Pascal’s Wager

Fortunately, most moderately intelligent theists won’t bother playing the Pascal card when debating religion, but nevertheless there are many who do. The purpose of this post is to respond only to those who feel the Wager is a legitimate reason to believe in their god. I make no attempt to prove or disprove the existence of any god in this post; just to counter the Pascal’s Wager argument.

For those of you unfamiliar with Pascal’s Wager, it goes a little something like this (paraphrased):

God either exists or does not exist. Salvation and eternal happiness is through belief in and worship of God. If you “bet” on God’s existence and you’re wrong, you’ve lost nothing; if you’re right, you will receive salvation and everlasting life. If you bet on God’s non-existence and you’re wrong, you’re destined to an eternity in Hell. Therefore it is safer to bet on God’s existence.

Now if you’ve got any mind at all you’ll see the obvious flaws in this. However, I’ve had people who I had previously thought of as fairly respectable play this one on me, so you never know who might fall for it.

First, being that he was Christian, it’s clear Blaise Pascal was referring to belief in the Christian god. To the skeptic, however, one need only swap the name God for another name (Allah, Zeus, Odin, et al) because the fact is that most mainstream gods demand worship and punish those who don’t offer it. So which god should I bet on? How do you know the god you’re betting on is the right god? Is anybody really making a safe bet?

Second, belief is not a light switch. One can’t just say “Oh, in that case I believe.” In order to believe something is true, one must be convinced of its truthfulness. Threats like Pascal’s Wager do nothing to convince anybody of anything.

Third, chances are the god you’re trying to convince me exists is omnipotent according to your religion’s textbook. Surely it can see through somebody who claims they believe simply because it’s the “safer bet.”

Finally, the part of the Wager which states “If you believe and you’re wrong, you’ve lost nothing” is absolutely wrong. What about all the time you wasted on your knees praying or in a church singing? What about the scientific or medical advances you’ve ignored (extreme cases) because your religion states that all you need is your god? If you believe in a god and you’re wrong, then you’ve lived your entire life thinking you had an eternity of happiness and pleasure to look forward to in an afterlife without paying as much heed to the life you’re currently living.

I and many atheists like me, on the other hand, see this life as our only one. We are more inclined to live our lives to its absolute fullest; making sure we make a lasting impression on others, hoping that once our bodies are decaying and our atoms are moving on to other endeavors that our legacy will live on in the memories of others.

So maybe the safer “bet” is that no gods exist. We’ve got a 50/50 shot at being right, while the odds that your particular god is the only one who exists are far lower. Bet on non-existence and perhaps you’ll see a whole new value in your one and only life.

How to be a god in 10 easy steps

What would it take to be a perfect, omnipotent, omniscient god?

  • First, you must exist beyond the logical and scientific realm and you must be immune to paradoxes. If you abide by the laws of logic and science, you have limitations and therefore you simply cannot exist. After all that would be paradoxical. Hopefully you’re immune to paradoxes.
  • Second, you must be impossible to comprehend. This means that whatever attributes we could possibly attach to you must exist and also not exist at the same time. If you were possible to comprehend, you would exist within the realm of logic and so you would not be perfect, nor would you even exist (see rule #1).
  • Third, you must not exist. Taking into account rule number two, if we can imagine your existence then in order to exist you must not exist.
  • Fourth, you cannot have a sex. None of this “He was pleased,” “…and He smote them…” nonsense. If you are perfect, you do not have a sex. Also, you have a sex. But it is neither male nor female. Also, it is both male and female (see rule #2).
  • Fifth, you cannot have an identity. If you are everything, everywhere, always, you cannot be pinned down with all this “I am the LORD” business. You are not you. You just are, were, and will be.
  • Sixth, you must exist outside of time. This means you cannot “create” things in any order. You are all powerful and perfect, so anything you can imagine should just pop into existence immediately.
  • Seventh, you must not imagine anything. If you imagine, then you have a mind and therefore an identity. See rule five. A perfect god would have nothing to imagine, anyway.
  • Eighth, you must not create anything. If you are perfect, you have all you need even though you don’t need anything. You cannot even want anything, otherwise you would not be perfect. You have no need to show off your powers. You know they’re there because you know everything there is to know, and that’s all that matters. You can’t even create the universe. Don’t even think about it.
  • Ninth, nothing can matter to you. To worry, care, feel, love, want, desire, enjoy, taste, dislike, hate, tire, or even to comprehend are emotions that no perfect god could have. To have emotions brings you down to an animalistic level. You also must feel all those emotions (see rule #2) but you cannot do anything about them (see rules #7 and #8).
  • Tenth, you must not abide by any of these rules. See rule #1. However, you must also abide by all these rules. See rule #2. You must also only abide by one of them, and also only by five of them, and even by any possible (or impossible) combination of them.

To sum it all up, you must exist (and not exist) outside the laws of logic and science. And that’s it.

This was absurd.

Theistic evolution (and other things)

The following is [nearly] copied directly from a conversation I had on Facebook with a friend, Matt. At one point about halfway through the conversation another friend, Chuck, joined in for a short while. The conversation started with a quote by a hypocritical “Christian” and then moved quickly to evolution, the (in)errancy of the Bible, historical Jesus, and finally ended with a nice little “agree to disagree” moment. The whole thing began when I posted a quote:

“I have a compelling reason to believe in God. My parents are deeply committed Christians and would be devastated, were I to reject my faith. My wife and children believe in God… abandoning belief in God would be disruptive, sending my life completely off the rails.”

-Carl Giberson, Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution

Matt
Haven’t read much on theistic evolutionism. I don’t think its possible.

Dave
Considering the Christian god is “perfect,” why couldn’t he have created life, which then evolved? Through god, anything is possible (they say).

Don’t forget that evolution (and its theory) says nothing about the origin of life. Only about how life adapted and evolved after it originated. The origins of life are theorized in abiogenesis.

Matt
Well that isn’t the account in genesis. God created everything fully mature. New with the appearance of age. Jesus did the same when he turned water into wine. I am curious though… I can accept micro evolution. What are your thoughts on separating micro and macro evolution?

Dave
I think evolution is evolution. Micro- and macro- just measure it on different scales. Here’s a pretty neat explanation of how it works:

Image via thinkatheist.com

Matt
That’s what I anticipated. However I think you can separate the two. We see changes in frogs and what not. But the single cell to man theory I have issues with. New information in the genome through random unguided chance mutations just doesn’t seem like a plausible sound enough theory for the origin of intelligent life.

Dave
Given billions of years, why not? Remember a species may undergo many (like, millions) of random mutations that don’t work in favor of its survival, and those afflicted with such mutations either die out or remain “neutral” (the mutation is neither beneficial nor detrimental to its survival). But one in a million random mutations might be beneficial to the point where that species is now more able to procreate and survive.

So the species passes that mutation on to its offspring, who then procreate and thrive. A million mutations later, and another generation is that much more capable of survival. One won’t be able to pinpoint the exact generation in which speciation occurs, but it gets to the point where generation X+n is no longer able to breed with generation X.

The original species may still even exist – those which did not mutate beneficially may still be thriving in their own particular niche just fine.

An analogy:
Give a monkey a computer with a keyboard and word processor, then let it bang away. What are the odds it will randomly type out Shakespeare’s Hamlet in its entirety? Pretty slim.

But reprogram the processor so that every time the monkey randomly hits a letter in its proper place, the letter is saved in its position. Eventually, the monkey WILL have “randomly” banged out Hamlet in the word processor.

Matt
I can appreciate the theory. It does however boil down to a few pre-suppositions. Is the universe billions of years old? Were these primordial conditions exactly right to produce by chance those amino acids then so on and so forth? I mean it does make sense given bookoos of time and some very particular conditions, but it doesn’t account for some of the immensely complex organisms we see today. Like the bombardier beetle, the circulatory system of giraffes. Butterflies metamorphosis over weeks not years. The chances of life producing from nothing is not one in some very very large number, its zero.

The question is; who re-programmed [the hypothetical word processor]?

Dave
Again, evolution does not account for the origin of life, nor does it attempt to – that’s abiogenesis.

As to “who” programmed it, that goes back to the theory of natural selection. A species will retain a mutation (random pounding of keys) that is beneficial (landing in the right position) to its survival.

Funny you mentioned giraffes, though, since they have within them my favorite evolutionary “mistake.” Research their laryngeal nerve.

Matt
I remember. You had mentioned it previously.

Are you familiar with the 747 gambit? Also what are your thoughts on the anthropic principle?

Dave
Regarding the “Ultimate Boeing 747″ I’ll remind you that complexity won’t arise out of nothing, or suddenly, but rather in tiny parts at a time and over long periods of time.

Regarding the anthropic principle, I’ll refer you to Douglas Adams‘ “puddle analogy.”

…imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be all right, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise.

Chuck
Keep in mind when were talking about the origin of life describing it in years doesn’t do justice. Single cell organisms can reproduce asexually, which means one organism could reproduce many many times in a year plus how many times it’s offspring reproduce. So yeah at the birthrate of mammals evolution happens slow. But with more primitive life forms a change could happen more rapidly. More keys mashed per year if you will.

Matt
So in observing asexual single cell reproductive cycles, have we seen, at any rate, mutations occur that benefit the organism’s ability to survive?

Also, if I may, returning to the original topic of why couldn’t God use evolution in the creation process, its seems to me that this ideology compromises Biblical inerrancy. This also suggests that God requires long periods of time to accomplish his creative process. If that were the case then I think the Genesis account would reflect that. Some might argue that the Hebraic lexicon only offers vague idioms for durations of time. While the Hebrew word for “day” could mean any period of time, it is important to know that this is true unless it is annotated by a number. So when we observe the creation account in Genesis, we must accept it as a literal six day creation week. Most importantly, coming from the Christian perspective, Jesus tells us that we must accept the teachings of Moses since it is the Word and Jesus is the Word. Anyways, that’s why one cannot be a Christian and subscribe to the ideologies of metaphysical naturalism.

Dave
You said: “So in observing asexual single cell reproductive cycles, have we seen, at any rate, mutations occur that benefit the organism’s ability to survive?”

Yes. Check out the Lenski E. coli long-term evolution experiment.

Chuck
It may not be single celled organisims but… there was a type or scale or fungus that infects a widely grown crop that developed immunity to to the main pesticide used to treat it within a human lifetime. It happend like ten years ago so I dont remember the specifics…

Dave
Re: inerrant Bible vs. evolution

Knowing that I’m atheist and consider the whole book a bunch of baloney, it may be a little more difficult to take what I’m about to say seriously, but I’m going to give this whole “apologetic” thing a shot. Here goes.

Is it not possible to see see the Bible as just a book? Perhaps it is inspired by the word of god. Maybe he even had a hand in writing some parts of it. But perhaps some of it really was just a recollection of stories that had been passed down verbally through many generations.

Instead of reading Lev. 11:20 as an outright error (I, personally, see it as one) try and see it as a misinterpretation. Knowing how geology works, we can essentially disprove a worldwide flood. So what if the flood story was just an exaggeration to try and get the point across that god means business?

With misinterpretations and exaggerations in mind, try to read Genesis in a similar light. Sure, maybe god created the world; maybe bugs and water and light and people all came at separate times (and they most certainly did!) but maybe the ordering of the story is just to give you the general idea: god did it, more or less like this.

The Bible was, after all, written by humans; not by superhumans. Perhaps they heard voices that told them what to say, but if everyone were hearing the same voice we would expect the Gospels to agree with each other 100%. Fun fact: they don’t. Perhaps because of misinterpretations and exaggerations.

If the Bible is read with more of an open mind and while considering the fact that stories can be misinterpreted or exaggerated and languages can be mistranslated, it wouldn’t be all that inconceivable to suggest that god could have “guided” the evolution process with his hand. Maybe the beneficial mutations were his idea to begin with.

Matt
Trees bearing fruit after their own kind. Like I said, micro evolutionary processes are evident and as far as I am concerned totally Biblical. Concerning the gospels, In a court of law, if all of the witnesses to a murder all had the exact same story, they would be accused of conspiring and their testimony would be thrown out. Luke accounts for one blind man healed by Jesus while Matthew accounts for two. Luke’s account was concerned with only the one because the man Jesus healed became a disciple. The argument you present lies in the realm of legalism, and Jesus railed against the pharasees for just this reason. Fun fact: the life, death, and even the resurection of Jesus are safely preserved as historical fact. Even His enemies admit to these things (except the muslims). And as far as mis-translations go, we literally have over 25,000 manuscript documents to validate the accuracy of the New Testament translations.

Dave
The Bible is riddled not with different recounts of the same story, but with outright contradictions. In the court of the law, that wouldn’t fly. In the New Testament specifically, Matthew and Luke give us two different people as Jesus’ paternal grandfather, and say that Jesus was descended from both of David’s sons (Solomon and Nathan). If one of those is true, both cannot be true. A person cannot have two biological fathers.

The Gospels tell us of Jesus sending out his disciples and he gives them specific instructions which included what they can or can not take with them. Are the disciples allowed to bring a staff? Mark says yes. Luke says no. That may be an insignificant detail, but again both cannot be true, therefore the Bible (at the very least, THAT part of the Bible) cannot be taken literally.

I think you and I can both agree that Jesus’ crucifixion was kind of a big deal, and we can probably both agree that the details are somewhat important. Jesus wore a crown of thorns. He was flogged. He carried his cross. He was nailed to the cross. All in all, he was treated pretty badly here. But let’s go back to the part about Jesus carrying the cross. Only one of the Gospels actually say that happened: John. The rest say Simon is the one who carried the cross. It’s commonly accepted that Jesus carried it until they met Simon, but that is nothing but speculation and assumption, as none of the Gospels tell us both men carried the cross. If the Bible is inerrant, there is no room for assumptions. If any of the Gospels are right, I would go with the safe bet of Simon carrying the cross (three against one, after all) but it is therefore logically impossible for John to have been correct.

I can list more contradictions for you if you’d like, since the Bible is teeming with them, but for now and for this discussion I think I’ve made my point well enough. So I move on.

You said “the life, death, and even the resurrection of Jesus are safely preserved as historical fact.” This is simply not true, and it’s unfair for you to use it in this debate. No proof whatsoever exists of an historical Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Not one historian (outside the Bible, which only Christians count as “proof”) from Jesus’ time ever wrote about him. Why is that? Miracles would have been a big deal, I imagine. It wasn’t until 70 years after Jesus had died that the first Gospel was written. Some people point to Josephus as an historian who wrote about Jesus, but it’s been proven that Josephus’ writings which pertained to Jesus were forgeries.

As even an atheist like I will admit, a lack of evidence of existence is not evidence for nonexistence, but you simply cannot state something is a fact when no evidence supporting it exists. The only “evidence” you could possibly use is the Bible, but even now we’re debating over its validity. To use it as proof is to assume we both accept it as valid.

For the record, the Muslim Qur’an tells us Jesus (“the messiah”) was born of a virgin, performed miracles, ascended into Heaven in bodily form (but not that he was crucified), and will return to earth on Judgment Day.

Matt
Look, I do want to be fair. Unfortunately, for the literary critic of the New Testament, there are several extrabiblical references and authorities to Jesus. To name a few secular sources: Cornelius Tacitus, Suetonius, Thallus, and Pliny the Younger. Not to mention Jewish references such as the Babylonian Talmud. As Josh McDowell puts it “Similar to the secular references, the ones found in ancient Jewish sources are unfriendly toward Christianity’s founder, followers and beliefs. For this reason their attestation to events surrounding Jesus’ life are valuable testimony to the historicity of these events.” If you would like to or are at all interested in furthering your understanding of apologetics, the I would refer you first to Josh McDowell’s book “The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict.” As far as the Qur’an is concerned, I have my reasons for rejecting It as Divinely inspired and that should be reserved for another discussion.

Dave
Pliny the Younger: his “references” were all Christians themselves, so any accounts are biased. He was born in 62 CE anyway, so his “word” is nothing but hearsay, being he wasn’t even born ’til after Jesus would have died.

Tacitus: Born after Pliny the Younger. Again, not an eyewitness account. He didn’t even cite his sources.

Suetonius: Born after Tacitus. Only ever mentions the common name “Chrestus” and never refers to an earthly Jesus.

Talmud: Never actually mentions Jesus. Refers to “Yeshu,” who was a disciple of Jehoshua Ben-Perachia, who existed more than a century before Jesus (or it refers to Yeshu ben Pandera, who was a teacher in the 2nd century).

Thallus: Doesn’t mention Jesus – only the darkening of the sky at the time of his alleged crucifixion. The validity of his writings is called into question, however, when one considers that neither Pliny the Elder nor Seneca (easily the two most contemporary scientists at the time) mentioned the “eclipse.” The two scientists were known for researching and writing about all the known geological and astrological phenomena.

There are no eye-witness accounts of Jesus. None. Anything said about him after the fact is hearsay.

For the record, I fully understand that none of this disproves an historical Jesus. That isn’t what I’m trying to do. God and Jesus cannot be proven to exist or not exist (actually, they could be proven to exist but so far nobody’s managed to do it). An inerrant or errant Bible, however, is very easy to prove. A worldwide flood 6,000 years ago, for example, would have left very specific geological evidence, yet none exists. In this case the nonexistence of evidence works as evidence for nonexistence.

So, back to the very original point (actually, the original post was just a quote I found amusing in its hypocrisy), accepting the Bible as errant does not necessarily make one unChristian, but it opens the door for acceptance of reality.

The reality is this: evolution has occurred on a massive scale and continues to occur. The earth is billions of years old. God may or may not still exist and have had something to do with the aforementioned known facts.

Matt
Well, it certainly delights me to see that you at least admit to the possibility of God’s existence. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think that makes you an agnostic. Let me assure you sir, God is certainly real and you can know and interact with Him right now. That is the most powerfull evidence available. Nonetheless it is not my place to make God known to you, its His. Religion is not all its cracked up to be.

Dave
Technically, I’m agnostic. Technically, I’m also atheist. Gnosticism/Agnosticism has to do with knowing. Theism/Atheism has to do with believing.

I don’t know whether there’s a god or not (agnostic) but I don’t believe there is (atheist).

Sources I used:
Did Jesus exist? (nobeliefs.com)
Secular References to Jesus: Thallus
(tektonics.org)
Thallus: an Analysis (infidels.org)

god, not God

Any time I debate somebody about the existence of the supernatural (which, admittedly, isn’t very often – I tend to keep my debates online only) they always seem to have reasons why they believe in a god and why I should too. Nobody has ever given me a convincing argument, obviously, but that’s not the point here. What I find amusing is that nobody has ever argued with me in favor of their god.

You can tell me all you want that evolution is a hoax and we were created. You might even give me “evidence” that we were created (you can’t – I’m just sayin’). But your “evidence” doesn’t support a theory of creation by your god. Just by a god. Not even necessarily by a god, but by some supernatural force. You’ve provided me with no argument whatsoever why the particular god you believe in must have been the one who created us.

To me, no religion makes sense. But deism makes far more sense than any organized religion. “There is something out there that started all this, but I won’t presume I know any more about it than that.”

There is no thought or reason behind believing in one god but disbelieving in all others, there is especially no reason behind choosing a particular god over others, and frankly I find the notion of choosing a god to believe in quite silly anyway.

Quotes

“Faith is nothing more than the license religious people give themselves to keep believing when reasons fail.” – Sam Harris, An Atheist Manifesto

“There is no society in recorded history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.” – Sam Harris, An Atheist Manifesto

“When we have reasons for what we believe, we have no need of faith; when we have no reasons, or bad ones, we have lost our connection to the world and to one another. Atheism is nothing more than a commitment to the most basic standard of intellectual honesty: One’s convictions should be proportional to one’s evidence. Pretending to be certain when one isn’t—indeed, pretending to be certain about propositions for which no evidence is even conceivable—is both an intellectual and a moral failing. Only the atheist has realized this. The atheist is simply a person who has perceived the lies of religion and refused to make them his own.” – Sam Harris, An Atheist Manifesto

“For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command or faith a dictum. I am my own God. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.” – Charles Bukowski

“A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.” – Albert Einstein

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect, had intended for us to forgo their use.” – Galileo Galilei

“It is an interesting and demonstrable fact, that all children are atheists and were religion not inculcated into their minds, they would remain so.” – Ernestine Rose

“Fundamentalists are like the fir trees in German forests: they cannot stand alone, and are only stable when crowded together, branches locked with those of their brothers. That is why we must always fear them, because they will always hate us for our individualism.” – Brent Yaciw

“If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul.” – Isaac Asimov

“To say that atheism requires faith is as dim-witted as saying that disbelief in pixies or leprechauns takes faith. Even if Einstein himself told me there was an elf on my shoulder, I would still ask for proof and I wouldn’t be wrong to ask.” – Geoff Mather

“People will then often say, ‘But surely it’s better to remain an Agnostic just in case?’ This, to me, suggests such a level of silliness and muddle that I usually edge out of the conversation rather than get sucked into it. (If it turns out that I’ve been wrong all along, and there is in fact a god, and if it further turned out that this kind of legalistic, cross-your-fingers-behind-your-back, Clintonian hair-splitting impressed him, then I think I would choose not to worship him anyway.” – Douglas Adams

“I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.” – Richard Dawkins

“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?” – Douglas Adams

“Debating creationists on the topic of evolution is rather like trying to play chess with a pigeon; it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and flies back to its flock to claim victory.” – S. D. Weitzenhoffer

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.” – Richard Dawkins

“The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason” – Benjamin Franklin

“I credit that eight years of grammar school with nourishing me in a direction where I could trust myself and trust my instincts. They gave me the tools to reject my faith. They taught me to question and think for myself and to believe in my instincts to such an extent that I just said, ‘This is a wonderful fairy tale they have going here, but it’s not for me.’” – George Carlin

“Properly read, the bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.” – Isaac Asimov

“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.” – Albert Einstein

The countdown is nearly over!

Two days ’til rapture.

So what exactly does that mean? It means a great world-wide earthquake, to start with. As already determined the earthquake will begin precisely at 6:00p local time everywhere. This gives us in Texas and the central United States a good 19 hours’ warning. I’d say that’s plenty of time to get away from large, heavy structures that likely wouldn’t survive an earthquake. Simultaneously, 200 million or so Christians will be “raptured,” meaning their physical bodies will be lifted off the earth and into Heaven. What is yet to be determined is whether their clothes will be raptured with them. In addition, the ground will split open and all of the dead who in their lives believed in Jesus will also ascend into Heaven.

Gross.

Anyway, the rest of us will be left behind – yes, just like in the books! For five months (because the world will cease to be on October 21) those of us who didn’t perish in the earthquake will suffer terribly: war (even without all the crazy Christians?), plague, starvation; not to mention the terrible natural disasters that will happen. This summer we can expect to see hurricanes, tornadoes, mudslides, storms, hail; basically all the same things we see every summer.

I can only imagine all the pissed-off non-Christians who will be left behind. I said jocularly in my last post that we atheists will be all that’s left in this world, totally free of religion. That’s obviously untrue. We’ll still have all the crazy Jews and Muslims, Hindus and Rastafarians. If I believed any bit of this was true, I would be worried about the crazy religionists who aren’t super thrilled about learning that everything they’ve ever believed was wrong. Naturally (and I’m talking about you, Jihadists) some of them will take out their frustrations on the rest of us. No doubt there would still be war. And this time, all the crazy Christians in the US government and intelligence agencies won’t be here to protect us. Which brings us back home.

The majority of the US government and government agencies will disappear. The majority of the US armed forces (Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, et al), FBI and CIA, police and fire departments will be gone. There will be bedlam, anarchy, riots, looting, fires, depression, terror – just absolute chaos. Most of my friends and family will have disappeared. My wife and I, along with a pretty small group of close friends will be left behind and, if we survive the earthquakes on Day Zero, we’ll have to work together to survive the next five months…

…to be continued.

Which religion?

  1. Why did you choose your religion over all the other options?
  2. If you are Christian, how do you know Christianity is right and Islam is wrong?
  3. Do you suppose if you had been raised in a culture with conflicting beliefs that you would have adopted a different set of beliefs?
  4. If yes, do you believe that the hypothetical you from question #3 would be “damned” to your current idea of Hell?
  5. If yes on question #4, do you believe that is fair?
  6. If no on question #5, how is it fair that people who do not adhere to your current set of beliefs would be damned to your current concept of Hell?

(edited May 10, 2011 @ 19:01)

Bin Laden’s Virgins

The likelihood that Osama bin Laden is currently philandering with seventy-two maidens with heaving breasts in a giant bathtub full of wine is exactly the same as the likelihood that the Christian Heaven exists.

Just sayin’.

1 May, 2011 – Osama bin Laden dead

So here I was, ready to put up a pre-written post for today. But then we had to go and kill Osama bin Laden, making just about anything not relating to that story pretty much irrelevant. Almost everything that’s needed to be said on this subject has already been covered by plenty of news stations and re-bloggers, so I’ll be keeping it short and focusing only on opinion. But now I’m torn on what I should say on the topic, so I’ll start with the obvious: were it not for Islam, Osama bin Laden would not have committed his atrocities.

A bold statement, I know. I could have just said that without Islamic fundamentalism his crimes would not have been committed, but I prefer to go a little deeper by saying that Islam is the cause of Islamic fundamentalism. Heck, I could go even deeper and say that without religious thought, Islam would not exist, would not create fundamentalism, would not have spawned al Qaeda and the Taliban, would not have caused people to become so engrossed in their religion that they would be so willing to murder thousands of people in the name of their god.

One cannot take the stance of the apologist in this situation and say “well, not all Muslims are fundamentalists.” While technically true, you are employing the “No true Scotsman” fallacy: no true Muslim/Christian/believer would commit such atrocities. I bet the jihadists would beg to differ – perhaps to them, no true Muslim would allow all of us infidels to live. When a holy book is so open to interpretation one cannot claim misinterpretation. When read into just so, a holy book and its texts within can be taken to mean whatever the reader can imagine.

With that cleared up, let’s move on to the part where I’m not really sure what to think. This is, of course, in regards to his death. I’ll just throw this out right now: I’m a pacifist. I don’t buy into the “an eye for an eye” philosophy. I do believe wrongdoing should be met with punishment, but a murderer need not be murdered in order for justice to be had. Yes, the world will absolutely be a better place now that Osama bin Laden won’t personally or physically be influencing anything that happens. But was his terrorist faction really so weak that his lasting influence will not reign over them still? He commanded such respect from his followers, that I very much doubt they will simply lay down their arms to us in surrender. If anything, we may expect them to be re-energized now that they have their ultimate martyr.

So what should we have done? I really don’t know. That’s why I’m torn. Had he been captured alive, his followers would surely go to whatever measures necessary to have him released, or to release him themselves. But the killing of one [albeit very guilty] man does not suddenly bring the thousands back to life for whose deaths he was responsible, nor does it make their deaths any less tragic or painful.

Someone said, “I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.”

EDIT: I’m aware that Osama bin Laden went down fighting; that our Navy SEALs didn’t really have a choice as to whether or not they should kill him. In fact, it was reported that they would have rather taken him alive. What I meant to express before is that I don’t know whether I think it would have been better if they’d managed to catch him alive. He’d be executed anyway, so I suppose that doesn’t really matter. What I disagree with is all the celebration of his death. I think it’s ridiculous, and perhaps a bit sad, that people are singing and dancing and laughing at his death. He was a monster, there’s no doubt about that, and perhaps he even deserved to die, but no death warrants celebration.

Why should I believe?

Why should I believe in your god?

Really, seriously, I mean that. How would belief in your god (or any god, for that matter) improve my life? Any arguments along the lines of “because the Bible says…” will be dismissed automatically. I want to know, from the perspective of a believer in any particular religion, how the belief in supernaturalism would improve my life. This life, I mean – the one I’m living right here, right now, on earth.

Also, feeling the “golden wash of Jesus’ love” is not a legitimate reason. In fact, it’s kind of icky.

I expect the comments section of this post to be riddled with some of the deepest, most insightful reasons ever for adhering to a particular religion.

Bonus points if you can tell me why your god is more important than anybody else’s.