is all we get and as a consequence things such as god and an afterlife get invented for the purpose of making people feel better. But all the warm fuzzy feelings, all the hope, and all the ignorance they can muster isn't going to make their god a reality. 

I don't think life itself has a meaning, but one can give *their* life any meaning or a purpose they wish. Without God, what's the meaning of life? Who cares? 

Friday, 8 May 2015

Psalm 14:1

"The fool says in his heart,  “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good." (New International Version)

I get sent Psalm 14:1 often. Sometimes it's just 'read Psalm 14:1' sometimes it's the first part. I don't think anyone has sent me the whole thing. 

I love the idea that a theist thinks that me not having read Psalm 14:1 is why I'm an atheist. As though this was the one missing ingredient. 

Me: "I'm an atheist"
Theist: *sends Psalm 14:1*
Theist: *waits*
Me: "....I'm a fool for saying there's no God? Wow! I had no idea! Thank you! Praise the Lord!"
Theist: "I know, right? Let us pray"

Seriously, is this what they're expecting? I hope not. 

So...a book that tries to make you believe a god exists tells you that you're a fool if you don't believe it? And people fall for this? Please. 

Two things about this passage get missed. The first, according to et al., is that 'fool' doesn't mean 'stupid' in this context. It means someone who is morally deficient or who is in moral antithesis to god. As stated here:
"This is not an insult or a slur; it is an accurate description of the state of his mind, since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7). The psalmist/proverb-writer is not making ad hominem attacks, but is locating the individual theologically."
It's almost as though they say 'fool' but mean 'non-believer'. It's not really an insult to say an atheist says in their heart there is no god. 

The other thing missed is Pslam 14:2-3 
2 The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. 
All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.
 "There is no one who does good, not even one" When theists call us fools because we do no good, they need only read two more verses to find out that they are in the same boat. 

But they needn't worry, I'll scootch over and make room. 

Monday, 4 May 2015


God was hanging around in heaven. Having some downtime. He'd just spent a few days helping a rich sports person win the competition trophy, putting plans in place so that a millionaire actor would win an award for pretending to be someone else, had put food on the tables of many affluent families and had helped 134,203 people find missing sets of keys. He'd also helped little Becky Roberts pass her year 8 maths test. 

Sure, it was no 'creating a universe, star, planet, and mankind from scratch', but it was a busy time for God so, as he's known to do, he took a rest. 

He was just sitting down to watch the Derek Christmas special when one of the prayer phones rang. Then another. And another. It wasn't long until thousands of the prayer phones were ringing. 

God decided to ignore it. He thought there must have been a mega-lottery just announced, or perhaps one of the big US sports were having play-offs and one of the games was particularly close. They were always good for prayers. 

The phones didn't stop, God sighed, but, not wanting to get up, let prayer-voice-mail take over. It's not like the people ever cared whether he heard prayers in real time or waited longer. Hell (he always liked thinking that) sometimes he ignored a prayer for over 30 years and it 'came true' coincidentally and he *still* got credit for it. So waiting for an hour whilst he watched TV wasn't going to make a difference. 

Rather than giving up though, more and more prayers joined those already coming in. God looked over to the prayer phones and noticed the new prayers were coming in from all over the world. As much as the Philadelphia Eagles might have supporters across the globe, they didn't get many prayers from Belgium, even the two times they made the Superbowl. 

Obviously something had happened that got world wide attention. He sighed and tried to remember what natural disasters he'd planned for this time of year and nothing came to mind. 

"Gabriel?" God called from his chair. 

Gabriel, who was busy polishing his horn (not a euphemism), stuck his head into God's TV viewing room  "What's up?" 

"Did I send a hurricane somewhere this week?" God asked. 

"Not that I know of"


"No, not one of them either."

Gabriel called to Michael "Michael, can you come here for a sec please?" Gabriel pointed out to God that Michael was looking after the natural disaster schedule this week so he might have a better idea of what was happening. 

"S'up?" Michael said, trying to sound cool. Gabriel always did think Michael was a bit of a try hard, and that only ever got worse since the whole battle with Satan thing. 

"We're just wondering what natural disasters were planned for today."

"Oh, umm...." Michael tried to think, "drought is still going on Australia, but that's nothing new. Can't grow a thing in much of Africa, also standard. What about, nope....oh!" 

Michael paused for dramatic effect but this only served to make their quick-tempered God angry 

"Just tell me, I've had Derek paused for 10 minutes!" God roared. The people of Norwich, UK, raised their eyes to the sky as this resounded as thunder across their city. 

"There was that earthquake." Michael blurted and God exclaimed "OH! That's right. Wow, I set that to happen years ago, it just slipped my mind" 

Michael and Gabriel exchanged identical looks. Was the old man losing it?

"I heard that" God said to neither and both of them.

"Why is it," God asked to no one in particular, "that the humans think that I'm not aware of what happens down on Earth?" 

"Well in their defence, you did forget...." Gabriel began, but stopped quickly when God shot him a look (which was the cause of the lightning over Huntsville, Alabama.) "Carry on..." Gabriel said, sheepishly. 

"As I was saying, why do the humans think I'm not aware of what happens down on Earth? I'm the creator OF ALL THINGS! I scheduled this earthquake about 80 years ago. Why are they praying to me? Of course I know about it! I CAUSED it!" 

"Ah, I think the humans are aware that you know of the earthquake." Raphael said, "I think it's more that they want your help. They want you to save people and find the missing, that kind of thing." 

God took a moment. "So, humans don't think I know this is bad? Or that I won't help them unless they beg for it?"

God sighed, "I guess I better answer some of them. Not all though. I don't want them thinking all prayers get answered. What would that lead to?"

God waved his hand at the prayer phones and about 70% of them went silent. Before anyone could ask, he said "I cancelled all the general prayers, obviously if I wanted to help them all, I wouldn't have planned the damned earthquake to begin with!"

God knew that four of the phones were ringing for the prayers of one family. Their four year old son and brother was trapped under a tree and there was a landslide heading their way. If the didn't get the boy out, they'd all almost certainly die. God decided that was one of the prayers he'd answer. He lifted the tree enough to get the boy's legs out but not enough for the humans to notice and slowed the landslide enough that the family could flee before it got to them.

Two hours later, when they were safe, the family praised God for answering their prayers. 120 of their townsfolk, 7,000 of their fellow citizens, and countless animals died in the earthquake. 

But their boy survived, and that was God showing his love.