Tuesday, 31 March 2009
OK, so if Jesus wasn't resurrected, why didn't all his detractors produce the body?
How many times have we all run across this little gem? It's an argument that apologists like William Lane Craig like to use, because they think it's a good argument. But, it only works if you make certain assumptions that can't be supported (i.e. begging the question). But, let's tackle it anyway, shall we?
There's a fatal flaw in this question in that it assumes that what is recounted in the Bible is really what happened - that Jesus lived, preached, died on the cross, that there was a real, dead body, that later people came and moved the boulder away, and found Jesus was alive and healthy. If you assume all this to be true, then it makes sense that people seeking to discredit Jesus would produce his corpse and say, "Here it is." I mean, c'mon, if groups of people are running around proclaiming that the guy you just killed came back to life, and you had his corpse, you'd show them, wouldn't you?
Except, we have no assurance that any of that actually happened! We know that the gospels are all written well after the events that they supposedly tell about, by people who weren't there. After 50 years or so, it's not at all surprising to think that the legend of Jesus could have taken on numerous stories about the things he did (turning water into wine, coming back from the dead, healing lepers, etc). Look at the cult worship that people have for Elvis and you get a sense of what urban legend can become for people who have sincerely held beliefs.
And, that's what is most likely in this case, that the gospel stories are urban legend. Jesus could be a made-up figure, or simply a traveling preacher that taught his brand of Judaism. It's likely that he was never crucified or even if he was that his body wasn't tossed into an unmarked grave and forgotten about, only to have later stories claim that he was resurrected and later Xians claim that the soldiers should have presented his body at the time. Yet, it's absurd to require the soldiers to present the body of a person who died before that person was written into the part of a god. It's just another bad example of apologetics that don't work.
Sunday, 29 March 2009
Saturday, 28 March 2009
On the subject of war, you'd expect religion to provide solid ethical guidelines - that's what it does best, after all, say its adherents. There may not exist literal deities, messiahs, prophets - but at least the holy texts give us some firm basis by which to lead a good life, and maintain order in society. War is an issue that has troubled thinkers since biblical times and before; it has permitted the greatest atrocities imaginable to take place practically everywhere on Earth. War is the most violent, unforgiving aspect of modern existence; surely we must turn to religion for guidance here?
Take Christianity. The first Christians were absolute pacifists, who held that violence was inherently wrong, completely unacceptable and wholly avoidable. Jesus instructed them explicitly: "if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also”, "love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you", “blessed are the peacemakers”. They refused to join the Roman Army on principal, and for this were persecuted.
The Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in AD 312, and with him all of Rome. However, the Emperor desired to wage wars for the good of his people, and this was opposed by the teachings of Jesus. So, did he accept the fundamental basis of his religion in order to act morally? No. He waged war regardless.
Later, Christian theologians, most influentially Thomas Aquinas, attempted to justify violence using religion, producing the Just War Theory, which has since been adopted by most developed countries, and shaped United Nations' policy. Today, most Christians see no problem with sending their children to war, or supporting and voting in favour of conflicts around the globe.
My conclusion: despite the fact that Christians are by definition followers of Christ, who, if he taught ONE thing, it was that war, violence and conflict can NEVER be justified, this message is ignored, subordinated to the cunning logic of warmongers.
So what is the goddamn point of Christianity?
Friday, 27 March 2009
Vagueness is your friend, if you are an apologist. Why do I say that? Well, it's actually not a bad strategy, if you are on the bad end of a debate and can't support your arguments. Let me explain.
Many apologists like to keep their beliefs hidden from view. They won't tell you what they believe, and if you ask, they find some irrelevant tangent to go off on (or they accuse you of various things to take the emphasis off the fact that they aren't answering the question). They do this for a couple of reasons. One is that if they give you some concrete belief, you can point out the logical inconsistencies of it. If they never give you anything to work with, they can safely keep their beliefs out of harm's way.
Another reason is so that they can argue for whatever they think will win the debate without having to admit that they don't even believe the position they are arguing for. Yes, it's highly dishonest, but I've found that most apologists don't care for honesty. For instance, I recently had an encounter where a theist claimed that he didn't know what omni-max meant and that he wasn't arguing for it. On a different blog the next day, he argued specifically for an omni-max deity. Why did he do this? It's because I pointed out the problems with his argument and holding to an omni-max deity. Again, it's dishonest, but most apologists don't have a problem with lying for Jesus.
Lastly, they think it's a good tactic to use so that they can stay on the offense and attack you. If no one knows what beliefs they hold, then they never have to defend, and they can continue to press and attack in the debate. When debating with an apologist, make them play their cards on the table. Point out that they shouldn't be afraid of the truth, because if they believe they are correct, then they have nothing to hide or be afraid of, since the evidence should back them up. Of course, they will inevitably lose if evidence is used, since the only evidence we have points us away from god, but that's what happens when you take the wrong side in a debate over factual matters.
Wednesday, 25 March 2009
OK, so Adam and Eve were created "good" by god, and what they did was "good" until they ate the fruit, right? Well, after they ate the fruit is when they realized they were naked and were embarrassed by it. Apparently, before they ate the fruit, they were naked and they realized afterwards that it is bad to be naked. But, they were wholly good before eating the fruit even though they were naked.
This creates a contradiction. Either they were good when they were naked and it is still good to be naked, which modern Xians don't agree with and certainly those who wrote the Bible didn't agree with. Or, they were not good when they were naked, meaning that there was sin before they ate the apple. Which is it?
There is another way, of course, but it requires the theist to resort to relative or situational morality. This, however, is anathema to most Xians in that they claim to believe in absolute morality, so this option is not actually open, no matter how often they cling to relative morality when it suits their whims.
Sunday, 22 March 2009
One of the objections to evolution that creationists tend to use is that they believe that all the complexity of life could not have come about through purely random means - it's too improbable. They're right that it's hard to believe. It's a good thing, then, that this is not what evolution says.
Evolution is not a purely random process. One of the mechanisms (there are others) that allow for change to occur is random mutation, which is a random process. These mutations are impossible to predict and allow for small differences in off-spring that may or may not provide an advantage in survival and reproduction. This is done through natural selection, which is not a random process. By ignoring the non-random selective process, creationists and anti-evolutionists effectively create a straw man of an argument that does not represent what evolution actually says.
Friday, 20 March 2009
A new study shows that the more religious one is, the more likely one is to seek (aggressive) treatment in order to stay alive.
I find this to be rather hypocritical and logically inconsistent. For those that are so faithful, shouldn't they be confident that they are moving on to a better place? Yet, they scrap and fight as hard as they can in order to keep themselves from going to heaven. IMO, this represents what religion is all about. They are fearful. They are afraid of death, and even the stories they invent to help placate some of that fear are not enough. They fear death so much that they cling to these stories while not truly believing in them. If they really believed that which they profess, they would welcome the chance to go to heaven and be with their god.
PS: If you click on the picture, you can see what the text says.
Wednesday, 18 March 2009
How many times have theists claimed that they can sense god? Apart from the obvious problems that come with this, one that is not very often discussed is what if they actually are sensing something supernatural?
So, let's say that something supernatural is talking to people, how do they know which supernatural entity it is? Many Xians believe that Satan is a supernatural being that tricks people in order to damn their souls. Most Xians, however, would claim that they know how to tell Satan apart from god, but I find this claim to be highly suspect. If Satan does have supernatural powers, how would one know that Satan can not accurately represent god enough to fool the believer? Perhaps Satan is leading all Xians away from the one true god, who happens to be Thor or Allah or any other god. Yet, these Xians in their smug, self-righteousness never even consider that they might be wrong about their interpretations of who or what is speaking to them.
Friday, 13 March 2009
"How dare you claim that we are just animals! god made us special!"
Although I don't understand why so many creationists have this sort of reaction to evolution, as I see no reason to take offense to reality or the idea that we are indeed animals. There's nothing inherently wrong with being evolutionarily related to all the other lifeforms on this planet, nor does it take away from us as humans.
Still, how do they deny that every study we do of other animals seems to show that the differences between us are less than we thought? For instance, monkeys floss and teach their young to do the same. Actually, the idea that they teach their young is a huge find, that shows just how close we actually are to our closest cousins.
Thursday, 12 March 2009
Being sick this whole entire week, I haven't wanted to post anything, because I wasn't sure I could write something that was coherent. But, it got me to thinking about some of the claims of the intelligent design advocates that claim that we were designed by a master designer. Some of them argue, for instance, that the eye is exquisitely designed and perfectly so - which, incidentally ignores some pertinent facts about the eye, but whatever.
So, when we get sick, what does that mean about our design? As I am acutely aware of right now, having our core temperature rise above its normal value by as little as a few tenths of a degree can cause some serious issues - headaches, nausea, etc. Knowing that bacteria and viruses can invade our designed bodies and increase our temperature, a good designer might try to keep this from happening or design a system that would not allow it to cause so much distress. There's no doubt that god would know this and would have had the ability to design us to avoid these issues.
Now, asserting that we were designed does not necessarily mean the design was perfect, which some ID advocates do hold to. But, when applied to god, what does this mean? It means that god intentionally gave us a sub-optimal design. god intentionally created something that was imperfect. There's some theological issues with that for sure. This also starts to get into murky territory for the theist when we start to talk about the fact that god was ensuring suffering for humans which destroys god's claim to omni-benevolence.
Wednesday, 4 March 2009
While perusing another atheist blog, I came across a good comment by the blog owner, PhillyChief, which I have partially quoted below (I'm only quoting the relevant portion to what I want to talk about today):
...The horrors we see today in Islam were once true of Christianity, the stoning, torturing and so forth of blasphemers and non-believers. Did the Bible change? No. Did society? Certainly. At one time the Bible was used to justify white supremacy, slavery, imperialism, and denial of women equal rights. Again, did the Bible change? No.
The obvious Xian rejoinder to this is that this is a strength of the Bible, that it is truth and therefore does not need to change. It is us that need to change in order to come more in alignment with what the Bible says. There are multiple problems with this however.
First, the obvious response is to ask why god couldn't be more clear from the beginning. Imagine the amount of suffering that would have been avoided had people been able to read the Bible and discern right from the start that slavery is bad, that denial of equal rights to women or anyone else is bad, etc. Simply by writing a better book, god could have spared a lot of people from needless suffering and injustice.
Second, this is an obvious capitulation to the fact that morality evolves over time and within society. Apart from the special pleading and post-hoc reasoning in going back and asserting that our current understanding of morality is what the Bible obviously intended, we are left with a situation where we determine our own morals as a society and then input it back to the Bible. IOW, the Bible becomes a superfluous document and we are left to fend for ourselves and develop our own moral codes. There's no longer any reason to hold the Bible up as a moral guideline, since even if it did come from god and holds absolute and absolutely good morality, we as a society are still left to figure out for ourselves what is or is not moral.
Once again, we see the Xian caught in a bad spot. It's undeniable that our morals have changed over time, while the Bible hasn't (minus copying and textual errors that we know have propagated over time). The logical conclusions of this are not so good for the Xian.
Tuesday, 3 March 2009
If any of you reading this are familiar with previous commenters on this blog, you may remember someone by the name of "Bud," who has commented here in the past. Bud recently left a new comment after a long lay-off on my god vs. the Unicorns post. It wasn't extremely long, but as with many creationist comments, it is like a brick through a window in that it creates a huge mess and take a lot more words to clean up all the misperceptions and errors in it. So, I've taken the liberty of making a post out of a point by point response to Bud's brick through the window. It's not anything we haven't all seen before, and warning it's long.
you ask for some evidence of God and His creation, well i would like to examine the evidence for evolution first, if that is ok.
I suppose so, but I hope you aren't going to make a god of the gaps argument...
now we have to consider that there is only 2 possible explanations for the existence of the universe:
it created itself
it was created.
Why do I have to consider that, considering that it's a false dichotomy? There are other options out there, including that this universe is an off-shoot of another universe (many worlds hypothesis) that arose from purely natural means (natural to the other universe and maybe ours), that the universe was always there but that we didn't have a representation for time (remember, the laws of physics break down at the singularity), etc. So, I'm sorry, but your assertion doesn't hold weight, and this has nothing to do with evolution.
scientists, like richard dawkins, admit at one time there was nothing.
There is not a single cosmological model of the origin of the universe that starts with "nothing." Please get your facts straight.
for just one protein to be created (assuming there is something to create it from, since the odds are approximately 1 x 10 to the 40,000th power against it. ( btw 1 x 10 to the 50th power is the longest odds ever observed.)
Yeah, those are long odds, and not at all a realistic interpretation of the latest scientific findings. This is a common error among creationists, however. The odds you cite are estimated, ballpark odds for an event that no one is claiming happened, namely the formation of complex molecules ex nihilo. In reality, what happened was the formation of easier molecules (we happen to know that amino acids can and do self-assemble from the Miller/Urey experiments and the subsequent experiments done based on the original) and that these building blocks then formed into proteins and cells. So, yeah, the odds of a cell simply spontaneously forming from nothing are pretty astronomical, but no one actually posits that that is what happened. Oh, and this still isn't evolution you're talking about.
every cellular mutation causes a loss of information stored in the DNA.
This is trivially false. For example, suppose a point mutation causes a T to change to a G in the genetic code. Would you say that's a loss of information? Now suppose that the G mutates back to a T. Is that a further loss in the information? Yet, this is what you are arguing. It's nonsense. Not only that, but you are relying on conflating definitions of "information." Please also see here:
Mutations and Information
skipping millions of necessary and impossible mutations, we come to humans.
So, you are finally going to talk about evolution?
the eyes alone would have taken over 250 million years to form, according to scientists.
This is actually false, as new studies have shown that eyes have evolved multiple times in shorter timeframes, but even if it were, so what? Life has been around for 4.5 bn years, give or take.
not to mention the nose, legs, arms, mind, and reproductive organs.
I fail to see what your point is. Evolution is a process that has been ongoing for billions of years, thus giving ample time for all the emergent features we see today to have evolved. Are you perhaps arguing that it took X number of years for one feature and Y for another, and so on, and that if you add up all those numbers it is an obscenely large number? This would not make sense, however, as all features are all evolving at the same time.
here is another problem, how did this undirected mutation get the direction to create the extremely complex reproductive system of both genders without guidance?
"Guidance" comes from natural selection. When undirected mutations occur, those that are beneficial are selected and outpace those that are not. This is elementary. Also, sexual selection has been around for a long time. And, it's obvious why it would be a good idea. There much bacteria in your body that can lead to illness and death that you constantly have to fight off. Given a set of genes from 2 parents, the bacteria that they pass you are not accustomed to your genetic makeup and give you a head start in the arms race that is taking place inside your body.
the "self creation" theory is proven by scientists who understand the laws of science, to be impossible.
I would say that your strawman version of what you think scientists say is pretty far fetched.
this takes more faith to believe than i am capable of, so i will stick to the belief that there must be a creator.
I'm so disappointed since you went the route of god of the gaps after all. You didn't present any positive evidence for your god, you simply asserted that evolution couldn't a done it, so god musta done it. This may have worked had you accurately presented a true dichotomy, but you didn't. In fact, you made quite a few false dichotomies in there that I simply haven't pointed out, like the implicit assertion that it's either evolution or god.
note: the idea of the universe being eternal is discounted because it would require no molecular movement, creating a virtual heat death.
Note: the laws of physics break down at the singularity level so we can't really say what was there "before" time, which is a bit meaningless anyway, since "before" time can't be measured by any means that we currently have.
please note that i may a little flippant, but, out of respect, i am not being sarcastic.
Please note that I am also not being disrespectful in pointing out your errors and misperceptions. But, I do suggest that you actually look some of this stuff up in a credible source.