Thursday, 27 January 2011

Let's stop all the rapture nonsense shall we?



I’m not following the sequence of the Bible in these posts;  that’s because I want to talk about the parts that come up in conversations I have with my internet friends, and that provoke me to express what I think about them.

There is a lot of talk about how the dates in this year 1/11/11 and 11/1/11 and 11/11/11 all seem to be portentious and that the biggie is going to be December next year when on the 20th day , the date will be 20122012 or some combination of those numerals depending on where you live. 

I did speak about dates and dating in an earlier post, so I’m not going to bore my readers with more of the same here. Instead I want to talk about “the rapture” as supposedly foretold in Revelation, except it doesn’t foretell any rapture. 

All the book does is speak about metaphorical fantasies, which as I said in a previous post, sound like the ramblings of someone high on LSD! These verses are some of those that supposedly describe the events on that day, with seven angels performing magical feats with vials filled with something not explained.
Revelation 16:
2 And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.
3 And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea.
4 And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood.
8 And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire.
10 And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain,
12 And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.
17 And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done.
18 And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.
So what exactly is the rapture and where does it come from? It comes from this verse:
Revelation 14:4 These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.
The “firstfruits” refers to the tradition of sacrifice from the texts in the Pentateuch, when the priests were told to collect the firstborn animals from the flocks of their congregations and the first fruit of the harvests from their fields. These offerings were delivered to the priests who made a show of burning them up to God.

The sacrificial offerings always had to be unblemished, perfect from every point of view. No bruised fruit or deformed lambs for God, no, the best the pick of every litter or crop. 

This is carried forward to the idea of the people who God will harvest to populate eternity. Because of this, the faithfully have to be faultless, or they won’t be chosen. 

The actual image of “graves giving up their dead” or people being whipped off to the sky from wherever they happen to be on the day of the “second coming” or the rapture, are nothing but the thumbsucking meanderings of the deluded minds of people with some sort of agenda, that agenda usually being getting other deluded people to give them money.

But look at the actual words of that verse: “they who were not defiled with women” in other words, unmarried men who have never “known” women in the biblical sense. This therefore excludes all men who have stuck to vows of chastity, and no other. But not only that, being “defiled with women” by implication makes women into “defilers.” Do women really want to be part of something that views them as “defilers?” 

Despite all the above, there is one point that most believers miss completely.

When the book of Revelation was written, the people writing it believed that the earth was flat and that day and night were the same not matter where they happened to be. They knew that there were places far away, obviously. Even though they travelled they didn’t know that when the sun came up in the area of the Euphrates, it was still dark in Rome-- they are two hours apart! They merely accepted the idea that morning was the same everywhere, and night was the same everywhere. Imagine how they would have been confused by the idea that when it’s midnight in Baghdad, it is midday in America? When they thought about the relationship of the sun and moon to the earth, they were convinced that the sun moved around the earth and that the earth just hung there on a level plane. 

We know now that it is physically impossible, even if angels did exist, for people in America to know that there are vials being emptied over Baghdad or Rome, unless CNN’s correspondents are filming the event. Even if it was possible for Jesus to come floating down on a cloud to collect the 144,000 men to drag off to heaven with him, the logistics of finding, and assembling all of them in one place would be a nightmare of organisation. Even if God were capable to stopping the earth from spinning, flattening it out into single flat plane, the physics, even to my unscientific mind, would cause unimaginable catastrophes.

So with some rationality about dates being merely a simple way to differentiate one day, month or year from another, and there being nothing magical about the way their numbers line up to produce patterns, 144,000 “undefiled” men being found from all the millions of candidates around the world, and visions of clouds, angels and Jesus all happening and being able to be seen at the same time, let’s drop this stupidity shall we?

There is no rapture coming, not this year in November, nor next year in December. The world will keep revolving around the sun. And if that’s not enough to convince you, then think about the 144,000 undefiled men the next time you go out on a date. For women just the idea that you are a ‘defiler’ ought to be enough for you to drop the idea of a misogynistic God who thinks so little of you, yet expects you to keep grovelling and giving him money. 

Thursday, 20 January 2011

What really happened?


I’m digressing from the discussion of the Bible today to explain what I understand about evolution.
The Bible story of the six-day creation is only mythology, that has been more than effectively shown by the research that has been carried out since Darwin first declared that evolution happened through natural selection 200 years ago. So what really happened?
From What on Earth Happened:
Echoes of a collosal explosion that triggered the beginning of out universe still reverberate today, 13.7 billion years after the Big bank. Microseconds later the universe inflated to become billions of miles wide. New stars were born, old ones burned out. Some 9.2 billion years later our sun ignited,  made up of the leftovers of burned-out stars.
Giant balls of hot dust and gas, pulled together by the gravity of the sun, jostled for position in the newly formed solar system… A few hundred million years after the earth’s fiery birth, inert chemicals began to duplicate into simple single-cleed forms of life that we now call bacteria.
From Stephen Hawking:
Where do we come from? How did the universe begin? Why is the universe the way it is? How will it end?
All my life, I have been fascinated by the big questions that face us, and have tried to find scientific answers to them. If, like me, you have looked at the stars, and tried to make sense of what you see, you too have started to wonder what makes the universe exist.  The questions are clear, and deceptively simple. But the answers have always seemed well beyond our reach. Until now.
The ideas which had grown over two thousand years of observation have had to be radically revised. In less than a hundred years, we have found a new way to think of ourselves.  From sitting at the center of the universe, we now find ourselves orbiting an average-sized sun, which is just one of millions of stars in our own Milky Way galaxy. And our galaxy itself is just one of billions of galaxies, in a universe that is infinite and expanding. But this is far from the end of a long history of inquiry.  Huge questions remain to be answered, before we can hope to have a complete picture of the universe we live in.
I want you to share my excitement at the discoveries, past and present, which have revolutionized the way we think. From the Big Bang to black holes, from dark matter to a possible Big Crunch, our image of the universe today is full of strange sounding ideas, and remarkable truths. The story of how we arrived at this picture is the story of learning to understand what we see. 
This is what I understand how it all happened, from what I've read and discussed with people who know the science (and I happily invite them to correct any errors in my summary):

Over the last 200 million years, the earth’s crust broke up to form the continents as we recognise them today. This made it harder for one species to dominate the entire living area and allowed them to develop characteristics that would allow them to use their environment in ways best suited to their needs. 

Since the dinosaur extinction 65.5 million years ago, the carbon dioxide levels in the earth’s atmosphere dropped, drastically reducing the ground temperature.

During the period between the dinosaur extinction and the arrival of humans, the movement of the earth’s crust caused the continents to collide and move away from each other and, with the collisions, they threw up the huge mountain ranges of the planet. 

Eventually as Africa moved away from Europe, leaving large salt deposits in its wake, (around 5.3 million years ago) water burst through the mountains that once joined Africa and Spain, causing a massive waterfall that filled the salt lake creating the Mediterranean Sea, taking with it some of those mountains.

Then around 40,000 to 10,000 years ago most of the earth’s first mammals disappeared. 

The movement of Antarctica away from South America around 40 million years ago, created the channel known as “Drake’s passage.” This caused cold water to mix with the water of the Pacific and Indian Oceans and as it cooled it formed the ice sheet that still covers that area. The reflection from the ice desert reflected the sun’s rays back into space causing temperatures to drop further and a new Ice Age occurred, the first in 250 million years. 

This caused reduced rainfall making the grasslands emerge from the vast forests that previously covered the earth. These grasslands were fine for grazing animals and birds, but what about the apes in the trees? 

Could this have been what forced apes to move down from the trees?

Around 4 million years ago, the first apes began to walk upright rather than on all fours. Being upright made sense because it freed the hands to enable them to use tools. It also forced the body to moved into a more erect stance. The use and manipulation of the environment by these apes and their improved diet because they were able to use tools to hunt, caused their brains to increase in size.

These changes happened slowly, in generations, not as Genesis says, within a lifetime. These animals adapted over time, over tens of thousands of years; they found new ways of dealing with whatever nature handed out and it because of this that the first humans tentatively put their feet on the ground.

They roamed the continents for about 2 million years, forming different species, becoming ever more human, with every passing generation. They owned possessions and learned to develop better tools to manage their food supplies sometimes in harsh weather conditions. The ones living in more moderate climates didn’t have to develop the same tools as the ones who lived in the cold. For instance, people in northern Europe had to learn to hunt animals for warm skins and for meat that they could store through the winter months. The ones in equatorial and other warm regions like Australia, where small game was plentiful and the weather consistently warm, didn’t have to develop those skills, but they did have to develop hunting skills suited to the hunting of game that could outrun and outleap them. 

Some people kept to the migratory life taking their animals with them, others built large cities and debated their origins, formulating the ideas that have become today’s belief systems about how they came about. It is through this “restless march into the brave new world of human civilisations, [that] the traditional relationship between mankind and the rest of the natural world began to change beyond all recognition.”

Every new archaeological find verificies the evidence that apes came from the trees, walked upright, learnt to manipulate tools, learnt to draw pictures, covered themselves in animal skins as their body hair decreased, and then learnt how to make fire, then evolved into the people who populate the planet today.

It is only our large brains, relative to the size of our body that makes us different from other species that have lived, procreated, survived and then become extinct on this piece of rock. The only difference is that the intelligence that has come with every new generation’s learning has also given us the tools to destroy the planet so that it won’t be allowed to continue to it’s natural end but will rather die of the destruction that our intelligence has wreaked upon it.
Surely this story, even if the enormity of it is overwhelming, makes a lot more sense than “God did it?”

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The "Documentary Hypothesis" of the authorship of the Pentateuch


I received a question regarding the reference I made in yesterday’s post regarding the authorship of the first five books of the Bible.

Of course if people want to believe that Moses actually did write them, then explaining that modern theologians accept this hypothesis, is not going to change their minds, no matter how much logic one applies to the idea that one old man who had only heard his nurses’ ideas about the story could possibly have known the names of his ancestors, could have written the books. For the more open-minded people who read this blog, I’ll explain it: 


The Documentary Hypothesis[1], also known as the “Wellhausen hypothesis[2]” 
In 1876/77 Julius Wellhausen published Die Composition des Hexateuch ("The Composition of the Hexateuch", i.e. the Pentateuch plus the book of Joshua), in which he set out the four-source hypothesis of Pentateuchal origins; this was followed in 1878 byProlegomena zur Geschichte Israels ("Prolegomena to the History of Israel"), a work which traced the development of the religion of the ancient Israelites from an entirely secular, non-supernatural standpoint. Wellhausen contributed little that was new, but sifted and combined the previous century of scholarship into a coherent, comprehensive theory on the origins of the Torah and of Judaism, one so persuasive that it dominated scholarly debate on the subject for the next hundred years.
J: a writer who used "JHWH" as God's name and who has God interacting with his characters, such as Adam and Eve and Moses. 
He/she may have been a member of the court of Judah before the exile in Babylon at the time when the Assyrians invaded the northern kingdom of Israel and took its people into exile, during the late 7th century and the early 6th centuries BCE (around the time of King Jehoram). Other scholars date J as early as the 10th century. 

E: a writer who uses “Elohim” as the name, writes about the religion and morals and the history from the point of view of the northern kingdom, this person’s writing includes the Exodus 20 version of the 10 commandments. He probably wrote his history between the late 8th and late 7th centuries. He may also have been a priest.

D: a writer who lived after the previous two because he writes the later history and his writing about the religion is more about the ethical aspect of that religion. He therefore probably lived in the late 5th century. His writing includes Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges and the two books of Samuel and the Kings. There was probably a second writer who edited the original text during the exile, who added the last two chapters of the second book of Kings to include the results of the Babylonian attack. He was probably a Judean priest and may even have been Jeremiah.

P: who was most likely a priest, and again could have been Jeremiah. He focused all of his writings on God adding all the details of the role of the priests, including the genealogies, dates, laws, rules of worship and rituals and who identified with Aaron. He writes about God as being less human and more spiritual without using any of the kinder terms applied by the first two writers. He disapproved of the work of J, E and D who use the words “grace,” “mercy” and “repentence” as many as 70. He does not ever use those. He wrote his work as an alternative history, rejecting all the fantasy of the mythology of talking snakes and donkeys, and the idea that God spoke through dreams. 
He probably lived shortly before the destruction of the Temple and the exile in 587 BCE but although he rejected the mythology of the earlier writers, he used them as a source and was aware of the Books of the Prophets. 

R: a redactor who was probably a priest who most likely did his editing during the exile when he joined all the pieces of the previous works together to form the Pentateuch. [1][3]

Although the hypothesis is generally accepted, as I mentioned above, there are still people who believe that Moses was responsible for all of it, until the book Joshua that is.
It appears that many scholars continue to support the hypothesis because of questions regarding the history of Israel. In particular, the hypothesis seems to offer the best explanation of why the termLevite is used inconsistently in the Old Testament. Suffice it to say that the traditional solution offered in conjunction with the Documentary Hypothesis is historically anomalous. A far better solution can be obtained by reading the Pentateuch as a work that was substantially produced, as the text affirms, during the period of the Exodus.
The Documentary Hypothesis must be abandoned. Regardless of the theological presuppositions with which one approaches the text, and regardless of whether one wishes to affirm the tradition of Mosaic authorship or move in new directions, one must recognize the hypothesis to be methodologically unsound. [4]
Thus again, it seems that the reader’s acceptance of evidence, or the ‘faith’ version, depends entirely on the extent to which the reader believes in God. Naturally churches will try to persuade their congregations that Moses wrote the whole thing, because, as in the case with the writers of the Gospels, to believe what the historical evidence shows, is to lose one’s faith in the validity of the main character of the anthology.

Sources:
  1. http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_tora1.htm
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Documentary_hypothesis
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_Wellhausen
  4. http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2010/09/24/The-Documentary-Hypothesis.aspx#Article

A reading list for the Documentary Hypothesis: 

Monday, 17 January 2011

Where did it all start?

Before I begin to discuss the story of the beginning of Abrahamaic religion, I have a problem with the author. 

When one reads the Book of Genesis critically, it is fairly obvious that more than one person was responsible for the writing, which is explained in a book I suggest that people who are questioning their faith ought to read.

In his book, Biblical Nonsense , Dr Jason Long refers to the "Documentary Hypothesis"  when says that there were as many as five different authors: J who used the term “JHWH” for God, E who used “Elohim,” P who was “most certainly a priest,” D, the author of the book of Deuteronomy, and “R” the “redactor” or the person who put it all together. 
Specifically on the creation story, Dr Long points out the following:
One creation story scribed by P appears from Genesis 1:1-2:3. Notice that the first half of 2:4 doesn’t maintain the flow and seems to segue into the second creation account found in 2:4-2:25. That’s likely the redactor making a transition between P’s and J’s creation stories.
Thus we see that it's not only in the New Testament that the writers of the books are not who the anthology, or its supporters claim them to be.

Creation myth in Genesis:
The familiar creation myth is told in the first two chapters of the book of Genesis. In the first chapter, God speaks and everything is created: the heavens and the earth, and the transformation from light and land, to a planet populated by animals, plants and humans, who are “created in our own image,” in six days. All of this in a week and he rests on the seventh day.

In the second chapter, there is no detail of the actual creation, merely that everything was created but that there was no one to “work the ground.”  To achieve this, God creates man, and, in so doing, the world’s first slave.

The second chapter also gives details of the geographical setting of the story: the four rivers that flowed from Eden, Pishon, Gihon, Tigris and Euphrates. 

So, let’s take a look at who the people where living there at the time, and what they thought of where it all came from, remembering that these stories predate the ones in Genesis:

Sumer and Akkad:
In the beginning there is nothing, or chaos, or a primeval mound, a dome covering the earth in which the chief god lives. The earth was shaped either by being created by the god or by the violent cutting up of the god of the earth. 

The god creates the earth (a living thing), who later gives birth to children who become gods. These children then fight her for supremacy over the earth, and in their victory, they split the earth into land and water.

The idea of a single “king” god creating earth from heaven is central to all these early religions, and could be a reflection of their societies’ leaders, and possibly goes back to hunter-gatherer times when one senior tribe member made decisions on behalf of the tribe. 
In giving their gods human characteristics, the Sumerians projected onto their gods the conflicts they found among themselves. Sumerian priests wrote of a dispute between the god of cattle, Lahar, and his sister Ashnan, the goddess of grain. Like some other gods, these gods were vain and wished to be praised. Each of the two sibling gods extolled his and her own achievements and belittled the achievements of the other.
The Sumerians 'saw' another dispute between the minor gods Emesh (summer) and his brother Enten (winter). Each of these brothers had specific duties in creation - like Cain the farmer and Abel the herdsman. The god Enlil put Emesh in charge of producing trees, building houses, temples, cities and other tasks. Enlil put Enten in charge of causing ewes to give birth to lambs, goats to give birth to kids, birds to build nests, fish to lay their eggs and trees to bear fruit. And the brothers quarreled violently as Emesh challenged Enten's claim to be the farmer god.
A dispute existed also between the god Enki and a mother goddess, Ninhursag -- perhaps originally the earth goddess Ki. Ninhursag made eight plants sprout in a divine garden, plants created from three generations of goddesses fathered by Enki.
These goddesses were described as having been born "without pain or travail." Then trouble came as Enki ate the plants that Ninhursag had grown. Ninhursag responded with rage, and she pronounced a curse of death on Enki, and Enki's health began to fail. Eight parts of Enki's body - one for each of the eight plants that he ate - became diseased, one of which was his rib.
The goddess Ninhursag then disappeared so as not let sympathy for Enki change her mind about her sentence of death upon him. But she finally relented and returned to heal Enki. She created eight healing deities - eight more goddesses - one for each of Enki's ailing body parts. The goddess who healed Enki's rib was Nin-ti, a name that in Sumerian meant "lady of the rib," which describes a character who was to appear in a different role in Hebrew writings centuries later, a character to be called Eve. 
Read the entire text here.
Persian, Babylonian creation mythology:
The Babylonian myth was written as an epic poem, inscribed on seven tablets and dates from c1100 BCE. It tells of the goddess Tiamat, and her husband, Apsu, who gave birth to the deities in an ocean of chaos. Marduk, one of her children, the god of Babylon, in a battle with her and her dragons, defeats her, and from her body he creates heaven and earth and from the blood of her ally, Kingu, he created humans to serve the gods.
Information about Sumerian Gods and Goddesses is found on the Sumerian King List as well as Sumerian clay tablets and cylinder seals. The Sumerian King List records all the rulers of Earth back over 400,000 years. This huge stretch of time coupled with reigns into the thousands of years has caused most historians to reject its accuracy. However all the early rulers were allegedly gods - demi-gods or immortals.
These Gods were called the Nephilim Nefilim, Elohim, the Anunnaki - "Those who from Heaven to Earth came." 
In the dualistic Persian or Iranian cosmogony, the good and wise lord Ahura Mazda began creation by sending beams of light into an abyss where Ahriman, lord of evil and sin, lived. Ahura Mazda cast Ahriman into hell for 3,000 years. This gave Ahura Mazda time to create spirits of virtue, angels, and the creatures of earth, including Gayomart, the first man. When Ahriman's time in hell ended, he created flies, germs, pests, and other evils. One of his wicked followers brought disease and death to Gayomart, but a plant that grew from Gayomart's remains bore fruit that became the human race
Hurrian and Hittite mythology also stems from that of the region and is similar, Anu, is the chief god, his sons create three lesser deities from his genitals.

Egyptian:
Egyptian creation mythology revolved around the four major cities: Heliopolis, Memphis, Hermopolis and Esna, each of which has its supreme god: Atum (later associated with Re), Ptah, Thoth and Khnum, respectively. The gods emerged from the primeval mound, earth, which arose from the waters of Nun, from where the sun god also emerged.
The ancient Egyptians believed that before the world existed there was only Nun, the watery nothingness. Then a mound of land rose, giving the first deity a place to live. In some accounts, the first deity took the form of a bird. Others said that a lotus flower containing a god rose from the water. Cults developed around several Egyptian creator gods: Amun and Atum, the sun gods; Khnum, who made men and women from clay and breathed life into them; and Ptah, who created the other gods by saying their names. 
The single “monotheistic” god:
The idea of a monotheistic god, which is central only in Abrahamaic mythology, may be traced to the idea of the single sun-disc god of the “heretic king” Akhenaten of Egypt,who ruled for 17 years in Egypt and who died in c1334 BCE, well before the establishment of Jerusalem and the state of Judah. Thus the Egyptian king could not have copied the idea of a monotheistic god from the Hebrews, but that they did copy his idea, is evidence of the great influence that Egypt had on the period at this time. 

Origin of the Genesis stories:
When looking at the mythology of the region: the Sumerians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, it is fairly obvious where the biblical “history” came from:
  1. The gods create the earth and the heavens, and then create humans, using different methods, who they use to “till the soil” in all the mythologies.
  2. One writer of Genesis (“E”) uses the Sumerian term “Elohim” for his version of “God.”
  3. The creator god sets rules for the minor gods in some instances, humans in others, to obey and in their disobedience, sends them away to “other” people.
  4. The Egyptian mythology, while fairly similar, differs from place to place yet has similar threads, until the creation of the single god, which mythology is abandoned on the death of Akhenaten but taken up by the Hebrews. 
  5. The conquering of the Near East by the Egyptians which happened at the time the Hebrews were beginning to settle in the region was the basis of the story of the conquering of the region by Joshua, which I’ll deal with in another later post.
  6. The exile of the Hebrews in Babylon and their exposure to details of the Babylonian religion, gave the Hebrews the basis of their own religion.
Why gods? 
What was the reason for the creation of gods, and what stimulated the need for gods? Why didn’t people merely follow their natural instinct to preserve the species, and to protect each other? 

The answer is a simple one: in every animal society, i.e. where animals live together in social groups, there is always one dominant member. Whether these are apes, elephants, lions or even ants. There is always one member of the group who decides where to settle, who is to hunt for food, and how the settlement is organised. 

Being able to explain how the particular god performed the creation was a way of gaining status in the society, especially if the person telling the story was also older than the people to whom the story was being told. Thus the elder of the tribe, the story teller became the priest and the wise person to whom all the people in the tribe deferred, and what better way to retain that deference than to claim an ability to talk to the gods? For this reason we see that all the story tellers or the main characters in the Old Testament are also old men, and why the patriarchs of today’s main religions are also mostly old men. 

Friday, 14 January 2011

And so it goes on...

My opponent wrote ... 
explain to me why it is so difficult for you to accept the existence of a god? I'm not talking about Allah or Yahweh or Zeus or any of those guys. I am also saying there is  no evidence for God's existence, but now the science remains, but you accept the inference for the existence of dark matter. Likewise I make the inference that there is a god. We can say dark matter exists, but it is difficult to explain the formation of galaxies, just as it is hard to explain the creation of the universe. To say the universe came from nothing is to believe in a miracle. I can understand that atheists have a problem understanding the existence of God. We know the universe had an origin and I think the last known physicist who denied it was Hoyle. We don’t know if God existed, but it is illogical that no time existed, as I explained above. Perhaps there is another kind of time and God created another god for all of eternity in the past but here we can apply Occam's razor and say there was only one God.
There is no explanation that any atheist can give that will convince someone who has their mind set on the idea of "God." I note that the other party to this debate mentions that he doesn't want to discuss "Allah" or "Yahweh" (Zeus is not a god of the Bible). Allah is the Arabic name for the god that Christians call God, as is the term "Yahweh" an Americanization of the letters contained in Genesis YWVH meaning "I am that I am" or the god who will not be named because saying his name in vain is the breaking of the second commandment. Thus when they speak of "God" they are in fact, speaking of the same God, who is also Allah, Yahweh and the mythical father of Jesus Christ.

Having cleared that up, why don't I believe in God? I would answer with a question, why don't you believe in Zeus?

He admits that there is no evidence for God's existence, then why should I waste my time believing in something that cannot be proved to exist. I'd rather believe in Santa Claus, at least I can see men in red outfits in the stores and on the street during December. There is therefore more likelihood that Santa exists,  at least when I ask him to bring me stuff, he actually does, which is more than "God" ever does.

To reply to the scientific questions. I am not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination, so here I will defer to people who do know, and I shall allow Wikipedia to do the explaining for me about both the “Big Bang” and “dark matter.”

I will, however, say the following:

Over the past six months, and having made to effort to learn more about the scientific explanations for the existence of our universe, I also made an effort to read the book of the religions that were ubiquitous in my childhood. My regular readers have seen the posts listed on the right, which I intend revising once this argument about God is over, with a view to compiling them into a book.

Nothing I read in the Bible, or any of the other material interpreting it for me, has altered my conclusion that it is merely another version of the mythology that existed in the Near East at the time that the Jewish people were forming their cultural identity. 

When something is inexplicable to ignorant people, (which I am sure not even my adversary in this debate will deny those early desert-dwellers were) using superstition, or gods, to explain it, is always the easiest answer. We can see this in most of the stories in the Bible. 

Yesterday, while looking at the images in the new broadcasts about the floods that were happening around the world in the past 24 hours. Australia, Brazil and Sri Lanka, all of which experienced unprecedented rainfall this week, I commented that climatologists are able to explain this phenomenon today, using the science that has evolved over centuries of research. This was not possible in the middle of the second millennium BCE, so the priests explained a flash flood by saying “God did it, to punish us for not worshipping him according to his laws,” and the people, who saw priests as the messengers of the gods, believed them. 

Isn’t it time that we threw this kind of stupidity away? Surely, because there is very little that cannot be explained scientifically, we should just assign the idea of the nasty old God of the Old Testament, and the horror of eating Jesus’ body and drinking his blood, albeit only symbolically, to the annals of history?

To close this discussion, I would like to respond to the person who claimed that numbers of church members and the belief in gods is increasing, I did some research for statistics. I found a few websites, which I link to below. 

My opponent is employing the fallacy of Argumentum ad populum (if many believe it, it must be true). I would again stress that the growing numbers could merely be attributed to the continued growth in the number of people on the planet and increasing longevity, and then ask him to show that the growth in church attendance correlates to the growth in population. In fact, the opposite is true, i.e. as the population numbers continue to growth, the percentages of church attendance fall.

A “Gallup Poll” done in early 2009 in the United States revealed that there was also a correlation between adherence to religion and illiteracy, in other words that the higher the rate of illiteracy, the higher the rate of church attendance.

This is not a scientific survey, but it is interesting to mention in light of the statistics above, which indicate that former Communist countries have the lowest rate of church attendance and countries like Nigeria, i.e. under-developed countries the highest rate. Developed countries are somewhere in the middle.

What does this mean? The indications are that the more educated people are, and the more developed their society, the less likely they are to believe in mythology and to attend social gatherings where their belief is reinforced by the handing over of a percentage of their income to people who continue to reinforce religion in order to take money from them. 

Notably, the most popular Abrahamic religion is still the Catholic Church and it is also the highest attended religion in the poorest nations. 

This is an indication that, as in the days of the Bible, the lower the level of education, and the higher the ignorance of matters scientific, the higher the level of superstition. Surely, rather than continuing to pull vast numbers of people towards religion, and thereby continuing to support ignorance, we ought to be removing religion from the equation and improving their literacy and level of scientific education.

This discussion is now closed. 
My future posts will return to the Bible and a review of some of my previous work.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

The saga of the atheist versus the theist continues...

This was what my theist antagonist replied to my last post:
...,you wrote: "May there continue to be a growth of atheism so that horrors like this shooting, 9/11 and the Holocaust can finally be put into the dark history of humankind, and, without religion, we can take steps to finally getting everychild on earth educated and put an end to poverty."
I can just laugh about what you wrote. Fact[sic] is that the Christian Faith is growing worldwide! Fact[sic] is, that atheists count for only 0,7% of the worlds[sic] population.
Atheism is the religion whose belief about God is that there is no God. Buddhism is the religion whose belief about God is that there need to be no God. (Nontheistic)
Christianity is the religion whose belief about God is that there is a God.
Fact[sic], Christianity is the biggest religion in the world and still growing, followed by Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.
Firstly, Mr Theist, the growth of Christianity is not a “fact,” what you are quoting are statistics taken off the top of your head for all I know. You do not lead me to any websites or research papers, therefore your “facts” are nothing but figures sucked out of your thumb. 

Secondly, as much as I joke about atheism being a religion, it does not fulfill the requirements for a religion. In the book, Sociology , Anthony Giddens, and Simon Griffiths describe religion using the definition of Durkheim (1965); Berger (1967) and Wuthnow (1988):
“...a cultural system of commonly shared beliefs and rituals that provides a sense of ultimate meaning and purpose by creating an idea of reality that is sacred, all-encompassing and supernatural...”
With three “key” elements: a form of culture (shared beliefs, values, norms and ideas with a common identity among a group of people); it involves ritualised practices; and provides a sense of purpose.
Now I defy you to find two atheists who, in their discourse, have all three elements in their association with each other. Not only that, what is supernatural about disbelief. This definition doesn't include the one thing that philosophers include in the definition, and that is a belief in a "supreme being."

So please will all you theists out there stop tarring us with the same brush, or I might just set myself up as the first woman to be the sole guardian of a religion, start demanding the same tax deductions that your organisations enjoy, and you really don’t want to be subjected to my brand of preaching.

My reply on the networking site continues as follows: 

On the contrary, while the numbers may be growing, the percentage of the world's population who are Christians is shrinking, and the numbers of Muslims are increasing (I apologise for the age of these statistics, I'm sure someone can point me to newer data):

Many Emails come from Christians who have the impression that Christianity is rapidly growing around the world and that the number of Christian adherents is steadily growing as a percentage of the world's total population. Christianity certainly is growing. Noted Christian author George Weigel notes that: "There were only 558 million Christians in the world in 1900 and there will be approximately 2 billion Christians by the middle of this year [2002], a huge increase." However, Christianity has been in a very slow decline for years as a percentage of world population. Weigel states: "...Christians were 34.5 percent of world population in 1900, and will be 33.1 percent in 2002." 
We receive many Emails from Muslims and Hindus who honestly believe that their religion is the largest in the world. The available data seems to indicate that they are wrong. However, at current rates of change, Islam will overtake Christianity as the world's dominant religion later in the 21st century.
This shows Mr Theist, in case you don’t understand real research, containing real data, that although it might appear that “Christianity is growing,” that growth is related to greater population growth. As an aside, that growth is thanks to atheist science that ensures that more children survive childhood and more people are living into old age. 
Then, a new atagonist joins the fray with this deeply thought-out comment:
Hitler was not a Christian
I want to explain to the new antagonist that she does not hold the right to decide what is and what isn’t a Christian, the quote I posted yesterday is evidence that Hitler was indeed a Christian every sense of the word.
Let’s use Wikipedia  to quote a definition for you:
A  Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic,monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings ofJesus of Nazareth. Christians believe Jesus is the Messiah (the Christ inGreek-derived terminology) prophesied in the Hebrew Bible, and the Son of God. Most Christians believe in the doctrine of the Trinity ("tri-unity"), a description of God asFather, as Son, and asHoly Spirit. This includesRoman Catholicism,Orthodox Christianity, and the vast majority of Protestantism. A minority are Nontrinitarians.
Of course when theists say that Hitler was “not a Christian” they are referring to the fact (and this is a fact, for the benefit of the first antagonist), that Hitler was also a mass murderer and that murder goes against the teachings of their god, Jesus.

Unfortunately, the people who invented Christianity and Christians all around the world are not a little averse to a bit of mass-killing themselves. Does anyone want me to open that can of worms? I’d be very happy to show instances of very-unChrist-like Christians for your benefit. Hitler was merely another in the line of people such as Tom├ís d’Torquemada, ,Christopher Columbus,  and a few others. If the people who owned slaves, are in favour of the death penalty, or abuse innocent children placed in their care, are Christians, then so is Adolf Hitler. As I said yesterday, I am heartily sick of this stupid canard. 
Whether Christianity is growing or not is irrelefant,[sic] it's only the true born-again Christian who will inherit eternity and forever will remain, the rest goes into the lake of fire
This fundamentalist “Christian” knows exactly what "God" thinks doesn’t she? She also believes in the nonsense contained in the Book of Revelation which defines women as “defilers.” I’ve never quite understood why women want to be party to the misogyny, abuse, subjugation, discrimination, undermining and intolerance against women that is contained in the supposed “Good Book.” But then they are so brainwashed and afraid of their men, that they’ve become incapable of thinking for themselves, so if their fathers, husbands, uncles, brothers, sons, teachers, preachers and Paul (a Jew by the way) say that they should subject themselves to being demeaned, and be thought of as defilers, they merely go along with it.

Then she goes on to quote “Matthew,” the arch liar, who, incapable of writing his own version of the Jesus story, plagiarised that written by “Mark” thereby opening the door to allowing other people to also write nonsense and claim it as “truth.”
Mat 7:14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
This antagonist should read a few other verses from Matthew the plagiarist:
Jesus is the god of “peace?” Apparently not:
Matthew 10 34-36 Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
He promotes the breaking up of families:
Matthew 10:21 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.
Matthew 19:29:And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.
Rather than take my word for it, read this website, if you really want to know about “Matthew” the liar. 
What always amazes me about the belief of these people is that they apply this dogma to only one aspect of their lives. They happily participate in, and use, everything that has been invented since the first century when most of this claptrap was written. Surely if you adhere to the belief system of the first century, then you should apply that century’s values to every part of your life. 

I don’t notice any Christians eschewing the technology that atheists and agnostics have invented for them. They happily drive to church in a new Mercedes Benz, always renewing their leases so that they have better models than their friends, dressed in designer outfits and they’ll pay for their children to be educated at universities.They will consult doctors to treat them when they are ill, the science of medicine is “God-given” according to them (except when it comes to issues like their children wanting a sex change). They have satellite television, cellphones, iPads and computers, all of which are the product of the evolution of science. How do they justify this hypocrisy? I would be interested to hear their explanation, as well as how it fits in with the idea of not “amassing wealth on this earth.”