On being free

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Commenter Rebecca responded at length recently to my post ‘Why God Could Not Possibly Have Created The Universe (pts 4 & 5)’. There was so much in her response, that I thought it best to reply to her in a full length post rather than with a brief comment:

Hi Rebecca,

I won’t be able to respond to all of your points as there are so many, but will attempt a few.

I’m glad you find your faith beneficial. You’ve obviously thought about the whole incarnation/sacrifice/reconciliation issue, but I wonder whether you’ve ever asked yourself what it is you need saving from and reconciled with? What is it that means you personally need to avail yourself of the sacrifice Jesus supposedly made (however you interpret that)? I guess evangelicals, of which you seem to say you are not one, would claim it’s because of sin; the alienation from God that our very existence seems to cause.

Is that really the case though? Isn’t it rather that ancient superstitious peoples needed some explanation for why life was so difficult, short and brutish? They reasoned that surely it couldn’t be the fault of the creator God, so his tendency to treat them badly must be entirely their fault. Consequently, they had to do something to appease this god, to make him smile upon them again as they felt he must once have done. They thought the way to do this was, variously, through sacrifice and/or righteous living, by murdering those they felt offended him the most, and through praise and supplication.

There is no getting away from the fact, however, that the primary way they sought to reconcile themselves with their deity was through blood sacrifice. The New Testament’s interpretation of the death of Jesus is expressed in just such terms:

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1.7).

This is not just an evangelical perspective; it is the major theme of much of the New Testament.

I’d like to ask you, Rebecca: are you really so steeped in sin that you need to avail yourself of a bloody human sacrifice in order to be reconciled with God? I have to say it seems extremely unlikely.

I didn’t leave faith behind because of how repugnant this idea is, however. I experienced an epiphany while walking one day, after many years of thinking about such things, and realised with conviction that there was no god: no god to appease, be reconciled with or commune with. He simply didn’t and doesn’t exist (see here for why I think this is the case). Of course, there being no god means there’s no son of god either.

I then started living my life on the basis of the fact there is no god, and I have to tell you it became a whole lot better. I didn’t have the constant feeling I had to come up to some impossible standard; I didn’t feel guilt for the most trivial of ‘sins’; I no longer worried that not getting my beliefs quite right would result in the loss of my eternal life; I stopped worrying about eternal life because it was obvious there was no such thing; I stopped thinking hell and heaven were real; I started living in the here and now; I stopped thinking I had to respond to others’ needs by telling them about Jesus (and started relating to them as people); I no longer had to subjugate whatever intellect I have to force myself to believe things that were clearly nonsense; the self-loathing I felt about my sexuality began to slip away. I could be me, and what a massive relief that was. I think I became a better person as a result. I certainly became a happier one.

You say the bible contains many deep truths – perhaps – but it also includes much that is cruel spiteful, damaging and just plain wrong. I lost interest in sifting the wheat from the chaff because there was just too much chaff (a free biblical analogy for you there.)

The secrets of life, whatever they may be, Rebecca, are not in the bible, nor in any convoluted explanation of what Jesus stood for (he was just another failed apocalyptic preacher). They do not lie in Christianity or in any religion. Life is more than any of these ultimately dead things.

Thank you for writing. It can only be a good thing that you’re thinking about these issues. You will I’m sure find your way out into the light. I hope what I post here can help you with that.

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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.

 

Faith by any other name (is still a waste of time)

celia3Faith; the brand name for ‘wishful thinking’. In what other area of life, other than the religious, do we have faith in faith? Christians like to say we do – we have faith, they say, in the pilot who’s controlling the aircraft we’re flying in, or we have it in the surgeon who’s operating on us. But this is not faith in the sense religious people usually use the term. ‘Faith’ in pilots, surgeons and even our own abilities is more like trust or confidence; trust that the pilot is qualified to fly the plane, confidence that the surgeon is trained and skilled or that we have the ability to complete the task we’ve set ourselves. This is not faith in the sense of ‘belief in things that can’t be seen and for which there’s no evidence’. It’s not faith in the sense of wishing and hoping there really is a God and that he cares enough about us to grant us eternal life, much in the manner of the magic fountains and wish-granting genies of folk tale.

Religious faith – Christian faith particularly – is of this latter kind. It’s not trust in a real person’s capabilities, be it our own or a specialist’s. It’s a blind belief in a God who evolved from being one tribal deity among many into the everlasting, omniscient creator of all things. A God who, if he did create everything, set us on the Earth together with viruses, microbes, infections, disease, sickness, cancer, AIDs and Alzheimer’s. A God who thought putting us in an environment so frequently hostile to our well-being on an insignificant planet in the corner of a vast and indifferent universe was just the right place for us.

This is a God who doesn’t seem to understand us but who is swift to punish us while he himself stands by as half of his favoured creation endures poverty, starvation and the cruelty of much of the other half. His ways are not our ways, believers say, making what they surely know is a flimsy excuse – the flimsiest – for his failure to interact with us in any meaningful way.

Faith is the wishful thinking that despite the evidence, this neglectful, capricious God really does care for us. He cares so much he has devised an illogical, incomprehensible plan (or two) that, with its blood sacrifice and magical overtones, we must believe if we want his forgiveness for the way he made us in the first place.

We need to have faith that this cosmic madman will bring us back to life us after we’ve died and take us to Heaven to live with him, but we must first have the right sort of belief, even if it’s difficult to work out what that is. Faith is necessary for all of this because there isn’t a scrap of evidence anyone has ever been returned to life after they’ve died, or that Heaven exists, or that anyone has ever gone there. That’s why it takes, not trust, but a great wallop of wishful thinking that this fantasy is not only real but more real than the reality in front of us.

As for me, I can’t believe any of it.

  – I can’t believe the claims of those who even today say they’ve seen or heard from God or Jesus or Mary, who reckon they’ve had visions the same way Paul or Peter, Joseph Smith or Mary Baker Eddy did.

  – I don’t believe those who say they almost died and went to Heaven, because what these visions of fantasy figures and make-believe places have in common is that they take place, so far as they occur at all, entirely within people’s heads.

  – I won’t believe that those who say all of this magic, hallucination and mumbo-jumbo is true because it’s in the Bible, when the creators of that book were men far more ignorant and superstitious than any reasonably educated person today.

  – I am unable to believe muddled nonsense that is designed to appeal to our vanity and fear of obliteration.

  – And I really don’t care that some say they get comfort, joy and morality from their belief; their morality no more derives from God as mine does from Superman and emotions don’t make any of it true.

So, faith – what good is it? If your answer is it enables you to believe the impossible, then isn’t it just another word for delusion?

 

 

 

How It Works: God

Let’s see. If there’s a God – and how could there not be? – he’d have to be perfect. And powerful and really, really good. Not like all those pagan Gods who are just a bit too much like us. No, the most bestest God of all would have to be big and powerful, and good and perfect. I mean, why bother otherwise?

Oh, oh… first problem. If he’s good and perfect, how to explain us and the fact life can be pretty crap and not good or perfect at all? That can’t be his fault, can it? He’s perfect, so he couldn’t possibly make something that isn’t. Soooo… only logical conclusion – the crap must be our fault. Something we do, or maybe something we are. Yes, that’s what it must be (plus we get to bump up our part.)

And shit happens. Tsunamis, earthquakes, the crops fail, the rains don’t come. Life can be tough and seem pointless. It’s all depressing, then we die. It can feel like we’re being punished. Wait! Maybe we are being punished! For things we’ve done, or for what we are. That would fit wouldn’t it? A good and perfect God would surely want to punish us, with death and destruction and stuff. So that’s what these things must be!

Let’s get all this written down, that this is how things are. This good and perfect God finds us offensive and that’s why life is so shit. Except, except… surely God’s a reasonable bloke at heart and can be appeased? We could wheedle our way back into his good books and then life wouldn’t be quite so bad. Not sure how, though. Maybe sending him presents would do the trick, though how to get them to him when we can’t see him or anything…

I know! Let’s eviscerate some animals and then burn them and that way, he’ll be able to smell our efforts up where he lives, in the sky. That’s bound to work. And to be doubly sure, let’s mutilate our genitals and keep our women subjugated – because he can’t fail to like that.

Or maybe not. Maybe life will still be shit and we’ll still be shit. Maybe we need something more… imaginative. So let’s pretend that this God of ours puts together a rescue package. And what this means is he zaps us with some magic that obliterates the bits of us he can’t stand, which is pretty much all of it. And – here’s the good bit – we get to keep some of the eviscerating and sacrifice stuff.

Let’s get that written down too. And, and… maybe we can have it that this God is really going to rescue us and make everything not shit any more. He’s going to shake things up down here… no, no, wait – better than that, we’re going to go and live with him in the sky once we die, which gets rid of how shit death really is, and we’ll all live happily ever after, those of us he’s zapped anyway. Everyone else he can torture and burn forever! Yes that’s it! That’s how it’s got to be. God can still be good and perfect, even though he murders just about everyone, and some of us will get to be good and perfect too, and all the crap will just disappear, as if by magic.

That’s it. That’s how it really is. I can see it all now.

Oops. Gotta go. Time for my medication.

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God’s Election

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As we saw in the previous post, the Bible tells us that God chose his ‘Elect’* before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1.4-6). Which begs the questions –

1: On what basis did God select the favoured few untold eons before they were born? Did he decide by looking at their dress sense, as Jesus’ parable in Matthew 22.1-14 suggests? I guess it must be, given the Bible is the ‘literal’ word of God.

Or did God assess ahead of time just how righteous his Chosen would turn out to be? In Matthew 25.31-46 Jesus says righteousness is the yard stick (though naturally Christians don’t believe him because Paul says something different).

Or did God decide in advance – Paul says he ‘foreknew’ – who would repent and turn to Jesus, free-will be damned? Maybe, but then Jesus suggests that not everyone who does even this will make it into God’s Kingdom (Matthew 22.1-14).

What a bummer! Looks like God’s decision is/was purely abitrary. You make it, or not, on the whim of a capricious monster.

2: What’s the point of evangelism? If God chose who was going to have eternal life/enter the Kingdom/live in Heaven before the creation of the world, then there can be absolutely no need for anyone to tell anyone else about Jesus, sin and salvation. Why? Because it makes no difference; God’s Chosen will remain his Chosen, as they were long before they were born, and he’ll be sure to rescue them once they die. Those who haven’t been pre-selected will stay lost and will go to Hell whether or not they’ve heard or responded to the gospel.

‘But how will the unsaved Chosen hear the message if we don’t tell them?’ ask our zealous evangelical friends, still not getting the point. Jesus, lads! The Chosen don’t need to hear the gospel: God – has – already – chosen – them. They will go to Heaven, live in the Kingdom or whatever, regardless of your efforts. You and your evangelism are superfluous.

3: How can you be sure, if you’re a Christian, that you’re of the ‘Elect’ and so destined for Eternal Life? Yes, you’ve chosen Jesus – but has he chosen you? How can you know? Your own sense of righteousness, your faith, self-sacrifice and adherence to sound doctrine (whatever that is) are no guide to whether or not you’ve made the grade. Only God knows that, and he’s not telling.

Not yet, anyway, so you’d best make sure you’re buried in your very best clothes, just in case.

* Jesus is made to call the chosen few ‘the Elect’ in Matt 24.22, 24 & 31; Mark 13.20, 22 & 27 and Luke 18.7.

Smash! Kill! Destroy!

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So how has the great God of Reason done so far?

We’re still not out of Genesis and he’s –

Trashed his entire creation just because a couple who didn’t know how touchy he is managed to upset him;

Destroyed two towns and almost everyone in them because he found the locals offensive;

Drowned everyone in existence (except for an old piss-head and his family) because – you guessed it – they offended him;

Engineered a spot of child-abuse;

Decided the best way for people to show him they’re his bestest buddies is to have them disfigure their genitals.

Now, honestly, Christians, how can you say any of this is rational or logical, reasonable or considered? Your God’s response to everything is Smash! Kill! Mutilate! Destroy! – never as a last resort, always as his first reaction. He’s the Hulk, Godzilla and ISIS all rolled into one. Not once does he apply reason or logic. Smash! Kill! Mutilate! Destroy! And not only in Genesis but throughout the Old Testament:

His chums want the land occupied by other tribes? Smash! Kill! Destroy!

They don’t show him enough love? Smash! Kill! Destroy!

They break one or other of his mostly petty rules? Smash! Kill! Destroy!

They offend him in some remarkably trivial way (collecting sticks, teasing a bald bloke, doing sex wrong)? Smash! Kill! Destroy!

Over and over again.

Until, at last, he has another big idea! Another Master Plan! The Master Plan to end all Master Plans! (His fourth at least.) And guess what? It’s all Smash! Kill! Destroy! Especially Kill! This is a dude who really can’t think outside the box.

Here’s how it goes: the Lord gives up on his previous Master Plan, which he’d told some selected desert marauders was forever and ever, and decides its time to have another go at sorting out mankind that he helped screw-up in the first place. His idea this time is to come to Earth himself as a sort of clone, which he creates by raping a young woman, just like all the other gods of old. When he grows up this clone/avatar tells everyone how God wants them to behave so they don’t upset the version still in Heaven quite so much. The clone then gets himself murdered at the hands of the very people he’s come to visit – the same ones the Lord promised to take care of forever and ever in his previous Master Plan – which magically allows anyone who repeats a special incantation to join an exclusive club. Everyone else he plans to torture and murder for all eternity, because that’s what he likes doing best. Of course, the version of himself he sends to Earth won’t actually make any of this clear – that’ll be left to someone else to make up afterwards – but, in the best illusion yet, he’ll come back to life before beaming up to Heaven to cosy up to his other self, the one preoccupied with death, destruction and mutilation.

This time it’s foolproof: a well-thought through, logical, rational and reasonable plan.

Except… not really. It’s bullshit. There’s no reasoning here, just a lot of stuff made up as people went along. None of it makes sense. The copy seems to have no idea what’s going on and certainly no inkling that his death has cosmic significance. On top of that, no-one really knows how the magic works – everyone who mentions it has a different idea – and the record of it all is scrappily cobbled together donkeys’ years after it all was supposed to have happened. Still, the main thing is it all involves a lot of killing – the clone first; then the poor sap manipulated into ‘betraying’ him; a couple who don’t want to give away all their belongings; some of the dudes who believe the magic is for real then, after they’ve really pissed off the Romans, lots more of them and finally, once the nutjobs get the upper hand, loads and loads of other people – which must really have pleased the God of Death Reason.

If this is the best he can do, then we’re in trouble deep. If our ability to reason comes from him, as Christians claim, it’s no wonder we can be irrational, illogical, unreasonable and unreasoning. Which of course is why he is, because he’s a reflection of the beings  that created him – us. Human emotions and cognitive capabilities came first and were projected onto the gods we created, including, eventually, the monotheistic monster, Yahweh. It was he primitive tribesmen decided must be responsible for natural disasters and the brevity and brutality of life. Such things had to be punishments, hadn’t they? And if punishments, then there had to be One doing the punishing. One who must be appeased if he was ever to stop. Hence sacrifices, behaving in ways that might please him, killing those who don’t, worship. All futile, like pleading with one’s own reflection in a mirror.

The God created by this kind of thinking only reflected back at his makers the worst of themselves; jealousy, anger, intolerance, beligerence, petulance, vengefulness and violence. Hardly ever Reason. 

And so does he still.

 

Recent Encounters of the Religious Kind

1. The kindly street preacher

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A bad-tempered looking man is standing next to a sign that announces that ‘Evolution is a Lie’ and ‘Jesus is Lord’. He – the grumpy man, not Jesus – is giving out some sort of glossy card. I do my best to sidestep him but he approaches and gives me one. It is entitled God Commands: 4 Things That God Commands, at least half of which is redundant. I notice that a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses have set up stall next to him (or perhaps he set up next to them).

‘So,’ I ask, ‘who’s right? You or them?’

They,’ he growls, ‘are of the devil.’

What a problem Christianity has. Islam too: so many damn different versions, all of which lay claim to being the one and only Truth. The Center for the Study of Global Christianity reports that there are now 45,000 different churches, denominations, sects and cults within Christianity, every one of them insisting that they – and they alone – represent God’s Truth, only they have got it right. There are as many Christian web-sites out there slagging off other Christians – Apostate! Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing! Doing the devil’s work! False teachers! – as there are sites ‘reaching out’ to the ‘lost’.

What’s more, every one of them knows they alone have the Truth because the Bible itself says so. They quote from it to prove how right they are and how wrong everyone else is. Which just goes to show what a damnable, scurrilous load of tosh the Bible really is. If God is not, as it says in 1 Corinthians 14.33, the author of confusion then he can’t have had anything to do with it.

Of course we know he didn’t; it’s human through and through, every mean-spirited, self-righteous verse of it.