Saturday, February 28, 2009

Christian Apologetics: Knowledge and Intellect Not Required

There are websites, over paid charlatans, and wandering internet Christians who are dedicated to apologetics, the defense or “proof” of Christianity to win converts. It’s an age old practice going back to the 2nd century.

One of the earliest Christian apologists was Justin Martyr who lived from 100 to 165 CE. His efforts were directed mostly toward the Roman hierarchy, and the Greek philosophers. One of the most famous and laughable defenses of Christianity was his explanation of why there were pagan predecessor gods to Jesus who shared very similar life stories and attributes. Ole' Justin claimed those gods were put in men’s minds by Satan in order to confuse man in preparation for Jesus’ coming. I imagine that got a chuckle from the educated Roman senators, and Hellenistic philosophers.

In the 1930’s a British journalist, pen named Frank Morison, claimed he was raised a Christian but was skeptical of the resurrection myth. He embarked on detailed study of the scripture and visited the Holy Land. In his book Who Moved the Stone? he came to the conclusion that Jesus’ resurrection was in deed real. Why? His bottom line was this: Because there were guards all around the tomb, and after seeing the tomb it would have been impossible for anyone else to move the stone blocking the door!! Thus, he “proved” the veracity of the scripture by using the same scripture as the sole source of information. Brilliant.

These days Ray Comfort (aka "Banana Boy"; see photo above) is among the most visible Christian apologists. A complete lack of understanding of scientific principles and evolutionary theory don’t stand in the way of his trying to discredit them in favor of Creationism. What he lacks in real knowledge he makes up, attributing his laughably inane misrepresentations of evolutionary theory to Darwin. Comfort is best remembered for proffering that the banana is proof of God; for why else would it “… fit so perfectly in our hands, and have such a convenient wrapper?” (Ray doesn’t like being asked about pineapples.) As a fellow online atheist observed: "My penis fits my hand perfectly, does that mean God intended for me to Jerk off?" Good question.

Recently I saw a particularly vapid would be apologist exclaim that Christianity is the “one True religion” His proof rested in the fact that C.S. Lewis, some British jurist, and other 19th and 20th century personages of some minor notoriety abandoned skepticism and became devout Christians. To his limited thought processes this was evidence of the veracity of Christianity. All things being equal, the fact that more people are leaving Christianity than are joining it, preferring to trust reality and naturalism or even Islam, should be as valid evidence for Christianity’s falsehood. But that doesn’t occur to apologists, at least not to the really stupid, and really bad ones.

What these fine examples of defenders of the faith all have in common is this: they rely on attempts at knowledge and intellect to support their belief. However, their lack of both attributes works against them. Genuine apologists don’t try to match their understanding of science / scientific theory, the natural world with educated advocates of science and reality. They don’t attempt isolated examples of “evidence” that can be dismissed as inventive subjective woulda-coulda, or falsified by anyone capable of looking past their nose.

The real Christian apologists tell their disciples that to be effective in spreading the “Truth” of Christianity and to bring non-believers to Jesus, they have to abandon knowledge and intellect, and depend only on faith. They say they must “rely on God, not knowledge.”* They recognize that knowledge is an ineffective tool, cautioning them that “Study should never replace the power of God.”* And of course they are correct.

The professional apologist knows that a belief system that has no concrete evidence for its doctrine; no qualitative or quantitative proofs; that cannot support it’s myth and supernaturalism with real world example is destine to be discredited / defeated when facing opposition from natural world evidence, proofs, and genuine knowledge. They recognize that it is tantamount to their bringing a pen knife to a gun fight.

What’s interesting about their advice, what’s so telling about their religion, is that they are endorsing and promulgating the same thing the early Christian Church did – the downplaying of study, discrediting of knowledge, and demonization of intellectual growth. Why? …, because they know that their religion’s continuation, its very existence, is predicated not on attracting the most intelligent, most analytical, least credulous to their ranks. That would be a waste of time. It has, is, and always will be geared toward convincing and attracting the least educated, most credulous and gullible.

You’ll recognize the “real” apologists when you see one. They’re the ones who don’t try and come up with half baked retorts to scientific evidence. They’re the ones who, when they make a religious pronouncement offered up as fact, and you ask them for proof, will answer with something akin to: “Proof? Proof??? I don’t need no steenking proof!! I have faith!” When he does, smile and think about this camel.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Islam’s [In]Famous Respect for Woman

Recently there was a news report of an American Muslim businessman in upstate New York who cut off his wife’s head. What prompted this gruesome act is still unclear, although his wife had recently filed for divorce.

The husband and his wife have been American citizens for years. In all outward respects they appeared to have fully embraced Western culture and the American life style. Mr. Hassan started a Muslim TV station in 2004, popular with US Muslims. His purpose was to present Americans with a kinder, gentler, face of Islam. So much for that.

The same week a judge in Saudi Arabia sentenced a pregnant woman to one year in jail and one hundred lashes. Her crime? She was gang raped, beaten, and left pregnant by her attackers. It seems she was found guilty of adultery for her victimization, even though she wasn’t married, because she was outside her home unaccompanied by a male relative, a violation of Saudi Law. In a show of mercy, they won’t be administering the flogging until she gives birth to the child.

In November a thirteen year old Somali girl, a victim of rape, was falsely convicted of adultery (a capital crime in Islamic law) and stoned to death by an execution squad of fifty men. A crowd of one thousand gathered in a stadium to watch.

In Iran a woman was recently blinded by a rejected suitor. The would-be boyfriend poured acid over her head, into her eyes, down her face. She lost sight in both eyes and was horribly scared. He said he did it because he loved her.

This week in Turkey a woman was stabbed to death by six members of her family; an “honor killing” because she had been raped, which brought disgrace upon her family.

These obscene miscarriages of justice, acts of horrific vengeance, and perverted logic are not isolated examples. They occur regularly, daily, throughout the Islamic world, and among Muslims in Western countries. Most moderate Muslims (a term that I find paradoxical given their professed majority, yet their deafening silence over / lack of condemnation of radical Muslim actions) will say that the Koran neither prescribes nor condones these acts of injustice against women. They will say it isn’t a religious issue, it’s culturally driven. They are partially correct, partially lying, partially in denial.

The Koran and the Sunna (or Sunnah) comprises the Shari’a, the basis for Islamic Law. The penalty for adultery, for men or women, is death by stoning. The Koran says women are inferior to men, and their husbands have the right to “scourge” them for disobedience. And while honor killings aren’t specifically mentioned, most Muslim clerics justify it thus laws against it are laxly enforced, the penalties sometimes minor. For all intents and purposes then it has become part of Islam.

When a religion, and the culture that embraces it, makes women less valued then men; when it imposing penalties more harshly and frequently against them than male adulterers; when it obsesses over women’s dress, modesty, and obedience; when it places such a high value on woman’s purity that any loss of purity, whether by choice or by force, renders a family’s name for ever soiled; and when prescribed punishments for crimes, trespasses, “sins” are uniquely violent even barbaric … then you have a recipe for institutionalized , sanctioned, abuse of women.

For all intents and purposes Islam and the cultures into which it has inculcated its teachings and principles have condemned its people to a 7th century mentality. The losers are freedom loving / peace loving nations, the poor and undereducated Muslims, and Muslim women.

That’s the bad news. The worse news is Islam is the fastest growing religion on the planet, and they have an “end times” doctrine of their own. A worse combination is hard to imagine.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Prayers of Hope for a Child Killer

Casey Anthony killed her two year old toddler Caylee in Florida last year. She hid the body. It was months before the remains were found near the grand parents’ house. The case has been dragging on for eight months. Anthony has been stonewalling police efforts to get information and to nail the case shut; evading questions about her failure to report the child missing for weeks, lying to investigators multiple times, etc.

Last week a story appeared that a pastor is organizing a prayer vigil for accused child murderer Casey Anthony to give her “hope and comfort”. In discussing the absurdity of this misplaced Christian goodness one of the faithful offered this:

“There's no harm done here, if you don't believe prayer does anything then that's it, it just doesn't…. but these people do, and at least they're putting forth the effort to give hope in the way they think is right to do so. They're just doing the best, the best way they know how to. That's true love.”

My reply follows:

Thank you for that genuine Christian gibberish.

That praying for a child murderer, or anyone, has no effect isn't at all the issue. "Effort to give hope …”? Hope? Hope of what? ... a hung jury, a verdict of not guilty, of escaping the death penalty or life in prison? And why, for a mother who murders her child and feels no remorse nor takes responsibility?

The problem with the mindlessly devout is that they cannot discern between people who are worthy of sympathy, who’s misfortunes evoke empathy, and those who are due only societies disgust, revulsion, condemnation, and punishment.

But I am unsurprised. Christian doctrine allows murderers, rapists, genocidal maniacs, et al, to get their reward in a celestial candy land as long as they telepathically promise some alleged dead man-god that he is their master, then symbolically eat his body and drink his blood. Then all is forgiven. All the while the same doctrine claims innocents like Anne Frank, or great humanitarians like Jonas Salk burn in hell. Frankly, it’s a despicable and obscene doctrine; one that would likely disgust Jesus himself.

The absence of Ms. Anthony’s humility, civility, humanity, accountability for her actions, since they mean nothing to Christian salvation doctrine, is easily over looked and not highly valued by the faithful. That she is offered sympathy and support for murdering her child makes me want to retch. More so does the sanctimonious justification for such inane acts of symbolic Christian benevolence.

One has to wonder if it’s because she is a self-proclaimed Christian that she is the recipient of the flock’s good wishes. Do Christians make a distinction between Christian, pagan, atheist, Jewish, Muslim child murderers? If so why? Will the devout hold a prayer vigil for Bin Laden when he is captured and faces legal judgment? Is he not equally entitled to, worthy of, their love, their comfort, and their hopeful prayers? Or perhaps it’s only the murderers of innocent children and not 3,000 adult Americans who warrant these good Christian’s loving platitudes.

I can’t determine which disgusts me more; the grotesqueness of the doctrine, the idiocy of the gesture, or Christian hypocrisy.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Why Christians Aren’t “CHRISTians” At All.

The Christian Bible includes the Hebrew Bible, the “Tanakh”. Most scholars agree that the Hebrew Bible was composed and compiled between the 12th and the 2nd century BCE, hundreds of years before Jesus' birth. Jesus and his disciples based their teachings on the Tanakh, referring to its tenets as "the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms ... the scriptures". Luke 24:44-45. Christians today refer to it as the Old Testament.

In it is contained over 600 laws that establish how to conduct ones secular and religious life. These laws are very strict, requiring stoning of unruly children, stoning of homosexuals, killing of adulteresses, eating kosher foods, circumcision of male children, the list is long and detailed.

As a devout Jew, and rabbi, Jesus himself would have followed these laws. He may have been at odds with the Jewish priestly class who didn’t hold themselves accountable to the law, or who enforced laws that Jesus felt were being misinterpreted / misapplied, such as the admonishment against the poor gleaning fields on the Sabbath. But Jewishness, by definition, requires reverence for and obedience to ”… the law of Moses, and the prophets.” To abandon those laws would be to abandon the very foundation of Jewish religion. Jesus never did that.

How do I know? Jesus is alleged to have said so himself:
“For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:18-19 RSV)

He makes similar declarations at least two more times in Luke 16:17, Matthew 5:17.
Indeed, the early Christians were Jewish, and followed the laws of Moses and the Prophets along with revering Jesus as the Messiah.

Yet, when you ask a Christian why they ignore and disobey the Old Testament laws, they give you this song and dance: “Oh… that’s the OLD Testament. There’s a new covenant with God, Jesus did away with the old laws.” Nope. Not true as shown above, in Jesus’ own words, corroborated by both Mathew and Luke. But their justification for this abandonment of God’s laws is this: “For Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified.” (Romans 10:4)

But you see Romans, was written by Paul. It was not dictated by Jesus, not hinted at by Jesus, not referenced in any other scripture. It’s Paul’s abandonment of Jewish law to make the Christian cult more palatable to the gentile (Roman) recruits. It’s in direct contradiction to Jesus’ multiple admonishments. Heck, why do you think Paul included it in his letter to the Romans (hint, hint)??

So why don’t Christians follow Jesus’ words, keep kosher, kill witches on sight, and get circumcised, etc., etc., etc.? Because they find it easier, more convenient, to follow Paul than they do their professed Lord and Savior. They aren’t Christians at all. They are Paulists. They follow a false prophet, and they along with Paul, “… shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.”

Yep, when they croak, and Jesus smells that bacon on their breath, they are truly screwed.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Meet a real live Dark Ages Christian

“I'm a Christian. The most important event in history is the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. I believe true science does not contradict the Bible.”

So reads the personal profile of a 58 year old internet message group member. When I read it I was semi-incredulous. This guy actually believes the Bible to be a history book and science book.

I could understand that coming from a 9th century monk or peasant, but there’s been way too much water under the bridge of understanding and discovery for any adult with a functioning brain stem to make such absolute and unyielding statements in the 21st century.

Let’s take his belief that the myth of Jesus’ resurrection is “history” (it is as much “history” as Mohammed’s flying up to heaven on his horse). He is saying it supersedes in importance the following events:

· Man’s migration out of Africa and the subsequent population of the world;
· Man’s mastery of fire and the invention of the wheel;
· The Neolithic Age where man established agrarian societies, leaving nomadic existence and settling into communities, laying the foundation for human culture;
· The development of the first written laws for human behavior, i.e. the Hebrew Ten Commandments, The Code of Hammurabi, etc.;
· The advent of Greek philosophy, mathematics, government and social structure which was the foundation for our modern Western civilization.

Had none of these, or indeed only ONE of these genuine historical events not taken place the world as we know it would not exist. But the mythical rising of a mythical dead man-god who is rejected by two thirds of the world as either myth or not pivotal in their existence, THAT is the most important historical event according to this theistically handicapped unfortunate. Hell, the invention of the flush toilet has more historical value than a mythical zombie’s resuscitation as far as I’m concerned.

Then there’s the “true science doesn’t contradict the bible” claim. Well, since physics, biology, astronomy, geography, all the hard disciplines contradict and reject:

· The concept of a domed firmament over the planet with stars set into it;
· People living to eight hundred years old;
· The Creation story;
· The ability to see the entire earth from a mountain top (i.e. a flat Earth);
· The ability for life on Earth to survive a cessation of rotation of the planet (the sun stopping in the sky);
· The ability to reanimate and restore to life three day old dead corpses;
· The ability for two each of millions of species to fit on a boat;

It therefore renders those scientific disciplines, by this Xtian’s definition, “not true science[s]”.

This theist's reasoning goes beyond denial. It’s self imposed ignorance, rejection of prima facia evidence, a complete regression into Dark Age think. I wonder if he suffers witches to live.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

NH Theist Speaks for God... and makes about as much sense.

While religious fanatics are rare in New Hampshire, we do have a few scattered about. The following letter to the editor appeared in my local newspaper:

"I am coming to the conclusion that God made every baby for a purpose.God had a plan for us before we were even formed, so He does have a plan for every baby.He loves all of us, including the unborn.People are made in God's image, they are humans. We need to respect our fellow humans."

XX Duso Road
Winchester, NH

What Jon doesn’t get here is that his brief and no doubt heart felt letter is just chocked full of fallacies, delusion, and contradiction. Let’s dissect it:

“I am coming to the conclusion that God made every baby for a purpose.”
Jon didn’t come to any such conclusion. The conclusion was given to him by the theist doctrine that was fed to him since childhood; the very same doctrine that concluded for him that there was a god in the first place. For Jon to suggest he came to the conclusion as a result of independent thought / analysis is self deception… or intellectual dishonesty.

“God had a plan for us before we were even formed, so He does have a plan for every baby.”
Really? So spontaneous abortion / miscarriages, which represent approximately half of the abortions in the US were part of God’s plan for those babies? They were planned as what… land fill? Nice plan.

And, what exactly was God’s plan for the zygotes that became Hitler, Jim Jones, David Koresh, Pol Pot, Timothy McVeigh, the 911 terrorists, etc., etc., etc.? His plan was for them was to be born to destroy, cause suffering, pain, death, and horror? They were born as part of God’s plan to help thin the population of European Jews, gullible Christian believers, millions of innocent Cambodians, and the population of Oklahoma and NY City?

Since God knows in advance the outcome of all things, God’s plans thus must be psychopathically inspired. You’d think a sane and omniscient god would have planned better by causing those fiend babies to be spontaneously aborted. Guess not.

“He loves all of us, including the unborn.”
Well, God sure has a strange way of showing his love. I love my sons, but I don’t demonstrate that love by subjecting them to hideous and agonizing painful deaths by AIDs, Ebola, starvation, dysentery, etc. as this God seems to do to his children. They die this way by the ten’s of thousands each day throughout the third world… infants, toddlers.

These children had no “free will” to choose either their lot in life, or their religion; a merciful all knowing and loving God would recognize that, one would think. God, it seems, just loves those kids to death.

“People are made in God's image, they are humans.”
The truth of the matter is that the bible means “character” when it says “image”, as most Christian apologists / scholars will tell us. Image does not mean “form”. But more to the point, the reverse is true: Man created God / gods in Man’s image. All God’s have the same jealousy, anger, vindictiveness, and remarkable capacity for inhuman treatment toward their “creations” as man has toward his fellow man …only more so. The Old Testament testifies to that. Any subsequent divine personality changes / makeovers, are the result of Man’s doing as well.

Naturally all this would be dismissed by Jon in the usual manner of the unthinking and senseless theist apologists: “God works in strange and mysterious ways.” ; “Who are we to understand God’s plan?”; “God’s mercy in killing those children IS his love.”; "The devil made them do it!" … etc., etc., etc…ad nauseum.

So about the only thing Jon got right in his letter was his admonishment to respect our fellow human beings. One needn’t invoke a god, or imbue a bundle of embryonic cells with humanity to do that. Jon got one out of five sentences correct… 20% out of a possible 100%. In theist think that’s a passing mark.