Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Do we need faith? There are those, theists and non-theists alike who claim that we do. They claim that people need to believe in something; need to have hope in something. Some claim that people can't be good without big brother watching over their shoulder (ironically, many Xians also claim that we can't be good even with god watching over our shoulders!) I find all of these ideas to be condescending, however, and part of the larger problem that religion instills in us - that we should consider ourselves to be unworthy, lowly creatures, worthy of only disdain and scorn and eternal hellfire.
Do we really need some god looking over us to be good people? I don't think so. But, when we are conditioned from an early age to think that we are evil, sinners is it any surprise when people act that way? Yes, some people act badly, but do they do it because they think god isn't watching or because they don't believe in god? No. They do it in spite of the existence or non-existence of god. Similarly, most people do good not because they are constantly calculating what god wants, but because they have values instilled in them from their upbringing and their culture and most importantly from their evolutionary history. Sure, some people perform good acts simply because they believe god is watching them and will reward them, but this actually makes their actions less moral in that they are only doing good to gain a reward.
Anyway, I'm curious to see what other people think. Do we need faith? Do we need to believe in something?
Friday, 26 December 2008
Monday, 22 December 2008
"3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
I'm sure we are all familiar with this passage. But, how many of us have thought about what it really means? An omni-max entity created beings that are fallible and therefore can't live up to the standards he set for them and do bad things (sometimes at his bidding no less) and the only way he can think of to forgive them is to father a child and have it be tortured....and somehow this makes sense?
What twisted mind decided that torturing one person for the "sins" of another would make everything OK? Why is god so keen on torture anyway? He creates hell to torture those that don't measure up, then makes sure that no one measures up. Then, he says, "Sorry that I have to torture you in hell for eternity, but I'll make it up to you by torturing my son." "Sorry that you aren't perfect, but I'll make it up to you by torturing my son." As if that makes anything better?
Of course, looking back we can see what was going on. The Jews had practiced ritual sacrifice of animals for a long time before this. It was believed that one could cleanse one's soul by offering up an animal to one's offended god. (Actually, this was not simply a Jewish custom, but was quite popular.) Xianity just took it one step further, by offering a sacrifice of a human and/or a living god. But we know that sin transference is not reality, so why do Xians still cling to these myths?
(Note: before anyone starts using the paid ticket example, fines are different from criminal activity or "sin." So, before you start to put that in the comments, think twice please.)
Thursday, 18 December 2008
If you read John 16:4, it clearly states that the only way that one can attain heaven is through Jesus Christ. We can debate as to whether this means that one must follow Jesus, believe in Jesus, etc, but what we can't debate is that the Bible states that one must go through Jesus. So, how does one do that if one has never heard of Jesus? In our modern world, it is difficult to find people who don't learn something about Jesus or at least hear of this idea of Jesus. But, what about people who lived before the age of mass communication? Well, those people are bound for hell, simply for being ignorant of Xianity. I think we can all agree that this is unjust and immoral.
What about children who are too young to believe in anything? Well, then those children are bound for hell as well. I think we can agree that this is unjust and immoral as well.
Some Xians might object that surely a good god would not do such things, and would allow those people to go to heaven. But, this would demonstrate an unjust attitude as well, as those people would be held to different standards than those of us who have heard of this Jesus fellow. Either way, it is god who must act unjustly and immorally.
Friday, 12 December 2008
"One should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything."
This is one of the various translations for Occam's famous saying. The more familiar phrasing that one usually sees is that the simplest explanation is usually the best explanation. What it means is that one should eliminate as many assumptions as possible in order to reach the best explanation. If two competing hypotheses are trying to explain the same phenomenon, and both work equally well, the one that has the least assumptions behind it would be preferred. Also, the one that adds the least amount of entities would be preferred, and adding complexity to the problem is not preferred.
It's ironic, then, that Occam was a friar, because his very simple argument is not at all beneficial to theism. Some theists claim that Occam's Razor is supportive of their faith, that evolution and science are complex and that positing a god is the more simple route, and therefore preferred. This is a gross misunderstanding of the idea, however, in that positing a new layer that is more complex than any other is not the preferred explanation for anything, and god is the most complex, unnecessary layer that one can add. (Note, I've also seen theists claim that goddidit seems like the simplest explanation to them, so therefore they use Occam's Razor to affirm their belief, but this falls into the same problem as above, and also adds an extra layer of subjective assumptions and hence is an even worse formulation.)
Saturday, 6 December 2008
I'm sure by now that we've all heard of the "Blasphemy Challenge." And we all know that anyone who blasphemes the holy spirit can never be forgiven. I'm at a loss as to why this is such a heinous crime, however. Is it really worse for me to say, "The holy spirit is a wanker," than to go out and kill someone? Yet, god, it seems, would rather I kill someone than talk trash about one specific aspect of him. Curiously enough, it's not unforgivable to say that "Jesus is a wanker."
And, why would an all-loving god lay down a rule that says that one can not be forgiven for something - that one must go to hell if one breaks rule X?
Tuesday, 2 December 2008
Science is something that we, as humans, would have a hard time living without. Science has the power to verify truths (to the best extent possible) and show us what our universe is like. Science has the power to negate positive claims made by theists as well, as many theists are well aware. Because of this, there is a lot of effort made by theists to show how science is compatible with their holy books - especially Xians trying to show how science is compatible with the Bible. One of these arguments goes like so:
1. Genesis says that god created the universe.
2. The big bang shows that the universe was created out of nothing.
3. Therefore science supports the Bible.
This is a horrible argument, however.
I have no qualms with number 1, except for one thing. Genesis goes on to explain how god created the universe, in time scales, order of creation, etc. It gets a lot of things horribly wrong. It's disingenuous of the Xian to take one piece of the passage out and claim that science supports the Bible while brushing the rest of the passage under the rug, hoping that no one will notice.
Number 2 is where the problems really exist, however. The big bang theory actually states that the matter and energy that are our universe came into the forms that we now recognize over a long period of time that started at time t=0. OK, that's a long-winded way to say that the big bang theory does not state that our universe was created or poofed into existence from nothing. What we call our universe came into existence when time came to exist, since we measure time by the speed of light (roughly), and before that time would have no meaning to us, but this does not mean that we know what was there prior to the universe. It's a stretch and a half to conclude that this somehow supports "goddidit" in any way, shape, or form. In short, this is simply not a credible argument, no matter how badly the Xian wishes to shoehorn science into her holy book.