Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – A review of the Noah movie trailer. Oh my, the silliness and this is only a few minutes of an hours long movie.

look, a scary snake!
look, a scary snake!

Haven’t seen the movie yet probably won’t, because I have no desire to add to the box office hits for this stinker. But I thought I’d take a look at the trailer and the movie website.  I do enjoy showing how ridiculous the flood myth is, and have done so multiple times on this blog. Just use the search box and type in “flood” to find those old posts. (following images are screen captures from the trailer here)

Open on Noah looking at a mountain, and stepping in what appears to be blood. Then we get a rapid sequence of images from the story of Adam and Eve, including mutant evil snake almost as good as the effects on a SyFy movie!  :p   Noah has just had a vision that tells him his god will destroy the world. noah wasteland


The world has evidently been deforested. Which presents a problem in where Noah gets the huge timber for his magical boat. Yes, I know, it’s silly to require internal logic in such a story.  🙂



World’s silliest boat. This is made from raw tree trunks. I grew up on a farm where the barn was made from hand cut timbers. Most of the tools for this were still around, adzes, drills for peg holes, etc. These are not complicated tools and we do get glimpses of a few on the website. Noah evidently did not use them at all. We get Noah, making what looks like a box with lashed tree trunks, and painted with what I will assume is bitumen, a thick hydrocarbon that comes from the ground in various sites in the Middle East.   There have been Christians who claim that this movie is not “historically accurate”. Considering that they vary in how they think the ark was shaped, perhaps this is one of the “historically inaccurate” parts.  We also have Ron Wyatt, he of “I have evidence but can’t show you it” fame, who is sure that a huge geological formation is the ark.


Alas the bible doesn’t give much description at all and there is no reason to think that this ludicrous structure is any more wrong then the usual boat with tapered hull and keel illustration that many Christians are familiar with and use in their claims of finding the ark. It would indeed take magic to make such a mess float, survive the explosive water spouts, waves, etc. And what a fire trap. animals and arkThen the loading sequence. There are quite a few birds in that circling swarm above the ark, plus we have the herd of every other animal approaching it.

ark doorAs they enter, we see that the boat can perhaps have one extra deck other than the top of the box and the bottom. Looks like we have an okapi, quite few brown bears or grizzlies, maybe a water buffalo, etc. This is confirmed the bit of the website called “The Ark Experience”, where there is an avian deck, a reptile deck and a mammal deck.  Oh and don’t forget to check out the “furnace”, an invention that keeps Noah and the animals warm. This is one of the problem with trying to make a reasonable explanation for a myth, why not just have magic do that too rather than having a fire on board a boat made from logs, and tar.


Then we get snakes and frogs, and the birds are still flying around and loading up. I love this one “problem” with the movie that a TrueChristian mentioned “In some cases, it looks like two of every species are packing into the ark rather than two of every biblical “kind.” That would make a very tight fit.” – Jerry Johnson, NRB. No kidding. This shows that Christians have to make up nonsense like “kinds” (some type of animal that all other similar animals can magically come from) to excuse their myth.

Finally we get the lovely all explody water from the “springs of the earth”, and the desperate people who want to get on the ark. Unsurprisingly, no kids seem to be around at all. The only kids on all of the earth seems to be Noah’s. It does help that believers don’t show this god drowning children and kittens, koalas, and pandas. It’d be a little hard on their god’s PR. Now, again, I have not watched the entire movie so I could be wrong in that it does not show children. If anyone has seen it and can show me differently, I’d much appreciate it. This depiction of how the water arrives again may be one of the parts that some believers say is “historically inaccurate” because it depends on who you believe for what caused the flooding of the world to the top all of the mountains on it. We have many silly hypotheses from believers, the hydroplate hypothesis, the canopy hypothesis, runway subduction, comets, or those who just want plain ol’ magic. One can also see more details on how other claims about the ark itself fail here in an analysis of “magic flood is real” claimant Woodmorappe’s book. (Woodmorappe does try to refute this analysis: link found on the analysis page. Like many TrueChristians, it seems that he thinks that the more fonts and colors he uses, the more true his claims must appear.)

There’s been a lot of excuses that this isn’t the “literal” story from the bible so one should not accept it as the “truth”, per the National Religious Broadcasters association. The problem is that the literal story *is* the bare bones that this movie is built on. Those bones are still as ridiculous as ever and still without a shred of evidence. The claims of the “springs of the earth” exploding with water, the huge boat that can hold all of the animals of the world, etc. It all depends on magic nonsense. I do think that this movie does have a purpose, to show just how ludicrous the idea of a monster boat and a global flood is and how horrible the idea of genocidal drowning is. I do wonder how “outraged” these believers would be if they did indeed show children drowning to be “historically accurate”.  One of the more offensive excuses for god killing children and animals is that they would have died anyway and it’s fine since they would have been distressed to see their parents die.  (evidence for this: here, here, and just google “did god drown children” to see even more)

Another thing that could be “historically inaccurate” to some believers is that they back off the biblical claims of a world-wide flood and say that it could have been only regional. So, we need only a flood that maybe was from a good hard rain or at most from a wall of debris coming apart and allowing a lake or sea to escape its basin. Which does make one wonder why one magical event can be reduced to the mundane and not all of them? If believers can’t agree on what “really” happened, why believe anything like this happened at all?

I will have to say that I give props to the movie’s producers in that they have a section of the movie website dedicated to artwork about the flood. Some are less than flattering of the event and the god who supposedly did it, especially this one:

For a more thorough review of how silly the flood story is and why, Talk Origins has a good compilation of all the problems with it and all of the retrofitting that believers have had to try to make it sound plausible. You can also see a great video on how geology shows that the flood didn’t occur thanks to Potholer54.

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Cue uncomfortable smiles, History Channel 2’s new series “The Bible Rules”

twain Christians-bible-is-a-drug-store-650x462I had the opportunity to watch “The Bible Rules” a new series on the History Channel 2.  This is about the lesser known bits of the bible, the parts that many Christians and Jews have no idea exist since most of their leaders will judiciously ignore them in favor of the happy fuzzy parts.   It’s an interesting counterpoint to the nonsense they had last year, “The Bible” (reviewed by me here, and here) which was recently repackaged into a movie, “Son of God” to get even more money from theists.

As expected, there are TrueChristians who are sure that the series is wrong wrong! Wrong!, and not interpreted in the “right” way (just do an internet search on the series and a page or two in you can see the frothing).   It’s hilarious to see them horrified that God wasn’t mentioned until a whole 5 minutes into the show “So deficient of Godly teaching is this series that it’s not until 5 minutes and 30 seconds into the first episode that God is even mentioned although Moloch is discussed almost from the opening words.”  I guess mentioning the Bible and quoting the Bible isn’t enough for some TrueChristians; it all has to be about them.  I wonder must God be mentioned every, hmmm, 5.34 seconds to be Christian enough?  Of course, this TrueChristian is also in shock over the new Cosmos series too since it dares to tell the truth and show their religion as it is, warts and all.

I’m only one episode in, “The Curse” (can see it here ,may not be visible to folks outside the US. It autolaunches with soun.d. You can also get close captioning on it) but the presentation seems to take one stand, that these strange laws, most abhorrent to many modern humans, are simply evidence of the ancient cultures and how they lived.  This is a valid viewpoint that I have no problem with as an atheist.  It does appear to lead to much discomfort on the part of the various religious leaders whose comments are in the show.  It may indeed be my subjective view of how they act, but there are many too-wide smiles, and nervous laughter when certain verses are discussed.  There is a lot of “oh how silly these laws are” whilst trying to make believe the god supposedly ordering those laws exists.  It comes down to: do you believe that the bible is accurate when it quotes God as directly giving these laws, or do you want to claim that these laws are completely human in basis, being how they reacted to a world that was often lethal and mysterious to them?    The series description says that “We find weird rules, revealing rules, curiosity-inspiring rules—and these rules, which will help us understand history, are presented in informative, surprising and reaffirming ways.”  Reaffirming to who?  For me, this show is indeed reaffirming that the claims of the bible and its believers are nonsense.

Some of the commenters who are on this show are the “Interfaith Amigos” a rabbi, a UCC pastor and a Sufi imam; Michael Coogan, a lecturer at the Harvard Divinity School (a quote from him “These books were written over the course of many centuries, and like all other books, they reflect the presuppositions and prejudices, the ideas and ideals of their authors (almost entirely men) and of the societies in and for which they were written.” );  Rev. Bill Golderer (ordained the first gay Presby minister, much to the horror of other Christians who saw him in this show), Rev. Brian McLaren; Salman Hameed;  Patrick McGovern (he’s one of the folks who help Dogfish Head Brewery come up with their stranger things); Rev. Dr. Jaqueline Lewis; Thomas Cahill; Dr. Jacob L. Wright; Seth Sanders;  Shawna Dolansky; Rev. James Hamilton; Rabbi Brad Hirschfield; Eric H. Cline; and others.  Most of these are apologists who want to place a more modern spin on what their god “really” meant.

Here are the verses reviewed in this episode and some thoughts on them.

“Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Moloch.” – Leviticus 18  (right before the admonitions against homosexual sex) it appears that they are using the ESV version of the bible for this. Of course, some Christians are sure that this version is “a lie of the devil”, declaring so on their stereotypically badly designed websites.  Note for TrueChristians: your claims don’t become more “true” because of the number of colors and fonts you use.

Much shock is shown when child sacrifice is mentioned.  “Who or what would demand the sacrifice of a child?”  Of course, anyone who knows that bible knows that the god mentioned there does exactly this (Genesis 22, perhaps in Exodus 22: 29-30 considering first born sons the same as livestock, Judges 11, and perhaps when this god kills David’s son rather than David, 2 Samuel 12, as a replacement sacrifice).  The show does call anything but Christianity and Judasim a “cult” which I am guessing is a sop to modern theists, but they are religions just like ones now.   There is some evidence that child sacrifice was practiced, and it seems that it was not an unthinkable act throughout out all of the religions of the ancient Middle East and Mediterranean.    Valuable sacrifices were made to all gods of that time, blood and life being the most important.  They were all “horrible demanding” deities.  In this segment, Rev. McLaren seems to have a problem not laughing through his interview about child sacrifice.  It strikes me as the uncomfortable laughter of someone who really doesn’t want to talk about something but has found himself on tape. We have Golderer and McLaren sure that Abraham was horrified by his god’s demand, but we have no idea what Abraham felt because the bible says he did exactly what God asked without question, no emotions mentioned at all..  We do have a Christian pastor who is sure that God can ask you do the awful and that you should do it (around 7 minutes in).  Rev. Dr. Jaqui Lewis is sure that what god says is what should be done.  In my opinion, this is a rather peculiar attitude for someone who claims to be for social justice.   It is the claim of the pastors that the A&I story was a change in paradigm, that God was saying we don’t sacrifice anymore.  I do not find that to be the case at all.  There is nothing that says that child sacrifice is wrong and primitive, it only says that God was testing Abraham to see if he would do anything that God said and that he needed Isaac in the days to come.

“Whoever curses father and mother should be put to death” – Exodus 21

Again, the show presents this as a cultural thing, ancient peoples believed that curses were real.  A valid answer but a problem when one wants to believe that supernatural powers are real and gods are real.  People may have believed in curses but is there any evidence these curses worked?  It doesn’t seem so.  We do have curses recorded from the ancient period but nothing shows that the curses were any more effective then than they are now, not at all.   No more effective than spells or prayers.  The show claims that “Thousands of years ago, there were people who used magical spells to change the course of events.”  There were stories about people who did this, but again no evidence of this being true, no more than Athena showing up at Troy.

“A man or woman who is a medium or wizard shall be put to death” – Leviticus 20

Continue reading “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Cue uncomfortable smiles, History Channel 2’s new series “The Bible Rules””

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Science can’t explain how imaginary things work, therefore gods exist, a review of a God Squad column

jesus-with-a-dinosaur-1In this past week’s God Squad column, Rabbi Gellman addresses “intelligent design”, the term invented by creationists to hide the religious origin and source for their attempts to have their myths taught in the classroom as the truth. (note: the column in my paper was severely chopped in comparison to the one in the link)

The querent this week asked if the Judeo-Christian god created the universe in seven days, where do the dinosaurs fit in.  They note that the fossil record shows that humanity and the dinos were separated by “millennia” (a millennium is a thousand years).   Of course, the fossil record shows that the dinos and us are separated by many many millennia, around 65,000 millennia aka 65 million years.

Gellman notes that there are various kinds of creationists.  The most ridiculous are the young earth creationists (YEC) who believe Bishop Ussher’s claim that the universe was created on October 22, 4004 BC  in the evening, etc, etc.  There are old earth creationists (OEC) who believe that the universe is older, from just a little older than Ussher’s claim to as old as the current data from cosmology shows, around 14.7 billion years for the universe, and 4.5 billion years for the earth.   These creationists also vary in what they believe about evolution.  In general, YEC are sure that their god created all the animals as we know them today, all at once. They often also claim that all animals were vegetarians until the magical “fall” of mankind.  OEC can vary on how much they think evolution played a part, from none at all, to essentially indistinguishable from an atheist, though they claim that their god started the whole process, very much like a Deist.

neil degrasse tyson scienceWe also have a very sad quote from Kurt Wise, Geology Ph.D,  who decided that he had to decide either the bible was true or science was, and he threw out science because it dared counter the nonsense in the bible.  Alas, this is what fear and arrogance does to people, sure that they will be punished if they don’t believe “correctly” and that they do believe correctly.  He’s also as good as our Christians apologists here on the website for not being able to provide one iota of the scientific evidence that he claims supports him.  Wise also seems to think he can pick and choose the science he finds to be true.  Alas for him, all science is based on the same method.  If it works for it all, then you can’t decide which is true and which isn’t.  The same science that supports evolutionary theory supports modern criminal forensics,  medicine, computers, internal combustion engines, etc.

It’s also great to note that YEC theists and OEC theists are absolutely sure each other are wrong, and both again have no evidence to support their nonsense but are sure that they and only they are the TrueChristians (examples: it’s a sin to be an OEC, per a YEC who is trying to scare everyone, and and Pat Robertson the OEC saying that the YEC position is “nonsense” ).

Gellman correctly notes that this quote from Wise presents a false dichotomy, that one has to accept one or the other fully.  He unfortunately claims that one of the possible other answer is “intelligent design”, the idea that some magical force had something to do with how the universe works, e.g. how it is designed.  Intelligent design can be either YEC or OEC, because it simply says one can see design in the universe, it does not require evolution as science knows the term.  It can also be of any religion, since there is no way to know which god/force, if any, was the creator.  It has been cloaked by theists in claims that it could also mean that aliens could be the creator but that does nothing but push the essential problem, who was the original creator, one step back.    It is entirely a religious concept,  and almost entirely a Judeo/Christo/Islamic concept, no matter the attempts to claim it otherwise.  One can see how the claims played out in the Dover case.  Even a conservative judge knew the claims of ID supporters to be were lies, nothing more than certain sects of certain religions trying to get their religion forced on everyone.

Gellman takes refuge in claiming that “Darwin’s hypothesis was more theory than scientific fact.”  That shows that the rabbi has no idea what those words mean in the scientific context and that he is very unfamiliar with evolutionary theory as it stands today.  Darwin, as nifty as he was, got some things wrong.  And science, has shown that, not religion.   Gellman says that the reason he knows that evolution is wrong is that it cannot explain human consciousness.  Alas for the rabbi, his argument depends on the assumption that it will *never* be able to explain it.  It also depends on the assumption that if we never find exactly why human consciousness happened, somehow all of the evidence that supports evolutionary theory is wrong.   I do hope that the rabbi will stop taking antibiotics since the science used to make them must be wrong and he must believe that they simply can’t work.

He does acknowledge that ID is “more religious belief than scientific fact” because it cannot explain how intelligent design works.  It simply says “god/magical force did it”.   He claims “each side got some things right and some things wrong”.    And this is nothing more than pandering to the theists.  There is no evidence that they have gotten anything correct about the origin of the universe by anything other than luck. There is evidence that they got things wrong over and over.

Gellman says that “evolutionists” are right in pointing out the bible isn’t a science textbook.  What he neglects to mention that it is also not a history book, and has very little, if anything, unique in it.  He claims that the bible is “very old and very young”,  that the parts about love and forgiveness are the “young parts” and the parts about a geocentric universe, the earth is flat, and the universe being created 5774 years ago (Jewish calendar) on October 23 at 10:30 AM, are the “old parts”.  So we are not to believe them because they are old (not to mention silly), but the new parts are somehow magically true?   It seems that the rabbi is not so much Jewish as Christian if we are to believe those new parts, including that new part about the messiah having come and resurrecting.

He says that science has “changed” and that tethering faith to “ancient and discredited science only assures us of an ancient and discredited religion.”  Which shows that science leads and religion follows.   Unfortunately for the rabbi, there wasn’t science in the bible, discredited or not, only baseless stories about magic and events that never happened, in both the “young” and “old” parts.  It is still an ancient and discredited religion.

Gellman says that the creationists and “intelligent design-ites” are right in pointing out the “utter uniqueness of human consciousness – something that appears nowhere else in nature.”  Of course, this again assumes that what we know will not change.   Rather than saying “yet”, the rabbi thinks that science will stand still, as he seems to think that evolutionary theory has stayed still since Darwin and has not changed.  That’s why ignorance is not a good place to start when trying to defend your position.

He makes the common theist claim that our brains can be products of evolution but how we think, pray or forgive cannot be, that they must be some magical thing.  Unfortunately, neurological research moves ahead and the theist remains behind, desperate to cling to ignorance to save his belief.   He also makes yet more claims that depend on his belief that nothing will change or will be discovered.  No, Rabbi, evolutionary biologists haven’t been able to fully describe how forces shape us, but that appears to be just a function of time.  They haven’t been able to fully describe things *yet*.  Your faith depends on a false belief that we will never find out anything else.  That is the classic god of the gaps argument.

Gellman also makes the baseless claim that “the laws of nature explained by evolution are not only insufficient but they are also the opposite of what we truly are as spiritual beings” e.g. the moral human argument for a god.  He of course does not say how they are insufficient and how he knows we are “spiritual beings”, a conclusion he has reached based on his belief that we somehow *must* be something “spiritual”, based on his religion, a religion that has nothing to support its claims.  He claims that “even ID” gets this wrong and only “faith” gets it right because nothing else supposed explains why we are “at our best compassionate and reflective” while nature is “amoral and bloody”.   Humans are certainly amoral and bloody too, as is the Judeo/Islamo/Christian god as described.

Finally, as so many theists have claimed, Gellman claims that the “higher purpose” of our human existence is with his god and that no scientist can begin “to understand or describe” the way to his god. Evidently no other kind of theist can either, which is what they say about their gods too.  What this purpose is, the rabbi doesn’t go into details, though his bible does.   If his young/old bible is right, this higher purpose could be several things, death with nothing else, a heaven that isn’t that much different from this life, an eternity of endlessly praising this god, or a city of gold and jewels on a new earth.   I suppose it depends on how he cherry picks this too: is it just the silly old bible with its silly claims or the shiny new one, with its silly claims?  Evolutionary theory may not be able to explain the origin of the human soul.   In that no one can show that it exists or agree on what it is or how it interacts with a physical body,  etc. that’s not surprising.

From the Bar – Another week, another sixpack of random beers.

beerAt my current job, a sixpack of random beers costs about what I make working for an hour and a half.  It’s more fun that going to a movie with people who always annoy me, so I guess it’s a fairly cheap entertainment.  One, Otto’s Apricot Wheat, we had before, so I’ll only review the new ones.

Full Sail Session Black Lager – This was in a squat short neck bottle like Red Stripe.  The beer was a very dark red when held up to the light, essentially black.  Lots of roasty toasty malt character but none of the heaviness.    I look forward to drinking this more in the summer when I’m craving a dark beer but it’s 90+ degrees Fahrenheit.

Crabbie Alcoholic Ginger Beer – Yum!   This is great stuff.  I am very pleased that it isn’t as hot as some ginger beers are.  A red-amber in color, it isn’t too sweet, like a cross between a ginger beer with all of the spice and a US soda ginger ale.   I can see this mixed with an alcoholic cider, apple or ooh, maybe pear, for some wonderfulness.

Lancaster Brewing Company Strawberry Wheat – LBC is a relatively local beer.  Most of their beers tend to run a little sweet for me. The strawberry wheat doesn’t taste too sweet but it does taste like those hard strawberry candies that have the jam inside of them.   Not bad for a fruit flavor added beer but not my favorite.  LBC has a restaurant here in Harrisburg that does have some very good food.

Victory Swing Session Saison –  Think Belgian funk with a lot of hops.  I’m guessing there are some Citra hops in there but could be wrong.  Definitely an excellent way to transition to spring and summer with a Belgian style ale.

Erie Brewing Railbender Ale – Erie Brewing has a lot of beers we like.  The Railbender is a Scottish style, a little sweet and a little strong (6.8%).  It’s a malt forward ale, without too much hops.  I also like their Fallenbock, a rich bock with a nice clean finish, and their Derailed Black Cherry Ale.  Be warned, that last tends to really foam as soon as you open the bottle, so be near a sink.  That happened to me when I made a cherry beer too, so I don’t know if it’s some magical property of the fruit.  🙂

Drink well!

What the Boss Likes – Cosmos A Spacetime Odyssey

You must watch Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos.  It is an excellent successor to the original Cosmos series.  I was about 14 when Carl Sagan did Cosmos. I got the book for Christmas one year, and I bought myself the book about the Voyager golden record.

Watch this, it shows how poor religion has served humanity.  Giordano Bruno was murdered, aka killed with intent, by burning alive for not following the religious line.  Though we cannot know how much farther would we have been if we had not killed anyone who disagreed with Christianity, Bruno, Hypatia, etc, it does seem that religion has done nothing but hold humanity back after a possibly useful prehistoric uselessness. This is further evidence that religion based on a belief that there is some magical omnipotent being that hates certain things has harmed  humanity.   As Carl Sagan observed, Hypatia was murdered, Cyril the Christian was considered a saint after apparently causing this (thou shalt not kill, donchaknow). These are both from ancient sources, which are of course always under question of their truth.  Whose side shall we be on?   One that leads to new knowledge or dogma that says that anything that the “church” frowns upon should be burned to death, or flayed alive?

And it should be no surprise that TrueChrisitans, especially of the “right wing” variety, will absolutely hate this show.

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – speaking for God, a review of a recent God Squad, part 2

Dungeons-Dragons-650x429A few days back I addressed a  recent God Squad column,  where Rabbi Gellman thought to answer some questions that readers had the way he “hopes” that God would answer them.  Many of the answers are standard apologetics and excuses for the Judeo-Christian god.  I thought I’d share why this atheist finds the responses from “God” so unfortunate.  This is part 2.  Part 1 can be found here.

“Q: “God, why do you allow all those awful people to sexually and physically abuse innocent children?” — M., Plainview, NY

A: “My most controversial choice here in heaven was to grant human beings free will to choose good or evil. I did it because you can’t truly love each other or me unless you have free will. However, being free to choose love also means you’re free to choose hate. I wish freedom worked differently, but that’s the way it is. Some days I think I made the wrong choice.””

The free will argument, always a good one to watch fail thanks the purported holy books of the JC theist.  It fails as soon as one realizes as soon as this god interferes once, e.g. in a miracle, then free will is gone because someone’s free will has been usurped.  God had no problem in usurping the Pharaoh’s will, so why the inability to usurp the will of the predator?  We also have the problem that this god says that intent is as bad as action.  Where is the help for the children before anyone is harmed, only the perpetrator punished?  Speaking of pharaohs, I wonder, how was the free will of the first born considered?  They were in a monarchy where the guy in charge was literally considered a god. How is killing them because this god forced its will on the guy in charge allowing them free will?

Q: “God, will I recognize and be reunited in any form with my loved ones who’ve died before me?” — Anonymous, via cyberspace

A: “Yes!””

Well, maybe No! if one believes the bible and Jesus.  When Jesus was asked about the multiple husbands of one wife (no problem in handing a woman from brother to brother), he said that mortal attachments would be meaningless.  I guess it does say “any form” so if you are mindless being doing nothing but praise this god, you can be a bunch of mindless things.  Of course, if those loved ones who died before you didn’t worship in the “right” way, whatever that may be, you may be reunited by watching them on heaven-o-vision, per some Christian apologists who say you will get great satisfaction in seeing sinners suffer.  Or, if C.S. Lewis is right, you’ll forget about them all together.

“Q: “God, if you really exist and are the ultimate creator, then where did you come from and who created you?” — M., via cyberspace

A: “I made everything. Nobody made me. Check out Aristotle. He called me The Unmoved Mover. Aristotle was a very smart guy.””

Ah, the logical fallacy that if someone is smart anything they say is true.  It’s a variation on the appeal to authority.  Another famous figure that theists often invoke is Isaac Newton: Newton came up with the laws of gravitation, so any of his opinions are true.  Newton was also an alchemist, trying to turn lead into gold.  Assuming anything he says is true means that alchemy is as true as his theistic beliefs.  The idea of the Unmoved Mover is not that of the JC god, something that apologists consistently forget to mention, a force of intellect only that cannot interact with the world.  Incidentally, Aristotle thought that the stars were fixed.  They aren’t. This is a good example where it helps to know what someone really said and not what you were told they said.

Thanks to watching the first Cosmos series, we can also know that Aristotle thought slavery was acceptable.

“Q: “God, why must there be conflict between different religions?” — J., via cyberspace

A: “Because everything can be twisted and perverted. When you have the pleasure of understanding Me, nothing can go wrong.””

It does seem likely that most things, if not everything, can be twisted and perverted. Which begs the question, why does this god allow this?  If one believes the claims of the believes, this is a omnipotent, omniscient, and supposedly omnibenevolent being that wants everyone to believe in it.  By definition, it can do anything e.g. all-powerful, include prevent its supposed word from being twisted and perverted.  It either can’t do anything about it, and thus is not omni-everything, or it wants the confusion to exist.  The bible can be cited for evidence that it wants such confusion, that it goes out of its way to allow its archenemy free to cause more confusion *after* this god has killed everyone who didn’t agree with it (Revelation 20-21). There is also the problem of how does one know one has the “pleasure of understanding this god?  Does one believe in one of the believers who claim that they do?  In that we see that they have no special place in this world and that nothing goes especially well for them, we see that things do go wrong for everyone.

“Q: “God, why is there eternal punishment in hell?” — P., via cyberspace

A: “Because evil is not always punished on earth and goodness is not always rewarded. I needed to set things right eventually.””

The excuse here is nothing more than a claim of vengeance but off stage left, and don’t you worry your pretty little head about it.  Of course, the bad guys are getting their punishment and you will do if you don’t believe correctly. The problem is that evil was supposedly always punished on earth, once upon a time.  God was always about smiting those who didn’t agree with him.  Now?  Not so much.  What’s wrong with setting things right *now*

“Q: “God, if You had it to do over again, what would You do differently in creating us?” — E., Lynbrook, NY

A: “I would not change a thing. Except, I might make you better golfers.””

Ha-ha.  Serious questions, what a better time than to use a little humor (very little) to avoid the question.  This appears to be nothing more than the “best possible universe” that apologists use, to claim that this simply *has* to be the best universe since God created it that way.  Alas, I can think of better universes, one where small cell lung cancer didn’t exist, where humans weren’t affected by arsenic which one of our prime food sources, rice, is very good sucking up and transferring to us; where gallbladders didn’t get stones, the source of power for the planet e.g. the Sun also gives us cancer if we get too exposed to it, etc.

“Q: “Will all of the heartache, pain and suffering that I see around me and that I’ve experienced finally make sense to me in the end?” — N., Rockville Centre, NY

A: “You cannot be given the answer to your question. You must live your way into the answer.””

Aka Don’t bother me kid.  To say that one must “live you way to the answer” is meaningless, and appears to be a delaying tactic since it’s very hard to ask the question after you are dead.  I also ignores the problem: what if you live your life and you come up with the answer “no, it makes no sense and the universe simply doesn’t care.” Which can be a rather comforting thought as Marcus Cole said “I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be much worse if life *were* fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them?’ So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.”

“Q: “God, why haven’t you given up on us in the face of our continuous evil and rebellion?” — E., via cyberspace

A: “I did once. Read about Noah. Then I got more patient.””

God got more patient, hmmm? So this god is nothing more than human frailties writ large with the idea of impatience?  So much for an omnipotent omniscient being which would know exactly what would happen.  If I know that someone will fail, why would I get angry that they did?  This god didn’t get much more patient if one can believe the bible.  The tower of Babel, that incident with the golden calf, killing Israelites if they questioned Moses, David’s son, the Babylonian captivity, etc. And then we have Revelation again where we get quite the temper tantrum.   Of course we do know from the story of Job, one doesn’t necessarily need to anger this god to have it make a bet with supposed pure evil and get your family killed.

“Q: “God, why does life have to be so painful at times?” — A., via cyberspace

A: “Because you cannot understand the good parts of being human without also coping with the bad parts. Being human is a total package.””

Again, we see that omnipotence isn’t what this god evidently is.  If heaven exists and is essentially all of the good parts without any of the bad parts, God’s argument fails.

“Q: “If God appeared to me and I could ask him any question,I would have no question to ask, but would have the only answer I need: God does exist!” — J., Westbury, N.Y.

A: “Told you so.””

“Q: “If I could ask God one question, I would have no need to ask any question!” — M., via cyberspace

A: “Thank you.””

Alas, this hasn’t happened, not with any theist with any god.  How would one know that the being in front of you is indeed the god you believe in?  The reason I ask this is that this god could stop a lot of problems doing just this, if we could know that it is it/him.  Giving evidence isn’t out of his portfolio *if* we believe the bible: see Doubting Thomas, burning bushes, wide spread miracle effects, etc.  Of course none occur now when people can actually document such things.  It’s hard to pass stories off as true when facts counter them.

“Q: “God, are You happy?” — L., via cyberspace

A: “Thank you.””

Tsk, “God”, that’s not an answer.  But, can an omnipotent, omniscient being be “happy”?  It seems that the only way this god is happy, or perhaps content is a better word, is that it gets its way and it is very unhappy when it doesn’t.  If its happiness depends on humanity, it is not omnipotent or omniscient. If it is omniscient, *and* it gets its way in the end, it should always be happy.  If it is omniscient *and* it doesn’t get its way in the end, it should always be unhappy.  If it doesn’t get its way, how can it be omni-everything.

As always, a “professional” apologist fares no better than any other theist.  The rabbi has a new column this week about intelligent design.  That should be a fun one. Stay tuned!

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – speaking for God, a review of a recent God Squad column, Part 1

In a recent God Squad column, Rabbi Gellman thought to answer some questions that readers had the way he “hopes” that God would answer them.  Many of the answers are standard apologetics and excuses for the Judeo-Christian god.  I thought I’d share why this atheist finds the responses from “God” so unfortunate.  There’s quite a few questions answered, so this will be a multi-part post.  Since many of the answers bring up issues that atheists have pointed out over and over again, I hope to keep things brief.  Of course, if you read this blog, you can suspect just how much I might fail at that.

God and Stan Lee
God and Stan Lee

“Some time ago, I asked readers to share with me the one question they would ask God. I personally would ask: “Was I a good man?” I’d want to know how much of our goodness is credited by God, how much of our evil is forgiven by God, and how much God simply overlooks as the residue of our broken human-ness.”Here is the problem of what is “good” in a theistic sense.  Is good something independent or is it defined on what a particular god wants – god is good is god is good…?  I find that good could be defined as what humans want for themselves to be happy, healthy and content, and empathy can allow us to understand why everyone should share in that.  If God can over look evil at all, why doesn’t he overlook all of it if we are “broken” e.g. unable to be any different than made?  If god doesn’t credit goodness, either defined as doing what it wants or simply being empathic to our fellow humans, what is the point of the laws supposedly given?

“Christians generally believe that we are justified only by faith — saved by what we believe. Judaism believes that we are justified by our works — saved by what we do. I think both beliefs are right and wrong. Faith leads us more directly to forgiveness, and works lead us more directly to goodness. Both, I think, are essential for a completed spiritually life.”

A good intro to how much Jews and Christians differ in how they think the ostensibly the same god acts.  The rabbi fails to mention that Christians can also believe that grace is only given to some, and belief isn’t an independent thing.  Romans 9 goes into detail about that and those Christians who believe in predestination appear to believe what it says, that their god has already picked who would go to a pleasant afterlife.  Again, it is hard to tell what “goodness” is here in this context, obedience or being empathic and acting on it independently.

“Here are some of your very thoughtful questions. I’ve included the replies I hope God would give:

Q: “Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? What is the purpose of my existence?” — B., Appleton, Wis.

A: “Dear B., that’s more than one question! The answer to all three queries is that I made you to love as I have loved you. Everything else is not really that important.””

This is a common answer, that God needed something to love, so he made humans.  Other answers are that God needed to be “glorified”, which seems to mean God needs some way to show off his attributes and God needs to be worshipped.  Most Judeo-Christians (JC) will deny that their omnipotent/omniscient god needs anything.  This also brings up the problem of what love is in this context.  I find love to be the desire to help someone and spend time with them in a two way arrangement, they love you back.  It does not require threats or punishment.  The last sentence is the usual “don’t ask questions, just accept what I’ve told you”.

“Q: “How can I forgive? It’s so darned hard to forgive as You ask us to.” — C., Kings Park, NY

A: “Yes, indeed, C., it is hard to forgive. That’s why it’s better to limit the things you do that require forgiveness. This may help you: Try to think of every sin you commit against others to be a major sin, and every sin committed against you to be a minor sin. I think you’ll find this to be a good, though darned hard, bit of wisdom.””

Indeed, it is hard to forgive.  I’m a champion grudge holder from way back.  We have this god forgiving people for doing what it made them to do and if they don’t ask correctly, e.g. following laws, or finding a “savior”, then there is no forgiveness.  It does seem that this god should take its own advice, since any sin against it is considered a major sin and worthy of death and worse.  And where is the forgiving when you kill the son of someone who wronged you, per the story of David?

“Q: “Where were you, God, when 6 million Jews were being slaughtered under Hitler’s orders, as well as other people”? — L., North Babylon, NY

A: “I was with the victims. A better question is, ‘Where was man?'””

What a way to end Part 1.  This probably the most disgusting response created for a god and Rabbi Gellman isn’t the first to come up with it and I’m sure won’t be the last to use this as an excuse for his god. Where was man?  Oh in the 101st Airborne, the Eighth Army, the Soviet troops who liberated Auschwitz, the men who stormed Normandy beaches, the folks on the home front who collected steel, the people who risked their lives on the merchant ships taking supplies to Great Britain, the resistance fighters, Mr. Kugler, Ms. Gies, Mr. Kleiman, Ms. Voskuijl, etc.    It seems that this god was doing just what prayer does: nothing.  People die by the millions in very horrible ways on both sides. Starvation isn’t a good way to die, neither is a firestorm.  We have claims that this god can produce food magically.  Where was that?  Where was the great physical phenomena controlling god?  I’m guessing that the excuse would be free will and/or that this god “used” humans in doing something, which is indistinguishable from humans doing something without any divine impetus.

Tune in for the free will excuse next time in Part 2.

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Just what is a cult? Another review of Billy Graham’s columns

Cults-A-ComparisonWe have a new column from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which has been the gift that keeps on giving.  What is this one about, you may ask?   It’s about how to identify cults.  Yes, you might know where this is going already.   When a theist calls something a cult, it’s hard to look away from the train wreck that always ensues.

The querent asks how they can know if a group is a cult or not.  A coworker of the querent has invited this person to attend her “religious assembly”, but the querent doesn’t know anything about it.  The querent finishes by saying that they are not from a religious family but they know that they need God, aka the Christian one.

In that the querent didn’t simply ask the woman about her church e.g. religious assembly, or do an internet search of it is curious enough.   We also have no idea on how someone can come to know that they need some god.  Billy is of course joyous that someone knows that they need his god.  He also has some advice on how to know if a group is a cult or not.  He is sure that such “cults” will lead away from his god rather than toward him.

So how does one identify one of those cults according to the BGEA?

“One way is to find out if the members think that they, and they alone, have all the truth about God.”

The problem with this is that most, if not all religions, do claim this.  Even Billy claims this when he states that his religion is the “only way” repeatedly in this article, titled “The Only Way”. Ahem…. 🙄

“To put it another way, most cults teach that every other church is wrong, and they alone are right.”

Which the BGEA has done when it had an article up on its website saying that Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc were cults and when it claims that anyone who uses other books or sources other than the bible is also a cult, aka Roman Catholics. (Billy himself seems to be straying from this position, see the bottom of the article) This article was removed when Billy was schmoozing with Mitt Romney, former presidential candidate and Mormon.

And of course we have other TrueChristians sure that Billy Graham isn’t a TrueChristian at all, here at Christian Apologetics and Research Ministries, a wonderful nest of TrueChristians insisting that they and they alone have all of the truth about their god.  Could it be we have another band of cultists?

Billy also has that another way one can tell is if the “cult” is of recent origin that it is wrong.  Now, at one point his religion was recent, about two thousand years ago or so.  Did that make it a cult?  The people at the time certainly seemed to think so, which would indicate that the “time in grade” argument is utterly subjective and meaningless.  It does indeed help the TrueChristian to decry other religions and even sects of their own religion.  With this claim, the Catholics are much less “culty” than Protestant sects, which seems to indicate that everyone should be a Catholic rather than holding to Protestant ideals of sola scriptura, etc.  Perhaps even the Coptic Christians are even less “culty” than them, so who knows who has the “right” answers?  And then we have to consider the Jewish faith, which is even older and the variations of ancient religions that people have done their best to recreate that may be from much farther back.   To claim that “time in grade” or age is nothing more than the logical fallacy of appealing to tradition.  The inverse can also be true, that just because something is old doesn’t mean that it isn’t true, the fallacy of the appeal to novelty, but as always evidence is needed to establish truth, not just a claim of a fact that has no determined correlation to the claims of truth.

Billy also tries to claim that if a group doesn’t agree with him about what the bible “really” says,  then they are a cult by definition. “Do they see him as both fully God and fully man? Most cults don’t, but the Bible does. Do they teach that because of his death and resurrection we can be saved as we put our faith and trust in him? Most cults don’t, but the Bible does.”   This is no more than insisting that he’s right and everyone else is wrong, what he claims as a sign of a cult repeatedly.  Hmmm, seems we are indeed going in circles here.

Finally, after looking at the BGEA’s website we have this about cults: “Cults also often have a leader who demands full obedience, and threatens members with condemnation if they doubt his teachings. They also may try to cut them off from their families, or anyone else who might try to draw them away.”

Like this? The a new believer of a religious movement says “Before I join you, let me go back and say goodbye to my family“ and the leader replies “You cannot.  If you look back, you are not fit for my religion.”

Or the leader of the religious movement says “Everyone who follows me must hate their family and their own life.  They must give up everything. If they do not, they are not worthy.” ( incidentally, both of the above are in the Gospel of Luke, chap 9 and 14 respectively).

Seems like Billy’s religion is a cult exactly as defined by Billy:  a leader that requires full obedience, an insistence that they and they alone are “right” and a recent minting date for their particular version of the religion, at best circa 1517 or so, and likely much more recent since I rather doubt that Martin Luther would agree with Billy. (A quick look around the internet, search differences Lutheran baptist, shows that at least some Lutherans are quite sure that Billy, a Baptist, is wrong about what their god “really” wants.  More recent words from Billy, that “everyone loves Christ” whether they know it or not and that they will be saved no matter what they worship has incensed some other TrueChristians who again are sure that they have the only “right” answer.)

It is no surprise that such arguments about cults can so easily be turned against those who make them.