Thursday, April 24, 2014

A perfect metaphor


I recently looked up my favorite scene from the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (with Gene Wilder) on YouTube.

See it here:
So shines a good deed in a weary world...

After watching it, and getting a little choked up as I did during my first viewing in 1971, I was struck with a surprising observation.

I'm not sure if the original writer of the book or the director of the movie intended this, but the scene is a perfect spiritual metaphor. I'm not speaking about the rest of the movie, but just the scene in question, viewed perhaps out of context. Nevertheless, here is my take on it:

Willy Wonka = God.

Mr. Slugworth (Mr. Wilkinson) = Satan.

Grandpa Joe = human adults who have little or non-existent faith.

Charlie = human adults who maintain a childlike faith in God.

Lifetime supply of chocolate = Heaven.

The contract (rules) = the tacit understanding between God and human beings, as related in print by the Bible.

The Chocolate Factory tour = life on Earth as we know and live it.

Charlie's "good deed in a weary world" = turning the other cheek, or doing the right thing despite adverse circumstance.


So many details fit the metaphor:

Grandpa Joe asking about the "lifetime supply of chocolate":
Human beings often still expect help and rewards from God, even when they have no genuine interest in obeying Him.

Willy Wonka being "extraordinarily busy":
While I have no clue about the realm of God, I'd say all the things He is credited with and responsible for would probably make Him very busy.

Grandpa Joe claiming ignorance of the "rules":
Indignation is often a response to the very idea that God could have rules we are meant to live by. In practical, real-life terms, human beings don't need the Bible or any other holy book to understand the universal concept that there are consequences for actions, and to possess the natural instinct that there is more to life than is perceived by the five senses.

Grandpa Joe calling Wonka several inaccurate names (crook, cheat, swindler, inhuman monster):
These are just a few of the things God is accused of daily by people who are angry at Him for whatever reason they believe is justified, probably for as long as humans have lived on Earth.

Willy Wonka's anger when Grandpa Joe questions his moral character:
The righteous anger of a God who has given much and is tired of constant disappointment by His most beloved creations, human beings. The legal gibberish that Wonka spouts from the contract is a good analogy of how so many humans view the contents of the Bible as arcane and unintelligible. The truth (as witnessed by people who deliberately take the time to consider the biblical texts) is that it's only gibberish if you haven't expended the effort to understand it. Also notice that while Wonka is yelling, he directs virtually all of it at Grandpa Joe, not Charlie, even though Grandpa Joe attempts to include Charlie in his doubt by saying, "We didn't see any rules, did we Charlie?"

Wonka repeating the phrase "good day" despite being very angry:
During Wonka's tirade, he never once resorts to name calling or accusations regarding the character of Grandpa Joe or Charlie; he simply states the facts about how they broke the rules. My perception of God, correct or not, is that He doesn't make arbitrary decisions, but has a logical reason for all of them. The Bible states that God is aware of even minute details like how many hairs we have on our heads, and that not even a sparrow falls to the ground with His knowing about it. So God's anger is probably not based on whimsy or bad moods, but is prompted by the direct and constant disobedience of human beings for millennia.

The natural inclination of Grandpa Joe to figuratively say "screw you" to Wonka by selling the gobstopper to Slugworth:
Human beings often rebel against God for a variety of reasons, due to experiences or ideas that have led them to believe trusting God is the activity of a fool. That's the easy, wide path; it is written that "narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."

Charlie not rebelling against Wonka, despite subversive influence from a respected figure:
A demonstration of genuine faith in God, which is often venomously characterized as being a ridiculous fantasy of persons emotionally unstable and intellectually challenged.

Wonka's unbridled glee at Charlie's "good deed in a weary world":
God's happiness when human beings do the right thing is well documented in the Bible. Wonka lovingly refers to Charlie as "my boy;" it might as well have been "my child," or "good and faithful servant." The Bible indicates that God wants us to succeed, and implies that the whole realm of existence is somehow set up to give us the opportunity to do so. Wonka exclaims, "You did it! You did it! I knew you would! I just knew you would!" This is the behavior of someone who wants someone to succeed, not of someone who would rather be angry or vindictive. Wonka even asks Charlie for forgiveness for "putting [Charlie] through this." Wonka also says, "I had to test you Charlie; and you passed the test!" I'm not the first person who has perceived all of existence as an elaborate stage by which God can vet the character of beings with free will.

Slugworth being painted publicly as a dastardly enemy of Wonka, but turning out to be an employee of Wonka instead:
Satan does the work of God in the Old Testament by tempting humans, then in the New Testament he seems to have gone rogue. There's not enough information to correctly solve that apparent transformation at present. Regardless, the Bible indicates Satan is created by God, and as such is not equal to Him. Our perception of their true relationship is ignorant at best.


Monday, March 24, 2014

It's about worldview, not facts

The following is a reproduction of a post I recently made to YouTube, as part of an ongoing dialogue between an atheist and me. The format we've been using is to present a portion of the other person's previous post in quotation marks, and then our own response immediately after. For the sake of clarity in this re-post, I have placed the atheist's quotations in italics.

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You're not overwhelming me, but after reading your last post I'm even more convinced that our conversation is the same one that has been going on between believers and atheists since the concepts could even be talked about. Atheism is not a new idea; I would guess that seeing the universe in that fashion has existed nearly as long as seeing it as a form of deliberate creation. Science has given more fuel to the fire of atheism, if one is inclined to view the universe that way.

To explain what I mean, I will take your paragraph about love. I said I can't really prove I love my wife to a scientist's satisfaction, and you responded:

"Actually, we can prove love. Studies with MRI machines show heightened levels of serotonin and oxytocin when people experience what they call love. Yes, we can't touch love. It isn't physical, because love is an emotion. We understand emotions are brain states. We can study them. Since you're comparing love and God, are you saying that belief in a god is an emotion too? Because then I would agree with you. BTW, by your logic, we can't prove hate either, or any other emotion. Why focus on love?"

The issue here is the same issue in nearly every atheistic objection. Because:

1) Monitored brain activity during specific periods or moments of emotional states is real, yes. But we choose whether or not we interpret this activity as the cause or the effect. There is no foregone conclusion, as much as some materialist neuroscientists would love to decree it so.

2) You state that "We understand emotions are brain states." But that sounds like a fact, when actually it is a conjecture that is still up for debate. Yes, when people think certain things, see certain things, have emotions about certain things, their brains register activity that can be monitored accurately by mechanical apparatus. That the activity occurs is not in question, of course it does, because we can see it and record it. What remains in question, whether some like this or not, is how the two events are related. One interpretation is to point at the activity and say, "See! There's proof that emotions are merely chemical processes, not mystical, intangible things that occur by an alleged spirit who inhabits a corporeal body." But what we have seen is that when emotions are experienced mentally, the body simultaneously reacts with physical processes. To assume that the emotions don't exist without the chemicals is one assumption; I don't agree.

3) Just like Ham pointed out in his debate with Nye, atheists and believers alike share the same evidence. How that evidence is interpreted is why there is a debate in the first place.

This becomes the real issue. You and I (and many, many others) will continue to disagree about these issues because we have both made a choice at some point to interpret the shared evidence with a particular worldview. This is not just an easy answer or cop out, it is the real issue, in my opinion.

Often, these discussions/debates/arguments/whatever become long, exhausting examples of apologetic, because one party will insist that the other party prove his or her beliefs, or at least explain the beliefs in a manner that will finally be acceptable to the opposition. But this won't happen, because the arguments and evidence are secondary to the *reasons* why people choose their worldviews.

You are still correct; I don't know enough about you to declare any of my guesses or opinions about you as fact. But the reason you and I decide to interpret evidence differently is because we both have agendas that we think make more sense. To assume that because scientists say something, or because a laboratory provides particular results from particular experiments, that those statements or test results are the final word on any matter is of course not a reasonable assumption. This is because the history of science is full of mistakes that are only fully recognized in hindsight.

The metaphysical must still remain shrouded in mystery because we still lack the instrumentation (and may never engineer it) that can conclusively prove or disprove God's existence. I don't usually throw in the "you can't disprove God's existence" thing because not being able to disprove is not the same as proving. But, galling as it may be, it is still conceptually true that God can't be disproved.

Some say the burden is on the believer to prove the existence of God. But what is the justification for this demand? The believer's own belief in the metaphysical automatically eliminates the possibility, as most accept that God is of an incorporeal nature, and as it has been well established (and you have stated your own experience also supports) that there is no physical proof of God that "modern" human beings can present as evidence, the demand is pointless. What about miracles, you may ask? Pointless, because any miracle that happened in the here and now would be immediately explained away as anomalous natural phenomena, or clever trickery.

Unless of course, an atheist has the intention of either "enlightening" someone or debunking someone's beliefs. These endeavors must always end in frustration, because both parties will always walk away knowing the other person just can't seem to see it their way.

And this lands us back to what I said in the beginning of this response. I can tell you my thoughts about why the actions in the Old Testament took place, but they will seem like rationalizations, whether they are or not. Why? Because I choose to trust God and have faith in His intentions. Many atheists (and if you are not of this ilk, that's fine) choose to believe that God is improbable, unlikely, and mostly objectionable if He does exist. They're not interested in guesses about why God sanctioned or committed the acts that are perceived as objectionable. Ask any effective litigator to produce a viable "defense" of these seemingly objectionable actions, and certainly more than one could be suggested. We choose to think the worst; we don't know for sure that a negative take on the matter is 100% correct.

A problem humans face is that we are not in a position to judge our own Maker. We can try to the best of our abilities to reason our way into conclusions that make the most sense, and we do. We can take all the parameters of our physical, intellectual, and emotional existence, add in our experiences, our acquired knowledge, our earned wisdom, and once we've mixed all that together, we make judgments based on the sum total of those elements. However, if God exists, clearly just a glimpse at his astoundingly original, complex and brilliant technologies (nature, matter, life, etc.) would lead us to the understanding that it's not only possible, but quite probable, that despite our being created in His image, we are still merely faint shadows of Him, and stand meager and impotent next to His abilities and accomplishments.

The whole business of calling God to the carpet because we may think portions of the scriptures to be barbaric is not really very open-minded. We don't have the whole picture; we don't know what happens after death. We don't know exactly what we are, if God does exist. We know what we see in the mirror, we know what we experience every day. But our ignorance of the whole of existence (including the realm of God) is so great, that to use our human reasoning and accuse God of barbarism or sadism, or what have you, is about as presumptuous as we can possibly get.

If God exists, whether some like it or not, we are the clay, not the potter. Yes, we have been given minds to think. Yes, we should use those minds to try our utmost to do the "right" thing every day, to understand our universe as much as is practical for our type of biological existence. But questioning God is a foolish waste of time, because we don't have anywhere near the power of God, and our ignorance of the big picture makes us automatically unqualified to make better judgments than the One who created everything we know.

"How do you know that God prefers what we consider good? How do you know that he doesn't prefer what we consider bad? How did you determine that your god is a good god that wants the best for us?"

This is what I'm talking about; the atheist and the believer choose to view the same evidence differently. When it comes to the universe we inhabit, I see only good that God provides. The only bad I see is when human beings let their sinful natures dictate deeds that produce harm in myriad ways.

"I could make the same argument, except stating that God continues to be bad."

It's still the glass half-full and half-empty effect. You and I see the evidence differently.

"This question is a little off topic, but if God is a perfect being, why did he create anything? Perfection means without error, so why would something that is perfect need to create something? Creating something for a purpose means he was lacking something, which is contradictory to his perfection."

Creating something for a purpose means he was lacking something? That conclusion is completely arbitrary. It's one possibility, but I doubt that's the reason. Why did God create? Who knows? Why does a poet write or a musician compose?

"I have not read Gerald Schroeder's work, and maybe you can help me out in this discussion, but this is patently false."

You are incorrect to declare it patently false. Your interpretation certainly dictates the conjecture is false, but there is an explanation you haven't considered, which is in Schroeder's text. Vegetation did appear before the sun and moon appeared, but the Earth's atmosphere needed oxygen to become more transparent. Photosynthesis does require sunlight, but the nature of the vegetation, other than that it was grass, herb yielding seed and fruit trees, is not fully described or explained. So, although it seems counter-intuitive that some vegetation came just before the light of the sun and moon, we are not in a position to understand why this is so. Modern geologists or botanists can't possibly guarantee that such an order of development couldn't possibly be feasible under any contingency of conditions, as they weren't present to examine them. The rest of the events described are still in correct order, and are baffling, in terms of how they could get the order correct that long ago.

1) The Big Bang occurs (universe created from nothing), and light is separated from dark.
2) The disk of the Milky Way forms.
3) Earth cools and liquid water appears, setting the stage for bacteria and photosynthetic algae.
4) Once sun becomes visible, photosynthesis increases greatly, creating oxygen-rich atmosphere.
5) Waters swarm with life, having the same basic body plans of all future animals.
6) Land animals, mammals, humans.

"I would also like to point out to you how you are basing your idea of creation off of the Big Bang theory, giving credence to science, but then a sentence later degrade science by calling them "experts" in quotations."

I give credence to science, because it deserves credence for what it can do. The Big Bang was originally rejected by the Steady State scientists (the prevailing explanation of the universe at that time), and the main objection was that it had "religious" implications. I wasn't degrading scientists, I was being ironic and implying that what an expert knows one hundred years ago is different than today, and most likely different in another hundred years.

"So do they know what they're talking about or not?"

Of course they know what they're talking about, when they stick to the facts of their scientific method, and refrain from implying that theories are facts.

"You say you can't prove God scientifically or with facts and yet that's exactly what you're trying to do."

This is not true. I'm not trying to prove God scientifically or with facts. I'm simply answering your questions to the best of my ability. It is actually *you* who are expecting *me* to prove something with my answers that I've already said will not be proven. I can't prove the existence of God, and I'm not going to try, most especially because God doesn't need my assistance to qualify His existence.

"Outside of Genesis in the Bible, when "yom" is used with a number or "morning" or "evening", it is meant to be literal. If we're going to be consistent, we must treat the instances of "yom" in Genesis the same way."

So God is subject to human opinion about how to properly refer to time? I don't think so. I read the article you posted a link to, and again, Schroeder (a nuclear physicist) has proffered an excellent, well-thought-out, backed-by-math explanation to reconcile the six days of Genesis and the currently considered age of the universe. Is Schroeder absolutely correct? I don't know for sure, how could I? But the explanation is there, and I choose to give it credence, as Schroeder is a legitimate scientist. His arguments are alleged to have contributed to the conversion of Antony Flew from atheist to deist, which is no small accomplishment with someone as famously devoted to atheism as Flew was.

"There is much evidence in comparative mythology that the creation myth in Genesis is based off of the Enuma Elish, a Babylonian creation myth that was written hundreds of years before Genesis."

That evidence is suspect, because scholars can't agree on whether or not it came from 1800 BCE, 1750 BCE, or 1100 BCE. All these dates are *after* the genealogically verifiable date of the Bible's Flood, which occurred in approximately 2348 BCE. A person may well object and say, hey, wait a minute, the Hebrew texts were written *long* after that time. This would be correct, as Moses was born well after the Flood. But again, the Bible's level of veracity is a matter of faith. If Moses wrote the original texts, and those texts were inspired by God, then the Babylonian flood myth was based on a real event, and the Babylonians merely told their own version, along with many other civilizations who had their own versions.

"We know there was no global flood. The fossil record does not match up with it."

That is not true, we know nothing of the kind, we only assume. The fossil record actually does back it up, as sea creature fossils have been found in elevations way above sea level.

"The distribution of the animals on the Earth after the flood could not have happened. How did the penguins get down to Antarctica?"

This assumes that continental drift has always occurred at the rate it occurs now.

"Everything about the global flood contradicts what we know about geography, biology, and history."

That is a sweeping generalization, not a statement of fact.

"The flood story was copied about four or five times between different belief systems and tribes before it came to the Israelities."
"A notable flood myth that came before the Genesis account is the Epic of Gilgamesh. Whoever wrote the flood myth in Genesis used these previous stories and created their own myth."


Not facts, but more assumptions, similar to your previous one, based on what particular scholars have said that you choose to believe, regarding dates and natural dissemination of information.

"How do you reconcile the Tower of Babel? We know how languages evolved and the Tower of Babel does not match."

We know nothing of the kind, in terms of how languages evolved. We can trace geographical routes of comparatively similar and different languages, we can form conjecture regarding ancient documents with specific dating methods... but these methodologies do not absolutely rule out the possibility of a sudden change in core language. Especially since from a space alien's point of view, our languages would all seem like different dialects of the same language, as all the same structural elements remain in all languages, just repositioned.

"We know Israelities were not slaves in Egypt. We know there was no Exodus."

We don't know these things for sure. We have conjecture and interpretation, not facts.

"We know the Sun did not stop in the sky (or more accurately, the Earth stopped spinning). Cosmology refutes that this is possible."

Cosmology may refute this, and even common sense, but all things are possible with God.

"So is science just wrong about these alternate explanations and the Bible is right?"

There is another contingency: science may not have enough information to report the facts as they actually are.

What we care about is what defines us, because ultimately we commit actions that underscore our values. I see science as a tool, nothing more, nothing less. It can bring joy in the form of technological convenience and freedom from disease, for two examples. It can do things that humans of times past would have been floored by, in amazement. It can provide answers to many questions.

But it will never, ever, disprove the existence of God. That is solely the task of philosophy; and a great deal of effort has been committed to that goal for many, many years. The modern atheist is the recipient of a large store of argument based on doubt; there are many tools at his or her disposal. But though those tools are collectively named "reason," they are not exclusive to the atheist, and as long as there are believers also capable of reason, the debate will continue. This is because one side's worldview does not satisfy the other, and I don't expect it ever will while the Earth continues in its present state.

My new questions for you are:

If you were God, what are some key things you would have done differently?

How do you account for the great minds (currently and from history) who believe in God? Despite their accomplishments, are they all missing some important capacity for reason in their minds that you and other atheists possess?




Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Evidence for the existence of God

I recently went a few rounds with an atheist (via YouTube) who was of the variety that insists on physical proof of God's existence, and bases his (or her, I don't really know) opinion on the fact that physical proof of God is not possible in modern day laboratories.

I fielded all the usual attacks on my “logic,” replete with the stereotypically named formalisms thrown in for effect (ad hominem, ad populum, and strawman fallacies, etc.).

I also was treated to meandering falsehoods drawn from incorrect assumptions, such as:

“No, I don't know that a god can't be physically manifested. You don't believe that your god and aspects of him can be physically manifested? So prayer doesn't work? Bread and wine can't turn into body and blood? Miracles don't occur? God wasn't manifested in Jesus? God has never appeared to anyone? You are a joke.”

This back-and-forth went on for a bit, then he or she pulled out what was assumed as a trump card (when “reasonable minds” are watching):

“Also, notice how your demeanor gets more and more aggressive with every post that you write. That should tell you something shouldn't it??”

When all else fails, project onto the opposition. I was going head-to-head, matching his/her sarcasm in kind, but of course he/she seemed oblivious to his/her own contributions.

At any rate, I decided to finally give “evidence” of the existence of God, based on Ken Ham's astute observation that both believers and non-believers have the same evidence, but interpret it in different ways. While I had previously stated that proof of God's existence did not exist, the truth is that whether or not proof exists is purely a matter of worldview.

Here is my so-called evidence, reproduced for your amusement:

Evidence: water.

Creationist interpretation: a miraculous life-sustaining substance engineered to possess a remarkably large list of convenient properties.

Atheist interpretation: two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen, occurring by mindless fiat via universal random chance, that accidentally provide a collection of features which offer no proof at all of design or purpose.


It was no surprise that the opposition didn't seem to appreciate the difference between the two interpretations and why it exists.

Oh well.









Friday, January 17, 2014

A not-so-secret secret to happiness

I could have just as easily named this essay “The secret to happiness,” but I’m not quite that presumptuous. However, I should point out that the so-called secret I’m going to share is, in my estimation, the single greatest reason why my life is relatively free of strife and depressing burden.

Are you ready for this life-altering mindset? Pay attention, because it will go by so quickly, you might miss it.

Stop thinking the grass is greener elsewhere.

Huh?

This is the realm of philosophy, but I’ve long believed that if Satan actually existed, envy would be one of his most effective tools to keep humans from being able to maximize the enjoyment of their lives.

“Ignorance is bliss.”
“What the eye does not see, the heart does not bleed for.”
“What you don’t know won’t hurt you.”

These platitudes are what you usually hear when the green-grass concept is brought up in conversation. But modern humans, chock full of information and endless bombardment from commercial and social media, are hard pressed to remain ignorant.

And who wants to be thought of as ignorant?

What I’m really talking about here is a slightly different perspective on the concept: the life you live is unique, and no one, no matter how rich, powerful, smart, beautiful, etc., will ever be able to live it.

This means that your greatest joys, harshest sorrows,most memorable moments and proudest achievements are not for anyone else to experience but you. That's no meager consolation prize; it's the truth that marketing departments hope you’ll never fully embrace.

One might respond, “Yeah, that’s great and all, but my life can’t possibly be as fun or fulfilling as say, a rock star, a sports star, a movie star or a CEO.”

Now that’s what I would call a vitally mistaken assumption if ever there were one.

Put the lives of the famous entities just listed under a microscope, and for all the material wealth and attention they garner, are they happier than you to an amount commensurate with the comparative disparity in status?

Of course not. They’re human beings, and regardless of their stations in life, they must get up every day and face the same emotional and physical challenges that adversity heaps upon all of us. Yes, they have Lamborghinis and you have a Saturn or a Toyota. Yes, they have servants and you have to do your own dishes. Yes, they live within a lot more square footage, and you must make do with whatever apartment or modest house you can afford.

If you’re being objective and not influenced by hype and envy, do you truly believe that the existence of these material accoutrements automatically brighten one’s view of one’s self, one’s life, and the world around us?

Look at it from another angle. Consider the comparatively superior aspects of your lives:

1) Privacy and Freedom. Depending on how much attention you seek online, you have the luxury of doing what you wish, and moving about in the world, without being bothered. As much as some of you desperately dream of stardom, I would offer that you’re really not thinking it through to an honest conclusion.

2) Safety. The wealthy and famous are always potential targets for all sorts of nefarious activity, ranging from harassment to theft to kidnapping to assault to murder. As a “common” person who (hopefully) tries to stay out of trouble, you stand a much greater chance to live a life relatively free of those kinds of unsettling circumstances.

3) Much less to lose. Few things are as devastating to someone who was once on top of the world as when the status eventually dissipates or the money is gone.

4) Sleeping more soundly. Being human beings, those who are hugely successful are often haunted by guilt, due to the excessive nature of their “rewards.” It’s the whole children-are-starving-somewhere-and-I’m-living-in-a-mansion thing. It’s difficult to honestly reconcile unless you’re a sociopath; and that carries with it a whole different set of consequences.

5) Honesty in love relationships. Let’s face it; humans behaving as they do, it’s difficult enough to find sincerity with one other person, without having to add the impossible-to-ignore status that dishonest people are drawn to. And it gets worse: e.g., a rich man who marries a trophy wife. Neither can ever be 100% sure that the love the other person professes would exist if the outward bait were non-existent. A relationship where both people truly do love each other would never be able to completely shed that suspicion. Many of them don’t even bother; they prefer to both live a lie because they tell themselves what they gain from the arrangement is worth it.

6) Honesty in friendships. As the old saying goes, everyone loves a rich man. Normal people want to be loved for who they are inside, appreciated for what they have to offer that is genuine. Again, when you’re rich or famous, you can never be sure your friends are true. That’s why so many famous people hang out with each other; there is less chance that the other person’s reasons are disingenuous.

7) Self-esteem. Believe it or not, you’ll stand a better chance of possessing healthy self-esteem if the world isn’t insisting that you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread. Michael Jackson is one of many sad cautionary tales in this regard.

So there you have it.

If you want to be happier, try looking at your life as the best possible one you could be living, instead of as one that’s filled with failures and disappointments generated by your inflated expectations.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A joke about evolutionary biologists

I backslid recently and started uploading comments to YouTube videos regarding atheism versus theism.

Anyway, there's a YouTube video that features the "Top Ten Creationist Arguments," and it has some typical claptrap that supposedly refutes what the video claims to be common "creationist" objections to atheism. I thought I'd have some fun, so I uploaded this comment, with my idea for an eleventh argument.

#11. The 1966 Wistar Symposium.

Prominent mathematicians:
"Using evolutionary biology's own conjectures regarding observed mutation rates, the amount of currently known complex life on Earth, and time allotted by geological estimations, we have come to the conclusion that the diversity and complexity of life as we know it is statistically impossible via evolution by natural selection."

Prominent evolutionary biologists:
"Get over it. Evolution happened, so your math *has* to be incorrect."

Prominent mathematicians (to each other):
"How many evolutionary biologists does it take to screw in a light bulb?"
"1,000,000. One to pretend to see in the dark, and 999,999 to keep adding new switches to the circuit every time the current starts flowing in an undesirable direction."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

One more waste of time

The genuine reason why I have no interest in 'converting' an atheist:

Trying to convince an atheist that God exists is like trying to sell them water when they'd rather purchase beer.

I have this odd propensity to watch YouTube videos by atheists, and debates about atheism versus theism. I already know there's no resolution. I already know that all interested parties have preconceived conclusions (including me, of course) despite their insistence of the verity of their infallible personal logic. I already know that even viewing these intellectualized shenanigans is ultimately a waste of valuable time.

But I just can't help it.

I think the impetus for gawking at them is quite similar to my occasional guilty indulgence in a Jerry Springer episode; the heated spectacle is amusing in its futility. Call it morbid fascination, but there it is. Understand this: by calling attention to this foible of mine, don't imagine that I believe it acceptable. I'm as ashamed of my amusement in this area as I'm entertained by said spectacle.

There is a particular video, starring Mr. Hemant Mehta, that lists the "15 things to NEVER say to an atheist," which I watched this morning. More important than the items I'm about to address, I'd say the two most significant aspects of his video are the sarcastic intonation that accents his delivery, and his overconfidence in his approach to the issue. The issue being, of course, the validation of atheism by theists. Nevermind that for someone truly confident in his belief, that sort of validation is not required.

Here is a link to the video:  Advice from a "friendly" atheist

Because I am weak, and I just can't help but waste more of my time, I will now address each of the 15 things, in the briefest manner I can muster.

1) "Where do you get your MORALITY?" 
Jews and Christians don't assume atheists are lacking morals; they just recognize that the morals of the atheist do not intentionally come from God. The concept that all human beings can effectively follow their own moral codes and still coexist peacefully is wishful thinking and displays a lack of understanding about human proclivities. The believer attempts to follow the moral code as set by God, thus removing the torture of self-doubt regarding the unpredictable nature of individual morality.

2) "Your life must be so EMPTY."
Emptiness in one's life occurs when one believes something is missing. Human beings are not always able to pinpoint the cause of their emptiness. They make assumptions about what causes it, and what can relieve it. The believer in God believes that the big picture questions, such as "What is the purpose of life?" merit at least some effort to try and arrive at an answer. For the atheist, the answer is easy: the world is entirely subjective, so of course the meaning of it all is only that which the individual ascribes.

3) "Why are you MAD at God?"
Atheists, for the most part, can't be mad at something they don't believe exists. If they are mad at anything, it's the annoying concept that they are answerable to an entity placed higher than them in the whole of existence.

4) "You can't DISPROVE God."
Attempting to prove the existence of God is a fool's endeavor. God has deliberately hidden Himself on purpose, and human beings are not supposed to be able to physically qualify His existence. For the atheist, this concept provides much amusement, because they're not interested in exploring the reason God would purposely do such a thing, only in laughing at the alleged ignorance of the believer. Comparing God to Zeus is like an orphan comparing one's unknown biological father to Santa Claus; that's why believers dismiss the idea so easily.

5) "What if you're WRONG?"
According to the Hebrew and Greek scriptures, God would never punish an individual for sincerely seeking the truth about existence. Believers, for the most part, do think about the nature of the god they believe in. Most don't enjoy the prospect of questioning their own beliefs however, and therefore unfortunately don't give much credence to Christ's earnest support of asking the hard questions. Fear is no substitute for the confidence that any genuine truth will withstand all attempts to debunk it. The atheist thinks he or she embraces this challenge by indulging in texts that support the atheist position. The concept of shame is not one atheists (and materialists, for that matter) care to entertain. So, instead of punishment, perhaps the atheist might consider how they may see themselves eventually, if their spiritual worldview just happened to be incorrect. Incorrect in relation to the Being that gave them the greatest gift of all and sustained every beat of their hearts while being scoffed at and relegated to non-importance. Ingratitude of epic proportion.

6) "You just have to have FAITH!"
Having faith in God and using one's mind are not mutually exclusive. Proclaiming that critical thought is the only path to understanding, and that faith is the product of a closed mind, are only logically connected for a person who views a belief in God as ignorant. This is easily rebutted by the existence of great minds in history and in current academic circles that believe God exists. Not completely understanding a mystery is not a cop-out; it's simple honesty (just ask Lawrence Krauss). Indeed, believing in something just "because I want to and it makes me feel good" is a dumb reason to believe in something; and that includes those who feel better about believing that the God of the Hebrews does not exist, in order to be accountable only to themselves.

7) "Just OPEN your HEART."
Aluminum tin foil hats notwithstanding, Hemant is correct. No one is ever going to be able to provide indisputable physical proof of God's existence. The atheist's heart isn't so much closed to God, but open to anything else but God. Hemant's claim to being open to the possibility is a perfunctory lie, as demonstrated by the sarcasm in the video.

8) "You were never REALLY religious."
The claim about "a lot of atheists" coming from "religious" families is more anecdote than fact, but yes, some atheists do emerge from believing families. The same is true for the inverse; some Christians emerge from non-believing families (just ask William Lane Craig). These anomalies are only indicative of the existence of free will in the individual. Religion has never been equal to faith in God; religions are a man-made framework for the formalized worship of God. An atheist's guarantee on these matters is just as reliable or unreliable as a believer's guarantee. One of the most common proclamations of a Jerry Springer guest is, "You don't know me!" Yes, most of the viewers don't know Hemant Mehta personally; does this mean they are incapable of any kind of profiling accuracy? Not necessarily.

9) "What happened in your CHILDHOOD?"
Just like a theist, an atheist's childhood wasn't necessarily traumatic for the individual to believe what he or she believes. However, the simple armchair psychologist's observation that one's relationship with one's father is often similar to how one views God, is often not far off base. The mistake atheists may be making in this regard is that the father-child relationship has to be riddled with trauma. Trauma is not necessary; the true inner intentions of the grown individual are evidence enough.

10) "Have you read the BIBLE?"
At the risk of being arrogant, I must declare Hemant's guarantee in this section of the video to be of very little worth. While it is true that many Christians are unfortunately not curious enough to read the text that their own beliefs are based on, through the years I have personally spoken to several atheists, and their knowledge of the Bible is always lacking in terms of applied knowledge. Most of their information comes not from the actual text of the Bible, but in other texts written about the Bible; texts usually created for the purpose of debunking the Bible, not understanding it.

11) "I will PRAY for you."
Of course prayer to a god that doesn't exist would have very little value to an atheist. However, the atheist's reduction of the prayer to worthless and irritating waste of time is merely indicative of the atheist's typical (and often denied) antagonism toward the value the believer places in his or her belief.

12) "Do you worship the DEVIL?"
The wrong assumptions of the few are not representative of the many. However, as Satan's persona seems to change from tempter to destroyer between the Old and New Testaments, it would be prudent to observe that there could be more involved in one's choices than one's own subjectively flawed logic.

13) "You must be AGNOSTIC."
All I can say in response to this issue is, "who cares?" This particular section of the video sounds oddly similar to the whole debate between homosexuals, bisexuals, and transgender individuals; e.g. the homosexual judgmentally declaring that the bisexual is irritating and not being honest about his or her sexuality.

14) "Isn't atheism a RELIGION?"
Of course atheism is not a religion. Of course it is a rejection of the existence of God. Atheism is a belief system however, based on the materialist ethos that if you can't experience something with the five senses, or physically qualify it in a lab, then it can't possibly exist.

15) "Why are you so ANGRY?"
The truth about atheist ire: they're angry because, for various reasons, they don't want to live in a universe that is created by God of the Hebrew scriptures. Hemant was not being honest with himself; he indeed has a beef with the higher power. That's where the following cognitive dissonance comes in:

  * "People do a lot of crazy things in the name of God"; but what about the vastly greater number of crazy things people do with no connection to God at all?

  * "Passing laws that restrict LGBT rights or women's rights"; these are the actions of the politically conservative, not necessarily the actions of a Jew or Christian, per se. Hemant is confusing conservative political activism with the religious affiliations they use to achieve their legislative goals. In the hands of a politician, religion is just one more useful means to an end.

  * "Bad science curriculum decisions"; this is most likely a reference to the desire to include Intelligent Design as a companion study alongside unguided evolution. This is an entirely different discussion, but suffice it to say that open-mindedness is more claimed than demonstrated by the most adamant evolutionary biologists.

  * "Revisionist history curriculums"; and these would be what? The only blatant revisionist history I'm aware of is the repainting of historical figures and events with the joyless strokes of the pernicious nihilist.

  * Hemant "value[s] the truth, and value[s] people's rights." Of course he values the truth; his subjective version of it, just like everyone else on the planet. Of course he values human rights; this is the rallying squawk of anyone who thinks the way to change people's minds is to scare them with lawyers and pseudo-intellectualizing the real issue, which is who has the freedom to think what.

  * "The Christians in power often don't value human rights"; let's see how that assertion stacks up against the next person who decides to walk into an abortion clinic because the living tissue inside her is not really a human being until a particular group of people declare it so.

  * "Talk to an atheist"; sure, why not? They're as interesting or boring as anyone else. Just don't expect them to look away from the mirror and become interested in the creator of their universe.

  * "Try to get rid of the stereotypes from your mind"; good advice, perhaps Hemant should take it as well.

  * "It's offensive, it's disrespectful in a lot of cases and it shows that you assume a lot of things about us"; I can only speculate the degree of cognitive dissonance present that prevents Hemant from seeing these qualities in his own point of view.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A revelation

"Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good."