Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – the altar challenge, will Bill Keller take the challenge he offered to a Muslim?

He-believes SuetoniusAh, back into writing about religion. It’s about time, isn’t it?  And can *you* guess what the answer to the question in the title is? Of course you can!

Recently, I noted a post on Ed Brayton’s Dispatches From The Culture Wars, about Bill Keller and his silly challenge to the leader of ISIL, the vermin in the Middle East. Mr. Keller challenged Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to the Old Testament contest found in 1 Kings 18, where the prophet Elijah has two altars built and calls down his god’s power to consume the offering on one. He then has all of the priests of the other god murdered.

In my decades of questioning theists’s claims, I’ve often asked Christians to do this contest with me. I’d bring a Zippo, a industrial sized torch or even just a magnifying glass on a sunny day, and they could pray as long as they said was necessary. Unsurprisingly, everyone refused this challenge giving many excuses: that they weren’t a prophet so their god wouldn’t answer, that this god only did such things thousands of years ago, that their god shouldn’t be tested (belied by the stories of Gideon and the words in Malachi and 1 Thessalonians), that they didn’t have time, etc.

Now, here we can get this done! I thought. He has claimed he is a prophet, so there goes that excuse, and since al-Baghdadi likely won’t answer, he’ll have time in his schedule. Mr. Keller obviously believes this will happen in this modern time, so that excuse is gone too! I promptly sent off a request for Mr. Keller to do the challenge with me at a place and time of his convenience.

Here’s the email I sent (and yes I did use my real name, if you are curious about that, do the work):

Mr. Keller,

I have seen your challenge to the leader of ISIL: ““I will come to Iraq, Syria, any location you desire,” says Keller. “We will each take an unblemished animal, cut that animal into pieces, put those pieces on wood, but not set fire to the wood. Once prepared, you have one hour’s time to call on Allah to rain down fire on your offering. If at the end of that hour Allah has still not answered your pleas, I will call upon the one true God of the Bible … not just to bring down fire on my offering, but yours as well.” “If your god Allah does not answer you … you will resign as the leader of ISIS. You will retire from your life of terror. You will encourage your followers to live in peace and I will be free to return to the United States.”

“If your god Allah answers your pleas by fire [and] my God does not, I will renounce the Christian faith, and you’re free to kill me or do whatever you like.”

I would like to ask you if you are willing to take the same challenge from an atheist, to pray for fire from your god.  I will meet you at a place of your choice in the US (perhaps midway between Florida and Pennsylvania?) with two altars, as you describe above.  You may pray to your god for fire to consume it.  If there is no response, I will use a means of ignition discovered by the scientific method, a Zippo would be a fine choice, to light both altars. These proceedings would be videotaped. If you god answers you, I will be happy to publically announce that I believe in this god, though I would not worship such a being.  If there are no flames, you will publically announce that your god does not exist.   You also may choose to announce that your god does not respond to you if you prefer.  

I look forward to your response.

Lo and behold, I got a response, which I do appreciate. I won’t reproduce it here verbatim until I get permission from Mr. Keller since he has the copyright but I’ll talk about what it said and my thoughts on it.  UPDATE – 9/1/14 @ 8:28 pm.  I got another response, and no refusal of publication.  Mr. Keller has said he was too “bored” to read my email.  So, here is his first response:

LOL..sorry…first..Dr. Keller gets 40,000 emails a DAY…mostly for prayer…there are 700 of us..all retried pastors who work with him to make sure each one is prayed over and answered..Dr. Keller isn’t into “stunts”..but is led by God’s Holy Spirit in all that he does….the things he does are God-led..not simply a will die one day..even a genius like yourself who claims there is no God..meaning you were nothing but a genetic accident and your life is absolutely meaningless..will accept that will either be correct..and go into the ground like a dead plant..or as the Bible teaches you will stand before God and cast into hell..for your CHOICE to reject are clearly worried about the wrong things..and should be focused whether you are willing to stake your eternal soul on the lies of this world..we will pray for you though. 

btw..your offer is foolish since proving God’s existence only requires you do something every day..look into a mirror..there is ZERO explanation for you other than God..glad to have helped and saved you the drama..blessings 

Know that I am praying for you, be richly blessed, Bill Keller Founder,  To get Bill Keller’s FREE Daily Devotional…sign up at the link below by putting in your email address and look for the confirming email you must reply to…

It is fascinating that prayers aren’t known at all by their god, but must be handled by pastors.   Seems like the same “intervention” as Catholics require.  And I was wrong about 40,000 a year.  Of course, there is not one independent verification of such a strangely high number.  I did get another response which I shall post in a day or two.  It’s even more amusing.

This response was purportedly from one of his “700” retired pastors who handle the prayer requests for his ministry. It began with “LOL”, which didn’t exactly give me any great hopes on the content of the missive. It was also full of ellipses, which always baffles me why anyone does that, other than to make their response rather incoherent. My guess is that this is from Mr. Keller himself considering how the post is written, with claim of “I” do this, etc, and not from a random pastor. We also do not have the name of the pastor which is unusual from my point of view. Why not take ownership of one’s actions? So, from this point, I will treat the letter as written by Mr. Keller. The writer also says “Dr. Keller” but I cannot find any information he has received a doctorate from anywhere, not even in his own biography. This appears to be an attempt to appeal to authority.  I have asked for information where the doctorate came from.

The letter opens with the claim that the ministry gets “40,000” prayer requests a year. (UPDATE: this is supposed 40K per “day”.  I have asked for the email stats for this since there is no independent confirmation of such a ridiculous number. google stats may be able to take care of this. The Exchange server certainly could do this.)  This appears to be an excuse of “I don’t have the time”. This would average out to around over a 100 a day. Certainly the 700 pastors can handle this for a day or two while Mr. Keller tends to altar business?

Mr. Keller then goes onto say that Mr. Keller isn’t into doing “stunts”. This seems to indicate that this challenge by Mr. Keller is now a “stunt”. Or that he wasn’t serious about doing this at all? However, the letter writer states that Mr. Keller is “God-led” by his god into doing everything, which would indicate that Mr. Keller is serious about this “stunt”.

Then we have what is expected from a Christian asked to do complete the challenge he has offered to another religious figure. I am told that I will die one day, a great shock to everyone, I’m sure….. :)  I am threatened with hell as usual and the pastor claims that he will pray for me. I am told that I simply must have no meaning in my life and that I am a “genetic accident”.   I am then told that I just have to look in the mirror to see evidence for Mr. Keller’s god because “there is ZERO explanation for you other than God” for it. Except for the claims of nearly every other religion that their god/gods made me exist, all with the usual lack of evidence that Mr. Keller has. This lovely excuse is what is offered instead of doing the altar challenge that Mr. Keller proposed to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. I guess we can see what Mr. Keller’s excuse would have been should the self-described “caliph” accept his challenge.

Thank you, Mr. Keller. You have shown that no one should believe your claims.

The above is the short and sweet version of the story. Now, if you want to read my much longer response to Mr. Keller, with juicy details, here you go:  Continue reading

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – why I really hate this idiotic “ice bucket” nonsense

*I* object to this stupid challenge because it’s as effective as prayer since so very few are donating money which actually helps! Ooooh, big freakin’ whoop that people are getting wet. They whine “but it gets attention to the issue.” What idiot under what rock doesn’t know about cancer or whatever? it’s the same as prayer, playing pretend that you are actually helping when you are doing NOTHING.

Send real money to real people doing real things to help the problem, to cure cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s, brain tumors, just do something REAL.  A dear friend of mine will probably die from or suffer losing his limbs from Type 1 diabetes.  He needs help, not stunts.


What the Boss Likes – Update, GenCon 2

Well, we’re home from GenCon. A very nice vacation and I’m exhausted.   Here are some more photos of what we saw and did out in Indianapolis. If anyone sees a photo that they would like a copy of, I do still have the original digital files. I’ll probably keep those around for a few weeks. The following are my cleaned up versions of what I took. (part one of this series can be found here)

More photos from the zoo


Continue reading

What the Boss Likes – Update 1, GenCon 2014

My husband and I don’t get much of a chance to go to the bigger science fiction/fantasy/comic/gaming cons here in the US.  We’ve been to DragonCon a couple of times and the same for GenCon, which is likely the largest gaming convention in the world.  Gaming, in this instance, means role-playing games, those ones that religious idiots claimed (and still claim) would lead to knowing “real” spells and worshipping Satan, card games, board games, and some computer/video games.

I don’t know any real spells and I’ve been playing for 30 years now.  Sigh.  Rush hour would be a whole lot different if I did know these “real” spells…..

We took a few days extra to explore Indianapolis.  The zoo here is very nice (alas no snow leopards) and I also got to see the “catacombs” under their old market building.

At the con, there are also people who do “cosplay” which means dress up as their favorite characters from books, anime, movies, games, etc.  The main day for that will be tomorrow. But here are a couple of photos of cosplayers now.

Back with more photos in a day or three.  Part 2 can be found here.

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Yet more evidence that it’s not about concern but control, and some ruminations on prayer

Here in PA, we have yet more evidence that those who claim to be “pro-life” are concerned with nothing more than control of anyone who disagrees with them. There was a bill that would require that employers offer their pregnant employees a seat or allowing them to have a beverage at their work station. We have 55 legislators who have supported a bill that would significantly restrict abortion access. You know how many of the same people voted for this aid for women? Three. Yep, so much for thinking of the women and children. It’s only “think of how much we can force them to obey something that we claim is true.” Lovely to see such a perfect example of hypocrisy.

god and modern medicineOn other matters, prayer as a subject has been on my mind because of the ebola outbreak in western Africa and its constituent countries. A missionary and a doctor got a rare experimental serum created by the scientific method and appear likely to survive the ravages of the disease. This serum was allowed to be used because of a US exception to the law that if something might help, the drug or treatment can be used without the usual safeguards. This also means that this serum may never be available if it doesn’t meet the usual standards of safety and effectiveness *OR* if it doesn’t meet the profitability for its producer. A lot of people will again be left with nothing or with prayer as their only options.

And we know that prayer is utterly ineffective for actual aiding the sick and dying. At best, it may make people believe that they feel better, but they still die with the same rates as anyone else. It also makes people feel like they did something when they did nothing but whistle in the wind. This is underlined in the latest couple of columns from Billy Graham and Rabbi Gellman of the God Squad.

In Billy’s column, the querent says that people get better or not depending on how they respond to treatment, prayer does nothing. Of course, Billy insists that prayer is important because people “almost always turn to prayer” if they or their loved ones have a “serious health crisis.” In case you don’t recognize this, it’s the claim that there are no atheists in foxholes so, surprise, there has to be a god! (there are plenty of atheists in foxholes) Billy then goes on to say that heck, even if there is no god, we should pray for them anyway, it can’t hurt can it? He also assumes that the querent isn’t sure if this god exists, and then goes into making the usual baseless claims that this god does, that its avatar Jesus exists and that we should believe no matter what,, making the usual Pascal’s wager argument. Yep, the bible says that JC says that he is the way and the truth and the life, but we may as well believe that Lord Krishna is the same thing, with the same amount of evidence.

Rabbi Gellman’s column (beware site has annoying popups) has the querent, a Catholic, asking if the prayers that they say daily at mass do any good. They admit that the prayers make *them* feel good, because they imagine that they are doing something. The querent wants to know if this god gives the patient “peace and acceptance”.

The rabbi addresses this as the difference between why some people believe and some people don’t. Theists believe in things that have no evidence. Other theists don’t believe that other gods do anything. And non-theists don’t believe that something happens when there is no evidence of such a thing. The rabbi does admit that there has been no scientific evidence for prayer working. Good for him, for that is the truth. But the rabbi wants to keep pretending that something happens when there is nothing that shows it does. One may as well say that “hey, there is no evidence at all for aliens visiting earth. But heck, I want to believe in it anyway, no matter what reality says *and* I’ll keep telling nonsense to others so I feel better about myself.” Seems a bit delusional, no? Continue reading

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – surprise, the world is going to end….again



Since we have the usual claims of “the end times are a-comin’” thanks to the current uptick in world violence, I thought I’d devote a blog entry to the wonderful world of eschatology or as we know it here in the US, TrueChristians and their violent fantasies.

To start out, we have a recent Billy Graham column, a favorite of mine for its entertaining hypocrisy and cherry picking. Here the querent asks if we will ever see “true world peace”.

As expected, Billy/his handlers, are not too crazy about world peace. He grudgingly admits that there can be periods of peace, even in ancient Israel, where per the myth, there was a period of 40 years of peace under a king name Othniel, a king mentioned in Judges 3 where the Israelites are *still* screwing around ignoring their god that supposedly does these amazing miracles. This chapter also mentions how this god has to repeatedly test his subjects. I guess that omniscience doesn’t quite work, eh? And, it has the best Conan-esque scene in it where Ehud stabs a king to the point that the hilt sank into the body and the “fat closed over it”. Billy seems to have missed that there was a whole *80* years of peace after this guy. Perhaps he didn’t want to draw attention to such a sword and sorcery story right out of other Bronze Age mythologies?

Billy is sure that there will never and should never be any world peace, because that would invalidate his book of myths. Violence and hatred is *necessary* to this god and its supposed plan per the bible, where it takes war and the death of anyone who disagrees with this god to get a “peace”, or in Billy’s words “His perfect rule of peace and justice over the whole earth”.. And even after that war in Revelation 19, we have only an “eon” aka “a thousand years” of peace under the reign of the Son of God (Revelation 20). It’s a finite period. Why does it have to end, you may ask? Because this god has no choice(!) and must let his archenemy go to corrupt those people that it didn’t kill before, in order to kill more of them . Satan seems to be a little stupid, first being the mechanism of JC’s “victory” e.g. getting murdered, and then trying to attack this god again. Can’t it read the bible to know what’s going to happen? :)

Billy invokes the claim of his bible that there will be “wars and rumors of wars. Do not be alarmed. Such things must happen.” Mark 13. Matthew 24 says the same thing and both go on to say, something that Billy neglects to mention, that anyone who claims that they know that JC is returning should not be believed. We’ve heard the same claims for thousands of years, that any uptick in war and misery is “surely” the sign that JC is returning. And it’s failed every single time. So much for coming “quickly” and “soon”. Billy says pray for peace. Hmmm, how is that to work if war is to happen no matter what, that God *needs* this violence? Is he advocating going against his god’s will? Not that it matters in that prayer does nothing.

A lot of the misery in the world is from religion, witness the nonsense in the eastern Mediterranean where two religions are sure that their imaginary friend gave them some patch of land that they will kill for, and where two sects of one religion are sure that the other should be destroyed for not teaching the religion “right”. Eliminating religion would certainly never eliminate all of the pain of the world, but it would give us humans one less reason for hating each other, one reason that never existed in the first place. Humans need to get through their thick heads that all humans are the same and that we have to work together. No god will ride in at the last minute and save us from ourselves.

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Another wannabee theocrat here in PA – government is great if it teaches my religion

Why-force-schools-650x487Recently, there was a letter to the editor in the local paper on why we should allow creationism to be taught in schools. It was from a pastor, Glen Bayly, of the Mifflinburg Alliance Church, a bit north of me in central Pennsylvania. You can find a bit about Mr. Bayly on the ‘net, he’s even been to Ken Ham’s hilarious “museum” of creationism in Kentucky. You know, the one that depends on government tax laws to exist, no matter how much they dislike the government. Ken very much likes Glen, even mentioning in on his blog. He also hates gay people, because they are “Unnatural, immoral, destructive”. All claims without any evidence, as usual. We’ll see that Mr. Bayly often makes claims like this.

Now, Mr. Bayly has a radio show, “The Lion’s Den University Report” where he supposedly interviews Christians who are academics in universities. You can see where this is going.   Now, we can see who Mr. Bayly has interviewed by looking at his list on iTunes. Hmmm, Douglas Jones an engineer from George Washington University, Bob Guyette, a research physicist at Princeton, economics professors, business professors, etc. We do have a couple of medical doctorates, which is getting closer. But still not one person who has a degree in the actual sciences that Mr. Bayly says are wrong.

Well, let’s look at Bob Guyette at Princeton, the most recent interviewee from 2011. I googled Bob Guyette Princeton and Robert Guyette Princeton. Nothing found at all. Not one paper, nothing on Princeton’s website. Indeed, the only reference found for Dr. Guyette is Mr. Bayly’s interview. Dr. Douglas Jones was at GWU but was a associate dean of academic affairs, not engineering. He is a materials engineer, which isn’t terribly known for requiring biology courses.

Now, Mr. Bayly seems to believe in a 6 day creation, the very literal version that some Christians believe in and some Christians don’t.   He writes that we should have creationism taught in schools. His creationism, evidently. The version I am addressing was in the Harrisburg Patriot News, but an even more ridiculous version was in a neighboring paper, complete with even more outright lies like this one “It is illegal to even mention this fact [that people believe in religious stories about creationism] in the science classes of Pennsylvania.” Tsk, what a great way to show just how honest a Christian can be.  The Sensuous Curmudgeon already ripped this apart, but I thought I’d amuse myself with it too.

His letter starts with a quote from the Declaration of Independence, “All men are created equal.”.   This has no relevance to what comes next other than to perhaps establish a date and try to hide his nonsense beneath a shroud of patriotism. He then claims that Americans believed in the Christian god as the creator back in 1776 and correctly states that many Americans no longer believe in this, that his god created the universe.

001-evolution-debateHe continues to note that human origins are taught in public schools and universities along with evolutionary theory. Ah, here’s where the quote from the Declaration comes in, where Mr. Bayly tries to claim that evolutionary theory doesn’t allow for the concept of all men are created equal. He attempts, like so many creationists before him, to claim that evolutionary theory is only a constant violent struggle between extant creatures. Here he shows his ignorance of what evolutionary theory says, which is that a organism will pass on traits that have allowed it to survive in a certain environment, thus allowing its progeny to do well in that certain environment. Mr. Bayly depends on a false representation of evolutionary theory to make his argument, thus creating a strawman to attack.

He then tries again to claim that human life has no worth if one accepts evolutionary theory as how humans came to be. Unfortunately for him, that is another false claim, the usual attempt to claim that the only way to value human life is to believe in a supernatural force. In that many atheists value human life, stand against the death penalty, support charities (even religious based ones), Mr. Bayly’s claim is simply false. I care for people and believe that all are equal because I am empathic, I can see myself in their place. I do not need a god to tell me to hold others important.

155-God-cannot-forgive-650x368Mr. Bayly then claims that the only way that anyone can hold humans equal is because of his “infinitely loving, intelligent Creator who made them in His image.”. Of course, any scholar of the bible knows that this is rather silly to claim if one claims that the bible is to be taken literally e.g. meaning exactly what it says. We have in the bible that humans are not equal. Women are considered property (Exodus 20: ) slaves are considered property (Exodus 20, and on and on). Believers of any other god are to be killed with no consideration, not even if they are your family (Exodus 22:20, Deut 13) . One should not welcome people who don’t believe as you, 2 John 1. This is not a god that considers “All men are created equal.” We have one bit in the bible that says that believers are to be considered equal amongst themselves, Galatians 3. That is as close as it gets to the American ideal of equality and freedom.

He then claims that it is reasonable to believe in a “superintellligent Creator” in the light of the facts of modern science.” Why, you may ask? Because “many still believe it is.” A lovely use of the logical fallacy of the appeal to popularity. The problem with this is that what happens if one loses the majority? If Islam becomes the biggest religion, does this mean that since “many” believe in it, then it is true and everyone should believe in it? Will Mr. Bayly give up his version of Christianity and spread his prayer rug towards Mecca? He also mentions another lovely canard about how the founders of “modern science” believed in his Christian god, so that means that we should too. Considering that these “founders”, e.g. Isaac Newton, Galileo, etc, also believed in rather silly things like alchemy, should we believe that we can turn lead into gold using mandrake root too? His claim of how “many notable modern day scientists do [believe] also” is of course lacking of any evidence of this. We can see that in his very own list of “academics” above.

Mr. Bayly claims that the evidence for evolution is compelling to “some”. Those some include Mr. Bayly since he has no problem in using things that depend on that theory and has no problem in accepting the same science that supports evolutionary theory when it makes him nice and comfy in his modern life.

In his final paragraph, Mr. Bayly again reiterates his strawman of how evolutionary theory is philosophically “tragic” and demands the following: “It’s time America has a spiritual revival of the Christian religion that made American great and for a Constitutional Amendment to be passed in Pennsylvania allowing the teaching of God as our Creator in the classrooms of our state.”

So, we do see that Mr. Bayly wants only his religion to be taught as the truth in public schools, and he wants a “Constitutional Amendment to do so. He wants to pretend that only Christians of his type made the US great; eh, who cares about all of those “other” people who worked and sacrificed for the ideal of the US. He wants only his version of his religion to be taught, that every other religion is to be taught as false, including other version of Christianity which says that the creation story is a metaphor and that evolution theory is fine, if perhaps started by the Christian god.   This is the typical conservative Christian here in the United States, wanting a theocracy for them and only them. This is the only time that they appreciate government, when they think they can use it to force others to worship as they do. In any other instance, they don’t trust public schools to do anything right.

I am glad that such wannabee theocrats do have the same rights of free speech that I do. It allows everyone to know that we always have to defend our rights against such nonsense. All humans should have equal rights. That’s the thought from a bunch of people who wrote the Declaration of Independence wrote, Christians of all different types and non-Christians, not some religion having dominance over everyone.