Thursday, August 25, 2011

Genesis - How not to parent!

In the beginning… There was one really bad parent…

OK. I will be repeating this but it is important. The Christian premise is that God is all knowing, all powerful and all good. The Bible doesn’t support this but that is what they say…

Genesis… This guy builds a house. He is a really talented builder, in fact he is an “all-talented” builder. So suffice it to say it is a great house!

He moves his children into the house and tells them that they can do whatever they want in the house except eat the poison under the sink. Because he is all talented the house is perfectly safe except for this poison which he purposefully decided to leave there.

Now these are small children, not old enough to know right from wrong. Never-the-less, Dad puts the poison under the sink. Now Dad knows that this is no ordinary poison, this is a particularly awful poison that will cause his children pain, death and an eternal torment AFTER death. Bad stuff. He puts it under the sink anyway and doesn’t put any kind of lock on the sink. Then he does what I am sure any responsible parent would do he leaves the kids alone in the house and goes off to do whatever it is he does. Not only does father of the year not lock the cabinet under the sink he leaves the house unlocked so that anyone can come in.

A stranger comes in and tells the kids to eat the poison. They do. Remember these kids are neither of an age nor to they have the ability to tell right from wrong.

Further Dad has the ability to know well everything… so he knew the kids were going to eat the poison before he even made them. He knew when he was building the house, he knew when they were thinking about it and he knew when they did it. He also knew the stranger was going to come into the house when he left it unlocked.

He also has the power to be anywhere and do anything he wishes. In other words he could have with little to no effort stopped his children from eating the poison but he didn’t.

So we can clearly see from this story that the children are the ones at fault here! Right?

Like I said, Genesis…

Pretty much that is the updated story, well my version. And if this father were around today we would have CPS on him in a flash!

So in analysis, if God is all powerful that is to say perfect how can he create something that isn’t perfect? The answer is he can only do so intentionally. So according to the story:

1. God is perfect therefore God intentionally built the flaws in Adam and Eve leading them to eat the fruit (note the story doesn’t say apple.)

2. God is all knowing therefore he built these flaws with full knowledge that they would cause his creations would eat the fruit.

3. Knowing that he had created beings that would eat the fruit; God places the tree in the garden anyway. Being all powerful he could have placed it anywhere in the universe or nowhere at all, he could have surrounded it with a ring of fire, had Dragons guard it, encased it in rock. But no he just left it out in the open and told Adam not to eat it, even though he already knew Adam would because he specifically engineered Adam to do so.

4. Being all know he knew the Serpent (who was not Satan btw) would temp Eve. And he knew she would fall for it because he designed her to fall for it. Again being all powerful he could have kept the serpent away or struck it dumb or put it in a far distant continent but no, he leaves it in the garden.

5. All of this I can get past to some degree. You are an all powerful diety, you make some people and a snake and a tree know the people will eat from the tree at the urging of the snake because that is how you intentionally designed them. No problem. But then God acts surprised, gets angry, starts cursing the people and the snake. WTF???? Over…

So there are a few possibilities. God is not all powerful or all knowing, which would mean that this isn’t really God wouldn’t it? OR God fully intended all of this and just cursed everyone because well … he is mean-spirited.

Now I of course have posed these questions to the various Theologians that have passed through my life and gotten various explanations. The best on is the “freewill” and “test” theory.

It varies depending on who is telling it but goes something like God gave Adam and Eve freewill. He wanted them to choose to obey him and the tree in the garden was a test. The problem with this theory is that if God is God he never needs to test anything. He already knows the outcome so the test itself has no purpose. As he knows everything already no test could yield new information.

Also in the Genesis tale the big dude himself says, “22And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:” (Gen 3:22 KJV)

Who is us?

Just something to think about.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

There are no atheists in foxholes

I promised more posts… I really didn’t deliver. Sorry about that. At first I intended this to be a rebuttal of some things I had read online (see my previous post) but when I went back and read it again I realized that this is really about me. It is about what I think.

Now I do not have the comparative religious or philosophical education that some bloggers on the subject seem to have, so I can only speak from what I know and believe.

There are no atheists in foxholes. That is what I titled this post. For a bit of background I am a USAF retired SNCO. Despite that I am not offended by the aphorism. The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers has a problem with it. If you would like to see their website is can be found here:

They have a campaign to dispel “that old myth”. Frankly I think they are missing the boat and need to be a little thicker skinned. Everyone knows Atheists serve; there are numerous famous examples from Pat Tillman to Ernest Hemmingway. The saying has far more to do with religion and the religious than it does with Atheists.

Wikipedia (not the greatest source, I know but it will do in this case) says, “The statement ‘There are no atheists in foxholes’ is an aphorism used to argue that in times of extreme stress or fear, such as when participating in warfare, all people will believe in or hope for a higher power.” I would call that a fair definition. It is an argument and a flawed one at that.

The first problem is the scope fallacy as in “all people will”. The argument is then proved false by simple anecdotal evidence. (yes another fallacy) But if there is even ONE person who does not react this way then “all people will” is demonstrably false. Some people in times of extreme stress or fear reject God, this is particularly true when witnessing the horrors of war. Some will conclude that no just God would allow such suffering.

If we change the scope to “some people will believe in or hope for a higher power,” then the argument might be true except that if it only affects “some people” then the unaffected group in the proverbial foxhole would be atheists.

So after establishing that the aphorism is a false argument one must consider who is making this argument. It is certainly not the Atheist. It is rather the religious who make this argument which says more about religion than about Atheism.

The statement this makes to me is that Religion is based on fear. When the religious argues that “there are no Atheists in foxholes,” they are basically stating that anyone made afraid enough or who suffers enough will turn to religion. Although, most religions claim to be based on peace and love they assert here that it is fear that drives people to them.

In my first post I talked about how it was conquering my own fears that led me away from religion. Here we have a religious argument that says that fear is what drives people to it. I agree. I choose not to be afraid.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Why would I write a blog exposing myself to the world as a nonbeliever? There are plenty of virulent atheists on the internet hiding behind screen names; I’m not one of them. I’m not trying to convert anybody nor am I trying to put down those who believe. I admit to making fun of believers now and again but I counter balance it by remembering that these are people who believe I am going to burn in a lake of fire for all eternity. Is it really fair to begrudge me a few laughs at their expense while I have the time?

But I digress. Harold Camping recently and wrongly predicted the rapture and the end of the world. I found out about this while driving down to South Carolina for the weekend. I had finally completed my BA and was heading down for the commencement ceremonies. My wife and I love road trips and through North Carolina at least we had good weather. So there we were with the top down streaming down the highway and we saw the billboard informing us that judgment day would be May 21st. I was a bit put off by this as I was just about to receive degree and would be able to put it to no real use if the end of the world were to come but a week later.

During following week, surfing the internet, mostly for my own amusement to find out what was going on, I found I was surprised. What surprised me were not the virulent atheists I mentioned earlier, I had expected them to be on the attack. It was the faithful Christians that really floored me. They were attacking the Camping prediction with the same fervor as the nonbelievers, sometimes using the same arguments. This intrigued me because both sides of the debate, the Camping folks and the mainstream Christians believed very similar things regarding the rapture. The chief difference being that one side claimed to know the date and they other disputed that. Words like “insane” and “irrational” were bandied about by the Christians, as if believing in the miraculous was “rational” yet believing the miraculous would occur on a certain day is not.

One site let to another as web surfing often does and I stumbled upon the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM). Therein are contained the writings of Matt Slick. Mr. Slick defends not only Christianity but his particular brand of it through a series of articles and arguments. After reading some of Mr. Slick’s articles I felt I needed to address some of the issues he raises. In addition, some of the other explanations offered by the religious on the various websites are just crying to be well…doubted.

I think only fair to give a little background on the root of my own views. I was born a Catholic but at various times in my childhood and early adulthood have attended different churches including Methodist, Baptist and Nondenominational. I am not a religious scholar and other than a few religion classes and Sunday School hold no formal training in that area. I claim no insight into truth. I am a skeptic…a Doubter if you will. I chose the name of this blog based on that and of course the Biblical Thomas would not believe unless he saw. As you might suspect, my middle name is actually Thomas.

I remember a Sunday school lesson on Thomas when I was nine or ten, this was in a Methodist Church. The teacher told us disapprovingly about how Thomas had doubted the resurrection. I was struck by the hypocrisy of that disapproval, although I certainly didn’t know the word or really even how to express it at the time. That teacher and all my classmates were certain that THEY would not have been doubters. I doubted that too.
Such an event that defies that notions of he faith to which you have been indoctrinated occurs and defies the natural law and you wouldn’t doubt it?

I don’t know if that was the seed that began to make me doubt but it was certainly near the beginning. I did try to believe, I wanted to believe. But the contradictions started mounting, many of which I will address individually in separate posts. For a while I did what a lot of Christians do, I took the faith as a buffet style, taking what I wanted from it and leaving, discounting or glossing over the rest.

But then I realized that I was clinging to belief as do many religious for three reasons neither of which was enough to prove God. I truly did not believe but was forcing myself to make the wholehearted attempt. The three reasons are really just three different forms of the same root and that root is FEAR.

The first fear was the fear of society. How am I to be viewed by most people if I state I do not believe in God? The views of other people are certainly very real and they affect us in very real ways. But at some point I found that other’s views were not as important to me as I once thought. And in truth most people don’t wear their religion or lack thereof on their sleeve anyway.

The second fear was the fear of punishment. Having been indoctrinated virtually since birth that to not believe was to invite divine punishment, it was difficult to shake the worry that if they were right and I was wrong I might be in big trouble. I am certain I held on for a while to hedge my bets. I will probably do a post on Pascal’s Wager in the future but for now I will simply say it doesn’t work. As I became more convinced that I was right and religion wrong I began to realize the fear and that I was afraid of something I didn’t believe in anyway. By realizing it and confronting it I found that it had little hold over me.

The final fear was the hardest to get over because it is the biggest fear we humans harbor, the fear of death. I am mortal like everyone else and will die someday. No one likes to think of their own demise and religion provides an escape for the most unpleasant of thoughts. Even as I woke to the problems with religious belief and it did feel like an awakening, I cling to the belief that there must be something after death. Surely there was force out there even if every religion had it wrong, at that point I suppose I was truly agnostic. Then I wondered at my reasoning for believing even that. I had no rational grounds so why did I believe it? The answer was simply because I wanted it to be so. The universe has never yet arranged itself in the way I wanted it to be and does not seem likely to in the future. Therefore it doesn’t follow to believe in something because I want it to be true. In the end that was the thought that quelled all the fears.

Finally, and this is getting far more long winded than I intended, there is the question as to what I am now. Some might call me an atheist all though some would argue that if I admit even the remotest possibility I might be wrong then I am really an agnostic. This is an argument Christian use against atheism. Again I will probably address that in a later post.

What I know is: I am neither a God nor any other form of omnipotent being. Therefore I cannot say that there is no possibility that I am wrong. What I believe is: That there are no Gods or other omnipotent beings. Agnostic? Atheist? Does it matter? I have come to accept that which of those labels applies to me depends on the person doing the applying rather than one me in particular. I’ll accept either.

Karl Marx wrote on religion that it is, “the opium of the people.” While I disagree with his politics, I believe Marx had a good insight into religion here. Religion makes you feel good. That is what it is designed to do. If your lot in this life isn’t so good then it will be better in the next. The purpose of this blog is not to convert anyone. If you are happy with your beliefs; if they make you feel good; then I am happy for you. If however you would like to read some of mine feel free. Also feel free to question or refute them. I welcome the conversation.