Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Top Ten Signs You're a Fundamentalist Christian

From evilbible.com

10 - You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

9 - You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

8 - You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.

7 - Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!

6 - You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

5 - You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

4 - You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs -- though excluding those in all rival sects - will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."

3 - While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.

2 - You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

1 - You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history - but still call yourself a Christian.

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Sunday, August 31, 2008

God The Creator - What a dick

The case for Idiotic Design.

The idea that God created man, and created the world just for men, is an appealing one at first encounter. It makes us feel special, loved and unique. Many people feel that characteristics that earth has which makes it supportive of human life are just too perfect to have come about without intelligent design. From looking around, however, I can't help but come to the conclusion that if there is a God, and he did create this world and us to live in it, then he's either a prick or a lousy creator. If God were an engineer working for me, I'd fire him. But before I did, I'd ask him the following questions:

1. Why did you give me more teeth than my mouth can fit, this wisdom tooth really hurts.
2. Why do I shit? Could you not have thought of a better way for my digestive system to work?
3. Why is human excrement so harmful? Why did you give us that but then leave us to come up with sewage systems by ourselves? A cruel prank?
4. Why is child birth so painful? Do you really hate women that much?
5. Why do babies inherit drug addictions and disease from their mother's in the womb? Something you overlooked in the design?
6. Why did you design the human mind to be so susceptible to figures of authority? Why do so many people end up in harmful cults? Why do you design some people gullible?
7. Why did you give animals sentience if we have to kill them for food?
8. Why did you make rabbits so fast? To out run foxes and dogs? Then why did you make foxes and dogs so fast in the first place? That was a bit of a waste of time!
9. Why did you bother creating so many animals that would just go extinct?
10. Why do people get so nervous during interviews that they mess it up?
11. Why do nervous people wet their pants? A Glitch?

(If anyone has any more please leave a comment and I’ll add them to the list!)

All in all, if the god that Christians believe in does (or did); he's either pretty incompetent or pretty malicious. Either that or we're just the beta version of a soon to be finished product!

Even for Christians who accept and understand evolution, the concept of an all knowing God that would have foreseen these malfunctions arise could not be a very nice god at all.

It makes me worry - because I'm a nice guy and I'm nice to other people - that if these religious myths are true I might spend an eternity in the presence of this guy..... and man.... that would be hell!

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Friday, August 29, 2008

God wasn't listening

Looks like God doesn't answer the prayers of Pro-life or anti-gay marriage christians.....

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Do things have tastes?

I was told the other day that apparently there's a gene for tasting cucumber, and some people can taste it and some can't. I'm not sure if that's true or not (I have no doubt that there is a gene for tasting it, but I didn't know it's absence was common) but that's not really the point of this post.

It got me wondering does cucumber "have" a taste? Or does anything have a taste for that matter? Does something we would describe as tasteless (say like, i dunno, a leaf?) really lack a certain quality when compared to something we would describe as tasty (e.g. meat)? Both the "tasty" meat and "tasteless" leaf have unique chemical compositions, that in their own right have nothing to do with endowing them with taste. Their taste is note a feature of their constitution, it is just a qualitative way in which we interpret them using our sensory organs (mouth, tongue etc.) It would seem more logical that taste is something we impose on an item, and not something it actually possesses.

I know this thought isn't overly serious, and isn't meant to have any deep meaning, it's just a different way of looking at the concept of taste. I suppose evolution explains pretty well why this occurs:
1. Gene's that allowed us to discern beneficial food stuffs by interpreting them as "tasty" added to the success of the body they were in, making the individual better able to consume foods that would ensure it's survival (and therefore the replication of that helpful gene!)
2. Our language evolved in this way, so that we endow items with the characteristic of taste. This, I presume, is because taste is an individual experience which is always used in a subjective manner. Strictly speaking, from an objective and neutral point of view, something doesn't "have" a taste, but it does however, taste a certain way to each person. When human language was evolving, no one could ever taste food through someone else's mouth, or through any sensory system other than their own. For that reason, even though no item had a universal taste (what tastes nice to a maggot may taste awful to a man), an item's perceived taste was always constant for every individual human, no person could ever borrow someone else's tongue to see how they interpreted the taste of an item, and so it was only natural to talk about an item as "having a taste." Every person views an item as having a constant taste because even though it may taste different to others, the difference is not something anyone can ever experience.

I know none of that is really ground breaking or revolutionary, it's just a little thought experiment that occurred to me today that I thought I might share! I suppose you could think the same about other characteristics too, like does something have a colour in a universal sense, or is it just the way our eyes and brains have evolved to interpret light rays bouncing off them; do things make sounds or do our ears make sounds from the waves that other things happen to create?

It's all just a bit of a play on words, and a different way of looking at that old philosipher's question "If a tree falls in the woods and no-one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" I used to loathe that question and give an answer along the lines of.. "of course it does you arrogant ponce! The universe was ticking along just fine for 13.4 billion years without needing us to experience it, i doubt a falling tree holds back it's sound until we're there to hear it!" But I suppose after this post I may have to rethink that answer! We evolved language as a tool to help us, it is a way in which we interact with the world, and naturally it's constructs can be very human-centric. So if our auditory senses take vibrations made by a falling tree (which we call sound waves) and interpret them as sound, we say that the tree made a sound, because our language is our tool. But I guess in this new stricter sense that I talked about above, the tree doesn't actually make a sound if there's no person around to make a sound out of it!

Sometimes I think I think about things too much......

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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Original Sin

Why does God let bad things happen?

A perfectly natural question that is asked by all children at some stage or another when they begin to learn about religion. If God has the power to stop bad things from happening (AIDS, the cyclone in Myanmar, the earthquake in China) why doesn't he? This is a natural curiosity that we should all have, and when thought about in detail, can be quite corrosive to the concept of "faith". Religion, for the most part, makes attempts to quell this challenge with a set of answers, often provided to the child by an uncomfortable teacher or perplexed parent, who isn't too sure if their answer is provable or 100% true, but I'm sure feels it's in the child's best interest not to let their natural curiosity run wild with the subject. It could be considered that this line of inquiry could diminish the child's faith and obedience to God, which might be thought of as bad for the child (losing their way/straying from the flock), or bad for the parent (in the same way that Santa Clause is used to keep a child behaving well, so a parent might fear a child's behaviour would worsen if they found out the truth about santa).

That is the way the question was answered for me when I was a child, and because there were other things that sparked my curiosity more than God, I tended not to probe further. During my teens, however, I started to think about this conundrum again, and when I did ask myself "why did God let bad things happen", I found that answers I was given and those that I considered myself always began with the caveat of splitting out two types of 'bad things':

The first category of "bad things" are man made atrocities - war, murder, kidnapping, rape etc. and this is rather succinctly explained by the concept of free will. God doesn't control us like robots, and therefore can't stop us doing these things without taking away our freedom. It raises small questions like how does God justify the importance of free will outweighing the negatives of the suffering of a child? How does one equate these things to make such a decision? But on the whole it's not an overly disagreeable concept. The crux of the matter comes with the second category of "bad things" - natural harms. For example, if we are made by God, and in his image, why are we born susceptible to disease? Why does a child, born to a drug using mother inherit this addiction? Why does a hurricane/earthquake claim so many innocent lives?

I've come across many people posing this question, and many responses (all from Christians) entailing biblically-rational and theistic reasoning to answer this question. The most common revolves around the concept of original sin. To quote the good book itself:

Genesis 3
17 Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it'; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. 18"Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; 19By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return."

Upon reading through many, seemingly well thought-out responses to variations on the question "why do bad things happen (to good people)?", the convoluted, mental gymnastics that people employ in attempting to produce a 'Christian' answer just astounds me.

Having been a Catholic/Christian for most of my life, the more I think about this God I used to worship the more I get repulsed. The notion that these things are "punishment" for original sin really makes me dislike this god character. In real life, for example, I wouldn't befriend someone who hates an ordinary English person for the occupation of Ireland that their ancestors carried out.

The other argument (which is slightly more logical) that these are inherited consequences of the original 'Fall from Grace' still invokes the same feelings in me that this god fellow is a bit of a vindictive bully. The argument is that he punished mankind only once, way back when, by casting Adam and Eve out of the garden of eden/paradise into a world where bad things can happen (some Christians take this literally, most take it to mean a metaphor for early humans that rejected/betrayed God somehow) and that the bad things we see now are not God punishing us, but as a consequence of the fact that we as a race were booted out of paradise because our ancestors were bold. This seems to get him off the hook at first... until you factor in that he is "all knowing" etc. Surely this God that cast Adam from paradise would know that these "consequences" would arise? This makes cancer/aids etc a slightly more indirect punishment, but a punishment none the less.

And when you apply this lofty theory to real life, it becomes even more horrific. What this implies is that, when a 2 year old African child dies of Aids, or an Indian child is born with no natural immunity to malaria (as all children are), or when an Irish child is born with the potential to develop leukaemia (again, as all children are) - that their suffering is because a tribe of a few thousand people a couple of millennia ago rejected God? If this was the action of a modern human, he might think something like this - Stalinist Russia was a godless state... so young children being born in Chernobyl have immense suffering as a punishment/consequence of a decision I made to cause the "fall" of the Soviet people. I knew their suffering would be a consequence of my actions, I have the ability to stop them suffering, but I don't. That is not a character that any sane person would admire (let alone worship!!)

This brings me back to the awe that I feel when I look at these complex arguements to justify how someone who is supposed to be good and all powerful, could be exonerated from blame for all these bad things. It seems like way too much mental effort to have to go so far out of the way to make this salient truth that "bad things happen" fit and mesh with the biblical notion and description of a personal god. To me it seems like clutching at straws that don't need to be clutched at. I don't know why a reasonable, intelligent person (as most of the Christian debaters seem to be) would go to these lengths to try make this square-shaped argument (the bible stories) fit into a circle-shaped hole (the facts of the bad things in the modern world) when there is a perfectly good circle-shaped () argument to hand!

In fact (to continue the metaphor), there are so many good (circle-shaped!) answers to the question that are so much easier on the mind, so much more academically satisfactory, and just so much more "common-sense"!!
Some examples:
1. The bible is wrong
2. The bible is a good book, but written by many people over many years, some of it is right but this bit is wrong.
3. God doesn't exist!
4. God exists, but he/she/it isn't a personal God. Maybe he/she/it light the match at the big bang, but doesn't break the laws of physics and intervene with humans or tamper with the workings of the world.
5. God exists but doesn't know we exist!

When I was younger, and I began asking all these type of questions to myself, the 5 answers above (and I entertained and considered each of them and variations of them at different times) seemed so much more logical and reasonable, and therefore so much more satisfying to me than my previous attempts to mash truths that were obvious to me (i.e. bad things happen) with a 2,000+ yr old framework of thoughts and proposed notions that the bible told me were true.

Hopefully (if you managed to read all that without getting too bored! ) it might have gone some way to answering the questions for you.

What but design of darkness to appall?
If design govern in a thing so small.
- The last couplet of 'Design', by Robert Frost

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Atheistic Sonnet XIV

Batter My Heart

Batter my heart, too-few-person'd Reason ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Curiosity, your viceroy in me, me should embolden,
But is blackmailed, and proves sedated or afraid.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But was birthed captive unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, emancipate me, for my mind,
Except you enthrall it, never shall be free,
Nor I, ever chaste, except you ravish me.
- My thank you note to Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, for whipping the crutches of religion out from under me, slapping me on the forehead and proclaiming "Hallelujah, he can walk!". Their passion was what urged my scientific curiosity to finally address the issue of my 'crutches of religion' that I had for years ignored, and effectively assumed they were not necessary, but never quite had the courage to try walk without them. To drag a metaphor out (!), they helped me realise that there was no need to believe that I needed the crutch, or should prolong addressing the contemplation of their disposal 'just in case', when I knew from evidence that my legs worked fine without them.... and now I'm running marathons!

This is my "adaptation" of John Donne's sonnet "Batter My Heart", written in the 1600's.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Why Blog?

A question I've been asking myself while trying to think of a good first post for this, my first blog. A few reasons really, is the short answer. The most recent catalyst that has spurred me on has been my renewed interest in biology, evolution and psychology. I've been mulling over a few thoughts I've had, exploring posibilities in my head and enjoying learning new things, but when I attempt to discuss my ideas with my friends and family I become acutely aware of how rapidly I'm boring them! If I was of the scientific persuasion (which I'm not, and have no academic or professional experience in the field) I suppose I would write essays or papers on my theories and thoughts, and maybe submit them to a journal, or discuss them with work colleagues. But, as I said, I'm not! Hence plan b: the personal blog.

So for now, what I hope to get out of this is a place to vent my thoughts, because I'm too kind to inflict that brain vomit on family and friends! In time, who knows, maybe my blog might attract others with similar interests, and it could become a place for discussion. But I won't get ahead of myself, for now I'll blog because it beats talking to a wall, and I prefer the slim possibility of someone reading my blog and taking interest in my musings, than the almost certainty of me boring the ear off someone in the real world!

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