Friday, May 15, 2015
Friday, February 7, 2014
- There is no god / higher power
- Jesus was not God, despite all the evidence
If disbelief in Jesus can be considered a faith, it must be classified as a negative faith rather than a positive faith. It is faith that some proposition isn't true, rather than faith that some proposition is true. These two types of faith are extremely different. A person is very well defined by the few positive faiths they possess. However, every person possesses a countless number of negative faiths. If I tell you "there's a colony of talking rabbits inhabiting the earth's core", you now have a new negative faith. Negative faith is rather insignificant to a persons identity. Consider which statement tells you more about Joe:
- Meet Joe, he is a Mormon
- Meet Joe, he is not a Muslim
So, I don't consider disbelief in Jesus to be a faith, and I don't think there's a genuine answer to "what does the atheist have faith in?".
- Reading and submitting to a specific collection of writings believed to be supernaturally borne and ever-authoritative.
- Weekly meeting at church and home to strengthen belief in an invisible/theoretical leader, singing songs to that leader, symbolically consuming that leaders flesh and blood, etc.
- Daily one-way conversations with that leader both privately and corporately.
- Holding on through periods of doubt in that leader.
Sunday, November 17, 2013
- "You know what, God loves gay people too"
- "That's not for me to judge"
- "Gays are welcome here"
- "It's all about God's grace"
The church's fundamental beliefs about homosexuality haven't changed:
- Living an actively gay lifestyle means you're living in unrepentant sin
- You're a broken/deviant/wrong version of what God wants for you
- You need to be repaired by becoming straight
- You're in danger of hell
- Homosexuals cannot reproduce together
- Homosexuals tend to be promiscuous
- Anal sex is physically dangerous
- Homosexuality is often linked to emotional trauma in the individual's past. Their best life would have been realized without that trauma, and they would likely have been straight. God still wants them to experience their best (heterosexual) life.
- My parents have had sex hundreds, maybe (definitely) thousands of times, and have reproduced only 3 times. In the vast majority of sexual encounters, reproduction is not the goal, but rather is actively avoided (unless you're Catholic). Anyone who cannot physically reproduce, whether straight or gay, has several other options including my favorite, adoption.
- Heterosexuals also tend to be promiscuous.
- This is specifically an argument against anal sex, not homosexuality as a whole (same-sex love, other sexual acts, lesbianism, etc). Anal sex does indeed pose risks. Compared to the vagina, the anus does not naturally lubricate, the internal tissue is more prone to tears, and therefore poses a greater risk for spreading STDs. These risks are mitigated by safe practice (prudent partner selection, lots of lube, condom, no rough-stuff, stop if it hurts, etc). So, is anal sex worth the risk? The answer is simple: decide for yourself, and I'll decide for myself! That's the same answer I'd give to someone who asks if rock-climbing (or any competitive sport for that matter) is worth the risk. On another note, some repercussions of anal sex are rather exaggerated by anti-homosexuals, for example, the claim that anal sex leads to fecal incontinence later in life. This is largely propaganda (there is no epidemic of incontinence in older gay males, just ask them).
- Let's assume it's true that homosexuality is linked to childhood trauma, that it's a debilitation of sorts (which I don't believe). To then tell the "debilitated" gay person that they should stop being gay is like telling a paraplegic that she should walk. While some debilitations can be overcome through therapy, some cannot. All evidence (look no further than the incredible failure rate of ex-gay ministries like Exodus) indicates that a person's sexual preference cannot be changed by will-power, therapeutic or religious methods. Regardless of why someone became gay, the point is, they're now gay. When someone comes out of the closet, it is emotionally healthy to accept their homosexuality, and emotionally damaging to encourage them to be heterosexual.
The fact that many Christians today use such positive statements to express their views on homosexuality indicates to me that the fundamental Christian beliefs on homosexuality do not strongly resonate in their hearts. That is a great sign that the Christian culture is continuing to move in the right direction, away from obsolete ancient legalisms. But the fundamental beliefs on homosexuality are still deeply engrained and taboo in Christian culture. I'm enthused to see that certain progressive denominations are boldly showing affirmation for homosexuality, and look forward to the day when the church of my childhood can do the same.
Sunday, July 7, 2013
Christian apologists point out that the New Testament is the best attested document of the ancient world, due to the high and early number of copies. This makes Jesus life, death, and resurrection the best attested story in ancient history.
So, what conclusions shall we draw from the best attested story in ancient history? Well, it's usually important that the scope of one's conclusions match the scope of the evidence. This is a fundamental concept in statistics, where confidence intervals weaken as sample sizes shrink. For example, you cannot survey 25 Italians about their diets, and draw conclusions about the dietary habits of the human species. Another example, you cannot analyze a reported UFO sighting and draw conclusions about the nature of life on other planets. The grandiose scope of such conclusions does not match the very limited scope of the evidence.
The conclusion that "Jesus is God" is a conclusion of tremendous scope. Actually, it is the largest scope of any claim that could be made. It is a theory of all things, of the origins, purpose, and future of the universe and the human race, and of the existence and nature of other dimensions/beings and their relationship to us.
So then, what is the scope of the evidence for this gargantuan claim? The answer is: a small collection of ancient Jewish cult writings known as the New Testament. Yes, the only evidence to support the truthfulness of New Testament stories are the New Testament stories themselves. The stories introduce the main character Jesus, posit the gargantuan claim that he is God, and sadly serve as the only evidence for that claim.
But what about the fact that it's the "best attested document in ancient history"? Doesn't that give it a leg up? Well, once again, where does all this attestation for the New Testament come from? The New Testament!!! By "attestation", apologists are merely referring to the fact that the stories have been copied a lot, as there are a few copies of the same stories (often nearly word-for-word) within the New Testament, and the New Testament has been copied quite a bit throughout time. There is no outside attestation of the actual events. Quite the opposite, the rest of the world regarded this cult's beliefs as baloney, much as we regard cults today. It's all-too familiar, a small cult reports a universe-rattling event which oddly seems to have gone unnoticed by the rest of the population. No matter how you attempt to reconstruct the events of Jesus' life and death, you are reconstructing events which, at the time, failed to convince the vast majority of people that Jesus was God. I want to restate this important point; the Christian apologist is attempting to convince us of events which did not convince the vast majority of people who were actually there during the events (that's why Judaism still exists). To call the events "attested" is like putting a single drop of lemon juice into a pitcher of grape juice and calling it lemonade.
If the actual events didn't even convince those who were there, why should the sparse stories convince us 2000 years later?
So then, what conclusion shall we draw from a collection of ancient writings which depict twelve men following around a man they believed to be God? The answer is quite simple; we should conclude there existed a small ancient cult who believed their leader was God. To then adopt the cult's beliefs would require ignoring the tremendous deficit between the scope of the conclusion and the scope of the evidence, a mistake that many religions have made. (any mormons reading this?)
When it comes to drawing conclusions of such universal scope, we should require evidence that is similar in scope, not a handful of ancient cult stories. Analyzing the New Testament stories and concluding that Jesus is God (and all the theology/religion that comes with it), is an even greater stretch than analyzing a UFO sighting from 5 country-bumpkins and subsequently devoting the rest of your life to educating others about alien biology, and personally preparing for another extraterrestrial visit. Don't be a slave to stories.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
- Reasonable Faith
- str.org (Stand To Reason)
- The Reason For God
- Faith and Reason
- Reasons To Believe
- Reasons For Faith
- The Case for the Real Jesus
- Love Your God With All Your Mind
- Compelling Evidence for God and the Bible
Saturday, February 23, 2013
A month ago, Katie and I were still paying Verizon around $125 a month for 2 feature phones (aka dumbphones). We are now paying $60 a month for 2 smartphones. Here’s how:
- Page Plus monthly plan – $30 each
- Samsung Galaxy Stellar – Ebay – $110 each
- H20 Sim Card – $0.20 each
- Sim Cutter – $4.09
- “Flash” phone – $40 each
Here are the details.
Verizon’s feature-phone plans are barely cheaper than their smartphone plans, and both are expensive. The price we see on our bill is always way higher than the plan price Verizon lures us with. And I don’t like being bound by those 2-year contracts. Time to ditch Verizon.
After considering several options, including using only an Ipod for all communication, I arrived at the following solution.
I found a prepaid carrier called Page Plus. They use the Verizon 3G network, which means coverage is identical to what I already enjoyed. They offer a no-contract monthly plan of 1200 minutes, 3000 texts, and 250MB data for a measly $30. I ported my phone to Page Plus, a very quick and easy process, and they terminated my contract with Verizon for me. Of course, I made sure that my 2 year contract with Verizon was up, lest Verizon charge me hundreds of dollars for early termination.
So at that point, I’d cut my cell phone bill in less than half, while keeping the same coverage, flip phone, and number. Sweet! But why stop there?
I then purchased a mint condition, manufacturer refurbished, Samsung Galaxy Stellar off Ebay for $110. The Stellar is a stripped down version of the Galaxy S3 (today’s flagship Android phone), but casual / first-time users like me don’t notice a big difference. The Stellar was just released in Sept 2012, and Verizon currently offers it free with a 2 year contract. This makes for an ideal smartphone to buy used on Ebay, as it’s very new and inexpensive.
Because Page Plus is a 3G only carrier, 4G phones like the Stellar aren’t officially compatible or supported. But with the right expertise, a 4G phone can be “flashed” to work with Page Plus. There are several services out there to accomplish this. I went with a fellow named Janarian; he charges $40, performs the service remotely through the net, takes under 2 hours, and accepts PayPal. The process involved cutting and inserting an H20 sim card.
The Page Plus $30 plan provides only 250MB of data, but several friends told me they never exceed that if doing just basic web/email. It’s the YouTube and other streaming media that gobbles data. But of course there’s no data limitation when connected to wifi, which is the vast majority of my time. So basically no YouTube when outside, no big deal. The email, chat, and calendar notifications are a huge benefit at work.
So now I’ve got a smartphone with the same coverage, the same phone number, and have cut my phone bill in less than half. At under $160 total, the smartphone is paid for by just 5 months of the savings I earn by ditching Verizon.
After confirming that everything worked beautifully for a month, I got Katie onto a Stellar and Page Plus as well.
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
- Christians would have to believe in a god who is invisible, inaudible, and untouchable.
- Prayer would have to be statistically ineffective at treating disease, especially compared to medicine.
- Modern prophecy would have to be statistically no more accurate than normal prediction.
- Christians would have to be no safer from harm than others.
- No Christian could be able to demonstrate a miracle to a panel of scientists.
- The Christian “word of God” would have to have been written by humans, and contain normal human characteristics.
- The Christian “word of God” would have to not demonstrate any higher understanding of how the physical world works, beyond the primitive understanding of it’s ancient human authors.
- Christian belief would have to spread solely by human teaching, rather than be learnable directly from Jesus/God or nature. “Unreached” societies would have to not discover Jesus on their own.
- There'd have to be no outsider witness accounts of the grandiose miracles depicted in the Bible, such as the Feeding of the Five Thousand.
- Jesus would have to have lived a normal human lifespan on Earth.
- Jesus would have to have visited only a relatively small geographical area.
- The resurrection story would have to include an excuse as to why the resurrected Jesus isn’t available for viewing, such as “he flew away”.
- Jesus would have to have not returned, and we would have to be able to reconfirm that every day.
On a secondary level, if Christian beliefs were false, there are many conditions I would expect to be true. I consider them secondary because they wouldn't necessarily have to be true, but are intuitive expectations if Christian beliefs were indeed false.
If Christian beliefs were false, I'd expect these conditions to be likely true:
- I’d expect Christianity would emphasize qualities like “faith” and “belief” as highly virtuous.
- I’d expect Christian belief to include reasons why God doesn’t interact with us in clear/consistent/verifiable ways.
- I’d expect there to be a widespread problem of Christians having trouble establishing a “closeness with God.”
- I’d expect there to be a widespread problem of Christians having trouble understanding “what God wants to say to them” and “what God wants them to do.”
- I’d expect there to be a widespread problem of Christians experiencing periodic doubt.
- I’d expect the study of geology to offer little/no support for the story of Noah’s global flood.
- I’d expect the study of geology/cosmology to offer little/no support for the Genesis creation account.
- I’d expect Christianity to be splintered over what God is saying/wanting today, how to interpret/understand what God supposedly said in the Bible, and theology in general.
- I’d expect Christian belief to have evolved the idea that any promises made to us in the Bible are guaranteed after we die, not necessarily in this life.
- I’d expect that Christians would not stand out as morally superior than the rest of mankind.
- I’d expect the most common reason for rejecting Christian belief to be intellectual rejection of the truthfulness of Christian belief, not some preference for bad behavior or a wish to oppose the forces of good.
The premise that Christian beliefs are true leaves the theologian stretching and inventing to explain why all the preceding conditions are true. On the other hand, the premise that Christian belief is false essentially guarantees that the preceding conditions would be true. I will be painfully thorough here:
- Christians believe in a god who is invisible, inaudible, and untouchable, because God doesn't really exist
- Prayer is statistically ineffective at treating disease because God doesn't really exist
- Modern prophecy is statistically no more accurate than normal prediction because God doesn't really exist.
- Christians are no safer from harm than others because God doesn't really exist.
- No Christian can demonstrate a miracle to a panel of scientists because God doesn't really exist.
- The Christian “word of God” was written by humans, and contains normal human characteristics because God doesn't really exist and therefore doesn't write books.
- The Christian “word of God” does not demonstrate any higher understanding of how the physical world works, beyond the primitive understanding of it’s ancient human authors, because God doesn't really exist.
- Christian belief spreads solely by human teaching, and “Unreached” societies do not discover Jesus on their own because God doesn't really exist.
- There are no outsider witness accounts of the grandiose miracles depicted in the Bible, such as the Feeding of the Five Thousand, because God doesn't really exist and therefore does not perform miracles.
- Jesus lived a normal human lifespan on Earth, because God doesn't really exist and therefore Jesus was not God.
- Jesus visited only a relatively small geographical area, because God doesn't really exist and therefore Jesus was not God.
- The resurrection story includes an excuse as to why the resurrected Jesus isn’t available for viewing, because Jesus was not really resurrected.
- Jesus has not returned, because Jesus is dead and is not going to return.
- Christianity emphasizes qualities like “faith” and “belief” as highly virtuous because God doesn't really exist.
- Christian beliefs include reasons why God doesn’t interact with us in clear/consistent/verifiable ways, because God doesn't really exist.
- There is a widespread problem of Christians having trouble establishing a “closeness with God" because God doesn't really exist.
- There is a widespread problem of Christians having trouble understanding “what God wants to say to them” and “what God wants them to do" because God doesn't really exist.
- There is a widespread problem of Christians experiencing periodic doubt, because the truth is knocking at their door.
- The study of geology offers little/no support for the story of Noah’s global flood, because that story is fictitious.
- The study of geology/cosmology offers little/no support for the Genesis creation account, because that account is fictitious.
- Christianity is splintered over what God is saying/wanting today, how to interpret/understand what God supposedly said in the Bible, and theology in general, because God doesn't really exist.
- Christian belief has evolved the idea that any promises made to us in the Bible are guaranteed after we die, not necessarily in this life, because God doesn't really exist and therefore cannot make or fulfill promises.
- Christians do not stand out as morally superior than the rest of mankind, because God doesn't really exist and therefore does not assist with morality.
- The most common reason for rejecting Christian belief is intellectual rejection of the truthfulness of Christian belief, because God's non-existence ensures that belief will be intellectually problematic for those who aren't prone to accepting false religious beliefs.
Another way of looking at the first two lists: If Christianity were true, alternative conditions would be much more intuitive/predictable. For example:
- “Unreached” societies might discover Jesus on their own. After all, God supposedly wants everyone to know Jesus.
- Jesus might have hung around for a few hundred/thousand years after his resurrection instead of flying off into the sky before too many people saw him. After all, Jesus is supposedly immortal and wants a relationship with everyone.
- The “word of God” might contain knowledge beyond the primitive human knowledge of the day, such as how to make penicillin. After all, God is supposedly omniscient and cares about us.
In conclusion, this is where I see the large gap in rationality between the believer and non-believer; the non-believer’s worldview perfectly predicts/explains so many conditions surrounding Christian beliefs, and with such a simple statement as "God doesn't really exist." Meanwhile, the believer's worldview stretches to explain each condition, writing countless books addressing each one, yielding an ever-increasing sea of theological literature, the whole of which is internally volatile and covers all spectrums of bizarre. I've swam through that sea long enough to know that I am intellectually drawn much stronger to "God doesn't really exist." Disbelief is considerably more rational to me, and thoroughly resonates within me as a vital step toward truth.