Author Archives: dangeroustalk

Vicarious Redemption of Sin

A lot of times I talk about the immorality of Christianity. Most of the time, Christians and even a few atheists jump to defend Christianity by talking about various good deeds particular Christians have done and continue to do. But I wasn’t talking about Christians being immoral; I was talking about Christianity being immoral. What can be more immoral then the vicarious redemption of sin?

The whole idea that I can go and murder someone or work on Saturday and have my sins forgiven vicariously by someone else is a license for crime. Christians often use the analogy of some small offense like a drunk driving charge (which for the record isn’t really a small offense) and they talk about how Judge God lets the offender off the hook because Jesus paid his or her fine. But that isn’t how the world works.

If someone went and murdered someone else and was found guilty, no one would be able to pay the fine of prison time except that person who was found guilty. There is an old expression, “If you do the crime, you will do the time.”

But that isn’t the worst part of the Christian redemption system. The way Jesus allegedly pays for your sins is through blood sacrifice. It is funny that when most Americans hear about some cult sacrificing an animal to the Gods they laugh and think such a ritual is absurd and yet 80% or more believe the same thing.

The whole Christian belief system centers around the idea of blood sacrifice. Back before Jesus allegedly came, the Abrahamic God wanted people to sacrifice goats to him so that he could forgive them for their sins. This is where the term scapegoat comes from. Everyone in the village puts all their sins on to the goat and kills the goat as a sacrifice to God. But God wanted more than just a goat.

Lambs were more desirable to God apparently, because he wanted the people to sacrifice an innocent lamb to show how much they care instead. Let me repeat that last part. God wanted people to sacrifice an Innocent Lamb.

Now of course there is no need to sacrifice an Innocent Lamb or any other lamb for that matter because Jesus is the “Lamb of God.” In other words, he is the innocent blood sacrifice that God needs for the redemption of sin.

Some people will say that not all Christians believe this and that I am generalizing. But the fact is that this whole blood sacrifice thing is a pretty central point the Christian belief system. I really don’t think one could seriously be considered a Christian if they don’t buy into the idea that the death of Jesus was a necessary sacrifice to God for their sins. That is pretty much the whole grounding of the religion. God forgives those who have accepted the sacrifice of Jesus for payment of their sins.

In reality, there is no vicarious redemption for sin. God can’t forgive you for your wrongs. Only those who you have wronged can forgive you. Next time you lie to a friend or family member about something, instead of asking Jesus for forgiveness, try slaughtering an innocent lamb instead. Let me know if that works out for ya.

Check out my Daily Blog @ DangerousTalk.net and my atheist news blog @ Examiner.com

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Everyone’s Entitled to Their Opinion

Recently, my more religious sister criticized me for speaking out against theistic belief. Instead of discussing my criticisms of theistic belief, she simply stated that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I have actually heard this claim made by a lot of people and not all of them were theists. A few silent atheists have also be critical of speaking out against ancient superstitions stating that everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

I problem here is that I don’t disagree that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion and yet these people seem to be implying that I do. I never said people aren’t entitled to their own opinions. In fact, not only have I repeatedly talked about my support for the freedom of religion, I have actually gone to congress and personally lobbied in favor of free speech. The second some Congress-person, Senator, or even the President tries to push a law restricting people’s right to have their own opinion, I will be right there to fight for those rights. Of course everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

What they are not entitled to however, is for their opinions to be protected from criticism. The fact is that we all acknowledge this. We all not only criticize other people’s opinions on a daily basis, but no one in their right mind would claim that it was immoral to do so. No one has a problem criticizing what Hitler did to the Jews. Nor do people have an issue criticizing the KKK for their views. Tom Cruise is continually criticized for his religious beliefs and mainstream Christians and Jews are usually right there at my side criticizing the more fundamentalist believers in their own religions. But the moment anyone criticizes their beliefs, they attempt to over dramatize the criticism with claims of intolerance and/or hate. Insinuations are made that their free speech is being taken away. I don’t hate Christians. I have many Christian friends. I certainly don’t hate Jews. For starters, I am a Jew. Plus my family is Jewish and I love them very much… even my overly religious sister. But I do take issue with what these people believe and so while I will fight for their rights to have their own opinion on religious matter no matter how ridiculous and silly those opinions might be, I will also criticize those opinions if they are ridiculous, silly, and/or dangerous.

In my view, dangerous opinions lead to dangerous actions. And when they do, we need to stand up and strongly criticize those dangerous actions and be critical of the beliefs which lead to those actions. Now again, I am not talking about outlawing those dangerous opinions and beliefs, but I am talking about being critical of those opinions and beliefs. I supported the ACLU when they defended the KKK’s right to march peacefully. But if the KKK wanted to march peacefully in my town, I would be on the sidelines being very critical of their beliefs and arguing against those views.

I think it is pretty hypocritical of theists to claim some special protection from criticism for their beliefs when they seem so willing to criticize other people’s beliefs. Why is it that they think that criticizing political opinions is okay, but criticizing religious views should be forbidden? As I stated before it isn’t even all religious views that they seem to think should be protected; just their religious views and the religions which are closely related to their religious views. Judaism and Christianity should be protected and maybe Islam, but not necessarily. Other religions it seems like should definitely not be protected like Scientology, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Satanists, Wiccans, etc.

In my view however, no opinions should be above criticism. I believe in the market place of ideas and in that market place all ideas and beliefs are welcome and should be equally open to criticism. Let the best ideas and beliefs win. But it seems that the believers in the Abrahamic religions know that their beliefs are ridiculous, silly, and have no valid evidence supporting them. So they don’t want to compete in the market place of ideas because they know their ideas will lose. So instead they try to protect their failed ideas from any and all criticism. How sad.

Check out my Daily Blog @ DangerousTalk.net and my atheist news blog @ Examiner.com

Worthy of the Worship

Christians are always telling me that I need to worship their deity of choice. When I ask why, they warn me of eternal punishment and damnation in the fires of Hell. Sometimes, they will entice me into worshipping their deity with promises of eternal bliss in Heaven. But all threats and bribes aside, they still haven’t really answered my question. Why should I worship their god?

Then Christians will often inform me that God created me. That’s great and all, but how does that answer my question? Am I expected to worship my creator or something? My parents created me and while I respect them most of the time, I certainly don’t worship them. Many people have parents who are not even worthy of respect let alone worship. If I someone creates a robot, should he or she demand that the robot worship him or her? That seems awfully vain. In my mind, such a trait would make the person less praiseworthy, not more praiseworthy. Clearly a creation should not be the slave of the created. So even if I were to accept the premise that God existed and created me (which I don’t) that still wouldn’t compel me to worship such a being. We are still left with the question, why should I worship the Christian God?

Next, many Christians I talk to appeal to power. They tell me that their God is all powerful and that is why he should be worshipped. This to me goes back to the threat of Hell and the bribe of Heaven. “God can do anything and is all powerful, you better get in line.” I don’t accept the appeal to power as a reason to worship. Taking this argument to the extreme, if Hitler were all powerful, would that make him praise worthy and more worship worthy? I really don’t think it does and I doubt that anyone would if they really thought about it. This appeal to power is quite honestly insulting.

In fact, the only reason to worship anyone that I could even remotely understand would be based on morality. At this point my Christian friends tend to smile and tell me that their god has that too. He is the very definition of moral goodness they claim. But as someone who has read the Bible, I just don’t see it. One cannot just claim to be moral, one must demonstrate that morality. If God wrote or spiritually inspired the writing of the Bible and if that book is an accurate picture of who God is, than I can’t see myself worshipping that being at all. This is where the excuses and justifications come in. “God doesn’t need to explain his morality to a mere human like me,” “God’s ways are mysterious,” “God is good because he says he is good,” “Without God there is no moral grounding,” etc.

The truth is that I really don’t believe in worshipping anyone, God or otherwise. I worship ideas not personalities. While I might say that I would follow an Aristotelian “person of practical wisdom.” I would stop following such a person the moment they proposed something which I considered to be immoral. I might start following them again when they proposed something more reasonable. Take our current President Barack Obama for example. I respect him and admire him. I think he is a smart person who is trying to do what he can to help people. I’ll follow him on most things, but I will also be critical of him when he refuses to stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians. I am critical of him for reaching out to religious fanatics and hoping that they will support hi even when he doesn’t need their support and will not get their support. So while I admire the President and will follow his lead on many things, I most certainly don’t worship him or follow him blindly.

I can’t think o a single reason why I would possibly worship any god let alone the Christian God. I certainly am not a coward who is afraid of eternal torture in Hell, nor am I a greedy person who would accept the bribe of Heaven. I don’t think the Christian God created me and even if I did, I still don’t see that as any reason to worship such a deity. The awesome all-powerfulness of God doesn’t really concern me since I don’t consider power to be a reason for worship. And the Christian God of the Bible doesn’t seem very moral to me either. So my question still stands, why should I worship the Christian God?

Check out my Daily Blog @ DangerousTalk.net and my atheist news blog @ Examiner.com

God Personified

Why is it that the Christian God is supposed to be all-powerful and yet it took him a full 6 days to create the world? Shouldn’t he have been able to do it with a snap of his metaphysical fingers? A real god should be able to think it and it happens. And while we are at it, if God is so all-powerful, why does he have to rest on the seventh day? Humans need rest, not gods.

However, the people who created god could have simply personified nature and if that were the case, than since people do rest, a personified deity might need to rest too. In the ancient world, deities like Zeus lived on Mount Olympus and deities like Odin lived Valhalla. So where does Yahweh live? Heaven. But God’s don’t really need to live anywhere, right? I mean isn’t an all-powerful deity supposed to be everywhere?

As you can see, Yahweh like all the other gods that have come before him are all personifications. Ancient people who couldn’t understand the world used these deities as an attempt to explain the world. They created elaborate stories and gave their deity of choice personalities based on human stories and personalities. That is why God is a jealous God, a vengeful God, a wrathful God, a Just God, etc. These are all human traits. The war in Heaven is based off wars on Earth. God has a son? Humans have sons. God’s live forever and always were and always will be, so how can they give birth to a divine child?

These are ancient stories told to explain what was unexplainable. Now science can explain much of what was unexplainable and so now God is forced to fill the gaps. However, even though science can’t explain everything we should be mature enough as a race to simply say that we don’t know the answers to all the questions without the need to make up answers with stories of divine intrigue. God is no longer even needed to fill the gaps as long as we are mature enough to accept the gaps and curious enough to attempt to fill those gaps through the continued exploration of science and philosophy.

Check out my Daily Blog @ DangerousTalk.net and my atheist news blog @ Examiner.com

A Science Lesson for Christians

Often times when discussing religion with Christians the conversation turns to science. I am not an expert in the sciences. My field is Philosophy. Just to make sure that I have all my facts straight, I e-mailed this blog to The Science Pundit for peer review. However, having gone to a fairly decent public school program which taught science fairly well, I would say that I have a slightly above average knowledge of the subject. I am beginning to think though that I am a bit more than just slightly above average. It seems that I run into the same problems over and over again. Many of the Christians that I talk to have no idea how the scientific method works.

The thing is that most of these Christians claim to know how science works and they claim to have studied in detail the relevant scientific theories that we are discussing. But then their mouths open (or in case of internet conversations, they write stuff). And based on what they are saying, it becomes painfully obvious that they have not studied the relevant theories and have no idea whatsoever how science works.

There are a few particular misconceptions that keep popping up. The first is that a “scientific theory” is “just a theory.” Here there is as Wittgenstein put it, a “Family Resemblance” between the two uses, but make no mistake that the term “theory” is being used in two very different ways. In the general sense the term “theory” is used to describe an analytic structure designed to explain a set of observations. As used in the scientific sense, a theory is an explanation or model based on observation, experimentation, and reasoning, especially one that has been tested and confirmed as a general principle helping to explain and predict natural phenomena. In other words, “just a theory” is very different than a “scientific theory” which has considerably more weight attached to it.

Another common misconception is that science is “faith based” just as faith based belief is faith based. These particular Christians don’t seem to understand the difference between the scientific process and the religious process. To them, all ideas are the same and deserve equal time. The problem is that all ideas are not the same.

Let’s start with religion. The way religious belief works, they start off with the belief in God and in the Bible. That belief supersedes everything else. Then they specifically look to find anything which might be considered supportive of their conclusion (This is called “confirmation bias.” The scientific method goes to extreme measures to minimize or eliminate this as all people—even scientists—are susceptible to confirmation bias). If evidence comes to light which disproves their belief, that evidence is attacked, ignored, and/or destroyed. Their view is that God exists and that the Bible is true and nothing “science” can say or show will convince them otherwise. Many times, they will even tell you that straight up.

Science doesn’t start with the conclusion. Science starts with observations. From the observations we make a hypothesis, which is an educated guess as to the explanation of an observable phenomenon or phenomena which makes predictions and is therefore testable. We then look for evidence and/or test the hypothesis through experimentation to see if our hypothesis holds up. One thing science tries to be very careful about is to make sure that when we run tests and look for evidence we do so in as non-biased manner as possible. We don’t want to fall prey to confirmation bias. We are not specifically looking to confirm or deny the hypothesis, just go where the evidence leads. If the evidence supports the hypothesis, then we keep looking for more evidence in the same unbiased manner. If the evidence does not support the hypothesis, then we revise the hypothesis and start the process over again. Science never draws a 100% certain conclusion. Science is always willing to change. But the more and more evidence which supports a given hypothesis the more and more certain we are that the hypothesis is correct. But we will never say that we are 100% certain. A theory is a more general model which includes facts, laws and hypotheses and explains a whole family of phenomena.

So as you can see, while science starts with observations and evidence and investigates as non-biased as it can, religion is the exact opposite. Religion starts with the conclusion and looks in a biased manner for anything which could be persuasive and rejects what does not fit with the already stated conclusion (i.e. God exists and the Bible is true).

Please keep in mind that this blog is only giving a basic and quick guide to science and the scientific method. I encourage anyone who lacks sufficient scientific knowledge to go online or pick up a science text book and learn more.

Check out my Daily Blog @ DangerousTalk.net and my atheist news blog @ Examiner.com

The Anti-Intellectualism of Christianity

One of the biggest issues that I have with Christianity is the anti-intellectualism that it perpetuates. It isn’t hard to miss. For starters, the majority of Christians in America are ignorant and proud. The fact that the most idiotic President in our nation’s history was elected mainly because of the support of the Christian Right, speaks volumes. A quick look back at history also shows that the Church and various organized religions have done everything they could to restrict science and knowledge. At every stage of scientific achievement, Christians were always their persecuting those who wish to expand human knowledge and human progress. One of the Humanities biggest loses came pretty early on too. In 415 CE a Christian mob brutally murdered Hypatia of Alexandria (I would go into more details about the brutality of that murder, but it is a bit graphic) who was one the bright lights of Science in her time. Even today, almost half of Christianity stands against the science of evolution and medical stem cell research.

The fact is that the more religious someone is, the less value they tend to place on science and education. According to the National Academy of Sciences, 93% of scientists express disbelief or doubt in the existence of a personal deity. 72% outright disbelieve in a personified deity. These are among the brightest minds on Earth. Both Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking (widely considered the two smartest men who every lived) had issue with the personified deity of Christianity. These men joined the company of many of the most intellectual founding fathers such as Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, and other.

The concept of “faith” is a slap in the face to science and intellectual curiosity. Faith stops questions while science encourages questions. Faith provides dishonest, unsupportable, and unquestioned certainty while science leaves every conclusion open to change with additional evidence and discoveries. With faith, no education is necessary because education is often a determent to faith. This is one of the biggest reasons why Christian fundamentalists are so keen on censorship and control. Even in the Bible, the character of Jesus elevates blind faith above intellectual rigor, reason, and evidence.

“Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed [are] they that have not seen, and [yet] have believed.” – John 20: 29

This is not the only instance in which the Bible attacks the intellect. Corinthians is full of such examples. “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise” – 1 Corinthians 1:27 and 5 “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 2:5, etc.

Science, reason, and intellectualism support the concepts of continued questioning, education, and human curiosity. Through the scientific method, the rules of logic, and the thirst to understand, people of reason are continually pushing the boundaries of human knowledge and helping to make life better and longer for us all. Yet, example after example, the Bible and Christianity stand against the intellect and continue to propagate ignorance, fear, and unreason. Between the Creation Museum and the absolute unquestioning certainty of a divine deity, Christianity remains one of the biggest oppositions to human progress and the greatest threat to intellectualism.

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Moral Grounding

Almost every time I get into a prolonged conversation with a fundamentalist Christian the issue of morality come up. The claim of the Christians is almost always the same, “without God there can be no moral grounding.” Personally, I find that to be a pretty arrogant and inaccurate statement. The way I see it, with God there is no moral grounding. The shear number of differing sects of Jews, Christians, and Muslims who have completely opposite opinions on so many moral issues certainly suggests that God hasn’t grounded morality at all. If he had, all believers in the Bible who have the same set of morals and quite obviously they don’t.

It seems that God was so clear about his moral grounding after all since so many Christians disagree about God’s moral grounding. We really need to ask, how do we know what God commands? That is the real problem with believing is deities, you never really know what they want. From what I can tell by talking to so many Christians, God seems to communicate by one of two ways, either by divine revelations or through divine texts.

When it comes to divine revelation things get pretty problematic pretty quickly. This was a big problem early on for the Mormons when Joseph Smith declared that any Mormon could have a divine revelation. Very quickly people were getting some pretty opposite commands from God. It seemed to be impossible to know what a real divine revelation was and what thoughts were just people’s imagination, desires, or random thoughts or beliefs. And then of course mental illness is an issue with divine revelations too. You will find that there are often stories in the news of someone murdering their child because they had a divine revelation. How can you tell if someone had a divine revelation or is just crazy?

Divine texts like the Bible have a whole new set of problems. The Bible was written a long time ago and we don’t even have the original verses of the text. Over the years, the texts have been recopied complete with people’s deliberate and accidental changes. People seem to have revised the texts to fit their own personal philosophies, beliefs, or situations as well as miscopies words or mistranslated words as the text moved from language to language. People’s religious framework has become entirely dependent on their interpretation of inaccurate “Holy Scriptures.” With so many changes and translations and interpretations of the divine holy book, it is impossible to really know what God truly desire.

Even if we could deal with those issues, the problem doesn’t get any better. According to Christianity, God defines morality and this causes a host of other problems. What if God changed his mind? Some Christians will argue that God wouldn’t change his mind because God is perfect or God is his character or something. But the Bible claims in numerous places that God does change his mind and the real issue isn’t whether he will change his mind, but rather whether he could change his mind if he so desired? If God did change his mind, then morality would change with God. This doesn’t seem like moral grounding to me. If God declared tomorrow that rape was now morally good, I really don’t think it would be so.

Many Christians will then typically argue that, “either all morality is absolute or all morality is subjective.” This line of thinking is a very problematic one which deals with a limiting of options and an absolutism all its own. When we look at the philosophy of ethics and morality, we see that some of the greatest minds in human history have been working on this problem and have come up with some very complicated solutions which still don’t fully make morality clear to us. Some of the greatest of moral thinkers include, Plato, Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, Jeremy Bentham, John Stewart Mill, and John Rawls. There are of course many more, but these thinkers in particular have helped to shape modern concepts of morality.
Morality just isn’t as simply as a rulebook of do’s and don’ts. Morality isn’t all absolute nor is it all subjective. Morality is part principle based and part situational based. Personally, I think Kant and Aristotle have helped me better understand morality in that morality is more about the means than the ends as Kant viewed it and it is more about following moral role models or “men of practical wisdom” as Aristotle had suggested.

Currently, work is being done in the field of neuroscience to explain mirroring synapses and how that relates to compassion and empathy, which may help to teach us more about human morality from a biological level. But until more study is done, we are left in the philosophical realm. And from what we can gather, morality is in no small part linked those two aspects of human life, empathy and compassion.

So what is our moral grounding? Right now, there isn’t any. Not for Christians and not for atheists or anyone else. Morality is not completely absolute nor is it completely subjective. There is a delicate balance and we are all trying our best to navigate these often-difficult moral paths. As human society has progressed, we have learned more and more about how best to treat each other in a moral way but our moral journey is far from over.

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