Friday, September 30, 2011

The UN-amazing deity

A reader wrote this comment on my last post.  I like it, so I want to post it on the main blog.

"I think that the fact of existence is an amazing achievement of nature. The incredible progress that has been made bit-by-tiny-bit, gradually over billions of years, as the universe struggled to become what it is, is humbling and awe-inspiring.

But if a god created all this, then it becomes UN-amazing, it's a PATHETIC WASTE of "omnipotence". If you're magical and all-powerful, why should your creations rely on circulatory systems, nervous systems, DNA, be dependent on messy sexual reproduction, surviving by violently consuming one another? Why are we bound onto the surface of planets, while the vast majority of space is uninhabitable, radiation-soaked vacuum?

A god who could truly do ANYTHING should've done MORE. FAR more. Reproduction could be asexual. With fireworks! More creatures could regrow lost limbs. Or fly! The universe could be FULL of life instead of empty. Instead of stars and planets surrounded by hostile emptiness, it could be an infinitely tiered latticework of livable, explorable space, with no constrictions like gravity or pressure.

I can come up with better, more fantastic, more successful, more peaceful, more MORAL universes with simply my imagination, certainly better than creationists seem happy to give their god credit for. If there is a god responsible for all of creation, then he is a remarkably unimaginative god, creating a world shackled by the laws of nature, which is exactly what you would expect if it really WAS nature that was responsible for the universe."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The simplest life?

A religious reader recently suggested I watch an intelligent-design propaganda video starring Michael Behe.  If you're not familiar, Behe is a biochemistry professor at a respected university, but is also affiliated with the Discovery Institute, the creationist intelligent-design advocacy group.  I can't be bothered to dig up the video again, but the gist of it was as follows.  Behe argues that life is too complex to be formed by Darwinian evolution.  He says that scientists once thought single-celled organisms would be extremely simple, but then found things such as (his perpetual favourite) the bacterial flagellum, which is a complex structure.  He argues that even the simplest life is "hopelessly complex", therefore gods.

What Behe surely knows, but is not telling in the video (no wonder his side got called liars by a Christian judge in the Dover trial), is that today's single-celled organisms are far from the simplest life.  These are highly-evolved lifeforms, having the same billions of years to evolve that we have.  Most people are not aware of this, but (if I remember my biology properly, somebody correct me otherwise) there is far more genetic diversity in the microscopic world than there is in the macroscopic.  All of the plants and animals are more closely related to us genetically than many bacteria and archaea are to each other.  The earliest single-celled lifeforms most certainly would not have had complex structures like flagella, and Behe knows this.  Why didn't he say so?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Confession about my true de-conversion story

I've been writing this site for a couple of years now, and I think it's time for me to come clean about the true reason why I became a non-believer.  I wrote about it before with this post, but I now confess that it wasn't true.

It's true that I was a Roman Catholic.  When I was a teenager, the boys in the congregation used to take turns going on outdoor sports excursions with the parish priest.  When my turn came up, we chose to go rock-climbing.  So the two of us drove to the site in his convertible and started to gear up.

We always did the outdoor activities naked.  The priest said that's how God truly intended for His children to be.  If He wanted us to wear clothes, He would have made us born in a 3-piece suit, the priest used to tell us.  So we stripped down and put on our climbing harnesses.

The site was a sheer rock face, about 30 metres high.  The priest suggested I start to go up first and he follow from below.  He said it was easier for him to keep an eye on things that way, but I never understood why he had to follow me so closely.  Anyway, that isn't relevant.

But then something went horribly wrong.  Part of the rock fell away, triggering a larger collapse, and we fell to the ground.  The priest was unresponsive and I suspected he was unconscious.  I tried to escape from under the fallen rocks, but my penis was caught under a large boulder.  I tried to lift it, but it was too heavy.

There I was for hours, caught with my penis under the rock.  I realised that nobody knew where we were, as the priest liked to keep the exact locations and activities a secret, for privacy reasons.  He could not help in his state, so if I didn't get myself free from these rocks, I thought we both might die out there.

Then I made the most difficult decision of my life.  I detached my pocket knife from my harness and started hacking away at my penis.  After a few slices, it came right off.  In pain, I ran back to the car and used my phone to call for help.  The ambulance showed up within an hour, taking the priest and I to the hospital, where we began to recover.  The doctors all said I did a very brave thing, hacking off my own penis to save my life and my priest.

My recovery was long and difficult.  I often turned to the Bible for a Ray of Comfort.  Then one day, I came across this passage, Deuteronomy 23, verse 1:

"If a man’s testicles are crushed or his penis is cut off, he may not be admitted to the assembly of the Lord."

I was absolutely devastated!  Was not what I had done noble?  Was it not courageous?  Did I not save my own life and the life of a decent, holy man?  How could this be?  How could God not want me anymore? But the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, so I had to admit that I was no longer welcome into His Kingdom.  My priest had already been transferred by his superiors to another church somewhere else, so it wasn't like I had anything remaining there at all.  I left the congregation.

From that moment on, I have been a bitter atheist, fighting against God in any way I can.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Guest Post #1 - Omni-incompetence, by Tate

A while back I tried an experiment with guest posts.  I had a guy who claimed to be an atheist living in a Muslim country express interest in writing some posts, and I thought it would be a good idea to get that perspective.  It fell apart when, after writing just one post, he asked me for money.  Not just money, but BIG money.  It was equivalent to about half of my annual salary from my job (this site makes exactly zero per year, minus the domain cost).  So I told him to "fuck off" (in those words exactly) and took down his post.

Now I'm ready to try again.  A reader who we're going to call 'Tate' has written a post.  Note that Tate was not invited by me to do this, but took it upon himself to write to me and expressed an interest.  If you'd like to write some posts for this site, feel free to contact me.

Also note that I will post these guest posts without editing, and while I probably agree with the opinions in them, it is not necessarily so.  If you wish to engage the author in conversation, please do it in the comments section, not by contacting me directly.

Now, I'll turn it over to Tate.

The Christian God is supposedly the epitome of all that is intelligent and good in the universe. He is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, (which I'm not even going to touch upon for now because that one itself is such a complex assertion) and above all, all-good. I've always found it fascinating that Christians can attribute all things good to God, and all things bad to the Devil, and that they can do this all day every day without realizing that God created the endless source of evil they call the Devil. Being creations of God, all good things humans do are attributed to him, but since we are vile, tainted creatures, all bad things are the Devil's doing. But wait a minute! Lucifer was an angel, one of those creatures that God created prior to man for purposes no logic can fathom. Whatever terrible things the Devil has or probably has not done, God is ultimately to blame for His shortsightedness and general incompetence in creating the bastard in the first place.

Assuming that God is all-knowing and all-powerful, He would have known from the very beginning of the Universe that Lucifer would turn against Him. The very moment He was sitting in Heaven and thinking to Himself “I'm going to create a retinue of angels to carry out my work, even though being all-knowing and all-powerful I can manage my own affairs effortlessly, no matter how infinitely complex they become,” from the moment that thought occurred to Him, He should have known all possible outcomes and consequences. He would have known that creating Lucifer would lead to the corruption of mankind, causing Him to eventually send the flood, and later His only son to attempt to “redeem” us. Any God who actually cares about His creations might have examined those consequences using His infinite foresight, and decided that maybe that one angel, Lucifer, could be made just a little bit better, or maybe not made at all. But we all know what happened, God made Lucifer, who became the Devil, who continues to plague us all to this very day. But it's OK, He has some divine plan that no human can possibly comprehend, but which will make the whole thing work out better than if no evil had been created in the first place. Somehow.

Of course, there is an alternative; God really is all-good, but just not all-knowing and all-powerful. Maybe He's just some well-meaning guy who ended up with a job He really can't handle. I'm not sure who I would pray to if I had to chose, the benevolent but incompetent God, or the all-powerful God who just doesn't give a shit about humans. Fortunately there is a third option: simply reserve your prayers until you find a deity that actually deserves them, then thank him that there are so many to chose from.