Tag Archives: atheist

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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Seven Ways a Black Hole Can Kill You

One of the few things that most (and let me stress, most, not all) freethinkers have in common is a love for science.

Science is the tool that allows us to understand the universe. It’s the process that has allowed us to communicate over vast distances by typing into these little magic boxes (computers, I think they may be called). And, quite simply, it’s just really cool.

Obviously not everyone agrees with me. My own 11 year-old self absolutely loathed going to science class in school. But it can help to capture your attention if the particular scientific subject being discussed is entertaining or interesting. And there are few things as interesting or entertaining as contemplating your own morality and the destruction of the planet. Am I right?

If you think I am, check out the video below. Phil Plait, of Bad Astronomy and president of the JREF, gives an hour long talk about 7 ways in which a black hole can kill you.

So enjoy. And try not to panic.

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

The Right to Kill Your Child

Although she doesn’t know it, that is exactly what Colleen Hauser wants.

Forced Chemo

Police look for mom, son who fled to avoid chemo

SLEEPY EYE, Minn. (AP) — A courtroom clash between medicine and faith took a criminal turn, with police around the country on the lookout Wednesday for a Minnesota mother who fled with her cancer-stricken 13-year-old son rather than consent to chemotherapy.

(…)

Daniel has Hodgkins lymphoma, a highly curable form of cancer when treated with chemo and radiation. But the teen and his parents rejected chemo after a single treatment, with the boy’s mother saying that putting toxic substances in the body violates the family’s religious convictions.

Colleen Hauser said she had been treating the boy’s cancer instead with herbal supplements, vitamins, ionized water and other natural alternatives — a regimen based mostly on information she found on the Internet.

Thanks to those dreadful interwebz, this poor boy’s mother has become convinced in the efficacy of a pseudo-Native American superstition called “Nemenhah”. Rather than letting the doctor’s treat Daniel she’s taken the boy on the run, where he will almost certainly die while taking vitamins and squatting in sweat-lodges.

What’s probably the worst fact of this case is that the Hauser’s have convinced Daniel of their nonsense. Though it’s hard to blame him. Undergoing chemotherapy is not a pleasant experience. It can often cause more pain than the patient has suffered from the cancer itself when the chemo treatments begin. And at the age of 13, how could a sick boy do anything but listen to his parents?

As strange as it may seem, I am not against adults refusing chemotherapy or other modern treatments. I’m not terribly happy when anyone makes a decision that ends up killing them, but an adult should have the right to do so if they can’t be convinced otherwise.

But a child doesn’t have that right. We recognize as a society that children don’t know enough and don’t have enough experience to come to decisions about their own safety. And as much power as parents do hold over their children, parents do not own them.

In Ancient Rome, the paterfamilias had ultimate authority over his family. He could put his children to death if they disobeyed him. But that is not the world we live in. You do not have the right to kill your child.

I just hope that the police find Daniel Hauser before it’s too late.

There’s a storm coming…a gay one…

As usual, it’s time for me to drop in with some light and simple humor to break up the deeper thoughts of my fellow FSGP bloggers.

Be scared, everyone. There is a storm coming. And it’s going to rain gay on everybody.

The Necessity of the New Atheists’ Methods

One of the criticisms of the methods of people like myself–the so-called new atheists–is that we will cause a kind of backlash from believers and others who are sympathetic to the effect of criticism upon the religious and otherwise theistic worldviews. A fair criticism that I hear from appeasers quite often.

But rather than address the arguments of appeasers, I want to address the importance of being willing to accept challenges to personal views. It is this that makes justifiable the reasons for people to be squeamish about the efforts of people like myself. And while I hold no unjustified delusion that I will be able to change this aspect of human psychology in any significant way, I might at least have an affect on a few people. This is all I can hope for.

I believe in perpetual self-challenge. I think that it is important to keep a level of skepticism and lack of resoluteness in my own ideas, in the hope that they will not crystallize into a kind of creed or stubbornness of my own views. It is this idea, and I share it with many atheists, that makes the claim that atheism is a faith absurd.

Let me stop and address that issue for a moment. I will admit that there are some people that I know and who are atheists for whom the nonexistence of god becomes a point of certitude that I find epistemologically irresponsible. They, understandably, laugh at the mythical nature of religious ideologies, but they sometimes go further and conflate these mythologies with the larger question of whether any god might exist. To conflate specific gods with the general question, in my opinion, is a mistake that is made by many an atheist I have known.

And so the claim that atheism is merely another kind of faith, while absurd when fully analyzed, has a kernel of truth to it on the surface. Thus, I understand that many caricatures of religiosity are not fair in the same way that caricatures of the angry, petulant, and intolerant atheist is based upon some unsavory few who make themselves look foolish.

Let me be clear here. I recognize that religious people are not all unthinking, boorish, ignoramuses who are all making the world a bad place. I recognize the importance of religious traditions in people’s lives, and the positive effects it can have on people. I also recognize that the idea of god is one of great inspiration to people, and that in many cases the idea can be beneficial to some. I recognize these things, and still see room for criticism of these ideas.

Why? Because I actually care about the truth. I would prefer to have true beliefs, ones that can be supported by the best methods and evidence that we have available. I think that this value of mine is important, and I would like it to be shared by people, if possible.

But there are barriers between this ideal world and the one we live in. People are largely pragmatic and are not concerned with the truth so much. They are more concerned with, and I understand why, things like where their food is coming from, raising their children, and simply enjoying their lives. No time for silly questions about truth about religion or deities. Oh, but they believe in them whenever an arrogant person comes along and says that they are an atheist. And suddenly this nonchalance disappears from their lives when someone who actually has thought about this issue comes along and calls it mythology. Then they become defensive.

What? unfair caricature? Sure, but in some cases this is precisely what does happen. And while there are many other caricatures I could have brought out, the bottom line is that there are many people in the world that simply do not think about these things and yet still believe them quite strongly. And to ask them why is apparently some great crime.

Why?

The reasons are many, and I simply cannot address this whole issue here. Much of it has to do with the fact that these ideas are generally inculcated during childhood, and therefore they are associated with emotions and relationships of supreme meaning to people. We have to remember that religion is tied to many people’s personalities in ways taht will not be parsed easily. And ultimately it may not be possible to divorce the religion from the person, but we can at least provide a template for keeping their minds sharpened in order to loosen the particular beliefs in the hope of them not blindly passing on the associations to their own children. This is, ultimately, a plan for the future more than the present.

The first thing that we need to realize is that our minds will tend to reject information that does not fit into our worldview. It is actually difficult to understand the idea expressed from a worldview that differs from our own because the idea just does not seem to fit into the model of reality we have created. A few days ago I quoted Soren Kierkegaard as saying the following:

One must not let oneself be deceived by the word ‘deception.’ One can deceive a person for the truth’s sake, and (to recall old Socrates) one can deceive a person into the truth. Indeed, it is only by this means, i.e. by deceiving him, that it is possible to bring into the truth one who is in an illusion.

I think that this notion contains a fair amount of merit. What this means to me is that we need to prepare ourselves to be deceived, at least in the sense Kierkegaard means here, in order to allow ourselves the possibility that we are ourselves subject to some illusion. We need to keep a tentative level of certainty concerning our beliefs and accepted ideas, as they may be shown to be incomplete (if not completely wrong) in the future.

(At this point I’ll link to a very good video)

And this is one reason I respect the scientific method so much. It is a method that encourages people to disprove the hypotheses we generate. It is a method that has incorporated this perpetual self-challenge and has allowed us to accept theories as provisionally true because no better explanation has been presented.

And so one strategy should be to make sure that people understand what the scientific method is and how it works. One pervasive idea I run into is that the opinions of science and religion are on equal epistemological grounding. They believe that there really is a controversy between evolution and intelligent design. They don’t understand that these two ideas arose via opposing methods, and exactly what this implies.

How will you know what you believe is true is justifiable if you do not submit them to the criticism they may deserve? How strong is your ‘faith” if it goes unchallenged? And what kind of challenge is it if you only pursue the argument from the side which you already accept? I just love how, when challenged, creationists will appeal to Answers in Genesis( or creationism.org, ICR or some other similar source), but almost never have even heard of TalkOrigins or can even define evolution correctly .

And as the understanding of this method, it will give a new tool in understanding how we understand, and it will allow people not just to use the resulting technologies of science, but to understand how it works. We should, in terms of our own beliefs, become so inspired by this method. We should become the “new philosophers” (as Nietzsche called them) that are willing to experiment and test our views against the world and to allow ourselves to transcend humanity so that we may one day become better, the ubermenschen.

We cannot simply crawl along in the hope that progress with just happen. The change begins with our own willingness to challenge ourselves. For if everyone is challenging themselves, then nobody has to do it for you, right. Actually, I’m not even sure of that. I still think that there will always be a need for others to challenge us as we do have blind-spots where others can see. Even the most ardent and honest attempt to be self-challenging can be supplemented with help from others.

And since I want active challenging of my own views, I feel comfortable in challenging others myself. And the first thing I will try to challenge is the defensiveness that arises in being challenged. The question, of course, is how. I don’t know completely. I only know that it must be attempted if we actually care about the people and the world around us. And along the way, make sure to pay attention to what others say, as the challenging process is two-way. Any good teacher will tell you that they learn from their students

There are people out there that will always resist criticism. Perhaps nothing can be done for them. But for those that may be willing to hear, but who are not being challenged, we must press on. I will continue to encourage people to challenge their beliefs, their worldviews, and their culture. If you have a better way–a better hypothesis–for how to deal with rampant irrational and ignorant beliefs, then by all means get to work.

So, that being said, bring on the challenges.