Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Introduction -- Problems with Christianity that led to my de-conversion

What Keeps Me Up at Night

My childhood and early teen years revolved significantly around Christianity. I was raised by two Lutheran parents, attending church at least once a week, praying before meals and bedtime, and celebrating all the important Christian holidays. By the time I turned 16, (over 4 years ago) I had gone through a lengthy process of expunging my faith in God, Jesus and Christianity. Too many problems with piled up; too many questions were left unanswered. The result, although far from immediate, was me settling upon atheism as the most accurate set of beliefs regarding the realities of our world.

I don't recall what I felt exactly at the time, but these days, from time to time, I almost wish that was the end of the story. I found the truth, so why can't I go on with my life? Why do I dwell on the topic of religion? The only answer I can produce is that religion and religious people are utterly fascinating. It always blows my mind when I read and hear what religious people think, believe and do.

The Silver Dollar Phenomenon

If you are not an atheist, or agnostic, if you subscribe wholly or partially to an organized religion, try putting yourself in my shoes for the moment. Imagine everywhere you go 90% or more of the population believes fervently in the tooth fairy. You, on the other hand, abandoned the tooth fairy myth when you were in grade school, or perhaps, never believed in it at all.

Yet almost every person you meet holds this belief in the tooth fairy. If you ever try to question or analyze the existence of it, you may be scorned. People may think you mad -- and why not? Everyone believes in the tooth fairy. You may hear poor, specious justifications and explanations for the existence of the tooth fairy. Explain how the silver dollar appeared under my pillow when I put a tooth underneath it the night before.

Now imagine different peoples have different peoples have opposing views on the, let's call it: "Silver dollar phenomenon." The belief in the tooth fairy is so deep-seeded, and so crucial to the culture that surrounds us, that any opposing viewpoint on the silver dollar phenomenon is dangerous, alien, wicked, heretical, vile, and stupid.

Now imagine that our disagreements on the origin of the silver dollar phenomenon shape domestic and foreign policy, shape our relationships with strangers and acquaintances, shape how people spend money, shape how people live their lives, and how wars are fought and why.

Can you imagine anyone defending the belief in a tooth fairy to the point of murder? Of course not. That would be absurd. But is it? Turn on CNN. Read the newspaper headlines. Listen to the radio (NPR, Fox, BBC, it doesn't matter.) The cause of much of the wars, suffering, willful ignorance, hate and prejudice is a direct result of a belief that is just as irrational, absurd and childish as that of the belief in the tooth fairy: the belief in a knowable, omniscient god.

Why It Matters

Now I hope you at least understand what I feel, even if you do not agree with my beliefs. I'd be willing to bet many Christians who read this (this is hypothetical; I don't think anyone is actually reading this) would agree in some way that religious people are responsible for much of the atrocities of the world.

But I don't think they understand to what extent. I don't think they understand why. And I don't think they understand what it has to do with them: Everything.

I think the automatic response a well-intentioned Christian has to the things for which they acknowledge religion holds at least part of the blame is to whitewash religion's role. I've heard so many times, "They use religion as a cloak," meaning that it isn't the religion that is to blame, it is an individual, or a group, such as al qaida, or the nazis, who successfully mislead their followers, and bastardize their religion in pursuit of something that their religion would oppose.

This viewpoint is often wrong. I believe that most people do not understand just how perverse, violent, and ugly the books of Islam and Christianity truly are. I have read the Koran and much of the bible. There are things written in both texts, that in any context should disgust and repulse any thinking reader.

Need Proof? Just Open Your Bible.

I bet you wouldn't expect an atheist to encourage people to read the bible. No, really, do it. I remember going to church and hearing the same 2 dozen or so stories again and again over my 14 years attending a Lutheran Evangelical mid-west church. What I found is they left a lot out. But isn't the entire bible the word of God? So why are some parts important, and others not? I think you'll find that if a priest read and taught everything that was in the bible, the listeners would pick up on a lot of the realities of the bible.

The Reality of the Bible.

The reality of the bible is rather simple. It was written by dozens of different, and contradicting authors. It was written over an extremely long period of time. It was pieced together centuries after the individual parts were written by a handful of Hebrews, who kept some texts, threw out some others to form what we know today as the bible.

So when it is said that the bible is the word of God, what evidence is there that these ancient authors had any idea what they were talking about? Or, what evidence is there that any of this was written literally. Probably the writer of Noah's Ark did not write the story the week after a global flood. It is much more likely that perhaps there was a local flood, and after years of oral tradition was exaggerated: The magnitude of the flood, why it happened, and so on. Or perhaps it is entirely fictional and the moral is what we should focus on, not the event. For people to defend the global flood as an actual historical event is absolutely absurd, and stupefyingly ignorant of reality.

But the real danger of the bible comes not from fairy tales of great floods, 9 foot tall men, or a man walking on water. These are benign beliefs; if someone believes them, fine. What is worrisome about the bible are the parts that, thankfully, few people even know about.

I recommend this 8 minute video for evidence, directly from the bible, that proves the bible gives us repulsive commands. For example, we must kill any one who works on the sabbath, a violation of the 4th commandment. This instruction given immediately after the 10 commandments are listed in the book of exodus. (I will certainly address this more in a future entry)

I also recommend
This site contains an entire online copy of the bible, koran and book of mormon. It analyzes every word and page. Footnotes are given; numerous contradictions are listed, and analysis of disgusting, stupid and just silly aspects of these holy books are spelled out so any intelligent, open minded reader will realize just what is in these books.

What about God?

All of this is important to realize that the bible is an unreliable collection of childish ancient myths, and horrendous commandments from a vindictive god. So if God exists, and is accurately depicted in the bible, then God is certainly an asshole. A murderous, genocidal, self-centered, bigoted, sexist, pro-slavery, pro-violent death penalty... asshole.

But that doesn't prove that god doesn't exist. Maybe he exists as in the bible, or in some other way, such as the one imagined by those who don't know what's actually in the bible, i.e. most Christians. He can still exist, right?


God does not exist. There is no experiment which will reveal the existence of any god. There is no testable hypothesis which could falsifiably produce evidence of any god. The belief in a god is unfalsifiable, now before you get too proud about that, understand what it means. Falsifiability means that we can acknowledge something as true, yet leave the window open for some piece of evidence to come along and prove us wrong.

Example: Evolution is a falsifiable belief; although there are mountains of evidence that all point to evolution by natural selection, if we were to find, say, a primate fossil inside the ribcage of a t-rex, this would certainly call into question much of what we understand about the time line of life on earth (because, of course, primates and dinosaurs are separated in time by tens of millions of years.)

Why I Left

Religion has no such falsifiability. No matter what evidence is presented, no matter what is said, most people will never be shaken from their belief in an unprovable, invisible, yet all powerful deity.

This is why I put no stock in superstitious beliefs such as religion and god. There is no pursuit of truth by means of demonstrable facts in the religious world. There is no questioning of age-old beliefs or practices. Skepticism is not a virtue among the religious; faith is. You are supposed to believe in something, not because it is provably true, but because you are supposed to believe in it. This is exactly what faith is.

What Faith is, and What Faith I Have

Faith is the belief in something that is not provable. All to often, it is in stark contradiction with common sense, rationality, and provable realities of our world.
People who believe the bible is the inerrant word of god willfully ignore most, if not all of the basic fundamentals of science.

As a child, I was tremendously enthralled with dinosaurs. Yet as young as I was, I was immediately able to find a glaring contradiction between what I'd read in my dinosaur books, and the genesis account of the creation of life. My dinosaur books told me about a 65 million year gap between the mass extinction of dinosaurs, and the emergence of homo sapiens. In fact, as Carl Sagan explains, if the time spanning from the big bang to the immediate present, a span of about 15 billion years, were to be simplified to the length of a calendar year, January 1st at midnight being the big bang, and the final instant before new years being right now, human beings only appear on earth within the final minutes of December 31.

However, the bible said Adam was created within the first week of creation, and nothing is said about extinctions.

It was clear to me early that the bible was neither inerrant nor literal. From then on, it was a process of realizing that what was written in the bible was written by people. Simple, ancient uninformed people. No god involved. How could anyone know that there was? We can clearly demonstrate that much of these fairy tales didn't actually happen, therefore either god is wrong, god is lying, or god had nothing to do with it.

Or, you just need faith.

So if I can't trust the bible on important points like the origin of the universe, how can I trust it on even more complicated issues such as the existence of the supernatural, right and wrong or what to believe. I found eventually that I can't. I can trust the bible's content with nothing regarding the reality of our world.

Faith explains away all criticisms, all potential problems. If only you have the faith to believe it. Faith can be dangerous, as we see every night on the news.

What faith do I have? I have faith that sometime before I die, I will at least be able to witness a turnaround in this type of nonsense. I have faith that people will come to the realization that these beliefs would be silly if they weren't so disastrously tragic. I have faith that people will come to recognize science, and reason as the best ways to understand the cosmos.

I believe these things will happen without any proof or evidence on my side. At least I admit my beliefs are just that: beliefs.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Morons in Our Midst.

Note: Since this is my first blog on blogger, I wanted to create an introduction for myself for you to get an idea of my background and why I'm writing this blog. But something happened to me this week that needed to be reported immediately, so the introduction will have to wait -- probably until my second entry.

Since I'm postponing the introduction, a very brief overview of what it will be is that this blog, Religion, Superstition and Ignorance, will be about how people need to become aware of the realities of the world. Too many minds are clouded by beliefs that are false, and sometimes dangerous, when we consider that these believers constitute the voting public, our elected officials, and foreign policy makers.

Enough. On to the topic at hand.


About two weeks ago, I was working ( i.e. sitting in a small office doing nothing) with a coworker of mine on a lazy do-nothing Sunday. With nothing to do, we held chatted about small, insignificant things, like grades, classes and work. The conversation led me to mention that for a history class once, we had to read the Koran. My coworker was surprised to hear this. I started explaining what I'd read, talking about the assignment, and what I'd found. Soon, she interrupted me to ask,

"Wait... The Koran is that the," she paused, "Jewish book?"

I said nothing. I could say nothing at all. I only could give her the nastiest look, telling her, without words, "You could not be more wrong if you tried. That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard." This cold, disgusted glance was interpreted correctly, as she immediately laughed at her absurd question.

Alas, if it was the stupidest thing I'd ever heard, it was abruptly knocked into second place by what she said next, after composing herself from laughing:

"No, wait, is it" she paused, "Kwanzaa people?"

My jaw dropped. My eyes bugged wide open, and immediately sealed shut as I hoped that she was joking, or, more likely, that this was some bizarre dream, and that I would soon awake and chuckle at the absurdity of what was just said.

But no. This was real. It's almost as if Will Ferrel was there to rub it in, saying, "That just happened!"

As amused as you may be at this point, certainly I tell this story to get a few laughs, no one really should be chuckling at all. This ignorance should be completely unacceptable in our society; we are at war with people protecting an ideology that takes firm root in the Koran. If anyone cannot identify a simple fact regarding the free world's greatest enemy, what hope is there for this country?

I'm convinced that this sheer ignorance is not isolated. I think most of this nation's ignorance regarding our enemy stems from our religion: Christianity. This religion teaches us of good and evil: black and white, and nothing of gray areas, or complicated situations. Satan is evil. He is not a complicated character, just evil for no reason except that Yahweh and his people need an antagonist. He's like the villain in children's cartoons: One dimensional, uncomplicated, pure evil.

And if you believe that the evil we encounter in the real world is like this -- simple, bland, evil simply for the sake of being evil -- then let me put this kindly: don't vote. Please.

The reality is that the evil we face does not come from Satan, or some malevolent force of the supernatural. This evil comes directly from religion -- an entirely human creation -- and I think it hits closer to home than most people think. Could it be that the same human characteristic that allows someone to believe that this life is meerly a precursor to the afterlife, is the same human characteristic that allows someone to believe that they will be rewarded in the afterlife for blowing up a bus full of innocent civilians?

I think people, particularly Christians, focus on how they are different from fundamentalist Muslims. Of course, that's what they want to see. We want them to be barbaric, and one dimensional, and just evil. But look at the beliefs they hold and compare it to your beliefs. If you defend a belief that you think is the only acceptable ticket into the afterlife of preference -- heaven -- then you have something strikingly similar to these fanatics.

Let me not be misunderstood: I am not comparing a Muslim suicide bomber to a church-going family of five from Kansas. Although I believe Islam and Christianity to be more similar than people give credit, Christians and Muslims in the year 2006 practice their religions in very different ways; i.e. Christian fundamentalists are not committing acts of terrorism on behalf of their god, whereas Muslims are.

Mainstream Christianity and fundamentalist Islam (which is the mainstream) have at least one glaring similarity: the belief that theirs is the one and only truth, and that anyone who fails to accept their truth will receive their god's wrath once they die.

The differences are obvious; the similarities are clear, yet ignored, because they are uncomfortable, and challenging. We can all agree on the differences, but its time people started realizing the similarities, because they are glaring.


The second occurrence of morons in my midst happened more recently. Another uneventful Sunday at work gave me and the two other student workers that afternoon plenty of time to chat. Somehow a conversation about the upcoming Minnesota State Fair transformed into a conversation about the end of the world (don't ask me how; you know these things happen.) A coworker, not the same from the last story, started explaining his beliefs about the soon-to-come end of the world. He based his beliefs on two sources: the ancient Mayan calendar, and the alleged Bible codes.

It seemed very strange to me that he was mixing two entirely different cultures: ancient Mayan, and ancient Hebrew, with two entirely different mythologies: polytheistic vs. monotheistic being one of many major differences between the two cultures. Yet somehow made them reconcile into a single world view that agreed on a date for the end of the world. The only sources he was able to use to support his beliefs were "something [he] saw on the History Channel" and "stuff online."

He claimed that the Mayans made several predictions that have come to pass to a startling degree of accuracy. He claimed they predicted World War II, including the Holocaust, among other less specific predictions of war and natural disasters. However, when pressed with the fact that the ancient Mayans could never have had any knowledge of the existance of Jews, he backstepped and gave a more generalized overview of the holocaust, "a people will be massacred," or something along those lines. He also said the temple in Jerusalem will soon be rebuilt, a sign in Christian and Jewish mythology that the end is soon to come.

My coworker settled on the year 2013 as being the final year of existence. Although he has been (thus far) admittedly wrong in his former prediction regarding the year of the appocolypse: 2006.

I tried to get him to think critically of his beliefs. I did so to try to give him a new perspective, and consider all possible explanations of his "research," but mostly, because his beliefs are just incredibly, incredibly stupid.

Once again, part of me found this interaction amusing. I couldn't help but laugh during this conversation. But also, at one point, he mentioned that he voted for George Bush in the 2004 election. It didn't so much bother me the fact that he voted for the worst president in American history to be reelected; it bothered me that perhaps he based his vote on the notion that we all only have 7 years to live.

Frankly, this is very scary to me. A poll I read recently indicated that 44% of Americans believe that Jesus will return to earth in their lifetime, effectively ending life as we know it on earth. Doesn't it worry you that these people not only vote, but are elected to serve our country? Is this why our government is so inactive on long term problems such as global warming, a 7 trillion dollar deficit and failing social security? Because they and their constituents aren't entirely worried about the distant future?

This should be very worrisome for people like me, who hope to live past 2013.

If you believe that this world simply leads up to the real deal, afterlife where you spend eternity with god, let the rest of us make the decisions here on planet earth, because we think they actually matter. You can have you afterlife all to yourselves.

Let's all accept that this is the life that matters because its the only one we know for sure that we get, and for all we know, its the only one. And if you think that the world is ending next week, shouldn't you be on some cocaine and hooker binge right now?