11/28/09

PZ Myers is Refreshingly Honest: Doom, Gloom and a Positive Affirmation of God’s Non-Existence to Boot!

I suppose the best course of action is to let PZ Myers speak for himself as he wrote the following: Happy Wary Vigilance Day! (I added the images).

--------------------------

Sorry, I don't believe in Thanksgiving Day.

This whole notion that one should have vague and aimless feelings of gratitude for the nature of one's existence is just too weird, and the bow-your-head-at-the-table and radiate-blessings-at-the-cosmos tradition is pointless and silly. Don't get me wrong: I can be appropriately and happily grateful to people who have gone out of their way to do good for me — Mom will get a phone call, and my wife will get a hug, and they really are appreciated — but for the most part, our existence is not the product of selfless altruism, and there is nothing out there that can be aware of just how glad you are to be alive, no matter how fawning and fulsome you may be.

The universe is cold and uncaring. You may be grateful that you weren't vaporized by a meteor falling out of the sky this year, but there's no agent out there who will feel pleased that you noticed, and the fact of your general relief that your existence continues will not be a factor in the motion of space rocks in the next year. I am happy that the microbes didn't turn me into a pile of putrefying goo yet, but it wasn't an act of thoughtful kindness on their part, since the little bastards are doing their best to get past my defenses all the time, and all that's keeping them at bay is my constant expenditure of energy to keep my immune system at readiness. And they'll also get me one day, for sure…unless that meteor vaporizes me into a cloud of inorganic molecules with minimal nutritional value first.

We're all doomed. We are currently survivors by luck, sustained by selfish processes, and I don't thank luck, because she (if she were an autonomous self-aware agent, and she isn't) will turn for me or against me without concern for my feelings. Nature is not appeasable, get over it.



That poor bird that most of you will have on your dining room table is a perfect metaphor. It went through its life dumb and mostly content, getting its feed shoveled in front of its face every day, and then last week the machineries of profit began to move, and it found itself trussed on an assembly line. Then a gang of people who were mostly concerned with trudging through another day and making a living wage decapitated it, gouged out its guts, stripped off its feathers, and wrapped it in plastic so you could thoughtlessly stuff fragments of its carcass into your hungry maw. The universe did not rotate about that bird, and neither does it spin about you.

If you're eating tofurkey, you aren't off the hook, either. Think of the soybeans!



So don't sit at your table and think you're being good by warmly thanking an indifferent universe for whatever. It doesn't care. Don't beam happy thoughts at the farmers who stocked your larder — they can't hear you, and they did it for their own personal profit anyway. Above all, don't be hypocritical and radiate gratitude at the corpse of the turkey, since it's dead and during its brief life would rather you hadn't fueled the market forces that led to its execution.

It would be far wiser to sit at that table and contemplate the threats to your existence, and scheme about how you're going to get them first.

Oh, and you probably do have people who have done good things for you, at personal cost, and without carrying out the calculus of profit. If you want to have a day of thankfulness, thank them personally. None of this nonsense of bland, undirected, unfocused, smug gratitude. Share human feelings with other human beings.

Also, gods don't exist, so they haven't done squat for you. Don't waste your time praying to them, either.
Some people seem to be misreading this, and think I'm telling everyone to have a bad day. Wrong: have a grand old day off, I know I am. Just forget this silly business of feeling blindly thankful. Gratitude is to be shared between sentient beings.

If you're feeling this strange sensation of being grateful for existence or for good fortune, though, I wonder…would you be resentful of nonexistence, or place blame for random bad luck?

Continue reading PZ Myers is Refreshingly Honest: Doom, Gloom and a Positive Affirmation of God’s Non-Existence to Boot!...

Dawkins’ Debate Delusion

Please note that this essay will now be housed in True Freethinker’s debate category
Continue reading Dawkins’ Debate Delusion...

11/26/09

Dan Barker Sues George Washington and Happy Thanksgivings!!!

As with the post Dan Barker Sues Barak Obama this is a fantasy scenario involving what would happen if Dan Barker, the ACLU, etc. were consistent—clearly a fantasy.

After reading below you may conclude that a postmortem impeachment may be in order.

Sure, many of us know the story of the Pilgrims and the Natives and the shared meal, etc.
However, let us consider George Washington's 1789 AD thanksgiving proclamation:



By the President of the United States of America—
A Proclamation

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their Joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation—for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed—for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions—to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually—to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed—to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us—and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Continue reading Dan Barker Sues George Washington and Happy Thanksgivings!!!...

Fundamentalist Theologian Asks: “Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?” and “Why Does God Hate Amputees?”

Indeed, a rigidly dogmatic theologian has demanded answers to the questions “Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?” and “Why Does God Hate Amputees?”

The theologian has even advanced the issue by proposing an experiment that will, once and for all, ascertain the answer.

The theologian has authored a website titled, “Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?” This person will remain nameless because they remain nameless on their website (they used to title the website “Why Does God Hate Amputees?”).

The dogmatist proposes that “Is God real, or is he imaginary?” “is one of the most important questions you can ask yourself.”
He concludes that “If God is real and if God inspired the Bible, then we should worship God as the Bible demands.” But that “if God is imaginary, then religion is a complete illusion.”
Guess what? Religion is a complete illusion even though God exists. Unless we are employing the only definition of “religion” with which the New Testament agrees,

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world (James 1:27).

Of course, the theologian reasons that “Belief in God is nothing but a silly superstition, and this superstition leads a significant portion of the population to be delusional.”

Now comes the invitation to conduct an experiment:
But how can we decide, conclusively, whether God is real or imaginary?

Since we are intelligent human beings living in the 21st century, we should take the time to look at some data. That is what we are doing when we ask, "Why won't God heal amputees?"

If you are an intelligent human being, and if you want to understand the true nature of God, you owe it to yourself to ask, "Why won't God heal amputees?"

Note the qualifiers: if you are intelligent, a human being, and if you want to understand the true nature of God. If these things apply then you will ask “Why won't God heal amputees?” Fine, but is the question the point? Cannot many answers be proposed? It would seem that the answer is more important than the question. Yet, the question is the starting point.

This fundamentalist theologian has actually devised the experiment whereby to scientifically determine whether or not God exists.

The experiment is prescribed thusly:
For this experiment, we need to find a deserving person who has had both of his legs amputated. For example, find a sincere, devout veteran of the Iraqi war, or a person who was involved in a tragic automobile accident.Now create a prayer circle like the one created for Jeanna Giese. The job of this prayer circle is simple: pray to God to restore the amputated legs of this deserving person.
I do not mean to pray for a team of renowned surgeons to somehow graft the legs of a cadaver onto the soldier, nor for a team of renowned scientists to craft mechanical legs for him. Pray that God spontaneously and miraculously restores the soldier's legs overnight, in the same way that God spontaneously and miraculously cured Jeanna Giese and Marilyn Hickey's mother.

Let us take a moment to note that the references to Jeanna Giese and Marilyn Hickey’s mother. Jeanna Giese is referenced due to the fact that it was reported that via a “prayer circle…Jeanna was the first human to survive rabies without the vaccine.”

Marilyn Hickey is known in Christian apologetics circles as a health and wealth teacher aka prosperity “gospel” preacher aka name it and claim it proponent or sarcastically stated: blab it and grab it.
Marilyn Hickey claimed that upon finding out that her mother was found to have a brain tumor she was out of town and so she “sent God's Word long distance to my mother's brain.” Shortly thereafter, “she was X-rayed again by her doctors, there was no evidence that any tumor had ever existed!”

It should be noted that if God healed these people then praise be He! If not then they may have been mistaken, seeking to defraud, etc. Yet, overall; God can heal people and can do so even if the evidence is not sufficient to convince an atheist.

Now, I have responded to this issue in the essay Evilbible - the Polemical Saga Continues, part 1 of 5. Thus, my concern in this essay is to focus on the details of the proposed experiment.

Why do I refer to an obvious atheist as a fundamentalist dogmatic rigid theologian? Because he is speaking as such. How so? Allow me to repeat the terms of the experiment adding emphasis and then parse them in order to elucidate:
For this experiment, we need to find a deserving person who has had both of his legs amputated. For example, find a sincere, devout veteran of the Iraqi war, or a person who was involved in a tragic automobile accident.Now create a prayer circle like the one created for Jeanna Giese. The job of this prayer circle is simple: pray to God to restore the amputated legs of this deserving person.
I do not mean to pray for a team of renowned surgeons to somehow graft the legs of a cadaver onto the soldier, nor for a team of renowned scientists to craft mechanical legs for him. Pray that God spontaneously and miraculously restores the soldier's legs overnight, in the same way that God spontaneously and miraculously cured Jeanna Giese and Marilyn Hickey's mother.


Note that, in keeping with the spirit of experimentation, the proposal is extremely detailed. We will instantly begin to realize why this atheist is, in reality, a theologian:

1) The God whom the theologian has in mind is one who is subject to experimentation—this represents a theological position: God may be experimented upon or be otherwise subject to experimentation.

2) The amputee must be “deserving”—this represents a theological position: God considers some people “deserving” of healing (apparently if you are not healed then you are not deserving).
2.1) We must first ascertain this God’s standards or else we would not know who this God considers “deserving” (except, perhaps, base it on who is healed).

3) The “deserving” person must have had both of his legs amputated—not just one and it cannot be a female (alright, “his” may be taken generically).

4) The examples are even more rigid: one must be sincere, devout, a veteran and it must be the Iraqi war. Not, for example, a veteran who fought in Desert Storm only in order to have the US Government pay for his college (alright, being an example we may disregard this).

5) Examples two: must be a person and must have been involved in an automobile accident that may be described, perhaps by definition, as having been tragic. It could not be a horse, could not be a motorcycle accident, etc. (alright, being an example we may disregard this).

6) Next a “prayer circle” must be formed, not a square—ok, just kidding with this one :o) but…

7) The prayer circle must, you got it, “pray to God”—this represents a theological position: God may be prayed to, God hears prayer, God responds to prayer.

8) The prayer is prescribed as requesting (or demanding?) that God would (or should?) restore the amputated legs—this represents a theological position: God can do such a thing, God will do such a thing (technically the experiment is meant to prove this but let us state it this way since it is the presupposition of the hypothesis).

9) That God would do this for the “deserving person” was covered in 3).

10) The “healing” could not be done via a “team of renowned surgeons.” Could it me one renowned surgeon but not a team? Could it me a team of surgeons as long as they are not renowned?

11) The “healing” could not come about due to successful grafting of the legs of a cadaver. Could it be the grafting of the legs of a living donor or two?—this represents a theological position: God would not (or is not being allowed to?) work through “team of renowned surgeons” through grafting.

10) The “healing” could not be done via a “team of renowned scientists.” Could it me one renowned scientist but not a team? Could it me a team of scientists as long as they are not renowned?

11) The “healing” could not come about due to successful crafting of mechanical legs—this represents a theological position: God would not (or is not being allowed to?) work through “team of renowned scientists” through crafting.

12) God must perform the healing “spontaneously.” Oddly, spontaneous means occurring without apparent external cause but the experiment is proposing the action of an external cause. Yet, I would imagine that what was meant by spontaneous is instantly—this represents a theological position: God’s miracles are (or should be?) instant and cannot taken any longer than an undefined span of time.

13) It must be done “miraculously”—let us just say “Granted” and yet—this represents a theological position: God can perform miracles (miracles that are spontaneous).

14) It must be done “overnight” and apparently not during the day, or over two nights—this represents a theological position: same as above.

15) Lastly, the miracle must take place “in the same way that God spontaneously and miraculously cured Jeanna Giese and Marilyn Hickey's mother”—this represents a theological position: God may be experimented upon in that it is expected that concocting the same circumstances will produce the same results.

Number 15) may actually be the most important presupposition in that it also plays off of a misconception. The misconception is that there is a formula whereby we can get God to do as we please—yes, even things which we considered benevolent. The misconception is that we can pray anything, throw in a “In the name of Jesus” after it and it is a done deal (or is it, “In the name of Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesus!”).

Succinctly, I will simply state that this misconception is premised upon a misunderstanding and misapplication of certain texts of scripture which, only upon their surface (the un-contextual surface), seem to imply as much. Yet, since I have already dealt with these with relation to evilbible.com’s contention that Jesus Lied I will leave the interested reader to consider that essay.

The concocter of the experiment, the one who asks “Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?” and “Why Does God Hate Amputees?”, is a theologian because he presupposes what God is like before even determining whether God exists, and then concocts an argument whereby to seek to prove that his particular concept of God exists.

If the experiment were ever to be realized and failed it would only disprove this particular atheist theologian’s contempt of God.

Atheist must understand that the moment they state, “Why does God…” or “Why doesn’t God…” or “If God was then God would…” or “God wouldn’t…” or “God should…” or “God shouldn’t…” or “If God existed then God would want to…” or “God would surely…” or “If God was love then…” etc., etc., etc. they are expressing opinions about their own theology and there is no reason to call into question God’s existence due to the atheist theologian’s God being disproved by experiment or logic.

A detailed debunking of this theologian’s assertions is found at God isn’t imaginary….


Continue reading Fundamentalist Theologian Asks: “Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?” and “Why Does God Hate Amputees?”...

11/25/09

The American Humanist Association New Ads, “No God? …No Problem!” Should Read, “No God? …No Business for the AHA!”

Interestingly enough, I opened my essay Another Atheist Charity – A Huge Success that I posted in the last holy month of November by stating, “This post comes to us from the “Here we go again” files:” in which case this post comes to us from the “Here we go again and again” files.

The recent ads by the American Humanist Association read:

No God? …No Problem!

Be good for goodness’ sake.

Humanism is the ideas that you can be good without a belief in God.


Oh, look: African Americans, Asian Americans and
Honky Americans agree—I bet that they
are all Christians, as per this snafu :o)

Two points to ponder:
1) The ads are mere propaganda that answers to an argument that no one has made. The claim is not that atheistic lack of morals but a lack of moral premise, lack of ethos.

2) These ads are being promulgated in the media as the “first-ever” such ads yet, this is merely a slightly edited version of their ads from last year: see here

Also, note that the Bible is realistic about morality and deals with morality in the real world not in an utopia where everyone wants to be good for goodness sake.

Simply stated, yet again; during a time of the year when people are generally more inclined towards charity—peace on earth and good will towards non-gender specific personages—atheists are busily collecting hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of dollars during a time of recession not in order to help anyone in real material need but in order to purchase bill boards and bus ads whereby they seek to demonstrate, to themselves, just how clever they are—need any more be said?

Meanwhile, atheist have built a multi-million dollar, top of the line, latest technology included “Atheist Station”:



Actually, according to a June 25, 2007 AD Barna study entitled, “Americans Are Misinformed About Poverty, But Widely Involved in Helping the Poor” (see my post Are Atheists Healthy, Happy, Moral, etc.?:
Atheists and agnostics emerged as the segment of people least likely to do anything in response to poverty. They were less likely to engage in eight of the nine specific responses measured, and were the faith segment least likely to participate in eight of the nine responses evaluated.

The “nine specific responses” are the following:
giving material resources (such as clothing or furniture) directly to poor peopledonating money to organizations that address povertygiving food directly to a poor person or familyspending a "significant amount of time" praying for poor people [with regards to “Atheists and agnostics” yeah, this is one is a given]donating time to personally serve needy people in the communityvisiting institutionalized elderly or sick people who are not family membersdonating money to organizations that address poverty in foreign countriesserving as a tutor or friend to an underprivileged childhelping to build or restore a house for a poor family

According to an April 14, 2008 AD Barna study entitled, “New Study Shows Trends in Tithing and Donating”; in 2007 AD evangelicals Christians (one of three subgroups of Christians under consideration) donated a mean of $4,260 to all non-profit entities while atheists and agnostics provided an average of $467.
According to an April 25, 2005 AD Barna study entitled, “Americans Donate Billions to Charity, But Giving to Churches Has Declined”; “In 2004…Barna’s national study found that the people least likely to donate any money at all were…atheists and agnostics…A quarter or more…failed to give away any money in 2004.”

Keep donating money for billboards and bus ads. We will feed, clothe and house the poor.

They also have wasted money on ads the read, “Millions are good without God.” At least, that is what they were meant to read as—and I do not endorse vandalism—some billboards have been creatively re-edited to read, “Millions are good with God”:

One was even vandalized in Moscow—wow, how far has Moscow come from being the center of atheist Communist murders by the hundreds of millions to affirming goodness through God.

Continue reading The American Humanist Association New Ads, “No God? …No Problem!” Should Read, “No God? …No Business for the AHA!”...

In Which I Agree With Richard Dawkins on Intelligent Design

Please note that this essay will now be housed in True Freethinker’s section on Richard Dawkins
Continue reading In Which I Agree With Richard Dawkins on Intelligent Design...

11/23/09

iTheism

Indeed, there is a coherent psychological origin to intense atheism….
in the Freudian framework, atheism is an illusion caused by the Oedipal
desire to kill the father (God) and replace him with oneself
—Paul Vitz; Professor of Psychology at New York University

What is the problem with the self made man? That he worships his creator (man here meaning non-gender specific personage).

I have often noted that atheism, or many atheists, do not seek to be rid of God but merely replace a supernatural God with a natural one.

Indeed, two of atheism’s consoling delusions are the delusion of absolute autonomy and lack of ultimate accountability.

God states, “You shall have no other gods before me.”

The atheist states, “I shall have no other gods before me” or “I shall have no other gods besides me.”

Let us consider the concept of iTheism, then the history of iTheism and then specific examples of iTheists.



Atheism is thus premised upon the original of original sins: iTheism. This denotes placing oneself on the ultimate pedestal; there may be people who are more knowledgeable than we or more capable in this or that way but ultimately we, the iTheists, are the supreme authority. The iTheist determines what is right/good/moral and wrong/evil/immoral, what is true and false, the iTheist sees god reflected in their mirror.

The original, original sin was committed by lucifer, who was not an atheist, and became satan when he became an iTheist. As it is elucidated in Isaiah ch. 14:
How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart:
“I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.”

From this premise, known as the five I wills, satan has not had one single new idea and why bother as this one has worked wonders as he waters the seed of rebellion within the heart of humanity.
In Genesis 3:1-5 it states that satan, referred to in the text as “the serpent,” (also see Revelation 12:9, 20:2) told Eve:
“Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Note the steps 1) question God’s statements, 2) contradict God’s statements and 3) urge rebellion in seeking equality with God.

In atheism of the iTheism sort this works out thusly: 1) question that there is a God to make a statement in the first place and therefore fulfill questioning God’s statements, 2) even though there is no God to make a statement, contradict those statements claimed to have been spoken by God (′cause you, in your unfathomably finite wisdom, know better) and 3) become equal with God, meaning to make yourself God and thus, replace God with you the iTheist and urging others to do likewise—especially the naturally rebellious and overactive libidoed youth.



This pattern repeats throughout history until the very end when,
the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God (2nd Thessalonians 2:3-4).

Now, consider a statement made by Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (which was established in the USA, a country premised upon the concept of freedom of religious expression)[1]:
The United States of America, for example, is a proudly rebellious nation. We fought a Revolutionary War kicking out the king, dictator, lord. There is value in not bowing to traditions that imply subservience to a Master--we are not slaves. Yet most religious language suggests the opposite: we must worship that which is above us and adore or obey the Father/Mother/Creator who guides our lives. [emphasis in original]

What was the straw that broke the iTheistic camel’s back: the concept of god as God as the king, dictator, lord and Master because we are not slaves and must kicking God out. Since most religious language suggests the opposite he rejects it because, being an iTheist, he cannot conceive of, or allow anyone/thing, above him which he must/should/would want to worship, adore and obey.
Of course, as I noted in my essay The Totalitarian, Dictatorial, Tyrannical Worldview iTheists actually do not escape anything when they reject God but merely jump from the freeing pan and into the fire.



Larry Taunton interviewed Richard Dawkins: The Atheist Evangelist and wrote the following:
“You’re not telling me that as a civilized 21st-century man that you get your morality from the Ten Commandments?” He was incredulous. To him, it was as if I were saying, “The Easter Bunny gave us these laws, and they fall into three categories … .” “What aspects of the Ten Commandments do you find objectionable?” I asked. After an animated exchange and a brief search for a Bible, Dawkins went straight to the opening line of the Decalogue: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” The idea of a personal God who demands exclusivity of worship offended him. Given Dawkins’s worldview, this seemed like a logical protest. After all, the other nine commandments hang on that one.

Do you see the point? Anything and everything that is premised upon “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” is instantly and ad hominemly rejected because, as an iTheist, Dawkins cannot allow any gods before or beside he, himself.

What Richard Dawkins does not seem to consider is that without premise “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” the commandments which follow would be about as authoritative, alive, potent and enjoining as Dawkins’ very own New Ten Commandments (of which he lists 15). Which is to say that they would be yet another mere list of moral assertions promulgated by a temporary bio-organism who formulated them upon bio-chemical reactions in its brain as it lives on a pale blue dot in the universe’s backwaters.

This is clearly not about ritualistic, dietary and otherwise behavioral laws in general; this is about the iTheist not wanting God to get in the way of their self worship.

Again I turn to Friedrich Nietzsche who understood that the death of God would lead to the deification of man as we shrug off the celestial monarch and replace Him with terrestrial monarchs. In his Parable of the Mad Man he states that after murdering God the question is posed, “Must we ourselves not become gods…?” in that we would concoct, by necessity iTheistic, “festivals of atonement…what sacred games shall we have to invent?”



As for satan, the text continues:
Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit. Those who see you will gaze at you, and consider you, saying:
“Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world as a wilderness and destroyed its cities, who did not open the house of his prisoners?”

All the kings of the nations, all of them, sleep in glory, everyone in his own house; but you are cast out of your grave like an abominable branch, like the garment of those who are slain, thrust through with a sword, who go down to the stones of the pit, like a corpse trodden underfoot.

Cast off your crowns my dear iTheists, repent and cast them at the feet of the true King, Jesus the Messiah, who said,
Behold, I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me (Revelation 3:20).”


[1] Dan Barker interviewed by the “Unitarian Universalist Infidels,” reprinted from Search of Reason, Vol. 1, Issue 1, Spring 2004 (apparently, an ongoing search)

Continue reading iTheism...

Dvir Abramovich - Celebrity Atheists Expose Their Hypocrisy

On occasion, I like to present how to sort of essays wherein I example how I respond to various arguments.

While, surely, some consider these to be how not to, I nevertheless hope that these are helpful to someone, somewhere out there in cyberspace.

This time the issue is an article written by Dr. Dvir Abramovich (Celebrity atheists expose their hypocrisy, The Ararat Advertiser, Oct 26, 2009 AD) who is the Jan Randa Senior Lecturer in Jewish Studies, director of the Centre for Jewish History and Culture at The University of Melbourne, editor of the Australian Journal of Jewish Studies and President of the Australian Association of Jewish Studies.

I will do this rather backward; I will post the comments to the article, then my responses and then Dr. Abramovich’s article. This will be because I am mostly interested in the how to aspect and because the comments virtually disregarded the article and merely expressed atheist talking points.

The comments (at least as of November 18, 2009 AD) read as follows (I removed the pseudonyms since they did not comment at Atheism is Dead):
Poor poor article, lazy logic. Try again!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I decided not to finish reading your article, because I feel that you have completely missed their point entirely. I am figuring that you are one of those religious folk that think the world would be bereft of any morality what so ever, had it not been for good ol' religion.
"True religious values are grounded in notions of community, charity, mercy and peace. All too often today we focus on individualism, greed and instant gratification." You nearly got that paragraph right. It should have read "True HUMAN values.."
The problem with religion is not that people believe in a God or enjoy the fairy tales in the Bible. People can believe what they want and if it makes them happy, then that is a wonderful thing! The problem is that many of the popular religions of today can NOT accept that people living a different path than their own, stringent one, may also be good, moral people too.
Our world doesn't NEED religion to be good. I think spiritual development is important and does help foster the good side of us, but religion is an organised, dogmatic system which usually tells people of a right and wrong way, rather than giving people that option.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Yeah yeah! ... but let's face it, religions have caused more wars, suffering and grief in the world than any other cause. ..and they can't all be right.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Where do I start! I know it is useless to argue with a 'believer' because their reasoning is circular and their evidence is 'faith', but I can't let this go untouched. I particularly love the reference to 'true religious values'. Ah yes, when challenged on the nastiness of religion, the believer will always say 'oh, but that is not the 'true' meaning, you shouldn't really believe the bible'.
Classic isn't it, when that is the only so-called 'evidence' they have, which of course is not evidence. I also love the argument; ‘but so many smart people believe’. The whole basis of faith is to not use your intelligence and just swallow everything served up to you without question, so it really doesn't matter how smart you are because you are not to use your intelligence to question anything.
Finally, for now, Dr Abramovich totally misunderstands atheism. This is typical of a believer. Either they do not have the intellectual resources to understand a concept outside of the framework of their own religiosity, or they do it deliberately to obfuscate the truth. Atheism is simply the knowledge that there is no supernatural being that believers profess to believe in, that's it.

Following are my responses:
This is quite fascinating,

[pseudonym removed] makes an utterly meaningless statement which amounts to an argument to ridicule while not bothering to engage the issue.

[pseudonym removed]’s statement “I decided not to finish reading your article” should only have been followed with “so I will not comment.” Yet he fills the gap in his knowledge of the article’s contents by appealing to his prejudice (literally to prejudge) and by adopting generic and gross generalizations; “you are one of those religious folk.”
That “The problem is that many of the popular religions of today can NOT accept that people living a different path than their own, stringent one, may also be good, moral people too” is certainly self-servingly generic.
For example, the Bible states, “…for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves [their] thoughts accusing or else excusing [them]” (Romans 2:14-15) it is simply unknown to Judeo-Christian theology that God leaves anyone unguided; whether they recognize it, accept it or not.
That “Our world doesn't NEED religion to be good” is clearly a presupposition. I submit that while humans can epistemically argue to good actions we cannot ontologically provide an absolute premise and thus, goodness is arbitrary, undefined and tentative.
That “spiritual development is important” is generic enough to be meaningless. Moreover, many Christians would draw a distinction between “religion” which is as you claim it to be and which they reject and “relation” which is what they seek to have with God. The only favorable definition of “religion” in the New Testament is as follows, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, [and] to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). Also, in the Old Testament God condemns religion because people had turned rituals which were supposed to draw them close to God into mere robotic hoop jumping.
Lastly, if religion is wrong for providing a “dogmatic system which usually tells people of a right and wrong way” then you are giving us a “dogmatic system which usually tells people of a right and wrong way” in stating that religion is wrong for doing so; religion is wrong and your concept of spirituality is right.

[pseudonym removed] did not provide any citations for the statement that “religions have caused more wars, suffering and grief in the world than any other cause” and so I will provide some information in this regard:
The “Encyclopedia of Wars” (New York: Facts on File, 2005) was compiled by nine history professors who specifically conducted research for the text for a decade in order to chronicle 1,763 wars. The survey of wars covers a time span from 8000 BC to 2003 AD. From over 10,000 years of war 123, which is 6.98 percent, are considered to have been religious wars.
That “they can't all be right” is quite accurate. When rather than “religion” or “theology” we place all worldviews in one single category we can only logically conclude that one is right and all else wrong. Let us imagine that we have even an infinite number of worldviews to consider and grant that each is as valid as the next; if one of those claims that there is actually only one valid one; we must accept that as valid and have just done away with all others. From here it gets more complex as atheists claim to be the only correct ones and others do the same in which case we evaluate their claims.

[pseudonym removed]’s statements “it is useless to argue with a 'believer'” and “This is typical of a believer” are gross generalizations which exhibit prejudice and paints with a broom.
I am not certain what Judeo-Christian would state, “you shouldn't really believe the bible” but perhaps some do. I would imagine that such an answer is based on the spur of the moment and replaces their stopping to ask where the statement in question was made, taking the time to read the text, read for context, conduct some research, etc.
That whatever the Bible states “is not evidence” is fallacious as history is a type of evidence, the very sort upon which you claim to know your birth date.
That “The whole basis of faith is to not use your intelligence and just swallow everything served up to you without question” may be true of some religion which you do not identify but speaking for Judeo-Christianity; the Old Testament is saturated with praises of wisdom and gaining knowledge, it states, “‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the LORD” (Isaiah 1:18), in the New Testament the Bereans are considered more noble (or more “fair minded”) for double checking everything that Paul told them (Acts 17:11), Thomas asked for the evidence which the others had seen and had merely retold to him (John 20:24-30), Jesus stated, “Love the Lord your God with all your…mind. This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:36-38), etc., etc., etc.
This also ignores millennias worth of theology related philosophy and research. Ever hear of Rabbi Maimonides’ “Guild for the Perplexed”? It was a guild for the perplexed.
That “Atheism is simply the knowledge that there is no supernatural being that believers profess to believe in, that's it” is yet another of many definitions of atheism which atheist take upon themselves to concoct and promulgate. Come to my blog “Atheism is Dead,” pretend to be a theist, make that statement and you will have atheist rain condemnation down upon you for what they will claim is a misrepresentation of atheism.Lastly, to whatever atheist defines atheism as “the knowledge that there is no supernatural being” I would request your evidence.

Now, as comments to Ararat are moderated there were a lot more than I saw upon reading the article which had not been displayed yet. As there are five segments worth by now (November 18, 2009 AD) I will only focus on those that responded to me. One such response was,
Mariano - I'll say this again slowly. Quoting from a book of fiction does not constitute evidence of anything in the real world. Go forth believers and try much, much harder next time. You are currently scoring an 'F' for Fail in logical argument.

I retorted,
Thanks for the note.
Your definition of "faith" is an atheist talking point.
Faith is “trust,” faith is the step that all of us take once we have followed reason and evidence as far as they can go.
For example, that “there is no supernatural being” is your faith based statement and one which I requested you prove.
Also, if the Bible is a book of fiction please prove that as well since you are positively affirming it.
And, just in case, if you claim that it is fiction, a priori, because it makes statements which your worldview will not allow then you are arguing in a circle, being restricted in your thinking by adherence to your particular worldview and are left back at proving that “there is no supernatural being.”

At this point I got no response from those whom I addressed but had someone chime in to defend the commentator who made the point about the Bible being fiction, etc.:
[pseudonym removed] - good work pointing out Mariano's failure in creating a logical argument based on quoting a book of fiction. Mariano's response is exactly what is expected in the debate between a "believer" and a "nonbeliever". The believer will only quote from what is fiction to the nonbeliever. The nonbeliever will ask questions that the believer can only answer with answers based on a book and dogma that the nonbeliever already believes to be fiction. Almost a paradox. I'm yet to have one of these discussions with a religious person who has not walked away highly offended because their beliefs have been questioned, yet they're happy to question the beliefs of a "non-believer" and expect us not to be a bit offended by it.

I must say that I have yet to meet these so called typical believers. In any case, as I will point out below in response, if what I presented is “exactly what is expected…The believer will only quote from what is fiction” then why it is that the article does not quote the Bible?
The true paradox is that when one side disagrees with the other it is a given that one believes that what the other is stating is fictitious. This is the very premise of any and every discussion wherein two people disagree. Am I to state, “the non-believer can only answer with answers based on that which the believer already believes to be fiction”?
Here is my response:
FYI: I do not believe in getting offended.

The article does not quote the Bible. [pseudonym removed] employs a fallacious definition of “faith” and generalized what is typical of a believer, meanwhile stating, ex nihilo, that “the only so-called 'evidence' they have, which of course is not evidence.”

I asked for proof that the Bible is fiction and for proof of God’s non-existence.

Even if I grant that the Bible is fiction: when discussing its contents the issue is its contents not its source; you are making a category mistake and committing an ad hominem. Thus, since [pseudonym removed] asserts that “The whole basis of faith is to not use your intelligence and just swallow everything served up to you without question” I proved that this is fallacious.

At this point someone chimed in stating:
Religions aren't the problem, it is the diverse interpretations of their moral principles and guidelines. Once you start arguing about the values of religion, you deal with a person's subjectivity and the question of whether, or not, he or she is able to exercise a “leap of faith”. At the end of the day, I don't care a stuff what people believe in, as long as they don't harm, or hassle, others in the process.

I have already dealt with the issue of a “leap of faith” so let us note that this person “don't care a stuff what people believe in” as long as they do not believe in that with which this person disagrees. Thus, I wrote:
Note that you end up declaring an absolute moral code for all to follow “as long as they don't harm, or hassle, others in the process.”
What if I consider your criticism to be harmful? What if I was one of the Darwinists who considered the Australian aborigines to be missing links and did not believe that it was harmful to shoot them, have them stuffed and display the in museums? And why is not causing harm and not hassling the premise for your absolute morality?

And with that, the great debate came to a screeching halt.

Now let us consider Dr. Abramovich’s article,
A flurry of books bashing religion are making best-seller lists and grabbing a lot of attention — so much so that anti-religion publications seem to have become a lucrative genre all their own.

Works such as Christopher Hitchens' God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, Sam Harris' End of Faith, Michel Onfray's The Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam and Daniel Dennet's Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon are bare-knuckled, no-holds barred tracts that sometimes resemble the declarations of fundamentalists who are absolutely convinced of their truth.

Hitchens and Dawkins, who are the leaders of the New Atheism movement, have received the most media spotlight and are driving the growth of this industry. Hitchens presented recently at Sydney's Festival of Dangerous Ideas and appeared on ABC TV's Q & A program. And Dawkins will headline next year's Atheist Convention in Melbourne.

These atheists are angry that religion has not gone away and is thriving in various parts of the world. After all, calling other peoples' belief a delusion is not exactly respectful. Indeed, distinguished doctor and broadcaster Lord Winston found Dawkins' attitude to religious faith patronising, insulting and counterproductive, noting that it "portrays science in a bad light".

Hitchens and Dawkins build a straw man — they select the worst offences that have been done in the name of religion to prove that religion is a dangerous force and a kind of virus that infects the mind. At one point Hitchens writes, "Religious belief is not merely false but also actually harmful. But I think it is a mistake to condescend to those who claim 'faith'."

Employing a new name, Dawkins says atheists should refer to themselves as "brights" labelling the devout as "dyed-in-the-wool faith-heads" while Hitchens describes the religious mind as "literal and limited".

According to Hitchens (who discovered two years ago that he is Jewish by way of his mother) the Jews could have been the "carriers of philosophy instead of arid monotheism". What about Spinoza, Wittgenstein, Isaiah Berlin, Derrida, Maimonides, Emmanuel Levinas, Martin Buber, Karl Popper, Walter Benjamin and Ayn Rand to name only a few. Does it seem like Judaism is bereft of philosophers? He writes of kosher dietary laws: "In microcosm, this apparently trivial fetish shows how religion and faith and superstition distort our whole picture of the world."

So, the bottom line for these atheists is this: we are free to believe in whatever as long as it's not God.

For Hitchens and co, religion does little good and secularism hardly any evil. Never mind that tyrants devoid of religion such as Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Mao and Pol Pot perpetrated the worst atrocities in history. As H. Allen Orr, professor of biology at the University of Rochester, observed, the 20th century was an experiment in secularism that produced secular evil, responsible for the unprecedented murder of more than 100 million.

Dawkins is mute on the terrors unleashed by science and technology, used by genocidal regimes such as Hitler's Germany, in a century that proved to be the worst tyranny mankind has ever seen. And what about weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear and biological bombs developed by scientists?

Does that mean that all atheists and scientists are evil? Of course not. The point is that fanatics can be found in both religion and atheism.

How can anyone argue that not a single human benefit has resulted from religious faith? There are millions who every day selflessly dedicate their lives to helping others all in the name of religious belief. The cruelty and viciousness of the past and the abuse of religion in the present cannot extinguish the solidarity and good-heartedness of people of faith.

Most would agree with the words of former atheist, Oxford University professor of historical theology Alister McGrath, who said: "There are some forms of religion that are pathological, that damage people. For every one of these atrocities, which must cause all of us deep concern, there are 10,000 unreported acts of kindness, generosity, and so forth arising from religious commitment."

True religious values are grounded in notions of community, charity, mercy and peace. All too often today we focus on individualism, greed and instant gratification.

Anyone wishing to discredit theology should at least know some. The God Delusion contains very little examination of Jewish theology and dismisses the finest minds of Western thinkers and theologians who have written on sublime theological questions as "infantile".

Hitchens cites the Binding of Isaac and "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" injunction as brutish and stupid. Yet, scholars have interpreted the binding as ending child sacrifice and the injunction as a caution against excessive vengeance. Hitchens says that the God of Moses never refers to compassion and human friendship, overlooking "love your neighbour as yourself".

For his part, Dawkins is clearly out of his depth when it comes to Jewish teachings and ethics. He claims, for instance, that "love thy neighbour" meant only "love another Jew". He apparently is not aware that in the same chapter, Jews are commanded to love the stranger that lives in their land as they would themselves. When Jesus, himself a Jew, was asked "Who is my neighbour" he did not refer to other Jews, but to a Samaritan, considered at that time as heretical and unclean.

Above all, for Dawkins and his contemporaries, billions of people across the globe have accepted stupid and harmful ideas.

Yet that iconic scientist Einstein, believed that God represented a great mind that sustained the laws of nature. We know for sure that he was not stupid or delusional. He famously remarked, "God doesn't play with the universe" and noted, when referring to the extraordinary intricacies of the universe: "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science." Einstein believed that a humble, open-ended religious attitude to the cosmos was preferable to a completely non-religious approach.

Consider also that in A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking ends his brilliant book (which sold more than 8 million copies) with the following: "If we discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable by everyone, not just by a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason — for then we should know the mind of God."

Dawkins and Hitchens assume all believers accept the Bible literally, which in the case of the majority of Jews and other co-religionists, has never been true. Theologians have often questioned institutional religion and have criticised the use of rigid orthodoxy and demagoguery to instill fear and obedience. In fact, most who embrace religious faith at the same time also exercise a healthy dose of skepticism and do not defend the way religion is often manipulated and distorted. Very few follow religion blindly.

The telescope and the microscope that Hitchens says has made religion redundant, does not answer for us why we are here and what is the purpose of human existence. Atoms and black holes leave little space for expounding on the measure of man, sin, holiness, dignity and the human spirit, sorrow, beauty, love, alienation and mortality.

Dr Owen Anderson, professor of philosophy at Arizona State University, says the problem with the argument promoted by Hitchens and Dawkins [there seems to be some text missing here] when he asks: "Can all reality be explained as atoms in motion? Is belief in something besides atoms mere superstition?"

Tina Beatie in her book The New Atheists: The Twilight of Reason and the War of Religion maintains that atheists are engaged in religious belief themselves because naturalists as authors such as Dawkins and Hitchens use their own beliefs to invest their life with meaning. Ironic, isn't it?

Lord Winston agrees: "Think there is a body of scientific opinion from my scientific colleagues who seem to believe that science is the absolute truth and that religious and spiritual values are to be discounted.

"Some people, both scientists and religious people, deal with uncertainty by being certain. That is dangerous in the fundamentalists and it is dangerous in the fundamentalist scientists."

One has to concede that a something inexplicably mysterious took place at the birth of the universe. I read that several years ago, astronomers working with NASA concluded that time began 13.7 billion years ago, a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. At that instant, the universe expanded from "submicroscopic to astronomical size in the blink of an eye". The great mystery is why it would want to do that. Thomas Nagel, the philosopher notes that even if we accept evolution and that the necessary seed material was present at the time of the Big Bang, there is no scientific theory as to why the material existed in the first place, and how did such material come into existence.

All we have done is to keep pushing the great question one step back. World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking put it best, "Why does the universe go to the bother of existing?"

Many would identify with the father who's compelled to believe in the divine when he notices the beauty and perfection of his daughter's ears. Hitchens mocks him, pointing out that ears always need a clean out, are mass-produced and cats have lovelier ears. A moment of pure love is missed.

Dawkins claims that religion is a form of child abuse since parents teach their kids to believe in certain religious creeds. Is it fair to compare real child abuse with parents instilling in their children religious morals and codes?

Dawkins and Hitchens celebrate art over religion, forgetting that the wonder and mystery of the universe and God's role in it have provided inspiration for countless artists. Michelangelo's Creation of Adam paintings at the Sistine Chapel is only one such example.

Dawkins remarks that the human brain is a "design nightmare". Well, since we use that organ to contemplate these and other complex subjects, it can't be that badly designed.

In his introduction to The God Delusion Dawkins states: "If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put if down."

I wonder for how many readers this is true.

Continue reading Dvir Abramovich - Celebrity Atheists Expose Their Hypocrisy...

11/22/09

Burning Cross and El Zorro (…aster, that is)

No, not the Spanish swashbuckler, El Zorro, but Zoroaster aka Zarathushtra.

In working on a discreditation of an argument made by the Arizona Atheist (which I will post in the near future) I noted one of his sources of information in the form of a website titled Burning Cross.
Therein, I ran across one of sadly very many likewise quite unscholarly articles claiming that since Judaism and Christianity borrowed from Zoroastrianism they are therefore to be relegated into the realm of mythology. However, the true mythos is the supposed borrowing by Judaism and Christianity when the facts of the matter, those bothersome historical facts that get in the way of a good polemic, imply the reverse is the case.


El Zorro

El Zoroaster
(Incidentally, why is it that you can illustrate any male that lived anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 years ago by simply slapping a beard on some nondescript guy?)

Again, while likewise tall tales abound, I will respond to an article on the website by the title Burning Cross which is entitled Zoroastrianism and Its Origins. The article seeks to demonstrate that Zoroastrianism originated before Judaism and Christianity and is the source from which they both borrowed, as they state it,
From historical research, and the study of Jewish and Christian texts, scholars have firmly concluded that Judaism and Christianity borrowed heavily from the theological thought of the Persians or Zoroastrians.

One of my favorite things is noting statements which make reference to that which “scholars have…” stated. You could generically write, without those bothersome citations, “scholars have ____________” and fill in the blank with anything at all.
This is tantamount to what some atheists like to write about scientists, “scientists say…” or the more impressive “most scientists say ____________.” Wow, I am impressed by the argument from authority before even hearing it. Note also that “most” can mean 99% and that is almost all of the generic “they/them” but “most” can also mean 51% and that is awfully close to half.

In any regard, let us consider the borrowing scenario as Burning Cross states,
It is believed that Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism, was born in the area now know as Afghanistan, though some scholars place his birth as somewhere in the Kashmir Valley. The ancient Greeks, like Aristotle, date the era of Zoroaster as being 6,000 BCE.

Again, “some [generic and un-cited] scholars” say…
I actually do not mean to pick on these generic statements too much but have done so in order to show that the article was heavy in claim and light on evidence.
For example, since they want to conclude that Judaism and Christianity borrowed from Zoroastrianism it is pointed out that Aristotle “date the era of Zoroaster as being 6,000 BCE.”

(FYI: “BCE” refers to before common era and is in reference to before Christ as it is Jesus’ birth which is used as distinguishing between BCE and CE common era; see this post for more)

Let us ask that which pseudo-skeptics appear to never even bothering asking of anything but the Bible and its characters:
Who was the historical Aristotle?
How do we know that Aristotle even lived?
When did Aristotle live?
How do we know?
What is the time of Aristotle’s various words and actions to the time they were recorded?
What is the time of the recording to the time of the first manuscripts we have?
How many manuscripts do we have and how do they compare? (perhaps Bart Ehrman will write “Misquoting Aristotle”).
Etc., etc., etc.

It does not matter to the pseudo-skeptical Burning Cross who date Zoroaster to 6,000 before Christ because for all we know a mythological character called Aristotle said so and so it must be true. Take it back as far as you wish for all I care. In fact, take it to 60,000 or 600,000 BC if you like. The further back Zoroaster is dated the more the pseudo-skeptics think that they can concoct ideas of Judaism and Christianity borrowing from him when in fact, as we shall see, the further back they date him the worse it is for them.

There actually is quite a bit of disparity amongst those seeking to date Zoroaster and it runs from 600 to 6,000 BC. Note that the Encyclopedia Britannica states,
A biographical account of Zoroaster is tenuous at best or speculative at the other extreme. The date of Zoroaster’s life cannot be ascertained with any degree of certainty. According to Zoroastrian tradition, he flourished “258 years before Alexander.”…indicating that his birthdate was 628 bc.

The Burning Cross does get to the point which point which is, you guessed it:
Who was the historical Zoroaster?
How do we know that Zoroaster even lived?
When did Zoroaster live?
How do we know?
What is the time of Zoroaster’s various words and actions to the time they were recorded?
What is the time of the recording to the time of the first manuscripts we have?
How many manuscripts do we have and how do they compare? (perhaps Bart Ehrman will write “Misquoting Zoroaster”).
Etc., etc., etc.

No, they actually do not delve anywhere close to this depth of skepticism as they would surely argue that these questions are irrelevant. Why? Because even if Zoroaster is a completely mythological personage the point is to demonstrate that Zoroastrian theology predates Judaism and Christianity and thereby concoct a theory of borrowing.

The Burning Cross notes,
The main holy book of the Zoroasrians is the Zend Avesta, but only the portion known as the Gathas [hymns], is thought to have been actually written by Zoroaster.

This is actually a lot more telling than its passing reference within the article implies. Indeed, the only portion of the Zend Avesta which are attributed, even just attributed, to Zoroaster are the Gathas. Why is this important? Because they are what we may term “hymns”—as the Burning Cross rightly did. The point is that these, the supposed earliest and original source of Zoroaster’s theology, do not contain Zoroastrian theology but are hymnal in nature. That which Judaism and Christianity supposedly borrowed is not found therein.

Incidentally and for reinforcement; the Encyclopedia Britannica affirms that “Only the hymns, or Gathas, are attributable to Zoroaster. It also states, “The Avesta is in five parts. Its religious core is a collection of songs or hymns, the Gathas, thought to be in the main the very words of Zoroaster.”

Let us dig a little deeper as Burning Cross explains when, from where and what was borrowed:
For centuries Zoroastrianism spread across Persia under the patronages of two very powerful Persian dynasties, the Achaemenids and the Sassanids.
During this time the cannon of twenty-one Zoroastrian holy texts were compiled called the Nasks.
It is from this cannon of Zoroastrian literature [compiled several millennia before the New Testament or the Old Testament were written] that Judaism and Christianity have received the main tenants of their religion, i.e. the concept of Monotheism, that of a Divine Father and a Divine Son, the idea of a Garden of Eden, the concept of the first created humans Adam and Eve, the Resurrection, the Day of Reckoning, Heaven, Hell, the Duality of Good and Evil [God and the Devil], the belief in a Messiah, the belief in Angels, etc.

Reference is made to the Achaemenids and the Sassanids without any dates.
The Nasks cannon is referenced without any dates but apparently we are to infer contextually that it was compiled at the time of the undated Achaemenids and Sassanids dynasties.
Then we are told that “this cannon,” the Nasks, were compiled a generic “several millennia before the New Testament or the Old Testament.”

Let us consider the last telling portion of the Burning Cross article and then eludicate:
Some scholars are of the opinion that Judaism, and particularly Christianity, have borrowed stories and theology directly from the Vedas and Puranas, but it is more likely that they received these elements of religion through the Persians without any direct contact with India.

“Some scholars” this, other scholars that…

So, the cannon of Zoroastrian scripture was compiled at the Achaemenids and Sassanids dynasties. The Achaemenids date from 550-330 BC and Sassanids from, as the Encyclopedia Britannica states it, “The present Avesta was assembled from remnants and standardized under the Sasanian kings (3rd–7th century ad) [emphasis added].”
Note the detail that the Avestas “assembled from remnants” and feel free to drag these remnants as far back as 550 BC if you wish but they were “standardized between the 3rd-7th century ad which the Encyclopedia Britannica details as “Sasanian period (ad 224–651).”
Now, let us take the Burning Cross preferred date of 6,000 BC and conclude that we have anywhere from 6,224 to 6,651 years—over six millennia—between Zoroaster’s supposed words and a standardized cannon. See what I mean: let them go back as far as they wish as it only gets worse for them. Even if we go by the 600 BC date we get 824 to 1,251 years—and pseudo-skeptics have conniptions at the fact that the New Testament was written by 70 AD.

As for the Achaemenids (550-330 BC); note the statements of Ilya Gershevitch:
While the Avesta furnishes us with a wealth of diverse religious ideas most of which existed during the Achaemenian period, it lacks a historical contextualization. It is completely devoid of references to persons, institutions, or events of Achaemenian times…
The place names mentioned, apart from mythological geography, are all in Eastern Iran; it is as though Persia did not exist. Accordingly, as the canonization of the scripture took place long after the Achaemenian period, the lack of references to identifiable Achaemenian realia makes the Avesta an elusive source for the religion of Achaemenians in general and Persia in particular.[1]

Furthermore, James R. Russell notes,
Zoroaster himself is not mentioned in Achaemenian monuments, nor indeed is his name to be found in the inscriptions of the Sasanians, who were undoubtedly Zoroastrians.[2]


For reiteration let us note that Ernst Herzfeld wrote,
Our main source for details on Zoroaster is the Avesta, a collection of sacred texts which was put in writing between 346-360 AD.[3]

Recall that we must not only consider the time of the writing and the time of the compilation and standardization but the time of the actual manuscripts, even the earliest ones. John Waterhouse relates that the earliest manuscript copies that we have date to the 13th century AD.[4]
Thus, if dating Zoroaster to 6,000 we have circa 7,200-8,200 years to the relevant manuscripts and if we date him to 600 we have circa 1,800-1,900 years—go back as far as you like, it only gets worse.

The Internet Sacred Text Archive’s copy of “Pahlavi Texts, Part IV (SBE37), E.W. West, tr. [1892]” states:
Contents of the Nasks as Stated in the Eighth and Ninth Books of the Dinkard – Observations,
“The manuscripts used, being the only two independent authorities for the text of the Dinkard known to exist, are:…written A.D. 1659…written A.D. 1594 and later…”

Details of the Nasks from Other Sources – Observations,
“The manuscripts mentioned are:…written A.D. 1659…written A.D. 1679…written A.D. 1813…probably written A.D. 1572…written about A. n. 1780…about 150 years old. [this was written in 1892 AD]”

Also, IV. From the Rivayat of Dastur Barzu Qiyamu-D-Din:
23. At present, since the Nasks have not remained perfect in the midst of us, it is not possible to solemnize them, because Alexander the Ruman [the Great] carried off a rough draft…and repeatedly burnt the books of the Avesta…every one of the high-priests, in council together, preserved something of the Avesta in his mind…which they wrote correctly; as to the remainder (tatammah) which they did not write, it was on this account, that they did not preserve it correctly in their minds.

And, From the Din-Vigirgard:
8. …the subdivisions of that Nask were fifty when the accursed Alexander had the Nasks burnt up, but after that, as they sought out this Nask, only thirteen of those subdivisions came to hand, and no more remained of those previously existing.

20. …Of all the twenty-one Nasks the Nask of ‘the law against the demons’ has alone remained entire; while several remain scattered by the wickedness (sumih) of the accursed Alexander

22. Now, alas! if all these Nasks do not remain, so that one is not able to solemnize them, that is for this reason, that the accursed Alexander, the Aruman, took several transcripts—in the Aruman language and characters (hurufo)—of any among those twenty-one Nasks which were about the stars and medicine, and burnt up the other Nasks…

Jenny Rose further notes,
The incorporation of certain motifs into the Zoroastrian tradition in the ninth century CE [AD] could indicate the conscious attempt of the priesthood to exalt their prophet in the eyes of the faithful who may have been tempted to turn to other religions.[5]

Indeed, if there was any borrowing at all it was not by Judaism and Christianity from Zoroastrianism but by Zoroastrianism from Judaism and Christianity.

Also, note various statements made in the Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology:
the Persians no doubt received from the Semites the notion of a last judgment and together with related ideas: prophets and world salvation prepared by a messiah. [p. 322]

Though preached by Zoroaster as one aspect of his system, this dualism only became implanted much later under the political pressure of the Sassanians who were eager to renew an ancient and indigenous tradition in opposition to Hellenistic influences. Until then it had been merely an opinion of one sect. [p. 312]

Lastly, consider statements by Jan Bremmer:
For the influence of Christianity in this period we probably also have another example. According to several Zoroastrian writings, the Greeks under Alexander the Great had destroyed not only a precious Achaemenid Avesta codex but also the other religious books, which had been written in 12,000 ox-hides.
In fact, there is not a trace at all of these writings in the Achaemenid period, and the tradition seems to have been created in order to explain the absence of a Persian holy book in contrast to those of the Jews, Christians and Manichaeans. This lack of written religious tradition seems to have been first seriously felt precisely in the same period in which resurrection became an issue.[6]



Thus, Burning Cross presented a good polemic but by not bother to cite scholars and not bothering to discuss the diversity of the dates of Zoroaster’s life and, most importantly, not bothering to date the texts to which they made reference they failed to do anything except discredit themselves.

For further information about the alleged similarities between Jesus and Zoroaster see: Is there a Connection Between Jesus and Zoroaster

[1] Ilya Gershevitch, ed., The Cambridge History of Iran (Cambridge University Press, 1985), p. 666
[2] James R. Russell, Zoroastrianism in Armenia (Harvard University Press, 1987), p. 49
[3] Ernst Herzfeld, Zoroaster and His World (Octagon Books, 1974), p. 774
[4] John Waterhouse, Zoroastrianism (Pierides Press, 2008), p. 56
[5] Jenny Rose, The Image of Zoroaster (Bibliotecha Persica Press, 2000), p. 27
[6] Jan Bremmer, The Rise and Fall of the Afterlife: The 1995 Read-Tuckwell Lectures at the University of Bristol (Routledge, 2001), p. 50


Continue reading Burning Cross and El Zorro (…aster, that is)...

11/21/09

Richard Dawkins Publishes, Again!

I think that Richard Dawkins could make a bundle by publishing his grocery shopping list. He, and likewise atheists, should thank God every day for without besmirching Him by their spoken and published word they would have to get real jobs.

This time he has teemed up with “42 atheist celebrities, comedians, scientists and writers” including Ariane Sherine to “give their funny and serious tips for enjoying the Christmas season.” I bet one of the tips is; besmirch your Christian parents, condemn Christmas but then make sure you wake up nice and early on Dec. 25th in order to rake in the presents!

The new book is called “An Atheist's Guide to Christmas” and it is another compliment to Christianity as militant atheist activists sit in the safety, comfort, freedom and lucrativeness of countries founded on Christian principles while making their living condemning Christianity. They know that the most we will do is say, “What a shame,” “I will pray for them,” or some such equally non-threatening thing.

Perhaps next year they will publish “An Atheist's Guide to Ramadan,” or “An Atheist's Guide to Hanukah,” or “An Atheist's Guide to Kwanza,” etc., not likely I am afraid.


Richard Dawkins: the "cultural Christian"

Continue reading Richard Dawkins Publishes, Again!...

Bart Ehrman’s Millions and Millions of Variants, part 2 of 2

Please note that this essay has been moved to this link.




Continue reading Bart Ehrman’s Millions and Millions of Variants, part 2 of 2...

11/20/09

Deceptive Manipulative Propagandist Activist Atheists are at it Again – Unbeknownst to them: their New Ads Compliment Christianity

Studies consistently demonstrate that atheists are, by a very very wide margin, the least charitable amongst us. Yet, Ariane Sherine and the British Humanist Association have conducted hugely successful donation drives. Are they the exception to the self-absorbed atheist greed meme?

Not in the least bit. Yet again, atheists are collecting “amazing sums” during a time of worldwide recession not in order to help anyone in real material need but in order to attempt to demonstrate just how clever they consider themselves to be—while actually loudly, proudly and expensively demonstrating their ignorance and arrogance.

Atheist activist Ariane Sherine was the “brains” behind some of the recent embarrassments which were publicly advertised in the form of bus ads and bill boards. As these ads represented well-within-the-box-atheist-group-think they were, predictably, illogical, presumptuous and pompous.

As “the final phase of the atheist bus campaign…in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast” is coming to a close Ariane Sherine asked her adherents what they could further do with the “amazing sums donated to the campaign fund.”[1]

Surely, some said, “How about feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, funding hospitals, establishing adoption agencies, opposing abortion” or any of a billion humanitarian options. But the overwhelming response was they the money was needed to fund atheist propaganda based on misinformation and common misconceptions due to relying heavily on atheist talking points and lightly on those bothersome facts such as are readily discernable when stopping to actually understand the issues at hand.
She writes,

…we asked how the extra funds should be spent, one of the issues which came up repeatedly in the comments concerned the growth of of faith schools in the UK and the segregation of children according to their parents' beliefs. Many of you felt strongly that children should be given the freedom to decide which belief system they wanted to belong to, if any, and that they should not have a religion decided for them….The atheist campaign team shared this point of view.

The new ads, which feature a 7 and 8 year old child state, “Please don’t label me. Let me grow up and choose for myself” with a background stating, “Mormon child,” “Marxist child,” “Zoroastrian child,” “Buddhist child,” “Catholic child,” “Agnostic child,” etc.


Ariane Sherine claims that this latest atheist propaganda is meant to:
try and change the current public perception that it is acceptable to label children with a religion. As Richard Dawkins states, "Nobody would seriously describe a tiny child as a 'Marxist child' or an 'Anarchist child' or a 'Post-modernist child'. Yet children are routinely labelled with the religion of their parents. We need to encourage people to think carefully before labelling any child too young to know their own opinions, and our adverts will help to do that.

I have covered this issue variously as UK atheist propagandists influenced USA atheist propagandists until in various countries atheists were wasting money on patting themselves in the backs. Just read some of their slogans in my past essays to see that which they consider clever; I am actually embarrassed for them yet, I understand that one of atheism’s consoling delusions is the delusion of being more erudite than thou.

This is merely another sham and a scam as atheist activists are doing what they do best: 1) playing the underdog victim, 2) begging for donations, 3) not being charitable to people in real tangible need, 4) openly displaying their ignorance and arrogance and 5) making their livelihood by condemning others since they think that they are right and everyone else is wrong.

Before getting to a more riotous aspect of the ads themselves let us hit some key points:

1) Such atheist activists seem to overlook the fact that children sometimes are referred to by such labels due to cultural and or social consid­erations and not theological. For instance, Judaism has a Bar/Bat Mitzvah when a child becomes a willing/thinking adult and decides to make a commitment to the faith. Likewise, various forms of Christianity have confirmation. Etc.

2) Richard Dawkins is a supporter of the atheist indoctrination summer camp for children “Camp Quest” (see here for atheism/children related essays including dissections of Camp Quest).

3) Dawkins’ purpose is not this sham of pure freedom but he envisages “society stepping in,”[2] and standing between you and your children. This is not about intellectual freedom but about indoctrinating children into atheism under the thinly veneered disguise of “science,” “evolution,” or education and freedom as Dawkins has expressed that his dictating to the parents of the world how to raise their children “might lead children to choose no religion at all.”[3]

4) For quite some time Dawkins has refused to debate various worthy opponents and so he absconds to attempt to influence the college crowd or much younger children.
He told a group of children “We are machines built by DNA whose purpose is to make more copies of the same DNA…It is every living object's sole reason for living.’”[4] And another group of children, “Put your trust in the scientific method, put your faith in scientific method.”[5]
What is wrong with that? For one, to him “science” and “evolution” are synonymous with atheism. He actually pulled the wool over the children’s eyes as he sought to prove why they could have faith/trust in science by a hard-science demonstration while he is involved in a soft-science that is riddled with quaint Victorian Era tall tales as evidence is interpreted via schools of thought and manipulated to fit the theory (multitudinous evidence is found here).

5) Philip Pullman, the author of “The Golden Compass” related books, chimed in to state, “It is absolutely right that we shouldn’t label children until they are old enough to decide for themselves.” Pullman write perfectly innocent fictional books for little children—right?
He has stated, “I don't think I'm writing fantasy. I think I'm writing realism. My books are psychologically real.”[6] But what does he really write about? As he has admitted, “My books are about killing God” and “I'm trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief.”

Bottom line: these activists atheist are very good at media campaigns, mostly due to the media’s complicity, and are two faced: one face is the concerned intellectual and the other the zealous atheist out to convert little children, interfere with your parenting, and make a living by expressing prejudice.

Now, what about the ads themselves? What of the children…the children? Well, the actual children in the ads are the children of one of the UK’s “most devout Christian families” and their father, Brad Mason, “is something of a celebrity within evangelical circles.”[7]


Daddy has stated:
It is quite funny, because obviously they were searching for images of children that looked happy and free. They happened to choose children who are Christian. It is ironic. The humanists obviously did not know the background of these children…
Obviously there is something in their faces which is different. So they judged that they were happy and free without knowing that they are Christians. That is quite a compliment. I reckon it shows we have brought up our children in a good way and that they are happy.

Leader of the Pioneer network of churches, Gerald Coates noted, “I think it is hilarious that the happy and liberated children on the atheist poster are in fact Christian.”

Always ready to miss the point and counter-argue against that which no one has argued, Andrew Copson, The British Humanist Association’s “education” director stated:
That’s one of the points of our campaign…People who criticise us for saying that children raised in religious families won’t be happy, or that no child should have any contact with religion, should take the time to read the adverts. The message is that the labelling of children by their parents’ religion fails to respect the rights of the child and their autonomy. We are saying that religions and philosophies — and ‘humanist’ is one of the labels we use on our poster — should not be foisted on or assumed of young children.

The use of their images came about due to a randomly accidental coincidence—yeah, right; no God here, keep moving along and pay no attention—since their daddy who is also a photographer had uploaded their images to a website that photographers use in order to sell images to designers.

Well, atheist activists; keep on throwing money away whilst elbowing each other in the ribs as we discern your lack of charity and manipulative propaganda. You discredit yourselves by merely being left to speak out as loudly and often as you please so, please do keep it up, we hear you loud and clear.

[1] Ariane Sherine, “Hey, preacher – leave those kids alone,” The Guardian, November 18, 2009
[2] During his interview with Gary Wolf, “The Church of the Non-Believers”: here or here
[3] Richard Dawkins, Now Here’s a Bright Idea
[4] Nick Pollard talks to Dr. Richard Dawkins (interviewed February 28th, 1995 published in Third Way in the April 1995 edition [vol 18 no. 3])
[5] Stated during his “Royal Institute of Christmas Lectures” 1991 aka “Growing Up in the Universe.”
[6] New York Magazine, Philip Pullman Realizes ‘Killing God’ Not the Ideal Sales Pitch
[7] Ruth Gledhill, “Children who front Richard Dawkins' atheist ads are evangelicals,” Time Online, November 21, 2009


Continue reading Deceptive Manipulative Propagandist Activist Atheists are at it Again – Unbeknownst to them: their New Ads Compliment Christianity...