Archive for September, 2013

god-is-a-dj-561x400

When theists pose “proofs” for God, such as the cosmological argument, the typical atheist taunt is, “Where did God come from?” Which is, of course, a justifiable response. If everything must have a cause, then God must also have a cause. And so on and so forth ad infinitum. The only way to avoid this infinite regress is to reason that there must be an “Uncaused Cause,” or “Prime Mover.” Here, Occam’s Razor (entities need not be multiplied beyond necessity) delivers a swift blow to the poor theist’s gambit: If God could exist uncaused, then why couldn’t the universe? Science is indeed pointing in that direction.

Sheeit, anymore, we up and make our own universes.

Sheeit, anymore, we plumb make our own universes.

But, funny thing about that question, “Where did God come from?” We have a very good idea where he came from. And it wasn’t from Lex Luthor’s asshole.

It was from mine! Ha! Kneel.

It was from mine! Ha! Kneel with it.

Generally speaking, the idea of “gods” probably stems from our ancestors’ tendency to over-infer agency–a living entity, human or other, that acts in the world. So, when Neanderthal Joe was “breaking the seal” after 30 some-odd cold ones at Club Spearchuck, and he suddenly heard a rustling in the bushes behind him, his first reaction was to assume it was a giant, man-eating chicken, and light up with 1500 volts of pure adrenaline.

Pollo Uh-Oh.

Pollo Uh-Oh.

Obviously, this would have served an evolutionary advantage in being extra cautious about marauding predators, something with which we have much less concern today. Though, the remnant of that mechanism still has us believing all manner of stupid.

I refudiate that remark!

I refudiate that remark!

Of course, there’s also something to be said for the theory espoused by the 5th century BC Greek philosopher Prodicus of Ceos, who judged the gods to be representations of natural phenomena–the sun, moon, rivers, crops, etc. Thus, Apollo symbolized the sun, Demeter embodied the grain, and so on. If I had to guess, I’d say ol’ Prodicus was a godless bag o’ shit.

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Me and Prodicus on safari. Ah, memories…

As it concerns the biblical god, we have, just like Jesus, a mosaic of elements from around the ancient Mediterranean. According to scholars such as Karen Armstrong and Mircea Eliade, there are traces in the Bible of a tribalistic “god of the father” cult, in which the deity was a figurehead of the tribe, passed down through the generations. Thus the expression, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Ex. 3:6). Frankly, this pisses me off. As a youngster, I received hand-me-down sweaters and pants, but never a fucking hand-me-down god.

Cool. My own Canaanite Terminator.

Cool. My own Canaanite Exterminator.

The biblical god is also a mishmash of regional deities, including El Elyon of Canaan, Marduk of Babylon, and Yahweh, who was probably of Kenite origin (Judg. 1:16). The Israelites were simply Canaanites under a new name, the conquest of Canaan being a foundationary myth geared toward uplifting national morale during troubling times. Kind of like a literary cheerleader.

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READY? OKAY! GOOOO, UNMANNED FLYING DEATH MACHINES!

The Israelites were originally polytheistic, and only later streamlined the pantheon by merging various deities into one. As Marduk, God separates the waters above from the waters below, and creates man on the sixth day (Gen. 1). As El Elyon, he presides over the divine council and renders judgment among the gods (Ps. 82). As Yahweh, he is the irascible god of war and conquest, whose wrath is as dreadful as an incoming storm. In fact, Yahweh probably began as the personification of volcanic storm activity:

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently … When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear (Ex. 19:16-18, 20:18).

This is descriptive of a natural phenomenon known as a “dirty storm,” in which thunder and lightning accompany the billowing smoke of an active volcano.

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Jehovah Blows.

The biblical god also fits the psychological profile of a despotic and tyrannical, Ancient Near Eastern king, and he is likely a fictive projection of such. He sits atop a throne (Ps. 11:4), rules over his people (Ex. 19:6, Deut. 4:19), commands an army (Josh. 5:14), prefers to be feared (Ex. 20:19-20, Job 38-41), and he requires high praise and exaltation (Isa. 6:2-3). But, the best part? He loves the smell of burning meat (Gen. 8:21, Ex. 29:18, Lev. 1:17, Num. 15:13). His hatred of pork and apparent sense of smell go a long way toward explaining my weekend ritual.

Take a whiff, O' Lord.

Take a whiff, O’ Lord.

During the Axial Age (c. 800 to 200 BC), God received a bit of toning down, as well as a loftier position in the heavens, with the influence of Greek philosophy. Plato envisioned a more spiritualized realm between heaven and earth, and Aristotle introduced a grand scheme of metaphysics, e.g, God as “Unmoved Mover,” “First Cause,” and self-subsistent “Being.” These are ideas about “God” that most people take for granted today, but in fact stem from classical ponderings of the world in antiquity. Sounds fancy and stuff, but still boils down to people making shit up.

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The Whore of Babylon will be here to eat our souls in 3…

The irony is this: Fundamentalist Christians vehemently deny evolution. Yet, the Bible, Jesus, and God himself are all prime examples of evolutionary development. The ideas attached to them are the product of change and adaptation, occurring throughout the course of human history. And these adaptations continue to take place even today, as the more rational among evangelicals embrace scientific truths, and interpret scripture in new ways to accommodate for them. In this way, Christianity is a chameleon. Should it survive another thousand years, there’s no telling what it will look like.

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This disc is my flesh. The MCP can totally eat it.

 

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When I began my foray into religion and philosophy, I was concerned with one thing and one thing only: truth.  There was never a point at which I sat down and selected atheism from the menu of favorable options. In fact, I don’t necessarily favor atheism. I’d like to think that a guiding and benevolent father figure looks out for me from above. That one day I’ll get to parade around in my underwear for all eternity with Phil Hartman and Chris Farley.

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We’ll be here, Derreck. Just as soon as you die from cirrhosis.

But, at the end of the day, it’s not about what I desire or find palatable. It’s about what strikes me as being true. What worldview seems to best comport with reality? Atheism, for me, is not even a choice, but a conclusion, however tentative, based on an honest appraisal of the world around me. In light of that, I prefer to follow the Buddhist wisdom of accepting things just as they are, rather than attempting to skew reality so that it conforms to my innermost wishes. Carl Sagan said it best: “It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”

I’ve got a fistful of science to go with that butthurt, Jesus.

The approach that I just described, the honest seeking for truth, seems to be the furthest thing from the Christian mindset. Let’s face it: anyone who’s a Christian either inherited their faith without ever rigorously questioning it, or came to believe as a result of some emotional incentive. I have yet to meet a single Christian who says, “I was a nonbeliever, until I investigated the truth claims of the Bible. And whad’ya know: logic, reason, evidence, science, history, and philosophy all bore it out!”

Look, here's Noah's Ark!

Look, here’s Noah’s Ark!

But, here’s the thing. I am perfectly fine with that. Really. Truly. What somebody else believes is none of my business, so long as they don’t impose it upon me. If it makes them happy and provides them a sense of comfort, who am I to interfere with that? I say, to each his own.

Good. Because this basketball is mine. This is MY basketball.

Good. Because this basketball is mine. This is MY basketball.

Now, of course there are things about the highly political, religious right that irritate me, e.g., their stance on gay rights, women’s reproductive rights, the attempts to inject creationist pseudoscience into the classroom, etc. But, as someone with an academic interest in religious studies, what really grinds my gears are Christian apologists–those who attempt to defend the faith on “intellectual” grounds. As an institution hellbent on defending the indefensible, theirs is the practice of shameless shell games, spin-doctoring, convoluted thinking, far-fetched rationalizing, baseless presumptions, careless conjecture, and all manner of fallacious argumentation. Basically, bullshit artistry masquerading as scholarship. 100%. Complete. Bullshit.

On the Origins of Apologetics.

On the Origin of Feces

That they have the gall to insist that we atheists are unjustified in our disbelief, because we’re somehow oblivious to their oh-so-cogent “evidence,” is disgustingly disingenuous and insulting. Peddle your nonsense to the credulous if you must, but don’t pretend as though we ought to be equally gullible.

Molecules in the shape of a cross, you say? Oh, Praise Him!

Molecules in the shape of a cross, you say? Oh, Praise Him!

But, are their arguments really that bad, you might ask? YES. Yes, they are. One need look no further than the grand poobah of Christian apologists, William Lane Craig. Dr. Craig’s defenses of Christian belief are so bad that even Norm Macdonald is more convincing as Burt Reynolds in SNL’s Celebrity Jeopardy. And he’s not even trying. Craig basically relies on sleight-of-hand trickery, as do most Christian apologists. But anyone with a modicum of critical thinking skills can see exactly how he pulls the proverbial rabbit out of the hat.

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Among his other tricks.

Craig’s misrepresentation of the physics behind cosmic origins has been noted here, where he flagrantly lies about the universe being created ex nihilo (out of nothing). In addition to that, I will discuss three other arguments of his that stink to high heaven so severely, even Jesus chokes on the fumes.

Where's the goddamn Hawaiian Breeze & Fuji Apple Glade?!!

Goddammit, Peter, where’s that Hawaiian Fuji Apple Glade?!!

Beginning with Craig’s defense of the resurrection. In addition to appealing to the empty tomb, Joseph of Arimathea, and visions of the resurrected Jesus in order to prove the resurrection of Jesus–in effect, using the Bible to prove the Bible–Craig made this stunning statement during a debate with New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman:

Dr. Ehrman just assumes that the probability of the resurrection on our background knowledge [Pr(R/B)] is very low. But here, I think, he’s confused. What, after all, is the resurrection hypothesis? It’s the hypothesis that Jesus rose supernaturally from the dead. It is not the hypothesis that Jesus rose naturally from the dead. That Jesus rose naturally from the dead is fantastically improbable. But I see no reason whatsoever to think that it is improbable that God raised Jesus from the dead.

Background knowledge, of course, refers to our everyday experience of the world. And Craig really nails it. We don’t tend to witness people naturally rising from the dead. But, supernaturally? Oh, well, yeah. You can barely walk your dog or stroll through the supermarket without encountering a reanimated corpse these days. But it’s hardly any surprise in the face of magic. What the fuck was Dr. Ehrman thinking?

Is this the produce section?

Is this the produce section?

With respect to the Problem of Evil, Craig argues that evil is actually proof of God’s existence. Because, you see, evil denotes “a departure from the way things ought to be.” And, if there’s “a way things ought to be,” then there must be a design plan set forth by a Creator. QED. Everything is the result of God’s design.
Oh grow up, God.

Oh grow up, God.

Problem is, Craig’s definition of evil is ad hoc, designed expressly for the sake of arriving at his desired conclusion. If there is no God, then there is no “way things ought to be.” There is only the way things are. Gratuitous and pervasive suffering only “ought to be” absent from the world if there is an all-powerful and loving God–an entity with both the ability and desire to prevent it. It is precisely because the world is not so that we atheists disbelieve in God.

Evil, therefore, would not be a departure from any divine plan, but a value judgment set forth by human beings, best described as “that which causes harm, misfortune, or destruction.” But the best part is this: By Craig’s rationale, Christian Bale’s character in American Psycho is a shining example of God’s glorious existence.

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“Witnessing.”

Lastly, we come to Craig’s defense of biblical genocide. Accordingly, all those Canaanites whom the Israelite soldiers slaughtered had it coming. They were steeped in impurity, so what’s an all-powerful and loving God to do but have them exterminated? It’s not like, in his infinite power and wisdom, he could conjure up a civil, non-violent solution. He’s not fucking Gandhi or Jesu… wait, whaaa?

I see what you did there.

I see what you did there.

But what about the children, Professor Craig? Why the innocent children?

If [you] believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy.  Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.

Those lucky little fucks! Now, excuse me while I go on an infanticidal killing spree, so that more of God’s precious children can “quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy.” I’m sure the parents won’t mind. After all, I’m just expediting their salvation!

Time to blow you little shits to Kingdom Come.

30-round bursts of salvation comin’ at ya!

Oh, but it gets better.

So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgment. Not the children, for they inherit eternal life. So who is wronged? Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli soldiers themselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children? The brutalizing effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing.

By extension, I feel the sudden urge to give Hitler a hug. In fact, we should dedicate a memorial to the Nazi regime (those poor souls), with William Lane Craig hosting the opening ceremony. What could be more fitting for Christianity’s leading apologist than to be dressed in regalia that reads “God With Us.”

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That special gift for the guy who kills everything.

So there you have it, folks. Among defenders of the faith, that’s the best Christianity has to offer. I’d sure hate to see the worst. In all their works, whether written or spoken, there is no regard for the truth. There is no attempt whatsoever at objectivity. They seek only to defend what they already blindly believe, no matter how grotesque or outlandish. And they’ll lie, cheat, contrive, and deceive every step of the way. But, hey. At least they love Jesus. You can be forgiven for anything as long as you believe the right shit.

There-there, now. Just promise you won't lace Gerber products with arsenic again.

There-there, now. Freebasing cocaine from a hooker’s severed head is a mild offense, anyway.