Suffer the Little Children

Jesus said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10.14

…the very hairs of your head are numbered. Fear not: you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12.7

Jesus+kid

Recently, I attended the funeral of a little boy who died of the cancer he’d suffered from the time he was nine months old. His young parents are friends of mine. They showed their son such incredible love during his illness, ensuring he received the best medical care possible.

But where was God through it all? The God that Christians say has a special affinity for children, who loves them and cares for them? The God who looks after ‘the little people‘?

That God was nowhere. He showed no interest in this particular ‘little person.’ No concern and no compassion for him or his parents. Of course, that’s because he doesn’t exist, though this didn’t stop Christians telling the family how marvellous and caring and loving he is.

Really? If I had any vestige of faith left, what has happened to this innocent during his short life would have cured me of it entirely. And make no mistake, he was innocent, not a sinner (as if that would let God off the hook.) A deity who allows a baby to have cancer and to die after fourteen months of prolonged, invasive treatment would be a callous, worthless bastard. But we knew that already.

Had there been a God who cared, this little boy would’ve been two today, Easter Sunday.

Ken Ham’s ‘Five Evidences that the Bible is True’

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Yes, that’s what he says: ‘evidences.’ Good use of English there, Kenny. Actually, the article is anonymous, but as it’s on Kenny’s site, and as it features inside his Noah’s Ark vanity-project, we can safely assume he authorised and approved it. That being the case, he can take responsibility for it.

Anyway, here are those ‘evidences’. Be prepared to be underwhelmed:

1. The Bible Is God’s Word

The ‘reasoning’ here is that God inspired the writers so, ipso facto, the Bible must be God’s words.

How do we know God inspired the Bible? Because the Bible appears to say so. But how do we know we can trust what the Bible claims about this and everything else? Duh… because God inspired it. Circular reasoning that gets us nowhere.

But wait, more ‘evidence’ from Kenny: ‘the Bible is authoritative in every subject it addresses’. I guess that’s so long as you exclude all the areas where it isn’t, like those that are scientifically, historically and geographically inaccurate, including the early chapters of Genesis that Kenny loves so much. Then there are those parts that are evidently myth, legend or fantasy.

Yes, apart from all those bits, the Bible is accurate and authoritative.

Isn’t it?

2. The Bible is Unique and Unified

Two claims in one. The Bible is far from unique; there are many religious texts in the world – the Qu’ran, the Vedas, the Pali Canon, the Book of Mormon… many with evidence of several authors at work in them. Neither is the Bible unique because it is ‘unified.’ It is not unified. It is contradictory and inconsistent: the so-called ‘new covenant’ cuts across the ‘everlasting’ agreement God allegedly made with the Jews and YHWH himself evolves, even having a personality transplant somewhere between the Old and New Testaments. Most significantly, for what is supposedly its central message, the Bible offers several, frequently mutually exclusive, ways to salvation.

3. The Bible Has Been Faithfully Passed Down.

This is empirically, demonstrably false. Many books of the Bible were written decades, even centuries, after the events they purportedly describe; the oral tradition is an unreliable means of transmission; texts were altered both by accident and on purpose; some books are patent forgeries; ninety percent of surviving manuscripts were created 800 years or more after the originals, and none of these ‘autographs’ survive for anyone to determine how ‘faithful’ later copies might be.

4. The Bible Contains Fulfilled Prophecy

It does? Where? Is it in the gospels where Jesus prophesies that the Son of Man will, in the lifetime of his listeners, return through the clouds to judge the tribes of the Earth and establish God’s Kingdom? Is it in the contrived symbolic events imposed on Jesus’ life to make it look like he fulfilled prophecy, even when the earlier ‘prophecies’ were not prophecies at all? Is it in Paul’s letters where he promises the rapture will be coming while those in his churches still live? Is it in the many prophecies that were written after the events they were supposedly predicting? Is it in the innumerable prophecies that didn’t come to pass?

That’s right; not one of these bits of malarkey constitutes ‘fulfilled prophecy’.

5. The Bible Holds the Key To Eternal Life

No, it doesn’t because there’s no such thing. This is the great swindle at the heart of Christianity; a fantasy dreamed up by fanatics, fantasists and psychotics, and preserved in the Bible. Christians are singularly unable to provide any evidence that anyone has ever gone on to have a life after death, nor that they ever will. We know now, as we may always have suspected, that when the body dies ‘we’ die with it. End of.

So, every one of Ham’s ‘evidences’ is false; a sham like his beliefs and the book from which they spring. You’ll struggle to tell him so, however, because like so many Christian web-sites, there’s no posting of comments; Kenny broaches no dissent. That’s how confident he is of his case. Best not to entertain any views other than your own weak, unfounded assertions.

 

I Know What It’s Like To Be Dead

lazarus

And you do too.

We experienced what it was like last night and, you know, it really wasn’t too bad.

We entered, at some point, a deep, dreamless sleep (we dream for only a quarter of the time we’re asleep and even then often can’t remember what we’ve dreamt about) and the rest of the time we were, as far as subjective experience was concerned, dead to the world. During that deep sleep, our conscious mind was completely switched off; we did not experience anything while we were in this state and as far as awareness is concerned, we did not exist. And when we woke this morning we were none the worse for our period of non-existence. We booted up reasonably satisfactorily and the memories we had yesterday, before our deep sleep, were restored and the entity we call our self began to interact with the day.

This period of deep sleep, this unconscious oblivion, is precisely what it is like to be dead. Of course, in death we switch off permanently; there’s with no reboot afterwards, either in our beds, our graves or in heaven. The oblivion that is death is permanent. But, and this is my point, being dead is no more painful or unendurable, and no more to be feared, than the deep sleep you had last night and that you will enjoy tonight. We might not much like the idea that once we fall into the ultimate sleep there will be no waking up, but that is only a concern, if it’s a concern at all, of the living. I guarantee that it does not cross the minds of those who are already dead. They have no minds, the same as you didn’t last night, for it to cross.

Being dead, to paraphrase Mark Twain, does not trouble us at all. Its prospect, while we remain on this side of it, should encourage us to enjoy life and live it to the full. It shouldn’t cause us to worry about being dead, because there’s nothing we can do about it and, in any case, it’s no worse than being in deep sleep. Nor should we be concerned about whether we’ve subscribed to the right incantation, appeased the right God in the right way or lived a good enough life, in order to avoid death. There’s no avoiding death and the promises of religions that we can if only we believe the right magic, are utterly false. Understandable perhaps, but false.

Oh death, where is thy sting, says Paul in 1 Corinthians 15.55. Well, death still has its sting. It has it in its inevitability – every organic creature, of which we are one, must die – and it has it, depending on your perspective, in our individual obliteration. (Though, frankly, why anyone should think their own personal bundle of thoughts, impulses and prejudices merits everlasting existence is a mystery). Most significantly, however, it has it in the dying process, which for many of us can be debilitating and painful. This is the way of it for all of us, including those who believe religions’ false promises. They are not spared the suffering, even though modern medicine can help alleviate much of it. Christians, Muslims and Hindus, despite their belief that a deity smiles benevolently upon them, are not guaranteed a comfortable passage from this life to non-existence.

Death is the great leveller; we all experience dying in much the same way and we none of us experience anything after it. One of these – maybe both if we’re lucky – isn’t too bad. Just like deep sleep in fact.

Until then, we should make the most of life while we still have it.

Sleep well.

 

Christians’ Favourite Delusions 25: Unbelievers are going to Hell!

Spoiler alert: No, they’re not.

 

HellIt’s always nice when the local fellowship keeps in touch.

There’s good news and bad news. First, the good news: Hell doesn’t exist. You can’t go to a place that doesn’t exist.

 

Next, the bad news; you’re not going to survive your death. Sorry to break it to you like this, but there it is: no-one survives death. Once the physical, chemical and electrical processes in your brain cease then so do you, because that’s what you’re made of. That self you have a sense of – your soul if you want to call it that – is entirely dependent on those electro-chemical processes. It doesn’t exist independently from them. You cease to be once the brain dies and begins to deteriorate*. Everyone who has ever lived and died, including true believers down the ages – from Jesus, Peter, Paul, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to Augustine, Bede, Wilberforce and C. S. Lewis – have all ceased to be, dissipated and obliterated forever, along with their physical brains and bodies.

 

And why, dear Christian, would you want to survive death? What makes you think that the bundle of petty concerns, loves and hates, neuroses, reactions and habits that you call ‘you’, merit long-term survival? Because that odd little collection of impulses is what you’re talking about when you say you are going to live forever. You may regard yourself as changed into some sort of reflection of Christ, but it’s your essential self that you desperately, and arrogantly, hope will enjoy eternal life. It won’t – and why should it?

 

So, there’s no you to survive and no Hell, or Heaven, for you to go to. The Bible doesn’t offer Heaven – see my previous posts here and here – but it does talk about Hell. It’s the place the Unrighteous go when the Righteous™ take over the earth (albeit it in the first century). According to Jesus in Mark 7.20-23, the Unrighteous are people like murderers, thieves and the proud, while Paul includes other ‘undesirables’ like homosexuals (1 Corinthians 6.9). This isn’t nearly enough for today’s Christians though**. They want everyone except themselves to be sent to Hell. So if you’re not ‘saved’ according to their magic formula, then you’re certain to go there. Never mind if you’re not a murderer or proud or gay. That’s where the God of Love is going to send you, to be tormented forever.

 

And where is Hell? Jesus seems to think it’s in the heart of the Earth (Matthew 12.40) and invariably those threatened with Hell go ‘down’ to it. The wingnut who wrote Revelation also implies it’s in the Earth (9.2). You’d think, that being the case, we would have found it by now. But we haven’t because, of course, it doesn’t exist. And you’re not going. And there won’t be a ‘you’ to go in any case.

 

So don’t waste any time worrying about it or letting Christians persuade you Hell is a real place. Live your one and only life in the here and now as best you can. Enjoy it. It’s not a rehearsal for a better place, and certainly not for a far worse one.

 

Notes:

* In The Lazarus Effect, Dr Sam Parnia relates instances of people being revived up to an hour after death, but only in specific circumstances, when the brain remains undamaged. Any longer than an hour and it’s not possible. Such revivals are extreme forms of the rebooting your brain does every morning after sleep; the brain itself and all its neuro-connections must still be capable of functioning for you to be you again after sleep or even apparent death.

 

** Yes, I acknowledge some Christians don’t accept Hell. American pastor, Rob Bell, suggests in Love Wins that Hell doesn’t make ‘a very good story’, and that God will save everybody. All Hell was let loose in the resulting backlash from true, Bible-believing Christians; a response that was extreme, brutal and frequently sanctimonious. How dare Bell contradict God’s Word, Holy Scripture? Surely he deserves to go to Hell for that.