Friday, May 2, 2014

Thoughts on Hell

Hell seems to be a subject of much controversy amongst the religious. Is Hell a real place? If so why does it exist? Most christians, many of which believe this to be a deal breaking factor as to whether or not you are a christian, believe that Hell is a real place and that God created it to torment and torture all the souls that did not accept him as lord and savior. As supreme ruler.

Many seem to need this idea of hell. How could there not be a hell? Bad, evil people don't get to go to heaven. If there is a heaven then there must certainly be a Hell.

The idea of hell is to be a fundamental part of christianity. It seems you are given free will to chose God or not. If you chose incorrectly you will be punished.....eternally. You make your decision by how you live your life. If I live according to scripture then I get to go to heaven. If I do not then there will be hell to pay.

Without hell there is no real punishment for not believing. There is no real punishment for not obeying.

If everyone gets to go to heaven eventually, as a universalist would believe, then there is no real punishment for not following the letter of the law. Yeah you might get punished for a bit but after that waits eternal salvation for everyone. This idea play to the strengths of God. He gets to be both all powerful and all loving. Where as a God who only loves some people and the rest go to hell either wants some to go to hell and is not all loving or he can't stop them from going and is not all powerful.

The idea of hell is to keep people in line. Keep them coming back to church. because it teaches us that we were born broken and that only though Christ can we avoid the eternal punishment that we all deserve. That we all deserve. Eternal torment and torture for a temporal crime. Sometimes the crime is simply not believing that God exists. This deserves eternal torment. A lie, maybe I told my grandmother I liked her soup when it was actually terrible. Eternal torment.

But no matter what sin you have committed if you accept Jesus then you are forgiven?
Murder, child molestation, Rape? No problem just repent and be forgiven.

This pairing of absolute torture if you disagree with me and total forgiveness if you agree is why Christianity is morally bankrupt. (Not Christians, but christianity)

Heaven and Hell are contradictions, they can not both exist. How could some people be happy while others are being tortured. This shows a disconnect and a lack of empathy. If you think of only yourself then it is a motivator but when you look at the whole system it falls apart. If you are capable of empathy for anyone beyond your simple religious views then the idea of hell for children is ridiculous.

What kind of God would create a system in which most of the world would end up in Hell being tortured. A sadistic one.

Yet this view is necessary for Christianity it is as I said quite fundamental. there for for all of the love and peace that Christianity pretends to be about it is actually a sadistic religion.  Yet another reason why I am not a christian.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Why I engage and debate Christians on Facebook and anywhere else I can.

     I have heard many times that debating christians is a waste of time. Don't do it. You only elevate their position. I'm sure you have all heard that debating a christian is like playing chess with a pigeon. No matter how well you play the pigeon will just shit all over the board and strut around like it won. I have been told "why bother" you will never change anyones mind.

  The problem with Christianity is it doesn't want equality. It doesn't want to peacefully coexist. It wants supremacy. It wants domination. Its clear with every fight they chose. Its not enough to be a nation of Christians they want an official Christian nation. Its not enough that their marriage be Godly but yours must be Godly to their standards too. Its not enough to let a child pray in school if they chose and to whom they chose, it must be instructed and forced upon all, and of course Christian.

   Debate is important especially in a public forum like Facebook and not just about religion but certainly not excluding religion. I may not change the mind of my opponent but others will read. Much of what I say will be preaching to the choir but as they say, thats how you get the choir to sing. I am not out to change the mind of my opponent but others who may not be as solid in their beliefs may read my debate and it may help shape their beliefs. I have definitely read debates by Hitchens and Harris, read papers by Russell and Dennett, books by Dawkins and they shaped my outlook. 

  For the record I also read the Bible and material from christian authors for the the same following reason I find debating important.

   It keeps me sharp. its important to be able to tell the important things from the bullshit. I enjoy debating christians because I think its important to be able to defend my beliefs with actual weighty arguments. It makes me understand better why I hold the beliefs if do. And the better I understand logical fallacies that are so often used against me the less likely I am to fall to them myself. I need to be able to filter and identify the bullshit and know why it is bullshit.

    But mostly, It is important to be the voice of opposition. As many of you know, atheism isn't exactly highly regarded in the US. We are not trusted by most.  But thats a step up, It wasn't long ago that we would just be killed. I have heard people in this day and age say that atheists are the cause of the problems in the world and we should all be killed. Recently. 

    When I debate on Facebook I try to be polite. I try to be respectful to the people, but when people say stupid things they should be called on it. And they should hear a voice of opposition. I try not to be a dick about it but the more informed rational opinions out there the better. The more they hear the voice of opposition, the less afraid of it they may become. I may never change their mind but they will know my point of view exists. and others will know it exists.

  Also I guess I am optimistic but I still want to believe that people are rational, that when confronted with strong evidence and sound logic they will eventually change their mind as I hope that I would. Sadly this has not been the case and people tend to chose to believe things that best support the things they already believe. But I want to live in a world in which facts matter, where believing in something in spite of direct evidence to the contrary is not a virtue. Where what is true is more important than what is comfortable. 


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Preach the Controversy

If you had asked me a year ago I would have probably said " Yes I'm sure Jesus was probably a real dude and he may have even done some good things but I see no reason to believe that he is the Son of God"

My tune has changed, not entirely but it has changed. The more I read about it, the more books and studies that I hear about, the more I am swayed to the idea that Jesus may not have actually existed. I'm not totally convinced one way or another but there seems to be a decent amount of evidence that suggests that Jesus my not have existed at all. But this is now my response to people telling me that we should teach creationism in schools, that we should teach conflicting ideas in science classrooms.
I say why don't church's preach the controversy.

Here are some links to some interesting lectures.

Did Jesus Exist?

Why I think Jesus did not exist.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Constitution and Separation of Church and State

If you could boil the constitution down to just one idea. The main principle, The point. It would have to be that the power of the government to govern comes from the people. We the people.

The rest is who gets what power and how many of this and that and then the bill of rights. We created a government that gets its power from the governed.  Not an anointed King but and elected representative of the people.

So it angers me when people say there isn't or shouldn't be a separation of church and state.

The Founding Fathers saw that there had to be.

There are Governments out there that believe that their ruler was chosen by God to rule, that they have divine birthright to rule. but thats not who we are.

To say that there should not be a separation of church and state is to unravel the brilliance, the strength of the constitution.  And it strikes me a power grab from an already dominate power.

I hear all the time that "this is a christian nation" usually followed by "if you don't like it leave"

But is it?  Most of our Founding Fathers were deists. They believed the there was a God but that he did not/could not intervene in the ongoings of the universe.

When Thomas Jefferson was running for president the churches at the time called him an atheist. Its says something that they now wish to claim him as one of their own.

John Q. Adams swore his oath of presidency on a Law book and not the Bible.

Even Abraham lincoln (I know he is not a founding father) railed against christianity.

This however did not stop them from recognizing that most of the country was religious and christian so you do find religious undertones in their speeches and their public writings, they knew their audience.

The Treaty of Tripoli spells it out pretty plainly.  (emphasis added)

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Mohammedan] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

This treaty was submitted to congress and received unanimous approval before it was signed into law by John Adams. on June 10th 1797.

But even If none of that stuff was true. If all the founding Fathers we christian, that just makes it more impressive that they saw the need to separate the church fro the government.

The important fact of the matter is that the President and the Congress, the Judges and the representatives. All the Governing bodies that make up our government get their power from the people and not from God. 

The minute someone starts to believe that God has given them the power to rule is the minute when they believe that the people no longer have the power to remove them.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Morality. Right and Wrong.

Where does our morality come from?  How do we know right from wrong?
It scares me when christians ask "how are you moral without God?"

I hear religious people in debates and conversations all the time suggest that atheists are rapists and murderers, that they are angry and violent because they have nothing stopping them from being that way. That atheists can have no morals because they don't believe in a higher authority.
that "without religion you can't hire enough police"

That scares us. Is the only thing stopping religious people from raping and murdering the fear of a punishment from God. I sure hope not.

Now,  I haven't done any advance study into psychology, neuroscience or morality but I am a living breathing human being so lets think this through.

Morality is obviously important to the the overall survival of any social animal. One might argue that on an individual level selfishness would lead to a better chance of survival but that doesn't add up. Anytime we drive on a highway we put our lives into strafers hands and it pays to be conscientious of all the other people on the road. It even angers us when people are not conscientious to us. If people stopped obeying the laws because they felt like it the world would be a more dangerous place. We all enter this more or less unspoken agreement. I won't swerve into oncoming traffic if you don't. No one ever thinks to themselves I shouldn't swerve suddenly into traffic because God might punish me or God would look unfavorable at it. We don't do that because if people did the world would be more dangerous for all of us. We are social animals by nature and being altruistic is in everyones best interest, generally.

I have heard the argument that morality comes from God even if you don't believe in him. Where else would you get it?
If all morality comes from God, then all morality would be the same. If morality comes from God it surely wouldn't be something that I could adjust or alter to fit my desires it would be ingrained in me and everyone else. We would all have exactly the same views on what is right and what is wrong.
and you would expect religious people who are in touch with God to be more moral simply because they understand it better.

And if morality came from God then anything he said was moral and right would be.

Well, it turns out that morality isn't so black and white. We all have different takes on morality. Some things are easy. If I kick a puppy not only will anyone who sees it be repulsed and hopefully kick me back. but even I would feel guilty about it. Kicking a puppy is clearly wrong. but its when we venture into grey areas that morality becomes trickier. Its wrong to steal. Is it less wrong to steal a loaf of bread to feed you hungry daughter? Is it less wrong to steal if you steal from the rich to help the needy? We are all going to have different opinions on questions like these and they are all with merit.
while morality has black and white areas it also has grey areas, areas that wouldn't exist if we got our morals from an absolute authority.
So it seems we have an innate sense of of morality passed on from being a social animal but it also is effected by our experiences, and our chemistry.
If our morals came from an absolute authority, namely the Bible, then they wouldn't change. At least not without a angelic decree of some kind. 500 years ago it was commonplace for a 30-40 year old man to marry an 11 year old girl so he could  get the most children possible and this was normal and seen as moral. Today it is only seen that way in the most backwards corners of the earth. Morals evolve with society.

If the bible is the absolute authority on morality then we have some problems. The Bible 100% condones slavery. No doubt about it. Now to be clear, the bible does not say slavery is bad. It does not say "thou shalt not own another person" If it did that would be amazing. it would have been way ahead of its time and that would be quoted as reason enough to prove the Bible as being morally superior.
But just by not saying its wrong that doesn't mean the bible says it right.
Its when the bible, the word of God as written by man, Spells out how to own a slave and how to beat a slave. Thats when the bible condones slavery.
Exodus 22
"when a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, then he shall be avenged. but if he survives a day or too then he is not to be avenged for he is his money"

This is God speaking to Moses. "For he is his money"
How anyone can say the bible is the source for morality with a straight face is beyond me.

Now I understand if that you gently dismiss that last part about slavery. If you believe in the the goodness of the bible then how could it support or condone slavery. and if it did then it would throw a wrench into everything. If the bible is the Foundation of your morality to accept that it condones slavery and other things as bad a slavery would be faith shattering. But the bible does condone slavery. 100%. so either Slavery was at one time a moral practice or it never was and the Bible is wrong about that. Think about that.

I have heard all kinds of twists and turns for how this is actually ok. that slaves were treated good back then and God couldn't just throwout slavery during that age. Its all bullshit. Slavery was terrible throughout history its terrible now. and what good is a moral God if he can't do something about a moral scourge.

There are plenty of awful things in the Bible besides slavery. How about God drowning millions of people. the estimated population of the earth at that time would have been about 3 million people.
Now God says they were all bad, but how many pregnant women were there? How many children under 5 years old? And God could do anything other than horribly drown them. Now I don't believe in a flood that covered the earth because there is no evidence for it at all. (thats another post all together) but if I did. Thats pretty evil. thats not a very moral thing to do.  the list of immoral things that God does goes on and on. Now if you believe the bible is allegory. Then the morals taken from these stories can be good. Faith and trust and obedience.  But if you believe that they actually happened then you have to believe that God is twisted and amoral or you have to be twisted and amoral yourself.

If the story of Job is an allegory then the moral is having faith in God even in times of hardship.
If its true then God killed Jobs children just to prove a point.

But if Morality comes from the bible then we should also see evidence of that in society. Are christians more likely to be good people. The answer is no.

Divorce rates in Religious states are higher than less religious states. The more religious a country in the world is the more likely it is a woman will get raped there. Atheists make up a very small percentage of inmates in prison, mush smaller than their percentage in the general population. I can point to countless reports of priests molesting children or pastors stealing money from their congregation. or studies that showed religious people on their way to a sermon on the good Sumatran stepping over and ignoring a person in need.  But I don't want to have it seem like I'm making the reverse argument. that atheists are somehow more moral. No no.. I know plenty of very good decent moral people, who believe that there moral center comes from the bible. That may be only because they haven't read it, but they believe it.

There are two tenants of Christianity that have always puzzled me in regards to morality. the belief that all sins are equal i.e that lying is that same as murder, that thinking about sex with a women is exactly the same as raping her. And the Belief that no matter what the sin simply ask and you shall be forgiven. These two beliefs as staple of the christian foundation are fundamentally morally bankrupt.
Can you imagine if we ran our legal system with this code. There would be no justice. No punishment. If any time you went before a judge you just had to say sincerely "My bad sorry"
one of my favorite religious jokes illustrates why this is a ridiculous belief system.

When I was young I used to pray for god to bring me a bike.
When I got older I realized thats not how God works
so I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness
now I have a bike.

I think that there are Good people out there and there are some bad people, in all walks of life no matter your creed or color or nationality, no matter your class or your status, most people seem to be good and in most situations just and kind. And then there are some others that screw it up for everyone.

Relgion has to sell you on this idea that you need it in your life to be good to be fulfilled to see wonder and hope but its all just snake oil. You have all those things without religion.

I find it ridiculous when some says " if you don't believe in some kind of God then whats the point of living. whats the point of being good."

It reminds me of a quote from a film called Lion in Winter:

Prince Richard: [the sons - in the dungeon - think they hear Henry approach] He's here. He'll get no satisfaction out of me. He isn't going to see me beg. 
Prince Geoffrey: My you chivalric fool... as if the way one fell down mattered. 
Prince Richard: When the fall is all there is, it matters.

If you believe this is a dress rehearsal and all you have to do is be friends with Jesus and you get eternal life, then why does it matter how you live here. it only matters to the extent that it gets you into heaven. But if this is all there is. If you live this life and it is all you have then it matters a great deal how you live it. 

Religion has to sell you on this idea that you need it in your life to be good, to be fulfilled, to see wonder and hope but its all just snake oil. You have all those things without religion.

"Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." Steven Weinberg

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

People are wrong.

People are wrong.

Quite often in fact.

About a lot of different things. Everyone I know has been wrong at one time or another, some more than others, but every single person I can think of has been or is capable of being wrong. So people can be wrong. and not just intellectually, people can be emotionally wrong. That bad feeling or gut feeling can be wrong. It can sometimes be right but its not always right.

This is, I think, obvious to anyone who has ever met someone else.

Now most people aren't wrong about everything, just something. Something they feel or think is just plain incorrect.

So tell me something.....what are you wrong about?

oh come on... you can't think of anything that you are wrong about. but you must be wrong about something.

Not that you were wrong about.. that you are wrong about right now.

Yeah, I can't do it either.

Now we can't possible be the two smartest people on the planet. We can't be right about everything. No one is. We all have the capacity to be totally wrong about things.

So what could I be wrong about. This I think is a very important question, and nothing should be out of bounds for this question. The more important the belief, the more important that I know its true.

"As many true things." I called my blog that for a reason. I value truth. but how do you know if something is true or not. Nothing in this world has come close to as strong a track record as the scientific method. Ask questions, research the evidence, form predictions, gather data, analyze and draw conclusions. But the most important part is to be open to whatever the answer is, even if it isn't what you hoped and what you wanted.

Every atheist I know, if you ask them what could convince them to believe would be able to give you a list of things.  What it would take to convince them. I could give you my list.

Every scientist in a lab could tell you what it would take to prove their hypothesis wrong. What it would take to disprove all their work. But being wrong in science isn't a bad thing, it reinforces what we know to be true. And when something that we believed was true is proven incorrect science rejoices at the news that something false was found and something true replaced it. Science moves forward. Science has never claimed to be correct about everything, it claims to be the most correct it can be with the information it has.

Kinda like us.

I can't think of a single thing that I am wrong about.....right now. because if I knew I was wrong I would change my mind.

When every I ask a believer what it would take to convince them they are wrong the answer is almost always, "Nothing, nothing could convince me I am wrong"

No progress can ever be made from that position.

When it comes to finding answers, science tries to look at the facts, the details, and follow them to a conclusion. While religion (namely the personal God religions) Start with a conclusion and look for answers to support what they already can't be swayed from.

This was perfectly illustrated in a debate between Ken Ham, founder of the Creation Museum and Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Ken Ham believes the world was flooded for a whole year. believes this with all his heart. He looks for only evidence that would support his concrete belief. and would absolutely disregard any facts that don't fit his model.
Bill Nye understands evolution. No belief required but if real evidence, proven testable verifiable evidence surfaced that contradicted evolution, proved it wrong and supported something else. He would change his mind. Thats how it works, thats why science progresses quickly.

At the end of the debate someone asked both debaters, "What could convince you you are wrong?"

Ken Ham said nothing could convince him and Bill Nye said evidence.

Religion makes doubt a sin. Knowledge a sin. Eve ate from the tree of Knowledge. That was her sin. There couldn't be a more clear message than that.

Science requires it. It requires doubt. It requires knowledge.

To be 100% sure to the point that you will not consider any evidence that doesn't support your claim is a form of extremism. That makes Ken Ham and Ray Comfort extremists. Now I think Ken and Ray are good people who have no intention of harming others but I don't think their positions do no harm.

Be cautious of anything that claims to have the answer 100% of the time. Be cautious of anything that can not be convinced it might be wrong.

What could I be wrong about? Why do I believe this? Am I right, if so why? Can I defend my position?

These are all questions I ask myself about anything, especially if it is important.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Sons of Noah

This is a short film I wrote and directed when I was in film school. Enjoy!