Friday, December 11, 2009

The Invitation

Sometimes I have to interact with my employer's customers. Usually, I like helping customers and find the interaction a pleasant experience in spite of the inconveniences which often come with hands-on customer service.

And just recently, I found myself in such a situation as describe above. During my interaction with a customer, the gentleman explained to me that his life has two primary purposes.

First: To invite people to Jesus.


Second: *wait for it* To offer people the opportunity to start their own online business.


As I assisted this gentleman, (who was quite pleasant to interact with) he asked me if I had invited Jesus into my heart.

With a wide grin, I answered, "Why yes, I have invited Jesus into my heart".

But to myself I thought, " . . . and I have also invited him to leave".

I wanted to simply say, "no". But this way just seemed easier.

Our interaction was way too close to quitting time to give him cause to start trying to indoctrinate me.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mommy, Do We Believe in Jesus?

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Matthew 18:6



Did you read the quote above? Did you read the one up there?
Huh? Did you? Take a glance at it before you continue.

You read it? OK. Here it goes:

My darling little daughter asked the other day:

Mommy, is Jesus real?
(Ha! It's Mommy's turn to get some tough questions from the kids!)

Mommy replies: Well, for some people Jesus is real-- and for some, Jesus is like Santa Clause.

(Mommy phrased her answer this way because recently she told our daughter that Santa Clause is not real.)

Then our precious little four-year-old cutie digs even deeper:

Mommy . . . do we believe in Jesus? I don't think we do . . . do we?

Mommy's response?

Uh -- we'll have to talk about that another time, sweetie.

I find the fact interesting that my daughter asked if we believed in Jesus-- as if she is trying to fit in socially. Sort of like sitting at a dinner table watching everyone else while you try to figure out which fork to use for the salad.

She wouldn't know or think to believe in Jesus except that someone introduce her to the whole idea (read: daycare staff & grandparents). Just as you don't really think about a salad fork-- until you notice that you have two slightly different forks at the table. Which fork should you use?

Our daughter knows that we don't attend church regularly and that we do not insert ideas about God and Jesus into our nurturing-- unlike the daycare staff and grandparents. She notices this and she wants to fit in with us at home, too, apart from the religious indoctrination she faces.

People who believe their faith should spread tend to reach out to children. And parents who don't participate in the indoctrination process often receive a stern warning from believers in the form of the above quote.

The indoctrination process seems mindless and automatic to me. And the stern warnings sometimes come across as a cruel scare tactic.

My wife and I don't want our daughter to be helplessly enveloped by this process of indoctrination. We want her to be able to choose for herself with wide open eyes.

And honestly, I don't think my wife and I are the kind of parents that deserve to be drowned with millstones around our necks.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Where's Your Bible?

During our Thanksgiving festivities, I wondered if I would be asked to pray before we ate. I really hoped no one would press the issue. And thankfully, nobody brought it up.

But a different subject did come up.

My mother-in-law (who is a minister by the way), was sitting at our table waiting for dinner to be served. When out of the blue she asked, "Where's your Bible? I'd like to read something . . ."

I'm sure she saw the flash of panic in my eyes for I have no fucking idea where my Bible is.

None. Whatsoever.

I looked to my wife for help-- only to see the same flash of panic in her eyes.

Luckily, my sister-in-law came to the rescue. "Momma, I've got my Bible in my car . . . I'll just run out and get it real quick".

My mother-in-law has been trying to figure out what's "wrong" with me. And I think she asked for my Bible as a test. She knows that if I cannot even tell her where it is, then there is no way I've been studying it! I think it was a spiritual litmus test; and my spirit score was way too low.

I know she's becoming suspicious. She didn't bother to ask me to pray like at past Thanksgiving dinners. She assumed that role for herself this year. She didn't want to risk asking a backslider to bless the food.

And that's fine with me; I had no complaints about that.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I always wondered why Canada has a Thanksgiving day in October and the USA has Thanksgiving in November.

I mean, why does Canada even have a "Thanksgiving" at all?

Well, I'm not for certain, but I've read that the main Thanksgiving festivals of today evolved from harvest festivals carried over from the Old World to the New World.

The idea is that pagan festivals from long ago evolved in Europe, then further evolved here in the USA and in Canada.

I may be wrong, so don't just take my word for it-- check behind me.

My intent is to be honest and accurate, but I could have come across poor information.

Or, I could just have poor understanding of what I read.


Regardless, Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Table Talk

While enjoying a slab of pizza with my kids, we chatted about the events of the evening.

My son proceeded to tell me about his afternoon:

"When Grandma picked me up from school today, she told me that I couldn't watch any TV at her house".

"Oh, really? Why? You get into some trouble?" (uh-oh)

"No", he replied. "Grandma said that she wasn't watching TV to prove her love to God (read: fasting from television). She said that she wasn't going to permit me to watch any TV since it's her house and her rules."

"Oh, I see. What did you think of that?"

-- I think I even stopped eating my pizza for a moment.

"I respect what she's trying to do and all, but I don't agree with it".

"Really?" I was astonished. What a mature answer for an eight year old!

"Well son, I'm curious now. Would you be willing to stop watching TV to get closer to God?"

"Nope. I like TV too much."

Ouch!


"But what if someone told you that sometimes it takes that sort of devotion to please God?" I tried to pick my son's brain.

"I dunno. I just don't agree with that idea. I respect it, but . . . . I mean, I don't even know if the Bible is real or not. I mean, who was there to write about the first man if nobody was around but the first man? That just doesn't seem to make sense to me."

Wow! Honest . . . I didn't tell him any of that beforehand. I don't even know where he got that specific idea from-- except that I've encouraged him to question ideas and to decide for himself what he thinks of God. I didn't think that anything I said would have caused him to respond quite like that.

He still seems to believe in God. That's fine with me. But he seems willing to question ideas-- even if the ideas come from an "authoritative source". That to me is most important.

He's thinking on his own.

I don't mind if he becomes (or remains) theist. I just want him to learn to think for himself, regardless. Many theists are quite capable of doing this.

And for that reason alone (that he's learning to think for himself), I am proud of my son.

(And I'm proud of my daughter, too. She's learning how to read!)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dodging Bullets

Nope, nobody has been shooting at me or anything.

At least, not with real bullets.

I was sleeping-in this past weekend. My kids know the drill. My oldest son clambers onto the kitchen counter and grabs a bowl for himself and his little sister. He fixes two heaping bowls of cheerios for themselves while ol' daddy-O catches up on some Zs.

Mommy's out at the gym.

My kids know how to get to Cartoon Network, Dress Up Who, and Noggin.com. They know how to find their favorite TV shows on our Roku box.

They'll be fine.

Yet, I still wake up with a start after hearing the doorbell. Nobody was expected to visit. Who the hell is at the door?!

My kids get antsy and want to know who's outside.

I try to pretend that nobody is home and hope whoever it is will go away. But the kids have given away the fact that people are home.

It's my mother-in-law.

I like my mother-in-law. I do-- honest. She's not bad, overall. We had a rocky start, but we've long sense cleared that up.

My mother-in-law had left something at our house and wanted to grab it since she was in the neighborhood.

I was really, really wishing this would be more of a "grab-n-go" sort of thing. We established that my wife had accidentally taken what my mother-in-law was looking for with her to the gym. So at that point, I was hoping she would leave.

But nope. She didn't. Rather, she took advantage of the fact that now I'm her captive audience of one and proceeded to preach to me.

Not in a mean, ugly, nasty way. She's not like that with me.

But she started probing deeper than I would have liked.

She asked me a really hard question. She asked me "why".

Why did I stop going to church? Why did I lose my connection with God? Why?

What happened to cause me to lose my fervor?

She told me she could take anything I had to say. She urged me not to worry. She'll understand.

She asked me if someone hurt my feelings at church. She asked if she said something to offend me. She asked me if I saw some injustice that caused me to turn away from church. She asked me if I felt neglected by the ministers.

She expects that I have some grievance with church and church life. She thinks that I'm bitter about something someone said or did. Or maybe I've just become slightly confused about the truth of God's word. She seems to think that if I would just share my hurts and frustrations I would come around because God would give her the words to help comfort me and encourage me to return to church.

She asked if my wife (her daughter) was keeping me from going to church. My wife has openly voiced her disdain towards church with her mom (but not towards God. Those are two very different things, here).

None of the things that my mother-in-law expects is the issue at all.

"Tell me. You can tell me, son", she urged.

I can't. Not now. Maybe in time (not!).

She was persistent, but I managed to dodge the bullet.

I'm not sure how much longer I can keep this up, though.

I know she can handle me confessing to an array of things that keep many people from church. But I'm almost certain she'd be floored if I told her I have become an atheist. I simply have come to doubt god's existence. As a result, the church life has lost it's importance to me as an individual.

I bet I'd leave her speechless, until she tells my mom.

And that thought brings a lump to my throat.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Thunder God

The darkness belies the fact that it's 6:25 AM. For an eight year old, this is spooky enough. But worse, lightning flashes across the night-like sky stopping my son in his tracks as we make our short walk to the bus stop.

We've seen lots of rain lately in my region. The ground is soggy and everything drips with moisture today. But as we were leaving out for the bus stop, nature had provided an intermission from the rain fall. Perfect timing. Now we won't get wet waiting for the school bus.

Except that now, my son is afraid to leave the front yard because of he sees yet another flash of light within the clouds.

He wrapped his arms around me and begged to go back into the house.

I try to explain to him that his bus should be here any minute. We'll be fine.

"But what if the lightning strikes us? We can get struck by lightning."

I try to continue our progression towards the bus stop when yet another flash of lightning strikes fear into my son's mind.

Now he starts sobbing.

Oh no. Not this.

Not Phobia.

"Why are you so scared?"

"Grandma told me that lightning can hit you."

Then came yet another flash of light. (I'm not talking about pronounced lightning strikes to the ground or to a tree. Just flashes of light among the clouds.)

My son started to lament, "why does God make lightning? He controls the weather! So why does he keep doing this?"

And with the worst timing possible, a peal of thunder rumbles across the sky warning him not to question nature again. How dare he question the thunder god!

He cried even harder now and buried his face into my side.

Poor kid.

Through his sobbing, he told me that his Grandmother (my mom) told him that God controls the weather and the lightning. She also told him that she was afraid of lightning. I guess my son coupled these two concepts together and now he thinks that lightning is a sign of God's anger and destructive power.

He didn't want to go to the bus stop because he thought God would strike us down.

All at once, he is very scared of this thunder god. And I do not appreciate this very much at all. Only a few days ago, lightning was no big deal to him. I told him of the potential dangers, but he wasn't paralyzed by the fear of lightning until this very morning. Grandma must have had one of her talks with him yesterday evening.

Yes, I know that lightning strikes people.

But if god sits in the sky and throws lightning bolts at people on purpose, then I honestly question either his aim or his choice of targets.

I am troubled by this. I don't want my son's life paralyzed because he fears an unseen, punitive god who randomly throws lightning bolts and makes thunder rumble in the sky.

Looks like the time has come for a good lesson in meteorology.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dance Like No One is Watching

This post is a little off topic from my normal thoughts.

Today, I'm celebrating twelve years of marriage.

My wife and I went to a fine dining Italian restaurant and splurged. We had antipasti, Veal Parmesan, and grilled salmon-- all made to perfection. We had cappuccino brownies and white chocolate covered pound cake for dessert.

We were going to hit the movies, but all the movies we wanted to see started at 9:45 or 10:00 PM. We didn't want to keep our baby sitter captive all night, so we looked for some other activity that would be fun, but not as time consuming as a two and a half hour movie (that we may not even like).

Then my big mouth got me into trouble. I was only joking, but my wife took my joke seriously. I joked that we needed to hit the dance floor at a club.

But . . . I never dance.

Ever.

Never ever.

Not ever.

So, my wife knew my comment was only a joke.

But she became so excited and started calling people, asking for a cool place to go and dance.

Ugh!

But since it is our anniversary, I figured I should try.

We went to the club and found that nobody was dancing at all. People were just sitting around, looking sort of bored and vacant.

And while the music sounded really good, I figured I could by a bottle of beer, turn up my radio really loudly and create the same atmosphere at my kitchen table.

YAWN

But my wife was still so excited. She was like a little kid. So, I tried to get into the scene.

Finally, a couple got out onto the dance floor. To me, the most unlikely couple.

The lady looked almost seven feet tall and the guy she danced with was just at five feet!

What a pair!

But they were having fun in spite of what anyone else thought.

I envied them.

Then a few more people eventually trickled onto the floor as the songs played on. Soon my wife asked me to dance with her.

With all the courage I could muster, I went out on the floor with her.

That was one of the hardest things I've ever done. But, it was worth it.

Something happened to me-- I think to both of us-- in that moment. We stepped out of our comfort zone together. And we found that it wasn't so bad to dance in front of others.

We ended up dancing to several songs throughout our stay at the club. Each time we danced became easier than the last.

Soon, I didn't care who was watching. No, I didn't get footloose or anything. But at least I got out there on the dance floor.

And something else happened. I was also reminded of why I married my wife.

After twelve years of marriage, times have come where my wife and I have said to each other that we only felt like we were roommates. Times have come where I felt like she may have regreted getting married to me. In those moments, I feel ashamed and wornder if I'm a sub par man. Times have come in our marriage where we become distant and perhaps I complain about things more than I should.

Funny that with marriage, you make an oath to stay with your spouse for life without ever realizing the challenges that will test the mettle of your union.

But dancing with my wife tonight allowed me to slow down and look her in the eyes and see that thing that captivated me. I remembered why I had fallen in love with her and why I aim to stay by her side through thick and thin.

I also realized that I allowed so many opportunities to enjoy myself slip away simply because of self consciousness. If I hadn't taken a chance, I might not have felt the renewed sense of commitment I feel towards my marriage, and to making myself a better person.

I don't want to live another day where I am ashamed of branching out.

I want to grow to the place where I dance like no one is watching. But not just at a club. I want this ideal to become a metaphor for all things in my life.

And as far as my closet atheism goes. I still don't want to tell my mother. But, I may start telling others who (think they) know me. I'm taking that idea more seriously now.

But, I'm going to sleep on it some. For now, I'm just going to concentrate on learning some new moves for when I go out again with my wife next weekend.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Of Leprechauns, Flying Reindeer, UFOs, Invisible Dragons, and Such

My daughter came home totally convinced that leprechauns are real.

I mean, totally.

She came home bubbling over with excitement, telling us of how the leprechauns came and stole their cookies and ice cream while they were out to play. Apparently he came back in the room and ran around some. But nobody actually saw him do this.

My daughter explained that leprechauns move far to fast to see them.

But, the little green man did happen to leave his hat behind as he rushed away.

I found her excitement adorable on the surface. But deep down, I worried that my daughter being indoctrinated with credulity.

For what observable phenomena of nature proves the leprechaun to be real? How am I to distinguish the invisible dragon which leaves no trace from a non-existent dragon? What difference do UFOs and space aliens make if only a select few ever get to see them while the rest of our world moves along, unfazed?

We demand observable proof for many of the important things in our lives. We want to see the person at the cash register give us our change. If a utility bill appears to over charge us, many of us will investigate. Should we hear surprising news, we may double check the information by checking out more than one (reliable) source.

Why not do this for leprechauns, flying reindeer, UFOs, invisible dragons, and such?

Besides, credulity can be quite harmful. Confidence jobs thrive off of credulity as well as superstitions of a harmful nature (think: inquisitions and witch burnings). Vicious rumors can easily spread simply because people have a tendency to believe first and ask questions later (if at all).

But to challenge the validity of an idea is the heart of skepticism (and in a sense, freedom, too). Challenge the claimant of any idea for supporting, observable phenomena.

This is also the heart of science. Before accepting an idea, treat that idea as false until observable phenomena can distinguish it as true.

So again-- what is the difference between an invisible leprechaun that leaves no trace and a non-existent one? What is the difference between an invisible dragon and a non-existent one? What of flying reindeer and UFOs? What is the difference between their undetectable nature and their non-existent counterparts? (Can a sentence like that be proper? Non-existent counterparts??)

I'll dare say that an atheist has only gone one step further with this thinking. Rather than only applying this thinking to leprechauns and invisible (and non-detectable) dragons, this challenge is aimed at God and religion, too.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Snowed Under

Lots of work to do at work.

I get paid to work, not to blog. So, I work too much and not blog quite as much.

But, I have a job at least. So, I shouldn't complain about being snowed under in this current economy.

Thankfully, I've caught up a good bit at work. Now I hope to catch up on visiting and reading my favorite blogs. Then, I hope to start posting again on my own blog really soon.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

You Can't Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too

Obama gave an address to school children on September 8th. I didn't watch it. I didn't really need to watch it. But, I might catch it later on-line or something. We'll see.

However, I did watch parents on local area news stations say that schools should not show Obama's speech because they do not want their children politically indoctrinated by that liberal, closet Muslim snake our President.

And schools in my community (from what I hear) refused to show his address.

I admit to making an assumption here. I assume that most people who did not support Obama, do not want his address to be shown in public schools. Yet, many of these same people would still argue that prayer and religious indoctrination should remain in schools.

Ah! But now, they finally get it!!

No more excuses. In order to protest against Obama's address, one has to also grasp the reasons why the courts keep religious indoctrination out of public schools.

Well at least, such people should finally understand.

Because-- when they concluded that they didn't want Obama to brainwash address their children, they inadvertently and inescapably admitted that any sort of indoctrination of our children by the State is problematic. The State should not even have leverage to indoctrinate our children with "wholesome" activities such as cooperate prayer during school hours or Intelligent Design (so that our kids won't grow up thinking they're monkeys).

And to be honest-- was Obama really trying to indoctrinate our children with anything more than the "stay in school" mantra we constantly hear as children?

I'm not sayin' . . . but, I'm just sayin' . . .

Sorry, Obama-speech haters-- you can't have your cake and eat it, too.

Friday, September 4, 2009

My Personal Problem with Pascal's Wager

I'm willing to bet that many tomes have been written on subject of Pascal's Wager.

Therefore, I am NOT going to try and reinvent the wheel. I'm just sharing my personal feelings about Pascal's Wager. No formal, scholarly arguments here.

In a nutshell, Pascal's Wager suggests that due to the uncertainty in all things, deciding God's existence comes down to a coin toss. If that is the case, one would be safest to err on the side of caution and believe in God.

Sounds good and reasonable.

But taking his approach can quickly get complicated and defeat the purpose of taking a "safe bet".

Pascal's Wager, to me, is recursive to the point that our uncertainty can never be banished. So-- unless you simply choose a belief system or tailor your own, you will always be plagued by the problem of Pascal's Wager.

If I did decide to believe in God again based upon Pascal's Wager, in what manner shall I believe?

If I begin to worship God as Ganesha, a Muslim can easily come along and propose Pascal's Wager to me with his or her specifications. Should I err on the side of caution and become Muslim now because Allah will punish me for remaining an infidel?

And when I convert to Islam, what do I do when a Christian comes along and presents a Christianized version of Pascal's Wager? Do I then convert to Christianity and risk the ire of my former Muslim brethren?

And when I then become a Christian, what do I do when a Pentecostal comes along and gives me the Pentecostal version of Pascal's Wager? And what do I do when I get the Pentecostal Apostolic Faith version? And what do I do when the Church of God version tells me not to accept the Apostolic Faith wager?

And the rabbit hole goes even deeper. But, I'll stop there.

With that perspective, my "soul" is no more at risk with me being an atheist than being a theist.

Anyway, maybe I'm off base. Regardless, that's my personal problem with Pascal's Wager.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Anecdotal Evidence

For those of you who don't know, my mother-in-law is an evangelist. She is an Apostolic Faith evangelist who is chairperson of the missionary department at my former church.

If I told her now that I am an atheist, her head would spin around three times. Then she'd rebuke the devil and lay hands on me until she pushed me down through the floor.

That's how I'd imagine my "coming out" experience, anyhow.

See why I stay in the closet?

She came to our home for a short visit (on the night that I'm writing this). And she told us a cute little anecdote:

A little boy gave a report about how God created the heavens and the earth according to Genesis. After his report, the teacher began to ask him a few questions.

Can you see my hair?
Can you see my blouse?
Can you see my shoes?
Can you see my face?

The little boy didn't understand the teacher's line of questioning. But he answered "yes" to all of her questions.

Then the teacher asked, Can you see God?

The little boy sheepishly answered, "no".

Then the teacher explained to him how he need not believe in God because we cannot see God. Since we cannot see God, he does not exist.

The teacher was an atheist.

Then the next little boy gave his report. He directed his questions towards the class:

Can you see the teacher?
Can you see her shoes?
Can you see her blouse?
Can you see her hair?

All the students answered "yes".

Then the little boy asked, Can you see her brain?

The students answered, "no".

Then the little boy concluded his report:

Well then, she must don't have no brain.
I admit that I found the story cute. And my mother-in-law has a knack for delivering a good punch line.

I laughed to myself.

But, sorry, that story doesn't count as sound anecdotal evidence.

An autopsy would revel that the teacher in the story indeed has a brain. Although, she might not have been all that smart.

A CAT scan would also revel her brain too, I guess. So, I suppose we have no need of cutting people open to prove they have brains.

The mistake? Many theists seem to misunderstand. Atheists do not doubt God's existence simply because we cannot see God.

Atheists doubt God's existence because no one can produce sound, physical evidence that proves God exists.

The Bible doesn't count. We can't prove God actually wrote it. The same goes for any other sacred scripture text.

Philosophical arguments and "common sense" arguments (such as the complexity of the universe or the human eye) are only opinions. More physical evidence seems to support the idea that the universe can exist without a God of any sort rather than the idea that any particular God created the world.

I didn't say that science disproves God's existence. Perhaps an impersonal God exists. Maybe a Personal God exists.

Maybe personal gods exist because the people keep making up different, personalized gods with their imaginations?

Regardless, the theists aren't proving God's existence either.

Again, belief in God is by faith-- not by sight.

Nor by CAT scans or ultrasound.


See? Atheism isn't quite so unreasonable after all.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Religiously Bad

Gregory S. Paul has recently published a study that strongly suggest that a society's belief in God correlates with social ills found within that society.

And not in a good way.

We've heard this kind of thing before concerning the territories within the United States. The "religious states" tend to fair worse in all things good. And I should know, I live in one of them.

OK, maybe that last statement wasn't fair. But it was fun to say!

Well, this study shows a little more ambition and takes a cold, hard look at several other rich, Westernized democracies across the globe.

The findings suggest that religious societies exhibit higher pathological and dysfunctional markers. Examples of these markers include a higher incidence of rape, murder, STDs, teen pregnancies and abortions. All of these activities raise significantly higher-- not only within the United States, but also in other religious societies where belief in God is more prevalent.

If this is true, then why does religion make people become bad?

I can only speculate-- but perhaps religion causes people to practice their pathologies in their closets. The pressure from within a religious society may cause people to pretend to be pious. But around the bend and behind the barn, they're being religiously bad.

That possibility may account for the flurry of Republican congressmen who have gotten tied up into sexual scandals in recent months. To date, polls indicate that the best predictor of religious affiliation is political affiliation. So, I'm not simply picking on the Republican party.

And as a side note, I'm not saying Democrats do not get into sexual scandal (er, Bill Clinton, Jessie Jackson, John Edwards all come to mind). But somehow it doesn't seem so bad when Democrats do it. Oh, it is just as bad and damaging to the loved ones involved. But typically (not always I suppose), Democrats haven't prefaced their scandal with hypocritical religious piety. So, this tendency makes it easier for them to recover after getting caught up in a few social "nasties".

Now strictly speaking, perhaps belief in God isn't so much the problem. Perhaps religion in and of itself isn't really what's wrong.

Perhaps the real issue is fear to fully express oneself because of religious rules. Perhaps such fear prevents people from coming out and being open about who they are and what they truly love. What happens when you become too afraid to explore life and truly find yourself? Something pathological seems to breed when people are afraid to participate in harmless social taboos. Such suppression seems to push people across the line that lies between social taboos and maladaptive behaviors.

And most interestingly, the United States rates the worst in negative social markers when compared to other democracies. And the United States has the strongest overall religious overtones of all the other democracies according to Gregory Paul's publication.

Oh great. I live in the worst state within the worst democracy.

Well . . . when I compare my situation to something like living in a tiny village where people still perform witch hunts . . . I'm happy with living right here in the good ol' U.S. of A!

The United States is a wonderful place to live, in spite of these findings. But, our nation could be better. We could really grow into the nation that our Constitution originally tried to form. Perhaps we can forge an even better nation than what was ever intended by the Founding Fathers. We should never think that we have completely formed that more perfect union.

And from the appearance of things, we probably don't need God to accomplish that either.


My thanks to the Universal Heretic for inspiring this post. I was struggling to find something to write about. Not any more! Thanks!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Daddy, Does God Care About Me?

Children can ask questions that require answers way beyond a parent's comfort level. You worry that your child isn't ready for the answer you really want to give. You worry that what you really mean will get lost in his or her lack of experience with life. Maybe your child will get the wrong idea and develop some sort of anxiety, neurotic complex, or compulsion over a completely benign issue.

So, I tread lightly when my son asks me a deep question. And I worry over when my daughter will start asking deep question, too; I am safe for now since she is still in pre-school. But of course, that will change all too soon.

While out on vacation, my mom asked me to take her to a Christian book store. As she browsed the merchandise in search of a gift, my son and I wandered just out of her earshot.

Just then, my son accosts me:

"Dad, what's a Christian anyway? I mean, is all this stuff in here Christian? It all looks so boring. Why are we in this store anyway?"

I gave him that look. You know, that glare that parents give their children when they are talking too much.

But he persisted.

"What?"

He tried to claim innocence as he shrugged his shoulders.

"What did I do? Did I say something wrong? I just wanna know what a Christian is."

My son, who should already be a Christian in my mom's view, is asking what a Christian is.

Very loudly.

In a Christian bookstore.

With my mother nearby.

That's bad news if my mom hears that kind of talk from my son. She'll know that I haven't been "training him up in the way that he should go".

I told him that we'd talk about it later. But for now, he needed to keep his mouth shut.

Then I gave him the parent glare again. This glare was a bit meaner than the previous one.

That time, he got the point.

Luckily, I remembered to keep my word and started talking more about religion with him a few days later. Because unbeknown to me, my son had another tough question coming down the pike. Our initial little talk would form some important groundwork for the next tough questions that was formulating in his mind.

I prefaced our first discussion by warning him that I would break his thumbs if he went back to his grandparents and talked about the things we would discuss concerning religion.

Okay, okay, I didn't tell my son I would break his thumbs. That's cruel.

But, I did explain to him that people can be very, very passionate about religious faith. He needed to realize that while his mother and I are very open, his grandparents are not and will become deeply hurt if he asked them certain taboo questions or misrepresented (or tattled about) something I said.

I'm taking a risk here. But, I think he got the picture this time.

I think he understands because he then admitted to thumbing through a copy of Babylon Religion that I have. My son claimed he found a story within that book where someone's arm was sawed off for believing in the "wrong" religion.

He said that after seeing that, he fully understood that people can get really mad about religion.

How the hell did he find that book anyway? I thought I put it away out of his reach.

Oh well . . . better for him to find that book than to find -- oh never mind.
(What? I was referring to my copy of The God Delusion.)

Unbelievably, he kept his mouth shut to listen to what I had to say. That doesn't happen often. He must have been really eager to have this talk.

So, I started discussing religion with him from a "history class" point of view. I explained to him that there are many faiths in our world. I told him that you'll find as many different ideas about God as you'll find cars in a Super Wal-Mart parking lot. Some of the followers from different religions get along with each other, whereas others do not. The same holds true for followers within the same religion. I told him that he needed to respect other people's beliefs and that he was responsible for finding his own sense of religious belief. And I told him that I would love him just the same if he ever decided to have no religious affiliation at all.

I also mentioned (as casually as I could) that many people do not believe in God at all. I told him that such people shouldn't be looked down upon, just like you shouldn't look down on anyone else of a different faith.

I told him that the three most noticeable religions today are Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. I told him about their most basic differences in a simplistic fashion. I told him that Christians are followers of Christianity.

Then I explained that Christianity is simply a religion where followers worship Yahweh. But, to please Yahweh, you must believe in the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ. I also tried to explain Judaism and Islam in similar, simplistic terms.

I also pointed out that other religions and belief systems are widely practiced. I mentioned Hinduism, Buddhism, and Wicca as other examples.

Eventually, he asked me why so many religions seemed to end with "isim".

After talking with my son, I sense that he is a theist at the moment. But I don't think he realizes Christian influences are being pushed onto him. He doesn't seem to see himself as Christian exactly. Just someone who believes in God. He only speaks of Jesus because he hears others throw that name around at church, at his grandparent's house, or on religious programs.

He didn't even realize that when he says "grace" over his food, that he is praying a Christian prayer. I even had to point that out to him.

But I also sense that my son has doubts about theism.

How do I know?

Well, the whole religion talk we had was about a week prior to this post.

And even more recently, my son asked his toughest question yet:

Daddy, does God care about me?

How does a closet atheist answer such a question?

Why, you answer such a question with a question!

"Son", I ask with parental tenderness (ha, ha), "why do you ask such a question?"

"Because," he replied, "I ask God to do things for me and I pray to him, but he never seems to answer or say anything."

Ah, I see.

I know exactly what you mean.

Well, at least, that's what I thought inside my head.

But I didn't divulge my thoughts completely. Instead, I drew in a deep breath as basically said:

I can't answer that one for you, son. You have to decide what God means to you for yourself. I won't share my (non) belief about God with you right now. When you're older, I'll be more open with you. But for now, you need to decide how to believe in God.

You ask an important question, however. Don't feel ashamed for asking it. I have asked that question myself.

He sat quietly for a moment. Then went on talking about his favorite comic books and video games.

He can see that if he asked his Dad a question, he gets a response. Daddy cares.

But when he asks God for something, all he hears is silence.

I can certainly see why he wonders whether or not God cares about him.

I just hope my son doesn't develop feelings of worthlessness simply because he can't get an imaginary person to answer him.

I might need to bring up atheism to my son sooner than I though.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Show Me

I can't seem to think of a good or clever way to start this post.

So, I'll just start it:

Is teaching Intelligent Design in a high school biology class fair?

Maybe (just maybe) Intelligent Design should be mentioned in a history class or philosophy class.

But, in my opinion, Intelligent Design should not come up in a science class.

At least, no one should be forced to teach ID as a scientific theory.

I don't mean to belittle history of philosophy with my previous statements. These subjects have a different emphasis that may warrant discussing a topic such as Intelligent Design.

But within the subject of science, Intelligent Design has no place-- especially if introduced as a scientific theory.

You know, an equivalent alternative to the theory of evolution.

Let me explain my point of view in a nutshell:

Science says, "show me"; religion says, "only believe".

Now, here's the long version of my point of view:

The word science has Latin roots which mean to know or knowledge.

Science sets out to learn what we don't yet know. Good science attempts this quest for knowledge while still realizing we don't (and probably won't) know everything. Also, science attempts to gather knowledge with the realization that we make mistakes and sometimes misinterpret our findings during our knowledge quest.

So then, a hypothesis should be thoroughly examined and supported by a wide range of facts before members of the scientific community accept it as a scientific theory.

And even after becoming a scientific theory, the idea should remain subject to scrutiny, modification, and even deletion should new facts come along.

But scientific theories are usually supported by a lot of intellectual substance. A hypothesis already has trouble becoming a theory. So, overturning a theory won't come so easily, either.

And, I will admit here that bias can interfere with this process.

However, the error-correcting mechanism that I alluded to beforehand is the overall goal of science.

And when the scientific world finally accepts an idea as knowledge or as a scientific theory, the proponents of such findings tend to stick to their claims.

At least, until better information comes along.

Such tenacity from scientists can sometimes be mistaken as dogmatism.

And I will also admit here, that sometimes it is dogmatism. But not always. Otherwise, we wouldn't enjoy the advances of technology that we have today.

The followers of religion tend to place faith within a scripture text whose interpretations and meanings can be quite subjective. Also, faith is often placed in a tradition with is passed along from parents towards their children or from proselytizing efforts towards a non-believer. The congregants of faith tend to share in the same traditions and teach new disciples how to follow the rules of faith. Yet these rules of faith, like scripture, are often subjective based upon the interpretations of believers and non-believers alike.

And some people are bold enough to forge their own religious faith from within their hearts. I admire this very much and find that a bravery goes along with doing such. But even here, such religious notions are subjected to the interpretations of the lone disciple.

For many religious people, the adherence to a religious belief becomes a source of knowledge. The belief itself becomes the evidence of an assertion or claim. And while one has a right to opinions and beliefs, this does not necessitate that such opinions or beliefs are actually right.

Or wrong, for that matter . . .

The tenacity that one has for his or her religious beliefs can often be admirable.

But when religious belief is treated as an absolute truth that everyone must follow (rather than an opinion or personal preference), such tenacity often changes from admirable faithfulness to religious dogmatism.

Now, don't get me wrong: you don't have to believe that life formed out of a soup of hot water and chemicals to accept evolution. And not everyone who believes in an Intelligent Designer rejects evolution. Many religious people with a deep sense of faith accept evolution. Evolution doesn't answer the questions about the origin of life-- only the origin of species. Evidence showing that life could have formed in a hot soupy mix is growing. But that notion still remains a hypothesis, unlike in the theory of evolution where one species slowly gives rise to another.

And since evolution is a scientific theory with a series of facts supporting it, teaching evolution in a science class (such as biology) is quite appropriate.

But what tangible evidence merits teaching Intelligent Design as a scientific theory in a science class alongside evolution?

The proponents of Intelligent Design theory often accuse evolutionists of dogmatism. They claim that evolutionists are biased towards Darwinism and only teach the theory because evolutionists constantly ignore the "other valid theories".

Like the Intelligent Design "theory", for example.

However, evolution has a wide range of testable, verifiable evidence whereas Intelligent Design has no evidence of any scientific sort.

Faith does not count as evidence in science.

I don't look down on anyone who believes that God created the universe. I don't look down on anyone who believes life originated through an Intelligent Designer. You can find good scientists who personally believe this way.

But to ask the students, teachers, and practitioners of science to treat Intelligent Design as a scientific theory is no more appropriate than asking religious followers to allow Darwinism into their Sunday School classes and pulpits as a "valid" explanation for the Genesis account.

Often, believers reject evolution theory on the grounds of their religious belief. As a result, many believers fail to see the evidence that supports evolution. And worse, too many believers (but not all) fail to see the difference between tenaciously supporting a scientific theory in lieu of a so called Intelligent Design theory.

Science will not accept Intelligent Design as a theory without some solid evidence.

While individual scientists may personally believe in a Designer or Creator, the discipline of science remains reluctant to simply believe.

The scientific method will always pose this same unwavering challenge:

Show me.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Passage of Time

As body of water recedes, the aquatic life is left without an environment. As time goes on, the remains calcify and help transform the ground into rock.

Acid rain falls to the exposed ground and is soaked in by the newly formed limestone. The acidic water trickles down into the cracks and slowly eats away at the relatively soft rock.

Over millions of years later, an eight mile cave forms.

I sit beside my seventy-one year old mom as we beheld the product of that wonderful phenomena. We traveled 400 miles to visit our hometown-- to visit old landmarks, old friends, and family members from far way. Between visits with friends and family, we stopped to admire this amazing monument of nature.

As we sat there, my mom tells me about how she met my dad there at the cave. Live bands played during parties which were held at the entrance of the cave. A concession stand used to be there and a popular hotel and swimming pool were once nearby. A wide open space in front of the cave seemed to provide a naturally made dance floor. This cave was a happening place decades ago. My future dad asked for my soon-to-be mom's phone number during one of these popular dances.

Since I probably wouldn't exist if my parents never met, this cave somehow felt like my true birth place (as opposed to the hospital that was only a few miles away).

I wondered what fossils were inside this cave. Were there any cave drawings? (I found out later that the cave does contain drawings and glyphs.) I wondered how the trees on top of the cave entrance stayed in place. Were the roots inside all of that rock? How did the trees and other vegetation survive being rooted in the shallow dirt resting on top of rock?

I wondered how many millions of years were represented by the exposed strata of limestone. The layers were reminiscent of rings from a tree stump; these neat slabs of rock were reveling the timelessness of our Earth.

I placed my hand upon the rock and knew that I had touched millions of years.


I touched the passage of time.

_____

Something similar happened when I visited the church from my childhood. Youthful people that I watched as a child had now become elderly. Silver hair had replaced the once dark hair. Sunken cheek bones replaced the full, round youthful faces that I once remembered.

New faces from the upcoming generation were taking charge of the church now. The pastor of thirty years had passed away now. I was a little child when I watched him preach Sunday after Sunday. But he's gone now and another youthful face has come to fill his shoes.

I was handed a visitor's card when I sat down in the pew. I didn't know what to do with it. After all, I don't plan to come back-- I'm no longer religious. Also, the church is 400 miles away from where I currently live. This is just a vacation with my mom and son. Also, I grew up at that church; I went there decades ago. I sat right there in that pew, about 3 decades ago-- Sunday after Sunday for years.

Then I look over at my mom to see if she wanted to fill out a visitor's card. She looks so different now. Not the same youthful woman that I sat beside when I was a little boy in church. Then I observe my own son sitting beside my mom as I once did.

After service, everyone (who remembered me) commented on how my son looked just like me. Just like when I was a child.


Then I realized that I was witnessing first hand the passage of time.

____


While in my hotel room, I decide to catch up on some reading. I brought some recent National Geographic issues with me on our trip. All of them featured something from the ancient past. I read the article about the Ice Baby that was found in superb condition. I caught up on the article about the Sicilian mummies preserved from only a few centuries ago. I looked at their faces with amazement. Some of them only have skulls for faces. Others look as though they are only asleep and could wake at any moment. Others look as though they are already turned into dust. Yet somehow, they still maintain human faces and hair on their heads. Their sunken cheeks look hauntingly familiar. They bare the cheek bones of my aging loved ones. I will have them too, should I live long enough to develop them.

When I took in all of these experiences, I wondered what happens to us after we die. Where do we go? What happens to our consciousness?

Looking back at aged and lost loved ones gives us a hint. Peering back into the passage of time at mummies, fossils, caves, and exposed limestone strata seems to give an answer that constantly haunts humanity.

Given enough time, we simply become one with this Earth.

Rather than be filled with glum, I walk away with these experiences eager to make better of my life-- starting today.

I want to ensure that the passage of time that will encompasses my life truly counts.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Atheist Test: The Final Exam

This post will serve as the "final exam" in my series of The Atheist Test posts.

If you'd like to see a copy of the test yourself, you may visit the following link: The Atheist Test pamphlet

To review any of the previous posts in this series, follow any of the links below:

The Atheist Test
The Atheist Test: Test One
The Atheist Test: Test Two & Three
The Atheist Test: Test Four & Five


Where is Your Faith?


The author has presented arguments intermingled with the various tests as I have discussed in previous posts. Now, the author makes a final appeal to the reader by asking his audience to consider the nature of faith.

In one of his final analogies, the author parallels faith with the unseen workings of a television. Despite not being able to see television signals, we can know they are there. The average television viewer may not understand the workings of a TV set, but viewers still turn it on and trust that it works. Faith in God is similar. We may not understand, but we can know and trust that faith in God will work.

The author then suggests that in the same way a television receives signals, people must turn on their personal receiver in order to perceive God.

If you love God and keep his commandments, that is the moment God will manifest himself to you. Only after you believe, will you have proof that God exists within your heart. God will make himself known once you give faith a try. (Um . . . you mean, like a placebo effect?)

Just like the first time you turned on a television, you should turn on your faith and try God for yourself. If it works, enjoy it. If it doesn't, forget it.

Actually . . . this argument here isn't too bad. Faith appeals to the emotions. That's the nature of religion in my opinion. I think this is the only place where the pamphlet becomes honest and respectable.

I personally feel that if the tract only had these last few pages within it, I wouldn't be so critical about this whole thing.

Even so, I still have issues with his television analogy.



Wonderful . . . Digital Television is Here.



For starters . . .

A television will not pick up the channels if the signal doesn't exist.

The author obviously doesn't know about the signal switch-over from analog to digital television.

I cannot simply turn on my television and get channels because my television only receives analog. Faith will not work here. Sorry. I tried. Got nothing but snow.

I ended up having to connect (and fumble with for about 30 minutes) a digital converter box that now only gives me three channels-- PBS, PBS wide screen, and ABC.

Television signals are invisible, but they are measurable and testable. My digital converter box didn't work until my antenna found the location of the strongest signal. My converter box happened to have a meter that told me when the signal was stronger or weaker (that's why I fumbled with the box for so long-- looking for a signal).

I ultimately had to tape my antenna high above my TV and up against the wall just to pick up the few channels that I do receive.

You can't quite measure God like that. A lot of agnostics and atheists would become very interested if someone could conjure a valid "God meter" that worked like the digital signal meter on my converter box.

While one doesn't need complete understanding of TV signals to enjoy a television, one does need to know a few facts. You need power. You need the right kind of television, or a converter box to accommodate your outdated television's shortcomings, to name a few.

Or, you will need to have wherewithal to order cable, satellite, or Netflix with a Roku set top box. (can you tell which option I picked?)

So, the author's analogy of faith being likened to turning on a television is flawed in my view.

Besides, a lot of science went into making the television work.

Someone had to figure that stuff out. Someone had to know how to wire your home for electricity. Someone had to know how to build your television. And you have to have enough knowledge to make sure it's plugged in and hooked up to a digital converter box, cable box, or your Roku set to box that streams Netflix over your private wireless network (that you set up yourself).

Faith isn't simply believing in the invisible. Science acknowledges that invisible things exist, too. Invisible doesn't mean that it cannot be measured.

Faith is trusting in someone or something without any evidence beyond the evidence you have within your heart. Perhaps for some, faith rests within the words of a religious text. And I would be remiss if I didn't also mention one's own personal experiences which can fuel faith.

Those sources of faith make religion quite personal and may account for why we have so many religions in the world.

Is faith bad?

I don't mean to say such. Faith can be bad. People can laps when too dependent upon faith. In such moments, very bad things can happen because faith alone was chosen over much needed action. But faith has help many people survive their darkest hours and cope with some serious hurts and fears.

Nevertheless, we certainly cannot look down on someone who doesn't feel comfortable with walking by faith in God.


Come to Jesus

Note that this portion of the tract that I will discuss does not appear in the Atheist Test link that I posted. My copy of the tract seems revised.


Now the author begins to ease his way into the classic assertions of Christianity.

If you're an atheist, do you disbelieve in God because you don't want to be accountable? Much like a thief who cannot find a policeman?

Are you running from God because you love your sin too much?

The author of the tract hints that atheists and agnostics don't have any sense of morality. I won't even go there. You can check out my thoughts about that argument here: So, now I can be an Axe Murderer, Right?

You know-- that link is only if you just can't get enough of reading my stuff.
(As if . . .)

I won't post the sixth and final test here. But what the test does is challenge the reader to contemplate whether or not he or she is guilty of sin. Each question in test six ask you if you've committed certain acts or neglected certain observances which are typically considered part of God's law.

Are you guilty of breaking any of his commandments?

Of course, you are. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. So, you automatically fail the last test.

As a result, you must decide to become a Christian today or you will face eternal judgment.

This scare tactic is typical of many religions: Turn to God now, or feel the wrath later.

Fear tactics concerning hell don't work so well at keeping Christians in line. How much less will such a fear tactic work towards an atheist who doesn't even believe God exists?

Oh, so close-- yet so far!



The Final Exam


I want to express here that I take no issue with someone who wishes to share religious faith. We have freedom of expression and religion in the United States. I have no issues with people passing out religious tracts or pamphlets. I am not critical of this tract simply because it makes an invitation to become a Christian.

I have a very low opinion of The Atheist Test because I believe the pamphlet is filled with intellectual dishonesty. A test is supposed to be an assessment of knowledge or skill. This series of tests are only designed to influence someone's opinion largely by misrepresenting information. As a result, the author of this pamphlet will probably only accomplish reinforcing current believers with this literature. This pamphlet could reach someone who is unsure of his or her religious outlook. After all, some atheists and agnostics have not really thought through the inner workings of their doubts. And sometimes their non-belief may be emotionally founded in feelings such as anger, hurt, or a personal sense of worthlessness. This pamphlet may attract such non-believers since faith can make a strong appeal to one's emotions.

But for someone who has thought long and hard about leaving faith, The Atheist Test plainly and simply comes across as a sham rather than a compelling appeal for the Christian faith.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Atheist Test: Test Four & Five

If you'd like to see a copy of the Atheist Test for yourself, you may visit the following link: The Atheist Test pamphlet

To review any of the previous posts in this series, follow any of the links below:

The Atheist Test
The Atheist Test: Test One
The Atheist Test: Test Two & Three


No Gold in China

This portion of the test will assess your knowledge of gold in China. But first, the test is prefaced with a short explanation concerning "absolute statements". The author begins by claiming that the statement "There is no God" is known as an absolute statement. And furthermore, he argues that in order for an absolute statement to be true one must have absolute knowledge while making such statements. By this, he means to say that one must be omnipotent to make correct absolute statements.

Then he gives another example by saying, "There is no gold in China".

One would require absolute knowledge of China to know for sure if thar's gold in them thar hills.

This could possibly be the author's most flawed argument.

Why?

Because . . . if one must have absolute knowledge in order to declare that "There is no God", then . . .

wait for it . . .

wait for it . . .

One needs to have absolute knowledge to declare that "There is a God".

And furthermore, to declare that God's name is YHWH and that he can only be accessed through Jesus Christ alone would require absolute knowledge as well.

And also, one must have absolute knowledge to declare that the Bible is God's word and the claims are completely true.

The same goes for one's interpretation of the Bible as being absolutely correct when compared to any contradictory interpretation.

Thus, one would also need absolute knowledge to make statements such as "Thor is not a real God". Or, YHWH is the only true and living God".

The author cannot have his cake and eat it, too.

Having said that, let's take test four:


Test Four


What do I need to have for that statement [there is no gold in China] to be true?


__ A. No knowledge of China.
__ B. Partial knowledge of China.
__ C. Absolute knowledge of China.


The author asserts that "C" is the right answer.


Well, I can have my own little test right here:


My Test


What do I need to have to make the absolute statement "There is a God"?


__ A. No knowledge of the Universe.
__ B. Partial knowledge of the Universe.
__ C. Absolute knowledge of the Universe.
__ D. An ulterior motive.


Some may choose "D" as the correct answer. But, keep in mind that not everyone who pushes religious belief in God has an ulterior motive. No doubt the religious world has plenty of charlatans and confidence men (and women). But sincere and honest people can be found within the religious world.

In that vein, I will also assert that "C" is the correct answer. Also, since the author insisted that "C" was the correct answer to his test, I'll will say that "C" is the correct answer in my test as well.


More on Absolute Knowledge



Now the author attempts to further his argument about absolute statements. He says openly that these statements require omniscience. He then suggests that even if you had one percent of all knowledge of all the Universe, you must realize that God could exist somewhere within that realm of your ignorance.

I agree with that last part. And that's the nature of agnosticism. I will agree that God could exist somewhere in that realm of information of which I am ignorant. But, the theist is also bound by the same problem once this argument is introduced. Somewhere within the theist's realm of ignorance could rest information that proves God is an artifice of our social and cognitive development by way of evolution. An atheist feels quite confident of this idea already, while an agnostic generally finds this notion quite compelling. Agnostics often lean towards the same conclusions as atheists. However, the agnostic still takes into account that possible margin for error-- even when the possibility of error might be somewhat small.


Agnostics Think Buildings Don't have Builders


Now, for my favorite part. The author follows with the argument that an agnostic person cannot be an atheist. Also, he argues that agnosticism is no different from declaring that one can never know if a building ever had a builder.

Oh, and by the way, the agnostic is standing there looking at the building in question while making such a statement.

Agnostics and atheists may not be the same. The author finally makes an interesting point! I may have to change my label from atheist to agnostic as a result.

I think I'll officially label myself as an atheistic leaning agnostic.

Even though the author has made a good point, he doesn't waist time going astray. Agnosticism is about admitting the lack of knowledge or information. A good agnostic will admit that enough information is not available to make "absolute" statements. But, an agnostic person isn't necessarily agnostic about everything. Not every agnostic will not look at a house and wonder if it had a builder or a construction crew. Ample evidence from every day experience shows us that artifacts require human hands.

And here is where the author revisits a previous argument-- everything with order must have a designer. This may be true with everything people invent. Again, an artifact requires human hands; however, the processes of nature and the formation of our Universe as we know it may not need a designer.

Remember, "everything with order must have a designer" is an absolute statement. Does the author claim to have absolute knowledge of everything?

Generally, an agnostic simply realizes that the insistent claims of God's existence could be flawed. After all, God doesn't seem to come forward and make himself overtly apparent to everyone. Nor does he make his preferences clear as to which religious faith he wants everyone to accept. Science doesn't disprove God, as I've said several times before. But, science seems to show that the Universe has evolved in a way that doesn't quite correlate with the claims of mainstream religious texts and their followers.

What's an agnostic to do?


Test Five


The man who sees a building and doesn't know if there was a builder is:


__ A. Intelligent
__ B. A fool
__ C. Has an ulterior motive


The only purpose of test five is to misrepresent agnosticism by making it look stupid.

But to me, agnosticism is an intelligent and honest option under these circumstances.

An agnostic mindset endeavors to be open minded by recognizing the limits of human knowledge. Yet, the agnostic mindset still continues collecting more knowledge.

The method of good scientific practice seems very much like this, in my opinion.

And I also think that someone who endeavors to achieve intellectual honesty is less likely to be full of ulterior motives.

So, can we say that the author of the Atheist Test pamphlet is without ulterior motive?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Atheist Test: Test Two & Three

If you want to see the pamphlet for yourself click the link: The Atheist Test Pamphlet

This post will deal with the second and third "tests" from the Atheist Test pamphlet.
TEST TWO

A. Do you know of any building that didn't have a builder?
___ YES ___ NO

B. Do you know of any painting that didn't have a painter?
___ YES ___ NO

C. Do you know of any car that didn't have a maker?
___ YES ___ NO

If you answered "YES" for any of the above, give details:
_____________________________________________
_____________________________________________


As I've already mentioned in my previous post, The Atheist Test: Test One, the author resorts to underhanded persuasion methods at times. However, in the test quoted above, I cannot blame him too much for making the following argument:

Complex things demand a designer or maker.

This argument is compelling, I admit.

But consider again Natural Selection and the formation of the heavenly bodies. Complex things could possibly come about without an intelligent mind.

Humans are unique among all life. The human mind can invent. Other animals may build and use tools. But to invent something is uniquely human.

Does that mean we are made in God's image?

If God made us or set evolution into motion, then yes, I suppose so.

But evolution doesn't seem to require an intelligent mind. Rather, the intelligent mind seems to have evolved through Natural Selection.

Perhaps we humans think that everything complex requires a creator because we are creators ourselves. We impose personification upon everything around us. Cartoons have talking birds, rabbits, or insects with human personalities. People gaze up at the moon and see a shadow of a human face. People throughout history have worshiped the Sun, the planets, and the stars as though they had human personalities.

And God seems quite human, too. He gets angry. He loves. He expresses regret. He gets jealous. And people often depict God as a man sitting on a throne with long white hair and a long white beard. Even when God is depicted as being an invisible spirit, he seems human.

Is that because God made us like him, or because we imagined him like us?

The ultimate problem with Test Two is that the author totally dismissed the possibility that natural phenomena can happen automatically. Again, the author leads the reader to assume the notion of Evolution theory and Big Bang theory is utterly foolish. But the evidence around us says that these two theories at least deserve some consideration.

TEST THREE

A. From the atom to the universe, is there order?
___ YES ___ NO

B. Did it happen by accident?
___ YES ___ NO

C. Or, must there have been an intelligent mind?
___ YES ___ NO

D. What are the chances of 50 oranges falling by chance
into ten rows of five oranges? ______________________

If you answered "YES" for any of the above, give details:
_____________________________________________
_____________________________________________

Here are some more sleazy persuasion tactics. I keep saying this because psychology research has found that when a person is coaxed to answer "yes" to the first question in a series, that person is more inclined to answer "yes" to every other question that follows.

For example, lets say a sales person calls and asks you the following:

Do you have any children in your home?
(assume you're a parent and answer "yes")

Do you care about the mental development of your children?
(yes, of course)

Do you believe that reading to your children is very important?
(of course, you dumb ass! why are you asking me this?)

I'm so glad you asked, because I have here these wonderful books designed to accelerate your child's reading abilities. Perfect for ages blah, blah, blah . . . Wouldn't you want your child to have books like these in his or her library-- books that will help your child become an excellent reader in the years to come?
(why, it would be dumb to answer no. so, yes.)

So, will you order one of these books today to enrich you're child's future?
(aw, damn. alright, I'll order some. I'd feel stupid saying no to books I just admitted were good for my children.)

My son pulled this trick on my when he was only in kindergarten! The conversation when like this:

Son: Daddy, don't you care about my artwork?
Me: Why of course son? Why would you ask a thing like that?
Son: Well, do you like the pictures I draw?
Me: Yes son. You draw very well.
Son: Well, if you care about my artwork, why don't you buy me some more markers. Please . . .


Keep in mind that my son had lost the last five packs of markers that I bought him. So all of a sudden, I felt duped at the way he played on my parental tenderness. But this is what persuasive people sometimes do.

Yeah, he eventually got the markers. And my son lost that set, too.

Grrrrr . . .

Anyway, I digress.

Many people are swayed by this line of questioning. Sales people use it often. Pay attention to the next few times someone makes a sales pitch at you. Listen to the questions they ask and see if they are phrased in such a way that they solicit a "yes" answer. This happens in sales literature, too.

These tests use this same tactic. The questions aren't designed to draw out common sense thinking. These questions draw only on proven tactics of influence in order to manipulate how you think.

That's why I keep using the word sleazy.

And that's why I feel driven to compose my commentary on this pamphlet.

So then, I do agree that from the atom to the universe there is order.

Um, but I don't think we can say that about quantum physics; Stuff smaller than the atom. That's a whole new world which has physicists baffled. Total chaos going on down there in quantum land!

Did it all happen by accident? Maybe. But not over night. Who knows how long things were brewing before the Big Bang might have happened. This universe may simply be a set up for the next bang that might come along.

I like the way question "C" is phrased: Or, must there have been . . .

The author is being manipulative again.

Or he found a really good sales copywriter to help him with the wording of his pamphlet.

Fifty oranges in rows of ten

Now, the author challenges you to believe that someone could drop 50 oranges and they fall to the floor in perfect rows of ten.

Of course you won't see that happen. That's why he asked.

But, the author implies that astronomers and evolutionists claim that the universe and life began in this way. Existence just fell in place in the same way that 50 oranges would fall into perfect rows of ten after being dropped.

You do know that biologists recently developed sperm cells from stem cells, right?

Did you know that all the building blocks for life can be found floating in outer space, between all the stars?

Humans could possibly be Mother Nature's chemistry experiment. (And there I go; I'm even projecting human qualities upon chemistry by calling it Mother Nature.)

Chemistry and biology may only need enough time and the right conditions to do amazing things.

I can't say the same for dropping 50 oranges into perfect rows of ten.

Or maybe one can. Any chaos theory experts out there?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Atheist Test: Test One

My personal life has prevented me from working on any posts lately.

But this "Atheist Test" pamphlet has continued to stay on my mind.

I will preface my commentary by pointing out the layout of the pamphlet. The pamphlet is structured in such a way that the reader is presented with various arguments which attempt to refute atheism. Mixed in with various arguments are short multiple choice "tests". These "tests" are given to "assess" the reader's "understanding" while reading through the pamphlet.

This post will deal with the first set of arguments surrounding "Test One".

To see a sample of the pamphlet for yourself, you can visit the following link: The Atheist Test

Now for my rebuttal.

The theory of evolution of the coke can

Ah, here is my first problem with this pamphlet.

The misuse of the word theory:

the-o-ry:

1. a coherent group of general propositions used as principles of explanation for a class of phenomena: Einstein's theory of relativity.

2. a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.

3. Mathematics. a body of principles, theorems, or the like, belonging to one subject: number theory.

4. the branch of a science or art that deals with its principles or methods, as distinguished from its practice: music theory.

5. a particular conception or view of something to be done or of the method of doing it; a system of rules or principles.

6. contemplation or speculation.

7. guess or conjecture.

Before you get excited about definitions two, five, six, and seven, the same entry takes time to clarify the usage of the word theory:

1. Theory, hypothesis are used in non-technical contexts to mean an untested idea or opinion. A theory in technical use is a more or less verified or established explanation accounting for known facts or phenomena: the theory of relativity. A hypothesis is a conjecture put forth as a possible explanation of phenomena or relations, which serves as a basis of argument or experimentation to reach the truth: This idea is only a hypothesis.

(Only the bold emphasis is mine)
A theory explains natural phenomena. Evolution, for example, is a theory-- not a wildly cooked up idea that Darwin pulled out of his . . . well, you know. Darwin had reasons to think that evolution was occurring. Natural phenomena in the form of fossils is only one supporting fact that supports the theory of evolution. Darwin's theory in a sense predicted findings in other sciences such as geology, genetics, and physics. Darwin was before his time in many ways.

Consider the Big Bang theory. Natural phenomena supports the idea that a huge explosion happened before the known universe formed. Microwaves still linger in space that seem to be the consequence of a really big explosion. The heavenly bodies seem to be cooled material from coalesced particles.

How did all that hot lava get deep inside the earth's belly, anyhow?

Studying natural phenomena leads us to build a reasonable idea of how things might have happened. That becomes a hypothesis. After more evidence is found and the hypothesis is proven to be consistently true, we have a theory.

Otherwise, we have a bad hypothesis. Time to go back to the drawing board.

Now, the pamphlet goes on to suggest that a coke can evolved directly from a big bang event billions of years ago and evolved into the coke can we see today.

Of course, the author knows that this idea sounds silly. And the author then attempts to take that silliness and pin it to the Big Bang and Evolution theories.

And even if you are only satisfied with calling the Big Bang theory a hypothesis, such a hypothesis has more merit to it than a coke can evolving from it's own big bang event.

Regardless, scientific theories and hypothesis are not comparable to the pamphlet's "theory of the coke can". Why? Because natural phenomena tells us someone designed and created a coke can. And at the same time, natural phenomena seems to say that life in our universe happened through Evolution. The known universe came about from a massive explosion. An accident? Serendipity? Intelligent design? Honestly, science can't say for certain. And based on the evidence, theologists can say for certain, either.

While one can assert that god exists without beginning, the same can be said about physical matter in general. This leaves room for the idea that matter could simply exist without beginning, like the notion of an eternal god. And furthermore, matter could exist independent of a necessary being referred to as god.

The Evolution and the Big Bang theories don't disprove god's existence. But given natural phenomena, god seems to operated very differently from what the Bible claims.

Perhaps agnosticism is more intellectually honest when compared to theism and atheism.

So, god could be out there. Maybe. But, I don't think the evidence supports the traditional god of the major Abraham based religions.

Or any other sort of religion, either.

If god is out there, he or she is being very, very quiet.


The Banana: The Atheist's Nightmare


Not quite.

Natural selection is a reasonable enough explanation for why a banana has it's shape and is easy to eat.

I can also think of a few other things shaped like a banana, but wasn't necessarily meant to go into one's mouth for eating.

Either way, the notion that evolution was an accident that happened over night is a misrepresentation. The author's outlook is misleading and he is attempting to convince his readers of his flawed outlook.


Test One

The person who thinks the Coca Cola can had no designer is:

___ A. Intelligent
___ B. A fool
___ C. Has an ulterior motive for denying the obvious

The first "test" continues the unscrupulous persuasion tactics I pointed out above. This "test" now attempts to make you feel like a dope for not agreeing with the "obviously correct" answer.

In my first post about the Atheist Test, the gentleman who offered this pamphlet started a conversation with me only as an opportunity to witness. His attempts to create a flimsy connection came across as fake.

Just like the tests in this pamphlet.


Darwin admits his theory is absurd!!!!

Huh? When did Darwin do that?

Why, Darwin denounces his whole theory in the following quote:

To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of Spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.

Did you see that?! Did you see that?! Darwin admits his own goofy idea of Evolution is absurd!!!
Oh, wait . . . the author conveniently forgot to cite the rest of the quote:

When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei ["the voice of the people = the voice of God "], as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science. Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certain the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case; and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, should not be considered as subversive of the theory.

In other words, Darwin says that he realizes evolution sounds absurd at first. But so did the idea of a round Earth after evidence was obtained.

Natural Selection is no different.


Einstein, the Christian Theist


The pamphlet had no problem misrepresenting Darwin. Why not Einstein, too?

Everyone who is seriously interested in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe—a spirit vastly superior to man, and one in the face of which our modest powers must feel humble.

But, Einstein also said:

I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.
And, he also said:
The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.
Einstein may have been a theist. But his theism is watered down to near agnosticism at best.

I could go on and on with quotes that show why Einstein shouldn't be quoted within this pamphlet as a defense of a personal god. But, this post is getting long enough already.


A recent Gallup poll proves God exist!

George Gallup, a famous statistician says:

I could prove God statistically; take the human body alone; the chance that all the functions of the individual would just happen, is a statistical monstrosity.

Guess what! I agree!

The human body didn't "just happen". Evolution doesn't say or mean that. Humanity came along over time. Millions of years of small changes.

Millions of years.

That's a lot of time. Take a pen and try writing from one to 1,000.

After that, do you think you would want to write from 1,000 to one million?

Millions of years give enough time from the human body to evolve from a less complex form of life into what we observe today.

Besides, did George Gallup actually sit down and do the math or did he just pull that idea out of his . . . well, you know.

And come to think of it, to say god created man is pretty close to saying that the human body "just happened". So, does that notion make god a statistical monstrosity?

I noticed that throughout the whole pamphlet, the author suggests that anyone who disagrees with his little "tests" is unintelligent or has an ulterior motive.

But with the pamphlet's misuse of ideas, misquotes, and sleazy sales tactics, one must wonder who really has the ulterior motive.