Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Losing my Religion - the book

A new atheism book hit the stores today called Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America — and Found Unexpected Peace, which is about the author's journey out from under the spell of religion. He is a former religious writer for the LA Times who wrote a lot about the recent sex scandal of the Catholic church, a former evangelical and a former catholic.

He is not out to (de)convert religious people or to convince you he is correct but rather explains why and how he became an atheist himself. So for religious people this makes it a book that they can read without burning it or run screaming (and may provide some information that can strengthen their belief), and provide them with an understanding of why atheists don't believe. As I have said in a previous posts , I agree with a lot of what he says and plan on picking up a copy soon. He also has a blog worth checking out here

Excerpt from a reviewer (Malena Lot at Bookgasm):
"Another “revelation” for me in the book was the research and simple question we can ask ourselves about believers: Are Christians more moral than non-Christians? Do they divorce at a lower rate? Do they have fewer abortions? You may be surprised — but not shocked — to learn that no, Christians are not less likely to sin.

While reading the book, you will likely explore your own faith journey, no matter your age. I have often been amused that the people who claim to be the most religious are also the most close-minded and — at least from their actions — spiritual in word, but not deed. Why bother to ask “What would Jesus do?,” but then do whatever the hell you want anyway? You can argue all you want that it should be about God and not people, but who is the church filled with? Lobdell’s book focuses more on the people than the ideology, but there’s some of both in his true story."


Sme people have been on an anti-vaccination kick and may not have heard that the main proponent of anti-vaccination (and the link with causing autism) Dr. Wakefield has been shown to be a incompetent, a fraud and a liar who was paid by lawyers to find aveidence against vaccinations and he made up the data and flat out lied. Many people have cited his work as the main support for antivaccine and ironically are still supporting him even after he has been shown a fraud (for those interested there is a good summary of the most recent anti-vaccine "evidence" and the real scientific evidence located here ). People that don't vaccinate are basically a parasite on the other responsible people who are smart enought to vaccinate their children. Incredibly bad diseases such as pertusus, diptheria, measles, and even polio just to name a few are fast on the rise in both the US and Great Britain (as well as others) because so many people have bought into crackpot science and famous celebrity claims (Jenny McCarthy is an idiot - no-one wold ask her what the best treatment for acute pelvic inflammation or early parkinsons but we let her, hell even invite her on major news/talkshows to spew massive amunts of rhetoric about a major "scientific" issue that she has no expertise in except for having child, which many people have listened to and we as a society will have to suffer the consequences - the re-education of adults who have bought her crap is just one small part compared to the potential lives that may be lost from having not recieved vaccinations).

A really good summary of "Why we immunize" can be found here and I thought I would direct people who may not know this information. This is a good summary of whatthese deseases do/did to people and why we should vaccinate (there is definitely some flexibility in when vaccines should be administered based on age and immune system development but overall when you look at what these deseases do most vaccinations should be a no-brainer).

Monday, February 23, 2009

Losing My Religion

I found this post over at Debunking Christianity and really enjoyed the response to criticism by William Lobdell. Lobdell is a former devout Christian and makes many statements about his de-conversion that parallel my own life/feelings. He has a book coming out and decided to respond to criticisms of his book ahead of time which I thought was interesting. I especially like the over-all accumulation of evidence/reasons to question as similar to my own experience. Christians always want to claim you never really believed (which is incredibly condescending) and is plainly just not true. This combined with discoveries in anthropology, in-group selection, natural progression of religious ideas that parallel social structure etc. (for example all religious people thin they are right and do not accept they could be wrong and obviously have never looked at the past "known beliefs" within Christianity - foir example John Loftus posted this nic short list of some core theological beliefs that were taken for granted in Christien Theology -these are no longer accepted yet ironically most Christians today are just as sure they are correct as people from the past probably thought - and peopl today do not see the irony:

From Loftus - "Christian theology has changed so much that one would not even recognize the Christianities of the first century or two.

Let me just mention some theological changes:

Creation - Not until around 200-700 AD did the church accept creation ex-nihilo.
Hell - From fire and brimstone to the absence of God to annihilation
Baptism - Probably from Immersion to sprinkling; from adults to infants.
Atonement - From ransom to satisfaction to penal-substitutionary to moral influence to relationship theories
Predestination - Possibly "mixed" to Calvinism to Arminianism to Calvinism back to Arminianism
Christology - From Paul to Chalcedon to Kenotic theories
Inspiration - From who knows what to mechanical to verbal-plenary to inerrancy to neo-orthodoxy.
Women - From servants who obey in quietness to teachers and ministers and professors
Slavery - From Paul (Philemon) to southern Slavery to abolition to anti-racism."

I definitely believed at one time but eventually there was just too much evidence against for me to continue to swallow twisted logic and bizarre interpretations to try and fit all of the facts.

Exert from Lobdell's posting:

"With the launch of my book a week away, I’m starting to read and hear an increasing amount of criticism–something I expected with a memoir titled, Losing My Religion. They have their opinion; I have mine. Fair enough. But I thought I’d take a stab at answering some of the most popular criticisms.

Criticism: You’re anti-religious or anti-Christian. I’m not. I miss my faith. But I can’t believe what I feel in my heart (and see with my eyes) is untrue. I believe I’ve found the truth, but have enough humility (and experience) to know I need to keep my eyes open for new information that could reshape my views. So far, in my three years as an out-of-the-closet atheist, the evidence has continued to pile up against a personal God who intervenes in my life. In the end, I’m anti-hypocrisy–especially when the hypocrites operate under the guise of God.

Criticism: You are trying to lead people away from God and/or Jesus Christ. Not really. This is just my story. I’m really hoping my journey will let folks know it’s normal to wrestle with doubts and also to get people to think more about faith and its shortcomings. Some of the biggest fans of my memoir have been pastors and other reformers who think the Body of Christ has grown soft and could use the wake up call. Christianity would make a whole lot more sense to me if Christians acted like they really believed the message of the Gospel.

Criticism: You’ve confused the sinfulness of man with a perfect God. This is condescending. In Christian theology, I understand the difference between God and fallen man. And I know that means Christian institutions, run by human, won’t be perfect. But the argument falls apart on several levels. First, despite man’s fallen nature, Christian institutions should behave in a manner morally superior than their secular counterparts. I didn’t see much difference. But that not even where I lost my faith. (this section definitely parallels my own experience - loopa) That fact only caused me to start questioning other aspects of Christianity: why Christians behave basically the same as atheists in terms of morals and ethics; why no studies show that prayer works; why God gets credit for answered prayers and no blame to tragedies; and why the Bible is filled with a litany of bizarre punishments (death for working on the Sabbath, for one), a wrathful God who wipes out whole populations; why Christianity would be the one true faith out of the 1,000 of religions past and present; how God could be both merciful and just (the notions are contradictory); and even why Jesus didn’t speak out against slavery (in fact, he only says they should be beaten less). Eventually, my faith collapsed under the weight of all the evidence against it. I’d say as a Christian, I had mistaken a man-made creation for one developed by a loving God.

Criticism: You were never really a serious Christian, so you didn’t really lose your faith, you never had it. I’d agree with half that statement. I didn’t really lose my faith in the sense that you can’t lose something that didn’t exist. But I indeed was a serious Christian for more than a dozen years. I went to church weekly. I was member of a small men’s group that studied the Bible. I went on retreats. I read the Bible daily. I prayed several times a day. I read scores of Christian books. I don’t see how anyone could argue that I didn’t take my faith seriously. I think it helps critics to paint me as a half-ass Christian because then I’m easily dismissed.

Criticism: You’re just trying to sell books. I do want to sell a bzillion books, but that doesn’t change my experiences or my de-conversion journey. I also find it funny that Christians never accuse Christian authors–who make a fabulous living off their books–of “just trying to sell books.”

Criticism: You’ve consigned yourself to an eternity in hell. Look, I’ve tried my hardest to hang on to my faith. I just don’t have it. If there happens to be a Christian God and, given the circumstances, he still sends me to an eternity in hell, then what kind of loving God is that? Does that make sense to anyone? What kind of person are you worshipping? More likely, if I’m wrong and there is a loving God, I imagine he would look at me and said, “Son, I know how hard you struggled to believe. I’m very proud of your effort. I love you. Let’s spend eternity together.” What would you do as a loving father?

I didn’t write this post to sway critics. I’m guessing they are locked into their beliefs. But I do think there are a lot of people in live in shades of gray. I at least wanted to give those people something to think about.

- William Lobdell"

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Why I don't believe!

This is the first of a 3,4,5??? part post of why I don't believe and I will be addressing different issues in each one. This first is about the initial issues that made me start to wonder (Hell, biblical accuracy and the bible as a moral guide). (Update Mar 09 - this was just posted on the topic of the truthfulness of the gospels by John Loftus and worth a read).

The very first thing/reason that hit me in my late teens is hell (and I found this good summary of what I think at Dwindling in Unbelief).

Hell is the core of Christianity; it is what Jesus came to save us from. We all deserve to go there, and there is only one way to escape: believe the right things (just what those things are depends on who you talk to.) And, if for whatever (and however good a) reason you should die without that belief, you will be tormented forever in Hell by the god who loves you. It is as simple, cruel and absurd as that.

Here is what Charles Darwin said about it in his autobiography:

I can hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so, the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother, and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine.

It was Hell that did me in as a Christian. I, like Darwin, couldn't believe that my family and friends and billions of other nonbelievers (and religiously incorrect believers) would be tormented forever in Hell for their honest disbelief. It amazes me that anyone could.

My dad and I had many a discussion about isolated native populations that have never heard of christianity dying (2000 years worth of these people) and whether they went to hell or not. As an adult this expanded in my head to include such incredibly, humble and "saintly" people (like Gandhi for example) who would b punished because they are not the right faith??? (I mus point out that according to my father, there is "baptism by desire" in the catholic church which does cover for example unbaptized infants that die and people that don't know of christianity for example which does deal with native people to some respect - but this issue originally started me thinking about a loving god who would punish such people and lietral/fundemental interpretationists have a completely different opinion - "everyone who doesn't follow christ will go to hell" which to me makes no sense and my main point. There are also several people including my family members who believe that there are many ways to get to heaven and that other religions are not exempt - and that multiple religions worship the same god....).

Hell is indeed a damnable doctrine. Darwin, as usual, had it exactly right (thanks to Dwindling in Unbelief for writing most of that much better than I could have).

Next are biblical reasons that came up over many years of studying more and more of the bible.

Biblical accuracy and authorship - I want to know who wrote something and if it is to be trusted as a good source. The gospels themselves, their authorship, history, origin and internal inconsistencies are definitely am issue for me, as well as probability and evidence that Christ existed in the first place. The following is a summary of a more detailed and better discussion at Ebonmusings:

The first and most important point is that the gospels themselves are not written by any first-hand eye-witnesses but rather second-hand (maybe but more probably third or later) accounts of stories that the writer heard from someone who claims to have seen the events described; all of which begs the question why didn’t anyone write it down? The claim that the disciples were too busy makes no sense – god can inspire people 50-100 years later to write it down but not any actual eyewitnesses?

According to the New Testament gospels, Jesus' fame spread far and wide throughout his lifetime. He was known throughout Israel and beyond (Matthew 4:25), renowned not only as a teacher and wise man, but also as a prophet and miraculous healer (Matthew 14:5, Luke 5:15, John 6:2). Great multitudes of people followed him everywhere he went (Luke 12:1). He converted many Jews, enough to draw the anger of the Jerusalem temple elders (John 12:11) etc…..

If these things were true, it is beyond belief that the historians of the day could have failed to notice: but that is what happened. Not a single contemporary historian mentions Jesus. The historical record is devoid of references to him for decades after his supposed death. The very first extra-biblical documents that do mention him are two brief passages in the works of the historian Josephus, written around 90 CE, but the longer of the two is widely considered to be a forgery and the shorter is likely to be one as well (see part 2). The first unambiguous extra-biblical references to a historical, human Jesus do not appear until well into the second century. This extends to not seeing any real evidence in the authenticity of the new testament, the lack of any roman or jewish historians even mentioning Christ (the limited works of Josephus which weren't written until 90CE are questionable/probable forgeries as well as very limited in what he actually says, and nothing was said by noteable writers such as Philo of Alexandria, Justus of Tiberius, Seneca the Younger etc who lived and wrote about lots during that time YET don't mention Christ at all), the fact that the first unambiguous reference to Christ is in the writings of Justin Martyr and Irenaeus of Lyons, around 150 CE: all of which is very difficult for me to reconcile and accept as true history.

Not one single person who actually saw Christ do any of the things wrote one word about it? Not one contemporary historian wrote about the earthquake or the eclipse that was supposed to have happened during the crucifixion either???

The gospels cannot help in proving the historicity of Jesus, since the accuracy of the gospels is itself what is in question so everyone who just accepts the gospels as fact haven’t looked at the history of the bible. Not only does the lack of ANY corroborating evidence for the miraculous events of the gospel indicate the gospels should be questioned at least but the internal contradictions suggest that their authors were not recording historical events they remembered, but rather telling a story, changing events where they felt it necessary to make a point (and how can literalists continue to think that every word is absolutely correct???).

For examples:

Where was Christ’s first post-crucifixion appearance in In Galilee: Matthew 28:5-7, Mark 16:5-7 or in In Jerusalem: Luke 24:33-36,49, Acts 1:4

Who did Christ first appear to?

the two Marys

Matthew 28:1, 9
In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.... And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

Mary Magdalene

Mark 16:9
Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

John 20:11-14
But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping ... and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

Cleopas and another

Luke 24:13-31
And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus.... And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? ... And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.


1 Corinthians 15:4-5

And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve.

Are divorce and remarriage ever allowed?

No, never: Mark 10:11, Luke 16:18

Only when the wife commits adultery: Matthew 5:32

Only when the wife commits adultery: Matthew 19:9

Only when the unbelieving partner wants it: 1 Corinthians 7:13-15

Next is the issue of morality and the bible as a guide.

The issue of morality, and those that believe morality comes only from god have to really pick and choose (and/or come up with some extremely crazy scenarios) what part of the bible to look to (and you can't use the whole "the god of the old testament was different etc.." because what would a few thousand years be to the creator of time itself - he shouldn't be so capricious and should have known that exhibiting every human emotion such as jealousy, possessiveness, revenge, hatred, warmongering etc would cause some serious doubt on his existence.

here is just one brief example (from John Loftus) of the morality issue (especially for biblical literalists):

The Bible prescribes a host of detestable 'moral' guidelines. For example, if an Israelite man desires a female captive from war, he is permitted to force her to be his wife (Deuteronomy 21:10-14). If a virgin who is pledged to be married is raped but fails to cry out, she is to be stoned along with her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:23-24), while if a virgin who is not pledged to be married is raped and does not cry out, she must marry her attacker (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). Psalm 137:9 touts the pleasure of dashing children against rocks, and full-scale genocide is proscribed throughout the Old Testament (e.g., Deuteronomy 7:1-2, 20:16).

The judeo-christian god is clearly a hateful, racist, and sexist divinity. Though Christians rightly criticize militant Islamists for aiming to kill innocent bystanders, the only difference between these extremists and the biblical god is the desired target of murder. As Sam Harris notes, "it is only by ignoring such barbarisms that the Good Book can be reconciled with life in the modern world. (for a much more detailed discussion see John Loftus's work her)

Saturday, February 14, 2009


So I found this over at Answers in Genesis Busted and thought this is a great explanation of evolution "theory" as compared to say the theory of gravity. For those of you not familiar with the arguments this provides a good summary with many of the standard creationist arguments straight from them, as well as some of the major scientific theories of the last couple 1000 years that have come and gone (many after as little as 50 years of testing) while evolution has held up to 150 years so far. It is worth 10 minutes of your time.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Been a while for updating and I am gonna try and change that (but so far this year has sucked). I am now starting my winter research project on chickadee behaviour and dominance at feeders. I am basically looking at who is more dominant towards others, and body fat of the birds because more fat makes birds more susceptible to predators (less maneuverable etc.) so dominant birds with control of the feeder should carry less fat (they can go to the fridge whenever they want but subordinates can't). That is about it which is a lot (I am watching birds basically 5 days a week for 4 hours a day).