Archive for the ‘God’ Category


hagee-armageddon

[Comment:- someone please tell the Israeli government that the only reason this porcine toad is a Christian Zionist is because he’s praying for God to kill all the Jews, so that the Christians can have the land Israel stolen from the Palestinians.  And that by doing so, he is objectively pro-death, pro-sabotage and pro-theft. With genocidal “friends” like Hagee, does Israel need enemies?!]

Main article by Bruce Wilson

‘Half-Breed Jew’ Committed Holocaust, Claims Netanyahu Ally John Hagee

Who committed the Holocaust?

For the overwhelming majority of historians and, needless to say, Jews it’s a settled question: Hitler, and his Nazis. But Christians United For Israel (CUFI) head John Hagee, one of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest American allies, has a different answer: “half-breed Jews.” Netanyahu meets frequently with Hagee, endorses CUFI, has spoken at numerous CUFI events, and lavishes Hagee and his organization with praise. Prime Minister Netanyahu is currently scheduled to speak at CUFI’s annual Washington summit, July 13-14 2015. John Hagee book Jerusalem CountdownHagee’s Christians United For Israel organization currently sells a book by pastor John Hagee, Jerusalem Countdown: A warning To The World, which on page 149 (2006 “revised and updated” paperback edition) claims Adolf Hitler was a “half-breed Jew” and states (p. 97) that Hitler was sent by God, as a “hunter,” to persecute Europe’s Jews and drive them towards “the only home God ever intended for the Jews to have-Israel.” In 2008 media uproar over Hagee’s “hunter” claim (as made in a 2005 sermon that was exposed by this author) led presidential candidate John McCain to renounce his long-sought endorsement from pastor Hagee. Hagee’s claim that Hitler was Jewish is not new. In a 2003 sermon broadcast internationally and marketed as a VHS cassette, John Hagee claimed [link to video of sermon] the Antichrist would be “partially Jewish, as was Adolf Hitler, as was Karl Marx.” CUFI head John Hagee also blames anti-Semitism on Jews themselves, writing in Jerusalem Countdown (p. 56) that “It was the disobedience and rebellion of the Jews… that gave rise to the opposition and persecution that they experienced beginning in Canaan and continuing to this very day.” Hagee’s book then traces (p. 57) the birth of anti-Semitism to Jewish idol worship:

How utterly repulsive, insulting, and heartbreaking to God for his chosen people to credit idols with bringing blessings he had showered upon the chosen people. Their own rebellion had birthed the seed of anti-Semitism that would arise and bring destruction to them for centuries to come.

In Hagee’s account “half-breed Jews,” Hitler included, have served as the human agents by which God implements a divine curse placed upon the racially pure (non-miscegenated) Jewish people. On page 149 of Hagee’s book Jerusalem Countdown, in a chapter with the ominous title “Who Is a Jew,” Hagee writes,

Esau’s descendants would produce a lineage that would attack and slaughter the Jews for centuries. Esau’s descendants included Haman, whose diabolical mind conceived the “final solution” of the Old Testament — the extermination of all Jews living in Persia. It was Esau’s descendants who produced the half-breed Jews of history who have persecuted and murdered the Jews beyond human comprehension. Adolf Hitler was a distant descendant of Esau.

In his next sentence, Hagee goes on to make the false claim that in the 1976 book Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography, noted Hitler biographer John Toland “records that Hitler was part Jewish.” What Toland actually stated in his Hitler biography was “There is the slight possibility that Hitler’s grandfather was a wealthy Jew named Frankenberger or Frankenreither.” Hagee’s identification of a miscegenated race of “half-breed Jews” tracing back to Esau seems to originate in theological ideas from the fringe, virulently racist white supremacist Christian Identity movement, as described in books such as Religion and The Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement, by leading authority Dr. Michael Barkun. While John Hagee has for decades loudly and publicly condemned anti-Semitism, his writings and sermons have nonetheless promoted some of the most influential and inflammatory anti-Jewish tropes of the modern era, such as the claim that predatory Jewish bankers control international finance and prey upon the masses of humankind.

John Hagee sermon, March 23, 2003

John Hagee, giving March 23, 2003 sermon

In a March 23, 2003 sermon broadcast internationally, Hagee claimed European Rothschild bankers, along with David Rockefeller, controlled the U.S. economy through the Federal Reserve — which according to Hagee was bankrupting average Americans by devaluing the dollar. The Jewish Anti-Defamation League identifies this type of Federal Reserve conspiracy theory, that places Jewish bankers at the center of the proposed grand financial conspiracy, as a “classic anti-Semitic myth”

promotional poster for Nazi propaganda film The Eternal Jew

Promotional poster for Nazi anti-Jewish propaganda film “Der Ewige Jude” (“The Eternal Jew”)

Hagee’s Jewish banker conspiracy theory was astonishingly similar to claims showcased in the 1940 anti-Jewish Nazi propaganda film The Eternal Jew, said to have been produced under supervision of Hitler’s propagandist Joseph Goebbels [link to video footage] . The Nazi film claimed (see link, above) that Jewish bankers, led by European Rothschilds, had “spread their net of financial influence over the working man” and were using their influence over global finance to “terrorize world [money] markets, world opinion, and world politics.” In his March 23, 2003 sermon, that was marketed by John Hagee Ministries as a 3-VHS cassette tape series, Hagee explained [video link], to his megachurch members and to audiences viewing Hagee’s sermon on evangelical radio and TV networks across the globe:

It may be shocking to you but I believe that America’s economic problems are not created by market conditions, they are planned and orchestrated to devalue and to destroy the value of the dollar. It was done by an unseen government that I’ll discuss later in this message. [..] Our economic destiny is controlled by the Federal Reserve system that is now headed by Alan Greenspan. Think about this. It is not a government institution. It is controlled by a group of Class A stockholders including the Rothschilds of Europe and the David Rockefellers of America… So get this one thought. The value of the dollar is controlled by an agency which is not controlled by America. You don’t have to have a Ph.D. in finance to understand that. The value of your dollar is controlled by an organization, the Federal Reserve that is not controlled by America. That’s a fact.

packaging of 2003 Hagee sermon series Iraq The Final War

Packaging of John Hagee’s 2003 3-sermon VHS set Iraq: The Final War, that contained Hagee’s March 23, 2003 sermon

Hagee also aired his Jewish banker conspiracy theory in his 1996 book Day of Deception that was reprinted in 2000 in an edition billed as having sold “over 1.1 million copies.” Hagee’s Day of Deception is still sold, by Thomas Nelson publishers. In the book, Hagee makes clear that European Rothschilds (not Rockefellers) have majority shareholder control of the Federal Reserve. In his March 23, 2003 sermon, Hagee predicted that Jewish financiers were behind a satanic Illuminati plot, based in Europe, that would bring the Antichrist to power. This Antichrist, who in a prior sermon Hagee had predicted would be both partially Jewish and homosexual, would according to Hagee [video link] slaughter up to 1/3 of the world’s population and “make Hitler look like a choirboy”. Hagee’s claim that Hitler was “partially Jewish” fits into an emerging American right-wing revisionist genre, with both evangelical and secular expressions, that is rewriting the Holocaust by recasting the victims of Nazi persecution, such as Jews, liberals, communists, and homosexuals, as having been themselves the architects of Nazi persecution and the Holocaust. John Hagee’s pro-Israel form of Christian Zionism is an extremely complex phenomenon which over the past several decades has come to play a significant role in Israel politics. (see this analysis, from Boston-based think tank Political Research Associates, by PRA Fellow Rachel Tabachnick, on the tortured admixture of philo-Semitism and anti-Semitism that characterizes the movement). But Christian Zionism is not new. In the early 1920s, a leading American industrialist — one of the giants of his age, wrote,

Every Jew ought to know also that in every Christian church where the ancient prophecies are received and studied, there is a great revival of interest in the future of the Ancient People. It is not forgotten that certain promises were made to them regarding their position in the world, and it is held that these prophesies will be fulfilled. The future of the Jew, as prophetically outlined, is intimately bound up with the future of this planet, and the Christian church in large part-at least by the evangelical wing, which most Jews condemn-sees a Restoration of the Chosen People yet to come. If the mass of Jews knew how understandingly and sympathetically all the prophecies will find fulfillment and that they will result in great Jewish service to society at large, they would probably regard the church with another mind.

 Henry Ford's The International JewThe author was Henry Ford, who in the 1920s commissioned the writing of the infamous anti-Jewish tract series The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem that expanded upon anti-Jewish conspiracy theories outlined in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the notorious anti-Jewish propaganda document forged by the Russian Tzarist secret police.

Henry Ford placed blame for the start of World War One squarely on Jewish finance. “I know who caused the war: German-Jewish bankers,” declared Ford in 1915. In his 1920 tract series, articles such as “Jewish Power and America’s Money Famine” attributed the economic misfortunes of average Americans, such as farmers, to alleged Jewish control of gold supplies. Henry Ford paid for The International Jew to be translated into German and distributed in mass quantities in Germany. In post-WW2 testimony at the Nuremberg War Crime Tribunals, it emerged that Ford’s anti-Jewish tract had deeply influenced leading Nazis such as Hitler Youth leader Baldur von Schirach. The extended quote above, by Henry Ford, was originally published in Ford’s tract series The International Jew. As may be the case with some contemporary Christian Zionists, Ford did not believe himself to be an anti-Semite. For years the automaker annually gave a new Model T Ford to Rabbi Leo M. Franklin, who lived in Ford’s former Detroit neighborhood.

After Ford began publishing his series The International Jew, Franklin began to refuse Ford’s annual Model T gifts. When Ford questioned the rabbi about it, Franklin replied, “you’re attacking Jews. I can’t accept anything from you.” Ford replied, “No, I’m not attacking Jews, I’m attacking bad Jews. I would think you’d be supportive of that.”
Rabbi Franklin went on to become a co-founder of the Anti-Defamation League.

How God Favours Evil

Posted: November 1, 2014 in Evil, God
Tags: ,


Today Is Blasphemy Day and Thank God For That

Founded by the secular Center For Inquiry in 2009, Blasphemy Day is observed every September 30 in order to promote the idea that religion should be subjected to same kinds of analysis and critique that other beliefs are. While it’s generally acceptable to engage in rhetorical free-for-alls about political issues such as immigration, gay marriage, and the top marginal tax rate, it’s often considered taboo or at least poor form to approach religion in the same way.

This is because deep down most people know that religion is fundamentally defenseless. Not only does it have no evidence, it doesn’t even pretend to have any. The Bible, the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita, and other holy texts are all revealed wisdom from god(s) as far as their respective followers are concerned. God says it, and the believer believes it. That’s how religion works. It has never relied on fact to perpetuate itself. Rather, it depends primarily on tradition and intimidation, and one way to intimidate people is through blasphemy laws.

According to Pew Research Center, dozens of countries around the world have blasphemy laws, the violation of which can incur everything from a fine to the death penalty to vigilante murder.

BlasphemyLaws

Blasphemy laws are most prevalent and most harsh in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. They occur most frequently in Muslim-majority countries. Interestingly, neither the Quran nor the hadith prescribe any punishments for blasphemy, but this has not prevented some scholars and clerics from deeming it a grave offense, often worthy of death. On the other hand, the Bible is quite concerned with blasphemy, and even advocates stoning for those who speak irreverently of god and the divine. However, Christian-majority countries have by and large phased out draconian laws and punishments for this offense.

In addition to tradition and intimidation, religion also depends on something else for its survival: reverence from people outside the faith. As secular as Western society is relative to other parts of the world, there is an awful and dangerous tendency to defer to the sensitivities of people of faith. The September 30 observance of Blasphemy Day is not random, but was chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the publication of several “blasphemous” cartoons of Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, in a Danish newspaper in 2005. As a result of their publication, violence broke out across the globe. In Damascus, rioters set fire to the Danish and Norwegian embassies in response. The Danish embassy in Beirut was also set ablaze. In Benghazi, the Italian consulate was torched as well. In Nigeria, 11 churches were burned and 16 people were killed.

The reaction to the reaction was deplorable. Pope Benedict XVI condemned the violence, but also the cartoons, as if the whole business came down to bad behavior on both sides. More incredibly, a U.S. State Department spokesman denounced the cartoons, saying, “We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression, but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable.” For their part, several major U.S. news outlets chose not to show the cartoons in question.

Later on, South Park, too, came under intense scrutiny when creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone planned to depict Muhammad in a 2006 episode, after already having done so in 2001. Eventually, it was censored, and Muhammad was placed inside a bear suit (though Muhammad actually turned out to be Santa Claus).

These rows were reminiscent of the criticism of Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses in the late 1980s. So offensive was that book to religious sensitivities, Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for the writer’s death — a fatwa which has not been fulfilled, though to this day Rushdie takes extra precautions when moving about. While the diktat from an extremist like Khomeini was hardly surprising, the condemnation from literary figures such as Roald Dahl and John le Carré was more unexpected. Former president Jimmy Carter even got in on the act, calling the book “an insult” to Muslims.

Implicit in these condemnations is a disturbing qualification of free speech, which is to say human rights. The way stop this puerile and violent nonsense is not to assent to the demands of the offended, but to ignore them. There is no such thing as the right to not be offended, which is why we need to stop acting like there is. It’s time that the religiously sensitive become desensitized and recall that age-old adage: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but blasphemy couldn’t possibly hurt me.


7 Reasons Why It’s Easier for Humans to Believe in God Than Evolution

What science can tell us about our not-so-scientific minds.

—By 

The ascent of man? José-manuel Benitos/Wikimedia Commons. Photoillustration by Matt Connolly.

Late last week, the Texas Board of Education failed to approve a leading high school biology textbook—whose authors include the Roman Catholic biologist Kenneth Miller of Brown University—because of its treatment of evolution. According to The New York Times, critiques from a textbook reviewer identified as a “Darwin Skeptic” were a principal cause.

Yet even as creationists keep trying to undermine modern science, modern science is beginning to explain creationism scientifically. And it looks like evolution—the scientifically uncontested explanation for the diversity and interrelatedness of life on Earth, emphatically including human life—will be a major part of the story. Our brains are a stunning product of evolution; and yet ironically, they may naturally pre-dispose us against its acceptance.

1871 satirical image depicting Charles Darwin as an ape.

1871 satirical image depicting Charles Darwin as an ape. The Hornet/Wikimedia Commons

“I don’t think there’s any question that a variety of our mental dispositions are ones that discourage us from taking evolutionary theory as seriously as it should be taken,” explains Robert N. McCauley, director of the Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture at Emory University and author of the book Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not.

So what can science tell us about our not-so-scientific minds? Here’s a list of cognitive traits, thinking styles, and psychological factors identified in recent research that seem to thwart evolution acceptance:

Biological Essentialism. First, we seem to have a deep tendency to think about biology in a way that is “essentialist”—in other words, assuming that each separate kind of animal species has a fundamental, unique nature that unites all members of that species, and that is inviolate. Fish have gills, birds have wings, fish make more fish, birds make more birds, and that’s how it all works. Essentialist thinking has been demonstrated in young children. “Little kids as young as my 2 and a half year old granddaughter are quite clear that puppies don’t have ponies for mommies and daddies,” explains McCauley.

If essentialism is a default style of thinking, as much research suggests, then that puts evolution at a major disadvantage. Charles Darwin and his many scientific disciples have shown that essentialism is just plain wrong: Given enough time, biological kinds are not fixed but actually change. Species are connected through intermediate types to other species—and all are ultimately related to one another.

Teleological Thinking. Essentialism is just one basic cognitive trait, observed in young children, that seems to hinder evolutionary thinking. Another is “teleology,” or the tendency to ascribe purposes to things and objects so as to assume they exist to serve some goal.

Recent research suggests that 4 and 5 year old children are highly teleological in their thinking, tending to opine, for instance, that clouds are “for raining” and that the purpose of lions is “to go in the zoo.” The same tendency has been observed in 7 and 8 year olds who, when asked why “prehistoric rocks are pointy,” offered answers like “so that animals could scratch on them when they got itchy” and “so that animals wouldn’t sit on them and smash them.”

Title page of the Reverend William Paley's 1802 work Natural Theology, which famously propounded an argument for God's existence based on the appearance of design in nature.

Title page of the Reverend William Paley’s 1802 work Natural Theology, which famously propounded an argument for God’s existence based on the appearance of design in nature. Wikimedia Commons

Why do children think like this? One studyspeculates that this teleological disposition may be a “side [effect] of a socially intelligent mind that is naturally inclined to privilege intentional explanation.” In other words, our brains developed for thinking about what people are thinking, and people have intentions and goals. If that’s right, the playing field may be naturally tilted toward anti-evolutionist doctrines like “intelligent design,” which postulates an intelligent agent (God) as the cause of the diversity of life on Earth, and seeks  to uncover evidence of purposeful design in biological organisms.

Overactive Agency Detection. But how do you know the designer is “God”? That too may be the result of a default brain setting.

Another trait, closely related to teleological thinking, is our tendency to treat any number of inanimate objects as if they have minds and intentions. Examples of faulty agency detection, explains University of British Columbia origins of religion scholar Ara Norenzayan, range from seeing “faces in the clouds” to “getting really angry at your computer when it starts to malfunction.” People engage in such “anthropomorphizing” all the time; it seems to come naturally. And it’s a short step to religion: “When people anthropomorphize gods, they are inferring mental states,” says Norenzayan.

There has been much speculation about the evolutionary origin of our anthropomorphizing tendency. One idea is that our brains developed to rapidly assume that objects in the world are alive and may pose a threat, simply because while wrongly mistaking a rustle of leaves for a bear won’t get you killed, failing to detect a bear early (when the leaves rustle) most certainly will. “Supernatural agents are readily conjured up because natural selection has trip-wired cognitive schema for agency detection in the face of uncertainty,” write Norenzayan and fellow origin of religion scholar Scott Atran.

Illustration by Rene Descartes of the pineal gland, which he believed to be the location of the soul within the brain.

Illustration by Rene Descartes of the pineal gland, which he believed to be the location of the soul within the brain. Wikimedia Commons

Dualism. Yet another apparent feature of our cognitive architecture is the tendency to think that minds (or the “self” and the “soul”) are somehow separate from brains. Once again, this inclination has been found in young children, suggesting that it emerges early in human development. “Preschool children will claim that the brain is responsible for some aspects of mental life, typically those involving deliberative mental work, such as solving math problems,” write Yale psychologistsPaul Bloom and Deena Skolnick Weisberg. “But preschoolers will also claim that the brain is not involved in a host of other activities, such as pretending to be a kangaroo, loving one’s brother, or brushing one’s teeth.”

Dualistic thinking is closely related to belief in phenomena like spirits and ghosts. But in a recent study, it was also the cognitive factor most strongly associated with believing in God. As for evolutionary science? Dualism is pretty clearly implicated in resistance to the idea that human beings could have developed from purely natural processes—for if they did, how could there ever be a soul or self beyond the body, to say nothing of an afterlife?

Inability to Comprehend Vast Time Scales. According to Norenzayan, there’s one more basic cognitive factor that prevents us from easily understanding evolution. Evolution occurred due to the accumulation of many small changes over vast time periods—which means that it is unlike anything we’ve experienced. So even thinking about it isn’t very easy. “The only way you can appreciate the process of evolution is in an abstract way,” says Norenzayan. “Over millions of years, small changes accumulate, but it’s not intuitive. There’s nothing in our brain that says that’s true. We have to override our incredulity.”

Group Morality and Tribalism. All of these cognitive factors seem to make evolution hard to grasp, even as they render religion (or creationist ideas) simpler and more natural to us. But beyond these cognitive factors, there are also emotional reasons why a lot of people don’t want to believe in evolution. When we see resistance to its teaching, after all, it is usually because a religious community fears that this body of science will undermine a belief system—in the US, usually fundamentalist Christianity—deemed to serve as the foundation for shared values and understanding. In other words, evolution is resisted because it is perceived as a threat to the group.

So how appropriate that one current scientific theory about religion is that it exists (and, maybe, that it evolved) to bind groups together and keep them cohesive. In his recent bookThe Righteous Mind, moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt argues that religions provide a shared set of beliefs and practices that, in effect, serve as social glue. “Gods and religions,” writes Haidt, “are group-level adaptations for producing cohesiveness and trust.” The upside is unity; the downside, Haidt continues, is “groupishness, tribalism, and nationalism.” Ideas and beliefs that threaten the group or the beliefs that hold it together—ideas like evolution—are bound to fare badly in this context.

Everett Collection/Shutterstock

Fear and the Need for Certainty. Finally, there appears to be something about fear and doubt that impels religiosity and dispels acceptance of evolution. “People seem to take more comfort from a stance that says, someone designed the world with good intentions, instead of that the world is just an intention-less, random place,” says Norenzayan. “This is especially true when we feel a sense of threat, or a feeling of not being in control.”

Indeed, in one amazing study, New Zealanders who had just suffered through a severe earthquake showed stronger religiosity, but only if they had been directly affected by the quake. Other research suggests that making people think about death increases their religiosity and also decreases evolution acceptance. It’s not just death: It’s also randomness, disorder. In one telling study, research participants who were asked to think of a situation in which they had lacked control and then to “provide three reasons supporting the notion that the future is (un-) controllable,” showed a marked decline in their acceptance of evolution, opting instead for an intelligent design-style explanation. (Another study found that anti-evolutionists displayed higher fear sensitivity and a trait called the “need for cognitive closure,” which describes a psychological need to find an answer that can resolve uncertainty and dispel doubt.)

Such is the research, and it’s important to point out a few caveats. First, this doesn’t mean science and religion are fundamentally incompatible. The conflict may run very deep indeed, but nevertheless, some individuals can and do find a way to retain their religious beliefs and also accept evolution—including the aforementioned biology textbook author Kenneth Miller of Brown University, a Catholic.

Second, while there are many reasons to think that the traits above comprise a core part of who we are, it doesn’t automatically follow that religion is the direct result of evolution by natural selection. It is also possible that religion arises as a byproduct of more basic traits that were, in turn, selected for because they conferred greater fitness (such as agency detection). This “byproduct” view is defended by Steven Pinker here.

In any event, the evidence is clear that both our cognitive architecture, and also our emotional dispositions, make it difficult or unnatural for many people to accept evolution. “Natural selection is like quantum physics…we might intellectually grasp it, with considerable effort, but it will never feel right to us,” writes the Yale psychologist Paul Bloom. Often, people express surprise that in an age so suffused with science, science causes so much angst and resistance.

Perhaps more surprising would be if it didn’t.

More: 7 Reasons Why It’s Easier for Humans to Believe in God Than Evolution


It Can Be Confusing to Find the One True Religion
Many of God’s Rules Are Contradictory.  Help Us Lord!
 
— by Gad Saad, Ph.D.
 
 

I have often had conversations with religious people about their utter convictions that their religious narrative is THE correct one (as opposed to the narratives stemming from the other 9,999 religions).  Usually, the response is one that defines the meaning of a tautology:  “I know that it is the true narrative because my religion is the revealed truth.” Nice!

Suppose that a Martian had moved to Earth recently.  He is shopping for the one true religion.  Let’s see where this exploration takes him.  As a logical and rational Martian, he begins by asking a few basic questions to get the ball rolling.

Can I drink alcohol?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I eat prosciutto?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I eat some fried rice with shrimps?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I listen to music?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I turn on the computer to work on Saturday?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I have more than one wife?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I masturbate?  It depends on who the true God is.

How easy is it to obtain a divorce?  It depends on who the true God is.

What should the punishment (if any) be for homosexuality? It depends on who the true God is.

Can one commit suicide?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I take prescription drugs if I am sick?  It depends on who the true God is.

Are particular animals considered sacred?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is there one God or multiple Gods?  It depends on who the true God(s) is/are.

Does hell exist?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is premarital sex allowed?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is the sun divine?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I be reincarnated?  It depends on who the true God is.

How should women dress?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is male circumcision a Divine obligation?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is female circumcision a Divine obligation?  It depends on who the true God is.

Has the Messiah revealed himself?  It depends on who the true God is.

Can I buy indulgences to “fast-track” my dead ancestors into Heaven?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is it important to always be aware of where you are standing in relation to the Cardinal directions?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is there a direct representative of God on Earth?  It depends on who the true God is.

Are atheists going to hell?  It depends on who the true God is.

How easy is it for me to join your religion?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is it blasphemous to have a tattoo?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is there such a thing as a sacred river?  It depends on who the true God is.

Should I seek revenge on my enemies?  It depends on who the true God is.

Are we close to Armageddon?  It depends on who the true God is.

Do some souls reside on other planets?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is the wearing of leather shoes prohibited on particular days?  It depends on who the true God is.

Are pilgrimages a Divine obligation?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is apostasy permitted?  It depends on who the true God is.

Is evolution true?  It depends on who the true God is.


Dave’s Mailbag: Atheism, defined

Yesterday, the Atheist Alliance tweeted:

What do you consider to be the exact definition of atheism?

There are many incorrect definitions of atheism floating around. It’s important for religious extremists, in their deliberate attempts to misinform (see my previous post about lying for Jesus), that atheism be depicted as nonsensical, demonic, or irrational. For example, this display:

atheism-defined

It says: “Atheism: This is the belief that there is no god. This is a very common belief of those who do not wish to be responsible for their actions, as if there is no god there is no judgment. This belief was started by Charles Darwin, but has very recently (within the last 30 years) become a popular religion.”

facepalm

I do a talk called “Atheism 101″ that covers the definition of atheism, among other things. In it, I discuss the difference between agnostic/gnostic and atheistic/theistic. The question should not be worded, “Are you an atheist or an agnostic?” but rather “Are you an atheist or a theist?” and independently, “Are you 100% certain that God does or does not exist (gnostic) or do you acknowledge a possibility that you are wrong (agnostic)?”

I tweeted back to the Atheist Alliance:

@atheistalliance Atheism can be defined precisely as “the lack of faith in the existence of a god or gods.”

I think this is the most precise and accurate definition I have come across. In my talk, I use this. For a thorough breakdown of the definition of atheism, with sources, I recommend this webpage.

Dictionary Series - Religion: atheism

This has been on my mind because I received the following message today:

Your professed “belief” in the religion of athiesm has everything to do with your selfish desire to continue in your favorite sins. You have a strong motive to hope that there isn’t a Holy God who will punish you for your sins. Those making a profession of faith in the religion of atheism hope that if they scream loud, long, and shrill enough, they will be able to convince themselves that God doesn’t exist. I don’t believe that your even an atheist Dave.

First off:

  1. Atheism is not a religion. The definition of a religion is arguable, but the one I use and agree with comes from anthropologists Drs. Craig Palmer and Lyle Steadman in their excellent book, “Supernatural and Natural Selection: The Evolution of Religion.” They define religion as “a communicated acceptance by individuals of another individual’s ‘supernatural’ claim, a claim whose accuracy is not verifiable by the senses.” They continue: “The distinctive property of such acceptance is that it communicates a willingness to accept the influence of the speaker nonskeptically. While supernatural claims are not demonstrably true, they are asserted to be true” (pg ix). Since atheism makes no supernatural claims—in fact many atheists are metaphysical naturalists—it definitively is not a religion.
  2. My belief that atheism and science are the most likely contenders for an accurate description of the universe’s workings have nothing at all to do with sin. I don’t believe sin exists. I believe that some acts and behaviors are anti-social and, on ethical grounds, should not be committed. I believe that other acts and behaviors are pro-social and, on ethical grounds, should be encouraged. But I find the whole concept of sin—transgressions against divine law—to be ridiculous. I don’t believe there is any such thing as divine law, because I am an atheist.
  3. This entire statement is just a bare assertion. In no way does the sender attempt to provide reasons for the claims he is making, or explain on what basis exactly he is claiming to know these things about me and other atheists.

I think the sender is unable to see atheism for what it really is because doing so would make him insecure in his faith. It’s necessary for him to misunderstand atheism because atheism, understood, is the more rational position. So he builds a straw-man and uses it as a human shield. It’s really quite pathetic, pitiable even.

straw-man

What’s really wrong with his message, though, is where he says “[atheists make] a profession of faith.” Atheists lack faith by definition. Faith comes from the Latin “fidere,” which means “to trust.” In the theological sense, this means trusting that God exists, or that God will provide, etc, even though the logical arguments and evidence are insufficient for belief in themselves.

I am proud to say that I do not have faith. I am a skeptic: I have an attitude of doubt, an inclination toward incredulity. I think faith is dangerous, irrational, archaic, and puerile. If you are a logical person, a good critical thinker, and you come across an argument that lacks evidentiary backing, contains fallacies, or is nonsensical, you do not [continue to] believe that argument. Faith is the admission that you are not being logical, that you are not a good critical thinker, continuing to believe something when the reasons you have to believe it aren’t good enough on their own. Saying you have faith is saying, “Here are the reasons I believe this. Here is the evidence supporting why I believe this. Oh, the reasons have logical problems? Oh, the evidence is not very strong? Well, I choose to believe it regardless.” Or even worse, sometimes people say, “I don’t need evidence. I don’t need logical arguments. I have faith.” Faith is the very model of a circular argument. As Mark Twain is credited with saying, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”

I have never met a Christian who claims not to have faith. If you call yourself a Christian and do not have faith, I would really like to hear from you. Hebrews 11:6 says that “without faith, it is impossible to please God. Hebrews 11:1 says: “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” This is directly at odds with skepticism. It is my position that if you are a skeptic, and you also claim faith in a god or gods, you are doing one or the other incorrectly.

I think my favorite part of this, though, is where he says, “I don’t believe your [sic] even an atheist, Dave.”

This is my license plate:

license-plate2

(Atheos is Greek for atheist). If I’m not an atheist, I don’t know who is.

Thanks for reading. Until next time,

Dave


dave_bio_pic4
Dave Muscato is the Kansas/Missouri-Area Volunteer Network Coordinator for the Secular Student Alliance. He is also a board member of MU SASHA. He is a vegetarian, LGBTQ ally, and human- & animal-welfare activist. A non-traditional junior at Mizzou studying economics & anthropology and minoring in philosophy & Latin, Dave posts updates to the SASHA blog every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday and twice monthly for the Humanist Community at Harvard. His website is http://www.DaveMuscato.com


How 19-year-old activist Zack Kopplin is making life hell for Louisiana’s creationists
George Dvorsky

How 19-year-old activist Zack Kopplin is making life hell for Louisiana's creationists

For Zack Kopplin, it all started back in 2008 with the passing of the Louisiana Science Education Act. The bill made it considerably easier for teachers to introduce creationist textbooks into the classroom. Outraged, he wrote a research paper about it for a high school English class. Nearly five years later, the 19-year-old Kopplin has become one of the fiercest — and most feared — advocates for education reform in Louisiana. We recently spoke to him to learn more about how he’s making a difference.

Kopplin, who is studying history at Rice University, had good reason to be upset after the passing of the LSEA — an insidious piece of legislation that allows teachers to bring in their own supplemental materials when discussing politically controversial topics like evolution or climate change. Soon after the act was passed, some of his teachers began to not just supplement existing texts, but to rid the classroom of established science books altogether. It was during the process to adopt a new life science textbook in 2010 that creationists barraged Louisiana’s State Board of Education with complaints about the evidence-based science texts. Suddenly, it appeared that they were going to be successful in throwing out science textbooks.

A pivotal moment

How 19-year-old activist Zack Kopplin is making life hell for Louisiana's creationists

“This was a pivotal moment for me,” Kopplin told io9. “I had always been a shy kid and had never spoken out before — I found myself speaking at a meeting of an advisory committee to the State Board of Education and urging them to adopt good science textbooks — and we won.” The LSEA still stood, but at least the science books could stay.

No one was more surprised of his becoming a science advocate than Kopplin himself. In fact, after writing his English paper in 2008 — when he was just 14-years-old — he assumed that someone else would publicly take on the law. But no one did.

“I didn’t expect it to be me,” he said. “By my senior year though, I realized that no one was going to take on the law, so for my high school senior project I decided to get a repeal bill.”

Indeed, it was the ensuing coverage of the science textbook adoption issue that launched Kopplin as an activist. It also gave him the confidence to start the campaign to repeal the LSEA.

Encouraged by Barbara Forrest, a philosophy professor at Southeastern Louisiana University — and a staunch critic of intelligent design and the Discovery Institute — Kopplin decided to write a letter that could be signed by Nobel laureate scientists in support of the repeal. To that end, he contacted Sir Harry Kroto, a British chemist who shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Robert Curl and Richard Smalley. Kroto helped him to draft the letter — one that has now been signed by 78 Nobel laureates.

In addition, Kopplin has introduced two bills to repeal the LSEA, both of which have been sponsored by State Senator Karen Carter Peterson. He plans on producing a third bill later this spring. And along with the Nobel laureates, he has the support of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), New Orleans City Council, and many others.

But as the early results of his efforts have shown, it’s not going to be an easy battle.

“We’ve had gains over the last few years,” he says, “But our first attempt to repeal the LSEA was defeated 5-1 in committee, and in our second attempt we lost 2-1.” Kopplin is hoping to get out of committee this year.

He also has his eyes set on vouchers. After an Alternet story came out about a school in the Louisiana voucher program teaching that the Loch Ness Monster was real and disproved evolution, Kopplin looked deeper into the program and found that this wasn’t just one school, but at least 19 other schools, too.

School vouchers, he argues, unconstitutionally fund the teaching of creationism because many of the schools in these programs are private fundamentalist religious schools who are teaching creationism.

“These schools have every right to teach whatever they want — no matter how much I disagree with it — as long as they are fully private,” he says. “But when they take public money through vouchers, these schools need to be accountable to the public in the same way that public schools are and they must abide by the same rules.” Kopplin is hoping for more transparency in these programs so the public can see what is being taught with taxpayers’ money.

Facing opposition

His efforts, needless to say, have not gone unnoticed — particularly by his opponents. He’s been called the Anti-Christ, a stooge of “godless liberal college professors,” and was even accused of causing Hurricane Katrina. Kopplin cooly brushes these incidents aside, saying they’re just silly distractions.

But some of the most aggressive broadsides, he says, have come from state legislators.

How 19-year-old activist Zack Kopplin is making life hell for Louisiana's creationists
“I’m not talking threats or name calling, but they were really something to experience,” he says. [In addition to the video at left, Kopplin provided other examples that can be seen here and here)

“I don’t enjoy upsetting people, but you have to brush the attacks off,” he says. “I know that I’m fighting for a good cause — and I would be neglecting my duty if I stopped my campaign just because I felt uncomfortable about opposition.”

And perhaps not surprisingly, a number of people have refused to take Kopplin seriously on account of his age. “Oh, for sure — there have absolutely been people who have dismissed me because I’m still a kid,” he told us. Some of his opponents have even suggested that his parents are really the ones behind the campaign — an accusation he flatly denies.

“They have their own lives to live, and certainly don’t have time to run a public issue campaign,” he says.

“What disturbs me though, is when other kids are the ones to dismiss me based on age,” he told io9. “They see a 19 year old kid and can’t believe that I can actually go out and change the world. Too many of my peers have this attitude that they need to dress nicely, sit quietly, and wait until we are adults to change things. This attitude must change. My generation needs to speak out for what we believe.”

It’s simply not science

And indeed, Kopplin is a passionate defender of scientific inquiry, and vociferously rejects the notion that creationism and evolution should be taught side-by-side.

“Creationism is not science, and shouldn’t be in a public school science class — it’s that simple,” he says. “Often though, creationists do not, or are unwilling, to recognize this.” Science, he argues, is observable, naturalistic, testable, falsifiable, and expandable — everything that creationism is not.

But what also drives Kopplin is the inherent danger he sees in teaching creationism.

“Creationism confuses students about the nature of science,” he says. “If students don’t understand the scientific method, and are taught that creationism is science, they will not be prepared to do work in genuine fields, especially not the biological sciences. We are hurting the chances of our students having jobs in science, and making discoveries that will change the world.”

He worries that, if Louisiana (and Tennessee, which also has a similar law) insists on teaching students creationism, students will not be the ones discover the cure to AIDS or cancer. “We won’t be the ones to repair our own damaged wetlands and protect ourselves from more hurricanes like Katrina,” he says.

Moreover, he’s also concerned that teaching creationism will harm economic development.

“Just search creationism on Monster Jobs or Career Builder and tell me how many creationist jobs you find,” he asks. Kopplin tells us about how this past Spring, Kevin Carman, the former Dean of LSU’s College School of Science (now the Executive Vice President and Provost for the University of Nevada, Reno) testified in the Louisiana Senate Education Committee about how he had lost researchers and scientists to other states because of the Louisiana Science Education Act.

“But it also violates the separation of church and state,” he says. “Teaching Biblical creationism is promoting one very specific fundamentalist version of Christianity, and violating the rights of every other American citizen who doesn’t subscribe to those beliefs. So it would be stomping on the rights of Catholics, Mainline Protestants, Buddhists, Humanists, Muslims, Hindus, and every other religious group in the country.

These creationists, he argues, would be horrified to see the Vedas being taught in science class. “And they would have every right to be,” he says, “That’s how the separation of church and state works and it’s the foundation of our country.”

Changes needed

Kopplin is also concerned about the future, and how unprepared the United States has become.

“We don’t just deny evolution,” he says, “We are denying climate change and vaccines and other mainstream science. I’m calling for a Second Giant Leap to change the perception of science in the world.”

To that end, Kopplin would like to see $1 trillion of new science funding and an end to denialist science legislation. He wants to see the American public become more aware and better educated about science.

“My generation is going to have to face major challenges to our way of living — and the way to overcome them is through rapid scientific advancement,” he says. “But as as of right now, America has a science problem.”

Images: Baton Rouge Advocate, The Moderate Voice.