Monday, 31 August 2009

Do you Have Enough Faith?

Many apologetics have sprung up to explain away the passages in the Bible that declare that those who pray will get what they ask for - in light of the fact that this seems to not be demonstrably true. In a previous post I give the passages in question and I took on the apologetic excuse that god only answers prayers that are concurrent with his will. There are other excuses though, and one commenter continually decided to try and harp on one (even though I explicitly stated that the OP was about a different argument). I've also previously argued against other apologetics, like the argument that prayers are answered, but on god's timeline and that Jesus was only empowering the specific people he spoke to (although the latter one does not deal with this verse specifically, it's good enough for the purpose of dispelling any notions that the issue has been dealt with).

Never-the-less, I decided that perhaps I should deal with the others. So, this post will focus on the apologetic tactic of trying to interpret the phrase, "If ye have faith." This argument from the apologist focuses on the conditional phrase that is uttered in Matthew 21:21
Matthew 21:21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. 22:22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

So, the obvious tactic here is to claim that Jesus was not incorrect, and that those prayers that are not answered are coming from people who don't have faith - which is generally interpreted to be not having enough faith or not having the right kind of faith. How convenient - and how very post hoc. This allows the Xian to claim after the fact that an "answered" prayer fit the description and a "non-answered" prayer did not. It's the same as painting a bulls-eye around an arrow that has already been shot.

Yet, it still falls apart under investigation, as no Xians claim to have 100% success rate for prayer (that I know of at least). If any do claim this, then we only need to have them pray for something immediate (like the regrowth of an amputated arm for instance) to test and see if this person can validate their success rate claim. Invariably it will fail.

Also, this is nothing more than the no true Scotsman fallacy, writ large. I can imagine someone saying, "True Xians have their prayers answered, so if a prayer is not answered, then the Xian in question is not a true Xian." It's fallacious though, no matter how you slice it. Once again, we see apologetics that fail to answer the objections brought forth.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

The pope is an Idiot

Apparently, the pope is now saying that atheists are to blame for global warming. Well, to be fair, I'm not even sure he believes in global warming, and he never actually says those words. He simply blames atheists for ruining the Earth. Remember, this is the same guy who also claimed that condoms are making the AIDS epidemic worse in Africa.

Now, apparently, atheists are greedy people who are destroying the Earth because we're all a bunch of nihilists...or something. I think the rebuttal in the second paragraph is pretty good:
Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, commented: “This is rich coming from the leader of an organisation that has plundered the world to enrich itself. As he sits in his golden palaces, surrounded by unimaginable luxury and material wealth, he lectures the rest of us about restraint and greed. We have nothing to learn about environmentalism from this hypocrite.”

I mean, is the pope really that idiotic as to not know that the Bible gives dominion over the Earth to humans to do with as we please? That most Xians believe that we don't have the ability to destroy god's favored creation? That the Bible has been and still is used to justify the raping of the Earth and its resources and that religious people tend to be the ones most likely to deny that climate change is happening?

Thursday, 27 August 2009

There was a recent comment on Robert's blog defending the actions of those who get overly sensitive and moan and complain about the existence of atheists. In the comment, the Xian accuses atheists of condoning eternal damnation.

Excuse me? Which atheists have ever said that the concept of hell is not only real, but have condoned it? Which atheists say that if god sends people to hell, then it's a good thing?

On the contrary, it is Xians who defend this action. It is Xians who claim that god sending people to hell is good and righteous. It is Xians that defend the abhorrent torture that god inflicts on people that aren't worthy enough of bestowing his grace upon. Atheists aren't condoning torture, Xians are - every time they defend the actions of their maniacal, ruthless, sadistic god.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Prayer vs. god's Will

The Bible claims in a few places that whatever one prays for, god will answer that prayer. For example:
Matthew 21:21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. 22:22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

Or maybe this one (although one could argue that it's specifically talking about asking for god to show himself, but that's a bad argument to make since it's demonstrably not true):
Luke 11:9 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11 If a son asks for bread[d] from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Or maybe this one does it for you:
Matthew 17:20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

For the Xian, these passages are troublesome for the obvious reason that prayer is rather ineffective. It is obviously not true that whatever one asks for, one receives. So, they have to conjure up reasons for why this is not so. I want to focus on one of those reasons, which is the idea that god only does what is according to his will, so the prayer must be in accord with god's will for it to be carried out.

And, in response to that, I have to say that it's a rather spectacularly bad argument.

First, the text does not give mention that what one prays for must be in accordance with god's will. Secondly, having to pray for things that god is going to do anyway completely negates the idea that prayer does anything at all. If the apologist is right, then prayer is completely ineffective, since one must first ask for something that was going to happen anyway, since it was part of god's will. The prayer has no effect since everything that happens was always a part of god's will or it wasn't. So, in trying to save the efficacy of prayer, the apologist has thrown it out the window and hoped that no one would notice. But, drastic measures must be taken when your beliefs do not agree with reality I suppose.

What is Heaven?

So, what is heaven? Are there any Xians who would like to step up and lay out a definition for it that makes sense? How is eternal bliss possible? How can one be eternally blissful while others are suffering in hell? How is it possible for one to retain one's free will (which is impossible anyway if god is omni-max) and there be no evil, yet that's not possible on Earth?

The concept of heaven is simply not well thought out. The extent of the thinking has generally been on the order of simply gaining some sort of reward for currying god's favor, and as a counter point to hell. Hell, on the other hand, has been well imagined by various authors and laypeople alike, but not so with heaven. This is because no conception of heaven makes sense. Maybe some theists here can prove me wrong?

Friday, 21 August 2009

Drunken Monkeys

I'm back, but not fully, so I thought that I would share an interesting video on monkeys and their drinking habits. Notice how alike they are to humans, especially the percentages of binge drinkers, moderate drinkers, and teetotalers.

I also wanted to share part of an essay by Sam Harris, wherein he speaks about animal behavior:

And just how widespread must “glimmerings” of morality be among other animals before [Francis] Collins—who, after all, knows a thing or two about genes—begins to wonder whether our moral sense has evolutionary precursors in the natural world? What if mice showed greater distress at the suffering of familiar mice than unfamiliar ones? (They do.[11]) What if monkeys will starve themselves to prevent their cage-mates from receiving painful shocks? (They will.[12]) What if chimps have a demonstrable sense of fairness when receiving food rewards? (They might.[13]) Wouldn’t these be precisely the sorts of findings one would expect if our morality were the product of evolution?


11 Langford DJ, Crager SE, Shehzad Z, Smith SB, Sotocinal SG, et al. (2006) Social modulation of pain as evidence for empathy in mice. Science 312: 1967-1970. ↩

12 Masserman JH, Wechkin S, Terris W (1964) “Altruistic” Behavior in Rhesus Monkeys. Am J Psychiatry 121: 584-585. ↩

13 Our picture of chimp notions of fairness is somewhat muddled. There is no question that they notice inequity, but they do not seem to care if they profit from it. Brosnan SF (2008) How primates (including us!) respond to inequity. Adv Health Econ Health Serv Res 20: 99-124. Jensen K, Call J, Tomasello M (2007) Chimpanzees are rational maximizers in an ultimatum game. Science 318: 107-109. Jensen K, Hare B, Call J, Tomasello M (2006) What’s in it for me? Self-regard precludes altruism and spite in chimpanzees. Proc Biol Sci 273: 1013-1021. Silk JB, Brosnan SF, Vonk J, Henrich J, Povinelli DJ, et al. (2005) Chimpanzees are indifferent to the welfare of unrelated group members. Nature 437: 1357-1359. Brosnan SF, Schiff HC, de Waal FB (2005) Tolerance for inequity may increase with social closeness in chimpanzees. Proc Biol Sci 272: 253-258.

Monday, 17 August 2009


Due to a medical emergency, I won't be able to post for a few days. Hopefully I'll be back soon to point out more problems with theism and Xianity.

Friday, 14 August 2009


Xians are constantly amazed that we don't believe in their gods, further they are similarly amazed that we don't worship their god. Color me amazed that anyone would worship such a god as theirs. This is a god that has killed almost all of humanity simply because he couldn't think of a better way to make them behave. This is a god that sends people to hell for eternal torment and torture simply because he can't think of a better way to punish people for finite crimes or a better way to handle their souls after they die. This is a god that visit vile plagues upon people with pestilence and death simply because he needs to show off.

And, what does the Xian apologist do by defending this god? The Xian apologist is basically defending genocide, rape, murder, torture, etc. How can people actually defend this type of behavior? How can people provide shelter to an entity that would engage in this type of behavior? How can people actually decide that we should look up to this type of behavior with reverence and worship it?

I think most Xians are better than that, and I think that most Xians should really look at the holy book they hold with such reverence. They should understand that defending this god is defending a monster that visits the worst crimes imaginable upon the people that he supposedly loves. Even if this god did create us all, it doesn't make it right, as might does not make right. So, this is an open call to all Xians. Stop. Stop defending torture. Stop defending genocide. Stop defending murder. Start defending humans and humanity.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

A Rather Fragile Ego

Dr. Dembski's Course at SWBTS

AP410 This is the undegrad course. You have three things to do: (1) take the final exam (worth 40% of your grade); (2) write a 3,000-word essay on the theological significance of intelligent design (worth 40% of your grade); (3) provide at least 10 posts defending ID that you’ve made on “hostile” websites, the posts totalling 2,000 words, along with the URLs (i.e., web links) to each post (worth 20% of your grade).

AP510 This is the masters course. You have four things to do: (1) take the final exam (worth 30% of your grade); (2) write a 1,500- to 2,000-word critical review of Francis Collins’s The Language of God -- for instructions, see below (20% of your grade); (3) write a 3,000-word essay on the theological significance of intelligent design (worth 30% of your grade); (4) provide at least 10 posts defending ID that you’ve made on “hostile” websites, the posts totalling 3,000 words, along with the URLs (i.e., web links) to each post (worth 20% of your grade).

AP810 This is the D.Min. course. You have four things to do: (1) take the final exam (worth 30% of your grade); (2) write a 1,500- to 2,000-word critical review of Francis Collins’s The Language of God -- for instructions, see below (20% of your grade); (3) write a 3,000-word essay on the theological significance of intelligent design (worth 30% of your grade); (4) develop a Sunday-school lesson plan based on the book Understanding Intelligent Design (worth 20% of your grade).

This is simply pathetic. Many creationists claim that students are indoctrinated with evolution, yet here, we can clearly see what indoctrination is about. Dembski is basing grades on whether the students go and proselytize his theological ideas on "hostile" websites. Are you kidding me? And, does anyone doubt that the "theological significance of intelligent design" better be that it's the greatest thing since sliced bread and that when he asks for a critical book review what he means is that he wants them to be critical of Collins? (Note: I'm no fan of Collins, but to basically instruct your students to pan the guy is pretty low.)

Funny thing is that at SWBTS, Dembski is pretty likely to end up having students that are devotees of Answers in Genesis which as an organization is lukewarm to ID. But, the real question is, is Dembski's ego so fragile that he has to force his students to suck up to him like that? I think the answer is, yes.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Preferential Treatment

Today I saw a phenomenon that I'm sure many of you have seen as well. Passing by a church, there were tons of cars illegally parked on the street, choking down traffic and making it more dangerous to drive that particular street. Except, on Sunday, it's not illegal. Here, we have the city that I live in changing the rules specifically for churches and giving preferential treatment.

Of course, it's not just my city, but it happens all over the country. Cities and towns, counties and districts, parishes, etc. - they all give special treatment to churches to facilitate parking in illegal manners simply because it is Sunday. In Washington DC, for instance, it gets so bad that cars completely block roads, and the city turns a blind eye. This is special treatment, and it violates the separation of church and state, because cities would not be so kind to other, non-religious or secular groups wanting the same treatment.

The kicker of it is that this particular church is surrounded by a very large lot of land that is beautifully manicured. In fact, they could put a parking lot on their land that would house most of the cars, at least. Those cars could also park legally on side streets or in a public lot that is only 2 blocks away or so. There are options besides creating a more dangerous road for other drivers and giving special treatment to a specific group from a specific religion.

Thursday, 6 August 2009


I've noticed a certain trend amongst many Xians that debate, and that is to simply disregard anything that contradicts their view and/or assert the opposite and claim that they are right by default. For instance, if one claims the Bible has contradictions, they simply claim it does not and nothing you do can counter that. If you show them the evidence for evolution, they simply claim that what they believe is true because it's true and your evidence doesn't count for anything.

I attribute this to a weird belief that one's beliefs are more important and more compelling than reality or real world data. If real world data conflicts with their beliefs, they simply discard the data. They hold their beliefs up to be the best data that there is. Their beliefs are incontrovertible, they are true no matter what, etc.

Yet, reality does not operate that way. It doesn't matter how hard you believe that you can breathe in space unaided, it ain't gonna happen. It doesn't matter how hard you believe you can fly unaided like a bird, it ain't gonna happen. I think most theists accept these two facts. So, why does the theist believe that this doesn't hold when it comes to their personal god beliefs? That, I don't know. I wish I did. Anyone have any hypotheses?

Tuesday, 4 August 2009


  /ˈtɛrəˌrɪzəm/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [ter-uh-riz-uhm] Show IPA

1. the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.
2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.
3. a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.

Let's see, god tells us to obey or we will be tortured for eternity. Check. He tells his followers to go out and threaten others in his name. Check. Some even go so far as to claim that they do not need to follow the government of this land as they follow only god. Check.

god is a terrorist and Xianity could be classified a terrorist movement. Discuss.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

It's Not Easy Being Perfect

Supposedly, god is perfect as well as being omni-max. I'd like to take a look today at what that means logically.

If god is perfect, then god can not err. god is completely incapable of choosing something that is not the absolute best choice. Given all the parameters and scale (down to the infinitesimally small) god can always find a way to distinguish between 2 different choices, and therefore must always choose the better one in order to be perfect.

But, there's a problem with this, in that it reduces god to a robot that only has one course of action at any and all times. god really has no freedom to choose anything but that which is perfect. IOW, god would have no free will. The apologists will be quick to tell us, however, that free will is a good thing (which is why god wants us to have it so badly, even though it causes so much suffering). Yet, if god is perfect, god is denied something that is good. Therefore, god is not perfect in that sense and the concept of perfection is self-contradictory.

So, how does this relate to my last post on god choosing his omni-max powers? The need to be perfect would preclude the ability for god to forgo any of his omni-max powers. Further, the need to be perfect would not enable god to willing forget things that would cause harm in others, even if one could argue that it doesn't violate omni-benevolence. This destroys any apologist's attempt to solve any omni-max contradictions by claiming that god could choose not to exercise his powers. If god is choosing not to exercise his powers and it is leading to a less than perfect situation, then god has chosen to do something that violates his perfection, making him less than perfect.

In summary, what we find is that the concept of the perfect, omni-max god is inherently self-contradictory, and so is any faith that is based on it.