Exercising my right of Free Speech and also your right to leave this site if you disagree.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Note of Support to Christopher Hitchens

I will not bother with any of the usual clichés about being brave and strong and battling the enemy that is cancer, you get enough of all that.
What I do want to say is thank you.
Thank you for all the writing you have done over the years and for the profound affect you have had on forming my current stance on politics, religion and ethics. You have been a powerful voice for reason in the face of an insane world and always with a great sense of humor.

I sincerely hope that you get to add cancer survivor to your lengthy resume and can give the world many more years of the honesty and ruthless wit that it needs. There are still too many nasty characters on the public stage needing to be skewered by your word processor.

I will not bother to pray for you but you will be in my thoughts.

Paul Kalbach

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Refutation of article about supposed former atheist

This Article below appeared on zionica.com on 04 Aug 2010 and was reproduced in full from its original posting on chrisianpost.com. It is fully reproduced below with comments inserted in bold. The post this was taken from is at http://zionica.com/2010/08/04/former-atheist-christianity-really-does-make-sense/

Culture|Mon, Aug. 02 2010 08:25 PM EDT
Former Atheist: Christianity Really Does Make Sense
By Lillian Kwon|Christian Post Reporter

Holly Ordway was a highly educated atheist who thought Christianity was "a historical curiosity" or "a blemish on modern civilization," or both.
"Smart people don’t become Christians," she thought, according to Biola University.
Her worldview, however, began to change at age 31. She recounts her journey from atheism to Christianity in the recently released Not God’s Type: A Rational Academic Finds a Radical Faith.
"It is no light matter to meet God after having denied Him all one’s life," she writes in the book. "Coming to Him was only the beginning. I can point to a day and time and place of my conversion, and yet since then I have come to understand that He calls me to a fresh conversion every day."

This is a rather classic example of theist prattle, we have an assertion of the gravity of the matter that is design only to get a head nod and an amen from the faithful while being based on nothing. This is then followed by a non-sense statement that is supposed to sound deep. What does it mean to be called? No one knows or can define it. What is this conversation, is it literal? No one knows or will say or will every question her on it. The reporter just regurgitates the line without asking, you really think you hear god? What exactly did he say?

Ordway, a professor of English and literature at a San Diego-area community college, wasn't raised in any religious faith. She never said a prayer in her life and she never went to a church service. Her exposure to Christianity while growing up was minimal and her few encounters with Christians involved televangelists or hellfire and damnation preachers.
"Religion seemed like a story that people told themselves, and I had no evidence to the contrary," she said in an interview with Biola University, where she is currently studying for her second MA, in Christian Apologetics.
To her, the Bible was a collection of folktales and myths – no different than the stories of Zeus or Cinderella.
"I was a college professor – logical, intellectual, rational – and an atheist," she writes.

Now we get the good atheist credentials to make it sound really plausible, say a few things to shock the faithful into hating the bad atheist that she was and draw scorn on logic, intellect and rational thought. Ok, set up done now lets go for the punch.

Though she knew next to nothing about Christianity, she began to mock Christians and belittle their faith, intelligence and character.
"[I]t was fun to consider myself superior to the unenlightened, superstitious masses, and to make snide comments about Christians," Ordway writes.
She was convinced that faith was by definition irrational.
Evangelical invitations to "come to Jesus and get eternal life" sounded like "believing something irrational on demand to get a prize."
"I thought I knew exactly what faith was, and so I declined to look further," she writes. "Or perhaps I was afraid that there was more to it than I was willing to credit – but I didn’t want to deal with that. Easier by far to read only books by atheists that told me what I wanted to hear – that I was much smarter and intellectually honest and morally superior than the poor, deluded Christians.

Now we get the punch of making atheism out to be smug and self-superior but based on ignorance. Forget the fact that most atheist know more about the bible and theology than Christians do; I suggest you test this assertion by talking to a few atheists. Most are what they are because they sought knowledge and could no longer support faith. Sure, some atheists are self-superior. You get them in any crowd but for a Christian to make this accusation of another group goes beyond any statement involving pot and kettles.

"I had built myself a fortress of atheism, secure against any attack by irrational faith. And I lived in it, alone."
Ordway wasn't looking for God. She didn't believe He existed. But she began to be drawn to matters of faith.
One reason for her interest, she explains, is that her "naturalistic worldview was inadequate to explain the nature of reality in a coherent way: it could not explain the origin of the universe, nor could it explain morality."

Here it comes, the grossly unfounded and unsupported claim. The "naturalistic worldview was inadequate to explain the nature of reality in a coherent way: it could not explain the origin of the universe, nor could it explain morality." We are supposed to just nod and amen this comment and not look behind it. The naturalistic worldview has in its favor all of observation in any field of inquiry you can choose. When it makes an assertion it is based on evidence and withholds judgment in favor of agnosticism when there is not enough evidence to decide. The origin of the universe has been explained very well back to the singularity of the big bang and no claim of religion can make a better or more convincing explanation. As for morality this statement simply ignores all of secular philosophy on the subject and ignores all of the intensely moral atheists and agnostics.

"On the other hand, the theistic worldview was both consistent and powerfully explanatory: it offered a convincing, rationally consistent, and logical explanation for everything that the naturalistic worldview explained plus all the things that the naturalistic worldview couldn’t."

This is nothing short of a lie. This is not a different point of view, it is patently untrue. The internal text of the bible is not consistent by any measure and theology differs so radically from sect to sect as to make them irreconcilable. It is only convincing if you are willing to suspend all respect for reality, evidence and rational thought and blindly accept that that which flies in the teeth of all honest inquiry.

After a series of conversations with a mentor and exposure to the writings of authors like J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Ordway went from denying God to committing herself to Christ.
"I was startled to find that Christian theism had significantly better explanatory power than atheistic naturalism, in terms of explaining why the world is the way it is, and in accounting for my own experiences within it," she recounted, according to Biola. "Learning more about the Incarnation and about God, the most holy Trinity, has further reinforced my confidence that Christianity really does make sense of the world in a way no other worldview does."

It took a mentor? Funny how free inquiry and logical thought stands on its own, but maybe I am jaded. “Learning more about the Incarnation and about God, the most holy Trinity” I have grave concerns as to whether this constitutes learning. For one thing, mentioning the trinity which is nothing more than a construct of theology and doesn't even occur in the bible rather undermines even the biblical claim to authority.
And the claim that Christianity makes more sense than anything else is a purely subjective and unsupportable claim.

She found that "St. Paul's forthright declaration that Christianity is based on the historical, witnessed events of Christ’s death and resurrection," that "theology and philosophy offered real answers" to her questions and weren't an appeal to blind faith, and that "the history of the Church did not conform to [her] image of the Christian faith as a self-serving, politically useful fiction."

The problem is the Paul's declaration is just plain wrong. There is no historical accuracy at all. Most of the history that does appear in the New Testament is wrong and there is no way the writers of the gospels ever met Jesus or witnessed a thing. They clearly were fabricated after the fact and built off of each other in attempts to close holes the others left.
She had it right and then walked away from the truth.

Her intellectual pride was broken and she was humbled by God's goodness as she began to see herself as a sinner.

This is such a patently religious cliché I shouldn't even waste time refuting it. All I will bother saying is, show me the goodness...

"I don’t 'believe' because I like the idea and want it to be true. I don’t 'believe' because I think Christianity makes sense intellectually (although that was a necessary foundation to my faith). In fact, I wouldn’t say that I 'believe' in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or that I 'believe' I have a personal relationship with Him: I would say that I know these things to be true," the former atheist emphatically stated in a 2007 blog entry.

Again, this is so programmatic and templated I am not sure if I even believe there ever was a conversion. I just doesn't pass the smell test. It all reads like something made up out of whole cloth to try to convince the already faithful that there is nothing outside the church walls worth looking at. There is no 'knowing' possible in this realm and intellectual sense is one thing it doesn't make.

Ordway currently attends St. Michael's by-the-Sea in Southern California where she says she has grown in her Christian faith. She's hoping her book will help Christians – who may be familiar with the ideas that atheists believe but not understand what it's like to believe those things – in their evangelism.

And here they give away the game. As predicted, this is aimed at the faithful in an attempt to spray paint the church windows lest the congregants have the audacity to look at the world.

Offering some advice to those who approach atheists, she said, "Really, it doesn’t matter whether we like Christianity or not; what matters is, is it true? That approach may not resonate with everyone, but it was what opened the door for me."
Moreover, discipleship is critical, she said.
"I think one of the central elements of my own discipleship so far has been my pastors’ focus on the Cross," she said in the Biola interview. "The way of Jesus is the way of the cross. It is terribly painful to give up one’s sins and self-will, to allow one’s old self to be crucified along with Jesus ... and I have been very grateful to my pastors who acknowledge how hard and painful it can be along this Christian journey. But the way of the cross is also the way of life and peace."

I know that is does no good ultimately to refute this sort of non-sense but I feel compelled to say it anyway. I suppose this is because I wasted so much of my life grovelling before this cross of hers and uttering prayers into empty space. She is right about on thing, “what matters is, is it true?” And the emphatic answer is NO.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Morality and Its Origins

I had a comment on my last blog entry that the reader wished I had dealt with the basis of morality. This was not the subject of the last post and would not have been apropos but I will try to take a stab at it here.

The reason for this even being a subject of discussion is the fact that religion has arrogated to itself the basis for human morality. I primarily pick on Christianity as it is the religious system I am most familiar with, having been raised in it. The assumption is this, the bible teaches us how to be moral and without it as a foundation there is no morality. This is, to steal a phrase from Douglas Adams, a load of foetid dingos kidneys.

Morality is nothing more or less than a set of behaviours that allow us to live together in society. Does this definition tend toward moral relativism and declare no absolutes? No, it does not. There are certain moral rules that are inherent in human societies and if ignored destroy the fabric of society. Taboos against murder, rape, incest and theft are examples. These are not religious rules, they are common sense rules for social animals living in an ordered community. Violating them undermines the security of other members of the community. Violation of these rules also violates what I believe to be the basic foundation of morality - empathy and compassion.

The claim that the bible is the basis of morality is absurd. If you actually read the bible you will come to a few unavoidable conclusions, that god as described in the old testament is a viscous psychopath and that the new testament tries very hard to tip toe around the cruelty and caprice of the old testament god without actually refuting it. In the old testament, god orders his people to commit genocide on numerous occasions, sanctions the taking of sexual slaves as spoils of war, orders women to marry their rapists, demands the killing children and teenagers, sanctions the rape of women to save the dignity of male guests, and personally kills entire populations not only of whole cities but supposedly of the entire world. This just scratches the surface of god's villainy in the old testament and I didn't even get out of the Pentateuch. He called David a man after his own heart after David had multiple wives, committed murder and committed adultery. I suppose for a god that is capable of all the horrible actions attributed to him, a man such as David would be just his sort. See a woman you want, murder her husband and take her; why not, this is mild compared to burning entire cities full of innocent children.

This is the book that we are told is the basis for our morality. This is the book that is held up as the foundation for all right action. No, any morality that is actually claimed by followers of the bible is done in opposition to the bible, by ignoring the sections that urge evil behaviour. If the bible is truly the measure for morality, even for Christians, they would be demanding the legal right to murder witches, stone their own disobedient children, murder anyone that doesn't follow their own sect, demand the right to own slaves and to keep as concubines the virgin daughters of their victims for this is the morality the old testament condones.

The new testament, people will shriek, is a whole new game. The harshness of the old testament was necessary then but Jesus brought in new rules. Hmmm, let's see. Jesus said that he did not come to over turn the law but to fulfil it. He at one point declared that you had to follow the law to the letter plus his new program of poverty and meekness and impossible love for all. He then goes on to tell us that we are to hate our parents and abandon our families and follow him (how this is to be done while obeying the commandment to honour father and mother is utterly beyond rational grasp), and all this before introducing the worst and most vile horror of all, the concept of hell. We now have an eternal torture chamber where, if you take the rules seriously, about 99% of all humanity will be subject to horrors and pain beyond imagining for the crime of not believing in the god that created the hell... but were probably created predestined to this hell anyway so believing doesn't matter...

My point in this rant is to show that the morality supposedly based on the bible is no morality at all. The very god that supposedly is the basis for morality, were his actions and encouraged actions removed form the bible and put before any modern human as a template, would cause revulsion. Our native moral sentiments recoil at the notion of murder and rape and genocide and the abandonment of family and of eternal punishment. Christians impose their own native morality on the bible by ignoring the horrors of it and by constructing theological structures outside of it to rationalize and explain away the evils in it. To then turn around and try to claim that that which has to be mostly ignored is the foundation is absurd at best.

So, where does this leave us? Morality is something that just exists in humans. We have a social sense that evolved in us. Is it absolute in fine detail? No. There are constantly shifting lines of what is and isn't acceptable in a society but the basics remain the static. The big taboos remain and compassion and empathy reign. There will always be those who violate the rules of society. There will always be criminals and sociopaths. We don't need a book of violent and capricious savagery to teach us to be human. All books like the bible do is justify in the minds of criminals and sociopaths their behaviour. The bible makes a great foundation for antisocial behaviour.
Want to burn women at the stake and feel good about it? I got just the book.


About Me

I am a husband and a father of two. I work as a network administrator. I am interested in religion and philosophy, though mostly from an external perspective.