Sunday, December 14, 2014

Quotation

"Scientific hypotheses are always tentative; they are designed to be held only so long as they conform to the evidence. Proponents of the theistic hypothesis, on the other hand, are already sure that their hypothesis is correct; they only seek evidence to buttress a foregone conclusion."
"Is There a Case for Christian Theism?"
Does God Exist?
Keith Parsons

AU 2014

Unfortunately, the fight for basic rights is always necessary. Part of the problem is people fail to understand the basic premise of many of these rights. Secularism is, despite claims to the contrary, of great benefit to everyone. It is meant to maintain/guarantee everyone's freedom of conscience and thought. Anyone who wishes to worship the way they want in their personal lives or be free from being coerced into worshiping in any form should wholeheartedly support secularism. Americans United for Separation of Church and State* is just one organization committed to this basic freedom. If you are not familiar with their work I strongly encourage you to take a look at what they do and why.
Below is a brief graphic summary of some of AU's work over the past year.
*Full disclosure: I've been a member of AU since the 90s

Not intended as satire

When I first read Jeffery Krall's "The 12 Difficulties of Christmas" I was pretty sure an atheist had managed to dupe the Christian Post into publishing a spoof. Nope. Krall is serious. The piece really is intended to be some type of amateurish apologetics. He really seems to think his ponderings are deeply meaningful. The level of self-deception easily loans itself to my initial impression.

His first four seem to be aimed at some of the more conservative Christians but is so shallow I don't see why even the most devout right-winger would bother with them. Krall also seems oblivious to how unnecessary such an approach is since many theists of this stripe have already fully deluded and insulated themselves from any serious questions let alone his trivial take on them. The initial set of his difficulties are:
"1- A virgin conceives…God does something that has never been done before.
2- God uses a peasant teenage girl to bring His only Son into the world.
3- God impregnates someone’s daughter.
4- God impregnates another man’s woman."

To start with, virgin births are not uncommon in mythology. The Jesus narratives do not in fact contain any unique features. Virtually every aspect of the Jesus tales are variations of common elements found in legends and folklore throughout the Middle East/Levant. Also, if he were looking for serious questions why not ask about how God can hold to a lower standard than we pathetic mortals. Krall implies that the question of infidelity and/or adultery can be brought up but never really goes into it. God did knock-up a teenager who was at the very least promised to another man. By other passages of the Bible (Old Testament) Mary should have been stoned to death for a variety of reasons. Depending on your flavor of Christianity this is also potentially an instance of incest. According to some Jesus is God incarnate which would mean that God impregnated his own mom. That's some pretty twisted metaphysical baggage. Labeling that as "Difficulties" seems to be rather superficial and even flippant.

Those disturbing aspects are just from the first third of his list. Most of the others are just as silly and nonsensical. I'll only bother with a few more. His 5th difficulty, "God does this in the most religious culture on the planet", is completely baseless. What makes this part of the world the most religious is not elaborated on. His criteria would have to be either incredibly feeble or non-existent. In ancient times religion was woven into the very fabric of society. Even today that level of theocracy is still being felt.

"6-They were required to submit to the government decree to get registered." is just as full of shit. This one is a reference to one of the elements of the Jesus narratives that can be definitively proven false. We have more than enough historical records to establish not just that the Romans did conduct censuses but how they carried them out. They did not conduct them in the manner the Gospels describe. The Romans didn't give a shit where you were born. They only cared about where you were living at the time of the census. They wanted to know what they could count on for resources and labor within specific geographic boundaries of their empire. Of course, once you accept that this part of the Jesus narratives is a complete fabrication many of Krall's points after this one are nullified.

The real difficulties related to Christmas have far more to do with accepting that it is just a mash up previous myths, legends, and customs. No atheist I know could have done a better job ridiculing "the reason for the season" than Krall's bumbling list of silly inept questions.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Quotation

"If the evidence supports the historical accuracy of the gospels, where is the need for faith? And if the historical reliability of the gospels is so obvious, why have so many scholars failed to appreciate the incontestable nature of the evidence?"
Honest to Jesus
Robert W. Funk 

It's a twofer!

While reading online a recently posted interview at Christian Century I could not stop laughing. The combination of two ridiculous approaches created such an absurd tapestry of nonsensical bullshit I had to laugh. David Heim's interview with Francis Spufford, "Right-brained apologetics", is so surreal I can't begin to think of how to adequately describe it. I will just state the main premise and then leave it to others to read.
Spufford insists that apologetics as a whole relies far too much on reason and rationality. He believes that injecting more emotion/sentimentality into the field is necessary. Seriously! I'm not kidding. He really believes that apologetics is based on reason.

It's fucking hilarious! Keeping in mind the title and it's allusions to the false right brain-left brain dichotomy just adds to the unintended humor. Though, I would caution readers not to apply too much reason of their own. If you think about it in any meaningful way it could lead to the opposite effect. Once I did re-read it I was a bit depressed. That people can be this idiotic is rather disheartening. So, it's better to laugh than cry. Read it once for its absurd humor and move on.