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I try not to dwell on things I’ve seen the faithful do that I find abhorrent.  I do believe this is a great example that is worth sharing.  I don’t present this story as a means of saying that all religious people would act the same way.  My faith in humanity runs deep…and I believe that most people would do the right thing despite their religious views.  So, without further ado…here goes.

In August of 2003 along the turnpike in Kansas, a minivan carrying a family of six was caught in a horrible (dare I say, biblical?) flash flood near the town of Emporia. The minivan was swept away in a torrent of rain. The father, Robert Rogers, kicked through a window in their submerged vehicle. According to HIS account, the rushing water flushed him, his wife and one of the children out of van. He was able to make it to the surface and get to safety but he did absolutely nothing to save the rest of his family, including a new child who they had just adopted from China earlier that year.

Robert Rogers says he “felt the presence of God” and knew that his family was going to heaven and that things were going to be okay. All four of his children (all under age 10) and his wife of eleven years died.  Also killed in the flood was another man, Albert Larson. Eyewitnesses say Larson was outside of his vehicle trying to help others to safety when he was swept away by the flood.

These days, Rogers tours the country spreading his story as an inspirational message about the loving word of God. He profits off of this through CD sales, books and other inspirational bric-a-brac sold on his website. While they are no longer offered there, at one point you could buy water bottles emblazoned with his ministry’s logo. Forgive me if the wording is not exact, but his website referred to the bottles as symbols of the waters God used to bring his family to Him.

While I don’t assume I know how I would react in a situation like this – I like to think I would have done at least something to help my wife and children, or died trying (If you read MY PREVIOUS BLOG POST – you will see that I do have some perspective here).  You see, the difference between me and Robert Rogers is that he sees this ordeal as a success in his life. He sees it as a test God threw at him and that he passed with flying colors because he’s managed to find peace in his life. I don’t understand how anyone could consider allowing your own family to drown as anything other than abject failure. Failure of the worst possible kind. Five people are dead, three of them still strapped into their carseats, and he did nothing to try and save them. Then, to top it all off – he used it to make money.

The saddest part of this story is that no one ever publicly called Robert Rogers out on his actions (or, more appropriately, inactions) that night. He said it was God’s will and he was allowed to continue on with his life unchecked.  He was able to profit from this…and the faithful let him.  He was able to brush off his responsibility to his family and he could do so without any regrets.

I am here to say that Robert Rogers is pure evil and the type of person who makes me wish there was a hell. He put his faith in God above the lives of his family. He gets to keep on breathing and living and loving, but the five people he should hold most dear are dead because he trusted in the Lord enough to do nothing.

Robert Rogers has used his fame and profit to grow his ministry.  According to his website (www.intothedeep.org – I highly recommend going to this site), he’s opened an orphanage in Russia and plans others in other parts of the world.  This seems noble, but remember – this orphanage was built with profits made off of his failure as a parent, husband and human being. Also, orphanages set up by ministries are not there with the child’s best interest in mind. They are there to spread the word of Christ first, helping children is ancillary, a side-effect. Rest assured, if a Jewish kid sought refuge in a Christian-based orphanage – he or she would not be free to be themselves.

You may have noticed, I am using Robert Rogers’ name a lot. I want you to remember it and I want you to remember his story. If you ever see a man named Robert Rogers with slicked back hair talking about how the love of God and Christ helped him find peace with the deaths of his wife and children -  call him out on it. Let him know that he may be a hero in the eyes of the imaginary being he calls God, but to the rest of us…he’s a coward.

Five more names we should all remember; Melissa, Makenah, Zachary, Nicholas and Alenah.  These five people are dead.  They are not in heaven, they are not in hell.  They were robbed of a chance to live out their lives because of an unreasonable faith in an imaginary friend.

//jb//

Abbie the dogThis is Abbie.  She is the only living thing I’ve ever risked my life for.

In January, 2010, the family and I were walking Abbie along a path near Wichita’s Exploration Place (not far from where this picture was taken).  The Arkansas (that’s “Ar-Kan-Sas” not “Ar-Kan-Saw”) River flows right through the museum’s back yard.  It was a rather cold January, so the river was frozen about fifty feet out on either side, the river flowing unobstructed otherwise.

Along the sheet of ice sat hundreds of geese.  Abbie loves to chase geese.  I convinced my wife that it would be okay if Abbie ran out onto the ice to chase the geese. I figured she would run out along the ice, scare away the geese, probably fall in, then get out and she’d go home wet and cold – but she’d be okay.

Sadly, she only did most of this.

After scaring off the geese, Abbie jumped off the edge of the ice and into the water.  She then swam back to the edge, put her two front paws up on the ice…and just stopped…

We all rushed down to the shore and spent a few minutes trying to coerce her to pull herself up on the ice. “Come on, Abbie! You can do it!” We threw sticks to her in hopes she would try to get them. But, our efforts were futile…she simply wouldn’t budge.

I handed my phone and keys to my wife and made my way slowly out onto the ice.  I knew there was no way I could make it all the way to her, but I thought perhaps getting a little closer would help motivate her to move.

I made it about halfway to her as the ice crackled underneath my feet.  I looked down and saw a line where the current rolled underneath the shelf of ice.

Committed to going no further, I knelt and called to Abbie…who was still just sitting there staring at me.

After a few moments of this, it became apparent that what we were doing simply wasn’t going to work. At that point…Abbie started to panic.  She started howling and flailing her paws around.

All I remember about my thought process at this point was, “Well, time to go get this dog.”

The next thing I knew – I was taking that next step along the ice.  The ice gave way, sending me straight down into the freezing water.  The current underneath swept away one of my sandals (yes…I wear sandals…all the time…it’s the only advice I take from “What Would Jesus Do?”) and I found myself barefoot on the rocks with freezing water up to my chest.

Starting at this point, I can only assign logic in retrospect.  I don’t remember anything about what was going through my mind.  I know that I jumped backwards first using my elbow, wrist and back to break through the ice behind me.  I jumped up and sat on the ice to make sure it could support my weight…then slid back in the water.

I broke through around ten feet of ice to get to Abbie.  I shoved her up on the ice two or three times before it finally supported her weight.  As she ran back to get hugs from my wife and girls, I heard clapping from the crowd that had formed along the walkway nearby.   I pulled myself up on the ice and ambled back to dry land.

While most of the crowd went about their business, a boy who couldn’t have been more than 16 years old made his way down to the shore.  He was your typical emo fare…bangs that covered the side of his face, baggy black clothes, lots of bracelets and clutching a skateboard.

He said it was one of the coolest things he’d ever seen.  He went on to say that he’d called his friend who was on his way with a ladder to help.  He asked if I needed anything…

I was so cold, I could barely talk.  I remember muttering that I just needed a blanket or a towel…but I was okay and just wanted to get home.

Soaking wet, I made my way back to the car with the family and Abbie. Looking down, I noticed my arm was bleeding from my elbow all the way down to my hand.  I didn’t care…because I couldn’t feel it.

For all that she’d been through – Abbie was none the worse for wear.  After a warm shower and a few bandages…I was on the road to recovery as well.  It was at least a day or two before all the feeling came back to my hand…and the cuts went away after a week or so.

I don’t feel that I did anything extraordinary.  In fact, I think that 99% of the pet owners out there would have done the same thing. I would love to hear from others who’ve been confronted by seemingly harrowing positions and found themselves acting beyond their own expectations. Leave your stories below.

I didn’t post this story to pat myself on the back.  However, it’s important to get this experience out in the open before my next blog entry.  I feel what happened to me gives me the perspective to call out a fellow human who falls into that “upper 1%” and even managed to make a living off of his cowardice.

Stay tuned.

This is a post I’ve wanted to do for some time.  I finally decided to do it after seeing a co-worker the other day with a copy of “On the Origin of Species”.  I expressed to her that it is, in my opinion, one of the most important sets of ideas ever put to paper.

There are lots of resources out there for people who want to understand the world from a scientific point of view.  Of course, there aren’t really books on “how to be a better atheist” – because such a subject would be pointless as there are no rules to being a “good atheist”.  Also, if you have faith there is a god, reading a book or watching a video isn’t likely to change that – just as reading a book on religion won’t change my mind.

These books and videos give a good narrative on how the world actually works (from a scientific point of view).  They explain the things that were once chalked up to religion and the supernatural.  They also look at the negative impact religion has on our species and our future.

Of course, these only scratch the surface.  Feel free to post your own suggestions in the comment section…

Videos

Richard Dawkins: Growing Up in the Universe

This series of lectures from 1991 provide a fantastic look at the development of life on earth.  It answers many of the questions we are asked about evolution (Why are there still monkeys? Why does everything seem so well-designed? What about organs of irreducible complexity?).  Dawkins simplifies evolution…and makes it accessible.  As a warning, though – the videos are very “British 1991″.  In fact, in America, it may seem like it was recorded some time in the mid-eighties.  Still, the science is strong…and it’s not nearly as old as some of the stuff other people use to get answers about life on earth.

Phil Plait: Don’t Be a Dick Speech

This one is for anyone who thinks that being brash and confrontational with theists helps the atheist cause.  It doesn’t – it just pisses people off and it makes you seem arrogant.  I will probably catch flack for this, but I believe it’s important to always be the better person.  While some religious people can be very “in your face” about their views…I feel it’s better to take the high road.  Be peaceful with people of opposing viewpoints.  I may think that people who don’t agree with the concept of evolution are stupid and delusional…but telling them that isn’t going to change their mind. This doesn’t mean you can’t be passionate or open or expressive about your views…just don’t be a dick about them!  We’ve dealt with the religious being dicks about their point of view for centuries…it pisses us off.  We must be better than that…

Sam Harris: Science can answer moral questions

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I consider morality to be somewhat of an illusion.  There are no hard-fast rules…killing someone is wrong, but killing someone who poses an imminent threat to you or your loved ones is not.  Because of this sliding scale, I can’t imagine that we’ll ever fully apply science to questions of morality.  Harris’ argument is not about deciding what’s right and wrong, but more about applying what we know in science to determine what is best for humankind as a whole.

Penn & Teller: Bullshit!

Bullshit is probably the best show out there for skeptics…points are argued passionately, charlatans are called out for ripping people off, and the record is set at least somewhat straight on myths like astrology and religion and exorcisms.  If you haven’t checked it out – you can NetFlix several of the seasons.  Now, I should point out that these videos go against the “don’t be a dick” rule…

Symphony of Science

I nice diversion…it’s music created by putting the greatest scientific voices through an auto-tuner.  You get passionate music that explains the concepts of science.

Books

Probably no surprises here…these books are all well-known – I put them in my order of preference.

Also, full disclosure – I am not much of a reader, so I listened to the audio recordings of these books – when I say ‘read’ – I actually mean ‘listened to’.

Sam Harris: The End of Faith

This is my favorite among the books I’ve read about atheism.  I like his writing style.  This book looks at religion from the standpoint of reason and morality and takes a critical look at the negative impact religion has on the planet.  His followup Letter to a Christian Nation is also a great read and I anxiously await his latest book about the science of morality.

Charles Darwin: On the Origin of Species

I remember reading about this book in school and thinking that the entire book was about lizards on the Galapagos Islands.  There is so much to this book.  Not only do you get to see the very beginning of the concept of evolution, you get to see the struggle Charles Darwin had with setting what he was raised to believe aside in favor of what he observed.  There are so many times in this book where Darwin says, if XYZ were not true, this theory simply won’t work…but, here’s what I observed…and why that points directly at XYZ.  He opened the door for explaining the diversity of life on earth using logic and reason.  I see this book and the research that followed it as the beginning of the end for theism…it’s just sad that it has not come to pass as it should.

Richard Dawkins: The God Delusion

While Dawkins does look at morality and reason, The God Delusion is more from a scientific point of view.  He explains the origins of life according to Darwinian evolution and some of the evidence to support it.   He uses science to explain the things that have always been chalked up to the supernatural.  I was an atheist before I read the book, so I don’t know what sort of impact it would have if I was not.  I can say that the book made me feel more comfortable with not believing there’s a god.

Carl Sagan: Pale Blue Dot

Pale Blue Dot is a look at the future of space travel for humans.  It’s also a critical look at ourselves as a species.  Sagan’s science is intertwined with his opinions on space travel, the possibility of life elsewhere and how we go about determining our place in the universe.  I love that much of the audio book is read by Sagan himself…his voice carries the gentle passion of a man who truly believes in the human spirit.

Christopher Hitchens: God is Not Great How Religion Poisons Everything

Hitchens is among the greatest writers of our time…and it’s nice to see that he’s on our side.  He’s sharp, blunt and eloquent all at the same time.  This book is probably harshest of the books I’ve read about atheism.   He holds nothing back…and that is admirable.  I put it this far down on the list simply because I feel his writing style may be off-putting to those who are on the fence about atheism.  If you are already an atheist…perhaps this book should be closer to the top.

Stephen Hawking & Leonard Mlodinov: The Grand Design

Hawking does a top-notch job of making the latest theories of the universe easy to understand.  While it does not come right out and say that there is no god, it points out the many reasons that the system that created the universe works better without a conscience.

Michael Shermer: Why People Believe Weird Things

This book opens the door to explaining why people think the way they do. It looks at the reasons behind some of the myths that permeate our lives on a day-to-day basis – but doesn’t touch much on religion as a whole.  Weird Things is more of a manual on skepticism than atheism, but I found it to be worth the time.

The Bible

I’m up in the air on this one…many atheists like to read the bible to “know thy enemy” – but I don’t think that referencing the bible goes very far in arguing our case.  You will not see the bible the way theists see the bible.  The bible is low-hanging (forbidden) fruit…pointing out that the stuff in the bible is just plain silly (it is) is insulting and embarrassing to those who hold the bible dear.  While those who follow science welcome questioning inconsistencies, theists do not.  Besides, there are so many iterations of the bible…are you going to study them all? How about the Qu’ran? There are too many religious texts out there…bogging your mind down with what’s in them uses up valuable brain space that could be used for facts…

In lieu of reading the actual bible…I recommend instead reading:

C.J. Werleman: God Hates You, Hate Him Back (no audio book…gotta do this one the old-fashioned way)

In this book, Werleman takes a humorous, yet scathing look through the bible.  The entire bible isn’t there…but enough of it is.  It’s sort of like reading the bible with the guys from MST3K sitting next to you.  Theists will say that the book just picks and chooses what it wants to portray from the bible without telling the “whole story” – to that I say…tough shit.  Most theists simply pick and choose the parts of the bible they want to follow…so…why can’t we? :-)  The book isn’t perfect…my copy is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors which hopefully will be fixed in future editions.

————-

Again, this is by no means supposed to be a complete list…just a look at some of my favorite things I’ve read and watched that have made me more comfortable and confident in my beliefs.  Feel free to leave your suggestions below.

//jb//

So, I’ve been away for the past week or so.  Doing freelance video work for the Kansas State Fair.  It’s a busy week, but I get to work with some great guys, see some great (and some shitty) shows and make great money.  I don’t have anything prepared really – but I thought I’d get on here and post some random junk…

The Pope in England: I cannot believe people still care what this man has to say.  Now, he wants atheists to apologize for Hitler?  I won’t go to much into detail with Hitler, but I will say that his issues went far deeper than religion.

Hitler’s name and deeds have been thrown around so much that they’ve essentially lost all meaning.  How many times have you heard, “Man, our waiter is like the ketchup-nazi.”  “Oh, you mean that our waiter is going to order the slaughter of millions…over the ketchup?”

Not to defend Hitler, but at least his evil was out in the open. The Pope should pay closer attention to his own evils (and the evils of his own organization)…and quit blaming atheists for the world’s woes.

Hawking on Larry King Live: I finally got around to watching Stephen Hawking on Larry King Live…I thought he was brilliant and blunt (if you have not watched it yet, head over to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AdKEHzmqxA and check it out).  He’s usually brilliant, but not often blunt.  He didn’t go into great detail about what his new book was about, just that the scientific account is complete and that theology was unnecessary.  He was so blunt that at the end of the interview, I almost expected him to throw down the microphone and yell, “Hawking Out, Bitches!”

The panel after this interview left a little to be desired.  I felt Leonard Mlodinov did a good job of explaining how the universe may have come about…but I’m aggravated that he dodged the “Are you atheists?” question…  “Yeah, we’re saying that there’s no reason to believe there’s a Creator. But, we aren’t willing to attach the word ‘Atheist’ to that.”

Father Robert Spitzer talked a lot about why he felt there was a creator, but he mentioned nothing (nada, zilch) about the God of the bible. The one with the rules and the punishment and the Adam and Eve and the Jesus…just, “There’s probably a God.”  He did nothing to back up the bible…

Deepak Chopra…does anyone give a shit what this guy says?  Really…

Also, I listened to “The Grand Design” audiobook once…and am going to do it again.

My Dad: I am noticing more of my dad in my mannerisms as I get older.  This is a good thing.

Pray for Them: Lots of people say “Pray for our Troops fighting overseas” without the slightest inkling that that’s the whole reason they’re in that mess.  I Support our Troops even if I don’t always support their mission.

Theist Coworker: A coworker (who is Mormon) asked me what religion I am, I responded that I have no religion…and that she would be unlikely to meet anyone less religious than me.  She asked if I was against religion.  Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to answer this properly, I simply said, “Yes and No…I’ve no problem with people using the concept of God to guide their own lives…I am against it when they use the concept of God to guide others’ lives.”

Country Music Idiot: While working at the fair this year, one of the country music performers (let’s call him “Blake S.”…no, that’s too easy…let’s go with “B. Shelton”) said to the crowd, “One of the things I love about Kansas is that everybody gets to be themselves…and you can be as redneck as you want…and no one will judge you” then continued (paraphrasing, but not exaggerating) “But not them people who wear their pants below their ass…man, why do they do that…it just looks STOO-PID!!!  Next time you see one of them, tell ‘em to pull their pants up over their asses!”

Implied racism aside (I know, white guys do it, too…), how narrow-minded do you have to be to say that everyone gets to be themselves in one sentence…then dog on people for how they dress in the next?

Activia commercials: Erectile Dysfunction, hemorrhoids, laxatives, that “not-so-fresh-feeling”, and “clean your balls.”  Over the years, companies have bombarded us with TV commercials that deal with very private issues.  We see ads all the time for private products that people purchase for private use…and they’ve never bothered me.  But, I find Activia commercials hard to stomach.  Why? Activia’s sole purpose is to help women who have trouble shitting.  Sure, the ads tout variety and flavor…but the underlying message…eat Activia and you’ll be shitting better in two weeks.  Jamie Lee Curtis is shitting better thanks to Activia…and YOU can TOO!

The problem is that Activia really isn’t a “private” product.  It’s something you keep in your refrigerator.  Have any of you seen Activia in someone else’s fridge? I have…at my mother-in-law’s house.   All I could think of is, “My wife’s mother doesn’t shit right” (shudder).  Not only that…I want to ask her, “Sooooo, are you shitting better?”

Gross.

//jb//

Update: Oh, and then he decided not to do it. :-) God apparently changed his mind…

————

So, there’s this guy in Florida who’s organizing an “International Burn the Quran Day” on September 11th and all I can think about is…WHY?!  What purpose does burning this book serve?

CBS News: Burn the Quran Day

I feel like I’m in a glass house casting this stone…after all, I did proudly participate in “Draw Muhammad Day” – in fact, you’ll see my rather saccharine contribution here. It’s a simple pencil sketch on a Post-It note – took me all of 16 seconds.

Is burning the Quran worse than drawing Muhammad? I think so…and here’s why…

Draw Muhammad Day, at least for me, was about pointing out how silly some of the practices of the Muslim faith are.  It was a way of saying “Look, I drew Muhammad and I didn’t get struck by lightning.”  I admit, I am well aware that the simple act of putting pencil to paper with the intent of drawing Muhammad was offensive to Muslims.  I also eat pork products nearly every day which, according to the Quran, is also offensive.

Besides, I am not part of the Muslim faith.  As such, I am not bound by their rules.  Just like I am not obligated to wear a uniform or salute military officers because I am not a member of the military (I was, but not now).

Burning the Quran only serves to agitate people of the Muslim faith. Burning the Quran draws attention to hate for their faith and hate is never the right path toward peace.

Besides, why do this on September 11th? Okay, I know the answer to that one…but hasn’t this date been marred by enough hate?  It’s almost like the people who organized this monstrosity of an event want to dwell on the hate and contempt of the attacks. You win a battle by being the better person…and the better person is always the one with less hate towards others.

You probably noticed, I’m not referring to these Quran-burning goons as Christians.  I’ve read enough about this event to know that most sensible Christians (oxymoron?) do not support it. I also won’t refer to the organizer, or his church by name - I feel they have gotten enough attention.

“International Burn the Quran Day” is a publicity stunt for maniacs.  The sad thing is that it will serve that purpose well.  It’s certainly getting attention. I’m writing about it, you’re reading about it and when it happens, you can be certain that TV cameras rolling.  When those clips air in Muslim areas of the world – they will be representative of ALL OF US!  Just like the actions of the 9/11 terrorists were unfairly representative of all Muslims.

I feel the best way to commemorate those who died in the attacks is to do what they were doing when they died…just living their lives.  We aren’t going to forget what happened to them…but spreading hate toward an entire faith because of the actions of a few is at the apex of hypocrisy and the nadir of compassion and tolerance.

I think September 11th should just be “International Go About Your Business Day” – I know I’ll be participating.  How about you?

//jb//

(A)typical Atheist is now a proud member of The Atheist Blogroll. You can see the blogroll in my sidebar. The Atheist blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to Atheist bloggers from around the world. If you would like to join, visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information.

This is the face of leukemia.  His name is Adam Darski, but goes by the stage name “Nergal”.  He is the frontman for a Polish death metal band called “Behemoth” and he’s been committed to his craft since he was a teenager (he’s 33 now). 

I have enjoyed metal music since I was a teenager (I’m 36 now)…and while the type of metal Behemoth produces is not normally my cup of tea because it comes off as just plain cheesy, I feel Nergal and Behemoth have managed to pull off this type of imagery in the most incredible fashion possible. 

I don’t expect you to know their music, but you can probably gather from the image that they are against religion in all its forms. In fact, Darski was arrested and jailed for tearing up a bible on stage…those charges were just recently dropped.  It is important to know that he is an outspoken opponent of religion – and while he may look the part here, he is not among the “crazy satanic metalheads” that burn down churches, etc. 

For purposes here, you should know that Darski is easily among the hardest working people in the music industry…period. 

However, you don’t need to know or appreciate their music to understand what he is going through right now.  He was recently diagnosed with leukemia. The disease has progressed far enough that doctors don’t believe traditional treatments will be enough.  He needs a bone marrow transplant…and fast.  His plight has increased awareness (on a small scale) of the need for people to be on the bone marrow registry. I am a donor recipient myself (not marrow, cornea…but that is a story for another day) and understand the importance of becoming a donor.  (Also, I’d like to point out – there is nothing in the bible about medical treatments…)

The saddest part of this situation is that his diagnosis also sparked what can only be described as a ridiculous debate over religion.  Message boards lit up with nonsense from religious opportunists about how he is going to see the error of his ways in denouncing god…and convert to Christianity.  This is the same nonsense that came up with Christopher Hitchens when he was diagnosed with cancer.

Originally, I was not going to blog about this because I didn’t feel I could write anything that would show the respect this situation deserves.  However, Nergal took it upon himself to address the asinine notions that his cancer has caused or will cause him to change his mind on religion.  I’ve posted his comments below, I omitted the second paragraph because it was merely about the things his band still has to offer while he fights this disease… (keep in mind that he is Polish…and English is a second language.)

“I haven’t intended to manifest myself in any way and, especially at this stage, to share my feelings or any other news with the world for obvious reasons. It is simply too early for it. But it was YOU who provoked me to say a few words. Regarding my personal low opinion of humankind, I’m shocked by the reaction to my illness. I actually expected NOTHING yet received feedback which surpassed all expectations. I want to ensure you I read EACH mail I receive, although I’m unable to reply to all of them. The power of your words is pure magic and I thank you all for it. You are a gigantic indestructible army that truly inspires me in this difficult time. The fact is that a fight with this illness is going to last for many months. Most of this time I will spend in hospital and I will go through various psychophysical states. If you know the history of Behemoth you also know we achieved everything by hard work and a steely determination. The same goes for my private life. I happen to be a strong son of a bitch. I have no faith but rely on a 100% victory and I am sure I will get out of it stronger than ever. Sun Tzu in his ‘Art of War’ said that if you know your enemy and yourself the result of a thousand battles will not surprise you… I enter the ring with this Nietzschean attitude and I will leave it as a winner, as usual. Just watch and see.

Finally, I want to comment on some opinions which, provoked by religious circles, lead to far-fetched and inaccurate interpretations. I was surprised to hear my illness became a pretext for some people to embark on their own crusade. Opinions suggesting I might come closer to God or abandon my ideals and grovel to the only correct world view in this country not only surprised but also frightened me. This is a typical example of supporting one’s own views by preying on someone’s misfortune. ‘He fell ill so he will convert to Christianity, he will discover the religion he fought against is actually close to him.’ Halt! Why should the illness change my point of view? It is true this is a difficult time for me and the thoughts of ultimate matters are hard to chase away. But the idea that I will change my opinions, priorities, and values as a consequence of my illness sounds as if someone regards my head, and not my body, ill. Suggesting I might convert are ridiculous. To what would I convert? After all, I know Christian mythology pretty well, not only in its literary version, and I find nothing good, creative or beautiful in it. I read books better and wiser than the Bible. War, blood, blackmail, rapes, incest, pedophilia, zoophilia, collaboration and treachery – each page emanates with evil. Some may say I don’t understand the message of the Bible. I’d rather say the Christianity is nothing more than a rusty and archaic structure that is going to fall down any moment. It lasts only because of the gullible that follow the shepherd blindly; without any questions, without any consideration, not to any promised land, but to an intellectual slaughter. So, I say to those, who see some chances to break my rules, and myself because of the illness: over my dead body!”

What’s worse is those who actually think that leukemia is some sort of punishment for his lack of belief.  To suggest cancer is punishment against Nergal is to suggest that god is punishing everyone who gets it…this nauseating, narrow-minded concept goes against humanity in ways I can’t even put into words.

Every single one of us knows someone who’s been stricken with cancer.  I work with three people who’ve fallen ill to cancer in recent years. Two have beaten it…the other continues to fight.  I dated a girl in high school who was a childhood leukemia survivor (and staunch Christian who was worried about my soul because I listened to metal music…but we won’t hold that against her here, sorry Cyndi).  

Adam’s chance at surviving this disease rests within him and within the medical community.  Not with belief in god and miracles.  Adam may or may not make it…I hope (Yes, Atheists can hope) his strength coupled with modern medicine will allow him to make a full recovery. 

I know he still has much to offer…even if his music or his believes aren’t your cup of tea. 

//jb//

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Fans wanting to help out, register for the marrow program, or have questions on running a marrow drive may contact the organization Music Saves Lives by email at iCare@musicsaveslives.com or visit Music Saves Lives at http://www.musicsaveslives.org/

When I started this blog, I decided that I wasn’t going to harp on the bible.  I realize that people hold this book very dear, and it is not my style to disparage something that people hold so dearly.  This post will be an exception to that…but there are things that just need to be said. 

I have to admit – I didn’t grow up reading the bible.  I knew many of the stories - Adam & Eve, Noah’s Ark, Jesus – you know, stuff like that.  However, I was well into my teens before I realized that grown-ups actually took it seriously.  I mean, sure, we celebrated Christmas and Easter – but never really as religious holidays.  They were times to get together as a family and enjoy ourselves. 

I read the bible as an adult – and I have to say that it baffles me just how much people take it seriously.  Not only to the stories defy logic, they’re an affront to human nature.  There is no progress in the bible…

Today, I’m going to spend some time writing about the many ways people try to explain the things in the bible…

Allegory:
Many try to say that what’s written in the bible is “allegory” and should not be taken literally – but there is nothing in the bible that would suggest that the contents within should be considered less than the literal word of god. God created the universe and everything in it, then gave a vague set of rules for its residents to abide – and horrible punishment for those who don’t.
 
The problem with the allegory argument is that it gives believers breathing room for their faith. They can use what’s in the bible to justify nearly any point of view. “The bible says that women who are disrespectful to their husbands should be stoned to death, but I see that more as god saying that people should be nice to each other.”  This clearly makes no sense. Of course, most Christians won’t bring this up because they don’t realize just how bluntly the bible says that women who disrespect their husbands should be stoned to death. Why don’t they realize this? Because they haven’t actually read it.
 
Some even use the allegory argument to support evolution as something that god had a hand in. “The bible says the world was created in six days, but we don’t know how long a day is to God…we can’t assume that a day for god is 24 hours like it is for us.”  A day is the time it takes for our earth to make one revolution…24 hours (give or take a fraction of a second here and there). There is no reason to believe that “built the universe in six days” means anything more than six 24-hour periods. Besides, according to the legend – while god created light and coined the terms day and night on the first day…the sun and the moon (the two great lights in the sky) were not created until the fourth day.  For all intents and purposes, the sun is the source of all natural light on earth. So, without the sun – there is no light. I think you see where I’m going with this, so I’ll leave the completion of this idea to you. From a practical and temporal point of view, Genesis makes no sense. Take that one step further, it would make no sense for god to have created days…then use a different, arbitrary time scale and call it a day.
 
Times Have Changed:
Another feeble argument is “times have changed”. I’ve heard from people who say that some of the more stringent portions of the bible no longer apply in the modern world. This implies that there was a time when stoning a woman to death for disobeying her husband was appropriate. Seriously?  Should this even be up for discussion. Trite sarcasm and “every 28 days” jokes aside – name one situation, or series of situations where stoning a woman to death because she disobeyed her husband (or any reason) would be appropriate?  “You shall not murder.”  (Exodus 20:13) – Murder is the taking of a human life by another human…if you stone a woman to death, you shall murder her.
 
Old Testament Argument:
This brings me to another argument, the “old testament” argument.  When I asked a recently divorced Christian friend of mine why his ex-wife (also a devout Christian) was not brought out into the street and stoned to death as commanded by god, his response was…that’s the Old Testament. I will go back to my previous argument of “What kind of world is better off abiding by rules that involve stoning non-subservient women to death!?”
 
Also, if you would read the New Testament, you will find many passages clearly stating that it does not cancel out nor does it replace the Old Testament. There are too many passages where even Jesus subscribes to the Old Testament teachings to mention here…so, I’ll just post one…
 
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.  I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest part or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” ~ (Matthew 5:17 NAB)
 
The Old Testament is a disgusting piece of literature. It is filled with hate, greed, vengeance and death.  Jesus was all for it…and that’s all I have to say about that.
 
Mysterious Ways Argument: 
The last argument I want to touch on is one that is a little more difficult to dispute, not because it makes more sense…but because it needs no explanation at all. I call it the “Mysterious Ways” argument.
 
The basis of the argument is this: Because god is of unimaginable intelligence and complexity, it is futile for us to try to figure out exactly what his intentions and abilities are. God does things because it is part of a plan that we cannot even begin to comprehend. “Mysterious Ways” is the last Bastian of hope for the faithful to cling to. If someone defaults to the “Mysterious Ways” argument, it simply means the only reason a person believes in god is because they want to believe in god. Wanting to believe in god defeats the purpose of faith.
 
Atheists are not without faith…we just put our faith in things we can actually trust. Things like truth and logic.
 
If I am holding onto a ball, and I let go – I have faith that the ball will travel downward with the force of gravity until it reaches the next available solid surface (usually the ground, perhaps a table or my foot) where it will either land or bounce successively until it stops or something else introduces energy to it. This is not something I want to believe, but I do. More importantly, this scenario is not dependent on my faith. It will happen even if I believe the ball will fall halfway to the next surface and stay suspended in mid-air.  I could have total faith that the ball will go upwards against the pull of gravity when I let go of the ball, but it will still fall downward. I could gather my friends, family, co-workers…and every single person on the planet at the same time to have faith that the ball will fall upwards against the force of gravity and it will still fall downward.
 
Again, wanting to believe something defeats the purpose of faith. 
 
//jb//

The human body, as with any living organism, is a near-infinitely complex device. While this fact is often used as faux-evidence of a designer, I see it as the opposite.

Take a watch or a television or any other man-made device. These items are complex. They have a number of parts working inside of them and each part has its own purpose. The gears inside a watch are designed by man to serve a purpose and to work with each other toward a common, pre-determined goal – to tell the time. Each of these parts was designed using the limited intelligence and resources within the human mind and the natural world respectively.

We are also made up of trillions of simple parts (many of these parts are individual life forms ~ “Within us is a little universe.” – Carl Sagan) working together toward the common goal of keeping the body alive and passing along our genetic information.  But, there is such complexity even in those simple parts that it seems almost wasteful. If life were designed by a being of infinite wisdom, there would be no limit to the intelligence or resources available to him/her – therefore, there would be no reason for a living organism to be so complex.

I am aware that theist readers will see this way of thinking flawed. The argument will be that we only appear complex because of our limited intelligence.  To you, a supreme intelligence would see us – and all of life – as simple. Still, look at things from the point of view of a designer with an infinite canvas. You decide you want to make a creature in your own image…a human being. What would stop you from simply making a being that exists and functions despite its surroundings?  Why does this being need to have a circulatory system? Why does this being need to ingest food? Why is it that this being needs a stomach? Why is it that this being must ingest food that can be broken down by the stomach and intestines and converted into energy? Carry this argument a few questions further and you begin to look at how unnecessarily complex life is.

An argument I hear many times about justification for the existence of a supreme being is that everything works too well together…too perfectly…to have come about by chance.  But, it is this very perfection* that is evidence of the chance that developed it. Oxygen wasn’t put here to help sustain animals with lungs. It occurred naturally…through natural means…and animals evolved to take advantage of it. Everything works together because everything has evolved at the same time to take exploit and take advantage of the resources available. Those resources changed over the millenia…this is part of the balance that makes the world so beautiful.

*I am using the term ‘perfection’ very loosely here. ‘Perfection’ in the natural world is an illusion created by its fantastic symbiosis.

//jb//

I got into a discussion a few posts back where a commenter (who operates the “Unworthy, Yet Redeemed” blog here: http://sabepashubbo.wordpress.com/) and I were both using what we referred to as “logic”.  I thought it would be appropriate to define logic, at least as I see it.

Logic and science must minimize subjectivity.  Of course, logic does differ from person to person and can, in a sense, be inherently subjective.  Logic is also open to a certain level of variance depending on circumstances and/or viewpoints. 

Take the Tyrannosaurus Rex, for example.   

When the T. Rex was first discovered, logic (based upon the size of the bones and teeth along with the intentions of the scientist) dictated that T. Rex stood upright and was a hunter whose massive jaws made up for his small arms. 

This is logical and it makes sense – in fact, I would hazard that most people learned about this in grade school.  

However, it is also safe to say that the logic was at least partially influenced by the initial preconception that the dinosaur was enormous with huge teeth and should therefore be considered a predator.  Evidence is then skewed to fit this preconception. In some cases, the result is correct.  In this case, it may not be.

Scientists today now apply a different type of logic, saying that T. Rex’s bone structure points to more of a hunched over stance.  Under the new logic, the T. Rex was likely a scavenger – like a vulture – unable to run the distances needed to tire out or catch up with prey. 

Again, both lines of logic are sound…and both have copious arguments to back them up.  But, which one should the scientific community embrace? 

We will likely never know exactly which of these is absolutely correct because we can never go back and see what they do.  Of course, it’s possible that neither is true…that the T. Rex stood and acted in a manner that was against the scant information we can gain from mere fossils. 

My take on this? We should look at the most objectively logical take on the subject. This would be the second scenario.  The first logical stream is, at least in my opinion, subjected to the discoverer’s “jump to conclusion” (big dinosaur + big teeth = bad-ass dinosaur)…this preconception may have tainted the logic used when constructing the initial hypothesis. (ie: logic was twisted to fit the notion that this dinosaur was a bad-ass).

The second logical stream is not as subjective, because the researchers were not out to disprove the initial conception – they simply thought the evidence warranted review.  In reviewing the evidence for what it was, they were able to formulate the second hypothesis about the way the T. Rex conducted itself. 

The more objective the approach, the more credence the logic should be granted.  The T. Rex idea also conveys another great point about the beauty of science.  The scientific body of knowledge is constantly growing and changing.  Every experiment changes at least something that we know about the world.  Science is critical of itself in a way that religion will never be. Science is the never-ending pursuit of truth, while religion is in constant defiance of it.

The blogger took exception to my concept of logic and the scientific method because I believe science should dismiss outright any possibility of a divine being.  This is not entirely true. I would be open to any objective proof that there is a God or any sort of divine consciousness, but there simply isn’t any.   The only reason to consider the idea of a divine being is because we were taught that one exists (most of us were not taught that one “might” exist).  God is a preconception – and injecting any preconception into a hypothesis goes against scientific method. 

//jb//

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