“You’re a wizard, Harry!” and other unforgettable moments from the Bible.

You're a Wizard Harry
1. “You’re a wizard, Harry!”
Who can forget that moment in the book of Mark when Hagrid revealed to the 11-year-old Harry that he’s a wizard? This was, I believe, a critical turning point in young Harry Potter’s life.

White Rabbit
2. “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!”
In the early chapters of Exodus, Alice follows a white rabbit down a hole, thus starting her amazing adventure in Wonderland. It was that precise moment when the rabbit pulled out a pocket watch and exclaimed he was running late that truly piqued Alice’s interest and began her adventure.

Luke I Am Your Father
3. “Luke, I am your father!”
Though the evil Lord Vader was introduced as early as Genesis, it wasn’t until the book of 2 Kings that he was revealed to be young Luke Skywalker’s father. This was a shocking revelation even for those who had been following the story from its beginning.

Moby Dick
4. “Call me Ishmael.”
These were the first words uttered in the Bible, and still resonate with all of us to this day.

Nick Carraway
5. “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
The final words of the Bible, this quote reminds us that as we paddle furiously toward the future, the current always drags us back into our past. This is infinitely deeper when you consider that current also means present, and that present also means gift, and you should never look a gift horse in the mouth, and I think this is exactly what Nick Carraway meant about Jay Gatsby, though he recognizes its inevitability with all of us.

Motherfucking Snakes
6. “I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!”
Oh Samuel L. Jackson. You won our hearts in Ezekiel 25:17 but it wasn’t until you uttered this phrase in the book of Malachi that we truly understood how you felt about all those snakes on that plane.

Donkey
7. “There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.”
Speaking of Ezekiel, this gem is found at the 23:20 mark where we learn of Oholibah, the younger of two sisters, both engaging in prostitution from an early age. Oholibah enjoyed men with huge penises and who ejaculated a large amount of semen.

Scientific Progress Goes Boink
8. “Scientific progress goes ‘boink’?”
Ha ha! Remember when in Proverbs, Calvin invented a duplicating machine? So do I! And this line Hobbes utters when he activates the machine was an instant classic!

Beatles on Ed Sullivan
9. “Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles!”
Probably the most memorable moment in the Bible was in the book of John when the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. This was a turning point not just in the history of rock n’ roll, but in American history as well.

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Justice that arrives like a thunderbolt

Our generation didn’t start this nation
We’re still pickin’ up the pieces, walkin’ on eggshells, fightin’ over yesterday
And caught between southern pride and southern blame

Those seemingly delightful lyrics are from the song “Accidental Racist,” by Brad Paisley and sung by him and LL Cool J. The song often refers to how white people from the south and black people from the north maybe just can’t understand each other, and maybe they’re being a little too sensitive about things, and maybe they should just have a beer together. It’s a really dreadful song and you probably shouldn’t listen to it.

A couple weekends ago, a white 20-year-old wearing patches representing pro-apartheid African nations, and who has been pictured waving a Confederate battle flag and burning a United States flag, and who — according to his roommate — had often spoke of killing some black people and starting a new civil war, went into an historic black civil war-era church in Charleston, South Carolina, sat around for a while while the pastor led his congregation in prayer, and then pulled out a gun and opened fire. The death toll, before he fled the scene only to be captured in North Carolina the next day, was nine.

Based solely on the evidence I listed above (confederate flag, anti-apartheid, yearning for another civil war, historic black place of worship) a lot of people labeled this pretty much immediately as a hate crime. Others claim it’s an act of terrorism, and I tend to agree with both. His intent was very clearly racially motivated, and going by the FBI’s official definition I think it’s clear to say this was an act of terrorism as well. The oddest thing, however, is when you switch your television station over to Fox News, you’ll hear they have taken a different approach to the situation. Obviously this wasn’t a racist hate crime, but an attack on Christianity! Because in Foxnewsland, the spin they put on any story has to make it seem like they, the Christian Right, are the ones being attacked. So far as I can tell, no indication of Roof’s religion has been made.

Anyway, this whole shooting debacle led very briefly to a discussion on gun laws and a lot of old internet memes popped back up for about three days, but that was all swept aside to make room for this week’s new topic of debate, and the real culprit here: racism.

And you know, I sort of agree. I’m no fan of guns. We need stricter gun regulations. We need to make it more difficult for all people to obtain guns. But it’s also important to determine motive and then see if there are ways to quell motivation — in this case, racism — that may lead to heinous acts like shootings that kill nine people. So our first course of action has been, for the first time in 150 years, to villainize the confederate battle flag (CBF). The day after Roof’s killing spree, the CBF was still flying on South Carolina capitol grounds. It still exists as part of the design on several state flags, as well. So obviously we have to have that flag removed.

But why a flag? It’s just a flag! It’s more than a flag, people. It’s a symbol. A symbol flown by supporters of a war 150 years old that was lost to the Union. A symbol of traitorous southerners who thought it was their god-given right to keep slaves. Yeah, technically people have the freedom to fly their CBFs or their Nazi Germany swastikas, but does that mean they necessarily ought to? Furthermore, does it mean they reserve the right to do so free of consequence? Freedom of speech and expression does not grant you immunity to criticism. As a person with German ancestry, I don’t feel it’s necessary for me to fly a swastika to honor my ancestors.

“Southern pride” rednecks can hang the flag from their trailers and lean-tos and claim their ancestors who fought and died for the Confederacy deserve respect, but I refuse to mourn for or respect separatists who, had they had their way, would have maintained their right to oppress a race of people and buy/sell them and force them into servitude.

Hell, the presence of the CBF or its likeness in the form of stickers on the bumpers of Ford trucks as old and rusty as their owners or patches on overalls serves to warn me in advance who the racists are who can’t let go of the past and their ancestors’ failings in the name of heritage, or some other hokey backwoods jargon that secretly stands for “Hey, we tried to [3/5ths] compromise!”

But that flag has no place whatsoever on public or government property. When it exists next to a United States flag, or a state flag, or especially AS a state flag, it gives the Dylann Roofs of the world a symbol to fight or kill for. It perpetuates — and even worse, institutionalizes — racism.

As of this writing, several states have removed the CBFs from their capitol grounds. Several retailers — even huge retailers like Wal-Mart, Amazon, and eBay — have stopped selling CBF merchandise. I don’t think that was a necessary step, but I support their right to sell or not sell what they please. Even video game publishers of historic games are talking about stopping sales of games featuring a CBF. It is absolutely huge that this is in national discussion right now. There are the people who think the flag belongs in a museum, since it certainly has a history within the United States, and then there are the people who refuse to take it down because their “southern pride” is more important to them than supporting their fellow Americans. When all is said and done, the racists will stick out like sore thumbs and we’ll all be better off knowing who to stay away from.

WHICH BRINGS ME TO TODAY’S BIG NEWS

I awoke this morning and turned on the news, like I do, and I picked up my Android phone and started scrolling through Facebook to see what I had missed during my slumber. As it turns out, the Supreme Court of the United States, in a vote of 5-4, overturned states’ rights to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

This is an extraordinary time to be alive right now, knowing that not only is history being made, but that I’m on the right side of it and have been since I was old enough to understand that boys are allowed to love boys too.

The second thing I did this morning, after I had scrolled a bit through Facebook, was to start perusing the comments sections under the posts made by local news organizations. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you really want to know the state of things in our country, don’t watch TV, don’t read a newspaper; all you have to do is read the comments sections under local news articles. Because this is your home; these are the people who surround you. Many of them are kind-hearted, reasonable people whose love for life extends to their friends and neighbors and doesn’t just stop outside their own personal egobubble.

But then there are the rabid, hateful, obscene people who want everyone to know how much love they have for family values and Jesus and oh god won’t somebody think of the children! It is to those people whom I address in the remainder of today’s post. Those Christians who assume this progressive country abides by the laws in their millennia-old book.

Your silly book of fairy tales with its laws against shaving your beard and laws against women taking on roles as educators and laws proclaiming bats are birds and stories about talking donkeys and people being turned into pillars of salt and daughters raping their drunken father and god destroying everything a man loves and lives for all because of a silly bet…

That’s not the book from which our normal-people laws are derived. Hell isn’t real, heaven isn’t real, talking serpents and donkeys aren’t real, dragons and unicorns and behemoths and leviathans aren’t real… so do kindly shut the fuck up and refrain from passing judgment on anybody – ANYBODY – seeking happiness and inclusiveness and equality. Because if what they’re doing shakes the very foundation of your fundamental beliefs, then it’s your fundamentals which need to be checked, NOT theirs.

If I learned anything from the Bible, and I have read it cover to cover, it’s that lesson from very early on in the book about the big important guy getting all in a kerfuffle because his two subservient playthings decided to seek knowledge: the ultimate gift.

Too bad satan’s not real, otherwise I’d praise him for setting us free from the Christian god’s shackles.

Equality wins, boys and girls, friends and family. And of you still huffing and puffing about hell or about how icky it is that some people actually had to fight and live through the ridicule and the pain and the insults just to hear their country say “okay, you’re allowed to love each other now,” you huffers and puffers are a dying breed.

This is an incredible time to be alive in the United States. I’m watching history being made. I’m watching my friends finally be recognized as actual people. I get to see my friends rejoice in who they are and know that finally, America is on their side.

If there was a god, I wouldn’t offer cries of “god bless” or “god is great” or any sort of fealty. Not after seeing how his/her/its followers and so-called disciples spit venom and hatred and condemnation toward anybody a little bit different than themselves. Anybody with a different skin color, or anybody with a different sexual preference or identity. No, god deserves no love, no praise, no thanks. It’s the fast-growing majority of progressive, forward-thinking Americans who are to thank for helping bring this country that much closer to universal equality.

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.

Dealing with family

Little-known fact: not everybody is entirely tolerant of atheists. Sometimes the intolerance is made even harder when those displaying it are family members. Today I received a private message from a cousin on Facebook. For her privacy I will not repost her message, but for the sake of showing that it’s important for us to stand up for ourselves — even against family — I will repost my response. In my response I refer to specific things she said in her original message, so it should be easy enough to catch the gist of it.

————————————-

If I might…

Yeah, I’m very in-your-face about my atheism. This is because Facebook is the only place I have to express my feelings about it. Religious people can be open about their beliefs publicly; whether you like to admit it or not, atheists cannot — not in Texas, at least. This is why I share my feelings on my private Facebook page (my account is set to friends only and has been for some time now).

I do not act like I know everything. Religious people seem confused when it comes to atheism in these regards. On the contrary, I do not feel like I know everything; in fact, I’m not going to presume to know the answer to all life’s difficult questions is “God.” I’ll leave that know-it-all attitude to the religious.

I’m not going to touch the fact that you sincerely believe I’ll “rot in hell” for eternity, because I don’t think you actually believe that. I believe it makes you feel like a better person to say it, but if you actually believed millions of people alive today would spend eternity being tortured, you’d go insane.

Fortunately in this day and age, atheism is on the rise. More people are thinking rationally and logically. Sure, I get emotional about it sometimes but in the end the one and only reason I am not religious is because I cannot — as a rational person — agree that the ideas put forth by religious people make even a shred of sense. I’d like for there to be a Heaven, but it doesn’t make sense. I’d like to think there’s a god out there who intervenes and answers prayers, but it just doesn’t make sense. Unfortunately, wanting something to exist does not make it exist. And “faith” just doesn’t make sense to me.

You wouldn’t rely on a 200-year-old book for medical advice; why would you rely on a 2,000-year-old book for moral advice?

But all of this will go right over your head. You’ll continue to never doubt anything you were taught to believe in as a child. You’ll continue to feel guilty every time doubt rears its ugly head. You’ll continue to believe things that just don’t make sense. You’ll continue to believe because you’re scared. I’m not scared. I know that we live and we die, and so my outlook is to make the absolute most of my short, short life. You said I believe once we’re dead, that’s it. Well, that’s not entirely true; that’s it for our physical bodies, sure, but what we achieve in our lives resonates in the lives and memories of others long after we’ve died.

With that said, again, atheism is on the rise. More and more teenagers and young adults are shaking off the guilty feeling they get when they’re faced with a difficult question they don’t know the answer to. More and more teenagers and young adults are refusing to accept “God did it” as the penultimate answer. My hope is that your children — as the next generation of thinkers, makers, and dreamers — realize the answers they’ve been spoon-fed since infancy just aren’t cutting it. My hope is that one day they’ll recall the fantastic stories they’ve read in the Bible and say to themselves (or even out loud), “Now that just doesn’t make sense.”

Despite the fact that you might actually believe I’m going to suffer eternally after I die (again, I don’t think you seriously believe that) I hope you have a happy life. I guess that’s where you and I differ: you’re okay believing millions and millions of people will suffer forever while you enjoy an endless paradise, whereas I’m just not that selfish or spiteful. Every human being has the same fate: you live, you die. Maybe you’re fortunate enough to do wonderful things in between and be remembered after. Either way, we all end up in exactly the same place.

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Just for fun, I went through every single thing I’ve done/posted/uploaded on Facebook from July 1st up until the receipt of her message, just to determine exactly how in-your-face I am about my atheism on my personal, private Facebook page. I specifically noted things of a religious nature, political nature, and scientific nature. Everything else is categorized as — let’s just be adults and admit it — “nonsense.” Here are the results out of 106 posts:

Religious in nature: 17, including one scary picture of Jesus and one post where I just happened to mention the word “atheists.”
Scientific in nature: 6
Political in nature: 8
Nonsense: 75

Summary: I am 16% in-your-face with atheism and 71% in-your-face with nonsense.

 

 

The Bible as a source of scientific knowledge

I first saw this posted on Facebook (with the name blurred out as it is here) and it was met with responses that contained words like “stupid,” “idiot,” and “Creatard.” I’m not terribly fond of that last one, but I understand the sentiment it’s trying to convey. But not a single commenter made an attempt to explain just why the person who made this absurd statement is an idiot, or why they’re stupid. Now, I don’t know anything about the person who wrote this. In fact, I don’t even know their name. I can’t honestly call this person stupid, but what I will do is hopefully explain why their argument(s) is/are stupid. My one hope is that somehow this post makes its way back to the person who made these arguments originally, because I am genuinely interested in seeing their response.

Let me begin my dissection of this post by stating that nobody ever has or ever will claim that something begins to exist or be true the moment it is “discovered” by science/scientists. I more than likely stumbled outside as a toddler and found myself in the green grass of my parents’ front lawn before a scientist had ever affirmed to me the existence of grass. This does not mean I waited for somebody with a Ph.D. to confirm grass was real before I could accept that it was. This also does not mean grass did not exist prior to my “discovery” of it.

Which takes me to your first example: snakes. More specifically, snakes with legs. Whether or not the Bible states that snakes actually have legs is really a matter of interpretation. The Bible speaks of a serpent in Genesis, who coerces Eve to take a bite of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. God’s punishment for the serpent’s role in Eve’s betrayal of his trust, “You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.” Whether this means the serpent had legs prior to God’s curse is unknown, nor is it obvious whether or not this meant the serpent did not have legs after the curse. After all, even a human can crawl on its belly while having legs. It is uncomfortable to do so, especially for long periods of time; perhaps this is what makes it such a harsh punishment. Or perhaps the bit about eating dust is the actual punishment. Either way, the nature of the serpent both before and after God’s punishment is ambiguous.

That being said, you specifically mentioned snakes. I can assure you, and I will do so publicly, that snakes do not have legs. They have not ever had legs and they will not ever have legs.* Throughout the course of evolution, any creature that had legs in the long line of a snake’s ancestry was, assuredly, not a snake. Even if it were so, like I pointed out in my opening statements, a scientist would not have to “discover” a snake in order for a snake to exist.

So let’s move on to your next argument, which is the Bible describing a spherical earth at a time when science allegedly told us the earth was flat. This would be relevant if it were true. It would suggest the Bible really was written or inspired by the words of somebody who not only knew more than modern scientists, but knew truths that were contrary to what science told us at the time. The fact of the matter is, however, that the Bible never once tells us the earth is a sphere. We hear talk of the earth’s “four corners,” actually, which suggests the earth is either a two-dimensional quadrilateral or a triangular pyramid. Incidentally, Pythagoras hypothesized a spherical earth as early as the sixth century BCE, long before the Old Testament was written (and even longer before the NT).

Oh, but you spoke of a “round” earth, and not a spherical earth. If that’s the case, I think you may actually be right in that the Bible suggests, at one point, that the earth is round (I couldn’t tell you which chapter/verse, but that would contradict everything it says about corners). That would be worth investing thought into, since Pythagoras’s spherical-earth hypothesis was not yet widely accepted, except that the common belief was exactly the same: that the earth was round. Flat, but round. More precisely, that the earth was disc-shaped. So the Bible has, yet again, taught us nothing we didn’t “know” already. In fact, at best we could only say it propagated the [false] belief people already held.

Your third example is that the Bible explained to us the nature of the ocean — specifically its currents and its topography — “way before the first submarine.” I think it’s important to note, first, that a submarine is not required to study the floor of the ocean. It certainly makes it easier (and yes, it is required once you get to the deeper parts), but for all intents and purposes let’s just agree that I could walk off the shore and into the ocean, swim twenty feet out, and tell you what I see below me without the use of a submarine. Likewise, I could describe the currents to you. The Bible does not, ever once, explain gravity and the moon’s role in the ocean’s tides. That would be an argument worth posing since it took “science” quite a bit longer to explain that, despite what right-wing talk show hosts on Fox News may tell you.

Second, I’ve read the Bible but admittedly I’m not sure what part you’re referring to when you say it tells us of valleys under the sea and describes how oceanic currents work. If you’re talking about the fantastical Noah’s Ark story, these are observations anybody in a boat could make.

I found your fourth example particularly interesting because I can use “toddler Dave” as an example yet again. My parents taught me constellations when I was young. I could look up to the sky and recognize Orion (though, admittedly, Orion’s Belt was far easier to point out) and Ursa Major. Looking up at the night sky and recognizing shapes made by the stars does not require the use of a telescope, just like a submarine isn’t required to study the ocean’s topography. That said, I’m curious to know which Bible verses speak in great detail of the constellations, and how looking at shapes in the sky pertains to science. Science doesn’t tell us anything about constellations, because they are irrelevant. Science instead focuses on the makeups of stars, their distances from one another, how they interact cosmologically, and what their relevance is. Whether or not a cluster of stars as viewed by the naked eye from earth vaguely resembles mythical people and animals is of no concern whatsoever to legitimate scientists.

Show me the Bible verse that describes the gases that make up stars and explains what happens when a star goes supernova, and then you’ll have my interest.

Your fifth example is dinosaurs. Again, I encourage you to tell me the exact Bible passages that discuss dinosaurs without using words that could possibly refer to other mythological beasts — such as behemoths — that people of that day and age actually believed in, but which never actually existed. You also spoke of archaeological discoveries, as though to differentiate between some random nomad digging up what appears to be a large skull in the desert and thinking it might have belonged to one of those mythological beasts they believed in long ago, and a certified archaeologist digging up a skull which they can study and determine once belonged to an actual dinosaur that we actually know actually existed.

To reiterate, anybody can stumble upon a large, old bone and say “Aha, something big used to be alive!”

I’ll respond to your sixth example briefly: nephilim have never, not ever, not even once, been “discovered” or determined to have once existed. Any skeletons of legitimate “giants” (as in, significantly larger than what we know modern and ancient humans and other apes could have grown to) that have been discovered have been proven to be hoaxes. I’m surprised you bothered to include this as an argument, and you should be ashamed of yourself.

Finally, you’re restating what we all already know is stated in Genesis: that human life, as we know it, began with God’s creation of one man (Adam) and one woman (Eve). So far, we understand each other. Next you said we have, through the practice of anthropology, traced humankind’s origins back to “skulls in Africa.” The way you phrased it is confusing; I’m not sure if you meant we’ve traced our origins back to TWO skulls in Africa — which is blatantly wrong, so I won’t bother rebutting it — or simply back to, again, “skulls in Africa.” Hoping you meant the latter, this means nothing. Long before human-like skulls were discovered in Africa we had theorized that humans evolved from other human-like species. Based on the current geography of much of the world’s apes and monkeys, we theorized humans most likely first evolved in Africa. This is why we even searched in Africa in the first place! We already knew we evolved and it wasn’t based on anything the Bible tells us (especially since the Bible states that we were created, which we know is not true). Your last argument, just like your other six, is invalid and irrelevent.

Now, absolutely none of what I have just said disproves any gods, nor does it claim to, nor have I even made an attempt to; I’m simply rebutting the arguments which try to claim the Bible is a legitimate source of scientific knowledge and countering any arguments which state scientists are/were somehow wrong or “behind the times” at the time the Bible (especially the Old Testament, to which the original post primarily points) was first penned. Anybody is welcome to tell me where anything I’ve said here is wrong, but I politely ask to keep all discourse on-topic; that is, related directly either to the original post referenced or my response to it. Thank you.

*A Redditor brought to my attention a story of a snake with a single leg discovered in China in 2009. After researching it a bit I’ve yet to determine whether that particular story is a hoax or not (or whether it has simply been misinterpreted as something it is not), but it led me to feel the need to amend my claim that snakes do not have, will not have, nor ever have had legs. Snake embryos, in fact, have legs which are then absorbed by the body before hatching. This is an example of a vestigial limb, carried on in the genes of snakes from their non-snake-but-snakelike reptilian ancestors. In rare cases, the snake will retain its legs or feet after birth, but since this is a mutation (specifically, it is known as atavism) I will simply amend my statement to say that snakes do not have legs, except in rare mutation-related situations.

Same-sex marriage

The current hot topic is same-sex marriage. As I said in my last post, President Barack Obama “came out” in support of marriage rights and equality for same-sex couples. After listening to a radio broadcast this afternoon in which both hosts were in favor of same-sex marriage, I got to thinking about what arguments were commonly used in defense of restricting marriage to only be between one man and one woman, and I decided to take a shot at knocking every one of them down.

So here are the most common arguments I’ve heard against same-sex marriage:

Bible says it’s wrong.
Okay, that’s cool and all that you respect the word of your religious texts, and I won’t ask you to change that stance. However, our country is not founded on the practice of any particular religion, nor do we have a national religion. If either of those were true, it might be reasonable to think our laws should be based on Biblical laws. This is not the case, though. Instead of putting laws in place because a certain religion says we should, we put laws in place which help protect our rights and provide us with safety. Also, the Bible says not to get tattoos, trim your beard, or wear polyester. I’m just sayin’.

Well, it’s still a religous institution.
Not really. Marriage is a legal issue. It determines who owns the claim to another person’s property should that person die. It determines who can be included in an insurance plan, who has visitation rights in a hospital or jail, as well as other government, employment, and medical benefits. If marriage was strictly a religious practice, marriages between atheists wouldn’t be recognized by the government. If marriage were a religious issue, which religion? Yours? Should people of a different religion than yours be allowed to marry?

Reader comment: “If the church doesn’t want to marry gay couples, they don’t have to. Gay couples could still be legally married (just like many straight couples) outside of a church.” – Sarah C.

Sanctity of marriage
First, what does that even mean? Who determines the sanctity of marriage? If we are concerned with the sanctity of marriage being infringed upon, why is divorce legal? The divorce rate in the United States is somewhere around fifty percent. In other words, half of the people pledging themselves to love one another for the rest of their lives are changing their minds and calling it quits. That doesn’t seem like a very sacred institution.

Tradition
Traditionally, fathers sold their daughters to the highest bidder; whomever could offer the best dowry. Traditionally, white men could not marry black women (and vice-versa). Traditionally, American laws have been changed in light of our ever-evolving social acceptance of minority groups.

Procreation
There are people who will argue that the reason marriage should be restricted to being between a man and a woman is because only a man and a woman together can reproduce. If this were a legitimate argument, one would assume these same people would be opposed to letting infertile or elderly couples marry, nor would they allow marriage between two people who simply don’t wish to have children.

Reader comment: “Last I checked, people can procreate without being married. Do people think gay couples getting married is somehow going to change the birth rate? It might change the number of orphans and foster homes.” – Sarah C.

Slippery Slope
“Marriage is the legal binding of two consenting adults.” There, now we don’t have to worry about children, animals, or inanimate objects being married.

Okay, fine, but call it something else!
Why? If it looks like marriage, smells like marriage, acts like marriage, and tastes like marriage, it’s marriage.

Morally wrong
Who says? You? Does everybody share the same moral view as you? Should every one of our laws be based on what you, personally, find to be morally objectional? Would that be a reasonable way to determine the law for an entire country? If somebody other than you decided every law should be based on their opinion, would you agree with them?

Reader comment: “The simple fact that it wouldn’t harm anyone if your gay neighbors were married instead of just living together. People would go about the same lives with their same personal moral codes, except with marriage they’d be able to visit their sick spouse in the hospital.” – Sarah C.

Sure, what I’m proposing may seem like I think laws should be based on my opinion, but that’s only because my opinion is that none of a country’s citizens should be discriminated against. Unfortunately, I will still be accused of being “intolerant of intolerance” or “discriminating against discrimination.” Y’know what? I’m okay with that. If you can’t tell the difference, shame on you.

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.

Regarding lesser forms of (still) dogmatic belief

When people say that they aren’t really arguing the case for an “old-world god”, and especially when they argue that they’re not even arguing for an anthropomorphic god, they generally seem to be giving up the very basis for a belief in god(s) in the first place.  Considering the religions that nearly all theists come from one can really only argue for the reality of their chosen god and his/her literal influence on the world as revealed to man-kind through some form of revelation (which implies that the knowledge only exists at all in this world by virtue of the fact that its particular scriptures are true), or one has no real basis for believing in a god(s) at all.

Also, and forgive me because I am sort of half responding to a debate that I was watching with Chopra and Sam Harris, I have to say that actually watching a man so blatantly and pathetically appeal to the god of the gaps by saying that god can always exist in the tiniest, most imperceptibly minute fraction of a second after the big bang when physics breaks down because even physicists say that the comprehension of that time is unknowable…<gasps for breath>…and to do so without recognizing how pathetic and sad that argument really is when taken to such an extreme…well, I just find that hilarious.

There is no such thing as an atheist

For some reason this comment was moved directly to my spam folder, which meant I was never given the opportunity to approve it for publication. I’m not sure why, as it’s not blatant “trolling” or spamming – then again, it has absolutely nothing to do with the topic discussed in the original blog post, nor does it seem to add anything to any existing conversations or comments. Nevertheless, I rarely check my spam folder and did not see it until now.

It was originally made in response to my post titled Thank god! but I’m reposting it here because I think it warrants a response – in this case, in the form of its very own post.

There is no such thing as an atheist. Although I know my reply will be deleted, it matters not. My path almost led me down the road to so-called “atheism”. The term “atheist” is derived from two roots “a” meaning “against” and “theos” meaning “God” or “a god”. Thus people who claim that they are atheist because they don’t believe in Him is a contradiction of terms. You can’t be against something you don’t believe exists. You may as well be a-fairy, or a-pomogianisticis. There are no such things so it is impossible to be against them. The funny thing about so-called atheists is that they spend so much time talking about the very thing they claim doesn’t exist. Isn’t this a waste of time? I don’t go around trying to convince people not to believe in the tooth fairy. No, the real purpose of each and every atheist is a deep longer to know. You WANT to see for yourself. You wish deep down inside that God would show you a sign so that you could hold on to something tangible.

As for myself, I used to believe in science and believed that everything had to have a scientific explanation. Then I realized that God’s word was far more consistent that science. Science is limited to the five senses. With science there is no room for anything that our finite human bodies can experience. It didn’t take long for me to see that science has to continue correcting itself because what is scientifically proven one day can be false the very next day. I have very little faith in science these days. I have no faith in doctors either. Doctors prescribe drugs they have little knowledge about. They cannot see the effects drugs have on the human brain, DNA, and a whole multitude of bodily functions. While a certain drug can seem to solve one issue, it will ALWAYS create a new host of side effects that can be and probably are more detrimental to our bodies.

Wasn’t it science that claimed the earth was flat? Wasn’t it scientists that claimed there could not be such things as microwaves, germs, and the like? Why not? Because we did not have the instruments to see such things. Therefore they must not exist.

The truth of the matter is that anyone who puts their faith in science is going to be disappointed over and over again. Scientists are only now realizing that there are things in this universe that cannot be explained because they do not fall into the category of tangible evidence. This is why they have created a whole new field of science called quantum physics.

Don’t allow yourselves to be deceived by blind religion or blind science. Make intelligent well informed decisions. Seek out the facts first.

Remember just because we could not detect sound waves didn’t mean they didn’t exists. Similarly just because we don’t have the equipment to detect demons and angelic beings does not mean they are not all around us. One day science will have to be re-written yet again to contain new evidence. The scriptures, however, remain unchanged since ancient times.

Finally, my story… At the pinnacle of my own arrogance and the height of my intellectual achievements, I stumbled upon a radio station that played hard rock and heavy metal. There I heard a caller describing an apocalyptic event that was all the rave at the time. He asked the disk jockeys if they had heard about a meteor that would kill one third of the population. They laughed at him and hung up the phone and continued on with their jokes, but my attention was focused on one single thought – “a third of the population”… I had heard that in my youth in my Sunday School class. “Yes” I thought, “That’s in Revelation…” So I dusted off an old Bible my parents had and found some old scriptures giving an account of the end of the world in minute detail. As I read, there was a documentary on the Discovery channel about the same topic – a meteor strike of catastrophic proportions.

The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end as I read along with the program. The events described in both the Bible and the television show were identical to a tee! God had my full, undivided attention. It was at this point that I made up my mind to have faith like a child. I said within myself, “If God says ‘A donkey talked’ then by all mean a donkey talked. I will never again question His Word.”

It was that very year that things began to happen in my life. Those “signs” I sought after were revealed to me, and I lost all hope in science forever.

I laugh whenever I see Nacho Libre with Jack Black now. Whenever I hear his sidekick declare, “I don’t believe in God, I believe in science” I chuckle within myself because I am now the total opposite.

Delete my reply if you insist this is all baloney, but if you expect real discussion on this topic, then leave it and see what other say.

Man O God

http://www.godlyfather.blogspot.com/

I don’t plan on addressing everything said in the comment, but will try to catch what I think are the most important points:

There is no such thing as an atheist…
Well, there definitely is such a thing as an atheist. As long as you’re bringing up the roots of the word I should point out that a does not mean against; rather, it means precisely the same as the a in asexual, that is, without. I, and all the other atheists, are without theism.

You are right in bringing up disbelief in fairies, and the fact that it doesn’t have “its own word.” I actually agree with you – atheism shouldn’t even be a word. Atheism should be the norm. Just like we would question somebody who told us they believe in fairies, we should question somebody when they say they believe in gods. Gods are, after all, just as likely to exist. The reason we – the atheists – speak out so fervently against religion is because it plays such a huge (and, more often than not, unwanted) role in our lives despite the fact that we do not share the same beliefs. I guarantee that if politicians and educators were trying to pass laws that were directly or indirectly inspired by their belief in Bigfoot, we would speak out against that too. If belief in Bigfoot were so widespread that it affected our lives on a nearly daily basis, we might even start using a word to describe ourselves which separated us from those who believe.

No, the real purpose of each and every atheist is a deep longer(sic) to know.
This is somewhat accurate. I can’t speak for all atheists, but I can certainly speak for myself when I say I would much rather know something than to just believe in it. That’s why we’re called skeptics. We won’t take something based on faith alone. Faith is okay, in fact I have faith in plenty of things, but my faiths are reinforced by evidence. Religious faith is not.

You’re incorrect when you say we want your god to give us some sign of its existence based on the simple fact that we do not believe it exists. I can’t want a god to prove its existence any more than I can want Harry Potter to prove he exists. He most likely doesn’t, nor does any god – especially not your god. That said, if I believed in a god I would certainly want – or at least expect – it to prove it exists.

Then I realized that God’s word was far more consistent that(sic) science.
First, you’re terribly wrong. The Bible (“God’s word”) is littered with inconsistencies and contradictions. This isn’t the place to point all of them out to you, but a quick and easy Google search for “Bible contradictions” should be all you need.

That being wrong, you also said science has to continue correcting itself. You’re absolutely right here. That’s how the scientific method works: a question is asked, research is done and information is collected regarding the subject, a hypothesis is formed, experiments are performed, data is interpreted and, if the data supports the hypothesis predictions can be made and a theory may be formed. If the data does not support the hypothesis, then the hypothesis is scrapped. This is where science and religion seem to clash. Despite all the geological, astronomical, and biological evidence that specifically conflicts with the young-earth “theory” so many religious believers adhere to, they continue to ignore the data, preferring to believe that what a non-scientific 2,000-year-old book says is probably more accurate.

As more evidence is discovered or collected, scientific theories may change. But that’s what rational people do – they admit when they’re wrong, and reshape their theories to fit the evidence. A religious person, on the other hand, reshapes the evidence to fit their so-called theories.

The scriptures, however, remain unchanged since ancient times.
If we do not count the frequency at which the Bible is re-translated, or the fact that multiple books have deliberately been removed from the earliest copies of the bible, you’re right again. Incidentally, the scriptures are just as implausible and inconsistent now as they were back when they were written.

The events described in both the Bible and the television show were identical to a tee!
First, I’d like to know which show this was on the Discovery Channel. As a fan of the channel and their publications, I’m fully aware that they do air a lot of religious programs featuring “what if” scenarios. I hardly believe a scientific program would talk about the likelihood of a dragon falling from the sky, a beast with multiple heads emerging from the ocean, angels blowing their horns at the “four corners” of the earth, or people ascending into Heaven while others found themselves marked with the number of the beast. So unless this show was specifically about the Revelation chapter in the Bible, no, they were not identical to a T.

“If God says ‘A donkey talked’ then by all mean(sic) a donkey talked. I will never again question His Word.”
I’ll just rebut this one with another one of your own quotes: Make intelligent well informed decisions. Seek out the facts first.

I lost all hope in science forever.
I would assume, then, that you never visit the doctor, never take any medicine, never drive a car, never use the internet, never watch television, and never pay any heed to documentaries on the Discovery Channel.

In other words, I’m calling you a liar and a hypocrite.

Suburban Atheist

Did you know that atheists really just hate god? That we only claim to disbelieve in god because of some terrible tragedy that happened early in our lives? Here, in a retelling of the very first post I ever wrote for this blog, is the chilling tale of how I went from atheist, to Catholic, and back to atheist.

It all starts with me being born on the dirty floor of a scary, shadowy motel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on a frigid night in November*. Fresh out of the womb I was broken in a couple places, crying, splotchy, and covered in a particular goo I hope to never be covered in again. More importantly, I was atheist.

That’s right, folks. I started my life crying, gooey, and atheist. Scared and alone, I couldn’t even imagine a god existing. Everything around me was all there was. This is only the beginning of my horrible tale, however. I know it’s probably hard to believe, but it gets even worse!

Though I grew slightly larger, I remained atheist for the first couple years of my life. It got to the point, though, where as a child I would believe anything my parents told me. There was a Santa Claus. There was an Easter Bunny. There was a god who made everything and would never let bad things happen and would always take care of me. But wait, wouldn’t Mommy and Daddy always take care of me? Who cares? This god fella sounds amazing! Even more powerful and mystical than those birthday party clowns who made amazing balloon animals and pulled rabbits out of hats!

By now we had moved to Texas. I grew up in Suburbia. When I wasn’t going to church on Sunday or school in the morning, I was running around outside with my friends, on lawns that were always green and freshly-mowed, with water pistols and water balloons that were so full we had to be careful not to burst them on ourselves before we could soak each other. I was climbing trees, scraping knees, teasing bees, and refusing to eat my peas. We had several pets including dogs, fish, and iguanas. I was always occupied. I praised god and Jesus once a week, and then spent the rest of the week, well, being a kid in Suburbia.

Church life was about what I imagine it would be like for most kids. We went to St. Jude Catholic church on Sundays, I had a youth group afterwards, and that was it. I can’t even say whether I ever paid attention to a single sermon during Mass. I was a kid, after all. I brought coloring books and plastic dinosaurs to church. I knelt when my parents knelt, opened the books and pretended to sing when my parents sang. Sometimes I actually sang, which was fun because I liked the songs. I had no idea what they were about, but I liked them.

Truth be told, I didn’t even know what the Bible was about. I just knew what my parents told me: Jesus was this guy who was the son of god but he was also god, and that’s okay because I’m a kid and I’ll believe whatever my parents say, and Jesus did good things and then he was crucified, but that was also okay because he did it so we could all go to Heaven, which was a really great place where everybody went when they died, so I guess we never really died, which was good because this meant I never had to be scared about dying.

And things stayed this way for a while.

I went to school and was placed into the “Gifted & Talented” program simply because I was good at math, and I met the greatest teacher I’ve ever had in my entire life, Mrs. Judith Barnes. Mrs. Barnes encouraged us to think, and read, and appreciate art, and solve logic problems. She was my GT teacher for six years, so for six years I received more and more encouragement to think, and read, and appreciate art, and solve logic problems.

I read about things that fascinated me: dinosaurs, rocks, the solar system, animals, bugs, different countries and cultures. And then I did what my parents probably didn’t expect me to do: I put down my illustrated children’s version of the Bible and picked up an actual grown-up Bible.

And I read it.

Not the whole thing, mind you. I was, after all, still a kid. I was probably around ten years old. But I read enough of it to stop, think to myself How would Mrs. Barnes want me to read this?, and suddenly realize that it couldn’t all possibly be true. Then I realized that the story of Jesus was the only fantastic story I’d hung on to that my parents had told me, having already let go of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and I found myself wondering why?

Why was I still hanging on to this Jesus fellow? Santa and the Easter Bunny had both been used to teach me valuable lessons about being good and having fun – why couldn’t Jesus have also just been a device to teach me to stay true to myself, despite how others might treat me, and to strive to see goodness in all things?

So sometime probably in my early teens, I stopped worrying about god and Jesus and Heaven and Hell. For a while, I hung onto the notion of a god that snapped his invisible fingers, made the universe pop into existence, and then just sort of minded his own business after that and didn’t interfere with anything, but I finally let go of that belief too, later on in my teens. And by the time I finished high school I was full-blown atheist.

All the while I was just a middle-class kid in Suburbia with two loving, never-divorced parents, an older brother who I fought with now and then about nothing in particular, a big backyard with a swingset (replaced later on by a pool with a diving board), and a bunch of dogs.

And that’s the story of how one simple childhood tragedy can cause any person to turn their back on god forever.

*Slight exaggeration. I was actually born in a clean, well-lit hospital room in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on a November morning, which I imagine was still probably pretty cold.