Sunday, January 10, 2016

Why I stopped believing in the Christian God

TL;DR: The Bible

I was a lifelong Christian, it was a careful reading of the Bible that began the process of shedding my religious beliefs. There are now 100's of reasons I can give that all point me in the same direction but I will focus on the big three here.

In short the Bible ordains slavery (and reaffirms this position in the NT), commands genocide (the Amalekites and the Seven Nations), and has God committing infanticide (slaughtering all the first born of Egypt).

Slavery: see, Slavery in the Bible
Apologetic: Slavery, Does God Approve of It?

Note how the above Apologetic version fails to mention key passages where the non-Hebrew slaves can be kept forever, is treated as chattel, and can be beaten.

For example it mentions Leviticus 25:39-43 - the Hebrew "indentured servitude" passage but excludes the relevant passage is 44-46 - this is a disgusting display of dishonest non-scholarship.

BTW: indentured servitude is also a blight on our history so appealing to this horror doesn't make things any better. But it's also wrong because it's not 39-43 in question, it is 44-46. [they also ignore how you can trap even a fellow Israelite into full slavery]

The dishonesty of much of Apologetics quickly turned me off trusting them and doing my own research.

It is also is irrelevant how 'nicely' they supposedly treated those slaves that they could beat so long as they didn't die in a day.

If you are using these diversions to excuse your Bible you have already lost the moral high ground that you suppose God to be.

For me, slavery is a categorical wrong - there are no versions of it that are tolerable.

For me the position was untenable. I tried to deny it for a long time but eventually, on careful and extended study, it became clear that Bible ordains slavery and that this was not a position I could hold.

1 Samuel 15
2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. 3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy[a] all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”
This is very clear and unambiguous command to genocide an entire nation, and not content to stop at children and infants, slaughter their animals as well.

Apologetic: Slaughter of the Canaanites | Reasonable Faith

Note that William Lane Craig appeals to you to feel sorry for the poor soldiers who had to mass murder all the women and children. Craig sufficiently demonstrates the horror here that I need no rebuttal.

Exodus 11
4 So Moses said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. 5 Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6 There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. 7 But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. 8 All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, ‘Go, you and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will leave.” Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.
9 The Lord had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” 10 Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.
Are we supposed to feel sorry for the Holy Spirit this time?

The sickness here is that you must imagine some morally sufficient reason for your God to murder all the first born of Egypt in order to make his point and believe that no other method an all-powerful God could have used would have sufficed.

Oh it's ok, all the children get to go to heaven - right?

Do you feel the same way towards Andrea Yates?

If not, why not?

God commands Abraham to sacrifice his own child and what does he do? He loads up the donkey and heads up the mountain to do it - so clearly Abraham believes in a God who would and could command a child sacrifice and expect it to be carried out. But somehow you have special knowledge that God wouldn't do this to Yates?

How about this -- if you hear God commanding things in your head you get professional help immediately, regardless of what that voice is saying.

So these are all the kinds of things that put the seeds of doubt in my head and caused me to question and search for a decade after that (during this period I mostly considered myself Spiritual But Not Religious). I had a strong bias inculcated in me against 'Atheists' so I didn't really read anything by atheists until much later.

I studied many religious traditions and I studied a lot of science - physics, cosmology, neurology, biology, mathematics, computation, etc.

Hindus have faith in their beliefs, Sunni Muslims have faith in theirs, Shi'i have faith, each of 30000 sects of Christians have faith, etc... And some of those beliefs directly contradict each other. So Faith is an unreliable methodology that seems to land a person in the faith in which they were inculcated a very large fraction of the time. This is clearly not a path to truth and neither is the oft heard appeal "I haven't been proven wrong" - this is a classic logical fallacy: argument from ignorance. This is the fundamental error of Faith.

I've also had 'personal experiences' so I also find those to be unreliable when not properly questioned and studied and held up to the same standards as we require from other areas of study. Brains create nonsense all the time - for example dreams - and I have had 'Lucid Dreams' and dreams while I was awake. Brains are clearly demonstrated to be unreliable when in altered states of consciousness.

Finally it came down to an observation by Hume, and echoed by many others (I first encountered the idea in T Huxley) -- proportion belief to the evidence, and evidence to the claim.

If a God exists it doesn't seem to want us to have a reliable method of knowing about it.

There are two mysteries that keep things interesting (for me):

Qualia - why we seem to have a conscious experience
Existence - how does stuff exist

Neither of these are sufficient to appeal to a God and certainly not sufficient to appeal to a specific murderous deity.

Just because a concept is imagined to explain some phenomenon doesn't mean that concept is true or offers any actual explanation. Invisible Pink Unicorns that fart universes into existence could "explain" Existence, Qualia, rainbows, and why we don't see them - this is NOT evidence for the claim. This and God is a superficial type of "explanation" that doesn't actually explain anything but rather just substitutes itself for the original. When you think that God explains the origin of existence, life, morality, etc you are committing this grievous error.

Once this is understood the hollowness of the concept becomes readily apparent.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

twitter: slavery conversation

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Faith Healing... Child Murder...

Bible verses on Faith Healing

Luke 8:50
Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, "Don't be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed."

Psalm 30:2
LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.

Psalm 41:3
The LORD sustains them on their sickbed and restores them from their bed of illness.

Psalm 147:3
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Isaiah 53:5
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 58:8
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

Jeremiah 17:14
Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.

Matthew 8:8
The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed."

Matthew 8:16
When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.

Matthew 9:35
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.

Mark 5:34
He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."

Luke 5:17
One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick.

One product of superstition and magical thinking, when people take it seriously, are things like Cases of Childhood Deaths Due to Parental Religious Objection to Necessary Medical Care.

See some more accounts of Faith Healing at What's the Harm in Faith Healing.

Rules of the Code

Throw The First One Away
You will understand the problem much better after your first attempt.
(corollary: they never let you throw the first one away)

Fail Quickly
This makes 'Throw The First One Away' less painful and improves testability

Minimize Coupling, Maximize Cohesion
It is better to reduce the amount of dependency between modules to make future changes and adaptations easier. Also, it is better to increase the relatedness of each function within a module.

Don't Be Afraid To Learn Something
And don't be afraid to 'Google' it! Many times people hesitate to move forward productively because they feel that they don't know something - a little hubris isn't always a bad thing, dive in and 'Fail Quickly'.

Make It Work First, Then Make It Fast
Goes with 'Fail Quickly', you won't have wasted that time when you have to backtrack.

Data Design > Code Design
Data Driven Design + Little Languages = greater expressive power
APIs are little languages too, so learn some language design

Document "Why"
i = 2; // set i to 2 <<< THIS IS NOT HELPING
i = 2; // first two elements of the array are reserved for...

Save Early, Save Often
Where did my code go? corollary: Learn how to use a source repository

Requirements! Requirements! Requirements!
Avoid spherical cows. Understand what is actually needed early on, don't code yourself into a corner either as Requirement can & will change.

"All problems in computer science can be solved by another level of indirection" -- David Wheeler
"except for the problem of too many layers of indirection" -- Kevlin Henney

Design in Error Handling
Don't leave error handling and reporting to the end, include it in the design and understand the Requirements.


If you can't answer these don't EVEN try to lie to me about Evolution...

(1) Which specific allele mutation(s) enabled transport of citrate under aerobic conditions in a strain of Escherichia coli? (name the allele(s) and give details of the exact mutation(s) observed)

(2a) What published, peer-reviewed scientific study looked specifically at the theory of universal common ancestry and what were the findings?

(2b) (trick question:) Where is the peer-reviewed refutation of the above study?

(3a) What species is the best candidate for the Most Recent Common Ancestor between Homo sapiens (humans) and Pan troglodytes (chimpanzees)?

(3b) How many millions of years is the best estimate for that Most Recent Common Ancestor?

(3c) How many years ago did that species die out?

(3d) When do modern Pan troglodytes first make an appearance?

(3e) Did human beings evolve from ANY member of Pan troglodyte? [Hint: the answer is no]

(3f) Repeat (3a-3e) above for Gorilla and Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus).

(4a) How many published, peer-reviewed studies are there that address Evolutionary Theory? (pick a rough order of magnitude: 10? 100? 1000? 10000? 100,000? 1,000,000?)

(4b) How many of those studies have you ACTUALLY bothered to read?

(4c) How many of those did you ACTUALLY understand?(please cite the study, give your interpretation of key findings, and there will be follow-up questions)

Feel free to contribute enlightening examples

See Also: Christian/Atheist pre-discussion questionnaire

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Response: What Do Non-Christians Really Think of Us?

RE: What Do Non-Christians Really Think of Us?

The things raised in this article only scratch the surface because these objections apply to all groups, pretty much at equal rates, not just to Christians. I do not, cannot, and should not fault Christianity for the mere behavior of adherents. I'm only concerned when it is the religious institution acting as a body or when the actions are condoned or commanded by the religion.

For example, I don't blame Christianity for priests who sexually abused children, but I DO blame the institutions that knowingly protected them. That goes for secular institutions as well.

Rather, I look at Christianity itself - the commandments to genocide, the acts of infanticide, the explicit endorsement of slavery, the admonishment to give no thought to the morrow. And the astonishing level to which Christians will either ignore or lie about the BIble in order to protect their beliefs -- that raises the red flag for me.

One example of this is William Lane Craig's appeal that we think of the poor Israeli soldiers who are having to slaughter the women and children of the Canaanites.

When God supposedly commands Abraham to murder his son Isaac and he packs up the mule and heads to the mountain - this is seen as a wonderful and glorious display of Faith. And then Christians dare to condemn Andrea Yates when she says God told her to kill her children? How can they possibly claim to argue God didn't?

I understand that we all have ideals of behavior that we fall short of upholding ourselves, I cannot judge anyone as anything other than an individual for that, but this is the kind of institutional hypocrisy that is bothersome to me because they are ignoring their common-sense moral compass that murdering innocent children is wrong when it comes to Biblical passages, which they excuse.

After all, for Christians, this scapegoating human sacrifice of a Son was later carried out in the name of Jesus. I know it's difficult to hear but you worship a human sacrifice. And if you truly believe Jesus is God and didn't actually die and now sits at the Right Hand of God then what was the sacrifice exactly? Wouldn't Jesus, being God, already know of pain worse than any human scourge?

Of course, we all know that Andrea Yates was delusional. And those of us who are now outside the 'belief structure' it is easy to see that either this story is allegorical or perhaps the acts of a delusional person who nearly committed a great evil.

But whatever else they believe about it, Christians cannot escape that they believe in a 'God' who supposedly did command a man to murder his own son. It matters not that he stayed Abrahams hand in the end, a fundamental corruption of our inner moral compass is implanted.

How many infants did Joshua slaughter with a sword at Jericho? Joshua 6 [but of course "All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury"]
How many infants were murdered in revenge of Amalek? 1 Samuel 15:2-3
How many infants drowned in the Flood? Genesis 6:1-9:17
How many children has god had torn into by bears? 2 Kings 2:23-24
How many infants & children has god had slain? Jeremiah 50:21-22
How many first-born infants died in Egypt so god could show off? Exodus 12:29-30
How many women were murdered, accused of being a witch? Exodus 22:18
How many children were stoned to death for breaking OT rules? Leviticus 20:9
How many people have been murdered because the bible commands it? 2 Chronicles 15:12-13

Deuteronomy 7: When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them...nor shew mercy unto them

Or the Holiness Code, Leviticus 25:44-46 in which non-Israelite slaves shall serve FOREVER - they were inheritable property even upon the owners death and could be beaten (Exodus 21:20-21) within the limit that they don't die within a day. If they suffer a few days and then die, that's ok, because they are just property.

Manifest Destiny and the Requerimiento where God says we own this land and we will drive out, murder, or enslave any who stand in our way and don't convert to our religion are other faces of Christianity that Christians should reflect deeply upon.

These are the aspects of Christianity that I find especially troubling (and most of these are in some way shared in other religions and even some non-religious movements). All calls to an exceptional identity share most of these issues - "join US and you'll be exceptional and will deserve and enjoy more rights and authority than outsiders".

Prejudice, Ideology, Exceptionalism, Credulity, Superstitions - these are the root causes.

I wonder if any Bible-believing Christians would be willing to be held to same standard the Bible holds others to in passages such as 1 Kings 18. If you cannot set Bull meat on fire with prayer should you be slaughtered? I find the very thought abhorrent but there it is in the BIble, again being promulgated as Glorious goodness itself, the very hand of God at work.

By the time God is done, just by the explicit numbers in the Bible, God kills 2,821,364 people - and this number does NOT include the unnumbered cases such as the Flood or First Born.

This is why I could not continue as a Christian, simply reading the Bible and being honest about the contents.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mere Secularism?

I’ll be a mere ‘secularist’ when, In The Name Of And Justified By Religion people STOP:
  • burning men and women to death as witches
  • beating gay people to death
  • pushing for legislation that would see gay people put to death
  • eschewing proper healthcare in favor of prayer and faith-healing
  • beating their children to death
  • flying planes into building
  • blowing themselves and others up
  • working to deny women or gay people rights
  • working to have the state violate women’s bodily autonomy
  • pushing their religious agenda into public schools or trying to take public funds to fund religious activities
  • justifying their wars

Or pushing for other types of violations of bodily autonomy or empowered and informed consent in the absence of prior aggression (and given due process of law).

Not a moment before then.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Philosophy Off The Rails

The self-proclaimed 'college professor' over at their BLOG Philosophy Out of the Box (Why Atheism is Illogical. Part One: Atheism is a Belief and a Truth Claim) has decided that, rather than lose the debate, they will just delete last response and block me, so I am reproducing them here for posterity (the first two as thumbnails, the last embedded as an image along with the referenced post that was also deleted by them).

And a fourth post they delete on another page that is referenced in the third post above:

The ????? is ἄθεος -- apparently his blog cannot handle Unicode.

I welcome feedback on my arguments.

When asked about the arguments presented by 'college professor', Massimo Pigliucci (Professor of Philosophy at City University of New York, @mpigliucci) responded:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Stepford Heaven?

'The Stepford Wives' is a novel by Ira Levin in which the women in a suburban town are all unusually subservient to their husbands, with a sinister twist.

And if we look at the Christian Bible we find this claim about Heaven:

Revelation 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away.

Now, for Christians who also believe that unredeemed 'sinners' will be put into Eternal torment in Hell this raises the specter of someone (say a parent) having a dearly loved one (such as a child) suffering eternal torment in Hell while they are without mourning or sorrow or tears for their loved one.

This is why I sometimes refer to Christian Biblical Heaven as Stepford Heaven.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Are we 'wired' to believe in God?

Popular stories like Belief and the brain's 'God spot' overstate what the evidence actually suggests.

Yes, people have experiences of the ecstatic, the noetic, and the ineffable (I have had these experiences personally) but they are NOT sufficient to induce a belief in a God unless you are already primed through cultural inculcation towards that belief.

We know this because we have a vast history, amongst nearly EVERY native people, they had their shamans (pardon the misnomer) who would induce these experiences in themselves and sometimes in others through ritual, ascetic practices, drumming, dancing, meditation, breath control, fasting but far more frequently through the ingestion of various psychoactive substances such as Iboga, Peyote, Teonanácatl (magic mushrooms), Ska María Pastora (Salvia divinorum), Ayahuasca, Cannabis, Ololiuhqui (Morning Glory seeds), Kykeon (unknown, from the Eleusinian mysteries), Soma (unknown, from the Vedas) and claim to speak with 'spirits' and ancestors. These inventions did not have the properties of 'gods' until later as the concept emerged.

People compete and 'mine is bigger than yours' is a game that goes far back, probably beyond the origin of the homo sapien, and the spirits of the water, the land, the air, the volcano, the earthquake, the thunder, and the rain grew with the telling. Well my volcano spirit and beat your water spirit and I'll prove it by defeating you in war... we win, our god escalates. It's not hard to imagine that someone along the way, like a schoolchild argument, claimed "mine is bigger to infinity".

These things are experiences that people interpret in different ways depending on their culture. Not hardwired for God, but hardwired for fallacious thought, poor inference, false positives, and the misattribution of agency. These are the things that are scientifically confirmed.