But why?

So I was watching the new episode of Creation Today and I just… Am so sad at what they think of how lowly they think of other human beings. The episode itself is about pain and suffering, but for the most part they focus on the low hanging fruit, ignoring what others would consider the real issue.

They talk about how pain is important for our survival, citing a child with CIP (does not feel pain) who constantly injures herself as a result. “Obviously,” their reasoning goes, “pain is important. Case closed.”

What’s really funny is that they opened the episode with Stephen Fry asking why God would give children bone cancer, but ignore that point. “Christianity is the only religion that explains why pain is important.” They never touch on how children with cancer improve our world, but they do argue that general pain does. I mean, often the YEC will resort to misdirection, but they are the ones who brought up Stephen Fry, they are the ones who highlighted this clip of him lamenting children who live short, painful lives, then die, and then they are the ones who completely ignore the point they brought up. That is quite odd, even for them.

The weird part is where they get into ethics; “Atheists just think we are matter doing things to other matter, and why should that matter? Atheists really believe there is nothing wrong with murder!” Why do you get to say that? Why do you think there are no scientific reasons for morality and ethics? Why do you so strongly think you know what I believe more than I do?

I am sad that they think so little of people who are not Christian. They will tell you that they love all people, that they want to spread the word, that they want to convert people… And it works on some, but their methods are so insidious. “You are worthless except to God,” goes their logic, “Your morals are bad, your ethics are bad, you are going to hell, you are ignoring science, facts, and knowledge, you are looking at the world wrong, your thoughts are wrong. So join us, and all of that goes away!”

Wow. I am glad you think so highly of me. I am glad you are so reasonable.

They go further, in the episode; “Forest fires kill hundreds of humans, destroy life, damage habitats. So we should stop them, right? WRONG! Ecosystems require forest fires to thrive!” That is correct, of course; many lives, many trees, many ecosystems rely on forest fires for their regenerative purposes, for clearing out the old to make way for the new. We cannot stop them, and many will die in the future, many homes lost, many lives destroyed, because there is a greater good that comes from it.

But why?

Why did God create the ecosystem, as they would assert, that requires the destruction of so much, the death of so many? Is that pain good? Is it required? Did He have to create it that way? They tackled the question of forest fires from only the first level, assuming they are a given, but why should they be a given in a world created by an all loving, all caring creator? I am not attacking the fact that God did create these forest fires, the true question is “Why?” Why did God create an ecosystem that not only kills His Chosen people, but requires killing.

To me, it is always odd when people cite The Exodus as a reason that God loved his Chosen people. “He went to bat for us! He destroyed the Egyptians! He helped us escape oppression!”

First, he helped you escape after 400 or more years of oppression, by your own count. Second, once you escaped, he didn’t give you a home–you wandered for 40 years in the desert. Not only that, but He, the God who loves you, put strange, almost crazy restrictions on the Chosen people, the people that He loved. Dietary restrictions? You know it! Restrictions requiring the painful and occasionally horrific modification of male genitalia? Absolutely! How about we go back even further, because right out of the gate, even long before this, He cursed all women to monthly menstrual cycles and the pain of child birth, due to them eating a fruit! And, if one thinks about this at even the shallowest level, you have to remember that Eve did not know it was wrong. She and Adam had not yet eaten of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which means they would not have known their actions were evil. Oh, they may have found it odd that they were going against something God said, but all people go against their parents via our apparently God-given instincts. What do you do if your child disobeys you for the VERY FIRST TIME? Do you punish them slightly? Ground them? Get unhappy with them?

I am going to assume you would not curse their entire gender. I would say their entire species, but that isn’t true, is it? God is not good at targeting His curses, for He hit the females of every animal species because of Eve. Those are not the actions of a loving God. Those aren’t the actions of a stable God. Those aren’t the actions of a sane God.

This might seem an unjust attack on Christianity, or on a loving God, but that isn’t what I intended. I wanted to build context. “Why do you believe God loves us?”

Is it the Exodus? We covered that, the Exodus took his “Chosen” people from 400 years of slavery into 40 years of starvation and thirst. During that, His people were subjected to harsh Laws and restrictions. Hell, in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he calls what God did “The curse of the Law.” That’s right, God saved His chosen people… Then immediately cursed them. Did He curse the Chinese, who did not know of him? The North American Native peoples? The Mayans? No, He did not curse those people. He cursed His chosen, but not any of his non-Chosen, except for the Egyptians… But thinking about that, they rebounded FAR BETTER than the Jewish people.

During any point in history prior to, and for several years after, Jesus Christ, being a Chosen Person of God was TERRIBLE. It was a curse, a hamper, it required pain and suffering. Pain and suffering of the kind that no other people had to suffer.

Hell, even after Christianity was accepted as the official religion of Rome, being a chosen person of God was awful. Right up through World War 2, where Hitler killed so many Jews, following that ancient religion has been a burden more terrible than God has set out for His non-Chosen. Being a Christian was not flowery, either, for there was the wars with the Muslims, the Crusades, the Inquisition. I hope you were born believing the right version of being God’s Chosen, because even being a Christian could get you killed by other Christians. There is a saying that I love that goes back many decades, and I do not know the original source, but it basically states that prior to the eighteenth century, Muslims were more tolerant of Christians than Christians were tolerant of other Christians.

“But for our pain, we are granted eternal paradise!” But why would God require you to suffer for the blink of an eye, for 10 or 20 or 70 years under oppression and pain, then give you eternal life? That seems such an odd choice.

And then, of course, come the odd questions–if someone has never heard of Christianity, will they go to Heaven? There is an old joke about African Missionaries converting pagans to Christianity. A pagan woman asks “If I become a Christian, will I go to Heaven?”

“Yes,” replies the Missionary.

“But,” continues the woman, “Would I have gone to Hell if I had never heard of your Christianity?”

“No,” the Missionary answers, “You would have been judged by your works, since you had never heard of God, He would not have punished you for it.”

“Then why,” the woman says, exasperated, “Did you tell me about your God?”

It’s sort of funny, but it’s more sad. Do you not read the implication there? In what the Missionary said? “You would have been better off had you never heard of our God, for you would not have had to Believe this particular story to go to Heaven.”

Again, not only are God’s own people punished, but people who are not of His own flock are rewarded for never having heard of his flock. And God loves His Chosen?

It sounds like He loves everyone except His Chosen.

So why?

But why?

Why?

Why do you believe God loves you? Why do you believe God cares? I simply do not have the tools at my disposal to answer that question for myself.

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Correlation vs Causation (2015 edition, Part 1)

I think I may have used this title for a blog post before, but I’ll bet I spelled it differently, thus it is COMPLETELY UNIQUE.

In any case, this specific post is in relation to this article, whose author claims to know what has New Atheists all up in a tizzy. I — it is difficult to know where to start. Going through the article from top to bottom has proven surprisingly lacking in usefulness. I am going to start with a line that the author got amazingly correct, and I assure you, by reading context it was obviously accidental.

“In fact there are no reliable connections – whether in logic or history – between atheism, science and liberal values.” That is perfectly correct. I am an atheist. I am also a liberal. Further to that, I also believe science holds the answers to many questions over which religion attempts to claim absolute dominion. That being the case, and all of that being true, I would still never say my atheism led me to science, that my science led me to being liberal, or any other iterations of that web. These are independent areas of my life.

What led me to losing God was the inability of Christians to answer my questions. For my long time readers, you will remember (I hope) that I am still open to returning to the fold, should I receive satisfactory answers to so many of my questions. If you want to bring me back to the Light, I’d recommend starting with my blog post from yesterday, and answering what it is that would allow for men and women to be born with psychopathy; a complete lack of empathy, and almost no morals to speak of built into them. It’s ok, I’ll wait.

Back to the core point, though; why should my atheism ever be brought into the conversation when we are talking about human rights, or politics, or anything else? I do not support human rights because I am atheist, in the same way I hope your religion is not the only reason you support human rights. Were I to show incontrovertible proof that God did not exist, would you immediately support torture programs? To flip that, if you were to show me incontrovertible proof that God does exist, it would not affect my life. I like to live a good life, give to charities where I can afford it, show empathy to those in pain. That would not change, God or no, and even I would not accuse the average person, saying thus: “You are only moral because of God!”

So why is it so easy for so many Evangelical Christians to say “You support eugenics because you are an Atheist?”

That brings me, then, to the title. Atheists have done some awful things in the past. They have said some awful things. So have Christians. For some reason, many Evangelical Christians are oddly comfortable with saying “Stalin was an atheist, and look at what he did,” but will completely reverse their stance when you say “The Pope was a Christian, and look at the Spanish Inquisition!”

“Obviously,” they reply, “That Pope was a bad Christian.” Or, another tack, “We’ve made mistakes, but we’re better now!” They are allowed to say this, but when I say “I am in no way related to Stalin, I do not support Stalin’s views and methods, and I do not follow some core doctrine of atheism,” I am accused of at least one of several things. The first is the odd accusation of “If you don’t believe in God, how can you believe in anything! If you don’t believe in anything, you will believe everything!” (I think that is one of Eric Hovind’s favorite quotes.) I am accused of being some kind of passive atheist, that if I don’t have some kind of leadership in my beliefs, I can, again, believe in anything. That I am subject to my own whims. That my violent, baser nature can be curbed only by God, and that (this next one is a little bit hyperbole) I am a murderer waiting to happen because I don’t have God in my life to stop me.

I will concede that, as an atheist, there is no higher power to stop me from killing a hundred people then myself. There is no afterlife, no eternity in hell. That being said, what about Jim Jones and the Jonestown Massacre? In the name of God those men and women died. Oh, a corrupted version of God, not any recognizable form of Christianity, but that leads me to my next point.

People have been good in the past without God, and people have been evil in the past with God. Going into the future, people will do good in the name of God, and in the future people will do good in the name of humanity.

But that’s the rub; if someone supports eugenics, there seems to be some press to put a religious spin on it. But it can exist completely independent of religion. While you may have a block that prevents this thought from occurring to you, I would like to walk you through a thought experiment.

Imagine a world where there is no cancer. We never found a treatment for it, it just went away. There is no ALS, there is no Huntington’s disease. Not one person is born with Down’s Syndrome, not one person born with a deformity. The average life expectancy is pushing 100 years, and in the later stages of life a 95 year old is easily as spry and active as a 55 year old today.

This is all easily achievable in two generations, by my own layman’s estimation. All it requires is some light selective breeding on the part of humans. Maybe a taste of Eugenics.

Do I support eugenics? No, not personally. That being said, independent of religion, I understand that the benefits of it could be vast.

So why does an article like the above linked exist? Why is it that anyone today is allowed to say “Well, Haekel was an atheist, therefore everything he said and did was done and said because of his atheism”?

The author continues, hitting another accidental mark if only because of phrasing, “When organised as a movement and backed by the power of the state, atheist ideologies have been an integral part of despotic regimes that also claimed to be based in science, such as the former Soviet Union.” (Emphasis mine.)

I can say “I am murdering you for science!” I could say that, and it would be meaningless. Equally meaningless were Stalin’s plans, his policies, where he tried to back them with science. Where Haekel claimed that “… Other races are inferior scientifically,” he produced no evidence. He had no scientific standing.

His statement held as much water under scrutiny, an EQUAL AMOUNT, to when Jim Jones said “I do this because God told me to.” There is no evidence, no backing. No reason to take that statement as anything other than the idle personal speculations of a man who did not have the data he required (or had a surplus of crazy, as the case may be). Was Haekel an atheist? Yes. Were there racist atheists? Yes. But, and this may surprise you, there were also racist Christians. Please, keep yourself calm, these types of revelations can change your world–but it’s OK, everything will settle down with time.

The funny thing is that while Haekel baselessly claimed his racism had scientific backing, the Christian racists backed their racism in various Old Testament verses. Some of them believe that skin color (specifically, darker skin color) may even be the Mark of Cain! (And before you tell me that it is only Mormons who believe that, my Catholic Grandfather will preach the same idea to his death, I am sure.) And yet, so many seem blind to the apparent blatant cognitive dissonance.

The article linked is very long, and there is a lot to cover yet — and I will, again, put Part 1 up and then never follow up. There is much more to be said, and I hope I find time to say it all.

The Way Things Are

“Don’t worry, guys! I am writing a series! I won’t take a 1 week break!” And it wasn’t even a lie, because I accidentally took 2.5 weeks off. Goood times.

Some days, my head is in worse condition than others, and while this blog has generally been my own personal self-therapy, I just couldn’t make myself write. It isn’t even that I haven’t been writing, I have just been so unsatisfied with what I was writing that I couldn’t bear to publish it. Also, I hate that WordPress moved the settings and options to the left when it used to be on the right.

As Facebook has proven, the smallest changes cause the most irrational anger, for at least a week or two, then everything is ok again. Well, theoretically–I’ve been using the left side bar for a few weeks now, and I still hate it.

My complaining aside, I couldn’t actually publish a post without content, and Creation Today hosted a blog post that was everything I have been talking about since I started this blog, but inverted. I tried to find the original version of that post (pingbacks are the heart of blogging) but it seems to be hidden somewhere.

Onto the meat, though, in that this is a very intelligent writer who, unfortunately, seems very prone to literal application of rhetoric. The part that irked me so was his understanding of morality, and his literal application of “Stardust shooting holes in stardust.” If you’ve not read it, I believe he is referencing the legendary quote by Carl Sagan that “We are all star stuff,” so shooting each other should have no bounds in morality–but this shows a complete lack of understanding in evolutionary morality. I really wanted to link to the source article because I had hoped that it would give my article even the smallest chance of being read by the original author–I think he is capable of critical thought, the switch is just stuck in the off position.

Again, in the off chance that he may read this post some day, I will explain morality from a purely scientific standpoint (though Sam Harris has done it better, in his own militant New Atheist kind of way). Dawkins has also tackled the issue more indirectly, though it is a vein of silver that runs through all of his books and ideas.

The short version is this: evolution is about survival. Our world is complicated and difficult to survive in. Therefore, to maximize chance for survival, we must live in groups. To live in groups, we must have something akin to a ruleset of morality. Throughout the over 3 billion year history of evolution, most, but not all, immorality has been thrown out. That being said, there are some glaring oversights in evolution’s wide scope, and I think they prove evolution rather than prove morals inscribed upon our soul by an Almighty God.

The first is sexual infidelity. Males are generally more susceptible to this, and evolution explains it very well where “morals placed upon our soul by God” does not. If God put these morals in our soul, why are so many so quick to violate them? Why are clergymen prey to them so easily? Why would God write such a power of lust into us that it overrides the morals He put into us?

Evolution explains it well, and it even explains why males tend to be more susceptible. Women are susceptible, too, but to a lesser extent. Women are only capable of reproduction during a certain percentage of the time, a relatively small percentage–and once successful reproduction has occurred, they are unable to reproduce continually while pregnant. For a woman, instinctually, it is preferable to have a male counterpart who will remain present to assist in the upbringing of a child. Males, however, are capable of almost constant reproduction from the time they hit puberty until the time they die, and evolution wants them to. If they could impregnate 1000 women, their progeny would almost guarantee the survival of his genes. For a man, successful reproduction is less about caring for a single offspring as is it is about having enough offspring that (to quote an American colloquialism) their genes are “Too big to fail.”

To that end, men’s eyes wander, searching for more potential mates.

It is not a romantic notion, I have to agree. That being said, it explains why men and women must fight with their own sexual urges, rather than merely relying on God given morality. Science explains our sins, if sins they be, where religion just raises at least one further question: Why did God do such a hack job of making moral humans?

Oh, you can quote The Fall, the Curse of Sin all you want–the reason that argument does not hold water for long is simple: if God is omniscient, He knew humans would eat of the tree before He created humans… And yet He created us in the Garden, by the Tree anyway? That is a parent leaving a 15 year old at home alone, saying “Don’t go into the liquor cabinet, which we’ve left unlocked, and that you can reach easily!” And, of course, with similarly predictable results.

Now we move on to the Monkeysphere. For those not familiar with it, it is currently the modern distillation of Dunbar’s Number, which describes the number of people in your life that you are capable of truly caring about. Before you get up in arms, saying I can’t put a number on such a thing, describe to me your reaction to the thought (or, if it has happened, the event) of your mother dying. Now describe to me your thought of, say, Bill O’Reilly dying. I’ll bet one is outright anguish, and the other is… Well, I suppose that depends on your political leanings. The point is this; if our morals are universal, granted by God, what is it that should cause me to care more about my dogs than, say, cousin Chuck who lives in Albuquerque? (Oh yes, I know about your cousin Chuck!)

The answer, again, lies in evolution. As before, we are programmed to survive in groups by our survival instincts, but we evolved only to live in groups about 100 large. In a world of universal love impressed upon my soul by God, why should I cry more for the death of my cat than I did for the 200,000 who died in the Indonesian Tsunami of 2005? Cry more for the ills felt by my dog than for the 800,000 who were left homeless and starving? And before you call me callous or cruel, did you cry? What was your reaction to 9/11, if you were old enough to have truly been aware of it? I am sure it was a bit of stunned shock, but not nearly so much as the stunned shock you felt when your first pet died. If you never had a pet, then the death of a beloved family member. If you have never felt either of those losses, wait–they will come, and you will realize that love is not universal, it cannot be, by the limits set upon our human brains by evolution.

I think I’ve covered this in implication, but I’d like to cover it explicitly. The author writes “Some will then go on to argue that right and wrong is just what is beneficial to society. But why is benefiting society right?”

The reason is this: the entire goal of evolution is survival of the species. Through 3 billion years of mixing genetic code (FOR SCIENCE!) evolution has come to the conclusion that survival depends on more than just you and your monkeysphere. Protecting the survival of the gene is the highest order goal of evolution, therefore evolution has programmed into us a sense of empathy. The thing about evolution is that while it is masterful at what it does, genetics is complicated enough that other things slip through the cracks; psychopathy, sociopathy, people simply lacking in empathy, a callous disregard for the well being of other humans independent of the above conditions… I can explain those, using both recessive genes and large numbers, allowing for undesirable traits to continue to replicate. The most unfortunate part is how our empathy does not just allow for replication of undesirable traits, but how our empathy enables it. I am not here to preach for the application of Eugenics, my own personal sense of empathy would never allow for it, but the coldly logical part of my brain does realize that the human race could be drastically improved by … Well, if I complete that sentence I know it will be held against me, despite my not agreeing with it.

The funny thing is how much evolution is often in conflict with the teachings of the Bible. Homosexuality is an easy one, a low hanging fruit for me to grasp, and wow–that sentence got weird quickly. In any case, there is evidence that homosexuality may exist at the gene level. This next part is hilarious to me; the stance of the Church that homosexuality is a choice, and the idea that they can be forced to be heterosexual, is basically allowing the homosexual gene to not just propagate in the species, but spread and grow. I’d be willing to bet the percentage of the homosexual population in the Church is a growing statistic, though I don’t have that number.

Man, if it turns out definitively that homosexuality is genetic, and the Church has been forcing homosexuals to reproduce against their instincts… Man, the Church will have so much egg on its face.

“There is no logic behind this, because there is no explanation as to why benefiting society is the correct thing to do.” No, Mr Writer, that is not true — and even a cursory reading of only the most popular books on evolution (A great place to start, as always, is “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins. It is a book purely on science, lacking most of his later vitriol) will show you that even in the 1970s we had an idea of why benefiting society is a personal benefit to the survival of the entire species. We don’t just know, at this point, we’ve plumbed those depths at length.

“But what about the atheist? If it was simply stardust blowing holes in stardust, then what reason is there to cry? What reason is there to demand justice?” Oh dear, we are getting deep into the rabbit hole now, aren’t we, Alice? Most atheists witnessing a random murder will not cry, I will give you that, but shock and horror, disgust, and empathy for the victim? Those, certainly, we will feel at witnessing this–for we have empathy as well as you do. The only difference is that varying strengths of empathy, various emotional dispositions are easily explained by evolution, where I have never heard of a good reason why a psychopath should exist in a world where morals and emotions are impressed upon our soul by God.

To clarify, a psychopath will often have no empathy at all, their actions have no mental repercussions. They are not someone who made poor choices and ended up doing something awful–they were born without the ability to understand why what they do is awful. Did God just miss them? Forget to give them morals? Some serial killers who turned out to be psychopaths, who killed 10 people, each of those with 50 friends and family to mourn their losses… God just forgot to give them morals like the rest of us, and because of that a rough guess at 500 lives being ruined? Explain that.

I can explain it through evolution, but can you explain it through God?

Passive Christianity, Part 1

There is an eternal war within Christianity, one that will never end so long as rich people want to stay rich, so long as the government exists, so long as Christianity exists. It is a war about the message of Jesus, a war with intelligent men and women on all sides, and a war I cannot fully comprehend.

Does Christianity teach socialism?

As those on my facebook are likely aware, I tripped upon Libertarian Christian Doctrine yesterday, and I simply don’t understand their reading of the Bible at a surface level. I am trying to remedy that by reading their primer. The very first thing they say, the starting point for their Christian foundations, is the war I just mentioned, whether or not Socialism was on Jesus’ radar.

To be fair, a very literal, very strict, very passive reading of Jesus’ words allows for this. Oh, you don’t think I should be using literal, strict, and passive to describe the same thing? Please allow me to justify myself.

The core of their argument rests upon whether Jesus preached mandatory or optional charity, and as all things on this topic, references Acts chapter 4 as a passage in the Bible that they consider to be misleading unless read with the correct frame of mind (as opposed to those who think God is not a God of confusion, of course). Acts 4 speaks of the early Christian Church charitably selling their possessions, a la Jonestown (negative connotations obviously intended), to support the group. They didn’t do this because they had to (as a function of a command, I suppose, as obviously they did this out of necessity), but because of the charitable spirit of Christianity.

I think the thing that people forget is that we use the term Charity far differently than they would back in the day. To them, the closest thing they could understand in our modern world to charity would likely have been a soup kitchen; aside from various religious sects, you didn’t just hand your money over to anyone and expect then that they would care for the people you wanted them to care for. At least, I have no historical knowledge of the “Save the Lepers” foundation around the turn of the first millennium, but that is obviously open to dispute by someone who knows of such a charity. The thing is, prior to Jesus, the Church was a form of government where God was merely analogous to President or Emperor, or your chosen title. God laid down laws, and while many may believe that the Ten Commandments are those laws, they have likely never read Leviticus or Deuteronomy. Those two books have laws so strict and so in violation of the idea of liberty that I can’t believe any Libertarian ever made it through them to the New Testament (if you are of the opinion that “I should be able to drink and drive if I want, and the consequences be upon my shoulders,” I wonder if you recall how strict Jewish Law was in how drinking was performed, or what they are allowed to dress in, or how sick people are to be “handled.”).

This brings us to the next battleground, whether the Old Testament law matters at all, whether we should be talking about it. Everyone seems to agree that the Ten Commandments apply, but Leviticus and Deuteronomy are traditionally (though not historically) attributed to the same man who wrote the Ten Commandments, the person of Moses. There is some argument over the meaning and context of Matthew 5:18, for example. What does that mean, “until all is accomplished”? Well, if you take it out of context, people obviously assume that means “Until Jesus rises to heaven,” and thus done is done, all is accomplished, and we don’t have to follow the Law! Huzzah! But wait, what’s that other part in the same verse?

“Until heaven and earth pass away”? That is harder to explain away, and it seems Jesus (and certainly James his Brother), both agreed that the Old Testament should be adhered to in every tenet. Well damn, this is awkward, right? And, can you believe it, this is a line during the Sermon on the Mount. Tough to ignore that kind of gravitas.

There is a retreat of sorts used by most people who are trying to argue The Law out modern discourse, in that St Paul wrote (Romans 7:1-6), in stark, almost perfect contrast to Jesus, that we are freed from the law (Galatians 3:13). Now, I would challenge a person to find where Jesus even so much as implied this sentiment? And why we take it as Gospel truth despite literally not appearing in the Gospels? And why Paul is allowed to create doctrine that has no previous basis? In word-for-word contrast to Jesus’ teaching that the Law is to be adhered to, even so much as the Pharisees, to exceed them in Righteousness, on pain of Hell? 

But this is where the intersection gets very interesting, and I could talk about this for days, for years. I can quote Jesus, and my general modern Christian opposition can quote Paul, and they are both incredibly potent quotes. The side you take depends on the baggage you bring to the table. Reading it and wanting to believe purely in the loving message of Jesus, one will obviously side with Paul. Those who are truly Christian fundamentalists should understand that the Early Christian Church practiced Jewish Tradition. These were Christians, in the earliest sense of the word, who had a schism with Jews, but still believed Jewish law was binding.

So long as the Bible is in conflict with itself, there is no end to the war, for both sides have the greatest soldier on their side, fighting the other side… The soldier of God’s word. What I want to know is how God’s word is considered a sharp, potent weapon when it cuts both ways so equally.

I’ve only gone two levels deep in this discussion, and I already have a blog length post going on here. I am going to read more into this Libertarian Christian movement, see if I can find anything more in alignment with my own interpretation of the Bible, and then post my thoughts for all both of my readers to ponder.

This is obviously not a conclusion, which means I can make a series to this effect. This should be fun! I will write more about it, because I need to lay a lot more ground work before I can write a proper conclusion, before I can touch all the points I’ve brought up with some sort of finality of explanation. I hope you don’t mind, especially since this basically means I won’t be having any one week breaks in the near future!

Anyway, see you next time.

To Tweak the Design

The below is a plea for help in understanding … something. I don’t even know what it is I could understand. I would like to understand your belief, theoretical Christian reader. It may help me return to the Church. I want to understand the mind of God, but I know all I generally get is platitudes about no one understanding His plan, so I guess that is off the table. I want to understand the Bible better, but my questions are difficult, they are hard, they are pointed, they are directed. Please help me answer them, if you can, it would help me return to the Church, if such a thing is even remotely possible any more…

“Everything according to His plan,” a refrain often stated when worst meets worse to comfort those affected. I don’t want to take away the comfort you feel, but I do want to know what it is about this that gives you comfort. What is God’s design?

I’ve written about my opinions on this several times in the past, but I thought I’d take another crack at it. I think my writing is getting better, that I am able to more clearly articulate what I want to say, and maybe I can pour something of my soul onto this page as a sort of continued self-therapy. And maybe you’ll enjoy it? I guess?

I have never understood the justice of God, I am comfortable saying that. He has always seemed to have a stunning parity with an abusive parent; giving commands He knows you won’t follow, and punishing you horribly when you do not. You don’t have to go very deeply into the Bible to see what I mean, this is exactly how He treated Adam and Eve.

Step back and think about the story; God put a tree that they were not allowed to eat from in the middle of their home, put a serpent in there that was obviously evil (if Sin didn’t exist before Eve ate the apple, I guess the serpent did nothing wrong), and then let everything play out. But it is worse than that, isn’t it? He made these humans, with all of the foresight available to a being who can apparently see the future as though it were this very moment.

So think about that; He made Adam and Eve knowing that they would almost immediately disobey him, and if the modern understanding is to be believed, every human ever born until Jesus died was sent to the pit, or purgatory, or hell, or some kind of stasis. But why? How is that justice? I need one of the faithful to explain it to me, because I (in my limited experience and understanding) cannot make sense of the story, and a huge portion of my peers seem to take it without a second glance that it was the human’s fault, not God’s. As though the humans had the tools to even properly follow the rules?

God did not write them down, did not tell Adam and Eve the details. He just said, in His infinite wisdom and ability to see the future, “Don’t eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” Think about that, though; if they did not know good from evil, how would they even have known what they were doing was wrong? Like a child who is told not to stick a fork in the wall socket; a good parent will cover the wall sockets because they do not want the child to electrocute themselves to death. But God did not cover the tree of good and evil with a socket cover; he put it in the middle of the garden, apparently in plain sight, with nothing stopping the very young and inexperienced Adam and Eve from eating of it aside from telling them not to. You have to remember, given the Young Earth ages presented, Adam and Eve could not have been more than a few years old at the time, and whether they were given adult bodies or not, they likely didn’t have any real world experience built into them.

Regardless of what Adam and Eve did, even God shows some restraint in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, in that He claims that He will only punish a child unto the fourth (maaaayyybbbeeee tenth) generation for the sins of his or her parents, and yet here we are (what is this, the 27th generation?) apparently being punished specifically for Adam’s sin. Apparently in the Bible writer’s mind, women were so inconsequential that we are not even punished for her sin, only all females for all time, what with the monthly bleeding and birthing pains (God’s justice is so level handed).

But we go even deeper, in that God created everything and (we are told) it was Good. But He could see the future. When He created humans, He knew (before ever saying a single word) that we would almost instantly break His commands, and the (again) very even handed punishment is an eternity of torment in hell for all humans save for a select few who number fewer than my available digits. Well, at least until Jesus, but again showing all that love and foresight God is known for, He decided to wait another 4000 years before sending His only begotten Son to redeem our sins. And He only sent this son after threatening to kill all of his chosen people several times.

Given that we disobeyed Him almost instantly (one source seems to think we did it within 45 minutes of creation, and at that point I can do nothing but respect the speed at which the Serpent operates), one would think that God (in His infinite wisdom) could have tweaked the design of free will just a hair? Maybe give us a few thousand years of paradise? The thing is, God gave only two humans paradise, and even then only for a very short amount of time (and given the staggering numbers of humans who have lived, one finds that God seems to have a very limited sense of fair play).

I’ve made numerous analogies and metaphors in regards to how I view God as operating towards His people, but I think some need to be restated for emphasis.

I stand by what I said; God is a worse parent than the mother who puts plug stops on the electrical outlets. I’d liken God’s sense of parenting to keeping the liquor under the sink, and not having any child locks. Probably keeps Drano under there, too–not even because He needs to use Drano, but because He wants to see if we’ll drink it. Given what I know about people (and the fact that I have a friend whose brother downed a bottle of isopropyl alcohol…), my own guess would be that yes, yes there are many who would drink that Drano.

Even worse, even before becoming a parent, God is a child who demands a puppy, gets it, and lets it run around the house — but when it pees on the carpet, the carpet He never trained it not to pee on, He beats it. Not just once, either. He ties it to a beating post for the rest of its life, for that single incident. Not only that, but He breeds it. He breeds it, then beats His dog’s puppies, because his dog peed on the carpet He never trained it not to pee on. 

I may sound angry and bitter, but really I am not. What I truly am is confused. I am confused how someone can believe there is a loving God at work. If you believe there is a loving God at work, I am confused as to how. I am confused as to how God’s justice is supposed to work, and I am confused as to how you call it justice. When I ask those faithful in my life this question, generally the response I receive is along the lines of “God makes the rules, therefore everything He does is just.”

That just raises the eternal question: Are moral actions moral because God said they are moral, or did God just tell us what was moral? If God told you to rape a small child, would that be considered moral because God said so? These are theoreticals, and often ignored by anyone who still has the patience to talk to me; “Well, obviously God wouldn’t tell me to do that.” That doesn’t answer the question.

How about God telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac? If Abraham had gone through with it, would that have been moral? Again, many who have spoken to me have raised the fact that God did not let Abraham do the killing, and while I am not angry at God, per se, I do get angry with the excuses. These are blind excuses, excuses designed to give God an out in whichever situation He finds Himself written into.

How about the tale of Jephthah? He said if he won the upcoming battle, he’d sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house. Now, barring the fact that this is possibly the most short sighted thing anyone could say (what was going to come out of his house to greet him upon his return? Not his wife or daughter, obviously!), God sits back and lets this all happen. And God does not stop Jephthah from sacrificing his daughter. Does God’s tacit approval make this sacrifice moral? God could have let that battle go the other way, or told Jephthah not to bother with the daughter sacrifice (He did intervene on Isaac’s behalf, one must remember).

All of this has just been a brain dump, because too few people will talk about this subject with me. They feel attacked, and I suppose it could come off that way (in fact, of course it would come across that way), but if you can’t answer the hard questions how can I find my way back to the fold? I have hard questions, questions I need answered before I could ever consider returning to the Church, and the best I seem to get is that I shouldn’t ask these questions.

Are the people I talk to afraid of them? Is Christianity built on the principles of “Don’t ask questions!”? Is God too fragile for my hard questions? No, I would never think that, but I am afraid that my questions are a plague in the mind of the believer; once they really start to consider the story, they have very few options. They can answer my questions, though no one has taken this option. They can ignore the questions (a perennial favorite). They can just say they trust in God (to my own mind, this adds up to the coward’s way out, for the person and for God). But if I am to return to the Church, I need these answers, and every day that passes, every person I ask who gives me uncomfortable shrugs or tells me that I am disrespecting them by even asking these questions, or ignores me, or gives me words that they use to comfort themselves, I drift further and further from God.

What advice is there for one like me? Go read the Bible? Oh, I have been reading the Bible, and all I can find is more questions and few answers. The Bible is great, if you are willing to believe the words “I love all my people!” But if you read the actions as much as the words (communication is 80% nonverbal, or whatever the number is), the actions that follow God’s professions of love are often “Man, I am going to kill like… a TON of people. Lots of them will be Israelites.” Those are the exact actions of a man who beats his wife under the umbrella of “I hit you because I love you, and you made me do this.”

What is it that humans have forced God to do? Is that what it is? We have forced God to hit us? Seems odd for us to force God to do anything.

Help me. I am asking for help here. Help me understand God’s… “love.” Help me understand God’s… “justice.” Help me understand how God is anything but the father with a belt, a strong strapping arm, a lot of time, and maybe some boredom. I really am asking for your help, as much as my words make that difficult to believe.

There was an Audible Whoosh

I mentioned, cited, and wrote about this article in the blog post I threw up (pun intended) not even an hour ago… But the idea of it has actually wounded my head for the arrogance of it. The wound is festering, and I felt like I really, really needed to write more about it to relieve the pressure that was building behind my eyes. Oh, you think it can’t be that bad? If that thought passed through your brain, you obviously haven’t read it.

I have to commend the author for accidentally making one sentence ring true in that entire article, the idea that we assume the universe of tomorrow will function much as the universe today, which functions much like the universe of yesterday (unless you believe in young earth creationism, at which point the universe of yesterday doesn’t have to obey any rules except the ones that make your science convenient (I am sure the Hydrosphere sounds very plausible to you, in any case)). That being said, he states that the only reason we can assume that is because of Genesis 8:22. In that case, I am glad someone thought to write it down; why, if they didn’t, the universe would function much like the improbability drive in Hitchhiker’s Guide.

To even begin to accept this verse as binding, as laying the rules of the universe rather than following them, we have to presuppose that the Bible is true and correct. The Bible itself justifies this presupposition by telling the reader that it is true and inerrant, and obviously you can trust it because you presuppose it is true and correct because it tells you it is true and correct, which you believe because you presuppose it is true and correct. But science is not allowed to presuppose ANYTHING, only YECs are allowed to judge presuppositions. And don’t even get them started on the idea of no presuppositions, because even thinking about there being no presuppositions is an incorrect presupposition, and everything you say after they’ve decided that is totally incorrect.

I am sorry, but the author of the top linked article there is arrogant in a way that even many YECs would balk at. I mean, I understand that “I’m right and you’re wrong,” is the core doctrine they have in regards to science, but this guy… This guy. I haven’t been as frustrated at circular logic in a long time. I realize all logic is circular to a degree, but the wider your circle the less assumptions you have to make, and their … Well, I wish I could call it a circle, but since it only has two elements it is actually only a line. They don’t even get so far as to qualify as circular logic. Circular logic assumes much more thought than this idea that Genesis 8:22 laid out the rules of the universe, rather than just mentioned them.

Look, I understand that you feel persecuted, somehow, even though you are the majority religion of the most powerful nation on the face of the Earth. I just don’t understand how it is you can be so… Willfully blind towards the idea that you are allowed to presuppose, while any statement that a scientist makes that doesn’t come from the Bible counts as “out of bounds.” I don’t get it.

Do you know why science assumes that tomorrow will work like today? It isn’t just because it enables science to work, it is because without that science is pointless. The thing is, something akin to science predates your concept of your God. But here’s the other thing; if tomorrow the universe changes so that it functions on a new rule set, I can almost guarantee that we won’t survive to think about it. So here’s what we’re gonna do: we are gonna keep doing science as we have been, following the rules and laws we have been, until we either see this drastic change that you seem to think must happen without God, or until we get far enough that we can actually understand where the rules came from.

The problem is that so many YECs hate it when you call their God the “God of the Gaps,” then proudly say (as was said in this very article) that we don’t know where the rules came from, so obviously God did it. No, no, we shouldn’t search for where the rules came from, that is blasphemy; we should just trust an 8th century BC Jewish peasant to have gotten it right, because that is way more likely than science ever closing this gap. Way more likely indeed!

No, He isn’t a God of the Gaps, He just happens to fill this gap in our current science, and that is just the way we like it. No, stop looking for another explanation. STOP IT! STOPIT!STOPPPPPIIIITTTT! You are going to hell, science!

Augh, sorry, but this article drove me even crazier after I thought about it for a while than it did while I was reading it through. I just about exploded with all of these words inside of me. They would have come out of me somehow, no matter how badly I just wanted to stop thinking about how someone out there considers the logic presented in the linked article sound. That is not sound logic. That is not sound theory. That is probably not even a sound mind, or if it is a sound mind, it is at the very least a liar. No sound mind could think that up, then try to sell it to others as fact; that is the kind of thing someone hears, then passes off as fact so they can sound smart, so long as no one looks too closely.

Now give me a few minutes, I have to bleach that memory out of my brain. I am sure I can come up with some way to make that happen.

The Modern Damage of Romans 1:18-21

More than anything in the Gospels, more than anything in the Old Testament, more than any other passage quoted in the Epistles of Paul, Romans 1:18-21 is quoted by the Young Earth Creationists in defending their… Science? Opinion? Stance? Ignorance? I don’t even know what to call it; I don’t want to call it ignorance, but when it is said in the same breath as speaking historical science, or in the same article as calling evolution “anti-science”, it is tough to call it anything else. I don’t want to sound overly negative, but if they didn’t have this talisman I think we’d be in a very different world (or, at the very least, they’d have to pull different tools out of their tickle trunk).

I tripped down the hole that is Answers in Genesis, and was forging through the brush of their articles before coming across these two pieces of wonderful literature that I simply could not ignore. The first of my links is possibly the most broadly egregious, for it basically says that the scientific advances of the great Greek culture were only because of God. I mean, obviously they weren’t Christian or Jewish, but thanks to their MIGHTY TALISMAN (Romans 1:18-21), we can be certain that they knew God. Obviously. And because they knew God, and rejected God, then God gets all the credit for their science in absentia. I mean, it’s not like they can fight back, right?

Never mind the fact that when Eratosthenes discovered the circumference of the spherical Earth, the Jews were being passed between Egypt and Greek masters like some kind of feud over a borrowed lawn mower (The third century BC). I am sure the Jews of the day were closer to the right of it, though, and the Greeks knew about the Christian God (then again… Jesus hadn’t been around yet, and Romans 1:18-21 didn’t exist. So the Jewish God was universally a territorial, xenophobic, murderous asshole of a tribal god at the time. Oh, that isn’t true, you say? Tell me where in the Old Testament God showed his love for all peoples. Oh, I know God said he loved the Israelites, but that was generally right before he wanted to kill them all. It’s OK, though, Moses talked him out of it. Anyway, take your time. I’ll wait.).

Regardless, the spurious logic presented in the second linked article is almost laughable to anyone who even … Sorry, that was going to go to an insulting place, and I’d rather we stay civil. Anyway, the author states that because the Bible states there is uniformity in the universe that there would be no such uniformity without God. I don’t even know which of the thousand threads to pull on. I mean, the first would be what was the world like before God struck his covenant with Abraham? And even if we accept your Creator God, why does He have such a small, historically insignificant people as His chosen, despite the fact that he frequently mentions his hatred of them? Why have a chosen people at all when all people are descended of your creation? And what’s with the other gods in the old testament? The Old Testament contextually speaks of Ba’al as a rival god to YWH, and historically it seems that even the early Jews accepted Ba’al as existing, though there’s an entire body of research that goes into how that argument got settled.

If God wanted to kill the Israelites so badly after the Exodus, why didn’t He just choose another, better chosen people? To that end, why did he ACTIVELY harden the heart of Pharaoh against believing in Him? I don’t even, what is this?

But then this all goes to the damage caused by Romans 1:18-21 in the modern world. The weird thing I want to know is how does this manifest? How do I know the truth of God and reject it? How is it so plainly obvious? And I don’t just mean in my case, what of the case of a child born and raised pagan? If the child learns of the Hindu pantheon from birth to death, how was that child meant to know God clearly? The passage reads that all things are clearly seen, but what makes these miracles “clearly seen” to be of the God you were raised to believe in, as opposed to Zeus? Or Odin? Or Vishnu? What makes it so clear that these aren’t scientific processes? These aren’t rhetorical questions, they are question about the very root of the arrogance of hard line creationists who cite it as defense of their view. You are asking me to take a statement from a first century religious zealot at face value, without even a hint of explanation. Hell, with the way that this set of verses is bandied about, it seems you want me to accept it without even the slightest trace of context.

I think that very passage is at the root of the arrogance of many modern creationists, and I think it has stymied the conversation between the Christian Church in the United States and science worldwide. Usually, this would not really concern me, but as the United States is a major world power, it is a major issue worldwide. The Christian Right has certainly put a massive stopper on many very promising lines of stem cell research. That should concern the entire world, and that does concern me. When your religious dogma promotes love and tolerance, I will stand by it — but if I have to let your anti-scientific rhetoric through with it, I have serious reservations — and I think any empathetic, merciful human should have similar reservations.

It is the arrogance of belief that lets so many people stand confidently beside the idea that, to use Sam Harris’ example, a 7 year old with third degree burns over 80% of her body should suffer because the treatment for this illness lies in the destruction of a blastocyst that has no nervous system. That a soul is granted immediately upon conception. I would like to see the evidence that this is the case, in any case.

There are many who believe that life is an absolute, and destroying even a blastocyst constitutes killing, regardless of whether the being has a soul — but to assume that the blastocyst could suffer in any real way, without a nervous system, without any organs, without any identifiable features that could make it human, we must not destroy it even if in the hope of saving the above mentioned girl.

These beliefs contribute perhaps to a higher population of humans, but definitely to increased suffering in the world. But hey, 9 billion people suffering is better than 7 billion healthy people, right? Right?