26 April 2010

Quite possibly the most awesome video of all time

NonStampCollector has made some very funny and incisive videos – and with this one on Biblical contradictions, he's outdone himself.

Two huge kudos to Jen McCreight

I've been following Jen McCreight's blog for some time now, and she's clearly an intelligent, witty person. So it's not surprising that she thought up "Boobquake" in response to the idiocy of Kazem Sedighi, an Islamic cleric quoted in the Chicago Tribune as saying, "Many women who do not dress modestly, lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes." But I don't think anyone could have foreseen how quickly it became viral, and has involved tens of thousands of women across the country and been covered by major news networks.

Some people have spoken up in opposition. There's a counter-movement of sorts called "Brainquake" that's supposed to celebrate women for their intellectual accomplishments, some pissed off feminists, and some notable dissenters in the secular community.

I think this all requires a little perspective. Kazem Sedighi is perpetuating a form of antiquated religious superstition that is rooted in ideas that women's bodies are shameful, and that adultery is their fault when they tempt men with provocative attire. It's anti-intellectual and anti-women. I don't think Jen, or any of the other women participating, are expecting a tsunami of social change. They're just giving the finger to a stupid old man and expressing their freedom to dress as they please – a freedom not afforded to millions of women in Islamic nations.

I remember a scary interview in Richard Dawkins' The Root of all Evil in which a Muslim crackpot accuses Dawkins of (paraphrasing) "dressing women like whores"; Dawkins responds forcefully, "I don't dress women, they dress themselves!" To people in certain parts of the world, the idea of allowing women the freedom to dress as they please is not only a foreign concept but a threatening one, and is but one thread in a tapestry of oppression. So, kudos to Jen for dreaming up a lighthearted way to mock such archaic, stupid and downright inhuman ideologies.

25 April 2010

The problem with Jesus' divinity

I love bashing Christianity. Not because I don't think Christians are generally nice, normal people, but because any close scrutiny of the Christian doctrine reveals it to be a hodgepodge of some of the most ridiculously stupid ideas anyone's ever conjured up. So since it's Sunday today, I thought I'd bash, mock, and criticize the completely inane Christian idea that Jesus is God.

Christians are monotheists. But they're a sort of strange kind of monotheists, because they believe in a "triune" god that has three incarnations – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Clearly if you do not already know this, you probably wouldn't be reading this blog. But the idea of Jesus being both God and being separate from God poses a litany of logical problems, particularly in light of scriptures.

We have to ask what it is that defines an individual. I mean, if God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are truly one, they are essentially the religious version of the Borg. Individuality, to me, seems best defined by autonomy. I have my own will, my own thoughts, my own desires, and they are different from yours. Some people like to talk about everyone being "one" in some wishy-washy new age kind of way, but on close examination that kind of blathering is pretty meaningless. We're not "one". We have shared needs and interests of course, but we're still just a collection of individuals with unique desires, struggles, and ambitions. So if Jesus and God are really "one", they should, like the Borg in Star Trek, have a single autonomous will. However, scripture seems to indicate that this is not the case.

The first and most obvious indication is that Jesus frequently prays to God. If Jesus and God are one, then Jesus already knows God's will, because God's will is his will. So what is the point of Jesus praying?  The temptation in the desert makes even less sense: Satan ostensibly tempts Jesus with "all the kingdoms of the earth". But in Luke 4:6, Satan says "it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish." Um... handed over by whom? One would presume that God, being all-powerful, is the only one who could give Satan dominion over anything. So this is like saying God gave Satan dominion over the earth so he (God) could tempt himself.

There are lots and lots of scriptures that seem to suggest that the whole idea of Jesus' divinity was added to the religion over time, rather than being one of those indispensable foundational ideas. Here are a few to pick your brain over:
And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. [Mark 10:18]

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, " ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?" that is, "MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?" [Matthew 27:46]

By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. [John 5:30]

And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will."  [Matthew 26:39]
That last verse is especially revealing, and damning. Jesus clearly indicates that he has an autonomous will that is distinct from God's.

Christians have their ways of rationalizing these things. I've seen all kinds of scriptural hoop-jumping, but there's certainly no ubiquitously accepted explanation for these verses. The last recourse that Christians offer up is the idea that even though it doesn't make any damn sense, it's still true. Somehow, in a way beyond our mortal comprehension, this all makes perfect sense. Jesus and God are one, but Jesus can pray to God, sacrifice himself to God, and have his own distinct will from God. That's basically just a way of admitting that you'll believe anything you want because it makes you feel good. Which, the more one examines Christianity, is just about the only rationalization that holds up anyway.

Where the @#$% have I been?

You may have noticed that I haven't posted anything in a while. Well, I was on vacation in Bora Bora with a gaggle of sexy supermodels. At least, that's what I tell myself. Seriously though, I just have had a bit of a rough time in my personal life, and I needed a little time to sort some stuff out. But I'm back. I've got three blogs drafted, mostly finished, that I'll post up very soon. I also plan to start transporting content from my old blog, The Apostasy, to this blog, so I can delete that old blog. It should make for good filler when I don't have the inclination to type up anything new.

So, thanks to my readers, if you've stuck around – both of you! ♥♥♥

- Mike

12 April 2010

The Case for Christ: The Movie: The Critique – Part 3

In part 2, Lee Strobel continued building on his house of cards and tried to argue that Jesus was actually God, and not just some guy. But the notion that we should nonchalantly accept a bunch of supernatural historical claims is a clear-cut case of special pleading, and he doesn't do as Carl Sagan would have demanded and present extraordinary evidence for such extraordinary claims. Then he goes on talking about fulfilled prophecy, which is wholly debunked with a more parsimonious explanation that doesn't require us to believe in supernatural magic.

11 April 2010

The Case for Christ: The Movie: The Critique – Part 2

First, a recap. Lee Strobel makes a thin case for the gospels being eyewitness accounts of Christ's ministry, apparently oblivious to scriptures where Jesus is alone (yet we're told every word of prayer) and mountains of modern research that shows eyewitness testimony to be horribly unreliable anyway. Strobel spends twenty minutes explaining how great eyewitness testimony is and how meticulous the oral tradition is. Then, when presented with a litany of contradictions between the gospels, basically just says, Oh, well, you'd expect that. Huh? So, eyewitness accounts are reliable, but not that reliable. Oral tradition is meticulous, but not that meticulous. What is the independent criteria for objectively determining an acceptable level of disagreement between the gospels? Sorry, it's trick question – there is none. They just baldly assert that the gospels have just the right amount of disagreement; any more or less would be bad. Any fool can smell the circular reasoning a mile away

The Case for Christ: The Movie: The Critique – Part 1

Lee Strobel is an ex-atheist. Now, far be it from me to pull out the no true Scotsman fallacy and suggest that he wasn't a "real" atheist. Being an atheist means you don't believe in God. It doesn't mean you're well-versed in science, theology, or philosophy. Yet, I get the sense that Lee Strobel was a discontent and naive atheist. In his aptly titled book The End of Reason, Ravi Zacharias goes on about how atheism led him to attempt suicide. Strobel never mentions anything so grim, or really (at least in this movie) goes into any detail about why he was an atheist, but I get the feeling that he was deeply troubled by his non-belief, just because he seemed so hellbent on disproving Christianity to himself. Perhaps it was an honest search for knowledge; perhaps he yearned for the comfort of religious belief. Who knows.

10 April 2010

Dawkins, Hitchens, plan legal ambush of Pope. I one-up them both.


Well, this is juicy. Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens want to arrest the Pope. And it actually sounds like they might pull it off, based on the legal jargon. From the horse's mouth:

The Case for Christ: The Movie

Coincidentally, a friend of mine mentioned Lee Strobel's book The Case for Christ, and then tonight while I was browsing Hulu, what did I find? The Case for Christ movie. I watched a little bit of it, and was making mental notes of the holes in reasoning (there were a lot, even just toward the beginning of the movie). Anyway, I'm going to force myself to sit through this thing and write up a little critique.

The Expendables: All that's old is new again

Alright, so, from time to time I like to take a break from all this sciencey philosophicalish jibber jabber and write about something a little more lighthearted.

I recently discovered the trailer for Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables, coming out later this year. I don't really know what the plot is. Something about a bunch of mercenaries taking a tough job, and through it all they probably kill a bunch of people and learn some life lesson that brings them closer together. I don't care. Nobody's going to watch this movie for the story. They're watching it because it has Stallone, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Dolph Lundgren, and cameos by Bruce Willis and the man himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Christian reaction to outspoken ex-Christians

Depending on which study you look at, the decline of religious faith in the United States is no small matter. A study by the Pew Research Foundation in 2007 shows some interesting statistics for Americans:
More than one-quarter of American adults (28%) have left the faith in which they were raised in favor of another religion - or no religion at all.

More on abuse

Continuing my thoughts on abuse from the previous post....

It is sometimes argued by theists that we don't actually need to address people's faith in order to sufficiently address problems of faith-rationalized abuse. From a discussion with my older brother, a devout Christian (the quoted paragraph is my own, followed by his response):
"We can't just say "x constitutes abuse" when people are saying their religion makes it right. You have to address the fallacy of their beliefs."

On the contrary, that's exactly what we do by majority rule in our society. For example, if an Appalacian snake handler hands their kid a venomous snake, DHS will remove that child. Religious rite or not, it's child endangerment. Addressing underlying belief systems is not at all a prerequisite to protecting kids.

Is it "abuse" to raise a child in the church?

I saw a fellow atheist friend of mine on Facebook join a group called "Religious Indoctrination of Children is Child Abuse". The issue was popularized, in my estimation anyway, by Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion in which he makes just such an argument.

And yet, I don't know that I fully agree with that idea, at least to the extent that it is being popularized in the new atheist subculture. I think that religious indoctrination is a bad thing, certainly; and while I would agree that certain types of religious indoctrination could qualify as child abuse, I don't know that I would go so far as to paint the entire issue with such a broad stroke.

07 April 2010

The Vatican: people are attacking the Pope because they hate how good he is

Vatican Blasts Anti-Catholic "Hate" Campaign

Of all the ridiculous, pompous, self-aggrandizing nonsense that the Vatican could spew in the midst of widespread abuse scandals, possibly none of them are more condescending than the allegations made by Cardinals Julian Herranz and Angelo Sodano: it's because the Pope and the church represent a higher morality than the rest of us minions wish to adhere, so people are just rebelling against the church out of their own self-interest. As Sodano put it:

04 April 2010

No true Scotsman, redux

A while back I blogged about the witch hunts in Africa, and how they were solely the result of Christians spreading their religion to ignorant, superstitious people who don't know any better. The point can't be understated: as long as there is no objective, independent criteria for interpreting the Bible correctly, people will impose on it whatever sociocultural biases they want and then, in a gobsmacking display of circular reasoning, use this as an anchor upon which to assert the infallible truth of their made-up religion.

An Easter twofer

A couple of links I slapped on my Facebook that I thought I should share with both people who read this blog.

First, PZ Meyers destroys the Easter story with panache I could only hope to achieve.

Then, once you realize how stupid and mindless Christian theology is, you can watch the following video and purge yourself from religion entirely, and be better off for it:

The irrational state of the political right

Yesterday I awoke to a friend on Facebook copying an op ed from Ben Stein, written prior to the passage of the health care reform bill. There was no link included, but the gist of the editorial was that "Obamacare" was socialism and your doctors would be replaced with bureaucrats, that Hillary Clinton enabled Iran to develop nuclear weapons, that climate change was a farce and any legislation to control it would take away our freedom, and on and on. It was a remarkably poorly written editorial, seemingly focused on health care but containing a random smattering of neoconservative buzz words.

Easter Mass in the Vatican

Last night I was watching CNN. I often just leave the video section on while I practice guitar or do other things. There was a segment about the shadow of abuse scandals, in which the Pope himself may have been culpable in a cover-up, that is hanging over the Vatican as it goes through Easter Mass. Some spoke out in defense of the Pope, and in defense of the Catholic faithful.