Why am I so smug?

According to Christian religious texts (the Bible), the one unforgivable sin is to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. In other words, to deny Jesus’s power.

Before we get any further, let me say the following right here and now: if Jesus ever even existed at all (historical texts from the alleged Jesus’s era suggest a religious leader of a similar name may have existed) and if he actually did those things Christians typically chalk up as miracles, like killing a fig tree by pouting at it or curing a man of leprosy or raising Lazarus from the dead (no historical texts from the alleged Jesus’s era support any of his so-called miracles), then I firmly believe his feats were nothing more than magic tricks which could each be explained in turn using modern science and simple logic.

In other words, if Jesus existed and did those things the Bible says he did, it’s not because he’s the son of any god or because he possesses special powers the rest of us don’t. No, Jesus was a trickster – a master illusionist. I don’t know how David Copperfield or Penn and Teller or even modern day televangelists do what they do, and what they do is certainly fascinating (except the part where gullible people are knowingly scammed out of large amounts of money), but I don’t think these people are actually capable of bending natural laws at their will or literally accomplishing the impossible.

Jesus may have mastered sleight of hand, but he wasn’t anything special.

Oh, and here’s the cherry on the top if that wasn’t enough for you. If there’s one “good guy” in the Christian Bible, it’s the guy who freed humans from their blissful ignorance and granted them the greatest gift of all: knowledge. It’s not the guy who has literally killed millions of people or had millions of people killed in his name. That’s right, friends. I just inferred that in the great contest of who’s done more good versus bad for humanity, Satan beats God.

There. It took me a while, but in the end I’m pretty sure I just committed the one unforgivable sin and thus solidified for myself a future of eternal pain and suffering. Phew.

Now that’s one (or two, I guess) simple little opinion of mine that doesn’t really come up very often in everyday conversation. It’s a personal opinion that I can’t expect many people around me to share, especially in Texas. Despite my opinion regarding Christianity’s Jesus, God, and Satan (none of whom I believe exist simply due to a lack of evidence), which I typically keep to myself outside Internet World, I like to think of myself as a somewhat decent person.

I’m pretty nice to people, even those I don’t know or don’t like (despite my being a nice guy, there are plenty of people I just don’t like). I try to avoid confrontation or conflict, not because I’m afraid of either but because I like people to be happy, sometimes even at the expense of my own happiness. I love to make people laugh. I’m a pretty charitable guy. I’ve made some mistakes in my life, but who hasn’t? Fortunately I can say I’ve learned from my mistakes and if I haven’t yet, I aim to make up for them. I enjoy reading books and I like to learn as much as I can, sometimes about random things “just because.” I’m educated, for the most part. No, I don’t have a college degree but I’ve still got plenty of time and I’m working on getting my first degree. I love my wife and she loves me. I think the most severe law I’ve ever broken is driving too fast on the highway, and now I’m very careful about driving at a reasonable speed. I don’t judge people for something they can’t control, whether it’s their gender, race, age, or sexual orientation. I abide by the golden rule: don’t do to others what you wouldn’t have done to yourself. I’m a utilitarian: the outcome which is best for the most people is the most ideal outcome. Do the most good while causing the least harm.

I do all this not because I believe I’ll be rewarded in the afterlife, or even out of fear of being punished in the afterlife, but because the evolution of society and ethos tells me the best society is a cohesive one, in which people are happy and can work together to achieve a common goal, whatever that goal may be. Sometimes the goal is just more happiness.

Despite this; despite my contributions, a Christian will tell me it’s what I generally keep to myself which matters. The Christian Bible basically says that because I’m humble enough to admit that sometimes “I don’t know” really is the most rational answer, a child rapist can repent on his deathbed and will have a greater chance at getting into Heaven (if Heaven exists at all) than I do. And part of being Christian means believing what the Bible says to be true.

And I think anybody who sincerely believes that is a horrible person, and I’m better than you.

That’s why I’m so smug.

God “chose” Adam Hubbs… why?

This Thanksgiving between football games, a touching piece was aired about a young boy named Adam Hubbs who suffered a stroke and is having to learn to cope with his disabilities. The boy was given the privilege of spending an entire day with the Denver Broncos’ Tim Tebow, one of those annoying Christians who feels the need to publicly thank god for everything that happens to him on the football field while ignoring what this insinuates about god’s feelings toward the other team and players.

But that’s a separate rant which I think I’ve gone through already somewhere in the last ninety-nine posts on this blog. By the way, this is post number one hundred! Huzzah, and all that.

Anyway, during the story Adam said at one point, “God chose me because I’m strong enough to get through it.”

That’s what I’m interested in learning a little more about. That belief, that god specifically chose Adam for the stroke because he knew Adam could get through it, raises a couple questions.

The first question is why did god have to choose anybody at all? “He’s god,” you might say, “he doesn’t have to do anything.” That doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense but okay, I’ll bite. If he doesn’t have to do anything, why was there a decision to be made at all? Perhaps god could have simply not made a decision. Would nobody have then received a stroke? Why is there an unassigned stroke lying around god’s house, anyway? Does god just have extra strokes laying around, along with lists of young children who may be strong enough to handle them? Why would god even have these extra strokes strewn about? He’s god – he made them. Why? Can he un-make a stroke? Or once a stroke is made does it have to be administered? Could god have chosen somebody even stronger than Adam Hubbs? Why didn’t he? Was Adam strong, but not too strong? Just the right amount of strong, I suppose. Maybe each stroke requires a particular amount of strength; no more, no less, and Adam’s stroke was perfectly suited for him.

The second question is why does god give strokes to people who don’t survive them, or who remain comatose and unresponsive afterward, or who find they can barely function and consider themselves to be a bane on society? Did god assume they, like Adam, would be strong enough to pull through? That would raise concerns about god’s precognition. Or did god have other reasons for giving those people strokes? Did those people do something terrible so that they deserved the strokes they didn’t survive? Whereas on the other hand there’s Adam, who’s so strong he deserves a stroke just to prove it.

I guess the moral dilemma is if god causes bad things to happen to bad people and also bad things to happen to good people then why, for god’s sake, be good at all?

I thought the story as a whole was incredibly touching. I’m glad, for Adam’s sake and for the sake of his family and friends, that he survived his stroke. There’s no doubt that for a young child to go through something like that and still find joy in life takes plenty of strength and courage. Heck, as much as I dislike Tim Tebow for his vanity on the field I’ll give him credit for being a super-great, charitable guy off the field. In fact, it was only the one line, that Adam was chosen to be the recipient of a life-threatening stroke by an allegedly all-powerful god who could have prevented the stroke from happening in the first place, that irritates me.

You would suppose an infinitely powerful being gave you a stroke simply because he figures you’re tough enough to handle it, and you would continue to worship that being? It seems like a lot of religious folks have a pretty sado-masochistic relationship with their god.

Happy one hundredth, loyal followers. I wanted to do something special for you but I couldn’t think of anything, so I hope you enjoyed this opinion piece instead.

Godless Medley

This is a medley of three songs I’ve written. The first, called “Little Atheist Me,” makes its debut in the medley. The second and third, titled “Songs About Jesus” and “The Fantastic Theory,” were previously recorded and released on my YouTube channel. Altogether, the video is just under ten minutes long. Two, if not all three, songs contain swear words. So put on those headphones.

“Little Atheist Me” is about nothing more than me and my worldview, which just happens to not include any gods. The song describes those things I do believe in, such as “love and hope and family,” as well as those things I’m afraid of, like “falling to my death or being stung by bees.” As the song says in the chorus, I’ve got “no time for Jesus.” I wrote this as a way to tell the religious community that atheists do have plenty of things they believe in or are afraid of; it’s just that none of those things include superstition.

“Songs About Jesus” is really just one song, and it’s only about Jesus insofar as the Christian belief that “Jesus is God” goes. So I suppose, really, it should have been called “A Song About God.” But there you have it. The song is also how a lot of Christians don’t seem very Christ-like, so I guess that’s the part about Jesus.

“The Fantastic Theory” is about Intelligent Design versus evolution, and the battle to censor science and/or teach ID in public schools. Mostly I cover evolution and sing about how life has no apparent design; and if it was created, it wasn’t done so very intelligently.

A few notes unrelated to the song(s)…

  • No, I will not take off that hat. I really like that hat.
  • No, I will not trim my guitar strings. No reason; I just can’t be bothered.
  • The silicone band on my right wrist is zebra-print and I got it at the Dallas Zoo. Incidentally, the Dallas Zoo is where my wife and I had our wedding ceremony.
  • The guitar is a Yamaha. I received it as a gift for my seventeenth birthday.
  • I bought my shirt through RichardDawkins.net

Also on my YouTube channel, you’ll find a few additional songs:

  • “Mary,” which is more or less about marijuana.
  • “Imagine,” which is a cover of John Lennon’s famous song.
  • “Rat-Zinger,” which is about the Catholic Pope and child-molesting priests.
  • “Fabulous,” which is about equal rights, especially for the LGBT community.

Morality sans Bible

Pretty much every society, culture, and even religion has their own version of the “Golden Rule.” The Golden Rule says, essentially:

Do not do to others what you would not have done to you.

This Rule is old. Like, old old. Again, it’s found in the texts of pretty much every major religion. Christianity’s got their version, Islam’s got theirs – even Zoroastrians, Taoists, Buddhists, Hindus, and Jains. If this is not evidence suggesting the Rule (and what some consider the basis of ethics) is not founded in religion, consider that the ancient Greeks, Chinese, and Egyptians featured it in their texts, and that it can be found in Hammurabi’s code of the ancient Babylonians.

If not because “God made it,” why does the Golden Rule exist? How did we figure out that we need to be good to other people, and that we shouldn’t be bad? How did we even determine what good and bad are? Instead of giving credit to the supernatural, let’s try the practical approach: human evolution.

I should mention right now, before I get ahead of myself, that this doesn’t specifically pertain to human evolution, as some form or another of morality/ethics is evident in other species such as chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, dolphins, lions, penguins, elephants, and even bats (to name only a few of many). So really, morality has to do not with human evolution, but with the evolution of social animals.

But, being that we’re human, I’ll focus on us.

As far back as when our monkey-like ancestors were still living primarily in trees, we’ve been a social animal, which means particular social “rules” must have existed for a very, very long time. Why? Because without rules, there won’t be cooperation, and a functioning, progressive “society” could not exist.

Close your eyes. Now open them. Magically, you’ve been flung back in time into the body of Bobor, an ancient ancestor of yours, part of a quaint tribe of early hominids living in the outskirts of a forest near the edge of a hot, grassy plain.

Bobor’s role in the tribe is that of a hunter. Every day he and the other men venture into the jungle with crude weapons in the hopes that they will come back in the evening with plenty of food for the tribe. In order to catch their prey, the hunters must cooperate. Sometimes their prey is far larger than just one man, but when two or three work together they are perfectly able to bring it down. The men know that if they do not work together, they will likely not find any food and for that they and their tribe will suffer.

In the evening, Bobor and the other hunters return home with plenty of food. The rest of the tribe is happy because they are hungry, and now they can eat. The women of the tribe cut up the food and prepare it for eating. Soon, the whole tribe is sitting down and enjoying their dinner. Bobor is happy because he got to help feed the tribe. The rest of the tribe is happy with Bobor (and the other hunters) for the same reason.

While they are eating Bobor notices that a hunter, Kraduk, is trying to take food from another tribe member. A fight breaks out, and the tribe member whose food Kraduk was attempting to steal, ended up dead. Bobor and the rest of the tribe begin yelling at Kraduk. The man he killed was another hunter, and so now they will have one less in their hunting party when they go out in the morning.

Angry, the tribe shuns Kraduk for making life more difficult. With Kraduk an outcast, the hunters head out in the morning, now with two less men than the day before. When they encounter their prey, they find it much more difficult to take down. Bobor and another hunter are injured but ultimately they manage to kill their prey and take it back to the rest of the tribe.

Despite Kraduk’s killing of the other hunter, the tribe manages to survive another day, but they will not forget what Kraduk has done, and they will remember the hardships they suffered (one dead, two injured, and one outcast) as a result.

Morality, at least for humans, could easily have spawned from a situation like Bobor’s and Kraduk’s. It was not as a result of religion (though the tribe may or may not have practiced a very primitive form of religion), but simply because of a need for cooperation and cohesion.

Even if Kraduk’s crime had simply been theft, or as petty as lying about something, this could have created distrust which may have shaken the cohesiveness of the entire tribe. So rules are made, whether they’re written down, spoken, or simply understood: don’t lie, cheat, steal, hurt, or kill. The success of your tribe depends on it. Do not do to others what you would not have done to you.

These rules would even spread among other tribes, and dictate how members of one tribe should (or should not) treat members of another. If you kill members of another tribe, the rest of their tribe might come and kill you right back. Or they’ll kill someone else in your tribe. And then your tribe may realize you were the cause of this, and you may be outcast, and now your tribe is two members less than it was before and their chances of success have lessened because of it.

Okay. Close your eyes, and open them again. You’re you again. You are the result of millions of years of cooperation. It seems to be working, so please don’t go and screw things up.

Morality and the Bible

This was originally meant to be a brief little blurb, but then I just kept typing. Anyway, here it is. Today’s episode of Atheist Dave, titled Morality and the Bible:

Do you subscribe to the “moral code” laid forth in the Bible?

Do you acknowledge the fact that the Bible not only condones slavery in multiple passages, but even encourages it at times?

Do you acknowledge the fact that several parts of the Bible show the Judeo-Christian god committing or endorsing mass genocide?

Do you agree that slavery, murder, and especially genocide are morally wrong? Do you sometimes find yourself saying things like “Yes, but that’s not how the world is anymore. Things were different back then“? This is called grasping for straws. That’s fine, though – you’re right – the world isn’t like that anymore. Yes, there’s still genocide and slavery going on in some parts of the world, but on a much smaller scale, and we both agree that they shouldn’t be – that humanity is better than that. Right?

Okay.

What you’ve just proven is that your morality exists outside of your religious beliefs. Your morality is not dependent upon your religion, or upon a book that was written thousands of years ago. You can still say “Okay, so the Bible teaches some pretty good lessons sometimes, but these other things in it are bad.”

Your next step is to discover that if everything in the Bible really is true – if it really is the word of some sky god – then regardless of your set of moral beliefs, this god still endorses slavery and genocide and lets rapists get off easy, unless you agree that a rapist’s punishment should simply be that he marry the woman he raped. Your next step is to realize that even if the god of the Bible exists (whom we’ll give male properties to, to make it easier), then he’s not such a great guy. He flooded the world, killing countless children, infants, and animals, to punish the fact that there were a lot of bad people. Would you burn down an entire forest just to kill the murderer hiding in it?

“Oh, but he regretted it,” you might say. That raises another question: how does a so-called “perfect” god do things he’ll regret later? Anyway, it doesn’t matter. If he exists and what the Bible says is true, then he killed everything. That’s not the sort of thing you look at and say, “Well, as long as you’re sorry…”

Let’s use the story of Lot. Lot lived in Sodom and was saved because he was the only “good” person in the entire city. Apparently god still saw evil in the rest of the city (including the children) and figured they deserved to die. Not to mention, when a bunch of men were about to rape a couple angels Lot sent out his daughters for them to rape instead. And yet the entire family was saved. Except Lot’s wife – as the city was burning, she turned around to look and god killed her. Afterward, Lot’s daughters got him drunk and then essentially raped him, became impregnated by their own father, and each bore a son.

It that how god judges good character? To me, and to most rational people who look at the story of Lot without the context of it being in the Bible, the story is nothing more than obscene. Please tell me this is not where you gather your moral standards. This book has a few good messages, sure, but so do most books – Aesop’s Fables teach wonderful moral lessons but you don’t believe animals can talk like people, do you?

Oh wait, there was that snake in the garden at the beginning of the story.

Long story short, morality is just another product of evolution and even you (not you, you – over there – the religious one) didn’t get yours from a book.

Is god evil?

Christians have a tendency to use their god’s name in vain or, as Ricky Gervais reworded it, “in vanity,” without even realizing it. What it means to not use god’s name in vain is to not attribute his power or blessing to the fulfillment of your personal desires. In other words, thanking god for helping you win that Grammy award or helping your team win the Super Bowl is using his name in vain. To clarify, one need only ask why god didn’t also let the other nominees win the Grammy, or why didn’t god let both teams win the Super Bowl? As much as I’d like to imagine god is a Green Bay fan, I imagine that if he existed and were as all-powerful as the writers of his memoirs said he is, then he’s got some more important things to do.

More important things such as sheltering the homeless, feeding the starving, rescuing the cast of Gilligan’s Island, and making sure hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes, and earthquakes never strike populated areas.

So god’s got his hands full. While Michael Phelps is busy earning his sixth gold medal, god is too busy making sure people never suffer or die, ever. Because that’s within his power. And he is loving.

Okay, so maybe god doesn’t end all suffering. My question is why? If he can, why doesn’t he? Is god evil?

What is evil? Evil, in our natural and earthly realm, can generally be accepted as acts of malice without any concern for consequences. The unjustified killing of another person whilst seeing absolutely nothing wrong with your actions, for example, could be considered evil. I could go into what does or does not justify the taking of a human life, but that could take a while and I’m trying to keep this relatively short. Let’s just try and agree, then, that torturing and murdering millions of people is evil or, at least, really really bad. Or at the very very least, not good. Okay, so the Holocaust was not good. We’re starting to see eye to eye now. We could also probably agree that the people still alive today who had nothing to do with the Holocaust but think it was completely justified (or deny it ever happened at all) are not good people. I would go so far as to say that person is a bit lacking in the morality department.

So what if somebody has the capability to snap his fingers (hyperbolically) and end all the suffering in the world immediately, but chooses to do nothing despite his powers? One could then blame the continued existence of suffering on that somebody (or in this case, on that god). That somebody is knowingly allowing children to suffer from starvation on a daily basis, all the while having the power to make it stop. Does a child deserve to suffer from starvation? Absolutely not; no sane person would ever say a child (or anybody, for that matter, but I’m using children specifically because people don’t seem to be as emotional about adults suffering) deserves to suffer, for any reason. Choosing to ignore or even prolong suffering is not simply apathy – it is evil.

A good god is not apathetic to suffering, and an apathetic god is not worthy of being worshiped. Is god good? If so, why is there pain and suffering? If not, why do so many people look up to him?

Life, the universe, and everything

As an opener I’d like to state that my worldview has absolutely nothing to do with my atheism. I like to think that were I a theist I would still hold life, the universe, and everything in exactly the same regards. This post is not intended to answer any questions about nor explain my view on theism. Correlation does not imply causation. That being said, let us proceed.

Where did we come from?
Four billion years ago or so, just the right combination of chemicals came together somewhere on this planet. Some phosphates, some sugar and nucleobase molecules, and a charge of electricity or radiation (lightning?) have been proven to be all it takes to create life. It’s hardly “something from nothing,” but as uncommon as it is, given a lot of chemicals and a lot of lightning and billions of years something’s bound to happen. Those are the layman’s terms, of course; I’m not a chemist, a biologist, or a physicist. But there’s proof, so there you go. It may not be the correct answer, but it’s the best one out there yet and it’s certainly more realistic and preferable than “God did it” (which would only raise more questions).

Of course the life created was the simplest it could possibly be. On a relatively new planet, however, given plenty of time and a fast-changing environment, this life began to change. It evolved, more cells began to work together, organisms formed, they grew fins, swam, poked their heads out of water and began breathing air, crawled onto land, grew legs, scales, feathers, wings, fur (not necessarily in that order) and, billions of years later, here we are. That was the condensed version. Be sure to research natural selection to learn more about how all that busy stuff actually happened.

Why are we here?
This is still up for interpretation. Taken to mean “what is our purpose,” one could say that as a species our only purpose is to continue to propagate the species. Man find woman. Man court woman. Woman bear child. Child grow up. Find mate. And so on, and so forth.

If you’re looking for a deeper purpose, I could only tell you my own as I believe every person finds his or her own purpose in life. Mine is to be happy and have a happy family (first) and try to keep everybody else happy to my best extent (second). This includes going to school, getting a job, telling jokes, writing songs, singing loudly, smiling a lot, dancing when the mood strikes me, wearing comfortable shoes, playing video games, keeping a blog, donating to charities I know will make the world a little easier to live in for some people less fortunate than I am. If you think my purpose is anything more or less than that, then I’m so very sorry for not living up to your standards. I apologize if my purpose seems a little superficial compared to yours. The fact of the matter is that I’m happy, my family is happy, and ain’t nothin’ gonna bring me down.

Where are we going?
This one’s easy. Eventually, as happens with all species, the human race will go extinct. It may or may not be replaced by another sentient race, more adaptable to change and more capable of surviving in whatever the conditions are at the time. I doubt very much that we will be the last animal to go extinct. In the end, nothing we say or do or accomplish as a race will matter. Not to us, at least; we’ll be dead. It very likely will matter to whatever species outlive us, since there is no doubt we will have changed our planet (whether it’s earth or some other planet we move on to in the future) in a manner that will affect the other animals around us. Knowing that, maybe we should try and keep things nice and tidy ’til we go.

In terms of where each one of us goes, or how we end up, being that I don’t believe in any afterlife (primarily because I have no reason to) we’ll just die. That’ll be it. Physically, our bodies will decay and nourish the land and life around them. Metaphysically, one must remember the human is a social animal. We tell tales, sing songs, and create art. Not that it’ll matter to me much after the fact (since I’ll be dead), but I like to think here and now that once I’ve died I’ll be remembered. Perhaps people will still listen to the music I’ve created or read the stories I’ve written. That line of thinking – that I’ll possibly be remembered in those ways – brings me comfort and makes me happy. See “Why are we here?” above if you’ve forgotten why I think that’s important.

Why is goodness good, and what are morals anyway?
Who am I to say what’s good and right versus what’s bad and wrong, you might be asking. I’m not a philosopher so you’ll have to forgive me if you disagree, but I prefer to take the utilitarian route and define goodness as whatever makes the greatest number of people happy and comfortable, and causes the least amount of discomfort, pain, or unhappiness. That answers, as far as I and my opinions are concerned, the question of why it is good to be good.

The less important question here is what are morals and where do they come from? I, the non-philosopher, prefer to ask who cares? Morals exist. Everybody has a different view, and some of them contrast with one another, but how we developed morality is completely irrelevant. It is, though, also completely answerable. I already mentioned humans are social animals, but I need to bring it up again here because it’s pretty important. At some point in our ancient history of evolution we discovered that is it more beneficial to work together to accomplish a particular task, as opposed to going it alone. As family groups became more common, we realized it would be detrimental to our well-being if we killed or hurt those around us. Anybody who did so became an outcast as they were seen to be harmful for the future of the family/clan/community. For (hopefully) a better understanding of how we may have developed morality and ethics, I will refer you to the parable of Grog and Zog - a silly name for a story about cavemen that teaches an important lesson.

Still have questions? Read it again.

The contents of this post are subject to change.

Would you vote for an atheist?

“…If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be an atheist, would you vote for that person?”

53% of the voters polled said no. Fifty-three percent. That, my friends, is a majority. The only majority, in fact, who answered they would not vote for a candidate based on one particular trait. Even homosexuals are more likely (they, in fact, have a majority in their favor) to be elected president than an atheist.

That’s not a knock on gays. Fortunately, America is quickly becoming less and less homophobic. Unfortunately, it is clear that America is by and large still very much an “atheophobic” nation.

Frankly, every single one of the poll results disgusts me. Comparatively, since atheists “scored” so much lower than everybody else, and overall because the keywords should be “generally well-qualified,” and not whatever other aspect was brought into the picture. If a presidential candidate is “generally well-qualified,” then that’s just fine with me.

Now to be fair, if I had to choose between two generally well-qualified candidates – one who was atheist and the other who was religious – I would almost definitely vote for the atheist, since I know he (or she, since I’m not part of that 11% who wouldn’t vote for a woman) wouldn’t have any religious motivation for creating or supporting policies or laws; thus keeping church and state separate, as they should be.

Back to the poll, though. The obvious question here should be why? Why would 53% of American voters not want a generally well-qualified president, who also happens to be an atheist?

I would wager a guess that the answer has to do with morals. The religious are a-scared that if you don’t believe in a god – any god – then you are an immoral heathen who runs about raping virgins and murdering infants. And on that point, I can agree that I would not want a president who is known for raping virgins and murdering infants. Fortunately, the religious who feel that way are just being ignorant and silly.

Atheism, religion, and morality are a topic for another day, though.