Tag Archive: reason


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//

An Atheist Among Us…

Part of my goal for this blog is to provide people a look inside the life of an atheist.  After all, it’s not all hedonism and baby-eating. In fact, it’s actually quite lonely sometimes.  We must constantly dodge misconceptions and are often labeled as offensive because we do not subscribe to something that would not exist if we did not believe it. 

Whenever I tell someone I’m an atheist, the response is almost universal – “Surely you believe there’s something out there.” Actually, no. I do not believe in anything I cannot experience with my senses or understand using logic and reasoning. Nothing…I believe in science and the scientific method.  If you cannot objectively prove something is true, then it is almost certainly false.

I’m often asked, “Why are you an atheist?” – to which I immediately reply, “Why are you a Christian?” This catches many people off guard. It catches them off guard because no one has ever asked them that before, more importantly – they’ve never asked THEMSELVES.  What follows is usually a facile, shallow conglomeration of words involving soul-saving, sin, forgiveness, Jesus’ love, morality, etc. These explanations are arrogant and insulting to human intelligence, understanding and compassion.

The answer is never what it should be: “I am a Christian because my parents are Christians.” Nearly every Christian today is a Christian because their parents are. Same goes for almost every faith on the planet.

This is my favorite question because I know why I feel and think and believe the way I do.

I was brought up by Catholic parents, but I wasn’t brought up Catholic.  I did not go to Catholic school, I wasn’t forced to go to church on Sundays, in fact, my parents didn’t force any religion on me at all.  I’m certain sure atheism was not their desired effect, however – I believe NOT forcing religion on me allowed me to expand my ability to think and reason.

I believe it is important to see the world for what it is. A wonderful place to live – not designed for us, but designed through an incredible series of events that have been going on for billions years. Our planet has been the stage for a ballet of chance and selection since shortly after it formed. Organic materials formed and evolved, changing the world and changing right along with it. This ballet of life is the reason everything fits together so nicely.

This world is not made for us…it’s made BY us (all life…not just human beings)…and we are made by it. The universe and life were around for billions of years before human intelligence came around to experience it.

We should do our best in the name of progress to understand and appreciate the world around us and stop wasting time believing in things that simply aren’t there.  Any moment spent preparing for the afterlife is a moment that could be spent enjoying what’s actually here.

//jb//

Welcome to (A)typical Atheist…thanks for stopping by…blah, blah blah…

Here’s what I hope to accomplish with the musings I post here.  It would be nice to say that my number one goal is to piss off those who hold religion close to their heart…because there is a good chance it will do that.  But, my number one goal is actually to just get people to thinkThink about the full impact that religion has had on our planet.

If just one person who believes there is a god reads this and thinks, “what if?” I will consider this a successful endeavor.

Over the past few months, I’ve written down my thoughts…and I feel it’s time to share them with you…and see where it leads.

I went through several different titles before landing on (A)typical Atheist – probably enough for an entire post (okay, probably not).  I feel it is important for people to know that I am just a normal guy.  I have a normal job, I’m married with children, and if you were to meet me – it may take you a while to realize where I stand on religion. I feel this is quite typical of atheists – there are more of us than most people think.

I’ve read my fair share of atheist blogs – they all have their own personality and flair. They also seem to be a magnet for Christians who want to convert everyone to their line of thinking.  I have no intentions of censoring anyone.  But I do have a bit of a warning for Christians who think that posting here will convince me to change my tune about religion…better Christians than you have tried…and better Christians than you have failed.

I look forward to sharing some of my godlessness with you.

Thanks…jb