Sunday, December 20, 2009
In 1991 around 75% of the population wrote Christian on their census forms, while a mere 20% chose no religion. In 1996 these numbers went to 68% and 28% respectively, 2001 went to 60% and 32%. The latest census was in 2006 and showed around 55% Christian and 38% non-religious. This trend towards irreligion extends further than New Zealand and into virtually every single country on the earth. Our next census should come in 2011 and I'll be excited to tick the No Religion box, and then more excited still to see the census data when it is published.
December 25 was the day the Romans celebrated the rebirth of Sol Invictus, the Sun God, and also the day which the winter solstice was celebrated.
Christmas trees are an exceptional example of pagan tradition, so exceptional that they even get a mention in the old testament.
2 This is what the LORD says:
"Do not learn the ways of the nations
or be terrified by signs in the sky,
though the nations are terrified by them.
3 For the customs of the peoples are worthless;
they cut a tree out of the forest,
and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.
4 They adorn it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so it will not totter.
5 Like a scarecrow in a melon patch,
their idols cannot speak;
they must be carried
because they cannot walk.
Do not fear them;
they can do no harm
nor can they do any good."
The concept of Santa comes from Scandinavian paganism, Odin the god of thunder travels the skies during the winter solstice deciding who would die and who would live. The other part comes from some traditional stories of St. Nicholas where the person who would go down the chimneys was not St. Nick himself, but rather a demon he had enslaved. It is no coincidence that Santa is an anagram of Satan. This merging of Pagan imagery and tradition and christian folklore is where we get our modern day perception of what the devil looks like. Odin would often wear a helmet with horns and wield a trident.
The Yule log, was burned during the winter solstice, which was sometimes referred to by the germanic people as Yule. The yule log was a phallic shaped log burned (along with people sometimes) in worship of the scandinavian god of fertility, Yule. I don't know anyone who actually burns a yule log at christmas but the tradition is kept alive with our "Yuletide" songs and so on. This ritual was part of a 12 day process where people, yule logs and other junk were burned, and finished on december 25th. Does this ring any bells? The 12 days of christmas perhaps?
Decking the halls with holly was a pagan tradition to ward off evil spirits. The wiccans tied holly in wreaths and wore them on their heads, and was said to amplify the power of the holly.
Mistletoe was used by druids and wiccans in their spells to open a woman up to be exploited sexually.
So, if you're not a Christian and feel overwhelmed by the Christmas spirit because of it's overtly Christian overtones, fear no more, we can celebrate virtually every element of Christmas without thinking about Christianity, because the Christians stole them off the pagans in the first place.
Friday, December 4, 2009
When I was younger I was as guilty as any of this bigotry, not because anyone taught me to be, but because I read it in the Bible. I was probably still in primary school the first time I read the book of Romans in the new testament, and before I had even finished the first chapter this verse shows up. Romans 1:27 - "In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion." This is not taken out of context or from a strange translation of the Bible, it is exactly as you read it from the New International Version. Some other translations put it even more harshly than that. This is not an isolated incident in the Bible of this kind of bigotry, in fact it stems all the way back to the pentateuch, where homosexuality is called an abomination, and by mosaic law homosexuals must be stoned to death.
Were it not for this intolerant hatred contained in the Bible that I read as a child, I probably would have spent my teenage years with a rather different set of moral values. Perhaps I would have adopted a set of values closer to my current ones. Or perhaps I would have been more influenced by the teachings attributed to Jesus in the Gospels, with things like 'Let him who goes without sin cast the first stone' and other things like that. I imagine that most of the people of the anti-gay movement would have a similar experience would it not have been for the bigotry taught to them by the Bible. I cannot for the life of me think of any other reason on earth why some people would be so intolerant towards another human being. There certainly aren't any logical, rational reasons for people to hate gays. We live in an overpopulated world, and the fact that two men, or two women cannot reproduce (without modern methods of fertilization) really doesn't matter.
That leads me to my next point, infertility. One of the many appalling arguments against gay marriage commonly used by conservatives is that they cannot reproduce. One must then ask the question about infertile straight people, If gay people aren't allowed to get married purely because they cannot reproduce then the same reasoning must be applied to infertile couples. As you can see this argument falls so short of its intended goal that I feel pity rather than disdain for its supporters.
Every human being has rights, whether Jew, muslim, black, white, gay, straight or anything else. One thing you do not have the right to do though, is to deny others their rights.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
I'm not sure what exactly to think of this group of people, do I call them gullible? or stupid? or just simple naive? The people I'm talking about this time are the believers in the paranormal, in psychics, tarot card readers, ghosts etcetera. A Gallup poll on June 8 2001 showed an increase in paranormal belief since the last poll on the subject which was in 1990. A few interesting observations from the poll were that women were more likely to believe in communication with the dead and ghosts, while men were more likely to believe that aliens have visited the earth. Younger people (18-29) were more likely to believe in haunted houses and witchcraft, while older people (29+) were more likely to believe in demon possession. An almost obvious observation from the poll was that people with higher education (university) are far less likely to believe in any paranormal claims.
The poll respondents were asked questions of whether they believed in several specific paranormal claims. I am going to put the percentage of people who responded saying they believed in each claim in brackets. ESP (50%), Haunted Houses (42%), Possession by the Devil (41%), Ghosts and spirits (38%), Telepathy (36%), Extraterrestrial contact, (33%), Clairvoyance (32%), Talking to the dead (28%), Astrology (28%), Witches (26%), Reincarnation (25%) and Channeling (15%).
An important fact to note is that this poll was conducted in the USA, where over 70% of the population claim to be of the Christian faith. Regardless of their faith, these numbers are disturbingly high for any population, let alone a first world country.
The thing I find most curious about belief in the paranormal is that not only do they have absolutely no evidence to back up their claims, but many of them have been debunked and refuted so many times that I almost feel embarrassed for anyone who professes to believe in them. At TAM 2009 (The Amazing Meeting, a skeptics convention) they offered a million dollars to anyone who could prove they had any psychic power and pass a double blind test. A woman by the name of Connie Sonne, a self professed psychic accepted the challenge and attended TAM 2009 to take the psychic test. Needless to say she failed miserably, and she had a success rate of 0%............... That's right, she failed epically. You can watch the entire test on Youtube Here.
Not surprisingly, the James Randi Educational Foundation (the people who run TAM) get a fairly small number of people accepting the Million Dollar Challenge, I suspect most psychics are just con artists and are knowingly deceiving people, and the people like Connie Sonne who take the challenge and fail as miserably as she did are deceived themselves.
With mounting evidence against paranormal claims and ZERO evidence supporting them, why does paranormal belief still have such a major grasp on so many people? In a book I read lately by Michael Shermer called 'Why People Believe Weird Things' he described a confrontation he had with a psychic who ran a psychic 'school' teaching people to learn ESP (Extra Sensory Perception). The teacher at the school had absolutely no knowledge of basic probability and when a student would guess more answers to the ESP test than you would statistically expect the teacher took that as evidence that the student was gifted with psychic ability. Never mind the fact that if another test was taken that same student may get less answers than you would statistically expect by random guessing. This teacher was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that ESP was real. This is where thinking goes wrong with these people, they accept non-evidence as evidence and push evidence against their beliefs to the side. Reminds me of this picture of three chimpanzees, and a common saying "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil", which is exactly what these people do in regards to evidence against their beliefs. They have their minds made up, and no evidence to the contrary will change them. This type of stubborn belief is intellectually bankrupt and dishonest.
Here is the picture I was talking about.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Every person on this planet (the civilised part) trusts science. I'll take that statement further and say that every person trusts science with their life in fact. Why then do some people after trusting science with their life and using modern luxuries that would not exist without science, turn around and bash science when it comes to matters that concern their faith? Some religious people have no qualms with science at all, but there is a very broad spectrum of people that fall under the label 'religious' and they range from liberal intelligent people all the way to the other side of ignorant creationists. Creationists in particular suffer from this strange phenomenon more than all others, especially the young-earthers. They trust science with their life and with their technology, but when it comes to: astronomy, biology, quantum physics, geology, palaeontology, chemistry, physics... and the list goes on, they obviously do not trust science because every single field of science refutes their position on the age of the earth or some other aspect of their creation myth.
I myself was in this mindset when I was a creationist, but the cognitive dissonance of holding such a position eventually allowed me to change my mind about some things.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Genocide of Amalek: Deuteronomy 25:19; 1 Samuel 15; Global Genocide: "All flesh died that moved upon the earth." Genesis 7; Genocide of the Canaanites: "And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities." Numbers 21:3.
I have just mentioned a mere 3 of probably around 100 or more acts of genocide in the bible. Now I've heard every excuse under the sun from Christians trying to explain how these genocides are justified. The most common excuse is probably "Oh, but it was okay back in that culture". The people who use this as a justification for genocide probably do not realise how stupid that sounds. Genocide is never acceptable, ever. It doesn't matter if it was a different culture in a different age that was exterminated, because genocide is never okay. You can not tell me one day that biblical genocide is okay because it was a different culture, and then go and tell me that same book that glorifies mass-murder is relevant today.
The second most common excuse is equally pathetic and it is the one that says "Oh but those people were evil and deserved to die". There are a dozen things wrong with this excuse and I'll try my best to cover them. First off, you have no idea that they were 'evil' people. Secondly, the book that says they were evil was written by the same people that conquered and killed those people. Do you really think that the Israelites would go and slaughter an entire nation of people, and then write about the genocide in their holy book by saying "they were righteous people who deserved to live"? Another problem with the 'evil' excuse is that children and infants were brutally murdered along with all the adults. Do you really think that an infant can be so evil that it does not deserve life?
The last excuse is probably the most contemptible because it shows the proponents complete lack of conscience and demonstrates that they have no critical thinking skills. This is the excuse that says "Anything that god commands is morally right, because it is god that said it, therefore the genocides in the Bible are justified." By admitting that god committed and commanded genocide you are accepting that the god of the bible is a murderous tyrant. A murderous tyrant is not worthy of worship or praise of any kind. A murderous tyrant who commits multiple genocides and then tells other people that they are evil and do not deserve to live is a hypocrite. A murderous tyrant who exterminates entire nations on a regular basis and then gloats about how righteous, holy, just, good and loving he is, is only worthy of contempt and hatred.
Genocide is never acceptable, EVER.
This is why I find your religion so despicable, and why I find your notion god to be so absurd that it baffles me when you continue to trot out these half-baked justifications for the most horrific crime one can commit, genocide. I challenge every Christian that reads this to give a reason why they think genocide is okay or to stop defending it all together.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Back to the 'prophecy'....
The verse from Isaiah that Matthew quoted was Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
As I already pointed out virgin is a mistranslation of the hebrew as a result of the Hellenic pagan influence on the Septuagint, but besides the mistranslation this verse was taken grossly out of context by none other than the author of Matthew himself. Isaiah refers specifically to when and where this prophecy happened, he was speaking to King Ahaz about current events telling him that Syria and Ephraim would not go to war with him. Isaiah was telling Ahaz that a woman who is currently a virgin would soon become pregnant (thus no longer being a virgin) and when this happens political tensions will cease. It is worthy to note that the prophecy never came true, and the wars did occur. So not only is the doctrine of virgin birth based on a mistranslation, but it is also based on a completely unrelated prophecy that never even came true.
The virgin birth of Jesus is based on a mistranslated false prophecy.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Friday, November 6, 2009
To put it bluntly, hell is horrendously horrific. The belief that a being known as god, loves people and condemns many to burn forever in an unending flame shocks me to my core. Many Christians believe that god is omnipotent and can know future events before they happen, we'll ignore the omni-max logical contradictions and focus on the ethical issues for now. You may have heard it said that 'why would a loving god create someone knowing they would go to hell?' and to answer that, a loving god wouldn't send anyone to hell to begin with. It is quite frankly immoral and unethical to torture anyone at all, let alone for eternity.
There are many problems with the concept of hell, one being that Jewish theology does not believe in hell as the Christians conceive it. Hell in Jewish tradition was known as Sheol, which is viewed as the resting place for ALL of the dead, the good and the bad. In fact believe in the afterlife didn't arise until quite late in the history of Judaism. Within Judaism today there are many divergent views on the afterlife, ranging from no afterlife to concepts of heaven which is sometimes referred to as Olam Ha-Ba.
Another problem is the ethical issue I have already raised. Is it right to torture for eternity? Is it right to torture at all? ever?
One serious problem in my mind is the schism of belief between Jesus' teachings on how to treat others and gods treatment of humans in the afterlife. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". Does that sound familiar? If god expects us to follow that rule, and then goes off and tortures people for eternity, he would be a hypocrite, a sadistic hypocrite at that.
On top of all of that, what I cannot fathom is how god would create humans (read: allow humans to evolve) with the ability to sin, write laws knowing that they would be broken by all (because they are impractical and moronic), then establish punishments for those 'sins' that end in eternal torment. It's not only that god would create humans knowing they would go to hell, it's like he created them so they would go to hell.
If you purchased a robot that occasionally went and murdered people and committed crimes, you wouldn't blame the robot, you would blame the programmer. Likewise, if humans break laws and kill people, (assuming we were intelligently designed lol) would you blame the person or the programmer? Many humans are genetically predisposed to certain activities, their brains are wired in certain ways. For example, some people are wired up to be analytical thinkers, some people are wired up to be homosexual, some people are wired up to be sociopathic killers, some people are wired up to be unquestioning followers, some people are wired up to be compulsive sex-addicts. Can you spot which of the previously mentioned 'wirings' will not result in punishment in hell? If you picked 'unquestioning follower' you were correct and you deserve a cookie (I'm not giving you one though, buy it yourself). All of the other wirings will land you in hell, which doesn't seem just to me. Just like it wasn't the robots fault that it committed crimes, it was the fault of the programmer, and in this case it is the fault of whatever caused them to be that way.
I applaud the more liberal christians who do not believe in the masochistic hell of the evangelicals for taking a step forward in ethics. Even the Jehovahs Witnesses do not believe in hell, they believe that the wicked are 'annihilated'. This detestable doctrine has been used by many gleeful fundy's to try and scare people into believing. Unfortunately for them, the only effect it has on most people is to pity their pathetic attempts at trodding all over other people. Among other things, this is one of the beliefs that simply has to go. It isn't even well supported in the bible, yet it is so widely held by fundamentalists and many other christians.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
The same analogy can be applied to living organisms. If they had been designed from scratch, by a good designer you wouldn't expect to find inexplicable compromises. On the other hand, if an organism had evolved, making the best out of what was availiable with small changes over time design flaws and compromises are not a problem at all.
Nature has many examples of these inherent 'design flaws' which not only are no problem at all for evolution to explain, but in fact are strong evidence for evolution in themselves.
Here is a list of a few 'design flaws' found in modern animals.
-The Human eye has a blind spot due to very poor design.
-The recurrent laryngeal nerve backtracks and makes a loop around the Aortic arch, in the case of the giraffe this results in an extra 20 feet of nerve that is produced for no reason.
- The human jaw is too small for our teeth, hence why many people have problems with wisdom teeth.
-Useless wings on flightless birds.
-The existence of the pharynx, used for breathing and eating, often leading to choking.
There are many more we know about, and no doubt many many more we havn't discovered yet. These 'design flaws' are strong evidence that evolution has occurred, and are very problematic for people who propose that life was created by an 'intelligent designer'. Their 'designer' should be relabelled as the 'inept designer' or the 'unintelligent designer' instead.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Lucky for us Google keeps a cache, so you can still read the article HERE.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
1.Macroevolution has never been observed
Until the creationist 'anti-evolution' movement started, there was no distinction between macro and micro evolution, and among scientists there still is no distinction. The reason for this is because evolution works by accumulating small successive mutations, and there is no natural limit to how far the mutations can go. 'Microevolution' accumulates into 'macroevolution', so what is the point in creating a false distinction between the two?
Macroevolution I suppose would refer to changes that go beyond the species level, more commonly known as speciation. We have observed speciation, where two lineages of the same species have evolved apart from one another to the point where they can no longer interbreed. If this is what creationists mean by macroevolution, then indeed we have observed it.
There are also transitional fossils that show us that macroevolution has indeed occurred. One notable example is the series of transitional fossils that show the evolution of the horse. We have a full fossil record of the evolution from three-toed ancestors to the one-toed horses we have today.
2.Apes don't give birth to humans
This misconception is propogated by people like Kent Hovind, who happens to be in prison for fraud, nevertheless his son Eric continues to spread his disingenuous nonsense on his behalf.
The funniest thing about this misconception is that it's a complete strawman, this isn't the way evolution works at all. In fact, if an ape were to give birth to a human today, it would discredit the theory of evolution completely. If this is really the kind of evidence that Ken Ham and Kent Hovind would accept as proof of evolution, then the creationists and the evolutionists would switch places. The creationists would say "An ape gave birth to a human, therefore evolution is true!" and the scientists would say the complete opposite "An ape gave birth to a human, therefore evolution is false."
As I mentioned in the first point, evolution occurs by accumulating small successive mutations/adaptations, we do not ever see large jumps like this, which makes this creationist idea seem all the more ridiculous.
3.Mutations do not produce new features
'New features' is a misleading term because every 'new feature' is rather a modification of an existing feature instead of something new altogether. Take for example bird wings, are modification of tetrapod dinosaurs 'arms', which were themselves modifications of what used to be pectoral fins in their water dwelling ancestors.
In 1988 a scientist called Richard Lenski started a long term evolution experiment with E-coli bacteria, an experiment that is still continuing today. Lenski and his team have indeed seen mutations produce what would have to be classified as new information to the bacteria, the methodology and results can be found in that wikipedia link for all who are interested.
This creationist claim that mutations do not produce new features has been debunked by people who actually do science, yet this myth still continues to be spread like the plague.
Friday, October 30, 2009
It confuses me because many Christians have already conceded that many of the biblical stories are allegorical or metaphorical, so why not genesis? In fact there is a particular breed of creationists known as old earth creationists, many proponents of the 'Intelligent Design' movement also fall under this category, who believe the Genesis account isn't meant to be taken completely literally, but still reject the fact of common descent.
Their position definitely isn't one supported by evidence, as every single fossil ever uncovered, every strand of DNA, and every living creature support evolution not special creation. Unquestioning faith seems to be the root of this issue, and for some creationists no amount of evidence or reason would ever convince them otherwise. What really irks me about creationism, is that most sophisticated theologians have already accepted the fact of common descent, and have adjusted their theology slightly to accommodate this, but this hasn't trickled down to the rest of the believers.
While I'm on the topic of why does it matter to creationists, I may as well ask myself the same question.
Why does it matter to me that evolution is true?
To put it simply, it doesn't matter to me at all, it's just a matter of fact. It matters as much to me as the fact that the grass is green is. If evolution was proved wrong (This will almost certainly never happen) I would no longer accept it.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Imagine you had lived your entire life without ever hearing anyone mention gods. Every other aspect of your life is exactly the same, you received the same education, lived in the same houses, you were born in the same hospital and so on.
You reach the age of 20, and you hear someone talking about their god. Can you imagine how ridiculous the concept would sound? That there is an eternal being that transcends time and space? Who is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent and omnibenevolent (which happen to contradict each other anyway)?
Bertrand Russell came up with a concept that is now known as Russell's teapot. The teapot was an analogy used to show that the person making the claim is the one who needs to present evidence for it's existence. Russell said that if someone were to make a claim that there was a teapot orbiting the sun between Earth and Mars, it would be up to them to provide the evidence for it's existence. It is not up to the non-believers of the teapot to prove that it doesn't exist.
To me, the notion of a teapot orbiting the sun is far less ridiculous that the concept of gods. I say this because we know teapots exist, we can see them, we can feel them, we can define them easily and not contradict each other. We also know that things orbit the sun. On the other hand, we do not know that gods exist, we can not see them, we can not feel them, we can not hear them, we can not define them without contradicting each other.
On that note, I'll leave you with a question to ponder.
Just what the heck is a god anyway?
Sunday, October 11, 2009
I'll start with the big question of god(s). I don't believe in any deities, you probably already knew this though. What many people don't seem to understand, is that disbelief is not a claim of having all knowledge. When it comes to the issue of belief in god, there are two separate axis, lets say the X axis is belief, and the Y axis is knowledge. On the far left of the X axis is Theism, on the far right is Atheism. Agnosticism is not a statement of belief, but a statement of knowledge. Agnostic is literally 'a'-'gnostic', where 'a' is the negative prefix and gnostic means possessing knowledge. So our Y axis is knowledge, with Gnosticism being on the top of the axis and Agnosticism being on the bottom. This is important to realise because Agnosticism is not some sort of 'middle ground' between Atheism and Theism, it's on an entirely separate axis.
I would place myself on the far bottom-right corner. Meaning that I do not believe in god(s) and I have no knowledge pertaining to god(s). This is where evidence comes in to play. There is no positive or negative evidence concerning deities. We have nothing that confirms or denies the existence of gods. The default position (or rational position) on a subject where there is neither positive or negative evidence is non-belief and I'll explain why.
If someone made an outlandish claim, that little green men are dragging the earth around the sun with a rocket-powered go-kart would you believe them? Most certainly not, as there is no supporting evidence. However we do have evidence concerning the actual causes of the phenomena that the outlandish claim was purporting to explain. We DO know why the earth orbits the sun.
This situation is very much like the situation with belief in gods, and in religion. For example, the Bible says that God created the earth in 6 days, and then has a genealogy from the first man all the way until Jesus (though the genealogies are contradictory and incomplete) which is where people get the idea that the earth is 6000 years old from. Whether or not you believe this story to be literal or not is besides the point because for years and years, it has been the status-quo among believers. Although we may not have evidence concerning the existence of god itself, we do have evidence concerning the biblical creation account. We DO know how old the earth is, we DO know where humans came from and we DO know what causes the phenomena attributed to god in the creation account.
So while we may not be able to prove or disprove the existence of gods, we can certainly determine the truthfulness of claims about the nature of god, the universe and everything. This is the main method of reasoning that caused me to become an atheist. I refuse to believe extraordinary claims without extraordinary evidence.
EDIT: Here is the graph I mentioned at the beginning
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
For one thing, it wasn't "missing" to begin with. 'Ardi' is one what we call Ardipithecus Ramidus. The first Ardipithecus Ramidus fossil was discovered in 1992, and was named in 1994. What was spectacular about Ardi and definitely worthy of a news article, was that she was a relatively complete skeleton. Most fossils that are found are fragmentary, and that is because the process of fossilisation is actually a very rare occurrence.
"Missing link" shows a misunderstanding of evolutionary processes, because every fossil that is found is transitional between one species and another, as I explained in my last post about common misconceptions about evolution.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
I'll start off with a definition of the word moral.
-AdjectiveNow that we know what we're discussing, how do we decide what is moral and what isn't? Religious groups often claim moral superiority, saying that absolute morality comes directly from their said deity. This is the first issue regarding morality that I will be addressing.
1. of, pertaining to, or concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong; ethical: moral attitudes.
Does absolute morality come from God?
In order for some absolute moral 'code' to come from some god, we must have some instruction from the said deity. Christians claim the bible, Muslims the Quran etc.. Leaving the issue of inspiration completely aside for the sake of argument we have some serious issues with using an outside source as a moral code. The first problem I see, is that no matter how comprehensive a holy book is on moral issues, it is never going to cover every moral dilemma. For example, the Bible says nothing about climate change; stem cell research; genetic engineering; pollution and many many other modern issues. The same applies to the Quran, nothing vaguely related to any of the previously mentioned issues arises in this holy book either. So if we can not derive morality on these issues from holy books, where do we get it from?
If I was to ask most religious people where they get their morality from, they would promptly reply 'God' or 'The Bible'. If I was to pose the question 'If god told you to kill your child would you do it?' and you replied 'no, god wouldn't ask for that', then you are not deriving your morality from god, but from some other source which you are not aware of. On the other hand, if you were to respond saying 'yes', then I believe you are amoral, and would kindly ask you to stay away from me.
So what is this elusive outside source of morality? It is quite simple. Most of our moral standards come from our culture, our interactions with others, from our upbringing, from our understanding of reciprocation. A lot of our morality derives from what is known today as the 'golden rule', "do to others as you would have them do to you". And no, Jesus didn't invent this concept. The golden rule arose (most likely independently) in most cultures across the globe, most of which predate Christianity, and either predate or were contemporary to Judaism.
So as to the claim of some religious people that you can't be moral without god, you are wrong. In fact the mere idea that you claim to be morally superior because you have a deity dictating to you what is right and wrong shows your complete lack of personal morals. If you were truly a moral person you wouldn't need an imaginary friend telling you that killing is wrong for you to realise this.
Friday, October 2, 2009
"Why People Believe Weird Things is not only an insightful portrait of our immense capacity for self-delusion but, ultimately, a celebration of the scientific spirit"
- from the back of the book
I only just started reading it and I still have plenty of assignments to get done for university but i'll write about it again when I finish it.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
If you weren't aware, in may this year NASA/ESA sent a bunch of astronauts up to work on the Hubble Space Telescope. The mission was 13 days longs and they replaced several vital parts of the telescope to hopefully give us a better view of the cosmos than we've ever had before.
Just this month, some of the first images sent to us from the upgraded Hubble were released.
This image I put at the top of the post has become known as the butterfly nebula, for obvious reasons. It used to be a star about five times the volume of our sun, but it exploded.
If you're interested in more pictures like this (in MUCH higher resolutions) with more detailed explanations of what is happening in them, go and visit Spacetelescope.org
I especially recommend it to you creationists out there.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
The Center for Inquiry will launch the first International Blasphemy Day on September 30, the anniversary of the 2005 publication of the Danish cartoons that so inflamed Muslims worldwide. Billed as a free speech event designed to oppose such things as a Muslim-sponsored U.N. resolution banning criticism of religion, the day has drawn the support of people like PZ Myers. Myers, a professor at the University of Minnesota known for intentionally desecrating a consecrated Host, says the day was established to "mock and insult religion without fear of murder, violence, and reprisal"; he wants every day to be Blasphemy Day.
An important day in my calendar for sure.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
1) If we are descended from apes, why are there still apes around?
Firstly, we are not descended from apes. Not apes as we know them today anyway. Humans and apes share a common ancestor. Our ancestors broke off from the ancestors that developed into the likes of chimpanzees around 3 million years ago. The oldest bipedal (walks on 2 legs) ape fossils we have are what we call Australopithecus afarensis. All the fossils we have later than this slowly develop more human-like qualities over successive generations, until we get to Homo sapiens today.
2) Chimpanzee's don't give birth to Humans, dogs don't give birth to cats Therefore evolution is wrong!
I can't recall the number of times I've heard this faux-argument against evolution. I don't think the people who use it really mean it, but it just shows that they havn't grasped the concept of what evolution really is, and the timescales that evolution works by.
Lets take Hamsters for example.
If you take a Hamster today, and follow that little critters lineage backward, you wouldn't notice the changes through each generation, but very slowly, those hamster ancestors would progressively look less and less like a Hamster and more and more like the common ancestor that Hamsters share with other rodents. The change is so gradual that you couldn't tell the difference from one generation to the next, but if you skipped lets say 50 generations minor differences would slowly start to creep in. When you take a larger jump, say 1000 generations, the differences would start to become more obvious.
This gradual process can be likened to a child growing up. If you see a child every day as they are growing up, you don't notice them getting older much at all, because it is so gradual. Lets say then, you live on the other side of the country to a child, and you only see them once a year, or even more, the changes between when you last saw them and how they look now are much larger. This is the same concept as evolution, but on a far smaller scale.
My example of the Hamster can be taken and put directly onto the Human evolution family tree.
If you take Australopithecus afarensis and follow it generation by generation forward, you wouldn't notice the changes, but when you jump several hundred thousand years, the change in things like skull size, brow size, the shape of the jaw, tooth size and shape become more obvious, and more human-like.
Monday, September 21, 2009
I was really impressed with how fast the book arrived. I ordered it at 10:30PM sunday night and it had arrived by the time I came home from class on monday afternoon.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
I was bored this afternoon, so I was browsing through AiG looking for amusing things (I know, it's sad and pretty lame of me) and I stumbled upon this video called 'What is the Best Evidence God Created'. I had high hopes that they were going to have some great piece of evidence that proves the creation myth true once and for all. The first minute or so of the video was just the speaker talking about how he'd been
At 1:36 he said "You're able to look up into the heavens, they declare the glory of god".
Really? You make a video called 'What Is the Best Evidence God Created' and that's the first thing you mention? Sure, I realise that your speech was directed at people without any background in science, but come on, that's your best piece of evidence? It's not even evidence! It's just an outlandish claim, that because stars and planets exist, therefore god exists, and
Lets move on.
After giving the same old tired creationist argument for design about drawings in the sand, which has no bearing whatsoever on how the natural world works he brings up something new (*GASP* SOMETHING NEW ZOMG). He mentions the Weta, the New Zealand native insect. It is interesting to note that he doesn't verbally mention the fact that it is a New Zealand native, because this fact alone is evidence for evolution. 'Native species' are a product of geographical distribution, species that are separated for long periods of time evolve different characteristics to their predecessors, which is how 'native' species arise. It is no surprise then that he doesn't stay long about this detail of the weta. He moves on quickly to how amazing they are, and that they have been around for a long time. Then he mentions that there are many different varieties of Weta (evolution again....) and then says something about how the cave Weta can survive months of being 'frozen' up in the mountains and then boldly asserts "You tell me, how millions of years of random-chance processes is going to cause something like THAT to happen".
"You tell me, how millions of years of random-chance processes is going to cause something like THAT to happen".
This is what is known as an argument from ignorance. You can't get a clearer admission of it than this. This
I stopped the video there, as I didn't need to hear any more of this guys 45 minute speech about evidence for creationism when his first two main arguments were based upon absurd logical fallacies, the first being a non sequitur and the second being an argument from ignorance.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Judges 11: 29-38 (feel free to read the whole chapter if you think i've taken it out of "context")
29 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD : "If you give the Ammonites into my hands, 31 whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD's, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering."
32 Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into his hands. 33 He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon.
34 When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, "Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break."
36 "My father," she replied, "you have given your word to the LORD. Do to me just as you promised, now that the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. 37 But grant me this one request," she said. "Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry."
38 "You may go," he said. And he let her go for two months. She and the girls went into the hills and wept because she would never marry. 39 After the two months, she returned to her father and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin.
From this comes the Israelite custom 40 that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.
Friday, September 11, 2009
If it happens, great... But I'm not counting on it, and I have plans to do a post grad diploma in something else and hopefully getting a job in that field afterwards.
Don't let me crap on your dreams though, if you really want to fulfil your dreams and 'live the life' you've always envisaged, go for it. It just hasn't happened the way I wanted for me...
Monday, August 31, 2009
I'm just venting my frustration in writing, it makes me feel better.
I'll have to call up my ISP tomorrow, just to wait for 2 hours on hold and have them ping my IP address and tell me that everything is fine, when I bloody well know something is seriously wrong, A copper wire somewhere is probably fried.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
The first problem with contradictions is that if your book was authored by god, do you really think he would make so many screw-ups in the book? I think not.
If you concede the point that god didn't author it, but it was written by men who were inspired by god. That leaves you with the problem of why god would inspire them to be wrong.
If you concede a further point (as some christians do) that it was merely written by men, then how is it supposed to be a 'guidebook to life' or anything remotely useful in the slightest. We're talking about a compilation of bronze age scribblings that were handed down over about a millennium, not written by contemporaries of the events in most cases, containing screeds of errors and contradictions, immoral teachings in some parts, contradictorily good moral teachings in others and compiled into one book during the reign of a roman emperor who used christianity to control his people.
That is your holy book. I really do not see the value in it at all, or why you insist to preach to people about how good and relevant it is.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I created my youtube account on the 12th May 2006. Last year for the first time I saw the phrase "This video is not availiable in your country due to copyright restrictions", but it was on a music video for some lame pop song (probably Britney Spears or something....). But recently, one of my favourite subscriptions on my youtube account Pennsays (a video blog by the magician/comedian/skeptic Penn Jillette) is now showing up with this phrase on every one of his videos.
Penn Jillette was being sponsored by Crackle, a subsidiary of Sony to post his video blogs, and for some strange reason, Sony decided that no one outside of the U.S.A. was allowed to watch Penn's Vlogs anymore.
If something isn't done about this corporate control over the internet, it will no longer be called the World Wide Web but rather the American Wide Web. and all of us here in the rest of the world will go "AWW, freakin corporate america I hate you!"
Just a bit of a rant, but Internet Neutrality is a serious issue and is more important than you may think..
From the New International Version
About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi," lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"...And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last.
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit."
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
All you church people on my facebook who read my blogs and are trying to convert me back to god. Not all of you though, just the ones who leave anonymous comments.
I ask just a few things.
1) Stop posting stupid comments
2) Post relevant comments, not something random that had nothing to do with the original post. For example, the person who started going on about miracles in my blog post about creationists ignorance towards science.
3) If you're not embarrassed by what you're writing, then leave your name. I'm still the same person, and I'm probably still your friend, but if you post anonymously I will not respond to you as a friend.
4) If you are scared of confrontation you may continue posting as anonymous, but please follow the first two criteria.
5) I like lists.
Yes, god wrestles with Jacob, LOSES, and then divinely dislocates Jacob's leg.
So not only is the god of the bible so feeble as to get into wrestling matches with men, he is so weak that he loses, and so dirty that he has to dislocate the humans leg to come out as the victor. To add more insult to the already hilarious and equally blasphemous story, god doesn't even know Jacob's name and has to ask!
This is the kind of mischievous behaviour we would have expected of Zeus, or Poseidon or any of the other ancient gods. We are told by christians that their god is transcendant, omnipotent, omniscient, holy, good and other qualities. From this story what traits do we see of god? The traits of god shown in this story can be simplified to just one word.
So I come to the conclusion, that god is made in mans image, not the other way round as christians would have us believe.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
After reading The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine, I saw these contradictions in a new light, that they were apparent, obvious and irreconcilable. One of the most acute contradictions are the conflicting genealogies of Jesus found in the New Testament.
The account in Matthew goes as follows (from christ back to David):
Christ, Joseph, Jacob, Matthan, Eleazer, Eliud, Achim, Sadoc, Azor, Eliakim, Abiud, Zorobabel, Salathiel, Jechonias, Josias, Amon, Manasses, Ezekias, Achaz, Joatham, Ozias, Joram, Josaphat, Asa, Abia, Roboam, Solomon, David. That is 28 generations in total.
The account in Luke is rather different, and is as follows:
Christ, Joseph, Heli, Matthat, Levi, Melchl, Janna, Joseph, Mattathias, Amos, Naum, Esli, Nagge, Maath, Mattathis, Semei, Joseph, Juda, Joanna, Rhesa, Zorobabel, Salathiel, Neri, Melchi, Addi, Cosam, Elmodam, Er, Jose, Eliezer, Jorim, Matthat, Levi, Simeon, Juda, Joseph, Jonan, Eliakim, Melea, Menan, Mattatha, Nathan, David.
Thomas Paine postulates that if Jesus' natural genealogy was 'invented' as it most certainly was (shown by the conflicting accounts), we then have no reason not to suppose that his divine genealogy was also invented, in simpleton terms, that he was not the son of god.
This kind of reason I found very intriguing because it uses the bible to prove christianity wrong.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Lets start with some basic definitions.
1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
Evolution doesn't follow these definitions, and the only conclusion that can logically follow that is that evolution is NOT a religion.
Besides definitions, the core difference between creationism and evolution is evidence.
Evolution is an evidence based science. We have fossils that show common descent, we have genetics that show common descent, and this evidence is very substantial, it is not merely a few pieces here and there.
Creationism on the other hand is founded on principles from the bible. This does not constitute evidence in any way. A book written mostly in the bronze age, by men who knew absolutely nothing about science. A book that has been shown to be wholly unreliable on historical and scientific matters, and riddled with contradictions. 90% of the 'evidence' that creationists postulate has either already been refuted or is not in fact evidence at all. What I mean by not being evidence at all is that it is rather an absence of evidence, Creationists look for holes in current scientific understanding (evolution in particular) and then claim, "You can't explain this, therefore god exists" (might I add, it should be "we can't explain this yet"). This is known as the 'god of the gaps' theory.
The proponents of the 'god of the gaps' idealogy are intellectually bankrupt and dishonest. There is nothing scientific about glorifying ignorance and abandoning reason and then claim that it is more scientific that its very well established arch-nemesis evolution.
There is no reason to believe in biblical creationism. There is no scientific evidence that supports it, and the bible itself is nothing to be relied on, except by blind faith.
To be continued...
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
I'm no longer worried about the state of my soul with respect to the afterlife, and even more so that I'm not worried about anyone else's soul. I find myself able to accept people as people instead of as "unsaved people" or "nonbelievers". I no longer have to have an agenda behind talking to people, I'm not trying to save anyones soul anymore.
I find the idea that there is no inherent meaning to life very stabilising and motivating, as it gives me the freedom to do what I like with my life without the fear of departing from some celestial being's divine plan.
Things that I previously thought important I find myself dissatisfied with. One striking example is saying grace over dinner. Instead of paying my respects to a god, I would much rather pay my respects to the person who prepared the meal, or give thanks to the person who is paying for it.
I have more respect for life, and human life in particular. Now that I realise that this life is all that we have I treasure mine much more. I'm beginning to understand the value of life and how precious it is.
I have an increased interest in the way the world works, and with the universe at large. Before, I was content with the answer that "God did it" and never bothered to really look past skin-depth for some things.
Those are the first things that come to mind anyway.
The blog is changing course to be more aligned with my current interests which involve the matter I discussed in my previous two posts. I'll be talking about life, religion, science, irreligion, atheism, pastafarianism and so on.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
If god is justice incarnate, holy, righteous, good, pure and the moral leader of humanity, why has he commissioned and committed some of the most heinous crimes ever inflicted on mankind? Can any other tyrant or super-villain claim the title of 'destroyer of humanity' or 'global infanticide perpetrator' that god seemed so proud of telling us in genesis when he flooded the world. Not only does the god of the bible take pleasure in wiping out the whole world, he takes pleasure in having animals slaughtered needlessly, perhaps it makes him feel better about himself. The celestial tyrant doesn't stop there, he carries on throughout the old testament threatening to kill people because they havn't been circumcised, or because they stupidly worshipped other imaginary celestial beings. The same christians who believe god was justified in committing these atrocities, I imagine are horrified at the lengths Islamic fundamentalist extremists go to when carrying out their Jihad on the infidels. The god of the bible was slaughtering people for the exact same reason the modern day terrorists are, because they worship other gods.
As if the acts of god himself weren't detestable enough to warrant a bible-burning session, he then proceeded to give laws to his chosen people (hang on..... god is an homicidal racist?) that are just as horrific, if not more than the way he behaved in genesis. These laws include things like the following:
-If you have a "stubborn and rebellious son," then you and the other men in your neighborhood "shall stone him with stones that he die." (Jesus even advocates this law in Matthew 15, so Jesus would like me to be stoned to death, what a nice guy) Deuteronomy 21:18-21
-God gives detailed instructions for performing ritualistic animal sacrifices. such bloody rituals must be important to God, judging from the number of times that he repeats their instructions. Indeed the entire first nine chapters of Leviticus can be summarized as follows: Get an animal, kill it, sprinkle the blood around, cut the dead animal into pieces, and burn it for a "sweet savor unto the Lord." Leviticus 1 through 9
-God's law for lepers: Get two birds. Kill one. Dip the live bird in the blood of the dead one. Sprinkle the blood on the leper seven times, and then let the blood-soaked bird fly off. Next find a lamb and kill it. Wipe some of its blood on the patients right ear, thumb, and big toe. Sprinkle seven times with oil and wipe some of the oil on his right ear, thumb and big toe. Repeat. Finally kill a couple doves and offer one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. Leviticus 14
So not only is god a genocidal tyrant, his sense of morality is deplorable judging by the laws he sets for his people, and those three I mentioned are a mere taste of the old testament laws. We find out later in Leviticus 26 that if you don't follow all of the laws in the Old Testament, god will shower you with many curses, which are mentioned in the next 25 verses. So now we have a genocidal tyrant, who has a deplorable sense of morality, who writes non-sensical laws for his people, and if they don't obey them he becomes very vengeful and curses them. This is the same god that christians sincerely believe they have a personal relationship with.
Morality and non-sensical laws aside, the bible is still a laughable book riddled with contradictions, inaccurate or often incorrect historical records that contains ridiculous statements about the nature of the world, or how the world works. You would think that a book penned, or inspired by the creator of the universe would have been able to get simple facts, whether historical or scientific correct? After all, don't christians claim that their god is omniscient? Why would an omniscient god forget what he had written already in his own book, and then write something that contradicts what he had previously written? Why would an omniscient god who also created the universe (and life) write ideas and concepts about life and the universe that mere mortals have since discovered are false, by my reasoning, that would make humanity more intelligent than an omniscient god.
The one thing that really bugs me though, is why would an omniscient, omnipotent god create a universe that points toward his non-existence the more we learn about it? It's as if he wanted us to finally come to the realisation that he doesn't exist, and that his book was written by delusional tyrannical bronze age men living in tents in the desert, who loved running around raping, pillaging and slaughtering every other town, city and culture they encountered.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
I would like to start by explaining my upbringing. I was raised by two Christian parents who I love very much and that my “conversion” to atheism is not an act of rebellion in any way shape or form. I am an atheist primarily because upon closer inspection of the things I grew up believing in didn’t hold up to be true.
As most young children do, I believed in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, and later discovered that these ‘beings’ were just made up stories to make childhood seem magical. I don’t remember the specific time when I found out these things weren’t true, but I remember feeling underwhelmed by the simplicity of the situation, my parents had placed the money under the pillow, the presents in the sock and the marshmallow eggs hidden in various places around the house.
As I grew older I was told of stories in the bible, the genesis creation account, Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, The Tower of Babel, The Jews in captivity in Egypt and the story of Moses and the list goes on. I believed all these things much in the same way I believed in Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. I believed them not because I had discovered their veracity, but because I was told they were true stories. At around the age of 14 I was given a book by my auntie called “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist” by two Christian authors by the names Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, this book was the beginning of my passion for Christian apologetics. I essentially became a religious fundamentalist at the age of 14 which scares me in hindsight. By the age of 18 I had read probably almost two dozen apologetics books (some being very large), my brain being the sponge it is I soaked it all up. I also spent a considerable amount of time watching creationist videos on VHS, DVD and on the internet.
It was around the age of 17 when I began to start realising some of these stories I had been told to have been true were not so true. The first bubble to be burst was the idea that the earth was young, so I turned from a young-earth creationist to an old earth creationist. Other stories soon followed; those of Noah’s ark, Adam and Eve, Moses in Egypt and so on. By the time I had finished high school I no longer believed many of the tales which I had been told so emphatically as a young nipper were the word of god.
The very act of searching through the bible trying to find ‘excuses’ as to why other parts of the bible weren’t true was tiring to say the least. I became a closet agnostic around early 2008, and over the course of the year my morals and beliefs slowly morphed their way into what they are today. After much consideration, reading and deep thought, in early 2009 I no longer considered myself an agnostic, but an atheist, not believing in any supernatural forces inside or outside the universe. My passion for Christian apologetics had turned into a passion for knowledge, and the search for truth, which I will continue till the day I die.