Big Bang Theory

BigBang

You’re probably familiar with William Paley’s teleological argument for the existence of God. If you haven’t used it yourself then you’ll have been subjected to it by proselytising believers. A couple of days ago I had someone treat me to an updated version of the argument.

I was on the phone with a sales-person, talking about his company’s product, when he decided it would be a good time to dust off the old idea, give it a make-over and use it to convince me of God’s existence.

He started by asking me if I would agree that a computer must have an intelligent designer; I agreed this was so (though I have my reservations.) He responded with ‘how much more then must the universe and life on Earth – being so much more complex than a computer – also have an intelligent designer.’ He said this was ‘something to think about,’ and I agreed it was, though maybe this wasn’t the best answer I could’ve given.

Having ‘demonstrated’ that everything must be intelligently designed, my new friend announced that this was therefore irrefutable proof that Allah must have made everything.

Oops. I’m sure this isn’t what the Reverend Paley had in mind when he devised his watch analogy two centuries ago. His proof, however, is every bit as much a demonstration of Allah’s existence and creativeness as it is Yahweh’s. Or Vishnu’s or Marduk’s or any other of the multitude of deities credited with intelligently creating the universe and life in this insignificant part of it. Any one of them could’ve done it according to the teleological argument. Take your pick and sign up for the set of beliefs that corresponds with your choice.

But wait – complex machines like watches and computers bear no relation to anything in nature. A watch found on a heath, as Paley conjectures, or computers in hedgerows, can only have got there because a human being put them there (fly-tipping again). They would not be there because they’d arisen, like the rocks, grass and other plants that surround them, through the processes involved when nature creates something. Moreover, we know that machines have intelligent creators, because we are they. What doesn’t follow is that because man-made objects are demonstrably the product of intelligence that natural ones, which, remember, bear no relation to computers, watches, cars and CAT scanners, are as well.

We are gaining more understanding of how the universe came to be. Significantly, it doesn’t require that there is intelligence behind it. If it did, we would then need to explain how that intelligence arose, who created it and by what process. To say, as religious believers are wont to do, that this supreme intelligence has always existed is no explanation at all. If we’re to have something that has always existed then it is far more likely to be that which we know really does exist, rather than something we don’t. Conceding the longevity of the components of the universe, which we know to exist, is a far better bet than inventing deities to account for it. A God no more explains life, the universe and everything than do fairies the intricacies of my computer (gremlins maybe, but not fairies.)

For all that, life on Earth does have a creator. The genealogy of the universe tells us that physics begat chemistry begat biology. (‘But if life emerged from physical and chemical processes, then how come there’s still physics and chemistry?’) All life on Earth, including ourselves, is the product of these processes, ‘the blind watchmaker‘ that Richard Dawkins speaks of. They are not intelligent, do not have names like Yahweh or Allah and do not, on their own, create the machines that only humans can design.

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A word from the WITLESS

Arun

We of the Wishful Thinking League of silly sods sausages – WITLESS for short – would just like to say how jolly unfair we think it is that our local cinema won’t show our new advert. All we want to do is remind everyone going to see the latest Flash Gordon film that they have three wishes. Three wishes from the special genie no-one can see but who we know is there. And, what’s really exciting, they can use their three wishes however they like! We just wish the cinema would stop being so jolly difficult and let us show our advert about the genie and the magic wishes. 

Damn! That’s one wish gone! And the man at the cinema still won’t let us show the ad. We wish we knew why not. He just says he doesn’t show adverts made by cranks, which is a little unfair when we’ve been recognised as the official cranks in this country for a very long time. Some other spoil-sports take the vue, er… view, that if the cinema goes ahead and shows our advert then other, unofficial cranks will want their adverts shown too. We quite agree this would be a very bad thing. Nobody else’s genie is as real as ours and noboby else grants three wishes the way he does.

We just wish the man who runs the place would come to his senses and agree to show our advert. It’s not a lot to ask. We wish too that…

What? What d’you mean, we’ve had all our wishes? But none of them have come true! That’s so unfair. It jolly well is, you know. And it’s all that rotter from the cinema’s fault.

Please, genie, can we have three more wishes? Can we, please?

What is the point?

Stairway

There isn’t any point. At least, not ‘out there’ somewhere, waiting to be discovered. The point, purpose and meaning of life is what we make of it. We make our own purpose.

The Christians among us claim to have real purpose. Not like we sad non-believers whose purpose is to do with raising and supporting our family, being creative, doing things for others or whatever. No, Christians get their real purpose from God, or so they say. Perhaps some of them would be good enough to share it with us; is it rushing from one church meeting to another? Singing badly written hymns badly? Cosying up to one another? Telling others about the great salvation plan?

Apparently not, though they do seem to spend a lot of time doing these things. According to CARM the purpose of life ‘is to praise God, worship Him… proclaim His greatness, and… accomplish His will.’ Got Questions, on the other hand, says it’s to ‘1) glorify God and enjoy fellowship with Him, 2) have good relationships with others, 3) work, and 4) have dominion over the earth,’ while Open Bible claims it’s ‘to love and serve God in order to help bring about God’s glorious plan for creation.’

That’s it? The purpose faith supplies is this woolliness? It’s about doing stuff we already do (‘work’, ‘have good relationships with others’) and fawning over a needy, insecure deity? God help us if this is all it amounts to. Those who claim to know the secrets of eternal life and the mind of God himself should surely be able to come up with something better than the rest of us.

As I’ve written before, this isn’t what Jesus told his followers life was for. No, he said it was to work to bring about God’s kingdom on Earth (Matthew 6.33; 13.44, Luke 9.62 etc). Try as you might you’ll struggle to find a Christian site that says this is the point. That’s because Christians long ago – almost two thousand years ago – stopped believing that God’s kingdom was due to arrive here and switched their expectation to one of an after-life in heaven. But that’s not what the Bible promises, and it’s certainly not what Jesus said.

So maybe, Christians, you’re missing the point of your faith and your purpose in life; it’s to bring about the Kingdom of God on Earth (Matthew 6.10) – in the first century (Mark 9.1). No wonder you’re now so rudderless, so lacking in direction and real purpose. You missed the boat, which sank without you two millennia ago.

Now you have to construct your own meaning, just like the rest of us. Except ours is better, lacking as it does the faux Biblical language and all those fairy tale elements.

 

 

Human Sacrifice

Swanson

Mesoamerican cultures would ritually kill other human beings to appease their gods. Thousands were sacrificed either willingly or under compulsion.

Thank goodness we have progressed beyond this. We no longer allow superstition to dictate that others should be deprived of their lives to curb gods’ anger and bless us instead.

Unless we’re Christians like pastor Kevin Swanson, pastor Phillip Kayser, Ted Shoebat (loony name, loony guy!) and pastor Rob Gallaty, who call for the execution of LGBT people. It’s gay people, they say, who are bringing down’s God’s wrath on the world because of their wicked ways. Judgement, destruction and death shall surely befall us – or America, anyway, as that’s the only place God has any interest in – because of the gay peril. Unless homosexuals repent, they must be put to death. Only then is God likely to back off.

And just in case you think I might be misrepresenting them, here are those loving, gentle Christian folk to tell you all about it in their own words:

Swanson:

Homosexuals are worthy of death… It’s not so much an issue of the death penalty. It’s an issue of God’s judgement that’s hanging upon this nation today.

This, Swanson says, is ‘the gospel of Jesus Christ’ of which he is not ashamed.

Kayser:

And if we love our country and we don’t want to see God’s intense wrath falling upon it, we cannot ignore the abominations found in the radical LGBTQ movement. It is not just the sinfulness of homosexuality that is known, but also the justice of the death penalty for homosexuality.

In fairness, Kayser also wants the death penalty for breaking the Sabbath, blasphemy and cursing God publicly, publicly sacrificing to other gods and apostasy. He’s nothing if not fair-minded.

Shoebat:

The sodomite, the atheist, the fanatic feminist, the Muslim — all such must be deemed as criminals and enemies to civilization, for they war against the Faith, promote death and hate life…
They should be told to leave their wicked ways under coercion, and if that does not work, then death and strong suppression is the only solution.

Gallaty:

God said that the sins of the people had infected the very land in which they live. So what happens to people who engage in this activity, this sexual immoral activity? Go to Leviticus 20, God gives us the punishment for engaging in these sins… ‘If a man sleeps with a man as with a woman, they have both committed a detestable thing. They must be put to death. And their blood is on their own hands.’

These enlightened men, and others, advocate a return to primitive, barbaric practices like that of the Aztec and Mayan cultures that sacrificed humans to imaginary gods. They have much in common with ISIS and the Taliban too, who are also motivated by religion to murder others. Perhaps we haven’t made as much progress as we like to think.

With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

Steven Weinberg

Talking Jesus

Harvest

The Church of England published its report, Talking Jesus, last week. It finds that, rather than interesting others in Jesus, Christians only put them off when they talk about him. What a dilemma! To evangelise or not when all it achieves is the opposite of what’s intended. Christians must feel their hands are tied.

Not that this will stop them doing it, more’s the pity. But why? What drives some Christians to talk about their beliefs at every opportunity? What makes them think others haven’t heard of Jesus already? Do they honestly think that in England and other places where the Anglican church holds sway, people have never heard of him? Let’s have that show of hands: if this is the first time you’ve heard about Jesus, raise you hand. Or admit to being a Jesus-virgin in the comments.

That’ll be no-one then.

Please – we know about Jesus! And, what’s more, most of us would be happy if we didn’t. While some feel duty-bound to treat him with respect (God knows why when they don’t do the same for Father Christmas or Julius Caesar) most recognise him for the myth he is and trust their instinct not to get involved.

Here in the West it’s almost impossible to escape him, especially as Christmas approaches. Church leaders, with free access to the media, burble on about him, Christian web-sites number in the hundreds of thousands, and songs about his miraculous, fabricated birth will soon be everywhere. At any time of year, armies of street preachers invade our town centres, shouting about how we all need him, while Jehovah’s Witnesses hawk their version at a front door near you. And if we’re really unlucky, a friend or colleague will feel it their duty to tell us all about him at work or school or in the pub.

But, Christians, this isn’t how you’re meant to ‘make disciples of all the world’. The Jesus of the gospels (though that should be ‘Jesuses‘, plural) tells his followers how it should be done. Not by ambushing others to tell them how much they need him but by letting your lights shine (Matthew 5.16). Your ‘good deeds’ and sacrificial love are what should mark you out and impress others; Jesus says so himself. Actions, not words, are how to demonstrate your faith in him, if that’s what you feel you must do.

But they don’t, and that’s why we’re not interested when you’re subjecting us to your fantasy and dogma. If you lived the life – the really radical life Jesus advocated – forsaking wealth, spending yourself on others, going the extra mile, turning the other cheek, giving and forgiving, loving everyone sacrificially – then we might just be persuaded there’s something to this Jesus cult after all (then again we might not). As it is, talking the talk without walking the walk, is – how does the Bible put it? – just the empty noise of clanging cymbals.

 

You’re not as saved as you think

God2So now you’re a Christian. You’ve listened to the street preacher or that Christian at work and you’ve accepted Christ. You’re saved and going to Heaven when you die.

Or are you? You’re not going to Heaven that’s for sure, because Heaven isn’t on offer – as we saw here, the Bible doesn’t promise an eternal life in Heaven. But are you even saved? Has ‘the most important decision of your life’ really made you one of God’s own?

If you think you’ve chosen God, you’re wrong. You don’t choose God, he chooses you (or not, as the case may be). And if he hasn’t chosen you, then any decision of yours is of no consequence. You can shout all you like about how you’re now saved, born again and a follower of Jesus but if God says you’re not, then you’re not.

How do we know this? Because the Word of God™ says so:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will… (Ephesians 1. 3-5)

In other words, you’re only saved if God decided you were going to be right back at the beginning of time. And if he didn’t, well, you can talk the talk and even walk the walk, but it will all be for nothing.

Jesus too is quite clear that it isn’t up to you whether or not you’re one of God’s chosen few. Here he is the middle of one of his tiresome parables about the Kingdom of God, where the King has told his slaves:

“Go… into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” His slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen. (Matthew 22.9-14)

So, how do you know if you’re one of the special few hand-picked by God himself and not just one of those poor suckers who’s been invited along only to be thrown out? You don’t. Your capricious God won’t tell you till after you’ve died and you meet him face to face. There’s every possibility you’ll find out then that you’re not saved, because only a few of those called actually are. And then where will you be? Hell, that’s where. You’ll be no better off, according to the Bible anyway, than those who’ve not been duped by all of this nonsense.

So, you can believe all you like that God loves you. You can make all the right noises, study your Bible, pray, imagine you hear God’s voice in your head, go to church, sing the right songs and defend God’s standards, but there’s still a very good chance you’re not saved.

Jesus again:

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.” (Matthew 7.21-23)

But don’t worry, you were never ‘saved’ in the first place, nor lost, nor in need of Jesus; none of this mad fairy tale is real. Your only mistake – and it was a big one – was to think it was.