Pretending We Don’t Know No Longer Works

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been baffled by human nature. Thus, even as a child I wondered what makes us do the things we do, why our behaviors often contradict what comes out of our mouths and why we predictably react the same way over and over again. One very peculiar behavioral theme that appears universally across cultures is that although the masses always outnumber those in power, they rarely use that fact to their advantage. Think about it. Those in power need us more than we need them. Whether in religious institutions, political organizations or corporations, nothing will get accomplished without our cooperation. Our cooperation can almost always be counted upon. In one way or another, we usually support their churches, do their work and fight their wars. Atheists may have exposed the myths and lies behind all religions, but that doesn’t mean they are savvy or openminded when it comes to all the other cultural expectations based on fairy tales that cause us to conform without question, often to the death and destruction of our own children.

Religion Photos of the Week & The Lottery of Birth

Again, had you been born differently due to the lottery of birth you would be raised to believe differently. Your religious rituals would be different too! See for your selves.

Can’t We Put the Brakes on ‘Good Jesus’ Propaganda?


The gospels can help with that

For well over a thousand years, the laity did not have access to the Bible. The few cherished copies were in churches and monasteries; there were no printing presses or translations into the vernacular. The folks who filled the pews learned about Jesus through paintings, sculpture, architecture, stained glass, music and the Mass. And, following the lead of the apostle Paul, the focus was on the risen Christ, the celestial figure who was the key to salvation.

The gospels were written to tell the story that Paul virtually ignored, or perhaps more accurately, wasn’t even aware of. He made a point of not learning about Jesus from the people who had known him; even his ‘account’ of the Last Supper was based on his hallucinations—or as he put it, “For what I received from the Lord…” long after Jesus had died. (I Cor. 11:23)

Robert J. Miller's Book, Helping Jesus Fulfill Prophecy, Is a Rout

This book should end the faith-based claim that prophecy is evidence for the biblical God.
This book describes in detail how Christian authors "helped" Jesus fulfill prophecy...This book analyzes how the belief that Jesus fulfilled prophecy became an argument to justify a new notion: the view that Christians had replaced Jews as God's chosen people...The book concludes with an ethical argument for why Christians should retire the argument from prophecy. [It may be a bit expensive but it's the only book you'll need on Messianic prophecy.

Is Life Really a Gift, Let Alone a Gift from God?

There’s as much cultural nonsense surrounding the idea that life is a gift as any other uncomfortable topic that human’s try to explain away in order to feel secure. After all, we came into this world without our consent and certainly weren’t handed a road map. From the first traumatic push through the birth canal, we landed in a situation not of our choosing. I contend that everyone is suffering from some form of PTSD due to the birth process alone, but when you factor in the total randomness of the lottery of birth, the deck really is stacked against many of us.

Quote of the Day By Robert Conner on Ridicule

Ridicule the ridiculous, laugh at the laughable has been my approach. Lucian of Samosata made a career out of publicly ridiculing philosophers, Christians, Greco-Roman gods, frauds, superstitions, and nonsense in general. Folly, willful stupidity, studied ignorance, hypocrisy, pomposity, puffery, lying and eagerness to be deceived should be laughed to scorn, scalded to death with derision just as thieves should be horsewhipped, particularly when they also happen to be bankers, and murders hanged.
He joins so many others, LINK.

Religion and Falsifiability


Atheists have for a long time pointed out that evil makes the existence of a perfect God at least less likely, and theists of course have attempted to explain why that is not the case. One interesting aspect of this debate is that, given the way theists argue, there cannot possibly be any amount of evil that would make their God less likely. Their answers to the problem of evil aren’t designed to account for a particular amount of pain and suffering, but for whatever pain and suffering there happens to be.

The free will defense, for example, says that evil is the result of the choices made by fallen human beings (and angels), and that is meant to explain away terrible things no matter how bad they are. The Holocaust, the Black Plague, cancer, atheism — all of these things and more can be blamed on us rather than on the all-powerful being in charge. (The buck has to stop somewhere.) Or consider soul-making theodicies, which argue that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (and, come to think of it, that even what does kill you makes you stronger). Or the view that it is simply a mystery why God allows pain and suffering, but that there must be some reason which we puny humans are too dumb to understand. None of these explanations attempts to account only for a certain amount of evil, but rather for any amount we might encounter. No matter what evil may befall us, we should remain confident that there is an all-loving God who has a reason for allowing it.

Just a Sober Reminder About Our Intellectual Obligations

Don Camp?

Just a sober reminder. These photos could have been of you, if you were born in a different place. Like them, you too would be just as sure your religion is the one true one. You too would special plead your case and not realize that's all you do. You too would scoff at the intellectual requirement to subject your faith to the same standards you use when dismissing other religions. You too would do everything you could to dismiss that requirement by calling on atheists to do the same thing, even though that red herring does nothing to alleviate your own intellectual obligations.

Was Jesus a Hippie or a Hoarder?

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. Matthew 19:21

Remember those stirring words? They were spoken by Jesus not me. So, don’t kill the messenger, please. I’m only repeating the words of a god. And, oh my, how hard those words hit home when our culture pretty well insists upon the complete opposite. Our standard of success is to live as big as we can. Kings and popes have always done so without so much as a pinprick to their conscience. The masses look upon them with envy. Whenever a common man raises himself out of poverty, he gains instant respect and notoriety regardless of how he managed to accomplish this transformation. We adore the rich. In fact, in the modern world being rich and living a lifestyle of obese opulence is touted as The American Dream. Ha! It doesn't matter that roughly 80% of all Americans are head over heels in debt.

Christianity’s Guilty Pleasure: Magical Thinking


The Gospel of Mark, Chapter 5: Where’s the Delete Key?
It’s too bad J. K. Rowling didn’t write the gospels. Jesus could have used the Invisibility Cloak on the night he was betrayed; Judas wouldn’t have been able to find him to give him that famous kiss. But the four guys who penned the most famous Jesus stories—whom later tradition named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—were no slouches in the magical thinking department.

One of the mysteries of the Christian faith is that devout folks don’t notice this, or don’t grasp it; or, in explicably, they’re just not too concerned about it. Some evangelicals are tuned in enough to be alarmed by the Harry Potter stories—it’s sorcery, after all—without noticing the irony: Harry is competition; they trade in the same genre.

For a little fun comparing the Jesus stories and J. K. Rowling’s hero, see Derek Murphy’s Jesus Potter Harry Christ: The Fascinating Parallels Between Two of the World’s Most Popular Literary Figures.

Dr. Graham Oppy On the Five Best Atheist Philosophy of Religion Books

The team at Five Books interviews experts on their five best book choices on anything from language, sport, and art, to science, philosophy and the environment. I love this site and encourage everyone to subscribe to its bi-weekly updates, where they "ask experts to recommend the five best books in their subject and explain their selection in an interview." The site has over a thousand interviews.

They decided to ask Dr. Oppy to suggest and talk about the five best atheist philosophy of religion books. Specifically he was asked to suggest and discuss the five books "that have been the most influential" to him in his work as an atheist philosopher of religion. I've previously said what five books changed my life right here, and none of them were philosophy of religion books, even though I basically majored in that area of study for three of my master's degrees. [I'll not begrudge Oppy for failing to suggest my book in his list, Why I Became an Atheist, even though at least one informed atheist ranked it as the best atheist book of the past decade over some other top philosophy of religion books. Hey, don't shoot me, as I'm just the messenger! ;-)

Here are Oppy's choices. There are some surprises to be had in them. I have five important questions to ask him. See below for them and a link to his interview:

Robert Conner Interviewed About His New Book

He's interviewed by Miguel Conner (no relation) over at Aeon Byte. It starts at the 13 minute mark. LINK.

“Tell Me What’s Wrong about Christianity...”


But it’s tough to face the answers head-on

Andy Bratton, a clergyman at the top of his game, recently asked an atheist at the top of his game: “What exactly is it about Christianity that causes you to reject it as a belief system?” The senior minister and the atheist had known each other for a long time, so why not get to the bottom of their differences?

The atheist happened to be John Loftus, author of eight books on the falsification of Christianity, and he threw the question open for response on Facebook. At last count there had been more than 150 responses, which included thoughtful, compelling, forceful arguments against the Christian faith. Honestly, it was quite a lot to take in.

Stealing from God: Conclusion


Having made his case for the truth of Christianity, in the last chapter Turek presents the standard explanation for why people fail to accept it, namely, rebellion against authority. We just don’t want anyone telling us what to do. Turek says that this is true of everyone, including Christians. He even admits that “quite often I don’t want to acknowledge that there is a God and I am not Him.” He doesn’t explain why, in that case, people like him do accept Jesus. Presumably, he thinks that everyone rebels, only that atheists are worse.

In addition (as is usually the case with such claims), Turek ignores the adherents of other religions. Are some people Hindus or Muslims because they rebel against the real God? Obviously not. Yet that would have to be the case in order for the argument to be correct.

The rebellion explanation of nonbelief leads to a common justification of hell, namely that it exists for the sake of those who choose to go there. If some individuals “don’t want Jesus now, why would God force them into His presence for all eternity?” But unfortunately for Turek, there is a strong tension between this idea and the claim that hell is punishment for sin, and he has a difficult time avoiding that tension. Immediately after claiming that hell is there because God respects our freedom of choice, he says that it is needed because without it, “murderers, rapists, and child abusers... will never get justice.” But of course that's a different justification for it. And if evildoers are in hell only because they would rather be there, then wouldn’t it be a greater punishment to send them to heaven instead? And are we really to believe that God won’t do anything so harsh as to force them to do something against their will, even though they deserve serious punishment? In addition, of course, such people can convert on their deathbeds. But in that case, how will they ever receive the punishment they deserve?

Andy Bratton, a Senior Minister Where I Formerly Served as His Youth Minister, Asks Why We No Longer Believe

On Facebook I wrote this post:
Andy Bratton is now the Senior Minister of a Church of Christ in Kalkaska, Michigan. I knew him as his Youth Minister of that same church, when his father was the Senior Minister before him. He recently asked something of those of us who now doubt. Help him. Be courteous please, as he's a super great guy!

"So here is an honest question, not for judgment but for research sake. For the atheists or agnostics out there, what exactly is it about Christianity that cause you to reject it as a belief system? Is it personal research? Is it too outlandish to believe? Has the church hurt you in some way? Do you feel that there can't be a God because your life hasn't gone so well? I am simply curious. I am preaching a sermon series right now and it would help to understand. Thanks ahead of time for your answers."
Answers flooded in. Then Andy responded and I took him to task.

Vitaly Malkin's New Book, Dangerous Illusions, is an informed polemic against the many dangers of religious ideology.

Vitaly Malkin's exceptionally argued educational book, Dangerous Illusions: How Religion Deprives Us of Happiness, is an informed polemic against the many dangers of religious ideology. It establishes Malkin as the closest anti-religious intellectual heir to Christopher Hitchens that I know of, and I hope he gains the same large audience.

Malkin is a Russian businessman and investor. He has been a physicist, banker and senator. After losing his patience for what religious ideology is doing to the world, he took five years off to research and write this book, which is the first of three books planned. It's his "battle cry or call to arms" against the harmful monsters called chimeras that "pull us back into barbarism and savagery." (p.7). He says "they are back; they have invaded our lives and we cannot survive without a war against them." (p.7). The best analogies he can compare to religious chimeras are psychiatric disorders, malignant tumors and black holes. (p.52-54).

Please Tell Me Jesus Didn’t Say That


Mark, Chapter 4: The gospel writer pushed history off the page
As much as Christians celebrate the virtue of faith, they rely far more on doubt—as in benefit-of-the-doubt—when they want us to believe that the gospel accounts of Jesus are true. Only just so much can be downgraded to metaphor (“Well, of course, you can’t take that literally…”), so their default position is that we need to be overly generous as we scrutinize the gospel stories; give the gospel writers the benefit of the doubt that they were sincere and somehow got it right.

But sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Writing history is a rigorous business, as most anyone can see by considering a thought experiment I sometimes suggest. Suppose that someone, in 1915, fifty years after Abraham Lincoln’s death, wanted to write an account of his life, but had no access whatever to documents relating to him, e.g., letters, diaries, newspaper accounts, White House archives, photos, etc. Instead, the person had “heard stories” to use in constructing the account—and also happened to believe that Lincoln was divine and thus ‘information’ about his life can be found by rummaging through Bible texts. No one would take that seriously.

Excellent TED Talk by Raoul Martinez on Creating Freedom

Raoul Martinez is a philosopher, artist, and award-winning filmmaker who wrote the highly acclaimed book, Creating Freedom: Power, Control and the Fight for Our Future.
Much about who we are is determined by the lottery of our birth. We inherit genes we didn't ask for, and are faced with a world we played no part in creating. In short, we are shaped by forces over which we have no control. Raoul Martinez examines the radical implications this has for our personal and political freedom. He challenges the way we think about responsibility, blame, punishment, and, ultimately identity, compelling us to question the forces—religious, cultural, economic and political—that have shaped us.

Creating Freedom: The Lottery of Birth, Why Almost Everything We Believe is Untrue. How powerful influences control us and the first necessary step to an objective view of life.

Everyone should seriously entertain the ideas in the documentary linked below. Powerful! Humbling! Doubt producing! Liberating!

An educated person is someone who has more questions than answers. The wise person is truly the person who doesn't claim to know. We know this. It's undeniable. There isn't any contradiction in saying so, either. For to deny it is to deny everything we know about religion, politics, history and ethics. In other words, if we know anything at all, we have extremely solid objective reasons to doubt what we know about almost everything, everything that lacks objective evidence for it. This supports what Descartes said we should do above. LINK: Creating Freedom: The Lottery of Birth.

Listen up folks, this does not explain any Christian apologist I have ever met. They all act as if they are experts in far too many disciplines and they have have a solid grip on truth. Just ask them. They have the solution to this documentary too. And guess what? They exempt what they believe from this problem. In other words, they were never born! Because to be born in a time and place--and to be raised in one culture rather than another--is what happens to everyone who is born.

Stealing from God: Turek’s Case for Christianity


Having established the truth of theism to his satisfaction, Turek next attempts to demonstrate the truth of the Christian religion. He thinks this can be done provided one shows that the answer to four questions — “Does truth exist?”, “Does God exist?”, “Are miracles possible?” and “Is the New Testament historically reliable?” — is yes. And he believes he’s already accomplished the task with regard to the first two. Nevertheless, he summarizes his argument up to this point in the book, which gives him the opportunity to introduce further mistakes. For example, in his defense of objective truth, he makes several false statements, such as that “Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote a five-hundred-page book filled with talk about God to tell us that all talk about God is meaningless.” (Note to Turek: It is not a good idea to present falsehoods whenever making a case for truth.)

Escaping the Spooky Christian Spy God


A Review of Drew Bekius’ book, The Rise and Fall of Faith

I was a lucky teenage Christian, way back in the 1950s, in rural northern Indiana. I was one of three brothers, and our devout Methodist mother bequeathed us her faith. It was never an option not to go to church on Sundays. We said grace before meals and read the Bible. But there was never anything extreme or heavy-handed about this, so I was lucky.

We never know as much about our parents as we would like, so it’s a mystery to me that my mother, born in 1905 in southern Indiana, never drifted into fundamentalism. Moreover, she had great distaste for evangelicalism. Although she never went to college, she had made a great effort to expand her horizons; she was a voracious reader, especially biography and history. Even our minister was surprised when she purchased the 12-Volume Interpreter’s Bible, a product, for the most part, of liberal Protestant scholarship. She wanted to study the Bible, and I too dived right into those books.

Quote of the Day By Wanderin Weeta, On Christians Not Really Believing

They don't believe. They don't believe in heaven, or they wouldn't be so afraid to die. They don't believe in hell, at least for themselves and their families, or they would never sleep at night. They don't believe in the "rapture", or they would live every moment as if it were their last. They don't believe in Jesus, or they would at least try to follow his instructions. They don't believe the Bible is the word of God, or they would read it and memorize it. And obey its teachings. They don't believe in eternal life, or they wouldn't be so focused on this short time on earth. They only believe what the pastor told them yesterday; but by tomorrow, they've forgotten anything that applies to them, and remember only the things that blame other people for things they don't like.

Most All Christians Do Not Believe!

In a post on Facebook I wrote:
Most all Christians believe the Bible is the word of their god. But they don't read it, and can't quote anything more than a popular verse or two. Listen up, they don't really believe it's the word of their god! They can't! How is it possible to have direct communication from god and not read it often, systematically and to memorize large parts of it? I submit to you they are in denial about this. Which means they are in denial about their faith as a whole, most all of them!
I was told polls show that many evangelicals read the Bible through one time (who trusts what liars for Jesus say, anyway?). But if these evangelicals are satisfied with just one reading of the Bible, they are merely curiosity seekers, not true believers. Some Christians will say they agree with me. One pastor friend of a church I served, back when I was his youth minister and he was a child, is using what I wrote as the topic of next Sunday's sermon! But this agreement means unbelief in his very own church--the one I served--is very high! Eric Gorall said in response: "If I "knew" this was the 'Word of God', and convinced it forms the basis of all reality for me... I'd memorize EVERY WORD, every phrase, every verse, of Every book."

Can Christianity Be Blamed for the Holocaust? Round 2


Beware of simply explanations and apologist evasions
We all remember the Apostles’ Creed—a list of things you’re supposed to believe, recited every Sunday—but there also seems to be an Apologists’ Creed. Actually it’s more of a loyalty oath: “I will never not believe the fundamentals of my faith. I will never shirk my duty to defend it.” And they work so darn hard at it. The Apologists Guild manages to recruit those whose minds can’t be unlocked.

Hence it was no surprise that the apologists who commonly troll this blog showed up to make sure that Christianity didn’t get take too much of a hit in my recent article about Christianity and the Holocaust. In fact, I did include the anti-Semitic tradition in Western Christendom as one of five possible factors that led to the Holocaust.

Stealing from God: Science


The idea that the mind is somehow independent of the natural order is, as I’ve previously mentioned, at the root of all theistic thought. In most cases, this is something that appears to be assumed subconsciously. Turek, however, states it explicitly when he claims that there are two types of cause: “natural and nonnatural (i.e., intelligent).” This is already bad enough. After all, why think that minds aren’t natural entities? But what he then does with this nonsensical claim is far worse: he uses it to make a truly absurd argument against methodological naturalism.

Turek reasons that, since atheists accept methodological naturalism — and thus only believe in natural causes — they have no way of accounting for the existence of anything that is the result of intelligence. After all, intelligence isn’t natural, so how could they? It follows that on the atheist’s view, “geologists would have to conclude that natural forces (not intelligent sculptors) caused the faces on Mt. Rushmore,” and “detectives would have to conclude that Ron [Goldman] and Nicole [Brown Simpson] were not actually murdered, but died by some natural means.”

Debate God: Does Animal Suffering Undermine the existence of God ? Christian vs Atheist debate

A debate between John Ferrer and youtuber Skydivephil about whether the millions of years of animal suffering undermines the existence of the Christian and similar omni (all powerful, all loving etc) God's.

New Book: “What Can You Believe If You Don’t Believe in God?" by Michael Werner

                                               By Michael Werner                                              $16
This book is intended to help you live your life, and to shed some light on your own values and ethics, if you don’t believe in God. More than just a primer on Humanism, but not quite a full-blown treatise on philosophy, it offers some answers to those crucial questions Socrates asked: What is true? And how shall we live our lives? Those of us who don’t believe in the supernatural sometimes struggle to understand how we can ground ourselves ethically, and how to find truth, meaning, purpose and joy. This book offers ideas about how to know, without depending on Holy Scriptures or guidance from a deity, what it means to lead a good and ethical life.

Dumb Things Christians Say, Another Installment


Critical thinking isn’t taught at Sunday School
A devout Christian whom I know is a public school teacher, and she is proud that she became a lay catechist in her church; she is fiercely devoted to her faith. We have engaged in a bit of sparring about my atheism, and I recommended that she read a couple of books by Bart Ehrman—to get an idea of what’s going on in New Testament studies. She scowled…and informed me that she doesn’t read books—in fact, never has. [I’m still trying to process this bit of too-much-information: a school teacher who doesn’t read books.] She even made it through college without doing so. “I just kept very careful notes in class,” she said. I wasn’t sure if she was boasting or confessing.

"Atheism Was Not the Reason Hitler Killed So Many People" by Dr. Hector Avalos from The Christian Delusion

I've been thinking about posting whole chapters of my books. At Dr. Avalos's suggestion here's one of them from The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails, edited by John W. Loftus (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2010), pp. 368-95, used with permission. No reproduction of this chapter is permitted outside of this post under copyright laws. You may reasonably quote from it and link to it though.

This is an extended chapter of what you'll find in Avalos's book, Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence. At the present time Avalos is doing a revision of that book, which will almost certainly update the chapter you're about to read, so look for it.

Avalos explains why atheism was not the cause of the Holocaust, especially dealing with the arguments of Dinesh D'Souza, and including other apologetic attempts to distance Christianity from the Holocaust. If you love this chapter as I do, there are many others in my anthology you'll love as well.

"Leading Experts on Christian Apologetics Recommend 'Unreasonable Faith'” A Book Length Critique of William Lane Craig's Apologetics

The headline in quotes above is from David G. McAfee's post, to be read here. We are recommending a full book length critique of William Lane Craig's apologetics by James Fodor. I was so happy to be asked by editor David G. McAfee to write a recommendation of it. My full blurb is this:
As a former student of William Lane Craig, graduating under him at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 1985 with a ThM in the Philosophy of Religion, I heartily endorse Fodor’s well-researched and excellently argued book length critique of his apologetics. It's surprising that apologists like Craig need rebutted after David Hume, Charles Darwin, and David Friedrich Strauss, but if you’re still not convinced and only want to buy one book, then get this one!

--John W. Loftus, author/editor of ten works, including Why I Became an Atheist, The Christian Delusion, The Outsider Test for Faith, Christianity is Not Great, Christianity in the Light of Science, and How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist.