Monday, August 31, 2009

Believing in magic...and then some.

After reading a post by the Secular Thinker, I repaid a visit to Ray Comfort’s blog to see what tripe he came out with today.

This is what I get-
A simple-minded man once maintained that the story of Pinocchio was true. A wooden doll did become a human being. He not only believed that it was true, but he maintained and that he had evidence to back it up. He said that its proof was that there was such a thing as a wooden doll of the type spoken of in the story, and that it has been also proven that there was once a child that looked like that doll. Therefore, in his mind, that was evidence that the wooden doll came to life. He didn’t see the disconnect between the two thoughts.

Then he said that his theory was scientific, he was intelligent, and anyone who didn’t believe as he believed was unintelligent and unscientific. Yet everyone knew that non-life cannot become life.
Ray Comfort brings up this story of a mystery man believing something on anecdotal evidence, who claims it is scientific (and by the way, claiming something scientific does not make it so). Why would Ray tell us this story? The hint is in the final sentence. A nickel if you guess what he’s going to write about next…
Such describes the modern atheist. He has an adamant belief that there’s no evidence that there are any gods, and yet he himself is part of life. He believes that non-life produced life, and he doesn’t see the disconnect. Then he tries to justify his belief by embracing the wild speculation of Darwinian evolution, the theory that he believes is "not complete but is more compelling than believing in magic."
While I certainly wouldn’t state that all atheists have an adamant belief that there’s absolutely no evidence that there are any gods (and God with a capital “g” too Ray, your God isn’t any exception), I would ask that if he does, so what? The only thing you should be able to do before you criticize this atheist is demonstrate that there is evidence for a god claim. And if you make a God claim, and fail to demonstrate how it is true, then anybody is justified in disbelieving your claim and stating there is no evidence (that we know of) for it.

Ray then goes on to say that the atheist believes life came from non-life. You see, Ray Comfort is a man who offers his readers nothing but gross characterizations, false dichotomies, and straw men fallacies. The fact that we may admit not knowing how the universe originally began automatically makes Ray assume we mean nothing came from something. That’s untrue. Also, because we do not know how the universe originally began automatically makes Ray assume that God must’ve done it. He still fails to demonstrate how this is true, not realizing that when you posit a positive belief you should have evidence to back the assertion up lest you be condemned to false beliefs. Then, like is custom for Ray, he ties the theory of evolution into his post (no surprise there).
I have practiced magic for many years, and have watched the astounded expressions of thousands of people whose eyes where easily fooled by my hands. Prestidigitation has taught me that human beings are extremely gullible, and never has there been such mass gullibility as with the case of those whose believe the theory of evolution without compelling evidence. For them, a bump on a whale-bone becomes positive proof that whales had legs, or some amino acid means that chickens were once dinosaurs. Obscure non-transitional fossils become attestation that humans are actually primates. This is the conviction of the simple-minded, who believe anything that paleontologists and professors pontificate.
I agree, people who accept the theory of evolution without looking at the evidence are gullible- fortunately, most rational people I know have indeed analyzed the evidence. Ray Comfort may understand that his statements are either gross mischaracterizations or flat out lies, but he either does not know or care. If he does not know, he should do some more research on his part and read the comments on his own blog to gain a better understanding; if he indeed does not care, however, then he is intellectually dishonest. His last sentence, besides being mildly insulting, is highly ironic. Ray Comfort is a man who will believe anything in that canon of 66 books written long ago. Do the claims in these books have to be substantiated? No. That’s good enough for Ray.
No doubt the argument will continue until Kingdom come between those that love God, and those that don’t. But I have looked at the "evidence" for evolution, and I don’t believe as they do. I am not afraid of their "starter information" because their "finish" doesn't exist.
Ray offers up a false dichotomy: Either you accept evolution and hate god, or you love God and reject evolution. Not everybody who accepts the theory of evolution is an atheist. There are many Christians who accept the evolution (Kenneth Miller, for starters).
I choose rather the evidence that is backed up by the power of the Creator, who promises to reveal Himself to those that obey Him (see John 14:21). There is no greater evidence for truth. When God reveals himself to any human being, the argument is over.
Ray Comfort, there is greater evidence than that for truth- any evidence at all.

On a side note, I decided to turn on word verification for the time being- these spam attacks became worse than I thought. I hope you don't mind.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Billy Graham attempts apologetics

Billy Graham, although he is a preaching heavyweight, has always come across to me as an apologetics lightweight. When it comes to what seems to be sound Christian doctrine, I'd be inclined to listen to what he has to say (granted I were an evangelical Christian). When it comes to arguing against atheists, however, Billy Graham might want to do a little research first (he's beginning to sound like Ray Comfort).

When confronted by an atheist about why he should believe in God, Mr. Graham replies with this-
Has it ever occurred to you that as an atheist you also believe in something you can't prove?

You see, an atheist says there is no God—in other words, that God doesn't exist. But can you prove it? No, you can't, any more than someone a thousand years ago—before the invention of the telescope—could have proved that other galaxies didn't exist. All you can say is that you don't believe there is any evidence for God's existence. But what if there is evidence that you haven't yet examined? In other words, you have faith that God doesn't exist—but you can't actually prove it.
Graham has committed the all to familiar fallacy of claiming atheism is the stance that a god does not exist- or, their is no god. Atheism (I know this is becoming a tired slogan, but keep with me) is the lack of belief in any gods. This is not a positive statement. I am not claiming that no gods exist, but that I have rejected the god claims that I have been given based on evidentiary grounds. In other words, I've dismissed them because of their own lack of substantiated claims and evidence. It is not my job to disprove these god claims if the people making them have not demonstrated that they are true.
I would be inclined to say that I may be wrong- just like the person who denied the existence of other galaxies was wrong. I will not fault the person for not having any evidence (or enough evidence) that other galaxies existed, if the evidence had not yet been discovered.
But could you be looking in the wrong place? Or looking with the wrong attitude? You see, as a Christian I believe in God for one reason: He has revealed Himself to us. How has He done this? He has done it first of all through the majesty of His creation.

But, most of all, He has revealed Himself in a way that staggers our imagination: He became a man. That man was Jesus, in whom (the Bible says) "all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form" (Colossians 2:9). No, I know you don't believe that right now—but I challenge you to look at Jesus with an open heart and mind as He is revealed in the pages of the New Testament. Don't let pride or anything else keep you from discovering Him.
Graham assumes that the bible is true without demonstrating that it is. Billy Graham should read material other than that which is sold in Christian Bookstores to be well rounded in his education. I don't understand what looking for Jesus with an open mind and heart mean; surely if I'm looking for Jesus, I've already got the open mind and heart. I've dismissed Christianity after analyzing it. Why does Graham assume I may be an atheist because of my pride? I honestly don't care much for pride.
Before you sell a "solution", you must create the problem.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

CCSG Chapter 8: Dating

Read about this series of posts here, The Christian Culture Survival Guide.

After reading the chapter, and being stricken by apathy towards the topic of Christian relationships, I've decided to now half-ass this blog post and show you a rap video about "rolling" with atheists. I don't generally listen to this type of music, and the video is a bit cheesy, but it's better than nothing (and perhaps mildly entertaining, at the very least).

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Just a Heads Up

If I am absent for this following week, it is because I will be going on a camping trip that begins tomorrow (Sunday) and lasts until next Saturday. This also means that when I return I will have much to read due to the blog posts I expect to pile up on Google Reader during my trip.

Don't worry, I prioritize, which means that I usually read the blogs I'm "following" on Blogger first.

Take it easy this following week.

Friday, August 14, 2009

CCSG Chapter 7: Boycotts and Extremes [Part 2]

Read about this series of posts here, The Christian Culture Survival Guide.

There’s a saying that can vaguely be summarized as this- “Any publicity is good publicity”. When the first Dan Brown book to be filmed The Da Vinci Code was going to be released, there were protests from Christian groups calling it blasphemy. Aside from that, there were poor reviews all over the place (the movie holds a 24% rating at Rotten Tomatoes); the movie, however, did fairly well its opening release weekend. The reason was publicity, and all the Christian protesters were really doing was helping give this film more publicity. Christian boycotts don’t work much; what they do is spark curiosity in the people who hear their message, which in turn may make the person participate in the very thing the Christian boycotts are against. Let's face it, even the protesters may indulge in the very thing they claim to be against (I remember one Christian telling me he went to see the Da Vinci Code because he wanted to know what lies the adversity was spewing this time).

Sometimes, what these people protest against baffles us. They boycott things that can be so minuscule, so small, it matters to nobody but them. Take this christian webpage, for example, which makes it its mission to denounce rock music. Yes, this includes Christian Rock and secular Rock. In regards to Christians replying to the allegations that Christian Rock is evil, one of the site masters had this to say:

In an effort to return to the immediate topic at hand, Paul Turner gives us a list of three signs that indicate we may be about to make an erroneous decision.
  1. You're going to do it because everybody else is doing it.
  2. If you're doing it based on emotions.
  3. If you're doing it to make somebody happy.
Although these are directed at Christians who are considering boycotting, I'd say these are good rules to adopt generally. Along with these suggestions, look out for these people:
  1. The Over-Zealous Regulator: I remember a pious usher once telling a congregant that he should shave his face because his beard wasn't very attractive. I must admit, it was eccentric and unkempt, but this was who he was. I myself have been prone to keeping my face unkempt every once in a while (albeit out of laziness). To this day, the man with the unkempt beard was probably one of the most humble persons I have met; I certainly preferred his company over any of those self-righteous men spewing venom from the pews.
  2. The Conspiracy Theorist: Satan's influence can be seen in any and all news. I remember my church being up in arms over Planet X. Perhaps if you're prone to believing something so ludicrous as religion, you leave yourself open for all types of nonsense.
  3. The Theological "Thumper": This one I found amusing. These sorts of people are the ones who go about fitting every aspect and event in life into some bible verse or obscure teaching- and according to the author, these people end up leaving the faith altogether.
I'd like to add one more thing on that list. Beware of those who think for themselves instead of dogmatically following the words of some preacher or "holy book". Question everything, and question what motives these "leaders" may have.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I now get Japanese Spam

Now, I have set my blog comment settings in a way so that anybody can come to my blog and express their ideas without worrying about being censored (I actually support free speech, and don't care if you curse or say "blasphemous" comments). The reason for this is that I believe it is childish to get worked up about who said what, and I'd like this to be a place for any audience to have their ideas heard and not shut out; however, I never accounted for spam. Nevertheless, Japanese spam (I'm disappointed, I was hoping to get a drive-by gospel shooting).

This one, with the help of Google translate, harshly translates into this-
HAMESEREBU is immediately available free dating community. The unprecedented performance, and find people that match your wishes. Ensures we meet the events a month luxury unthinkable

And this one harshly translates into this-
Height of summer! One girl is a feeling of open world's spoiling for a H! Oh you girls ○ network to raise the mood for him at the knee! Of course, it's also OK to help you! Now, by accessing the Ministry of Relief Now
I just found this amusing. Perhaps you can make more sense of this than I can. At the moment, though, I have no plans of changing my comment policy.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

CCSG Chapter 7: Boycotts and Extremes [Part 1]

Read about this series of posts here, The Christian Culture Survival Guide.

There was a gay parade scheduled for later that month in the city where the congregants met every Sunday. This meant that Satan had a stranglehold grip on these people, and was holding on tightly. The pastor decided to do something in retaliation, so he did what God called him to do. He got together with a group of other pastors, and they decided to have their own rally and parade. Walk for Jesus, it was called. It could have adequately been dubbed “Walk for injustice and inequality”, as it was crafted from a pitiful hate against people who were not like them. Like good Christians.

As we know, Christians boycott and speak out against a lot of things (mostly because of unintelligent reasons). But when the good kingdom of God is threatened, the humble Christians have to bear their arms and put on their spiritual armor to combat the forces of Satan. By the way, that phrase is accurately pronounced “Merry Christmas”, emphasis on the Christ.
Paul Turner makes the point in his book that Christians may picket against any petty grievances. He has created a list of today’s most popular boycotts:

1. All things Disney: I remember a Christian group leader telling me once that when a new Disneyland park was opened, the staff would get together the night before and practice witchcraft and wizardry. Apparently, they did this in order to get a lot of visitors and to be successful.
2. Halloween: The night when Satan holds captive the minds of people who even recognize what day it is.
3. Pop music icons: Secular music is inherently evil.
4. “R” Rated Movies
5. All Things Mormon: This, of course, does not apply if you’re Mormon.
6. Alcoholic beverages, and anything sponsored by Alcoholic beverages: Alcohol is Satan’s favorite tool. If he’s got a vice-like grip on you, he may very well have the ability to turn water into wine.

Paul Turner recounts a moment in his life in which his father announced that they no longer were to purchase or own anything manufactured by Proctor and Gamble. He had gotten a tip at work by another fundamentalist that Proctor and Gamble was supporting the Church of Satan. This meant everything with the face resembling a crescent moon had to go. As disheartening as it was, Paul’s mother agreed (although she was the first to be skeptical). The truth of the matter, though, was that the other products just didn’t compare to the ones Satan profited from.

And here are five pieces of advice for Christians about boycotting:
1. They hardly work.
2. Publicized boycotts make you seem petty and ridiculous.
3. If you decided to boycott, be consistent.
4. Don’t boycott something simply because others are.
5. Don’t boycott without knowing the facts.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Creation Museum Trip

Since I could not go to yesterday's creation museum trip, I've decided to write a post about a news article about the trip. I'm doing my part to fight against weak "science", no matter how minor it may be. However, just in case you didn't know, PZ Myers (along with the Secular Student Alliance) decided to pay the creation museum (the one owned by Ken Ham) a visit. There was an incident in which one student, Derek, was removed from the premises. Although, the allegations seemed weak.
The article begins:
A group of scientists, students and secularists -- 304 in all -- visited Petersburg, Kentucky on Friday to tour exhibits on display at the Creation Museum.
The visitors are in town attending a conference of the Secular Student Alliance, a group formed "to organize, unite, educate and serve students and student communities that promote the ideals of scientific and critical inquiry, democracy, secularism, and human based ethics."
Exhibits in the Creation Museum, which cost $27 million to build and opened in May, 2007, present a history of the world based on literal interpretations of the Book of Genesis. Adam and Eve share the Garden of Eden with dinosaurs; the beaks of Darwin's finches are explained by God's will, not evolution; and mankind spread from continent to continent by walking across the floating trunks of trees knocked down during the Biblical Flood. The museum has made a specific effort to reach out to students and families.
$27 Million wasted on anti-science tripe. Apparently, dinosaurs were all vegetarians (even the dinosaurs with the sharp teeth) before the fall of man. Re-read where I added my bold emphasis- now, it is alright to ridicule at the explanation these people give for how people crossed the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean. However, you have to give it to them for the ability to fabricate an excuse for anything.
William Watkin, a chemist living in Indiana, challenged one exhibit's suggestion that the Grand Canyon could have been carved in hours by a process similar to how volcanic mudslides can rapidly create canyons in softer rocks. "Everything they said about sediment deposition, about Mount St. Helens … anyone in first year geology would say 'wrong from top to bottom,'" said Watkin.
Anybody with even a basic understanding of science will understand these people are wrong from the top to the bottom. The problem is, these people aren't as interested in having their science correct as much as they are interested in spreading their gospel message. Here is a snapshot of their mission statement.

As you can see, these people first lay the foundations of their "research" with what the bible states (or at least, their interpretation). Then anything that does not fit their worldview gets thrown out. Sound science is what a real museum strives for- these people are a sham.
In the singular moment of noticeable conflict, Derek Rogers, a computer science major at Dalhouise University in Nova Scotia, Canada, was detained by guards for wearing a shirt with a slogan recently plastered on buses by activist groups that read "there's probably no God, so get over it." He was escorted to the bathroom and ordered to flip the shirt inside-out.
"One family of religious people told me that I had ruined their trip, and they drove all the way from Virginia," said Rogers.
A museum that orders somebody with a shirt that isn't very offensive (though this is my opinion, it did not have any explicit language or imagery) surely is not open to the exchange of ideas. This is truly disheartening, we'd expect a place that sets forth to "educate" to tolerate an opposing view. PZ Myers, famed biologist blogger, wrote about it on his blog (there is even video footage of the conversation between Derek, Myers, and a couple of other atheists). What I found amusing was that a family from Virginia stated this ruined their trip. I'm sure their trip would have been worse were they to have been thrown out. What these people should be worried about is the distasteful attitude this museum has towards any form of minor criticism.
But at least one conversation between religious believers and members of the group found common ground. Beneath a poster that presented the creationist interpretation of fossils, two students from North Carolina and a man who became religious after being diagnosed with cancer engaged in a polite dialogue about helping others and tolerating differences that drew a crowd.

"Regardless of religion, we both live our lives for the same reasons," said one of the students. "The big thing we have a problem with here is the faulty science."
This is the ending paragraph in the article. And I agree that my first quirk against these fundamentalist types isn't their religiosity, it's their misunderstanding of basic science (and promotion of pseudoscience).

Friday, August 7, 2009

CCSG Chapter 6: Getting Along With Christians

Read about this series of posts here, The Christian Culture Survival Guide.

Becoming friends with the Christians at Church was easy. One simply had to look the part of a new convert (or potential convert), and you were welcomed into the ranks. Of course, most everyone leaned towards conservative value. Group bible study get-togethers involved me keeping my mouth shut. It was hard to truly become part of the group when you didn’t say “amen!” after every five sentences of speech, and raised your hand in the air whilst your head was down. There was a group mentality that went like this- If you’re not with us, you’re against us. I was the sheep cast among wolves.

Mind you, this following sentence contains a word I do not condone using, but here it is being used to prove a point. Mr. Turner tells a story of when he was a younger person carrying a boom box to Church, and upon walking in one of the ushers whispered, “How many niggers did you have to tackle to get that there CD player?” Mr. Turner makes the point of saying that there are some Christians out there that make it hard for the rest of them, like saying vile things as if they were nothing but a joke. I know the reason for this- they’re all human like the rest of us. Having faith in an unsubstantiated worldview does not make you a better person. Kicking racism and stereotyping out the door is a good start though. And while you’re at it, try tolerance.
Five phrases insulting to Christians, according to Mr. Turner:

1. You’re sexy! (This phrase is seemingly X-rated for the more conservative Christian types.)
2. I’m a Democrat. (Liberalism=God Hater.)
3. Would you like to see a wine list? (Because you know what happened to Lot.)
4. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being gay.
5. How do you know God is indeed a man?

Turner tells of an event involving his job as the editor of CCM magazine (a Contemporary Christian Music magazine). He received a phone call from a lady who did not like the usage of the word “sexy” in an article heading. She yelled at Turner, telling him that sex is not talked about in the bible. Of course, we already know about the Songs of Solomon, however, this woman then made the claim that it wasn’t talked about in the King James Version. She cancelled her subscription over one word.
Five things Turner has learned about other Christians:

1. When it seems you are going to offend somebody, then you are going to offend somebody.
2. Think twice before you think your criticism will be welcomed at all.
3. Christians judge first, think second.
4. Christians have a skewed sense of humor (as we’ve discussed before). Perhaps most of your jokes won’t come across as funny, unless they deal with bible stories.
5. A Christian’s politics is his religion, and vice-versa.

Turner then continues to tell us yet another story of his days as the CCM editor. This one involved listening to a demo CD of a prospective Christian singer… and then telling her the music needed work. The prospective Christian singer was astounded, and said that the Holy Spirit gave her the song. At that point, there are three things you can say, but I’ll only share the one that is worth our time- “You’re full of crap.”

The last sentence in the chapter reads something along the lines of “silence can help diffuse the worst of situations”. In Church, I held my silence out of fear. I would be looked down upon. I would be labeled with all sorts of horrific titles. Any minor friendships I held would have been lost.

Today, however, I would not be afraid to call those people out on their tripe. And whenever somebody else was looked down upon for being different, I wouldn’t put up with it. If these people knew me now.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Perhaps I can get it a little higher than that.

Doing a search for the book, The Christian Culture Survival Guide, I find myself a few web pages from the bottom. Either way, this is the first page. Does anybody else seem to get this result?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

CCSG Chapter 5: The Worship Service

Read about this series of posts here, The Christian Culture Survival Guide.

Worship is cringe worthy. I’ve wasted too much time of my life in worship services, time that could’ve been used doing something productive (like reading good literature). And from the outside looking it, worshipping anything just because it’s self-labeled itself “god” is scary. It’s scary because people are willing to suspend disbelief for an unsubstantiated claim and revere it to such a high degree.
Regardless, here is Paul Turner’s list of 7 Church clich├ęs that need to go.

1. Announcement in the middle of praise or worship services.
2. Praise and Worship Flags.
3. “Visitor” Time. Nobody likes being called out in the middle of worship service.
4. Praise and Worship Guitar Solos. (My reason would be that “rocking for Jesus” is embarrassing.)
5. Interpretive Dancing. (“Dancing for Jesus” is also lame).
6. Five minute sermon prayers.
7. Any mentions of sports by the pastor. I have no problem with this, really, because it forces the pastor to return to real life (even if for mere minutes).

Don’t worry, though. Turner makes sure to offer 5 suggestions for churches to revamp their services. (This list isn’t serious at all).

1. Rhythmic gymnastics (to go along with the worship flags).
2. Pastors should enter from the rear entrance, followed by a mini “Jesus-parade”.
3. Making public displays of pastoral counseling to be a regular thing. (For those who like Dr. Phil.)
4. Internet capability.
5. Pancakes, bacon, and scrambled eggs instead of doughnuts and coffee Sunday morning.

Turner paraphrases Mathew 18:20 at the end of the chapter.
Matthew 18:20 (New King James Version)
20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.
That’s right. At the mall, grocery store, or park (it doesn’t matter where you worship). But, I have a better idea. How about you decide to live your life, and recognize the moments when you do something good. Recognize the goodness in others. Recognize that you’re able to accomplish great things, without the unfounded belief in an imaginary being.

Instead of worshipping this god, investigate if he even exists in the first place.