Sunday, September 27, 2009

Can you prove that Jesus didn't resurrect?

I was recently challenged by a less-than-intelligent Christian to prove that Jesus did not rise from the dead. Once again, these people do not understand where the burden of proof lies. They have an extraordinary claim. They need extraordinary evidence to back it up.

Another thing he doesn't understand is that it's often very difficult, if not impossible, to prove a negative. The example given to me in my high school class was to prove that a particular kind of bird does not come in red. You could check all over the world, looking for a red version of this bird, and not find one. But you haven't proven anything, because you don't know whether or not you missed one.

So how would one go about proving that such a thing as a resurrection did not happen? My first instinct was to try to find the body of Jesus (keeping in mind that I'm not sure he even existed to provide a body to find). If we could find a body and identify it as Jesus, would that prove to Christians that he never resurrected? NO! Because the Christians would then merely counter that either this was not the body of Jesus, or that it didn't prove that he didn't resurrect once (which would be a correct objection). The body we had was from his second death, of course. We'd then counter that Jesus was supposed to have risen to heaven in physical form, body and all. They'd then counter that this was merely a metaphor (like they do with every other part of the Bible when it collapses under the weight of reality), and that only his spirit went to heaven, while his body perished. *Please don't comment if you think I'm wrong about the physical ascension, it doesn't matter to the point.

I don't think that there is a way to prove that such an event did not occur, and that the Christian is being an ignorant jackass by asking me to do so. Does anybody have any ideas of how we could do this? Or do you think I'm right in thinking that it isn't possible?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

De-conversion story 2

A long time ago, I began a topic about de-conversion stories. I asked readers to send in their stories, and I would post them, of course keeping the writer anonymous. This is the first and only one I've ever received. It's strange, because for the number of hits this page gets, I'd think somebody would have sent me a story before now. Anyway, if you want to send me yours, please go ahead.

*Make sure to get to the end of this post for an excellent quote to finish it off.

A reader writes:

My story begins when I was thirteen. I was a Lutheran, as my mother had raised me in the church. My father is Catholic, but that hardly matters. Anyways, I was in confirmation class (Yes, I went to two years of class, and have been confirmed in the Lutheran religion.), when I started to see past all the fancy language the pastor was throwing at us. Luckily for me we had just gotten a new pastor who was more open about answering questions.

He once asked us to question our faith, as that is what the brain God had given us was for. And I agreed on that point. Why give us the power to question, and then ask us not to? So I asked him a few questions, and my faith suddenly failed.

1. There is a God? (Yes)
2. He is all-powerful, all knowing? (Yes)
3. He knows everything that was, is, and will be? (Yes)
4. He has given us free will as a people to make our own decisions and act as we want? (Yes)
5. But if He knows what is to be, and we do not, how then do we have free will? Surely He knows what we are going to do? (Silence)

It occurred to me that a 13 year old boy should not be able to stump a 40-something year old pastor who has devoted his life to the church. And that set the ball rolling.

Why would God create a tree that, to eat from it, would cause Adam and Eve to be cast from Eden? Why would the tree contain the knowledge of good and evil? Why would He allow the Devil in? Surely He would know if the Devil were in his garden. He is all knowing. Why would He not forgive Adam and Eve? Surely if anyone ever deserved forgiveness, it was the two people He created who had no knowledge of right and wrong?

After all this my questioning of religion became sort of a hobby of mine. Once I found science and physics proper, not that crap they teach you in school, I mean Stephen Hawking, Einstein, etc., the truth became clear. Here was a way with answers, evidence, research. Not just an old book written by man.

Science became my religion, and it is to that I now devote my life. Surely if anything were worth my devotion, it would be the endless knowledge the universe offers freely, without want of my money or prayers or sacrifice. God has never helped anybody in a way that can be proven or supported by evidence. But science was curing disease, helping the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and the injured to heal. I have yet to see the benefits of religion, but everyday I hear of its misfortune of war, ignorance and greed.

Religious fanatics are the poorest people in the world. Knowledge is true wealth. And it is amazing how many people wish to live in poverty for their beliefs.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

CNN Survey

Today's survey on's international website is, "Do you believe in God?" The results so far are surprising to me. Out of over 29,000 votes, 65% say, No. I'm not sure if this is because Muslims would answer that they believe in Allah, not God, but oh well.

Vote by clicking here and scroll down to the survey. (Edit: the poll is gone now)

(Another edit: A reader commented that the results were due to an organised effort by readers of at least one other atheist blog to vote in large numbers. For me to not mention that in the main post would be dishonest.)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I was robbed by a Christian

So, I was in Kenya recently. As some of you might know, Kenya has a fairly bad reputation for crime, especially in Nairobi, which is referred to as "Nairobbery" in travelers' circles.

I was on a short tour heading to Masaai Mara park, when our group stopped for lunch. A camera bag belonging to a member of our group was stolen while we ate. It contained camera equipment worth more than US$2,000. It was taken right from our table, with 5 of us there, yet we couldn't figure out how.

We then found out that the waiter had intentionally overcharged us for everything we bought. He had charged us more than double the real price for some items (there was no menu to verify prices against), and had removed the carbon paper from the receipt book so that the restaurant would not discover the copy and learn what he had done. He destroyed the original copy afterward.

Once we knew about the waiter, how the camera bag got stolen seemed a bit more clear. He was likely working with a partner. When he took our order from one side of the table, all of our eyes went to that direction. Then somebody else came and took the bag while we were looking away.

So we dragged the waiter to the police station. Along the way, I asked him if he was a Christian, and he said that he was. I asked him if he believed in hell, and he didn't respond. I guess he could see where my line of questioning was going.

At the station, the officers asked my girlfriend what her religion was. She told him she's an atheist, and I told him I'm an atheist too. He then told his fellow officers, who proceeded to laugh at us. The officer called us 'pagans'. I objected at first, but it turns out that by some dictionary definitions, any non-Christian/Jew/Muslim is a pagan. So sure, fine, I'm a pagan.

We never were able to prove the guy helped steal the camera bag, but we did prove that he had badly overcharged us for the meal, and had pocketed the money for himself. He lost his job, and may or may not have been charged with anything after we left.

The morality of Christians never ceases to amaze me. The saying goes, "Why be good when you can just be forgiven?"

Thursday, September 17, 2009

How other people's religion hurts me

Religious people often argue that their religion does not harm or inconvenience me in any way. To them I ask, have you ever visited a country with a significant Muslim population? How about getting woken up every single morning at 4:30AM by the call to prayer which is blasted from loudspeakers mounted on the mosque in the downtown area? Why does every single person who lives in that town have to wake up every single day at 4:30AM, just because these people have an imaginary friend? Is there no consideration at all? This particular town wasn't even half Muslim, and still they have to do this to everybody, every single day! At least I was only there for 3 nights, but it really sucked! Inconsiderate pricks! You can't even use earplugs, because then you run the risk of missing your own alarm. All you can do is take it and try to get back to sleep after it's over.

I should note here that of all religious people, I think the Muslims are my favourites. I've been to a few Muslim countries now, and find the people to be incredibly kind and hospitable, more so than any other people I've met. So in general, I like Muslims. But in this case, I have to strongly object.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Making a problem worse

I want to use this post to give a concrete example of how "innocent" religious belief can really hurt.

I recently visited Kenya. As some of you may know, Kenya is currently experiencing a serious drought. The annual rains failed. Food and water are scarce, animals and people are dying. Some farmers have lost most of their herds. The government is giving out emergency food rations to the people. While I was there, some organisation issued a report ranking the "water wealth" of countries, meaning the amount of fresh water available per person. Kenya ranked at the absolute bottom, dead last. They are the most "water-poor" nation on Earth.

So I was talking with some of the Maasai tribesmen. They still live a traditional lifestyle, in huts made of animal dung and plant materials, herding sheep, cows and goats, etc. They have been devastated by the drought, with many of their animals already dead. They (at least the ones I talked to) are now Christians. The guy was explaining to me that they don't use birth control or family planning. He said that his god decides how many children he will have. So if he has more children, it's the will of his god.

Isn't that terrible? Here they are, in the middle of a multi-year drought, when there isn't enough food or water to feed the people that already exist, and these people are making the problem worse by just having as many kids as possible because their imaginary friend wills it! Options for controlling their numbers are available, but they won't use them because their imaginary friend doesn't like it! For every child born (above the replacement rate), Kenya becomes even more water-poor. For every child born, there is even less food to go around per person. You get the idea, right?

Here is a link to a recent article about the problem. Note that the guy in the story has 16 kids. Also note the closing quote about their imaginary friend.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Leprechaun in a box

There's a great post worth checking out at the Atheist Experience blog. It's about a leprechaunist and an aleprechaunist arguing about whether or not there is a leprechaun in a box.

Check it out here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Objective morality can't be supported by reality

I've recently been debating with a Christian who began commenting on the site about how he believes that people staring at the texts of the Bible and studying who wrote them is proof enough of the resurrection of Jesus, and therefore of the Christian faith. This guy is in, or is a fan of, the 'philosophical community', and spends a lot of time reading. He sent me a long-winded, and in my opinion pointless, parable written by a philosopher. I can tell that this guy spends too much time reading, and not enough time observing reality.

The topic turned to morality, and I argued that there is no such thing as objective morality, but that society has agreed on certain things which are 'right' or 'wrong' (helpful or harmful). His philosophically-educated response:

"You did very well here to demonstrate the idea of objective moral values. It is the fact that societies across history agree on certain morals that one can say that there is objective morality. So, your questions do nothing to convince me otherwise."

Have you ever observed the reality of society, or do you just read? How can anybody be so stupid to think that there is absolute morality, and in your case, that it was given to us by your Christian god? I mean, this is Ray-Comfort-level stupidity and inability to comprehend the real world!

Let me ask you a question before I begin on reality. I know you're absolutely shit at answering questions, and very good at dodging them, but I'll try anyway. Here is the question. If we all agree that drinking cyanide is bad for our health, does that mean we were given objective knowledge of health from your god? Or does it mean that we've read newspapers, we read warning labels, and we generally trust that these reports are accurate, and that drinking cyanide is lethal? In other words, was this knowledge given to us divinely, or was it formed from observing reality? Ironically, religion can and has made people drink cyanide, because religion turns off the rational thought processes in the brain, and has nothing at all to do with reality.

Now on to morality. This might seem a bit rambling, and that's because there are so many different angles that I want to attack this claim from. I'll try to keep its length within reason.

If morality was objective and given by your god, then we should all agree that the 10 commandments define morality. I've covered this in another post, but our laws are not based on the commandments, and my morality isn't either. There are only 4 of them that I'm on-board with. The others, fuck them! That's right, fuck your douche-bag of a god making blasphemy wrong! For the love of your fucking god, I will take its name in vain any time I want! Fuck the 'sabbath day', I'm using it to blaspheme right now! (I'm writing this post on a Sunday, but will delay its publication for a few days. Wait a minute! Wasn't Saturday supposed to be the sabbath day? Oh, those wacky Christians!) I don't feel bad about it at all, because this is not part of my morality. Your ogre of a god doesn't even exist!

Now if societies throughout history agree that some of these things, like murder, are wrong, does that mean that the knowledge was given to us divinely? Or, going back to the cyanide analogy, does it mean that we've observed what happens when people harm each other, and that we decided it isn't productive? Our civilisation wouldn't even be here today if we thought murder was generally acceptable, so the fact that we are here shows how we feel about it. But time and time and time again throughout history, and every single day in modern society, people decide that they have reasons for breaking this morality and killing people. Societies have murdered each other in tremendous numbers throughout history. People slay each other in the streets every day, all throughout the world. And if they feel it was justified, they all have different reasons why it was necessary in their case. Your country made a moral case for nuking two cities, and for invading another country which had not attacked it. If morality is objective, then shouldn't we not only all believe murder is wrong, but also agree on the circumstances under which it is OK? We don't see that at all.

Beyond murder and theft, which almost all people believe is generally wrong, there are so many other morals which people disagree on strongly. These are people who disagree on what is right and wrong, which shouldn't be possible under your scenario. Can't you see that? Do you need me to spoon-feed you some examples of morality issues on which people genuinely disagree? Here:

- consumption of alcohol and drugs
- prostitution
- gambling
- pedophilia
- forced marriages
- women's rights
- homosexuality
- piracy of intellectual property
- abortion
- adultery
- universal health care (look around in your country, dude!)

So all you've got for evidence of your 'objective morality' is that MOST people agree that murder and theft are wrong in MOST situations, those situations being defined differently for every person. The rest is completely up in the air. You'd have to be spending way too much time with your nose in your books to not notice the conflicts over morality which occur daily all around you! And that's why I've lost even more respect for you, your arguments, and the 'philosophical community'.

For the record, I think piracy of intellectual property is flat-out theft. Society as a whole seems to tolerate it, and some believe it's not in any way wrong. I believe there is nothing at all immoral about prostitution, but society as a whole believes there is. I also don't believe there is anything immoral about homosexuality, but your little book of myths and its loyal followers disagree, don't they? How can we have all these disagreements if morality is objective?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Religion provides cover for more serious insanity

In this post, I want to give some examples of the way that the religious beliefs of the general population provide a sort of "cover" for some pretty dangerous beliefs held by others, including the recent case of the kidnapped girl who was found in California after nearly 2 decades.

Let me start with a comical example. Have you ever heard of a cargo cult? Cargo cults are formed by natives of certain isolated areas, after contact is initiated with people from the developed world. This is my loose understanding of what they are. The natives see the equipment, or cargo, that the foreigners have, and they want some too. Cargo can include anything from radios to bottles of Coca-Cola. So they create a religion of rituals and whatever in an attempt to bring planes full of cargo to them. One of the better-known examples is the John Frum cult on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu (I've been to that island, but did not visit the cult). The island was a base for American troops during WWII, and there were a lot of planes full of equipment landing. Even today, the villagers build and maintain airstrips and have fake radios ready to guide the planes in. I remember reading a story, I can't remember where, in which one of the leaders of one of these cults was asked just how long they were going to wait for their cargo. The implication was that they should give up after 60 years, it's not coming. The leader replied (paraphrased), "If you can wait 2,000 years for Jesus to return, we can wait a little longer for our cargo." This is what I mean when I say that the public's acceptance of religion provides cover for other 'crazier' beliefs. A Christian can't lecture these people on sanity, because they're just as bad, if not worse! When is Jesus coming back, by the way?

So now we get into some more harmful, destructive beliefs. On my recent vacation this summer, I visited Uganda. I had a chance to read their newspapers once or twice, and found articles about their problems with kidnapping of young children. It seems that although the country is largely Christian and Muslim, they still have some people who practice the old tribal beliefs, witchdoctors, etc. And these people have been kidnapping young children on their way to school, and then sacrificing them to their spirits. I was just appalled at this, and wanted to find these people, beat them over the head with a fricking baseball bat, while I 'gently explain' to them that there is no such thing as spirits, and they need to use their fucking brains and leave the poor children alone! They're absolute monsters! But they really do believe in spirits, and how can we convince them that their spirits don't exist, when a good portion of the population of the rest of the world believes in all kinds of spirits, gods, angels, devils, ghosts, witches, and all those other ridiculously irrational things? Our culture's widely-held religious beliefs have provided a perfect cover for these people to continue to believe the most fucked-up bullshit! When we stop believing in spirits, maybe we can drag these people into the 19th century with us!

So now we've got this guy in California who kidnapped a little girl, repeatedly raped her, and held her in a prison in his backyard for 18 years. From the news reports I've read, I learned some more about him. First, I learned that he had a history of kidnapping and rape, and had been let out on parole decades before his sentence was completed. The other thing I learned is that he believed that he spoke to his god (Christian god, I assume), and wrote about it on his blog. Now, I've posted before on this topic. The only difference between a person who is in a mental institution because he believes he talks to an imaginary friend, and a guy like this, is that this guy believed his friend created the Universe. Once you believe your imaginary friend created the Universe, it becomes a religion, and you are then somewhat protected legally and socially from being officially declared insane. The question I have is, why was this dangerous offender, who publicly states he talks to some spirit, allowed to remain in society at all? The reason is that the milder level of insanity among the general public provided cover for his belief in this bullshit. The public is accepting of people who believe they talk to their particular god.

You know what my dream is? For a society in which any person who believes they talk to spirits is given an automatic psychiatric evaluation, and that the people who have committed dangerous crimes AND believe they talk to spirits are never let back into society.

And just to close, I want to remind everybody of the case of Tony48219. Another lunatic who would have raised far more red flags in a more rational society.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Theologian says what?

I received an anonymous comment on my post, Why is YOUR religion NOT ridiculous?, that I just had to respond to. Here is the comment in blue. My response is below.

"For me, being a Christian, it comes down to whether or not Jesus truly was what he claimed to be. Did he really have a bodily resurrection? Was he the Son of God.

I would recommend looking into a couple of books to get proper answers. First, The Resurrection of the Son of God. This book was written by N.T. Wright a top historian of this age. It deals with, obviously, the Resurrection.

Second, Richard Baukham's book, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Baukham is another leading historian. In the book, he argues that the Gospels were eyewitness testimonies. In fact, the book is so ground braking, I've heard that scholars are ignoring it right now because everybody knows that it is spot on.

Anyway, you probably won't look into these books. I just thought that you should know that there are numerous books that write on this topic. Do not be insult religion until you have properly studied what the theologians have actually written. Otherwise you get nothing more than strawman arguments."

I have some problems with your argument:

1. You assume that there are not, and have never been, any 'scholars' who have argued in favour of the reliability of any other religion. Or that nobody from any other religion has ever believed they witnessed the supernatural firsthand. No prehistoric tribesman has ever seen the tree god? Ironically enough, this was the entire point of the post, which has gone right over your head. You need to find something which makes your religion DIFFERENT from all of the others that have ever existed, exist now, or will ever exist! We call this kind of thing, evidence.

2. You assume that it matters whether or not they're correct in determining that the stories were written by supposed 'eyewitnesses'. Oh, these people wrote this thousands of years ago... so of course a spirit knocked up a virgin, she gave birth to a miracle-boy who was killed and resurrected from the dead, so that we can all drink his blood and worship him, so that we can go live with him when we die!

It's a weak argument, and if you could do better, you would. But you can't.

You know what I have eyewitness testimony of? A girl I knew who said that she got attacked by demons in her room at night, physically thrown against the walls, and that Jesus came down to rescue her. She also claimed to be regularly visited by aliens who just came to sit at her bedside and watch her sleep. Do you believe it? I assure you, I was told that from the source. Shall I write it into a text for you? Perhaps then it will be more believable to you.

I don't even necessarily believe that the Bible has a shred of truth in it, so the findings of a bunch of people with agendas not to truth, but to faith, who stare at old texts and try to make sense of them or who wrote them is not going to convince me of anything. Show me the proof of the supernatural!

I have another question for you. Have you ever seen, Weekend at Bernie's?

3. Telling me what "theologians" write is not credible. These are people who can't even prove that the subject of their study exists! Show me any case in which a theologian has successfully proven that anything supernatural is real. I'll wait........ You could just as easily have told me that an astrologer wrote something, or that a numerologist thinks something. Better yet, a professional masturbator said... No, that's not fair. I can at least show that masturbation exists, so the comparison isn't valid. (You might counter that some theologians only study the social aspects of religions, with religions being things that I agree do exist. But such theologians should have not much to say on this particular issue.)

4. Your argument about a book being so "ground braking" (sic) and so correct that people would ignore it is unbelievably laughable! Do you realise that's exactly what would happen if it was completely wrong?! So books get ignored if they are either too wrong or too correct? Can you differentiate between the two situations? Can you imagine any science book being so accurate, so experimentally verifiable, that scientists just ignore it?! HA! What a fucking joke! "Oh, people are ignoring my book because it's so correct." Wait, I want to laugh one more time.... HAHAHAHA!