Saturday, February 17, 2007

Carl Sagan - on Science and Religion

This is one of the reasons that the organized religions do not inspire me with confidence. Which leaders of the major faiths acknowledge that their beliefs might be incomplete or erroneous and establish institutes to uncover possible doctrinal deficiencies? Beyond the test of everyday living, who is systematically testing the circumstances in which traditional religious teachings may no longer apply? (It is certainly conceivable that doctrines and ethics that may have worked fairly well in patriarchal or patristic or medieval times might be thoroughly invalid in the very different world we inhabit today.) What sermons even-handedly examine the God hypothesis? What rewards are religious skeptics given by the established religions —or, for that matter, social and economic skeptics by the society in which they swim?

Science, Ann Druyan notes, is forever whispering in our ears, "Remember, you're very new at this. You might be mistaken. You've been wrong before." Despite all the talk of humility, show me something comparable in religion. Scripture is said to be divinely inspired —a phrase with many meanings. But what if it's simply made up by fallible humans? Miracles are attested, but what if they're instead some mix of charlatanry, unfamiliar states of consciousness, misapprehensions of natural phenomena, and mental illness? No contemporary religion and no New Age belief seems to me to take sufficient account of the grandeur, magnificence, subtlety and intricacy of the Universe revealed by science. The fact that so little of the findings of modern science is prefigured in Scripture to my mind casts further doubt on its divine inspiration.

But of course I might be wrong.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Religion is what?!

Religion is like underwear.
It supports you; it comforts you - when it's worn on the inside.
When its worn on the outside it's bad manners...
When it's worn over your head, you just look stupid.

(taken from discussion forum)

Why Not Believe? Reasons Why Atheists Don't Believe in Gods

Why Not Believe? Reasons Why Atheists Don't Believe in Gods
From Austin Cline,Your Guide to Agnosticism / Atheism.

Multiple Gods and Religious Traditions:
It is difficult to credit any one religion as being True or any onegod as being True when there have been so many throughout humanhistory. None appears to have any greater claim to being more credibleor reliable than any other. Why Christianity and not Judaism? WhyIslam and not Hinduism? Why monotheism and not polytheism? Everyposition has had its defenders, all as ardent as those in othertraditions. They can't all be right, but they can all be wrong.

Contradictory Characteristics in Gods:
Theists often claim that their gods are perfect beings; they describegods, however, in contradictory and incoherent ways. Numerouscharacteristics are attributed to their gods, some of which areimpossible and some combinations of which are impossible. Asdescribed, it's unlikely or impossible for these gods to exist. Thisdoesn't mean that no god could possibly exist, just that the onestheists claim to believe in don't.

Religion is Self-Contradictory:
No religion is perfectly consistent when it comes to doctrines, ideas,and history. Every ideology, philosophy, and cultural tradition hasinconsistencies and contradictions, so this shouldn't be surprising —but other ideologies and traditions aren't alleged to be divinelycreated or divinely sanctioned systems for following the wishes of agod. The state of religion in the world today is more consistent withthe premise that they are man-made institutions.

Gods Are Too Similar to Believers:
A few cultures, like ancient Greece, have postulated gods which appearto be as natural as human beings, but in general gods aresupernatural. This means that they are fundamentally different fromhuman beings or anything on earth. Despite this, however, theistsconsistently describe their gods in ways that make the supernaturalappear almost mundane. Gods share so many characteristics with humansthat it has been argued that gods were made in the image of man.

Gods Just Don't Matter:
Theism means believing in the existence of at least one god, not thatone necessarily cares much about any gods. In practice, though,theists typically place a great deal of importance on their god andinsist that it and what it wants are the most important things aperson can be concerned with. Depending upon the nature of a god,however, this isn't necessarily true. It's not obvious that theexistence or desires of gods should matter to us.

Gods and Believers Behave Immorally:
In most religions, gods are supposed to be the source of all morality.For most believers, their religion represents an institution forpromoting perfect morality. In reality, though, religions are responsible for widespread immorality and gods have characteristics or histories which make them worse than the most vile human serial killer. No one would tolerate such behavior on the part of a person,but when with a god it all becomes laudable — even an example to follow.

Evil in the World:
Closely associated with taking action that should be consideredimmoral is the fact that there is so much evil in the world today. Ifthere are any gods, why don't they act to eliminate it? The absence ofsubstantive action against evil would be consistent with the existenceof evil or at least indifferent gods, which is not impossible, but fewpeople believe in such gods. Most claim that their gods are loving andpowerful; the suffering on Earth makes their existence implausible.

Faith is Unreliable:
A common characteristic of both theism and religion is their relianceon faith: belief in the existence of god and in the truth of religiousdoctrines is neither founded upon nor defended by logic, reason,evidence, or science. Instead, people are supposed to have faith — aposition they wouldn't consciously adopt with just about any otherissue. Faith, though, is an unreliable guide to reality or means foracquiring knowledge.

Life is Material, not Supernatural:
Most religions say that life is much more than the flesh and matter wesee around us. In addition, there is supposed to be some sort ofspiritual or supernatural realm behind it all and that our "trueselves" is spiritual, not material. All evidence, though, points tolife being a purely natural phenomenon. All evidence indicates thatwho we really are — our selves — is material and dependent upon theworkings of the brain. If this is so, religious and theistic doctrinesare wrong.

There is No Good Reason to Bother Believing:
Perhaps the most basic reason for not believing in any gods is theabsence of good reasons for doing so. The above are decent reasons fornot believing and for questioning — and eventually leaving — whatevertheistic and religious beliefs a person might have had in the past.

Once a person gets beyond the bias in favor of belief, though, theymay realize something critical: the burden of support lies with thoseclaiming that belief is rational and/or necessary. Believers fail tomeet this burden, though, and thus fail to provide good reasons toaccept their claims. As a consequence, those who don't already believeand/or who are not biased in favor of belief aren't given a reason tostart.

Since the burden of support lies first and foremost with those makingthe positive the claim — the theistic, religious believers —non-believers don't need reasons not to believe. They may help, butthey aren't particularly necessary. Instead, what is required arereasons to believe.

The question "Why don't you believe?" is a request for justificationfrom the nonbeliever; the response "I haven't seen any good reason tobother believing" returns the need for justification back where itbelongs: with the believer. Too often, believers fail to realize thattheir position is the one needing defense and this may help themunderstand that.

Theists should think of a god they don't believe in and ask why theydon't believe in it. Some may answer that their religion teaches themnot to. Others, however, will respond in a way similar to the above —they have no reason to bother and/or they have good reasons to thinkthat that god does not or cannot exist.

Well, atheists don't believe for the same sorts of reasons — they justdon't make an exception for the theist's god. Theists and atheistsaren't always so far apart; more important is the methodology used toarrive at those conclusions. Why does the theist disbelieve in allother gods except for the one or few in their belief system?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I am the way!

The exchanges of blow among Christian denomination are nothing but family quarrel among bigots.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Some Evidence That Matthew Copied from Mark

Some Evidence That Matthew Copied from Mark
(an excerpt from Dr J. Long)

Scholars unanimously agree that Mark is the most primitive of the four canon Gospels. Its details are relatively less developed, consequently making this biography of Jesus very brief. Interestingly, Jesus’ primary biographer was obviously a distant Roman who never knew him.

In fact, the original version of Mark doesn’t even contain Jesus’ appearance following his crucifixion (16:9-19)! This concession is made in the NIV but left out of the KJV. Even though the author was from Rome, he provided enough minor details to have a fair understanding of his subject. Why, then, would he leave out the indispensable element of the world’s most important story unless he lived during a period without a resurrection rumor?

Since about 80% of the verses in Mark appear verbatim in Matthew, we can seemingly tell that the author of Matthew used Mark as a template when writing his own account. However, he alters many of Mark’s details and adds several stories presumably unknown to its author.

The Gospel of Matthew most certainly had a Jewish writer since he strives to correct many of the mistakes arising from Mark’s ignorance of local knowledge. Since we have no clear evidence that the author of Matthew was one of Jesus’ disciples, we can’t rule out the likely possibility of its author simply plagiarizing the Mark account in order to make it more acceptable to residents of the Middle East.

It’s far too coincidental for the writings to match so well in some passages and contradict in others for there not to have been some minor transcribing taking place. Thus, we’ll analyze the contrasting details of the two accounts in order to exemplify the unreliability of the latest God-inspired product.
  • Mark (1:2) makes an incorrect reference to Hebrew scripture by quoting Malachi 3:1 as being the work of Isaiah. The KJV does not contain this error, although biblical translations concerned more with honesty and accuracy than advancing inerrancy leave the misattribution in the text. Needless to say, the more knowledgeable Matthew author doesn’t repeat Mark’s mistake.

  • Mark also claims that only God can forgive the sin of another (2:7), but that’s a direct contrast to actual Jewish beliefs, which hold that other men can forgive sins as well. Again, Matthew drops this statement from the record (9:3).

  • Mark mentions the region of Gadarenes being near a large body of water, but it’s about thirty miles from even a sizable lake (5:1). The Matthew author, realizing that Mark knows next to nothing about local geography, changes Gadarenes to Gergesenes, which is only a few miles from a lake (8:28 ).

  • Mark mentions multiple “rulers of the synagogue” even though almost all synagogues only had a single leader (5:22). The Matthew author corrected this phrase so that the reader could ambiguously interpret it as having only one ruler (9:18 ).

  • Mark records Jesus ridiculing the ancient food laws set by God and Moses (7:18-19), but the author of Matthew, being a Jew, no doubt considered this to be sacrilegious and dropped the passage from his account (15:18-20).

  • Mark also has Jesus misquoting one of the commandments as refraining from defrauding others (10:19). Meanwhile, Matthew strictly adheres to the exact commandments of Moses by omitting this curious deception rule but including the “love one another’’ summary commandment (19:18-19).

  • The author of Mark strangely refers to David as “our father” (11:10). This is something no Jew would ever do because all Jews weren’t descendents of David. Seeing as how Abraham and Jacob would be the only individuals referred to in this manner, the desire for accuracy forces the Matthew author to correct another one of Mark’s blunders (21:9).

  • Mark also gets the traditional date for killing the Passover incorrect (14:12), but the Matthew author settles the mistake by omitting the phrase from his own work (26:17).

  • The very next verse in Mark has Jesus ordering two of his disciples to locate a man bearing a pitcher of water (14:13). In Jewish culture, carrying pitchers of water was the work of a woman. Naturally, Matthew must drop this phrase as well (26:18 ).

  • On the night of the crucifixion, Mark says that it’s the time before the Sabbath (15:42). Being a Roman, the author was obviously unaware that the Jewish day begins with the evening. Thus, the evening following the crucifixion wasn’t the night before the Sabbath; it was the start of it. Matthew must yet again omit one of Mark’s divinely inspired statements in the transcription (27:57).

  • Unaware that the Sabbath had already arrived, Mark’s account has Joseph of Arimathaea buying linen to wrap around Jesus’ body (15:46). Because it was a sin to make purchases on the Sabbath, Matthew must consequentially drop that detail as well (27:59).

  • Finally, Mark mentions “the fourth watch of the night” (6:48 ). The Jews actually divided the night into only three watches, while the Romans made the division into fourths.

The author of Matthew makes a few additional minor corrections from Mark’s account, but I trust that you get the point I’m attempting to convey. However uncomfortable it may feel, the divinely inspired author of the earliest Jesus biography, who seemingly invented details out of thin air, knew very little about what he was writing.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Let's Have Some Fun!! Are you a Genius or an Idiot?

Scoring guide:
21 Correct - Genius
17 Correct - Above Normal
15 Correct - Normal
08 Correct - Nincompoop
06 Correct - Moron
03 Correct - Idiot

01. Do they have a 4th of July in England?

02. How many birthdays does the average man have?

03. Some months have 31 days; how many have 28?

04. A woman gives a beggar 50 cents; the woman is the beggar's sister, but the beggar is not the woman's brother. How come?

05. Why can't a man living in the USA be buried in Canada?

06. How many outs are there in an inning?

07. Is it legal for a man in California to marry his widow's sister? Why?

08. Two men play five games of checkers. Each man wins the same number of games. There are no ties. Explain this.

09. Divide 30 by 1/2 and add 10. What is the answer?

10. A man builds a house rectangular in shape. All sides have southern exposure. A big bear walks by, what color is the bear? Why?

11. If there are 3 apples and you take away 2, how many do you have?

12. I have two US coins totaling 55 cents. One is not a nickel. What are the coins?

13. If you have only one match and you walked into a room where there was an oil burner, a kerosene lamp, and a wood burning stove, which one would you light first?

14. How far can a dog run into the woods?

15. A doctor gives you three pills telling you to take one every half hour. How long would the pills last?

16. A farmer has 17 sheep, and all but 9 die. How many are left?

17. How many animals of each sex did Noah take on the ark? (an atheist should get this easily)

18. A clerk in the butcher shop is 5'10" tall. What does he weigh?

19. How many two cent stamps are there in a dozen?

20. What was the President's name in 1950?

01. Yes
02. One
03. All of them (12)
04. The beggar is her sister.
05. He can't be buried if he isn't dead.
06. 6
07. No - because he is dead.
08. They aren't playing each other.
09. 70
10. White. The house is at the North Pole so it is a polar bear.
11. 2
12. 50 cent piece and a nickel. (The other one is a nickel.)
13. The match.
14. Half way. Then he is running out of the woods.
15. 1 hour
16. 9
17. None - The bible is a lie you IDIOT!
18. Meat
19. 12
20. Same as it is now.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Atheist are Wrong..

A young lady came home from a date, rather sad.

She told her mother, "Anthony proposed to me an hour ago."

"Then why are you so sad?" her mother asked.

"Because he also told me he is an atheist. Mom, he doesnt even believe theres a Hell."

Her mother replied, "Marry him anyway. Between the two of us, well show him how wrong he is."

Monday, August 22, 2005

Are You a Christian??

10 - You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

9 - You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

8 - You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.

7 - Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!

6 - You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

5 - You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

4 - You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs -- though excluding those in all rival sects - will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."

3 - While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.

2 - You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

1 - You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history - but still call yourself a Christian.