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Looking for a Nice Skin December 31, 2009

Posted by jetson in Personal.
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My apologies as I look for a nice look and feel for my blog!

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Is God Ever at Fault? December 31, 2009

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I am participating in a discussion at the “Is God Imaginary” forum, where the question was asked “What’s a good example of evil that causes doubt in a just God?” This question is being asked of non-believers by a Christian. It is possible that the question is genuine, but I’m not convinced that this particular Christian would ever entertain the possibility that his god could be evil, and the question presumes that his god is just.

I would like to know if there are any Christians who think that it is possible that God is responsible for ANY evil at all? The reason I want to know is because some people claim that God is the creator and designer of the universe and everything in it. They further claim that humans are Gods special children, and that unless we accept God as our savior, worship Him, and let Him guide us to eternal salvation, we will end up burning in a lake of fire for all of eternity. The stakes are indeed very high for anyone who doesn’t accept God, or at least believe God is real. Let’s consider the human design.

For example, viruses. Did God create the viruses that make humans sick, or that actually kill humans? If so, why would that not be considered evil given that humans are God’s special children, the only life form capable of worshiping God? What about bacteria? Or carnivores? Why would God create an animal like the lion, that would eat a human? God put lions here on this earth, and lions will eat humans without concern for anything but their own survival. We know that humans are not a lions main diet, but we are meat, and we have been, and still are susceptible to being eaten by a lion. Sure, we have the ability to overcome the lion in various ways, thanks to our ability to outsmart lions. Nonetheless, lions are here, along with many other carnivores who would be just as satisfied eating a human, as they would any other prey. Why did God place us into a world with such meat eaters?

What about babies born with severe defects? Is that evil, and how does God, as the designer, explain why this happens at all? Why does His design involve this kind of horror? What would be so bad in designing humans such that birth defects from perfectly healthy parents are non-existent? There are babies born today missing enough brain material to render them a vegetable from birth, with zero chance for any type of conscious life. If birth defects are not evil, than what are they? Is God off the hook for these defects? And If so, who is at fault, nature?

What about tremendous weather events like hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, floods, mudslides, and earthquakes? Why did God put us in such a hostile environment, knowing that our design is unable to survive direct hits from these events. Millions of humans have been wiped out by these weather related events that are a natural part of the world God created, and ultimately placed us in it to be at the mercy of seemingly random events that we have no way of controlling. If you were a parent, would you knowingly place your child in an environment where they could be harmed or killed by your own design?

There are so many terrible things that humans have endured as a result of Gods design of either the human, or the environment the human was placed in. Are none of these things evil? Is God considered “just” in placing us in harms way knowing many of His children would be killed. Is it not evil to create the human design such that otherwise perfectly healthy parents can give birth to a child so severely defected that a life is impossible? And what are we supposed to think when the responses to these questions are as mysterious as God Himself?

I would be amazed if a Christian would step up to the plate and answer honestly, as opposed to making vague guesses as to Gods plan, or purpose, or some other ethereal reply that gets us no closer to understanding why things MUST be this way, when the designer is so powerful and all-loving. A nice “I don’t know” would even be refreshing! Let’s hear it Christians, can God EVER be evil or unjust? Or is God ALWAYS off the hook?

Find Me a God… December 29, 2009

Posted by jetson in Personal.
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I have said that it is always possible that there is a god or gods out in the universe, or perhaps outside of our universe. I’m not sure how we would ever prove that, but I have to admit that anything is possible. What I really would like though, is to find a god with attributes that make more sense than any god we have ever seen before. Of course, my list of attributes is obviously going to be subjective, so take it all with a grain, and if you disagree, feel free to make your own list. It’s not like there haven’t been hundreds of thousands of gods in the past, so what’s a few more!

I’m not sure why people think that a god needs to be mean, but it sure seems like that is the prevailing idea. If a god isn’t demanding that someone be killed, he is demanding that certain people will go to hell. Or he is demanding we worship him, or any other bizarre ritual that doesn’t add any value to the god itself, other than said god being a mean, jealous, and vindictive entity. So, as a mere mortal and thinking human, I give you my list of attributes, as well as things I don’t want this god to have!

Find me a god who…

  • Exists.
    Communicates effectively with no opportunity for misunderstanding.
    Doesn’t need a book.
    Is as obvious as gravity.
    Accepts our mistakes, our shortcomings, our imperfections, and any transgressions we make.
    Could care less if I were a homosexual.
    Supports my decision to abort my pregnancy if I were a woman.
    Turns a major hurricane back out to the open sea when it threatens to kill innocent humans.
    Keeps the caps on volcanoes that are too close to human and animal populations.
    Aborts any fertilized egg that he knows will be born handicapped, or sick, or too early to survive.
    Steers a rapist in the opposite direction of his victim, or better yet, who doesn’t allow that type of behavior to be possible in our fragile brains.
    Needs no worship, nor church services, nor mere humans to speak for it.
    Speaks to us gently, and guides us effortlessly through life’s ups and downs.
    Helps us understand why our loved ones die, and lets us know that our loved ones are not suffering.
    Evenly distributes the earths resources, so that all life has abundant food.
    Doesn’t take sides.
    Has no “chosen” people.
    Easily tolerates those who don’t need him.
    Doesn’t need our money.
    Cares about what we think, no matter what we think.
    Nudges us in the right direction when we veer off course.
    Allows us to learn from our mistakes without any threat of eternal damnation.
    Doesn’t allow a hell to exist.
    Doesn’t allow lightning to set a house full of children on fire.
    Condemns anyone who claims to speak for said god.
    Keeps viruses and bacteria from harming life.
    Allows morals to come from our sense of goodness towards each other.
    Doesn’t need to smell burning animal flesh.
    Doesn’t command that entire cities be wiped out because they are heathens.
    Doesn’t condone slavery of other humans.
    Knows that men and women are equal.
    Doesn’t allow men to control what women wear, where they go, or what they do with their lives.
    Instills a sense of community and caring into each human, no matter where they live or where they were born.
    Condemns war completely.
    Helps us understand our purpose, even if the purpose is personal and selfish.
    Condemns every form of hatred and bigotry.
    Shares the secrets of the universe, so that no one has to guess.
  • There are more, but this should do as a start. Feel free to add more! Together, we can make a really great god. Or, we can abandon them all and just be good little humans.

    Rejecting Evolution is Irrelevant December 29, 2009

    Posted by jetson in Personal.
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    If a religious believer rejects evolution, so what? I’ve argued on this topic with believers and it is basically an exercise in futility (from both sides, I’m sure.) But I have just decided that it doesn’t matter whether people accept scientific theories or not. What really matters is how the theory holds up under scrutiny, what the theory does for humans (its usefulness), and perhaps how the theory helps us better understand the question (in this case, how did life evolve?) The question of whether life evolved is also a source of disagreement, not surprisingly, from fundamental Christians for example, who think that life has never evolved, but that God created all life, in its current form, at its appropriate point in time on earth. But again, who cares?

    When someone holds a view that disagrees with mainstream science, that is called freedom of thought – and no one can hold a persons thoughts hostage. That same person is free to think whatever they want regarding a specific scientific theory, because the thought, right or wrong, harms no one. Fortunately, the theory that most scientists support, marches forward. More evidence is discovered, and the theory gets stronger. So far, there are no competing theories based on science or the scientific method, so the ToE stands. Could the ToE be wrong? Of course it could, and scientists test the theory time after time. So far, it stands alone and is unshaken by those who don’t accept it.

    There is no burden of proof required to accept a theory. Even if one is not a scientist, there is no requirement other than accepting what science is telling us for the moment. A rational person will follow the prevailing theory until it becomes a practical fact, like gravity, or until it dissolves under the weight of contradicting evidence. If one decides not to accept the prevailing theory, it is completely irrelevant. Not to mention the fact that the prevailing theory is perfectly transparent to anyone who wants to seriously test it. Go for it, there is plenty of time! 🙂

    There Are No Chosen People December 28, 2009

    Posted by jetson in Personal.
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    All humans are here on this planet as a result of the Theory of Evolution. We are all descendants of lower life forms, no matter what religion you want to cling to. So far, no information has caused the ToE to crumble, and until or unless something comes along to topple the ToE, it is all we have. We are just animals, who happen to have large brains, capable of what we have decided is intelligence. Yes, humans came up with the very idea of intelligence, and we have defined it on our terms, through science.

    We think we are more intelligent than other species because we are capable of things that no other species has accomplished. That’s a fair way to look at the human species in my book. We have used our intelligence to demystify most of the things we did not understand when humans first began to express thoughts, ideas, and ask questions. Obviously, we still have a way to go to shed the remaining mysteries such as how life got started, and how our universe began (if it wasn’t a part of a multi-verse itself.) Many hard working scientists are searching for answers as we speak, because shedding the mysteries and turning them into useful knowledge has helped us in many positive ways (I realize that science sometimes results in destruction as well.)

    All humans are animals of the same species, and we come in every conceivable size, shape, skin color, ethnicity, and geography. The evidence from history has the species coming from what is now the continent of Africa, along with new evidence of another location in China (shh, don’t tell Adam and Eve). From wherever we started, even if we evolved from multiple locations, we are, from a scientific perspective, the same. No human is superior, no human is unique, and sorry, but no human is “chosen” by a god.

    The Bible describes Gods chosen people more than once. The main problem with this is that Christians also claim that ALL humans are Gods children. So, I guess the African humans captured and brought to America to be slaves, were Gods children, but were not a part of the “chosen”. I wonder why? Perhaps it is because those who enslaved some of Gods children were reading The very same Bible, where it clearly supports slavery, and reminds us that there is actually a group of people chosen by God. If Gods chosen people does not include the black slaves of early America, then it is also quite clear that black slaves were not Gods children. You see, you just can’t have it both ways. The idea that there is a loving father figure who created ALL humans in his likeness, and loves them ALL as His children, sounds great – until you notice that God has a problem with far more humans than exist in the “chosen” group. I have to wonder why God allowed some of His children to be brutally ripped apart as families, taken from their continent, bought and sold like cattle, and finally set free after some white men argued about it for a hundred years? Not to mention the fact that God condones and commands that certain humans be slaughtered because they were heathens, according to Exodus.

    I think I know what Christians want everyone to believe. They want us to believe that God created humans, and that ALL humans must worship God, and follow Gods laws, and gain eternal salvation. Sounds interesting, until you realize that the same old song and dance has been invented and re-invented thousands of times throughout human history, each one taking from the other, and adding their own twists and turns in an attempt to make it more palatable. Or until you decide you want to be gay, or until you decide you want to masturbate, or any number of abominations in the eyes of God. What a pity, that we are all supposed to be Gods children, made in His likeness, but filled with more flaws than we can count – AND – we’re fully expected to refrain from things that God doesn’t like. What a mess! No wonder we have so many new religions and religion is taking some heavy heat these days from non-believers.

    The bottom line is this: gods don’t choose people, people choose gods. And if they don’t choose their god, they are indoctrinated to believe in the god of their parents. And if they are not indoctrinated, they are guilted or coerced, or forced to believe under severe penalty, including being thrown into the street as a child, or completely ostracized from your peer group. What a lovely thought that is.

    Remember, choosing no god is OK. There is no reason to think you MUST believe in a god. It is a very outdated and tired way of keeping people in line, and it does not offer anything better for humans than just being a good person for the sake of being a good person. Choosing none is admirable, try it.

    Can You Live Without Certainty? December 28, 2009

    Posted by jetson in Personal.
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    I was reading a forum discussion here, and was struck by a message posted by forum member Deus ex Machina, regarding certainty and uncertainty. He was responding to another forum member about a link to this site, where the website author makes some interesting assertions.

    This is an excerpt from the discussion that inspired me to quote part of it, and to write this particular blog, written by Deus ex Machina:

    I understand that people would like there to be some sort of overarching purpose. That they’d like to have certainty, that they’d like to be able to say “look, we know that this is true/false/right/wrong and it’s all settled”. Some people crave certainty. But truth be told, the Universe doesn’t seem particularly keen on providing any such certainty, or evidence of deities, divine purpose or design, absolute truths, moral laws – or, for that matter, the true underlying nature of physical reality. Uncertainty is one of those things we have to live with; and much as it may be comforting to fill those uncertainties with notions of divine purpose, to believe that there’s really a Big Picture™, believing in them doesn’t make them true – and latching onto a particular belief and then asserting that others must believe the same as you do (or they’re somehow less human, less deserving of life, doomed to suffer some terrible fate, etc. etc.) is positively dangerous.

    Deus ex Machina put things in words that are hard to make better, or more clear. Why is it that some humans cling so tightly to certain beliefs? Why is uncertainty, a plain and simple fact of life, so frightening, or so unpalatable? Well, I’m a human, so dare me to take my own guesses!

    As a human, I actually do crave some level of certainty. As I was growing up, that craving has been shed to some extent, and possibly turned in different directions, or towards things that replaced my childhood views. Most humans go from what we describe as “immature” to “mature” in their thinking. Obviously, maturity in thinking is very subjective, but for the purpose of this blog, I’m going to say that immature thinking is thinking that begins to be based not on evidence, but on beliefs, faith, or any other form of thinking that one must accept, apparently without much consideration. But I also know that uncertainty, while scary to think about at times, is far more certain!

    We just do not know the future. We have no way of moving beyond a specific moment to see what will happen to us next. The known laws of the universe do not allow something to go beyond time, or to disconnect itself from time. This is where phrases like “life is precious” come from. We have no way of knowing that the engine from a 747 won’t fall from the sky and land on our car, killing us instantly. We can say with very high probability that it will never happen, but we can’t know for sure. So we live on, as though our lives will follow some path of certainty – which makes us happier, I think.

    Of course, some humans get very unsettled thinking that there is any certainty at all – it seems they prefer to “live on the edge”, “take chances”, “just do it”, and so on. These people may introduce a little more uncertainty in their lives by doing things that are less predictable. And so it is, all humans go about their daily lives with a certain amount of certainty – none of which they can depend on 100%. But that works for most of us.

    If humans put too much focus on uncertainty, there would be too much fear and anxiety for people to accomplish anything. What if we could not find a single human willing to man the rocket that landed on the moon? If ever there was uncertainty, that was it! But those men knew they would be successful, not from arrogance or wishful thinking, or pure bravery (some would call it stupidity!), but from the knowledge and confidence that all of the mechanics, engineering, math, and technology were carefully measured, tested and re-tested so that as much of the uncertainty of the flight plan was eliminated. And so it is with everything we humans do in order to mature and grow, as individuals and as groups.

    However, if we put too much focus on certainty, how can we grow as individuals, or as societies? How do we get beyond some of the superstitions and beliefs that support bigotry and hatred towards other humans? If it is not clear by now, make no mistake, humans will NEVER come to an agreement on things such as gods, religions, or religious beliefs. We are more divided on that single issue than any other as far as I have seen. There is little reason to think that will change at all. I think the best hope is to put religions and their ideologies back into the churches and homes of those who feel they need it, and keep it out of societal laws and sciences that seek to learn using logic, reason, clear thinking, and proper methodologies that do not discriminate at all. Science will always correct itself – religion NEVER will.

    So, live with a certain amount of certainty, but never make the mistake of thinking that you have some absolute truth or knowledge that is indisputable. No god, no scientist, no human can make such a claim – isn’t that quite certain!

    Peace

    Atheism is not a Truth Claim December 24, 2009

    Posted by jetson in Personal.
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    Atheism is not a truth claim. I picked up this idea from the Richard Dawkins forum, where a member posted the message. I like it because it helps people understand that atheism does not make a claim that gods do not exist. Rather, they simply don’t believe the claims. Yes, some atheists, including me, will make statements that gods are imaginary, or that they cannot exist, or any other claim in order to make a point. Most of the time, the point is to help believers understand why they don’t believe, or perhaps to show believers that there are other points of view that don’t agree with theirs. This approach by some atheists does present some issues.

    One concern is that we literally could not have a conversation at all if we don’t ocassionally give the benefit of the doubt to believers. In other words, we must presume that a god is real, so that we can discuss the merits of the belief. Many atheists refuse to do this at all, instead insisting that a believer prove their god is real before moving deeper into the discussion. Again, no believer has been able to prove a god, so it makes the debate sort of pointless to wait for proof. I suppose the atheist could simply refrain from the debate altogether, but that doesn’t sit well with those who believe that some religions, and their followers, are dangerous, and need to be challenged head on. Not to mention the hatred and bigotry that is outwardly shown towards non-believers.

    I don’t know any atheists who would claim absolutely that a specific god does not exist. They always allow for the possibility because there is literally no way to prove that a god does not exist. As well, most atheists that I have read, or conversed with, are willing to accept credible evidence for a specific god, and some of them are former believers. Before they abandoned their god beliefs, they took the time to research their faith claims and concluded that the evidence was insufficient to claim a real god. They are now on the non-believer side of the fence, hoping to help others shed the make believe world they cling so tightly to.

    So, as an atheist, and with regards to all of the gods ever named by humans, I am open to all possibilities. And, like most atheists I know, I will not accept personal testaments, I will not accept words from The Bible, I will not accept miracle healings of a 2000 year old dead man, and I will not accept philosophical guesses that match someones beliefs. I have spent enough time in churches, and going through sacraments, praying at bedtime, eating the body of Christ, and confessing my sins to someone I don’t know. I will no longer attempt to “find god” through someones instructions on how to do so, as there are far too many different instructions to know if I did it right. And I will certainly not “have faith” or “just believe” or “simply accept Jesus” in order to find a truth about a god. I want real proof and real evidence.

    I realize that believers will be unable to provide the type of evidence I am looking for, and some will even claim that I think I am better than their god by asking for solid proof. I say, so what. If a god cannot make itself known to me, than that god is not worth my consideration at all. As a father myself, I would never hide from my child and make him find me. I open my arms, scoop up my child, and love my child. Name one god that does that.

    All Gods Are Imaginary December 22, 2009

    Posted by jetson in Personal.
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    I’ve never met a believer in a specific god, who gives any possibility to the existence of a competing god. Of course, I was not alive back in the days of polytheism, where there were multiple gods for multiple purposes. So I have always posited that all gods are imaginary. Even if one could prove that humans have always had a propensity to believe in a god or gods, there is still no reason to believe any of them are real. There is simply no evidence to support a real god.

    The world looks exactly like it would if there were no gods at all. It is the believers who see the “evidence” in the form of nature, the sky, the stars, the planets, and the entire universe. They simply assert that none of it could possibly have happened, or exist at all, without a god involved. How convenient!

    Humans have probably been searching for answers since they first realized they were able to ask a question. In the earliest groups of humans, it is very likely that they lived in fear of certain things that nature had to offer, such as thunder and lightning. Imagine being witness to such a spectacle, and perhaps cowering in fear when it comes around during a violent storm. Imagine the horror of those humans who were in the path of a tornado – something we still fear today. But at least we understand what causes tornadoes, and we can warn people that they are likely to form, and to take appropriate cover.

    Gods have always been a convenient way of explaining away the mysteries that humans have faced. Even today, gods are evoked for comfort in death, something many humans fear greatly. It’s a strange feeling indeed to become a part of the world, to be aware of your presence in it, and then to imagine that one day, you will no longer be a part of the world, at least not as a living breathing human! Our decayed bodies eventually find their way back into the atomic matter that makes up everything, so perhaps we do live on forever!

    So many hundreds of thousands of man-made gods, to support the even larger number of mysteries humans struggled with. Obviously, some gods are more popular than others, but it seems to me that those popular gods are also quite picky about what is required of humans. So far, not a single god has done anything that I would consider god-like. Maybe I’m just incapable of understanding any of the gods. But I’m certainly not incapable of inventing my own!

    I’ll save that for another rainy day at the book store!

    Why Won’t God Heal Amputees? December 20, 2009

    Posted by jetson in Personal.
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    When I first decided it was OK to be atheist, to not believe in a god, I found this website. Along with the website there is also a discussion forum for debates and discussions regarding the topic of why God won’t heal amputees. At first, I have to admit, the forum felt uncomfortable. It seemed that believers were quickly put down and put in their place with aggressive responses and sometimes insults. I joined the site and began to participate and learn what all the discussions from atheists were really about. That was then.

    Today I am still an active forum member, and I have also joined the site “Is God Imaginary”, which is asking those believers who can answer the question to stop by and discuss. I like both sites, but the first one, “Why Won’t God Heal Amputees” is very intriguing because it looks at direct claims by Christians of God’s healing all sorts of physical issues, yet never does an amputee get their limb replaced. Why is that?

    To me it is obvious, God does not heal amputees, because God is imaginary. What could possibly be a more simple answer to this question? Yet, believers from seemingly every flavor of Christianity and even Islam flood into the forum proclaiming Gods greatness, His benevolence, His almighty powers of healing, and His infinite wisdom in making decisions about who exactly gets to be healed through the power of God. The site makes a claim, namely that there has never been a single case of a human, miraculously or otherwise, re-growing a severed or missing limb. So many thousands of illnesses healed miraculously, yet not a single amputee.

    Houston, we have a problem. How is it possible that the amputees are singled out and rejected by the mighty power of Gods healing? The excuses come in every shape and size from believers. God only heals the faithful. Prayers are not always answered with a yes from God. It was Gods plan that some humans be amputees. And so on, and so on. But each of these excuses doesn’t deal directly with the facts.

    According to some, God has healed cancer directly through his miraculous power. Those people, and their families and congregations prayed for their loved one to be cured, and the cancer went away. This same scenario plays out for other types of illnesses, including paralysis. The patients were healed through the miracle of faith in God, and prayer. These are the facts according to believers. But those very same things are done by equally faithful, and equal amounts of prayer from friends and congregations in efforts to help victims of amputated legs, arms, fingers, toes, hands, etc. Yet not one single case of re-growth of any limb, small or large, has ever occurred.

    Stop by and join the site if you are a believer and can explain this mystery. Beware, the site is genuinely friendly towards anyone who cares to discuss issues using evidence and reason to support their claims. If you stop by and proclaim excuses in the name of your particular god, you won’t get too far. If you believe your god is real, and that your god can actually heal amputees, or do anything it wants, you must be able to show how that is actually true. Your belief that it is true, or your knowledge of past miracles of The Bible, for example, are simply not evidence that can be taken seriously. Good luck!

    Jetson

    Perfect Plans Can’t Be Changed December 10, 2009

    Posted by jetson in Personal.
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    I’ve been thinking about free will lately as it relates to the god of The Bible. Believers tell me that God gave us all the free will to choose the path we take in our lives. If God created humans, and endowed them with free will, then I can accept that premise by itself. What I can’t come to grips with is when believers also tell me that God planned our lives, and knows exactly what we will do; every choice, every decision, every breath we take. These two things do not logically work together.

    If God knows our path, and every choice and breath we take, then the free will He supposedly gave us is just an illusion, as it would be impossible for us to do anything that God does not already know about. So, we get to choose our path, yet God already knows what it will be. What I don’t get is why it even matters. Why does God need to know in advance about our every move and decision? Is there some reason for this? It sounds to me like it is an attribute given to God in an effort to make Him the “all knowing” God.

    If there is an entity that is so “all knowing” that it can actually possess perfect knowledge of future events, that entity would not be able to escape it’s own destiny, even for a second. It would be paralyzed in its knowledge of itself. If I knew every single action and movement and decision that I was going to make or do, how could I possibly enjoy anything? What is there to look forward to? What would I do for entertainment? Think about yourself, and ask yourself how you would be able to exist with the perfect knowledge of all future events – and the paradox of knowing that no matter what you think of, or decide to do, you already knew it would happen.

    My mind is now cluttered. Help!