Category Archives: Religion

Roman Religion

I’m reading about Roman religion and it seems like ancient religions are much more rational than modern, monotheistic religion. You act bad, the gods mess you up. You act virtuously, the gods reward you. The gods can be bargained with. Contrariwise, you can’t bargain with God. Plus, he does bad shit to good people all the time. Theodicy is pure nonsense. Modern religion, from this perspective, seems to make less sense than these ancient religions.

With certain ancient religions, the gods were believed because it was a matter of experience. (We now reject their superstitions, but you can see the effects gods would have.) I can understand if you believe in God because of your experience, but it makes little sense to have “faith.”

The alternative interpretation is to say, “Of course modern religion is more advanced than ancient religion.” Ancient religion is superstitious and distinctly human. Modern religion attempts to embrace something that is beyond human comprehension.

Our definition of God doesn’t make sense. You can argue that God is beyond definition, but that just seems to bolster the case that human definitions would be nonsensical.


I had to read Book XII of Aristotle’s Metaphysics for class today. The whole thing about the heavens moving in circles came up. Apparently, the Greeks used to think that the planets and heavenly sphere (all those stars) moved in circles. This continued well throughout the Middle Ages. It was interesting how Aristotle’s metaphysics dictated how circles were so divine. I mean, to put it crudely, he thought to move perpetually, you had to move in a circle. Yet the thing is, the Scholastics during the Middle Ages would’ve rejected the metaphysical parts of that whole thing because Aristotle rules out a singular creation event. Somehow, they still thought the circles made sense though.

From our modern view, the epicycles seem silly. However, I guess it’s better to impose some sort of way of understanding the motion rather than saying that the planets just randomly wander through the sky. I just don’t understand why the circles had to be so special.

Aristotle literally thought the heavens were divine. With religion in general, it’s interesting to see how religion tries to save itself by presenting literal myths as allegory. (Well, not everyone.) I mean, the Catholic church sanctions silly “miracles” in its process of creating saints. Sorry, I just think it’s all just as crude as those divine heavenly circles.

[NOTE: Bah, I don’t like the way I’m writing at all. I really should not write late at night and leave things completely unedited. However, it’s better to have some imperfect writing out there, than to have nothing out at all. I need to create a habit.]

Examining the Problem of Evil

If you asked me why I don’t believe in God, I could give you a myriad of answers. Among the more convincing answers (in my mind) would be the Problem of Evil. The Problem of Evil asks why there can be evil in the world if God is all-powerful and all-good. Would he not eradicate evil? When I think of all the pain and suffering, I truly do find the idea of an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent being to be absurd.

I recently read Alvin Plantinga’s book God, Freedom, and Evil. My edition was published in 1977 and reprinted in 1983. I was referred to the book by my professor for my class Philosophy and Cognitive Science. Our topic for the class was religion. We’d read Plantinga’s “Theism, Atheism, and Rationality” for class. I read God, Freedom, and Evil because I needed it to write my final paper.

The book’s divided into two parts: 1) Natural Atheology, and 2) Natural Theology. The bulk of the book is devoted to the Problem of Evil. It also addresses the compatibility between freedom and omniscience. The second part quickly touches on the cosmological argument, the teleological argument, and then spends most of its time on the ontological argument. The Problem of Evil was most relevant to my paper topic and, coincidentally, the part I found most interesting.

Plantinga uses what he calls the Free Will Defense to escape the Problem of Evil. This must be distinguished from a project of theodicy. Theodicy tries to explain why God created evil. For example, Milton’s Paradise Lost could be said to give an account of evil in the world. The Free Will Defense does not purport to know the mind of God. Plantinga’s goal is just to show that God is omniscient, omnipotent, and wholly good and Evil exists are logically consistent.

It’s a complicated and long argument. The summary in my essay was already inadequate and a blog entry will surely compress it more. The main things to understand are the limits on omnipotence and transworld depravity. God does not have the power to make 2+2=5 (according to Plantinga); God can do only what is logically possible. So God’s ability to eliminate evil is subject to logical constraints. If by removing one evil he were to create more evil, then he could not remove that evil.

Transworld depravity. Goodness, I had to read that passage a bajillion times in order to understand it. I’m not sure I can summarize it in a way that makes sense to anyone without some background in philosophy. I’ll do my best. Someone suffers from transworld depravity if there’s some moral action where he’ll always make the morally wrong decision. If God created a world where the person has to make a choice, the person will do something morally wrong. If God makes the person make the right choice, then he has removed free will. So if we assume that all people would suffer from transworld depravity then there’s no way God could have made a universe where people are free but there’s no evil.

Still with me? Well, what about volcanoes and tsunamis one may ask. Surely there’s no free will involved there. Plantinga says perhaps there are nonhuman persons who cause these natural disasters. It’s a preposterous claim, but he’s not purporting the truth of it. He’s just showing that God and the existence of evil aren’t logically inconsistent.

Has this shaken my belief in the Problem of Evil? To be honest, it has shown me that the Problem of Evil is not as ironclad as I thought. I have heard versions of a free will defense from theists before, but never from anyone well-versed in philosophy. Their versions made no sense, and this one does.

The Problem of Evil still appeals to me on a visceral, non-rational level. I’m still perplexed when I see death on a massive scale (from afar) and people insist that a perfect God exists. (If you believe in an imperfect God, I will be less perplexed at your belief.) There are other versions of the Problem of Evil, and it would be interesting to study those.

If I were to embark on a critique of Plantinga’s Free Will Defense, I would be tempted to go in many directions. When I think about it, though, I would have to concentrate on one thing. I think free will is a nonsensical concept because of the way I think our minds work (which is strongly influenced by Hofstadter’s I am a Strange Loop). Typically, free will is envisioned as some last minute mechanism in our brain. We get all the inputs, and then this mysterious “free will” thing takes over right before the decision is made. There’s some sort of gap. I don’t think there is. That’s not to say that we’re all mindless automata. Far from it. Decision-making is so much more complex and wonderful than this magical free will concept.

Can Plantinga’s defense not theodicy strategy work here? No, because if free will is not a logical phrase, then God could not have created it. Ergo, a free will defense cannot be used.

Of course, this kind of criticism is beyond the scope of this weblog entry. I am, furthermore, ill-equipped to embark on such a project at this time.

After reading this book, if someone were to ask me to articulate the Problem of Evil, I would recognize that I couldn’t do it in a way that I could not refute myself. I’ve learned that something I thought was a sure thing isn’t such a sure thing. After this book, I have less certainty, but more knowledge. That’s enough to make the book worth the read.

Writings against God and religion

Since the beginning of time, students have been admonished not to use introductory sentences which are wildly general. I’ve been indoctrinated with this principle since high school, and I’ve even been warned in college. My TA in my philosophy of mind class advised us not to start our essay with something like, “Since the beginning of time, people have wondered if ‘I’ refers or not.” Not only is it bad writing, but it is inaccurate. We didn’t start wondering about it until the 20th century (however, most of us don’t worry about it at all).

Imagine my surprise when a writer for the New York Times uses this type of shitty introductory sentence for a blog entry. Stanley Fish, from behind the TimesSelect wall tries to defend theism from the onslaught of the recent books by Harris, Dawkins, and Hitchens. I’m going to show you the offending sentence, with a few follow-up sentences for context:

Writings against God and religion have been around as long as God and religion have been around. But every so often an epidemic of the genre breaks out and a spate of such writings achieves the status of notoriety (which is what their authors had been aiming for). This has now happened to three books published in the last three years: Sam Harris’s “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and The Future of Reason” (2004, 2005), Richard Dawkins’s “The God Delusion” (2006) and Christopher Hitchens’s “God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” (2007).

I know, I know, who am I to criticize someone’s English? What authority do I have? What have I published? Who have I taught? Good questions. Who am I? I’m just an observer, and I’ve observed that that sentence is horrible. I make no other remarks on anyone’s command of the English language. Furthermore, if you disagree with me on the merits of wildly general introductory sentences qua good English [Note: Is this even grammatically correct?], then you can at least agree that the sentence leaves out a lot of history.

First of all, writing itself hasn’t been around as long as religion has been around. But that’s just nitpicky. The second, and better, point is that writings against God and religion haven’t been around because such writers have been fearful for their reputation, livelihood, and lives for most of the time God and religion have been around. I’d argue that religious tolerance and freedom of religion are modern concepts, let alone freedom from religion. John Locke’s landmark A Letter Concerning Toleration advocated religious tolerance, but left out atheists.

Religion has long suppressed criticism. Galileo was punished for contradicting Church teaching, even though he had no quarrel with God himself. Even if criticism has occasionally surfaced, the critics weren’t around for very long afterwards.

While there is evidence of anti-theist writing from antiquity (namely, Epicurus), this does not excuse the poor sentence. Among Socrates’s charges was believing in strange, new gods. He received the death penalty. After the Roman Empire fell, humanity took great steps backwards. “Every so often an epidemic of the genre breaks out”? Please, point to me an epidemic of these writings before the Age of Enlightenment.

For a long time, the Catholic Church forbid translating the Bible into the vernacular. The Bible was in Latin, while the people didn’t speak Latin. The absurdities of the Bible were hidden from the public. How could anyone criticize the Bible if they couldn’t read it?

To me, Stanley Fish’s introductory sentences are not only overly general, but also misleading. Atheists have not always had such opportunity to point out the flaws in the concepts of God and religion precisely because of the horrific actions of the followers of God and religion.


No, the universe is not made out of tiny particles. The universe is made out of patterns.

When I thought this, I felt a tingling sensation throughout my body. I had begun to touch the face of God. No, I then took it one step further.

God is a pattern.

Now, I must examine this claim. I must find out what it even means, if it truly means anything, and then if it has any truth in it.

Suddenly, this doesn’t sound so unachievable.

The Arrogance of Perfection

“They say that to not believe that there is anything higher is to be arrogant. However, it may also be arrogant to find evidence of a higher being and to claim that because it is beyond human comprehension, it must therefore be infinite and perfect in every way.”

A thought that I don’t necessarily believe in. Just something to ponder.

Highest Power

I believe that when most people refer to God, although they say “higher power,” they actually mean “highest power.” Do I believe in a higher power or higher powers? I lean towards yes. Do I believe in a highest power? After much thought, I’m deciding that the answer is an emphatic no.

This should be where I launch into an explanation, but I’m still tinkering with my reasoning, so an elaboration can only come at a much later date.

In any case, does this make me an atheist?

Disjointed Thoughts on Christianity

This is really long. Read at your own peril.

I don’t know when I became a Christian. There wasn’t a set date. There was no drastic flash of divine inspiration or some sign.

I was an atheist ever since I hit puberty. The concept of God never made any sense to me. I went through 4 years of Catholic high school and nothing they said ever changed my mind. I never felt anything whenever we had Mass.

In fact, the concept of God still doesn’t make sense to me, but in a different way than before. When I was an atheist, I just had no idea how anyone could believe in God. There was no proof at all, in my estimation. My current conception of God is some type of being that is incomprehensible and one which humans cannot define. Thus, if you can’t define God, you can’t very well prove his existence. You can’t measure God since he’s incomprehensible. I don’t know if God is omnipotent or omniscient or omnibenevolent. More importantly, I think that I can’t know. Got that? Let’s move on…

Since April of last year, I’ve been trying to find some unifying theory of life, that would encompass all facets of life. I was trying to find the meaning of life, I guess. I came across some interesting things.

At one point, I found out what faith meant. I had never ever understood the concept of faith before. It never made any sense. I only found out through repeated introspection. When I pushed further in rejecting all my beliefs, I found no foundation. I found no reason to choose good over evil. Still, I chose good. I struggled and struggled. But why? Why? Why should I chose good? I kept trying to find reasons but there were no reasons, in my mind. And then I came upon the concept of faith. To choose good just to choose good. No reason.

Of course, discovering the concept of faith didn’t turn me into a Christian. It didn’t make me believe in God. However, in retrospect, it put me in a mindset where I could move myself away from the belief that everyone who was religious was, to some extent, nuts. I mean, I respected them, but I just found them irrational.

For my Bible as Lit class, I read Ecclesiastes. Being in Catholic school, I’ve taken religion classes, and I’ve read the Bible. None of it really enthralled me at first. I read the Gospels, but I didn’t really care what they said. I heard about Jesus and thought he was cool and all, but he was always just a man, not the Son of God. I liked some of his message (as explained by various teachers, including a hippie liberal), but I never decided that I would walk his path.

Ecclesiastes was different. From the beginning, I was hooked. Here was a man who had the same problems I did. How fucking crazy that thousands of years ago, this man wrote exactly what I thought… “Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun?” Yes, what do we gain? It’s all pointless, isn’t it? (Sorry that everything isn’t in chronological order. This doesn’t map with my earlier discovery of faith. This happened beforehand, but I’ve always struggled with existential crises.)

You would think at this point I would have some lightbulb go off in my head and that’s when I converted, but nope. The Bible isn’t the book that converted me to Christianity. In fact, I was kinda pissed off when I read the end of Ecclesiastes. I’d read Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus and felt like Ecclesiastes had taken a cheap leap of faith at some point. I didn’t see that logic.

If you really want to know the book contributed greatly to my conversion, it was The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I was reading a whole bunch of non-fiction at the time. I have no clue why the hell I read this book.

It convinced me of the imperative to love everything, which I felt was part of Jesus’s message. At the same time, I had come to understand what faith was. I had also come to some of my own conclusions about how to live. I also had been studying existentialism. I began synthesizing these thoughts in my notebook.

I talked with my friend online at one point. He emphasized a philosophy of balance. I vehemently opposed it at the time. I felt an imperative to ground myself in this world. To choose good. (Or whatever, the thoughts become muddy from my recalling them.) Anyway, at some point he asks if I’m Christian now, and I say that I don’t know. Yet, it seemed like I wanted to follow the philosophies of Jesus Christ at that point.

This story isn’t complete, is it? After all, you don’t know how I came to believe in God. Well, I guess I should be perfectly honest. I don’t really know either. What’s more, I’m in a state of perpetual doubt. At this point in my life, I sometimes severely wonder if I believe in God or not. I don’t have an unshaking faith.

What I have are inklings.

At one point, I broke down and asked for a sign. I was like, damn it, I want to know. Please, I am insignificant and weak. You know the way I think. I need some type of evidence.

I never received a sign.

I did receive a few questions.

Of course, if I put these few experiences down that I’ve had, I know that the old atheist me would think I’m nuts. But you have to look at the sum totality of my experience.

My dog survived surgery when I was sure he was going to die. He’s still alive now. I don’t see that as proof at all of any existence of a higher being, but I did sometimes wonder if it was a sign. Strangely enough, I never wondered while this whole thing was going on. I never prayed, asking for my dog to live. I figured he had lived a good long life already. In fact, I thought the surgery would be a massive waste of money. So, he lived, and it wasn’t until a long time afterwards that I wondered if this was the sign I was asking for.

Then, I had this experience meeting a random stranger on BART. I thought that perhaps there was some higher force at work. But I didn’t see this as my sign. I still don’t have my proof.

I don’t think I’ll ever get a “sign” as how I originally thought it. I don’t think I’ll ever have proof. And I don’t think I deserve any kind of proof. I won’t say “that’s not the way God works” because I think it’s incredible hubris to claim that one knows how God does or does not operate. So, since I don’t really know what God is supposed to be, it’s hard to believe in something I can’t understand. I don’t think: “I believe in God.” I think: “I believe in God?”

Before all this happened, I have other important experiences that must be shared. The first experience involves a river. I didn’t convey it all in the entry, but I think this was a time where I felt connected to some type of unity. There’s no other way to explain it. If not that time, I’m sure I’ve felt it other times. Like one time when I looked in the mirror, just glanced at my own eyes while reflecting on life, and then I felt this incredible feeling, a connection of the past, present, and future. Other times it’s been a feeling of being connected to the entire universe. I guess they’re what one may call peak experiences. If you’ve ever read Emerson’s transparent eye poem, it’s exactly like that.

I read a book called… hm, the title escapes me at the moment… but it was a science book. It talked about peak experiences and how they’re felt when people pray or when someone is in deep meditation. There are different levels of unity that people feel at different times. The book did not take the stance that these were all just brain states and thus false. Could we be connecting to something higher? Do our brains enable us to connect to something higher?

You can now see that my question/belief is not grounded only in two small non-signs and a commitment to some of the teachings of Jesus. There’s something deeper that I’ve felt. Was it God? Who knows? I sure don’t know if those different experiences are connected in any fashion, but I’ve just put it out there so you can see where I’m coming from.

This is very long, and I’ve still a lot more to share. There’s one other peak experience that I had that was very different from the others. Whenever you have one of these experiences, you feel like you’ve accessed Truth. It shapes you. This peak experience wasn’t about unity. It was during Halloween Two. I felt as if all of life was insignificant, but it was a marvelous happy feeling. I was reveling in the naturally illogical nature of the universe.

Thus, now you can see some of the basis of my two contradictory truths. I am a Christian who believes that the universe is ultimately meaningless. I believe that nothing matters, but I still have an imperative to love everything in that universe. And now, I’m at the point where I believe that I can fully embrace both beliefs. I don’t have to abandon one or the other. I don’t have to find balance between them.

As you can tell, I’m already not a traditional Christian, but I have another belief that really sets me apart from other Christians. Actually, it’s not a belief. It’s the lack of a belief. I still don’t believe in heaven or hell. I suppose that also means I don’t believe in an afterlife. I suppose that also means I don’t believe in an everlasting soul. Or if there is some type of soul, it disperses, just as your body decomposes when it dies. Your constituent elements return to the universe.

Part of it goes back to the experience where I saw the connection of the past, present, and future. It wasn’t just that. I don’t know how else to put it, but I saw heaven on Earth. I saw what we have as the best we will ever have.

Part of it goes to my beliefs about Jesus. I just don’t understand how the Jesus I know would create a hell. Isn’t there an all-forgiving element? Of course, I know the traditional Christian riposte: You have free will and thus choose not to go to heaven; God doesn’t send anyone to hell. Still, it seems a cop-out.

Also, if there was a heaven and hell, it wouldn’t make sense to believe that there’s no reason to choose good over evil. That’s not a very good reason since it gets things backwards, but you can see why I would have a reluctance to believe in heaven or hell.

At heart, I’m still a skeptic. At least with Christianity in general, I have all those thoughts and experiences aforementioned. With heaven and hell, I have absolutely no evidence or introspective beliefs that would make me change my mind. I’m sorry, but my conception of Christianity doesn’t allow for hell to exist.

It’s untraditional, but I’m sure I’m not alone. Not that there is anyone who matches my exact set of beliefs, but people who agree with certain elements. I haven’t met anyone who was unsure of when they became a Christian, but I’m sure there are people who didn’t have one set conversion experience. I know there are Christian philosophers who agree that “Nothing matters.” I know there are Christians who don’t believe in heaven or hell. Actually, my politics professor said George Washington quietly lacked a belief in the afterlife. I know there are Christians who don’t have unshaking, unwavering faith; they sometimes have doubts. And maybe there are people out there who may agree in totality with my beliefs.

Nevertheless, here I am, putting them out there, unafraid to share my beliefs with the world at large. They may change as they have changed before, but this is a snapshot of what I believe right now. Some may disagree vehemently with my current views of Christianity, but it would be folly to shout at me, “You are not a Christian!” Better that I am in the fold and have a chance to perhaps come to your side, than to push me back into the realm of atheism. Yet, I already explained earlier why I was unafraid. Not all Christians are born-again evangelicals. If you tell me that I am in no way Christian, I know that you are telling many others that they are not Christian either.

Intelligent Design is Bullshit

I heard that Bush talked about Intelligent Design. I figure now’s an appropriate time to give an opinion.

I’m not going to mince words here. I’m not going to be politically correct. Intelligent Design is bullshit. Intelligent Design is neither religion nor science. There is no “debate” about Intelligent Design. That is bullshit too.

Intelligent Design is demeaning to science and demeaning to religion. Intelligent Design pretends that religion isn’t good enough and dresses up itself in pseudo-scientific language in order to fool the public. Intelligent Design pretends that the people are too stupid to know that religion and science are two separate things and that each have their place in this modern world. Religion is about faith. Faith has its places, but the science classroom is not one of them.

Intelligent Design is blasphemous. Science is testable. If ID were science, which it isn’t, it would attempt to test God. “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Deuteronomy 6.16). Science is not so bold. It only attempts to explain the universe in human terms. As to the question of God, science cannot say that there is no God, only that God is beyond its realm because God is incomprehensible and undefinable. That’s where faith comes in, not Intelligent Design. Intelligent Design purports to know God.

Of course, the proponents of Intelligent Design will say, “No, we do not attempt to know God. We’re saying that evolution can’t explain everything. So, there must be an Intelligent Designer, or even Designers.” And that, my friends, is bullshit. It’s bullshit in a science classroom. And it’s bullshit religion. Intelligent Design doesn’t say anything.

Can’t you see? Look at the langauge the proponents of ID use! Intelligent Design has no regard for the truth. Intelligent Design is therefore pure and utter bullshit. Intelligent Design doesn’t care about God and it doesn’t care about science. If taught, it will dilute both.

Do you want your children to be taught something that has not a care for the truth?

Job 42.3-42.6

“… Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”


Declaration of Independence Banned at Calif School

This article pissed me off: Declaration of Independence Banned at Calif School.

Right after a quote about supposed discrimination against Christians, we get this ending paragraph, “In June, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case of a California atheist who wanted the words “under God” struck from the Pledge of Allegiance as recited by school children. The appeals court in California had found that the phrase amounted to a violation of church and state separation.”

… what the hell?

Tell me, what the hell does that have to do with anything at all in the article? Nothing, actually. It’s just a sneaky way to make people think that taking the words “under God” back out of the Pledge of Allegiance equals persecution against Christians. Sorry, wrong.

There’s just a few minor differences. First off, the Pledge of Allegiance did not originally have “under God” in it. That’s why I said “back out” in that previous sentence. We got through two world wars without saying “under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance. Yeah, that’s right, the “greatest generation” did not start out saying “God” in their Pledge of Allegiance. How’s that for tradition?

Second difference: the word pledge. It’s a pledge of allegiance! Can you get that through your minds?! Not a document of historical importance. (Again, I must note that “under God” wasn’t in there in the first place.) It’s a PLEDGE! Doesn’t that mean something to you? Doesn’t it mean that it means the government is endorsing God if it’s in the pledge of allegiance? If you agree, then I must inform you, there’s a little thing standing in the way of keeping “under God” in the pledge… and that thing is called the Constitution.

… which brings me back to the Declaration of Independence. I don’t know the context, but I think it’s stupid to ban the Declaration of Independence. It’s stupid to ban all historical documents that have mention of God. There, I said it. It is stupid. Because that’s misrepresenting history. But let’s analyze this situation a little deeper: It is not discrimination against Christians to ban these documents. Why? Because some of the Founding Fathers were deists. It’s not specific against Christianity. So there. Nyah.

Anyway, the real point non-technicality point I want to make is: So what if the Declaration of Independence says “God” in it? People wave that around as if it’s proof of God. Yeah well, there’s a little thing standing in your way again, and that’s the Constitution. Guess what’s the basis of our laws? Guess… I’ll make it easier. Multiple choice: Is it A) Declaration of Independence, or B) Constitution. If you answered A, you are wrong.

The Constitution is the basis of our laws here in the United States. So, you can wave around your historical opinions, but I’d rather stick with the document that makes us a more perfect union.

It’s not okay if the teacher has a specifically Christian agenda and is shoving said agenda down his students’ throats. It’s okay to have these documents if he’s teaching real history, not his evangelical version of it. Wait, you may ask, why can’t the teacher teach it if he wants to? Isn’t it a freedom of speech issue? No, it’s not. The teacher is getting paid by the government, and is working at a state institution. The teacher is essentially acting as a state official in his position, and the state cannot promote a specifically Christian agenda.

If you teach that some of the Founders were deeply religious, you must also teach that they so valued religion that they deemed it necessary to separate it from government. The personal views of some Founding Fathers do not make this a Christian Nation. And so, before I end this entry, I must invoke the Constitution one more time. Remember, the Constitution does not say any god made this nation, but starts out with “We the people”.

Comment about Scientology

Nikki left this comment under my entry about Scientology. Scientology is very scary.

[begin comment]

I was born into a family of staunch scientologists and suffered from intractable epileptic seizures for 25 years.

My whole life I was led to believe that my problem was spiritual, not physical. I was emotionally tortured and shamed by scientology because of the ridiculous theories and activities that were thrust upon me. There was also the sense that I was failing my family and LRon every time I had a seizure -which was often. It was as though it was somehow MY FAULT! I eventually tried to kill myself with anti-convulsants when I was thirteen years old.

When neurologists recommended that I undergo brain surgery to remove the benign brain tumour that was CAUSING the seizures in my right temporal lobe, my father went bezerk and tried to stop the evil doctors from profiting from my doom.

Since undergoing the temporal lobectomy five years ago I have been 100% seizure-free. No medicine required and CERTAINLY no auditing, touch asists and all that other CRAP they had me doing since I was a young girl.

Stay away from scientology – they’ll fcuk with your mind the way that they have and still do with my family’s.

[end comment]

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God Vibes

I glossed over the detail of having Mass that day, and the fact that there’s a new bishop because I was trying to make a different point. This new bishop is crazy and I had trouble during Mass trying not to bust up laughing.

The way this guy opens up his speech is by mentioning a sports jersey. He says there’s a patch on it, which signifies that it’s the real deal, authenticated by the NBA. He compares himself to the patch.

Yes, children, get your True Christian patches, right here! A patch! Why didn’t anyone think of that before? Screw loving your enemies, I just want the “I Love My Enemies” patch!

He’s the patch that authenticates the ceremonies and makes sure they aren’t cheap knock-offs. There’s an unbroken chain from the Apostles copying the exact things Jesus did. He says they’re the exact ceremonies Jesus performed, and these things weren’t decided by a committee.

Hm… how about the Council of Nicaea where they decided what True Catholics did?

Another thing: How can people sound so arrogant when they call themselves “unworthy”? I don’t know how he did it, but that was another moment when I almost couldn’t contain my laughter.

This bishop was definitely giving off vibes that we’re all sinners and don’t love God enough. Yes, the humans are inherently evil deal.I didn’t like it one bit. I don’t remember exactly what he said, and I know he wasn’t this extreme, but I was instantly reminded of this: Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards.

I don’t know if this was the bishop’s idea, but we didn’t even get to sit down during communion. I suppose I could’ve sat down myself, but they told us to stay standing up. I don’t know what the norm is, but at our school, I never stood up the entire time during communion.

Completely catching me off guard, he breaks into song at one point during the part where he talks about the wine being Jesus’ blood and stuff. Anyone seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail? It was the tune those monks sing, only the words were in English, not Latin. However, I have no idea if it’s a direct translation (I doubt it). I contained my laughter, but Ian and Richard next to me didn’t. I also resisted the urge to pretend to slam something onto my forehead (while Richard didn’t).

One last gripe: He was miked the whole time, so his voice cut through while the choir was singing. Not that I like the choir (another story for another time), but his voice exacerbated the horribleness, there was some sort of time delay between their singing (probably his fault).

Pascal’s Laundry

At one time, I was complaining to Lindsay (and a few other people) online about how I hate folding laundry. It really is quite a bother. When I get my own home, I’m living out of the dryer. However, as she remarked, the clothes get all wrinkly if you leave them in there.

I don’t remember exactly, but if my memory serves me right: My appropriate rebuttal was that wrinkly clothes never hurt anyone, unless space aliens suddenly came and killed everyone who had wrinkly clothes.

A bit later, she calmed my fears, properly noting that if space aliens came and killed everyone wearing neat-pressed clothes, I would be safe.

You know what this reminds me of? Pascal’s Wager.

Think about it. Since we know nothing of these space aliens, it’s just as likely that they’ll come and kill either group of people… Or, to set up the religious analogy some more, let’s say the aliens send them to be tortured on a spaceship named “Hell.” Which way can you wager? It’s impossible to know. Just as it’s impossible to wage correctly in Pascal’s Wager.

Wait a second, you might think, “All the religions don’t set up such a mutually exclusive situation.”

However, if we know nothing of God, which Pascal’s Wager posits, it’s just as likely that God will send us to Hell for believing in him, as it is that God will send us to Hell for not believing in him.

When it comes down to that, it’s best not to worry about what the space aliens think, and do what you like best. Wrinkly clothes, or ironed clothes. As for me, I’ll keep my clothes slightly wrinkly, and keep on not believing in a god.

Give to everyone who begs from you, except the guy on the street corner

When I was in Washington, DC, participating in the summer class abbreviated as NSLC, I decided to give my spare change to a man who asked for money as I was coming out of a building.

One of my group members saw this, and, as we were leaving the area, remarked, “You know, you’re not supposed to do that.”

Although, as many of you know, I’m an atheist, I replied, “That’s not what Jesus would have done.”

I have no idea if the girl was Christian, but I’m sure a great number of Christians believe the same thing: These people don’t deserve the money, or they need to get a job, or they’re not really homeless, or whatever other rationalization they think in their middle-class minds.

Yet, Jesus did say, “Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5.42). And yeah, it’s not easy. It’s not easy to “go also the second mile,” when someone forces you to go the first.

Too many people are simply Diet Christians — driving to church on Sunday and thinking that qualifies them as a Good Person ™.

Hypocrites. The lot of them.

As for me, I’ll keep giving my spare change (yeah, even when it’s my own hard-earned money). What good does it do me? Will it really add up to a noticeable amount eventually? I doubt it. And even if they are “fake” homeless, the money will still do them more good than it’s currently doing me, jingling in my pocket.

But… I guess I’m a hypocrite too. I hardly ever have change in my pocket to give in the first place. That’s okay, though, I’m just an evil atheist.

Moreover, I’ll only give to anyone on the street who directly asks me, unless s/he is playing really good music.

And… I’m a bit partial to the message of Carnegie’s Gospel of Wealth. Yet, I don’t think a bit of spare change now and then hurts anyone. To quote from the Bible again, “Yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table” (Matthew 15.27). The full extent of the Gospel of Wealth, however, is another discussion for another time. (Sorry to be such a tease.)

1 in 10 to the 17th power?

On vacation

Will be on vacation from today to the end of June, at least. I will keep you informed if I manage to find internet access.


The first private vehicle has reached outer space. This is an important day in history, and opens many new doors with space travel. Still, I think a space elevator would be better.

And now, we take you to your regularly scheduled weblog entry:

1 in 10 to the 17th power?

An e-mail from “alias” about my Jesus’ Appeal piece, before I put up the annotations:

well. being a Christian myself, I was at first a bit skeptical about this whole thing. in the end, it proved to be the same as all your other stories, posing no real threat to history; but just kind of retarded. I had a few things to point out to you, even if you think you already know, or don’t believe it in the first place.

A) The Medieval Paintings: I am led to believe that these could very well be inaccurate. This is still a society that is predominately ‘white’. Being believers in Jesus Christ and his teachings, wouldn’t they paint him to look like themselves? No offense intended, but WHY would they (considering their own skewed midsets) paint Jesus to look like an outsider? The Middle Ages, Crusades, and Roman Catholic Church are all real screwed up when it comes to Christianity. If the catholic church is all about money, doesn’t it seem like you would get more believers (more money) if you’ve got a “damn sexy” guy on that painting, instead of the darker, black haired ‘weirdo’? You’ve learned about it. you know what I mean.

B) Is Jesus the One?? There is documented evidence that Jesus is God’s Son through over 300 prophecies written down hundreds of years before he was born. BEAR WITH ME HERE….

1) it was prophesied that He would be of the “seed of a woman” not that of a man. [therefore, virgin Mary] (Genesis 3:15, Galations 4:4)

2)He would be of the lineage of Shem (Genesis 9&10)

3) He would be a descendant of Abraham (Genesis 22:18, Galations 3:16)

4) ” ” of the line of Isaac (Gen. 21:12, Luke 3:23, 24)

5) ” ” of the line of Jacob (Numbers 24:17, Luke 3:23-34)

6) ” ” of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10, Luke 3:23-33)

7) ” ” family of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1, Luke 3:23-32)

8) ” ” of the house of David (Jeremiah 23:5, Luke 3:23-31)

9) He would be crucified (psalm 22:14-18, Luke 23:33)

10)he would be betrayed by a friend (psalms 41:9, Matthew 10:4)

11) he would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:1)

* * *

The chances of just eight of these prophecies being fulfilled in one person is 1 in 10 to the 17th power. Thats 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000. And there were over 300 prophecies fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He is The One.

Now, if you’ve stayed with me, if the message hasn’t just cut off completely because its too long, or if you’re not asleep, I’m really proud of you and I thank you for listening to me preach. But thats what I believe.

I already dealt with part A in Jesus’ Appeal Annotated.

1) Where did you find “seed of a woman” in Genesis 3.15? This is God talking to the serpent. Galatians, meanwhile, was written after Jesus’ birth. It is in the New Testament.

2) I read Genesis 9 & 10, and I did not find any prophecies about the Messiah. Even if I accept your proposition, I must remind you that supposedly all the peoples of Earth came from the 3 sons of Noah. What’s so special about 1/3?

3) What does Genesis 22:18 have to do with Jesus? Even if you look at the passage in Galatians… The rest of that prophecy is not true. When did Jesus posess the gates of his enemies and become as numerous as the stars?

4) Again, no mention of the Messiah in the Genesis passage.

5) “… and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the borderlands of Moab, and the territory of all the Shethites” Numbers 24.17. Woah! I totally missed that one in the Gospels!

6) Did you read Genesis 49.10?! “The scepter shall not depart from judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and the obediance of the peoples is his.” Am I missing something?

7) Hm… absence of mention of Jesus… I see “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.”

8) Perhaps you can make a metaphorical argument that Jesus fulfills this prophecy, but let’s look ahead one verse: “In his days Judah will be saved… and Israel will live in safety…” Jeremiah 23.6. Euh… nope, not Jesus.

9) All very fine, but no mention of crucifixion in Psalm 22.14-18.

10) No arguments here. I’m not sure if the Psalm is an actual prophecy. However, being betrayed by a friend isn’t so uncommon an act to support your statistics.

11) Yet, Micah 5:2 says, “But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah” [emphasis mine]. Check out:

Getting back to the lineage of Jesus, you skipped the mention of the descendants between David and Joseph. Maybe because there’s a huge discrepancy between Luke and Matthew? One more thing about that lineage you use so much from Luke: “… He was the son (as was thought) of Joseph son of…” Luke 3.23 [emphasis mine].

So, 1 in 10 to the 17th power? Wow, that number seems a bit… arbitrary. Do you have any evidence to back up your claim, as the numbers relate to the “prophecies”?

Moreover, the Gospel of Matthew was specifically written to try to fulfill the prophecies in order to convince other Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. Not that this was written after Jesus’ death, and based largely on the Gospel of Mark. Don’t you think this would make it just a little bit biased?

Church of Scientology: An Intro and Movie

I have to preface this by saying that the Church of Scientology is crap.

I forgot to write about this little adventure because it occured during my field trip, which took place while my site was done.

The field trip wasn’t to the Church of Scientology specifically, but to San Francisco, in general. We toured the city. At one point, we passed by the Church of Scientology. My friend was interested in going in since he was doing his history research project on it. How fortunate for us that someone from the Church of Scientology came over to recruit us to visit her church. Apparently, the teacher let us go because she was going to teach us about the architecture. It used to be some old building, don’t remember, you’ll see why soon.

She started off with a little bit about the architecture after she herded us inside. Then, she elegantly segued, mentioning how they changed the building. She pointed to some quotes they had placed on the wall, by their founder, L. Ron Hubbard. Deftly, she directs us to some panels which tell about Scientology, itself.

Everything she says is completely empty. She’s talking, alright. And she’s saying words, and these words make sense to me. Yet, something about these words… “You can be any religion and still belong to the Church of Scientology. Scientology provides the tools to meet spiritual goals…”

“What tools?” I asked, my politic response. I could have said that I thought all she was saying was bullshit, but I didn’t.

“Oh, seminars and classes, to help with marriage, blah blah blah…” Before the “blah’s” I figured it out: It was all for money. Classes? For free? As one says in the famous card game, “BS!”

The next step, some of us were interested in taking their “Free personality test.” However, she offered to show a movie. So, about five of us went in to see the movie, whilst the rest took the test.

Very, very comfortable, the chairs were almost too comfortable, especially after a long day’s journey. Seriously, it was a small movie room, the chairs were comfortable, it was dark, and you never know, she could’ve locked us in. I still wonder if everything we said during the film was recorded.

The film was about Dianetics. What’s Dianetics you ask? I could explain it now, or you can see the film yourself. Okay, okay, I’ll tell you about the film.

The film, supposedly, is based off a true story from the 1950s, and representative of many similar cases. It begins with ultra-cheesy jazz-type music, a dad and a son with a football in the front yard. The kid is then playing football for his high school team. BAM! He’s in the air and hit. Next thing you know, he’s in the hospital. Doesn’t look good. The doctor taps his knee. No reflexes. Tickles his foot. Nothing. He can’t feel the lower half of his body, he says to the other doctor at the foot of the bed, as if the kid on the bed can’t hear.

His girlfriend stops by later. Attack of the bad actors! “Go find someone else who’ll be better for you.” Blah, blah. Yeah, kid, you’re just saying that because you can’t feel your penis. Was that really what the Scientology people were implying? In any case, not good.

From there, the movie gets weird. You can’t really tell when he’s dreaming, and when he’s not. Excuse me if I mess up some things chronologically.

For example, one doctor leaves a book for him. He mentions “psychosurgery” or something like that and how the mind can heal. He goes on about how the kid is crazy, delusional. Later on, a nurse comes along and injects him with a hypodermic needle, Kill Bill vol. 1 style, only the nurse didn’t have an eye patch.

Later on, he’s getting some type of scan, and then you see two doctors talking about him. He’s an interesting case. The only damage is in his cerebral cortex. He’ll be a good one to cut up.

At various points after weird scenes, the kid wakes up, panting. “No surgery,” he demands.

The funniest part is when two doctors are talking about how they’re going to do surgery and how bad his case is, etc, then the camera moves a bit, and you see that they’ve been standing at the foot of the bed the whole time! Well, we got a good laugh out of it.

Eventually, his girlfriend says that one of his friends wanted him to read this… Surprise, surprise: It’s the Dianetics book.

So, the kid reads it. It’s all about how the subconscious represses you. All memories are stored, even when unconscious.

Via a few replayed flashbacks, we figure out that while the kid was flat on the ground, one of his teammates said, “Oh man, he’s never going to walk again.” The point we’re supposed to get from this is that he heard this subconsciously, and that’s why he can’t walk. (Yeah, right, like that’ll help people with severed spines.)

He opens his eyes. “Wiggle your big toe.” Okay, he doesn’t say that, but he does lift the covers, and look at his toes. I wonder if Mr. Tarantino watched the Dianetics movie.

He’s up. He’s walking. He’s jumping on the bed. The music’s back to it’s old cheesy self. He’s changing his clothes.

The doctors walk into the room. They wonder where he went, and then they see him. “What, this isn’t possible,” (the evil) one declares. Two other doctors instantly begin examining him, on with stethoscope ready.

“Get back in bed,” (the evil) one angrily yells. Evidently, they’re mad because they can’t cut him up, as they were planning to do when the camera was on them in the hallway before entering his room.

The kid leaves the book for one of the doctors and walks out. “This could put us out of business,” the man protests as he looks out the window.

Flash forward to the future. Flashback to beginning of movie, cheesy music-wise. His girlfriend is now his wife. He’s playing football with his kid… fade to the best part of the movie.

Titles on the screen first declare something similar to, “Your subconscious is keeping you from reaching your full potential.” And then, more ominously, “Get rid of it.”

The end.

The experience was pretty creepy. I split, with someone else, after watching the movie. The others didn’t have their test results yet, but I didn’t want to stick around.

More on the test tomorrow.

Two Quotes, No Comment

“Whoever is not against us is for us.” Mark 9.40.

“Whoever is not with me is against me…” Matthew 12.30

I’m providing none of my own commentary on this, as of yet.

NOTE: Wording is from The New Oxford Annotated Bible.

Not One Contradiction

Ashley said: “Adam, I know that you think that christianity just started by some people preaching the gospel message but you are way off the mark. The bible is God’s Holy Word, made up of lots of authors that span hundreds of years and yet there is not one contradiction found in the whole thing! This fact is proved by hundreds of books authored by many people who started out believing exactly like you did. I do agree w/ you on the brain issue. Without that, thought would be impossible. But where did that come from? If you believe that it is all just a mere accident then you have more faith than me. I believe that the Lord God created us and put his breath of life into everything in this beautiful world. Just think about this Adam: if you do believe that there is a God and follow the steps needed to be saved what is it hurting? If I am wrong then in the end it won’t matter, correct? but Adam if you are wrong, which you are, when Jesus Christ comes back you will be judged and sent to hell for eternity. I wouldn’t take my chances Adam. It seems to me that you are just a lonely person who has given up on the world, but give God another chance for he has not and never will give up on you.”

Let me make this clear. I am not Adam. She was referring to someone who left a comment in my original Pledge entry.

I’m posting this because I couldn’t stop laughing at the line: “The bible is God’s Holy Word, made up of lots of authors that span hundreds of years and yet there is not one contradiction found in the whole thing!”


There are lots of contradictions. Poor dear.

Answering a Fourth Comment Regarding the Pledge

In response to my original critique of the Pledge of Allegiance, Christina Williams said: “First of all an agnoiologist needs to study you because what you said is stupid. I respect that some people have different beliefs than I do, but you don’t even back up why God should be taken out of anything. God is everything and one day every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that he is Lord.”

But I do back up why God should be taken out of the Pledge: It’s unconstitutional to have “God” in there, which is a proper noun for a specific god.

Do you really respect that some people have different beliefs than you do? In essense, what you’re saying is: “I respect what other people believe, but they are all wrong, and one day they’ll realize that my god is the correct god.”

Answering a Third Comment Regarding the Pledge

In response to my original Pledge of Allegiance critique, Melissa said: “Under God should NOT be taken out of the Pledge. It’s just wrong and everyone knows it. We are dismissing a true and powerful God that sent his son to DIE for us so that we could go to heaven if we just asked Him! Taking Under God out is a big mistake”

You need a reality check: About 2/3 of the world is not Christian. So, be careful how you define everyone. How would taking “under God” out be a big mistake? After all, if i just ask Him, I can get into heaven, anyway, right? So, do you think your god will punish us if we don’t put him in the Pledge of Allegiance… even though God wasn’t originally mentioned in the Pledge for over 50 years? And if he’s so powerful, how come the idea to put “God” in the pledge derives from people? How come he can’t just keep it in there himself? The main point of my argument is that it’s unconstitutional. If it’s “just wrong” to take it out of the Pledge, then I guess the idea that state should be separate from religion is “just wrong” too. Let’s stop governing ourselves, and just ask God to do it, I’m sure that will work.

Visiting Preacher at MLK Mass

I go to a Catholic school, as some of you readers might have heard before. Last Friday, we had mass. Technically it wasn’t a mass, just a MLK “celebration of peace,” but whatever, it’s the same thing me as an atheist. Anyway, we had a preacher from, I think, Oakland visit us. He was a rather powerful and articulate speaker, I have to admit, even though he pronounced affluent as affluent (just nitpicking). As other people were getting into it, giving “amens” as requested, I still maintained a cynical detachment. Thus, I caught this one point of hypocrisy. I’m willing to bet $10 that I’m the only one in the building who caught it. This reaffirms my earlier entry that hypocrisy arises from ignorance.

Anyway, here it goes. He says that us kids don’t have to live up to the standard that the media and corporate America gives. We should be who we are and be happy with that. Not too long afterwards, he mentions how we should live up to God’s standards. Granted, one set of standards, the one he condoned, was better than the other. Yet, it’s still hypocritical when to say be who you are, then say you should strive to reach a different standard instead. Perhaps this can be reconciled with a technicality, by saying that those standards allow you to live to your true potential, becoming your true self. Whatever, still seems hypocritical to me.

I also noticed a bit of anti-intellectualism, despite the fact that he did go to a good school (can’t remember which one). It reminded me of our studies in AP US history on the Second Great Awakening. One could argue that we are going through a third.

On a lighter note, his hairstyle made it seem like he could sell an ’84 Ford. I mean, he looked like a used car salesman. But, as you can see from my analysis, I didn’t judge him by his appearances (part of the message of that one guy I mentioned in the beginning). Besides, I couldn’t get a good view from my seat. Yet overall, despite my nitpicking on that one point of hypocrisy, he did give a good talk with a good message.

[01/24/03 – EDIT: Added that link to my earlier entry on hypocrisy, so I also took out “(will add link later)”]

Concerning the Absence of Color

I came upon this site claiming atheism is a religion via Anyway, the site claims:

But this [that atheism is not a religion] is like saying that “black,” (which physicists define as the total absence of color) is not a color. The car I drive is a big, old Chevrolet, whose color is black. In common practice throughout the world, “black” is understood to be a color, despite the technical definition of the physicists. Likewise, “Atheism” is a religion, despite any technical definitions to the contrary.

If black is a color, then Atheism is a religion.

The analogy is flawed. The answer is clear when you think about it the right way. What color is a window?

Yes, black is a color, but atheism is still not a religion.

So, I decided to send an e-mail to the webmaster (which is pretty much what I said up here). It’s subject is “Concerning the absence of color” and it reads:

Dear Rev. Bill McGinnis,

In your web page titled “The Religion of Atheism” (found at you state:

“But [saying atheism is not a religion] is like saying that “black,” (which physicists define as the total absence of color) is not a color. The car I drive is a big, old Chevrolet, whose color is black. In common practice throughout the world, “black” is understood to be a color, despite the technical definition of the physicists. Likewise, “Atheism” is a religion, despite any technical definitions to the contrary.

If black is a color, then Atheism is a religion.”

I believe your analogy is incorrect. An object that is transparent, such as a window, can be said to lack color.

If you believe I am incorrect, please reply. If you believe that I am correct, could you please e-mail me if you decide to make any changes to the aforementioned web page.

Thank you for taking the time to read this e-mail.

I’ll keep you updated if he decides to e-mail back.

Answering a Second Comment Regarding the Pledge

In response to my entry, Answering a Comment Regarding the Pledge (which answers a comment from my original Pledge entry), Landon said:

So in response of your response, what is the evidence for evolution? I bet you don’t even know it. I completly agree with the first guy.

George Washington states

“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 and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

I found that at the University of Chicago Press’ site. Now explain that. Our founding father states that we are a religious country.

But you are exactly correct about this country; about it being a Democracy, and you have a chance to voice your opinion, but the fact is, America was founded upon religion of the ‘Almighty’ as Washington puts it. If you don’t like what America is, LEAVE, GO SOMEPLACE ELSE. I’m sure Mexico will love you to voice your opinion.

‘Under God’ was put there for a reason. It was during the Cold Wars’ most difficult time.

Pres. Eisenhower states “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.”

‘Under God’ is simply a reflection of our religious heritage.

First, regarding evolution… Read Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species. The finches of the Galapagos Islands adapted to fill different ecological niches. Another supporting piece of evidence is that artificial selection produced different dog breeds. Different pressures in nature can produce change in species. How about bacteria that are becoming resistant to certain antibiotics? Explain that without evolution by natural selection. Evolution is defined as a change in allele frequencies within a population. And before any one shouts out anything of macroevolution versus microevolution, I’d like to quote the Agnosticism/Atheism FAQ on evolution: “If you find a creationist arguing that microevolution can occur but macroevolution cannot, simply ask them what biological or logical barriers prevent the former from becoming the latter – and listen to the silence.” From now on, if any one wishes to comment, please read: Evolution is a separate issue from the Pledge of Allegiance. Comments on the two subjects should therefore be separate.

On to the second point regarding George Washington’s address on Thanksgiving… Please look at this page on Thanksgiving from the Smithsonian Institute. I don’t deny that some of the Founding Fathers were religious. I don’t deny that people had religious beliefs when founding this nation. But, I do believe religion is a personal issue, not a state issue. The state should not interfere with religion, and religion should not interfere with the state. Apparently, I’m not the only one: “The next three Presidents proclaimed, at most, two days of thanksgiving sometime during their terms of office, either on their own initiative or at the request of a joint Resolution of Congress. One exception was Thomas Jefferson, who believed it was a conflict of church and state to require the American people hold a day of prayer and thanksgiving. President James Madison proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving to be held on April 13, 1815, the last such proclamation issued by a President until Abraham Lincoln did so in 1862.” You can state privately that you believe America is supported by a god, but the government should issue no laws respecting any religions.

Although you can choose to believe that a god provided the opportunity for the United States to be formed, you can’t deny that people wrote those words, not any god. We are a nation founded by people, not any god. This nation is for the people, not any god. Notice this within address itself: “especially by affording them [the People of the United States] an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now, look at this, also within the proclamation: “for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed” [emphasis mine]. And is that liberty not infringed upon when a government forces us to pledge to one particular “God”? Even that day of Thanksgiving was but recommended to the American people.

The statement by Eisenhower merely reaffirms that “under God” is meant specifically to endorse religion. I don’t believe that the Constitution allows that. Since I don’t believe in any god, I specifically disagree with the theology behind the statement. We are not “under” any god. The people are subject to their own authority, not any god’s authority. That however, is a different point. The main crux of my argument still is that it is not Constitutional.

I disagree with you about your viewpoint on democracy. I seem to be getting an image that if people disagree with you, they should put up with what you believe, or get out? I believe that democracy involves discourse between disagreeing opinions. If something is wrong, we should try to fix it, not “get out.” Sorry, there are people who disagree with some of your opinions, and they love America just as much as you do. They just may love different aspects of it; for example, I value democracy, republicanism, religious freedom, and discourse. Getting out doesn’t solve anything. Did the Founding Fathers just “get out” when they didn’t like Parliament’s policies? Not that I’m equating the two issues, just making a rhetorical point.

But no, I just love how I have the right to voice my opinion, but if I’m “wrong,” I should be quiet, but still thankful that I can voice my opinion because in other countries they can’t… I just love how that adds up…

Answering a Comment Regarding the Pledge

In response to this entry regarding the Pledge of Allegiance, Selam Fente, 13 said:

I think that “under God” should not be taken out of the pledge of allegiance because our nation was FOUNDED UNDER GOD. The Pilgrims and Seperatists came to America to escape religious persucution. No one is forced to believe in the Christian God, but just because this is now and that was then doesn’t mean that just because our nation has many varieties of people we should forget why America was founded.

As for public schools, I don’t get why in the world you are not allowed to teach to teach Christianity when you can in fact teach evolution. When public schools were founded, the main subject that was taught was the Bible. Now you can’t even tell people about God. That is insane!!!

First off, your two paragraphs address two entirely different subjects. The second paragraph isn’t quite about the Pledge of Allegiance, but I’ll address it anyway. Evolution is a scientific theory. Evolution has evidence. God has no evidence. There is no evidence for any god. Evolution is based on the scientific method. Evolution is an important part of life sciences. Want to be a biologist, but don’t “believe” in evolution? Forget about it, unless you get a job as a pseudo-scientist. Also, I’m not saying schools shouldn’t teach morality, but you don’t need any god to enforce this morality, to make people accept it, or else.

As for the first paragraph, America is not a theocracy. It was founded on the principles of democracy and republicanism. The people you mentioned did not found the United States of America. The USA is a sovereign nation, separate from Britain. I’d suggest you also check your history. Not everyone came to the British colonies to escape religious persecution. In fact, not everyone aboard the Mayflower was a “Pilgrim” and the voyage itself was funded by those with commercial interests. I’m not here to give a history lesson, so I’ll leave more details up to you to find.

The Declaration of Independence mentions inalienable rights. These are the basis of our separation from Britain; America was not founded to escape religious persecution from Britain. Read the actual Declaration of Independence. Do you see anything about religious persecution? The colonies were also rebelling against a King. It states the King’s transgressions. And the King supposedly had his rights handed down to him from God. Do you believe our presidents are chosen by God or the people?

Besides, the Constitution is the foundation of our laws and the basis for how our country is run. Not the Declaration of Independence. Nowhere in the Constitution will you find any mention of any god. Nowhere will you find that this nation was “founded under God.” Our government is not a theocracy.

Since this is a national pledge, according to the Constitution, the words “under God” shouldn’t be there. Read the Constitution. Justify it, using the Constitution. You can’t.

Christianity is not the official religion of the United States of America. According to the CIA World Factbook, 10% report having no religion. This isn’t a tiny number, considering the number of people in America.

From Jefferson’s inaugural address: “All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.”

These rights are defined by the Constitution. Although you consider yourself of the majority, you cannot infringe on my right to freely exercise whatever religious ideals I wish to have. The Pledge of Allegiance cannot force the people of America to submit to any god, even your “God.”

I suggest you don’t ignore why the United States of America was founded.

[12/05/03 – EDIT: I answered the comment here with this entry]

One Skeptic’s View on Prayer

To a skeptic like me, I see the purpose of prayer is to make people feel better. Do they actually know what’s going to happen? No. They just feel as if everything is going to be all right.

Prayer helps ease their minds. The conditions on which they pray about are usually out of their control. It gives them the illusion of having some degree of control. They can invoke their deity to help them in this helpless situation. Does it actually do anything? Hm. Let’s say someone is going to die. If they live, they attribute it to the grace and power of their deity. If they don’t, they say “it was their time,” and that their deity meant for it to happen, and they just don’t understand it. Anything conclusive there?

Let’s say someone’s going in for an operation, and there’s a possibility of death. Someone uses prayer to invoke their deity. The person lives. The person who said the prayer attributes it to the deity. But wait? Where did the deity come into play? Who actually did the work? The doctors! The nurses! Perhaps credit should be given to modern medicine. Religion has been around for millenia. Modern medicine has on been around for a few centuries. Which has measurably saved the most lives?

If someone were ever to do a scientific study to see if prayer actually did anything, well, I doubt there would be any conclusive evidence for the power of prayer.

People pray for larger things, like world peace. Anyone know the exact words of that one quote which says something about one pair of hands doing work do more than a thousand hands clasped in prayer? These goals are really in the hands of the persons involved, which would actually mean everyone, if it’s world peace. Just as prophecies can be self-fulfulling, prayers can be self-fulfilling.

Tomorrow: Contradictions and the nature of prayer.

Questioning and Criticizing = Disrepecting?

Why is it considered “disrepectful” when I question someone else’s religious intentions? Somehow, I’m supposed to be “tolerant” of others’ beliefs. If they question their own religion, it’s okay. It’s okay to have doubts about your own religion. Then, why can’t I have doubts about your religion?

If a well-known writer uses biting satire to criticize religion, it’s genius, it’s cool. But if I say similar out-loud, I’m a smart-ass. I’m disrespectful. This isn’t right.

Why can’t I question directly, aggressively? Why can’t I question your beliefs? Does it make you uncomfortable? Maybe you should address the questions instead of avoiding them, instead of saying I’m being disrespectful.

It’s hard for me to be tolerant when I can’t understand the mindset of the other people. I can learn all I want about religion, but I can’t understand what the people are thinking. I can’t understand how people can just believe in something without any evidence.

In one of the songs used during Mass today at school (I go to a Catholic school), it mentions people being the sheep of god’s flock or something. I don’t know, but I find the usage of the word “sheep” amusing. Like, they’re just followers with no mind of their own. If they use sheep to describe themselves, it’s good. I can’t use the word. That’s disrespectful.

Note: When I use the term “You,” I’m usually not speaking directly to “you” the reader. Just imagine this imaginary person, maybe. And yeah, I’m making some generalizations. That’s how humans understand big things. You have to generalize to analyze large trends in human behavior.

I’m probably going to be writing a bit more about religion over the next few days.

Pascal’s Wager

I dunno why people find it so enticing to use. (Hey, go do a Google search if you don’t know what it is!) Well, here’s something humorous to ponder:

Pascal’s Wager only really works if the god’s only requirement for heaven, or whatnot, is belief. Because, taking the wager means only believing to avoid hell, so the god has got to say that’s okey-dokey with it. Well, I mean, if you add other requirements… there are so many religions and sects and stuff, you just might end up picking the wrong one! Besides, then you’d be changing the wager, wouldn’t you? The person making the wager makes the case that we just don’t know, so anything is possible. Hm… that god could decide to play the opposite way, and send everyone who believes to hell, and everyone who doesn’t to heaven. You just don’t know, it could be real. Then, hey, my side is safer. Anyway, I figure I’ll just be safe either way. Keep in mind that the only requirement is belief, as I stated earlier. I’ll just not believe because there ain’t no proof. Then, if there is a god and I get sent to hell… I’ll be believing then. I mean, I’ll be in hell, there’s my proof. And that’s all I wanted in the first place. So, I get me my proof, and then, poof, I’m in heaven, because it’s hell that made a believer out of me.

Okay, I bet someone’s come up with that last argument before, but I don’t care… I think it’s a riot, and I came up with it on my own.