Hey you religious people!

These are mostly for Christians, since I’m writing for my audience and it happens to be the religion I know most about, but some others will apply to other faiths as well.

Question time.

First, let me explain my intentions – people always seem suspicious of this, which surprised me at first, but it’s easier now just to explain right away. I’m interested in your answers, and from your answers I might ask more questions. I’m not trying to make you lose faith. I’m trying to understand the many different ways people think about and interact with religion, if I disagree with something you say, I won’t do it by calling you a derogatory name. I except the same type of courtesy back, because otherwise I can’t learn anything from you and neither can you from me. I’ve simplified these a lot and changed them from my wordpress account. Anyways, here we go.

  1. If you believe that the purpose of the universe is to foster human life, how do you explain the time surrounding human existence? 99.999999% of all time in which anything existed did not include human life, so this means the universe did some serious procrastinating in turning us up on earth if it is supposedly created for us.
  2. Assuming that God created the whole of existence, where does God come from? If you claim god is eternal – how/why? Why is is conceivable for god to be eternal in order to have created all of the matter that makes up existence, but not for matter to have possibly existed in a way that would make the big bang plausible?
  3. How do you explain inconsistencies in the bible or other holy books? If man wrote them, are they not fallible? Why should they be trusted? There was no peer review process, we have only speculation to go on about their authors and at what time they were written. They are famously unreliable documents with bits of history sprinkled in.
  4. Do you believe evolution? Why/why not? If you do, how do you explain the conflicting teachings of religion with evolutionary theory? Do you know what deism is?
  5. How do you explain that stories such as virgin birth of a savior who was also resurrected three days after their death showing up in earlier religions? These religions often worshiped multiple gods that were nothing like the Christian gods, and had different prophets – yet these stories remain.
  6. Do you think it makes sense to use one lifetime to judge what happens to your eternal soul?
  7. Why do you think there is no clear evidence for God? Feelings are not clear evidence – I used to be a Christian, every time I felt some amazement at something and credited god – I still have those feelings, I just don’t find any reason to credit god anymore since I find no reason to believe god exists.
  8. Why is it that, when someone dies Christians are so sad? If the person was good, they’d go to heaven wouldn’t they? Isn’t this a sort of cognitive dissonance that suggest that deep-down, there is unbelief? I understand this is a basic question, it was just something I often wondered as a kid
  9. Why is it, do you think, that descriptions of heaven are so vague and the ones of hell are so vivid? Is it possible that this is a sort of marketing ploy to keep people afraid and to keep the idea of heaven vague so people could make what they wanted of it? Did you know the ideas of heaven and hell have basically evolved from the Judaic Sheol?
  10. Do you know what the Council of Nicea is? If so, what are your personal views on the work they did? In so many words, I’d view it as the biggest marketing ploy of all time by the church, instead of being concerned with truth.

Reasons against secularism – well.. there aren’t any good ones.

I have to wonder why it is that so many religious people are actively against secularism and for the intertwining of church and state. Why are you actively against the idea of a society in which…

  • You are allowed to believe whatever religion (or none) you choose to
  • The government may neither punish or reward you for your religious beliefs
  • No one is punished for violating rules of a religion they don’t follow
  • No one is given unequal benefits for believing in a specific religion
  • Government is about the safety of the people and regulation of goods, not enforcing religious beliefs not all people who are governed over hold

As far as I can tell, the only reason to be against this is because you want unfair treatment FOR your religion. You want the laws of the country to follow your religion, and it doesn’t bother you that this forces people who think things other than what you think to adhere to them. You’re not interested in government playing the role it should, nor are you interested in a level playing field, you’re interested in what does the best job to enforce your religious views. You don’t care that in a secular society, you would still be allowed to hold your beliefs and traditions, you want everyone else to have to deal with them, too. You don’t care about freedom of religion (even if you claim to) because it doesn’t bother you that the laws adhere to your religion even though all people in the country do not follow your religion. You aren’t interested in equality so long as you get the special treatment and everyone else just deals with it.

So basically, the only reason to be against secularism, is because there’s some sort of religious agenda being pushed. However, if you are in a religious minority in your country, or an atheist of some sort, often you’ll be a secularist.

If the U.S. had a law system modeled after Islam, I’m sure Christians would finally get this concept. But they don’t get it, since the majority are Christians. It doesn’t occur to them that laws against gay marriage are religious laws that they shouldn’t be allowed to force on the country as a whole. It doesn’t occur to many that school is for learning and not for prayer (send your kid to a Christian school if this is what you want). Maybe it would matter to them if they lived under a law system formed by another religion, then they’d get why separation of church and state are critical – so that people actually have a level playing field, so that no belief system is favored over another.

Secular societies in the world report happy populations and low crime rates. They provide an environment where you may believe whatever you wish and have those beliefs in your every day life – and no one else is forced to live by them, and you aren’t forced to live by anyone else’s beliefs. You can’t be punished or governed by a religious system which you do not believe in. What possible good reason is there to oppose this?

A day in the life of God… oh wait.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

1: the time of light between one night and the next
2: the period of rotation of a planet (as earth) or a moon on its axis
3: the mean solar day of 24 hours beginning at mean midnight
According to Genesis, God created the Sun on the fourth day. Seeing as how days are measured by the above criteria, I’d like to know how this was determined. If nothing else, this should be a good  example that the bible is solely the word of man and not inspired by any divine entity.
A day is literally meaningless the second you leave earth. Sure, you can still measure time in such increments – but they are based on the way the earth turns. Without the earth, a day to us wouldn’t be anything. A day on another planet is quite a different length of time. So why would a supernatural entity, obviously not confined to any planet (at least not one we know of) even bother describing these increments of time in which He created things days. A day would not even have existed until the fourth ‘day’ where He finally created the sun.
Or, if a ‘day’ to God is more like a thousand years to us, or six thousand, or whatever number – this suggest we have some sort of knowledge that God lives on a planet where a day is that length of time as set by whichever star that God’s home planet rotates around. A day is a measurement of time that is literally meaningless without a planet within a solar system by which to define it. So, if this text were divinely inspired, why would there not be a different increment of time used to describe the creation of the world? A day only applies to us earthly creatures, not to a supernatural one.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, my secret soulmate.

Why Evolution Is True

According to MinutePhysics, the Templeton Foundation asked astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson to answer the question, “Does the universe has a purpose?” Now I’m not sure whether they paid him to answer (taking such money would, in my view, be offensive), but I don’t think they’ll like Tyson’s answer given in the short video below. (It’s illustrated with MinutePhysics’ drawings.) Tyson’s a wee bit on-the-fencey, but definitely suggests that creatures make their own purpose.

Give this a listen; it’s only 2.5 minutes long. And his answer, toward the end of the video, is pretty clear:

“So while I cannot claim to know for sure whether or not the universe has a purpose, the case against it is strong—and visible to anybody who sees the universe as it is, rather than as they wish it to be.”

If that’s not an explicit rejection of religion, I don’t know what is.

Tyson…

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The thing about atheism.

The thing about atheism is that, if you’re not running into those who are just labeling themselves as such on principal and without much research, is that people really misunderstand it.

It isn’t something we readily label ourselves with to set ourselves apart. It isn’t necessarily a ‘movement’ of sorts. It isn’t any one set of beliefs or characteristics that unites multiple atheists (unless the individual atheists want it to be). It’s not a religious belief, because I’m not taking anything on faith. It’s a default position.

It’s a default position to not believe something for which there is no proof, until or unless someone can present proof for their case. Atheism is that for me more than anything else. This site is about the only place I come to talk about the ideas that I have as they relate to religion, atheism, and agnosticism. But I do not assert there is no god – I do however assert that there is no such god as the world’s religions would view this being. I think that if there is a God, although unlikely and still there is no reason to assume so, this being is not a concept that humanity understands. He has not inspired any chosen people with His divine teachings. Hell, I’m not even sure that if some supernatural creature created the universe that it would be interested in us afterwards.

I am an atheist because the world of religion is contradictory and subjective, there are no objective reasons to believe in any religion on this planet. Not one of them holds any definitive proof. If there were proof, I would not be an atheist. I am not an atheist on principal, but I do seek the truth on principal – and truth and research has brought me to an atheistic view of the world.

Atheism can be more, but before it is anything else, it is this. Some people skip over this so fast they forget to contemplate it. Atheism can be a movement – to the right people. However, I personally would view secularism as the movement (which I fully support) and you don’t have to be atheist to be a secularist.

Fine tuning – addendum

I made a short post 2 days ago on fine-tuning, and I decided I’d like to go more in depth. Fine-tuning is perhaps, the only almost solid argument any theist might have for the existence of a God, but then again it isn’t. For a long time, I wasn’t sure if I could still call myself an atheist because this very argument confused me to no end, although I still remained largely on the atheistic side of thinking because even though the arguments made me think, they didn’t prove anything. So I’ve done some more reading and would like to reiterate and even add my own ideas on top of why this argument doesn’t prove anything about any divine entity.

Often I run into someone saying something along the lines of this to me, that if even one of the physical laws that determine the workings of the universe were different, that life very well would not be possible for the universe to foster. Since we have this set of physical laws, someone must have put them in place. The problem I run into here is the assumption that all life that could be created would be similar to how we perceive it – which there is no reason to believe that this is absolutely true. Different forms of life very well may form under other conditions, just because it isn’t life we would be familiar with, doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be possible under different conditions in a differently working universe. This life just wouldn’t function in the way that we do, biologically.

The other more common argument I hear is that the earth is in the optimal place in the solar system for life as we know it to have originated here. We also have water, and a lot of it. Now, if there’s one thing I know it’s that humans have an uncanny need to attribute coincidence to the supernatural. In all the billions, trillions, who really knows how many galaxies, each with (on average) somewhere between a billion and trillions of stars in them – is it so hard to realize that these conditions would be met somewhere in the universe, in AT LEAST one solar system? This should not hold the shock value that it does for so many. Yes, we got lucky – but this does not automatically point to the supernatural.

Now, these are the two most obvious ones, but seeing as how I’m sick right now and spending too much time not doing anything, I have a lot of time to think.

Now, I don’t know everything about string theory or the possibility of a multiverse other than what is basically common knowledge, but this is a point worth considering. If there are multiple universes, vast amounts of them connected by some means, then how can we even know that in the whole of existence that the occurrence of universes that can foster life are not abundant? What if these conditions are normal and we are not as lucky as we think we are – but an average event across all existence? We simply assume, for no good reason really, that a universe in which there are optimal conditions for life to happen in is an uncommon occurrence. We have no reason to assert that this statement could be true, given that we’ve only been looking at the universe in scientific terms for a short period of time, especially compared to the amount of time that surrounds human beings even existing. Perhaps there are many universes capable of fostering life – life as we know it or not – and the occurrences of universes that don’t foster life is an uncommon one? Now, I’m not asserting that string theory is true, only that it is very reasonably possible considering what we know and that this is a point that should be considered.

However, my favorite point that I’ve come across is that the earth is not ‘built’ for us. It wasn’t made especially for us, we were made because of it. If the earth was a place ideal for human habitation, explain to me volcanoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, weather which we couldn’t reasonably survive in without man-made dwellings and clothing, and the abundance of predators capable of ripping us apart and making us part of the food chain (although clearly this is not common anymore, I’m talking more along the lines of the conditions ancient people had to live in). If this world is specifically for us, human beings, social creatures – why are the continents separated by vast bodies of water? Why are there large mountain ranges that make it hard for people to travel across? The only way we overcome these things are by man-made, scientific means – we shape the world to suit our needs, it’s what humans do. If the world were made with us specifically in mind as ours and the rest of the animal kingdom just exists for us, then why does the the world not reflect that? Why must we overcome natural obstacles by creating unnatural means (airplanes, cars, ships) to connect with our fellow human beings if the world is engineered specifically for us? Unfortunately for theists, it makes abundantly more sense that we are products of this world, rather than that it is a product for us.

There are scholars who touch on these ideas, far more elegantly and knowledgeably than I do, but the argument for a fine-tuned universe is well.. by no means solid. It is a philosophical claim, speculation, it holds no proof or evidence for God.

Why religious morality is subjective and not objective.

I’m sure other atheists have run into this argument – that religion provides an objective morality without which we would not be able to tell right from wrong without subjectivity coming into play. Now, this post isn’t even about whether or not an objective morality exists (although I will eventually post about that), it’s about why religious morality is NOT objective and it’s illogical to claim that it is.

Is there any good reason, let’s say between Islam and Christianity, to believe that Allah is more believable/true than Yahweh? Or to believe Hinduism or maybe Buddhism over one of the Abrahamic religions? No, these religions all have about the same amount of evidence – none. They all hold ancient religious texts that contradict themselves (except perhaps Buddhism, although I have never read the Pali Cannon or other texts in their entirety and haven’t done much research on it, since the teachings have nothing to do with a divine creator and more with enlightenment, morality, and the cycle of reincarnation) and hold stories of myths and events that are impossible (Jonah and the fish.. or whale.. depends on who you speak to). People choose and believe religions for subjective reasons – faith, because it offers comfort, because the words of these holy texts speak to them on certain levels – but never for objective ones – reasons that would present testable evidence. If there was an objective reason to believe in any religion, I would not be an atheist. And since all religions claim to hold the only real truth, obviously even IF one of them held the truth, that would leave thousands of belief systems being well… wrong. This isn’t news though, or at least it shouldn’t be.

So, having established that belief in religion is subjective – how could you possibly claim that the beliefs taught by that religion are objective, when there are only subjective reasons to even believe that the religion is true or that God exists? How can something be objective if there is NO reason, no evidence, no verifiable proof to suggest that the supposed being that’s handing down these moral rules even exists?

The existence of God is either reality, or it isn’t. And since there’s no solid reason to assume there is a God, why would I logically accept that the teachings of any one God – there are many to pick from – are objective? Objectivity is completely separate from faith, and since faith (the state of believing without need for evidence that something is true) is the main component of religious belief that makes the belief itself subjective, (there are philosophical components, but none that provide evidence) they are mutually exclusive in every way.

 

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Before I end this, an update on the Looking Glass posts (just ignore this whole chunk if you don’t know what I’m talking about) : I am still working on the first one, but with finals coming up I have a strong suspicion I’m going to have to put that on hold until the semester ends and I’m not typing up so many papers to the point that I can’t even enjoy writing something long on here.