Sunday, September 25, 2011

Reasons I doubted

I have written in the past about the things that caused me to leave Christianity, but today I will discuss the things that lead up to that deconversion. The reasons I doubted my faith in the first place.

1)The silence and hiddenness of God
This wasn't the main thing going through my head when I decided that I no longer believed in a god, but in hindsight it was definitely one of the leading factors in my path to apostasy. In my YouTube Video discussing my Christian upbringing I recall pivotal experiences , most notably the ones where despite hours of praying, I did not receive word from God, nor did I feel any supernatural presence. At the time I rationalised this by blaming myself, it was MY fault that I didn't feel the presence of God.

2)Natural explanations
I had grown up under the pretence that evolution was false and that the Bible was literally true. Upon learning more about science, I found it harder and harder to reconcile my literalism with reality. I gradually conceded point after point until I no longer considered the Bible to be the infallible word of God. First to go was a young earth, then the global flood, then the fixity of species, then a literal Adam and Eve (and consequently a literal fall) and finally the origin of life and the universe.

3)The sterility of the bible
Even the staunchest Bible-fanatics will have to admit that it's not exactly a good read and is actually quite boring in a lot of places (the begats?). I found this fact to be quite disconcerting, how was it possible that texts inspired by the omnipotent, omniscient God I believed in would be so unappealing and tedious? Surely God would have made the text be fascinating and engaging throughout, but this simply wasn't the case. I heard other believer claim that when they read the Bible the spirit speaks to them and the words "come to life" on the page (relates to reason 1). This simply wasn't the case for me, I found it incredibly laborious to read, yet I persevered and by the time I deconverted I had read the Old Testament completely once (some books many times) and the New Testament at least 4 times.

4)Immoral Old Testament
This was something that hadn't really occurred to me until I read The Age of Reason  and Biblical Blasphemy by Thomas Paine. It is no coincidence that within a few months of reading these books, I became an atheist, and immediately after reading them, I no longer considered myself a Christian, but rather some sort of Deist. I'll end with a quote from The Age of Reason.

"Besides, the character of Moses, as stated in the Bible, is the most horrid that can be imagined. If those accounts be true, he was the wretch that first began and carried on wars on the score or on the pretence of religion; and under that mask, or that infatuation, committed the most unexampled atrocities that are to be found in the history of any nation. Of which I will state only one instance:

When the Jewish army returned from one of their plundering and murdering excursions, the account goes on as follows (Numbers xxxi. 13):[KJ: I have used a different translation here (NLT), Paine quoted the King James version.] "After they had gathered the plunder and captives, both people and animals,  they brought them all to Moses and Eleazar the priest, and to the whole community of Israel, which was camped on the plains of Moab beside the Jordan River, across from Jericho.  Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the community went to meet them outside the camp. But Moses was furious with all the generals and captains[a] who had returned from the battle.
“Why have you let all the women live?” he demanded. “These are the very ones who followed Balaam’s advice and caused the people of Israel to rebel against the Lord at Mount Peor. They are the ones who caused the plague to strike the Lord’s people. So kill all the boys and all the women who have had intercourse with a man. Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves.""

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fear-Mongering, Propaganda and Poor Journalism in the New Zealand Herald

An article in the New Zealand Herald today was brought to my attention via Facebook, and to say the least I was quite shocked. The title of the article was "Sex at 14 - I learned all about it in class" by Elizabeth Binning. It (kind of) tells the story of a teenager from the Hibiscus Coast (North of Auckland) who is pregnant at the age of 17. 'Big deal' so far right? My gripes with the piece started right from the title, and continued through just about every single sentence all the way to the end.

The "Journalist" Elizabeth Binning is pushing for an anti-Sex-Ed angle throughout the whole story, which already shows her colours. Comprehensive sex education is demonstrably the best way of reducing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Abstinence-only education has proven to be a complete failure in the United States (Guardian) and has been ineffective in general (Wikipedia). People who push propaganda against teaching teenagers sexual and reproductive health are not only counter-productive but they are chewing away at the progress that has been made in many places.

Beyond the anti-sex-ed angle of the piece, it is very poorly written, and seems to indicate at one point in the article that the girl in question was raped. "I didn't wind up pregnant because I didn't attend a class. I know all about contraceptives and safe sex. It was purely the fact that I was drunk, it was New Year's, and some older male thought it would be fabulous to take advantage of me." But after emailing the editor expressing concern that the journalist didn't seem to care about the rape, an acquaintance of mine through my University feminist group received a reply that the girl was not raped, but rather that she was drunk and was deceived by the older male that 'pulling out' was an effective contraceptive method. Either way, it doesn't paint a very good picture of the man in question, and it would in my opinion have been much better to focus on that aspect of her story. I have heard it said that the general attitude towards rape in New Zealand is rather blasé, which I find extremely appalling. I believe our rape laws are in dire need of revision, but that is a discussion for another day.

Binning also quotes from this ignorant child as if she was an authority on the matter. No references to studies to back up what the girl is saying? No checking her story to see whether the health teacher at the school was actually getting kids to taste flavoured condoms? I don't know about you, but I'm simply not going to take the word of a 17 year old who got pregnant because she was lead to believed that 'pulling out' was an effective contraceptive method, when "She said teaching young teenagers about contraception won't help reduce New Zealand's high rate of teenage pregnancy rates." I'm sorry, but all the data goes the other way.

Here are some quotes from the article

"A pregnant teenager says sex education in schools does not prevent young people from having sex - if anything, it encourages it."

Really? Data please?

"Amber-Leigh has spoken out in the hope it may help other young teenagers to learn about the importance of having protected sex - or preferably waiting until they are older."

So how about educating them about contraception? I distinctly remember being told when I was 14 years old that "just pulling out doesn't work". Either she wasn't paying attention or her teacher was crap.

This article was not a one-off event either, recently Elizabeth Binning has written 4 "articles" with the same propaganda against sexual health education. Some of the others display even poorer journalistic integrity than the most recent one. Quoting from anonymous sources with no apparent fact-checking is indicative of at the very least an incompetent journalist, at worst someone pushing a dangerous agenda.
The titles of her other 3 articles are:
  • Too much 'grubby stuff', so dad steps in - No sources mentioned, story is about a father whose 12 year old son was supposedly recommended to engage oral sex by his sex-ed teacher. I call absolute bull shit.
  •  Sex ed shock for angry parents - "Children as young as 12 are being taught about oral sex and told it's acceptable to play with a girl's private parts as long as "she's okay with it"." I call Bull Shit!
  • Readers up in arms over sex education - "children as young as 12 are being taught about anal and oral sex and ...Children as young as 11 are being taught how to put condoms on cucumbers, and in some schools 14-year-old girls are practising on black plastic penises.
  • In one, a female teacher went as far as to give her class of 15-year-olds a rendition of the noises she makes during orgasm." I call BULL SHIT!
No sources are attributed to any of those claims.

More Evidence That Creationists Are Lying Sacks of Shit

Since I'm subscribed to CMI's newsletter I regularly get infuriating items in my inbox. This particular example from today is no exception. Some time ago, Creation Ministries International started a "Question Evolution" campaign to encourage Christians to reject science. They produced a small document with 15 questions for evolutionists to answer. Understandably, the questions were stupid, unbelievably so.

Here are the first 3
  1. How did life with specifications for hundreds of proteins originate just by chemistry without intelligent design?
  2. How did the DNA code originate? 
  3. How could copying errors (mutations) create 3 billion letters of DNA instructions to change a microbe into a microbiologist? 
 Yes, the bolded code was part of the original. The questions demonstrate a complete ignorance of biological processes. Anyway, the 15 questions are not the focus of this post, their responses to so-called objections are what I really want to talk about.

In their newsletter, they claimed that "atheists have attempted to answer the points we raised ... But the answers fall short as we show in our rebuttal."

Here are the so-called-objections to their 15 questions.

Question 1:
Answer 1: Abiogenesis is not relevant to the discussion of evolution—it is a separate topic (this has been a very common claim).
Answer 2: Life/non-life isn’t a dichotomy. Rather, there are many examples of ‘proto-life’ such as viruses, prions, etc.
Answer 3: Some experiments show that the early earth’s atmosphere was optimal for life.

Really? No one pointed out to them that their question is a complete strawman? No scientist that works on abiogenesis would EVER say that the first 'life' was complex, and there is no way that it would have required hundreds of proteins. This just shows that CMI are not interested in honest science, but prefer to peddle blatant lies to their all too willing flock of sheep who gobble that bullshit up like it was chocolate mousse.

Question 2:
Answer 1: This is not an evolution question, because evolution starts with an already-reproducing organism.
Answer 2: Originally, life used RNA instead of DNA to encode information.
Answer 3: It is disingenuous to argue from the current DNA code, because the original code would have been much simpler.
Answer 4: The question of how the modern code emerged from these early predecessors is evolution itself. Random deviations in the nucleic acid structure would change the by-product produced, if the by-product was more efficient at replicating, it would overwhelm less efficient codes. This gradual change in the complexity of the underlying code is useful in explaining many aspects of biological theory. Such as why RNA is used as an intermediate between DNA and protein synthesis.
Answer 5: The words ‘code’ and ‘language’ are only metaphors when applied to the DNA code, and they have no reality outside our own mental constructs. In reality, the whole thing is dependent on chemical properties.
Answer 6: It is easy to create amino acids and the building blocks for RNA by running an electrical charge through mineral-rich water.

At least some of these touch on the key issue. Unsurprisingly they didn't really respond to any of them in any capacity with things like "Secular scientists refer to the nucleobases of DNA as ‘letters’, so it’s hardly original to us." This just ignores the metaphor criticism altogether. To answer 3 they say "This is most disingenuous. So many evolutionists have appealed to the common DNA code to “prove” common ancestry." This to me shows an intentional misunderstanding of the response, either that or they are absolutely brain-dead (which is a very real possibility!).

Question 3:
Answer 1: If only eight mutations per year were passed on for three billion years, that gives 3 gigabytes of information.
Answer 2: Computer models have shown how mutations can lead to large-scale change.
Answer 3: Using words such as ‘accidental’ and ‘mistakes’ is misleading and misses the point entirely.

As with the first question, the objections are relevant, but 2/3 miss the fundamental problem. CMI, and their fans do not understand what a mutation is, and they perpetuate the myth that all mutations are harmful and only remove information. They aren't interested in understanding what mutations really are and what they really do, just like they aren't interested in doing any actual science. All they are interested in doing is lying for Jesus. If they seriously wanted to try and answer objections to their idiotic questions, they would have responded to something like RationalWiki's article. Their actions speak louder than words, they find a handful of criticisms that while valid, don't cut to the heart of the issue. These issues are complex scientific issues and to understand an objection to the flawed misunderstandings that creationists have takes time. Creationists, the dishonest, disingenuous, ignorant lying sacks of shit that they are, simply do not want to put the effort in to learn real, honest science.

Here's a link to RationalWiki's article again, because it's good.

Exploring Moral Philosophy

I have decided to dip my feet into the waters of Moral Philosophy. What I've read already that could be classified as such only really addresses the issue on a surface level, or gives only a cursory glance to other opposing views. I'll be starting with 'Utilitarianism' by John Stuart Mill, then I may read 'Practical Ethics' by Peter Singer and then 'A Treatise on Human Nature' by David Hume. If anyone has any other suggestions that explore these issues from another perspective I'd be interested to take a look. I tried reading Kant recently and I'd prefer something that isn't quite so laborious to read.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Search for a First Cause

There is a huge difference between how religion “searches” for a first cause and how science does it. In the religious paradigm, a position is asserted and that’s that. God did it, their minds are made up. In science however, the answer may never be definite or absolute, but that does not take anything away from the beauty of it, it simply shows the honesty of the scientific method.

There was a time when scientists thought that the origin of the universe was outside the realm of scientific inquiry, when Newton was describing the motion of the planets as God had placed them there. The universe was the way it was because that’s how a powerful deity made it to be. That time is long gone, science has been fearlessly making leaps and bounds over the last century to discover (or at the very least learn more about) the origin and nature of our universe. Theories are devised, calculations performed, observations made, theories revised and so on. The search will probably be never-ending, as we probably can never know everything.

A notable example of this revision in the face of observation is the expansion of the universe as predicted by Einstein. The prevailing view at the time was that the universe was eternal, and when Einstein discovered that his calculations lead to an expanding universe, which implied that at one point in time the universe was smaller, indicating that there must have been a point of origin. He adjusted his theory so it would not predict an expanding universe, observation of the red-shift by Edwin Hubble and later the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation has shown us that he was right the first time round, the universe is expanding.

The religious search jumps on board the scientific train with this discovery, but jumps off again when natural explanations for the ‘Big Bang’ are postulated. This mindset is typical of the religious search for a first cause. They have their minds made up, if a proposition goes against their belief that a god created the universe they will reject it, and when a proposition seems to support their belief (even if just at surface level) they will claim that they were right all along, that science has vindicated religion. Picking and choosing which science you support based on your prior commitments is at the very least inconsistent, and at the worst dishonest.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Fundies - Ray Comfort

It has been a long time since I've done a Friday Fundies post, so I made my way over to Ray Comfort's Blog to find a juicy quote.

Here's one from a post he made about evolution.

"The tragedy for those that believe in evolution is that they automatically discount the Genesis account of creation, which holds up perfectly under the light of honest scientific scrutiny. It informs us that God is the initial Cause of all things. He created male and female and caused every animal to bring forth after its own kind.

The theory of evolution has no explanation for the initial Cause (it is a case of "evolution-did-it" with the help of invisible sky-daddy of Father Time), nor does it have an explanation for why 1.4 million different kinds of animals, birds, fish, and insects have male and female."


It's really sad seeing things like this. He sincerely believes that Genesis stands up under scientific scrutiny. I almost feel sorry for him. The simple fact of the matter is that not a single aspect of the Genesis creation myth reflects anything that has been demonstrated to be true through scientific inquiry. Things are in the wrong order, plants are made before the sun is there to sustain them, light exists before stars are there to provide it. It's pointless going through the list of everything that is wrong with Genesis, because until people like Ray decide they are actually going to honestly investigate these things, they will not listen to anything anyone else has to say.

Evolutionary theory does not even attempt to explain the initial cause, that is in the realm of cosmology, or if he is talking about the origin of life (more like the origin of replicating polymers) then it is in the realm of chemistry. What baffles me even more than his astounding ignorance about what science actually is and says despite arguing against science for over 20 years, is that he thinks the existence of male and female organisms somehow presents a serious obstacle to evolution.

A cursory glance at the Wikipedia page for the evolution of sexual reproduction would give you more knowledge on the subject than Ray Comfort who frequently spouts his imbecilic criticisms of it.

It almost annoys me that people put the effort into trying to argue with fundies like Ray, not because it makes people think that he should be taken seriously, but because fundies haven't even taken the time to learn about their own religion seriously, do you really think that they would bother learning about something like evolution properly? It's a matter of intellectual honesty, Ray has none, and because of that he deserves nothing but ridicule.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Top Ten Quackronyms

If you haven't figured it out, a Quackronym is an acronym for something related to Quackery of some sort.
Let's start at my number 10.

10. EVP - Electronic Voice Phenomena
This is something you see on those Ghost Hunter shows, where they claim the noise or interference picked up by their recording device comes from a paranormal source. The people who believe in this nonsense could learn a lesson or two from Scooby Doo.

9. EHF - Extraordinary Human Function
Skepdic says: "An extraordinary human function would be something like the ability to read messages with one's ears, forehead, fingers or some other part of the anatomy besides the eyes. There have even been accounts of reading by sitting on the message. The latter was popular in China in the late 1970's, when the study of EHF became a major research topic at Beijing University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences."
There's a little something called evidence, perhaps these folk should learn what it is.

8. ET - Extra Terrestrial
The reason ET's are so far down this list, is because there is a high probability that some form of life exists somewhere else in the universe. People who think aliens visit earth and that people get abducted by aliens are still crazy though. There is almost no chance that any alien life is close enough to visit earth. If however some alien race were visiting earth, I do not believe for one second they would be at all interested in abducting some of our least sane members of society.

7. DHEA - dehydroepiandrosterone
DHEA is a naturally occurring steroid produced in the adrenal gland. In fact DHEA is very abundant in the human body. However it has been marketed as a "miracle drug" by quack and quack alike, as a cure for everything ranging from auto-immune disorders to weight loss. Quackwatch has a good article on it.

6. NDE - Near Death Experience
Near Death Experiences are often touted as evidence for life after death. I have a few things to say to people who accept this as evidence: Oxygen deprivation, brain damage and hallucination. Here's a link for more information.

5. OBE - Out of Body Experience
I was tempted to combine this into a single category with NDE's, but they are also related to another piece of quackery that doesn't make a nice acronym: Astral Projection. Here's a link to a Michael Shermer video on the 'God Helmet' and Out of Body Experiences. Here's a link to another video about the same helmet. What is abundantly clear from the realistic explanations of these last 2 Quackronyms is that the Human Brain is highly susceptible to manipulation and hallucination. Anyone who has taken some kind of hallucinogen knows this.

4. ESP - Extra Sensory Perception
Believers in ESP are probably either really gullible or Alien-abductee type crazy. No credible evidence has ever been produced for such phenomena, nor any mechanism suggested. Penn and Teller did an episode of 'Bullshit!' that featured an ESP class at a home-based Psychic School. It's good for a laugh.

3. MLM - Multi Level Marketing
Multi Level Marketing just makes me sad. Most of the people that get sucked into it are victims of a scam, plain and simple. They were most likely recruited by other people who  are most likely also victims of the same scam. The simple fact of the matter is that the overwhelming majority of people who try MLM do not make any money. They're not supposed to, it's simply a disguised pyramid scheme, the products they sell are only secondary to the recruitment. When you pay to sign up, the people higher up the pyramid make money.

2. YEC - Young Earth Creationism
I wanted to include Intelligent Design (ID) as another category, but then I would have had to remove one of my other list items, or make it a top 11, which just isn't cool (unless you're Spinal Tap). The reason Young Earth Creationism is so high up on this list (or low down if you prefer it that way) is because to be a YECer you literally have to deny just about all of the findings of science from the last 200 years. Creationists are Quacks of the highest calibre.

1. CAM - Complementary and Alternative Medicine
This blight upon humanity is at the number one spot for a very good reason. With the potential exception of DHEA, none of the other list members have the potential to do any physical harm beyond affecting the intelligence and sanity of the believer. Alternative medicine can cause serious harm, and in some cases result in death, as believers will of avoid getting real life-saving treatments for diseases. What really makes me furious though is that some parents make the choice on behalf of their children, like this Sydney couple who only gave their baby daughter homeopathic remedies and she died from septicaemia and malnutrition.

Blog Roll

I recently added a blogroll down the right hand side of the page, so far I have only added a few blogs to it, either of readers of this blog (whose blogs I also read) or other ones that I read frequently.

Some shout-outs/highlights:

In no particular order

krissthesexyatheist recently posted about Christian dominionism, and the strange phenomena among some of its adherents to deny that it exists. He links to a news article on Al Jazeera that is eye opening and quite scary.

Laughing In Purgatory posted about the four reasons why Yahweh is a Super Villain. Highly amusing and entertaining.

Infidel753 wrote about the reasons why liberals and libertarians don't see eye to eye, and expresses some criticisms of libertarianism that I think are quite compelling.

Lady Atheist explains the irony of the very religious 9/11 remembrance sentiments expressed by some people.

If any other readers have blogs let me know and I'll add you to the roll!

Monday, September 12, 2011

The End of Creationism?

I really wonder how long we’ll have to put up with creationism and creationists? Perhaps today is a good day to discuss this issue. It’s the 12th of September here, but as of writing it is still the 11th in the USA, the 10th anniversary of the most heinous terrorist act of this generation. Regardless of whether it was primarily motivated by religious zealotry or not (I’m not going to get into that debate), it certainly inspired a religious backlash, a resurgence of fervour for fundamentalist Christianity.

As you probably know, the “creation-evolution” debate is not scientific in nature, it is cultural. The issue isn’t happening in the lab, or between scientists, but in the public square. Creationists aim at children, and the scientifically illiterate. They target the easily bamboozled and those who won’t go and check their facts. Once their plague has infected someone it is very difficult to cure. Many even go through the motions of higher education, sometimes even in the scientific realm, and still come out a science-denying baboon. It has been said that the typical “Creation Scientist” has a doctorate in Chemistry, Computer Science or Engineering. Not to badmouth those fields at all, but they don’t exactly resemble biology. In the case of Engineering and Computer Science, they are fields that deal almost exclusively with man-made, purposefully designed objects. So it is easy to see where their misplaced expertise lies, take an understanding of synthetic codes and design, alongside a religious and ideological agenda (perhaps from childhood indoctrination) and you have a cookie-cutter [dis]”reputable” Creation Scientist.

I don’t think it is possible (or necessary) to try to get rid of religion as a whole, and it may even be a difficult task to tone down, or get rid of fundamentalism, especially when we periodically see “revivals” of it, like this past decade as a reaction to Islamic fundamentalism. If fundamentalism is to be done away with, it must come from within the religion. Christians have to take out their trash. Muslims have to take out their trash. It is up to the religious establishments to clean shop. Though influence from outside the fold does happen (I am one who left from outside influence), it simply cannot give the results that we wish it to. If moderate and liberal Christians want to curb fundamentalism, they have to up their game. I am more than happy, as are thousands of other “new atheists” to offer our criticisms, but we can only do so much.

Take home message: To moderate and liberal believers, your shit stinks, for both our sakes, flush it! Please!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Are the Gospels Historically Reliable?

In his book 'Sense and Goodness Without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism' Richard Carrier gives three criteria that distinguish a good historian from a bad one.

The first of these criteria is showing "a critical awareness of problems with his sources or with the intrinsic believability of an event." In the case of the gospels however, sources are not even mentioned, and miraculous stories are written as if they are nothing out of the ordinary.

The second criteria is that they should "engage in logical historical argument various forms of evidence and assessing their merit." In the case of the gospels however, no arguments are made and no evidence is addressed, the stories are just reported as being so.

The third criteria is that they will be correct on some matters. In the case of the gospels however, there are many instances where they are dead wrong. A notable example is the massacre of the innocents attributed to Herod by Matthew. If we look at more than one gospel at a time (e.g. Matthew and Luke) we find instances where they don't agree with each other, with no way of telling which of them are correct, if either of them are at all.

So the gospels are not historically reliable, as none of them even come close to meeting these three criteria of a good historian to a sufficient level. Many Christians claim that they gospels are believable because they 'read like eyewitness accounts', which is possibly the worst argument on earth. There is simply no evidence that they were written by eyewitnesses, and in any case eyewitness testimony is often unreliable. This is why these criteria mentioned by Richard Carrier are worthwhile, because you can't just take someone's word for something, especially when it happened centuries or millennia ago.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Christian Morality

Was Jesus a moral teacher? The maker of this short film doesn't think so, and I for the most part agree with him.

Ethics and Religion Infographic

I saw this on the atheism subReddit, and thought it deserved a place on my blog.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Evolution is Cumulative

Say it with me: "Cumulative Evolution."

One of the most common objections you see around against evolution is the idea that “this couldn’t have evolved by chance!” It has been rebutted so often and in so many different mediums (journals, books, blogs, videos, etc.) that one would think that it need not be restated. However this flagrant misunderstanding is repeated on a daily basis by Creatards and IDiots. I didn’t realise that it was such a difficult concept to grasp!

Cumulative evolution doesn’t just apply to irreducible complexity style misunderstanding, but also to the borderline brain-dead objection you get from only the most uneducated imbeciles: “things only reproduce after their own kind”. Of course an offspring is related to its parents, no one is saying otherwise. In fact if an offspring was an entirely different species (ignoring hybrids) to its parents, evolution would be falsified! However, an offspring is not identical to either of its parents, and frequently contains genetic mutations — which are often silent (no change in phenotype) — that were not present in either of the parents. Mutation along with recombination, and selection pressures, or simply genetic drift leads to diversified populations over many generations. The absolute failure to grasp the implications of these mechanisms —possibly due to wilful ignorance or dishonesty — results in these idiotic objections being taken as something with credibility.

Analogies are often given to try and explain this basic principle of accumulation of mutations and my favourite one has always been the construction of a building. Obviously a building of any kind is too complex to just arrive in one single step in its final form. This is not how buildings are made though; they are built by a step by step process, one piece at a time. This is comparable to the evolution of a species; it does not differentiate itself from its ancestor species in a single step evolutionary event. The change is slow and cumulative, one or a small number of mutation(s) per generation. Evolution is not monkeys giving birth to humans. Evolution is not cats appearing randomly out of nowhere. Evolution is cumulative change. Period. Creationists would be doing themselves a favour if they decided to understand the subject that they claim to not believe in.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Why I Believed - Book Review

I was browsing for ebooks on Amazon for my Kindle and came upon this book: 'Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary' by Kenneth W. Daniels. It had favourable reviews and only cost $0.99US so I bought it and read it over the next two days. It was a good read, and brings an interesting perspective to the table. Ken Daniels was a missionary/Bible Translator working for Wycliffe Bible Translators in Africa and during his time went through several crises of faith, which are documented in the book. Though the book doesn't focus on intellectual arguments against Christianity they are present. I didn't pay a huge amount of attention to that section though, because I have read a lot of that material before.

What interested me most about the book is the criticisms that Ken levels at the religion on a practical level. There is a whole chapter dedicated to examining the idea of having a "personal relationship" with God/Jesus, breaking it down on a theological level and on a practical, realistic level. In this respect my departure from the religion is similar to his, though that can wait till another post.

Ken talks from his own experience, about what caused him to doubt his beliefs, and what made him carry on with them for so many years. He includes excerpts from his journals that he kept continuously throughout his years as a Christian, which give the reader a window into his mind at pivotal points in his gradual deconversion. If you are someone who comes from a Christian (particularly evangelical) background, you will probably relate to what the author writes about his story. If you don't though, it will give you a better understanding of where we come from and what it is like to live in that kind of environment, and the consequences socially of leaving it.

I would recommend reading this book, and if possible giving a copy (preferably on Kindle) to anyone that doesn't understand why you left the faith, as that is one of the reasons Ken wrote it. He addresses the people in his life at the start of the book and seeks to explain to them why he "left the fold".

Why I Believed is available on:
Amazon (Paperback or Kindle)
Book Depository

EDIT: The book is available online in its entirety on the secular web (

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Go To Hell, [Doctrine of] Hell

 I thought I'd just post an excerpt from Robert G. Ingersoll's essay 'Why I Am an Agnostic', which is available over at the Positive Atheism website. The excerpt speaks for itself, it needs no explanation.

"The orthodox God, when clothed in human flesh, told his disciples not to resist evil, to love their enemies, and when smitten on one cheek to turn the other, and yet we are told that this same God, with the same loving lips, uttered these heartless, these fiendish words: "Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."

These are the words of "eternal love."

No human being has imagination enough to conceive of this infinite horror.

All that the human race has suffered in war and want, in pestilence and famine, in fire and flood, -- all the pangs and pains of every disease and every death -- all this is as nothing compared with the agonies to be endured by one lost soul.

This is the consolation of the Christian religion. This is the justice of God -- the mercy of Christ.

This frightful dogma, this infinite lie, made me the implacable enemy of Christianity. The truth is that this belief in eternal pain has been the real persecutor. It founded the Inquisition, forged the chains, and furnished the fagots. It has darkened the lives of many millions. It made the cradle as terrible as the coffin. It enslaved nations and shed the blood of countless thousands. It sacrificed the wisest, the bravest and the best. It subverted the idea of justice, drove mercy from the heart, changed men to fiends and banished reason from the brain.

Like a venomous serpent it crawls and coils and hisses in every orthodox creed.

It makes man an eternal victim and God an eternal fiend. It is the one infinite horror. Every church in which it is taught is a public curse. Every preacher who teaches it is an enemy of mankind. Below this Christian dogma, savagery cannot go. It is the infinite of malice, hatred, and revenge.

Nothing could add to the horror of hell, except the presence of its creator, God.

While I have life, as long as I draw breath, I shall deny with all my strength, and hate with every drop of my blood, this infinite lie."

— Robert G. Ingersoll in "Why I Am an Agnostic"