Saturday, 14 November 2015

13 November 2015 in Paris

I woke up this morning to the shocking news of the events in Paris overnight.
A friend, who lives between her homes in the US and Paris, posted on Facebook that she was “not in Paris”. I wondered why she’d said that, so I googled “what’s happened in Paris” to read the shocking news of, at this stage, 153 people having been killed by terrorists.
Once again a group of religious fanatics have taken it upon themselves to attack and kill innocent people simply going about their lives, not even thinking about religion, just having a good time on a Friday night at the start of their winter.
I am sad. I have a family of children who love to travel, one of them having recently visited France with her father, so the risk of one of mine being caught in the middle of a fanatic’s attack is very real. I feel for the families of these young people, my heart goes out to the people of Paris.
Some people on “social media” are asking, “but what about Beirut,” “what about Pakistan”, what about the people who die every day in the Middle East?
This fundamentalist murderous inclination is a sickness that needs a cure. We know what is the cause of the sickness. It’s caused by religions steeped in the belief of a vengeful god, invented by desert dwellers at a time when knowledge of the world was limited to knowledge of their very small part of the earth, and fear of the unexplained was placed into the hands of this vengeful, murderous, misogynistic god who also hated children.
This belief leads to the people who close their minds to the greater world, and the knowledge we have to explain everything their ancestors, 3,000 years ago didn’t understand, remaining within the comfort of their belief for reasons only they can explain. I think the reasons are that through the lack of secular education in their world, they actually believe in the promises of rewards in the afterlife. Whatever those rewards are, whether they are countless virgins to rape, or being returned to the land promised to them by their murderous god, they truly believe that those rewards will come to them. Why else would someone strap a bomb to their chest to die, while yelling out “God is great!”?
But what about the innocents in their own countries who are either killed by fundamentalists or who lose children, and family members to the insanity? Should I not feel sad about them, about the refugees who are fleeing the insanity to go to the west for safety? Of course I feel sad for them. Of course I would like their pain to end, for them to be able live freely in their home countries without the threat of their lives, and those of their children being taken by fanatics. Feeling sad about Paris today does not mean that I don't feel for the family of the child who dies by falling off a raft while trying to escape the violence at home.
The solution is a simple one. Religion has to become a private matter, something we do in the privacy of our own homes and not in public. The only way to stop the insanity is to remove religion from public life, ALL religion. Not only the fanatics, but all religion, even the mild forms of it.
I’m not saying that I want everyone to drop their firmly-held beliefs in whatever it is they believe in, I just want it to be private. Turn all churches and places of worship into schools. Remove all the clerics from public office, put them on retirement, and make the younger ones teach “mythology” at the previous churches, and in that teaching, they should be made to teach the tenets of all religions as part of the mythology teaching, including their own mythology and those of ancient times, until they all become old enough to retire and people are no longer interested in learning about mythology, preferring more valuable studies instead.
While we’re removing religion, let us also remove the people who see themselves as having been placed over us by their deities. Let’s force kings and princes, and "defenders of the faith” be made to work at jobs outside of their palaces. Turn their palaces into places of education too.
The philosopher Denis Diderot famously said: “man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” This is metaphorically speaking of course. I don’t want kings and priests to be violently removed, I want to see them relegated to the past. Organised religion, the belief in “divine rights”, mythological beings dictating that people who worship differently should be put to death, are an anachronism. They do not belong in a world where most people want all wars to end. That will not happen until we do away with organised religion and the ideologies they foster.
Children will not die, young people will not be sent to fight wars, and they won’t strap bombs to their chests,  if they don’t have outdated reasons for them to do so.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

The Books of the Apocrypha

Like most ordinary people who simply reject the idea of God, and the need for religion, I thought that all I needed to do to become more informed about Judeo-Christian religion, would be to “read the Bible” as I was so urgently encouraged to do by someone I debated on the internet, in 2009.

This blog site contains my journey through the pages of the King James Version of the Old and New Testaments, the reading of which caused me to embark on a long period of writing about what I discovered. In the process I became something of a biblical scholar.

However, my knowledge of the Bible would not be complete without having read what was not included in the version I was reading.

To complete this knowledge, it is now necessary to give attention to the Apocrypha: that set of books that were deemed by some versions of Christianity, and Judaism, to not have been inspired by God, and therefore not worthy of being included in the Jewish Tanakh, or the Protestant Bible. In this week, I have learnt that the Bible given to me in childhood, by my Jewish father, was that supported by the religion of my Christian mother, not the complete set of works contained in the other forms of Christianity’s Bibles.

This has now sparked a new book. 

In this one, I have a short overview of why the books were not included, and the history of their inclusion, or being discarded, and then commentary on all the books, with observations about how their inclusion either influences a religion, or why it would change the way people worship if it were included.

My conclusion from having researched these books, and a search for a complete anthology of both the Old and New Testament Apocrypha or pseudographia is that if the Bible, the Holy Bible were inspired by God, then why do some religions discard some or all of the books (the reason being they deem them to be uninspired), if these believers all worship the same God? Surely if God is all-powerful, all-knowing, unchanging, and able to inspire people to write, he would have made sure that they have everything he has to say to them. Also he would have known that some of the writing was going to be discarded, so why did some people not discard that writing if God didn’t inspire the people who do discard them to throw them out?

This only shows that God was created by humans for whichever reason they created him - mostly to control other humans. It is another nail in the coffin of the god of Judeo-Christian religion. If he does indeed exist, then it is even more important for people who believe he does, to provide evidence for his existence. For me, this discovery has only deepened my disbelief in his existence. 

Saturday, 31 October 2015

The Apocrypha

The Apocrypha

This definition of the word is taken from Wikipedia:
Apocrypha are works, usually written works, that are of unknown authorship, or of doubtful authenticity, or spurious, or not considered to be within a particular canon. The word is properly treated as a plural, but in common usage is often singular.In the context of the Jewish and Christian Bibles, where most texts are of unknown authorship, Apocrypha usually refers to a set of texts included in the Septuagint but not in the Hebrew Bible.
The word's origin is the Medieval Latin adjective apocryphus, "secret, or non-canonical", from the Greek adjective ἀπόκρυφος (apokryphos), "obscure", from the verb ἀποκρύπτειν (apokryptein), "to hide away”. 
In other words, for the context of this brief essay, it means “the set of books not included in the Bible, and deemed to be “not-inspired by God” or “heretical”, or, as claimed by Martin Luther, they are not be be regarded as equal to the “holy scriptures”, but still worth reading.
 King James Bible online gives the following definition:
The apocrypha is a selection of books which were published in the original 1611 King James Bible. These apocryphal books were positioned between the Old and New Testament (it also contained maps and geneologies). The apocrypha was a part of the KJV for 274 years until being removed in 1885 A.D. A portion of these books were called deuterocanonical books by some entities, such as the Catholic church.
 Many claim the apocrypha should never have been included in the first place, raising doubt about its validity and believing it was not God-inspired (for instance, a reference about magic seems inconsistent with the rest of the Bible: Tobit chapter 6, verses 5-8). Others believe it is valid and that it should never have been removed- that it was considered part of the Bible for nearly 2,000 years before it was recently removed a little more than 100 years ago. 
These books…

1 Edras
2 Edra
Tobit
Judith 
Additions to Esther
Wisdom of Solomon
Ecclesiasticus
Baruch
Letter of Jeremiah
Prayer of Azariah
Susanna
Bel and the Dragon
1 Maccabees
2 Maccabees

…give extra insight into the minds of the people who wrote the Bible, I agree they are worth reading, and I intend to do that, and to make an analysis of them from that reading.
For the purposes of this short essay, however, it is necessary to point out that the Bible we use today, the version that is handed out by the Gideons, and that is freely available for purchase in book stores, does not contain everything written in the last century before the current era (BCE), and the first two centuries of our dating system (CE). 
Our religious teachers would have us believe that the “Holy Bible” is the complete work of identified writers, i.e. writers identified by the people who are behind the support of Judeo-Christian religion, and that it is the “inspired” work of God. In other words, the writers were merely tools in the hands of the deity who spoke to them, telling them to write his words.
Looking at how different religions compile their various handouts, one can see that if this work were truly “inspired” then it wouldn’t contain contradictions, and it also would be complete, which it isn’t. For instance the Hebrew Bible does not contain the New Testament. The reason for this is that Jewish religion does not support Jesus and his story as valid, therefore they deem him merely a “prophet” and not the Messiah, although some Jewish people admit that Christianity is based on Judaism.
The pages of the New Testament clearly follow the framework of Judaism. The first four books, the gospels, addressed a Jewish audience. They echoed the pattern of historical narratives interspersed with instruction found in the Torah. "The controversies between Jesus and the Scribes/Pharisees have no referent outside the community of Israel; Jesus' preaching of the coming kingdom could have had meaning only for Jews; the synagogues in which Jesus reads from the prophets, heals the sick, and forgives sins are Jewish houses of worship for believing Jews and not unconverted gentiles.…"7 The Jewish festivals that are celebrated throughout the pages of the New Testament were not feasts of interest to the gentiles but were part of the daily life of the Jewish people.
To explain further about the exclusion of some books from the “Holy Bible” I quote from the page on “The Old Testament Canon and Apocrypha” on the Bible Research website:
The extra books which were eventually received as Scripture in the Greek Orthodox church and those received in the Roman Catholic church do not correspond exactly to the list of books commonly called "Apocrypha" by Protestants. The Protestant Apocrypha includes all of the books normally included in manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate. But three of these (1 and 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh) were omitted from the list published by the Council of Trent when it fixed the Roman Catholic canon. (Apparently these omissions were unintentional. The "Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures" specified that the books were to be recieved "as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate.") The Eastern Orthodox churches (including the Greek, the Russian, the Ukrainian, the Bulgarian, the Serbian, the Armenian, and others) do not receive 2 Esdras because it was not in the Septuagint, and they receive some books which were present in many manuscripts of the Septuagint but not in the Vulgate (Psalm 151, 3 and 4 Maccabees).
(For a full list of the books contained in the various versions of Judaeo-Christian religion, see the lists and summaries contained here.

In conclusion therefore, the Bible I have been reading in my attempt to understand the belief in God, and that has been the subject of almost seven years of study, is not the complete text written for the purposes of conveying the idea of the single-creator, all-powerful, all-knowing deity known as “God”. It is merely a selection of works, chosen perhaps as a summary of all the works. I doubt that the original compilers believed that their compilation would remain the best-selling book in the history of the world’s book, several hundred years after their assembly.

Or perhaps Christians of the middle second millennium CE truly believed that Jesus would return to rapture humans to heaven, before they became clever enough to create technology that would allow even an ordinary person, like myself, to discover what I deem to be a misrepresentation.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

The Book of Genesis

Having completed the overview of the entire King James Version of the “Holy Bible”, I have embarked on a verse-by-verse analysis of each of the books in the anthology.

The Book of Genesis, as most people are aware, deals with the origins of the Jewish people, and through their descendants, claims that all people are descended through the lines of the children of Noah. 

Through the genealogies in the endless chapters of “begats”, it adds up the years of the lives of these patriarchs precisely to fit the run up to the arrival of the twelve tribes of Israel in the middle of the second millennium BCE, and leads up to the death of Joseph.

It explains how Abraham travelled to Egypt, supposedly to find food in a famine, but in reality to collect a handmaid for his wife, Sarah, a woman named Hagar, who was to become the mother of the Arab people through her son, Ishmael, whose own offspring interbred with the grandson of Abraham, Esau, to cement the relationship between the people of the Near East.

There are threads that run throughout the narrative: the number forty for instance, and the sibling rivalry in each generation, with a dubious contender always winning out to become the next in the line that runs from Adam to Jesus.

Abraham, for example, marries his half-sister, then, twice, sells her to collect wealth in the form of livestock. He is also prepared to slaughter his son because his god asks this of him, in blind obedience, having faith that God will find a way to fulfil his promise of Abraham’s seed being as grains of sand. 

The story of Joseph and his abduction after the horrible tale of the slaughter of the men of Shechem, and then later in Egypt learning that he has another brother, but that his mother died in giving birth to him, continues through the games he plays with his brothers in order for them to agree to bring his father, and young brother to him in Egypt.

There’s the one about Lot escaping from Sodom, and how he fathered two sons on his own daughters, who became the forefathers of the Moabites and the Ammonites.

The story of Joseph’s dream interpretations appear to be a rehash of the story of Daniel interpreting dreams in Babylon, which makes the whole saga of the Hebrews in Egypt a myth based on their experience as hostages to that nation, in the first millennium BCE.

In all, my impression of Genesis is that it is the most detailed mythology of any people that has survived into modern times. It reads like any other mythology, but what I find most impressive is the amount of detail, and the complex way characters are woven into the stories in order to place them in their position in the genealogy lines. It is also interesting how dates are calculated exactly so that events fit into the appropriate position in world history, even though lifespans are exaggerated to make the fit work. 

Given that the stories were handed down by oral tradition, until they were written down and compiled into a single “book”, the story-telling is fairly advanced. Considering the level, or lack, of education of the average person. It shows fairly high-level reasoning ability in the writers, something one would not expect from people who lived when writing was still being fine-tuned. 

The book ends with the death of Joseph, leading into the story of Moses, and the exodus from Egypt. More on that in my next post.

Rationalising the Bible - Book 1 is in the final stages of editing, it will be available as an e-book early in 2016.

Book 2 - The Book of Genesis, is in the first stages of editing, essays detailing some of the subjects in the book, will be published online, the book itself will be available as an ebook later in 2016.

 

 

Saturday, 13 June 2015

The accusation that atheists are pro-abortion

Abortion is a contentious topic of conversation between theists and atheists.

Margaret Sanger (1879-1966), was an American birth control activist who advocated for the right of women to have control over their own reproduction. She coined the term “birth control.” She left the US because of their obscenity laws that forbade the discussion of reproductive matters outside of a person’s private dwelling. 

She had one “basic principle” that “every child should be a wanted child,”  and because she believed that women prefer to choose the children they have, and with whom they have them, she was labelled as being in favour of “eugenics.”

With birth control in mind, and because most atheists encourage this philosophy, the idea that someone might be “pro-choice,” the words the theist hears is “pro-abortion.”

This is simply not true. Most atheists who are pro-choice are also against the death penalty. “Pro-life” should mean “for all life,” including that of the worst serial killers, and despots. Unfortunately this is not the case. The majority of people who shout about how abortion “kills babies” are usually also be the the ones waiting outside prisons where a serial killer is about to be murdered by the state, claiming “justice.” What if the justice is being meted out to someone who was protected against abortion previously when they were picketing outside abortion clinics?

What does “pro-choice” mean? It is, very simply put, giving a woman the right to decide for herself, what to do with her own body. This right of choice includes being able to make the decision without input from the father who may or may not want the potential child. 

That sounds a little harsh but it is ultimately her body. She should make the decision about whether or not she wants to harbour another person in her body and spend the next two decades taking care of someone she may not want in her life. 

What does being “pro-abortion” mean? This is an aspect of being pro-choice but with the added element of being in favour of abortion in all circumstances where the question may come up.

Being pro-choice does not imply that the outsider who is looking on, and who is not personally involved in situation feels that they have a right to tell the pregnant woman what to do. This is the stance of the anti-abortion group.

Anti-abortionists believe that what other people do with their bodies is the business of the person who may even be on the other side of the world, and may not even know the potential mother personally. These people imagine they have the right to demand that every woman give birth, no matter what the circumstances of the conception, the health of the foetus, or the situation of the family. People like the late Mother Teresa, and Mahatma Gandhi,  and the Vatican.  

The two people mentioned above, Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi, were both more than aware of the problem of over-population in India. Their solution to the problem: abstinence, and putting unwanted children into orphanages. Both are held up as role models to society, and hailed as “saints.” They were “saints” who denied that sex was a natural drive in humans, as much as it is in all animals, and also that over-population was a problem easily solved by birth control.

There is really no need to elaborate on the position of the Catholic Church on both abortion and birth control. It is generally-known that all popes, since birth control was freely available, have opposed it, and advised abstinence instead. 

This is also the position of fundamentalist religions everywhere. They deny that sex is pleasurable simply because if it wasn’t we wouldn’t do it, but that it’s something to be ashamed of and to be held back unless the desire is to “make a baby.” 

Despite all their protestations about how “sinful” pleasurable sex is, their adherents continue to procreate in vast numbers, leading to the problems we now face with too many people and not enough food.

Is there a case for abortion?  There may be a case for abortion that even those who are pro-choice for others, but not for themselves may consider having an abortion. These may be in the case of rape, or incest, or severe problem with the foetus. For example if the foetus is developing normally but will die shortly after birth due to brain or other insufficiency, someone who may otherwise not choose abortion, may consider aborting the foetus rather than to go through the trauma of birth and milk production when the chances of the child living through its first day are slim. The point is that this should be the choice of the individual involved. It should not be decided by governments or outsiders picketing a clinic.

My personal opinion on abortion is not important. I cannot make choices for other people. I don’t set myself up as the decider of what other people should do with their lives. However to say that I am “in favour” of abortion in a fallacy. I’ve never had to make that choice for myself. I hope that if I had had to to so, my choice would have been in the best interests of my own life, and those of any any other children I might have had.  

However, having said that, as an atheist and a vegan, I believe that all life has value, including the unborn, and that young life has more value than life already lived. 

Since life is of supreme value (if anything has value), life comes first. To deny this argument you have to argue that a very specific biomass (weight of biological cells) does or does not have moral value; or; you have to argue, as I often do, that nothing in fact has moral value. Whether anything does in fact have moral value is a separate argument.  John Ostrowick.

Where a pregnancy was caused by incest; excessive maternal age (Downs); in association with thalidomide; foetal alcohol syndrome; other major drug abuses, which would cause retardation or physical deformity, I believe there is still an argument to be made for all life having value.

David Benatar, a Professor, at the University of Cape Town, is an atheist and thinks that abortion is mandatory and always ought to be performed in all cases since life is mostly suffering and therefore giving birth is to impose a life of suffering on a creature which did not ask to be born. His view is called anti-natalism and it is articulated in his book Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence

As I said earlier, as a humanist, and a vegan, I disagree with Benatar’s thesis. I do believe that abortion should only be performed in the most extreme cases where there is no hope whatsoever for the child to have a fully-actualised life. I repeat what I said earlier, what other people choose to do with their lives, is not my business.

John Ostrowick, referred to earlier, says:

On whether a woman should have an abortion if pregnant as a result of rape, future issues come up, e.g. that a woman might emotionally or physically abuse a baby born to a rapist on the grounds that she didn’t want it and therefore resents its inconvenient existence. In such a case, I feel that she is in the wrong and is an abuser, no better than her rapist. Convenience DOES NOT outweigh moral value of life, it is completely unacceptable, and rather than having abortions, women should opt for sterilisation or implanted contraceptives (“the loop”) instead.

I recognise that abortion as a social control measure (statistically, epidemiologically) allows for lower birth rates in low-income and low-education groups. And that this results in fewer future criminals being born, since most criminals come from poor families. However, I find this sinister, Macchiavellian, and downright eugenicist; it’s basically eugenics against the poor. I think that the solution is prevention: that is, not abstention, but education, upliftment, etc. The reason we have criminals is poverty, not childbirth.

John Ostrowick is not only pro-life in all cases, but he is also an atheist.

Thus it may be seen that while I support the right to choose, I definitely do not support the idea of abortion as a method of birth control. Just as I do not support the death penalty for felons, I believe that life is valuable, to be treasured, and people should be able to live in such a way that they may achieve fulfilment from this, the only life they will have.

However, I fully support the decision an individual woman makes about her own body. I do not believe that anyone, other than the people immediately involved in the decision, should be allowed to influence that decision, and that the medical profession should allow for the person making the decision to be able to carry out her decision with the best possible medical care.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Despots and atheism


Following on the subject of where atheists get their morality, the claim is often made that some of the world’s worst dictators, and criminals were atheists, for instance Adolf Hitler, and that their atheism was the cause of their despicable acts.
Michael Sherlock calls this the “atheist atrocities fallacy.” 
The atheist atrocities fallacy is a multifaceted and multidimensional monster, comprised of a cocktail of illogically contrived arguments.  It is, at its core, a tu quoque fallacy, employed to deflect justified charges of religious violence, by erroneously charging atheism with similar, if not worse, conduct.  But it is much more than this, for within its tangled and mangled edifice can be found the false analogy fallacy, the poisoning of the well fallacy, the false cause fallacy, and even an implied slippery slope fallacy.
Arguments by analogy rest on a comparison. Their logical structure is this:
(1) A and B are similar.
(2) A has a certain characteristic.
Therefore:
(3) B must have that characteristic too.
To poison the well is to commit a pre-emptive ad hominem strike against an argumentative opponent. As with regular ad hominems, the well may be poisoned in either an abusive or circumstantial way. For instance:
  1. "Only an ignoramus would disagree with fluoridating water." (Abusive)
  2. “My opponent is a dentist, so of course he will oppose the fluoridating of water, since he will lose business." (Circumstantial)
Slippery slope arguments falsely assume that one thing must lead to another. They begin by suggesting that if we do one thing then that will lead to another, and before we know it we’ll be doing something that we don’t want to do. They conclude that we therefore shouldn’t do the first thing. The problem with these arguments is that it is possible to do the first thing that they mention without going on to do the other things; restraint is possible.
Thus Sherlock is saying that when theists use the “mass murderers were atheists” argument, they are saying that an atheist is the same as a murderer because they both don’t believe in God; that because someone doesn’t believe in God, they are likely to commit atrocities; possibly even that atheism will lead to people committing mass murder.
This is simply not true, it is demonstrated with figures of the religiousness of people in the world’s prisons, and, if religion is all that is stopping someone from committing mass murder, then they are already a mass murderer because they are not controlling themselves, but depending on their religion to control them. 
Here are a few examples
The third President of Uganda (1971-1979), his rule was characterised by political repression, persecution, killing, nepotism, corruption, and various human rights abuses. The death toll attributed to him ranges from 100,000 to 500,000 people. 
Contrary to the idea that Amin was an atheist, he was a member of two religions in his lifetime:
He was born into Roman Catholicism but his father converted to Islam in 1919, changing his name from Andreas Nyabire, (1889-1976) to Amin Dada, and named his son after him.
Amin was educated at an Islamic school in Bombo, Uganda, in 1641, leaving with no more than a fourth-grade English language education.
Another claim made against atheism, is that communists are atheist, and therefore their crimes can be attributed to their atheism.
I’m not talking about socialism, which is something completely different from totalitarian-type communism. Socialism is the political ideology that advocates the ownership of society’s benefits by all members of that society, and it’s not a bad thing, but also not the subject of this discussion.
Communism of the sort that Brezhnev et al practised, is similar but distribution is to each person according to his/her needs, and forbids private ownership of any material goods, with everything the property of the state. Worship of a deity is changed to the worship of the Soviet, i.e. the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. This is not atheism, which is merely the disbelief in the existence of gods.
Stalin was one of the revolutionaries of the Russian Revolution of 1917. He was appointed General Secretary of the Central Committee in 1922, and after the death of Lenin, expanded the functions of this position, eliminating opposition. He remained in this position for the rest of his life, stepping down in the year before his death. 
Under his rule, millions of people were incarcerated in labour camps, and between 1934 and 1939, organised a “great purge” of dissidents, mostly intelligence, from government, and the armed forces.
The “cult of personality.” developed under Stalin. Numerous towns, cities, and villages were renamed eponymously, and he was awarded grand titles” “Coryphaeus of Science, Father of Nations, Brilliant Genius of Humanity, Great Architect of Communism, Gardener of Human Happiness” and “helped rewrite Soviet history to provide himself a more significant role in the revolution of 1917.
Hitler’s history is not important here. His atrocities are well-known. The claim that he was an atheist is merely false because there is ample evidence that he was a Christian, and a member of the Roman Catholic Church. I shall merely quote some of his own words as evidence that he was not an atheist.

It doesn't dawn on this depraved bourgeois world that this is positively a sin against all reason; that it is criminal lunacy to keep on drilling a born half-ape until people think they have made a lawyer out of him, while millions of members of the highest culture-race must remain in entirely unworthy positions; that it is a sin against the will of the Eternal Creator if His most gifted beings by the hundreds and hundreds of thousands are allowed to degenerate in the present proletarian morass, while Hottentots and Zulu Kaffirs are trained for intellectual professions.  - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf Vol. 2 Chapter 2
That this is possible may not be denied in a world where hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people voluntarily submit to celibacy, obligated and bound by nothing except the injunction of the Church. Should the same renunciation not be possible if this injunction is replaced by the admonition finally to put an end to the constant and continuous original sin of racial poisoning, and to give the Almighty Creator beings such as He Himself created?  - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf Vol. 2 Chapter 2
To do justice to God and our own conscience, we have turned once more to the German Volk.  - Adolf Hitler in speech about the need for a moral regeneration of German, February 10, 1933
May divine providence bless us with enough courage and enough determination to perceive within ourselves this holy German space.  - Adolf Hitler, Speech, March 24, 1933
I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord's work.  - Adolf Hitler, Speech, Reichstag, 1936
The Catholic Church should not deceive herself: if National Socialism does not succeed in defeating Bolshevism, then Church and Christianity in Europe too are finished. Bolshevism is the mortal enemy of the Church as much as of Fascism. ...Man cannot exist without belief in God. The soldier who for three and four days lies under intense bombardment needs a religious prop. - Adolf Hitler in conversation with Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber of Bavaria, November 4, 1936.
I do not think that any more need be said.
To conclude, I quote further from Sherlock’s essay on the “Atheist Atrocities Fallacy,”
The atheist atrocities fallacy is a multifaceted and multidimensional monster, comprised of a cocktail of illogically contrived arguments…This is precisely how Christian apologists employ the atheist atrocities fallacy…But it is much more than this, for within its tangled and mangled edifice can be found the false analogy fallacy, the poisoning of the well fallacy, the false cause fallacy, and even an implied slippery slope fallacy.
When someone presents adverse information about, or associates unfavourable characters, characteristics or qualities with, a targeted person, or in this case, worldview (atheism), with the intention of undermining it, this is known as poisoning the well.  “Stalin was an atheist, therefore atheism is dangerous.”  By associating atheism with these villains of history, the religious apologist is attempting to throw an unjustified negative light on atheism.

To claim that any of the men mentioned behaved the way they did because they didn’t believe in God is amply demonstrated to be false. By contrast, I’ll link to a news  item which mentions today’s greatest philanthropists. What they have in common, is that they are all, without exception, also atheists. 

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Where do atheists get their morality?

 

This is usually the first question asked when you come out as an atheist. If believing in God is what is stopping you from committing murder, stealing your neighbour’s ass, his wife, or the balance in your company’s bank account, then you have a pretty bad idea of what morality is.

Oxford Dictionary defines it as: 

principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behaviour;

and

a particular system of values and principles of conduct.

Wikipedia says:

Morality (from the Latin moralitas "manner, character, proper behavior") is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good or right and those that are bad or wrong. Morality can be a body of standards or principles derived from a code of conduct from a particular philosophy, religion, or culture, or it can derive from a standard that a person believes should be universal.Morality may also be specifically synonymous with "goodness" or “rightness."

Christian Apologetics describe it as:

…the distinction between right and wrong. It is the determination of what should be done and what should not be done. Morals deal with behaviors as well as motives.

I think that most of us understand morality to be that which is right, and which serves to further positive outcomes for our society. This seems to be what the definitions imply:

  1. The distinction between right and wrong;
  2. A system of values;
  3. Intentions, decisions, and actions that are good and right.
  4. What should and what should not be done.

Where exactly do God and the laws of the Bible come into this? And how do people who belong to religions other than those of the Bible, or people who haven’t heard of Judeo-Christian religions know what is right and what is wrong?

Paul's Epistle to the Romans says:

Romans 2:12-16    For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

Thus even Paul, when writing to the Romans, acknowledges that people are able to be moral without “knowledge of the law.”

Conservapedia, a conservative religious website that mirrors Wikipedia claims that the “immorality of atheism” leads to hedonism:

If God does not exist, shouldn’t atheists just relax and seek a good time before they become plant food? Why should it matter if people believe in God? Nothing matters if atheism is true.

The website quotes Aldous Huxley, saying:

“I had motive for not wanting the world to have a meaning … the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.”1

 

Like Huxley, some people don’t like God because they don’t like moral constraints—you can make up your own rules, or have none at all, if God does not exist. They hate God and Christians because they are actually not confident that God does not exist and seeing Christians may remind them that they are ‘suppressing the truth’ (Romans 1:18).

There are issues with this statement. Firstly, atheism is neither “true” nor “false.” It isn’t a philosophy, or a belief system. It is a non-belief. Therefore the same rules of behaviour apply to atheists as they do to theists. The only difference being that people who do not believe in God or the afterlife, do not seek a reward. They obey the rules because it is the right thing to do. 

Secondly, the claim that nothing matters. This is simply false. Everything matters, morality, or obeying the rules of society does matter as Richard Dawkins explains, in The God Delusion,

There are indeed many circumstances in which survival of the individual organism will favour the survival of the genes that ride inside it…There are circumstances…in which genes ensure their own selfish survival by influencing organisms to behave altruistically.

Thus, morality, or altruism, is necessary for the survival of the individual. To behave “immorally,” or against the moral code of our society, will not ensure the future of that society. You can’t be successful if you spend your life in prison.

Dawkins calls this “reciprocal altruism” saying that it is the “principle behind trade and barter.” Of course, it makes complete sense. If we deny other humans their share of our resources, and take all the resources for ourselves, not only do we lay ourselves open to negative outcomes from the deprived group, but we also reduce our chances of successfully passing on our genes if the rest of our society should disappear due to lack of resources. Thus reciprocity is a moral value, something we do, and something that is necessary for the survival of our species. 

He summarises Darwinian behaviour as “good reasons” for “moral” behaviour: genetic kinship, reciprocity, anticipation of payback, and generosity as buying “advertising.” He claims our morality is hard-wired into us by evolution: “Darwinian,”  demonstrating that our natural inclination is to behave morally, not because we fear punishment, or because the law expects moral behaviour, but because it is good for the perpetuation of our species.

In short, we are moral animals, and evolved to be that way, because it ensures the perpetuation of our species. We do not need ancient holy books to teach us morality. It evolved with us as we travelled along the road of evolution from ape to human.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Do atheists hate God

Ray Comfort, employing the logical fallacy of “analogical inference” says,

Atheists don't hate fairies, leprechauns, or unicorns because they don't exist. It is impossible to hate something that doesn't exist. Atheists, like the painting experts hated the painter, hate God because He does exist.

He sees the shared properties of a critic hating a work of art, and an atheist hating the violence in the Old Testament, and makes an inference that because the critic may “hate “ the artist, it should follow that the atheist must “hate” God.

CS Lewis, the author of several rather fun children’s stories says, that even though an atheist doesn’t believe God exists, we nevertheless hate him.

I think “hate” is a very strong emotion to express about something, or someone, that doesn’t exist. 

With this accusation that “atheists hate God” they add that atheists are “angry” at God, and that we want to take away their religion.

Christian apologetic sites tend to support this claim, so I’ll quote them, then rebut their arguments.

Christianity Today admits that Christians often hate God.

Speaking of being fair, let's. I wonder if our fascination with atheism is well-focused. If Lent, the season we are currently slogging through, reminds us of anything, it reminds us that Christians are often practicing atheists. As I said, philosophical atheists cannot hate God. Christians, on the other hand, know God exists and therefore can and do hate him. One thing you do with persons you hate is pretend like they don't exist.

“Christians are often practicing atheists?” and then the writer goes on to admit that “Christians know God exists and therefore can and do hate him.” 

With that sentence, the writer is making my argument for me. I don’t know that God exists, I also don’t know that he doesn’t exist. I simply don’t believe that he exists, therefore I am indifferent to him. I neither hate nor like him. How can I? I can only feel emotion towards something I know to exist. To me God is merely a character in the Bible. Not a very nice character, but I don’t invest emotion in fiction.

The writer continues:

We dutifully say our prayers in the morning, but then go about the day hardly giving God a thought, making decisions and engaging the day as if we had left him at home. At the end of a whirlwind day, we fall exhausted into bed, and, if we are particularly devout, we offer up another prayer. But the picture at the center of this prayer-framed life is often blank.Take simple moral choices. Jesus tells us not to lust. But that doesn't stop the occasional peek at porn. We are told to speak the truth in love, and yet we tell so many white lies, we need an Excel sheet to keep track. We know we should turn the other cheek, but we delight in imagining rituals of revenge.There are unconscious sins — the thoughtless word or angry gesture that comes out of nowhere. But then there are the deliberate sins: we have a moment to ponder our duty, which lies clearly before us. No question what God is calling us to do. And we do the opposite.If this isn't a form of atheism, even of hating God, I don't know what is. No wonder Jesus uses stark language to describe faith: We either hate Jesus (John 15:23-24) or we hate ourselves (John 12:25). That's what it comes down to. And we often know who "our first hate" is.

I understand what he is saying. He seems to think that all it takes to be an atheist is to behave as if God doesn’t exist. This is very strange. And it’s wrong.

Personally, I don’t think about God unless I’m writing something about religion. God has about as much influence in my life as any character in any book - he’s only relevant when I’m analysing Bible verses, or having a discussion about the Bible on the internet. I don’t become a believer when I do this, I’m still an atheist. 

Another creationist website, Creation Ministries claims the following, 

Many express a strong hatred of God. I have been at a loss to explain this. How can you hate someone you don’t believe in? Why the hostility? If God does not exist, shouldn’t atheists just relax and seek a good time before they become plant food? Why should it matter if people believe in God? Nothing matters if atheism is true.

He makes my point. I can’t hate something that I don’t believe exists, then he continues with:

Aldous Huxley (1894–1963), the brother of the atheistic evolutionist Sir Julian Huxley, advocated a drug-fuelled utopia. He gave the reason for his anti-Christian stance: “I had motive for not wanting the world to have a meaning … the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.”1Like Huxley, some people don’t like God because they don’t like moral constraints—you can make up your own rules, or have none at all, if God does not exist. They hate God and Christians because they are actually not confident that God does not exist and seeing Christians may remind them that they are ‘suppressing the truth’ (Romans 1:18).

I shall deal with the question of morality in another post.

"The world" has a lot of meaning to me. I have made meaning in my life. I have become educated, I have a wonderfully happy marriage, successful and happy children, intelligent and fun grandchildren, a pet, and loads of other pleasures that make every day worthwhile. I take care of my health, exercise regularly, keep my weight down, have regular checkups, all because I want meaning in my life. I don’t need religion, or a crutch to give value to my life. It has more value than I need. 

I also don't hate Christians, and a certainly don’t want to tell someone else not to practise their religion if it makes them happy, as he claims here:

What about atheists who had a church/religious upbringing? Some of them hate God because of evil things done to them by teachers in religious schools or by church leaders—people who on the face of it represented God. Antipathy towards God is an understandable reaction, sadly (although illogical).

Of course that’s illogical. I had horrible teachers, and I had wonderful teachers. Some were cruel, and unkind, but they were out of my life long before I made the decision to stop attending church. That decision was made after weighing up the value of religion, and finding none, my decision had nothing to do with my teachers.

Many complain about hell; they are angry at God because of hell. I understand that teachers in certain church-based schools, and parents in some ‘religious’ homes, commonly used the ‘fear of God’ to make children behave. “You are bad; you will burn in hell if you don’t behave.” But such a simplistic works-oriented approach not only trivializes this most serious of subjects, it negates the Gospel of God’s grace. (We are all ‘bad’ in God’s eyes, and ‘behaving properly’ will not save us—only Jesus can.)

This threat didn’t make me behave any better, nor did it cause me to “hate” God. Also the idea that Jesus was going to save me if I was better behaved, didn’t influence my behaviour either way. Children do the things that children do. Telling them about burning in hell is child abuse. I don’t agree with abusing children.

A child who is having difficulties may well conclude that there is no way out for them, leading to years of nightmares about suffering in hell. Such a troubled teenager hearing an atheist say that evolution explains how we got here and that God is a myth could find this to be a liberating message, a release from their fears.

This is too simplistic. Teaching children about evolution doesn’t turn them away from religion, education and reading the Bible possibly will. 

Although most of my friends are atheists, and I frequent atheist discussion forums, I cannot see into the minds of other people. We don’t have a church that we attend, with preachers telling us what to think, or books dictating how we should think, so any opinions that we express will be from our own perspective, supported with well-researched and documented evidence. 

In my opinion when apologists accuse us of “hating” God, they’re conflating the character “God” in the Bible with what they believe to be a real being. Atheists may hate the character because of his personality traits, but they do not hate a being that they don’t believe exists.

When it comes to “taking away” religion, atheists mostly want to see it removed from public discourse, but we have no control over what people do in the privacy of their own homes. Therefore the idea that we “want to take away their religion” is nonsense.

The Friendly Atheist says, in his video:

Believe it or not, I don't hate God. I just don't think God exists. 

He also says about the claim that atheists are against people of faith, or even “hate” them:

That's not the case. I love the truth more than I disagree with your God. It's my goal to try to prove that things are mostly natural, and there really isn't anything out there that's supernatural, that's criticism.I might be upset at the way people go about handling their religious belief, but I don't hate God. I just don't believe God exists, just like I don't hate Santa Claus and I don't hate the Flying Spaghetti Monster.Just because I don't believe in your God it doesn't mean I hate your God, There's just no evidence.

 

 
 

Friday, 3 April 2015

Atheism is not "Satan" worship

 

Along with that we want to take away their religion, eradicate it from the earth, and that we hate God. It seems that atheists hate God because they worship Satan and want to remove the worship of God, and to replace it with the worship of Satan.

The answer to the claim that atheists worship Satan is easily rebutted. Satan was created in the same book that created God. If someone doesn’t believe that God exists, and that biblical creation is merely a myth, then it naturally follows that they also don’t believe in Satan. 

Who is Satan?

The opposite of God. According to all religions, the worshipped deity, who I call “God” is the positive influence, and Satan, the Devil, Lucifer, the snake in the Garden of Eden, the negative one.

The Old Testament mentions “Satan” directly, in only a few instances in the Bible.

In the book of Job [19 times], in Zecharariah 3: 1-2  [3 times] in 1 Chronicles 21:1, Psalm 109:6.

That’s a total of 23 times that this evildoer is mentioned by name in the Old Testament.

There are other references to characters who might or might not have been intended to be Satan, and who theists claim are, especially the tempter of Jesus in the New Testament.

In Matthew 4, Satan is referred to as  “the tempter” and “the Devil.” 

Further references are:

Matthew 12:24: the ruler of the world

Luke 22:31 …Satan has asked to sift you as wheat

Acts 5:3 …how is it that Satan has so filled your heart…

2 Corinthians 4:4: the god of this world

2 Thessalonians 2:9 …whose coming is after the working of Satan…

1 Timothy 1:20 …whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme…

Revelation 12: 7-9 describes his expulsion from heaven, where he is also called “the Devil.”

And there was war in heaven:Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world:he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

For theists to claim that atheists “worship Satan” indicates a very poor understanding of atheism, and how weak the evidence for the existence of an evil anti-God character is.

If Satan, or whatever other name they use for this character, is the source of all evil on the earth, and this evidence is all they have for him, then they’re claiming that their god is the source of all good.

Is Satan the source of all evil?

In 1 Chronicles, he incites David to take a census. God says he will never break his covenant with his people, yet he sends them into exile, sends the Greeks and the Romans to rule them, and ultimately scatter them. How is this keeping a covenant?

In Job, he afflicts Job with sores, after God told him to just stop short of killing Job.

In Zechariah 3:1  Joshua is standing before God, and Satan is his accuser. God rebukes him. What for? Satan was within his rights to accuse Joshua.

In Matthew 4:1  Jesus is tempted by the devil. He is offered a world of wealth and power if he would only fall at Satan’s feet and worship him. He declines. How is this any worse than God bribing Abraham and his descendants to cut off pieces of their reproductive organs into all perpetuity in order to demonstrate that they worship him? I can’t see the difference here. Maybe I’m missing something.

In Luke 22:31  Simon is being told that he will betray Jesus by denying knowledge of him. 

In Acts 5:3  Ananias sold some land, the proceeds of which he was supposed to give to the church. Instead he and his wife pocketed some of the money, for which they were punished with death. I hardly think it’s something horrific that should be blamed on Satan. Maybe he wasn’t even there. Maybe he was inciting someone to kill his brother, or his parents because they weren’t Christians, while Ananias was skimming a little off the top. 

Acts 5:5-8 Ananias is struck dead, for taking a little money from the church. The horror of smiting Ananias and his wife, seems a little harsh for merely taking a little of the money meant for the church, or rather for Peter, for themselves. The moral of this story is, if you’re going to sell all your possessions to give the money to the church, do not take any of the money for yourself, even to buy food on the way home from collecting the money, on pain of death. Harsh, harsh punishment for being human.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,

I have to yet be convinced that this Satan character is really a bad guy. He’s inflicted some pain on Job, judged Joshua, tempted Jesus with wealth, caused Peter to deny Jesus, incited Ananias to embezzle some money. How are these terrible crimes compared with the flood that God brought down on the entire race of men, or the plagues of Egypt, or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah?

Finally, we come to 1 Timothy 1: 20 and Satan teaching blasphemy. Really, blasphemy, is this the worst they could come up with?

Is God the source of all good?

Now let’s take a look at the crimes committed by God:

The enslavement of women:

Numbers 31:18, Deuteronomy 22:22; 22:24; 25:11-12, Judges 19:22.

 Women are naturally evil:

 Ecclesiastes. 25:13; 25:22; 25:22; 25:26; 26:9-10; 26:14-15; 26:25; 42:13-14, Hosea 13:16; I Corinthians 11:3, 8-9; 11:34-35; 1 Timothy 2: 9, 11-14; Ephesians 5:22-24; 1 Peter 3:1-7; Revelation 2:22. 

He hates children:

 Leviticus 26:27; Numbers 14:33-34, Deuteronomy 21:18, 28:53 & 57, Judges 11:30, 2 Kings 6:28-29; Proverbs 22:15; 23:13; 29:15, Isaiah 9 19-20; 13:15, Jeremiah 19:9, Ezekiel 5:10, 1 Timothy 3:4,  Revelation 2:22-23. 

Hes violent:

Leviticus 10:1-2; 24:16, Deuteronomy 13:6-15; 17:3-5; 20: 10-14; 20:16-18; 28:27,  Joshua 10:11, I Samuel 5:6, 9, 11, 19, I Kings 18:38,  2 Kings 19:35,  Psalms 139:21, Proverbs 8:13,  Isaiah 29:14; 45:7, Jeremiah 9:4-6, Galatians 5:12.

He’s a god of war:

 Genesis 9:5-6, Exodus 12:29-30; 15:3; 21:29, 34:14-16, Numbers 16:32-35; 21:8; 21:2; 25:3-4; 31:16-18; Deuteronomy 2:34; 3:3, 6-7; 7:2; 12:2-3; 13:6, 8-9, 15; 20:16, 17; 23:1-2, 25:19; 28:63, Joshua 6:21; 7:24-25; 8:25; 10:28, Judges 4:16, 21, 23; 8:7, 10; 21:11; 1 Samuel 6:19; 15:9, 16:23; 18:10; 19:9; II Samuel 12:11, 31; 24:1, 1 Kings 20:42, 2 Kings 9:9, 1 Chronicles 18:1; 20:3; 21:12, 14, Psalms 18:7-11; 58:10; 68:21-23; 137:9, 1 Chronicles 20:3; 21:12, 14, Psalms 18:7-11; 58:10, 68: 21-23, 137:9, 140:4, 10; Isaiah 13:15-16; 19:14; 45:7, Jeremiah 11:11; 12:17; 18:11; 25:9; 32:42; 40:2; 44:2; 45:5; 49:37; 50:21, 26;  51:3  Lamentations 2:5; 3:38-39, Ezekiel 6:5; 9:5-6

Daniel 11:44, Hosea 13:16, Amos 3:6; 9:8, Micah 1:12, Malachi 2:3, Matthew 5:39; 7:15; 10 34-36; 12:30; 15:20; 16:18 & 23; 19:16-17; 27:25, Mark 6:11;13:7-8, Luke 4:8; 12:49, 51-53;16:19-31; 19:27, 2 Chronicles 20:23, John 2:14-16; 18:36; 5:8-14, 2 Timothy 3:16, 

1 Thessalonians 2:14-16. 

Then, when his followers have lived their lives, in obedience, and subjection, he chooses only a few of them for eternal bliss:

Revelation 14:3-4...the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins.  

Now, should I go back and repeat how bad Satan really is? Or does the reader get the message?

Finally, remembering again, that atheism is merely the rejection of God, and all other gods, it goes without saying that all the hangers-on, the people surrounding God, including Jesus, and all the angels, saints and devils, are also rejected. Ergo: if the atheist does not believe in God, he/she also does not believe in Satan. 

I think I’ve demonstrated that the claim that atheists “worship” Satan, is refuted, and even if someone does worship this fallen angel, who incites people to judge murderers, brings boils down on someone under instructions from God, encourages someone to deny his friend when he’s in trouble, or looks the other way when someone embezzles money, is really not such a bad “god.” He’s certainly more worthy of respect than the maniacal, misogynistic murdering, narcissistic god, who deliberately sent his own son to be killed in a horrific way for a sin that he caused by tempting his creatures in the first place.