The easiest book in the world to understand.

If I were the creator of the universe, esp. the earth and its inhabitants, and I wanted everybody to know and worship me and follow a very explicit set of rules and guidelines, I might list all my achievements in book form, and I might even include all my rules in that book. Takes a load off my shoulders, right? I wouldn’t have to pop down here every hour and tap somebody on the shoulder and say “Hey, that’s against the rules.” Because if I wanted everybody to follow my rules and I had them all laid out in a nice book and people still didn’t follow them, I would do that. I would intervene. First off, it could serve as a pretty cool reminder that I actually exist. Second, some people just need reminders.

But being that I’m supremely awesome, supremely powerful, and supremely knowledgeable, the rules put forth in my book would be crystal clear. There would be absolutely no way whatsoever for people to misinterpret what I am saying. If I had to use my infinite magical powers to craft the book in such a way so that the words are phrased differently for every person just so they’ll understand exactly what I’m saying, so be it. But two people who have read my book would simply be unable to disagree on the fundamentals within: you would not have one person saying “Clearly if you read it this way, Dave says homosexuals should be put to death,” while another person says “Ah, but if you look at it this way it’s pretty obvious Dave thinks every adult person capable of decision-making, signing a contract, and saying the words ‘I do’ should be offered the right to be married.”

THERE WOULD BE NO MISINTERPRETATIONS. There wouldn’t be sects of people who interpret even two words differently in my book. Because I am awesome-fucking-possum and I actually want these people to obey my rules. They will be clear. I would use my incredible powers to make my rules somehow even more clear than the phrase “Don’t punch people in the neck.” Pretty clear, huh? Someone could misinterpret it. Not if I’m god though.

That is why religion is nonsense. Because the world’s three largest monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) are based upon the exact same story, yet all three religions are vastly different from one another and each even have a whole sloppy slew of sects and cults within that disagree with one another. Yours is one interpretation out of thousands, and you learned it from your parents, who learned it from their parents, who learned it from their parents, whose interpretation of your religion was probably even vastly different from your own. And yet somehow all those other religions/sects are wrong and yours is right.

My role as the atheist/skeptic is not to say to you “Nope, you’re wrong. They’re wrong. Everybody’s wrong.” Rather, it’s to say “Seriously? Look at the odds. What divine knowledge has been bestowed upon you that makes you right and millions of other people wrong?” So what if it turns out you’ve got the right god? You‘ve probably been following the wrong rules.

Christopher Hitchens dies at 62

Photograph by Gasper Tringale

“The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.”

-Christopher Hitchens

13 April 1949 – 15 December 2011

Pat Robertson’s flood (OF LIES!)

Pat Robertson famously claimed that the Christian god caused Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent aftermath of flooding, destruction, property and lives lost because of legalized abortion, debauchery, Mardi Gras, and “exposed breasts.” In other words, his god caused a massive flood which killed many because it was angry with a few. Sound familiar?

Yet most people reject Robertson’s claims as nothing more than spiteful and bigoted.

What if the Noah’s Ark account is just a 3,000-year-old exaggeration of a Pat Robertson-esque quote?

I have a zero tolerance for sanctimonious morons who try to scare people.

-Pat Robertson

Thanks Holly for the great title of this post!

Quotes in Context (II)

Atheists often quote John 14:12-14 to point out how Jesus promises to make all your dreams and wishes come true. In it, he claims that anybody with faith in him need only ask for something in his name and it will be done. Here’s that verse again:

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Fathher. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)

Yes, even I use it as a go-to verse. I’ve read my Bible and know what it says. And yet I’ve been told I’m using the quote out of context. So I thought to myself, maybe I’ll go ahead and read all of John 14 again to shed some light on this situation. What if I have been citing this quote out of context? Here is the full text of John 14:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will some back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:1-14)

Nope, looks like I had it right. Once you can get around the fact that Jesus speaks like the Riddler (“I am the Father and the Father is me; you know where I’m going and the place where I am going is known to you; is he a bat or a man? A man bat or a bat man?”) you see he’s saying exactly what he appears to be saying in the final sentences of the verse. Only this time we know that when Jesus says “do what I have been doing,” he is referring to his miracles. Believe in Jesus, walk on water.

Quotes in Context (I)

The eye - irreducibly complex?

This is a new segment I’ve decided to call “Quotes in Context.” Here, we will post a quote out of context, explain how it can easily be used to deceive anybody unfamiliar with the quote or the topic it covers, and then proceed to round it all out by posting the quote in context.

Our first quote will be by Mr. Charles Darwin himself. Darwin, as we know, wrote a pretty famous book called On the Origin of Species, which sold out entirely during its first week of publication. His book was controversial at a time when people assumed science and gods could work hand in hand, but is now regarded as one of the most relevant and influential books in history.

The quote many creationists (those who believe their god snapped its fingers and created life on a whim) like to rely on is as follows:

To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.

-Charles Darwin

This is a dangerous thing indeed for the father of evolutionary theory to have said. What Darwin is referring to in this quote, without saying the words creationists have since coined for the term, is irreducible complexity – the notion that something (like the human eye) is so complex that it could not have possibly evolved. They claim that were a single part of the eye removed, it would be made entirely useless. Clearly Darwin is saying the same thing in that quote, taken directly from On the Origin of Species.

Clearly, that is, until you read the line immediately following that one:

Yet reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to its possessor, can be shown to exist; if further, the eye does vary ever so slightly, and the variations be inherited, which is certainly the case; and if any variation or modification in the organ be ever useful to an animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real.

Layman’s terms: but if we were to prove the eye is not irreducibly complex, we would look for many other examples of less complex eyes in nature. We would also check and see if any slight modifications to the eye may make it more useful under any other conditions. First, examples of other, less complex eyes do exist in nature. Second, it is demonstrable that slight changes to the eye would benefit it under different circumstances. Therefore, what seems to be “absurd in the highest degree” is, in fact, quite simple to understand.

In other words, Darwin was raising the notion of irreducible complexity in the eye, only to then tear apart the popular creationist theory and prove that the eye is not, in fact, irreducibly complex. Creationists, however, love to ignore the second half of the quote and only talk about the first, claiming Darwin was actually on “their side,” and that he proved his own theory wrong.