Dan Savage discusses Bible, children walk out

It’s still finals week, so short posts will have to do:

Christian logic

Let me start out with the obvious first: The Bible bears no relation to any actual science. It is a wildly inaccurate account of nature, it has no evidence for any of its significant claims, and it offers zero methodology for determining what is true. That said, I have an analogy I would like to make.

Christians love to look at their cute little holy book and see how it matches up to the world. Sometimes they’ll find something – a battle here or a town there. They never uncover anything of significance – a large boat or a big ol’ tomb, for instance – but the trivial things they discover seem to be rather important to them. The reason is clear: Any confirmation of something in their particular, cultural book is seen as indicative of the truth of the fundamental claims they make (such as Jesus’ existence and divinity, two things for which there is no convincing evidence). This makes for yet another logical fallacy by Christians.

To put things in perspective, imagine taking a 19th century science text and seeing where it matches up today. Except instead of saying, “Okay, these few things are true, but we know where the book has things wrong”, suddenly we’re taking the book to be entirely true. “Well, we can confirm that 19th century scientists knew X, and well, X is actually true, therefore Y and Z must also be true.” The flaw in logic is obvious here. And this all must make one wonder: If the flaw is so obvious in one place, why is it not obvious when religion is involved?

I don’t think it’s too difficult to figure out why Christians are so willing to make an exception to logic: they have no evidence for any of their major claims. Zero. Zip. Zilch. The only option that leaves them is to support their silly beliefs by proxy. It’s just too bad for them they haven’t been very good at doing that either.

More claims of objective morality with no basis

It’s a big irk of mine when someone tries to claim an objective basis for morality while going outside the supposed source of objectivity. The religious have a habit of it. I don’t get it; it’s so simple. If a person claims something is objectively moral without being able to directly source said claim, then there is no objectivity. The claim may still be moral, but subjectively so.

Of course, religidiots don’t always get it.

You are aware by now that a 12,000 pound killer whale at SeaWorld Orlando killed his trainer Dawn Brancheau yesterday by pulling her into a pool and dragging her around until she drowned, in front of a crowd of stunned guests.

Chalk another death up to animal rights insanity and to the ongoing failure of the West to take counsel on practical matters from the Scripture…

If the counsel of the Judeo-Christian tradition had been followed, Tillikum would have been put out of everyone’s misery back in 1991 and would not have had the opportunity to claim two more human lives.

Says the ancient civil code of Israel, “When an ox gores a man or woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner shall not be liable.” (Exodus 21:28)

So, your animal kills somebody, your moral responsibility is to put that animal to death. You have no moral culpability in the death, because you didn’t know the animal was going to go postal on somebody.

So, your animal kills somebody…? Animal? The Bible does not support a case for stoning animals in the given passage. It explicitly states ox or bull (depending on which of the varied, inconsistent Bibles one chooses). It goes on further to state other specific animals and the ‘morality’ surrounding them and particular situations. The conclusion here is that the website advocating for the immoral death of a captive whale has no basis for making its supposed objective claim. Instead, it relies on extrapolating something explicitly specific from a book written by very simple men who had no notable training in philosophy and certainly no understanding of how their already ugly words would be made even uglier. And it’s all subjective.

Deuteronomy is just weird

Whenever I want to delve into the world of the bizarre I read one of three things: what Scientologists actually believe, what Mormons actually believe, or the bat shit crazy stuff that is written in Deuteronomy (the whole thing is weird, but chapter 22 has always been a favorite of mine for its especial craziness).

6 If you come across a bird’s nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young. 7 You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go, so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life.

…what? I mean, really? An all-powerful being is concerned with something so bizarre?

20 If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the girl’s virginity can be found, 21 she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done a disgraceful thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you.

There’s the God we all know. Penis in vagina = bad. But before marriage? = death.

I don’t think I’m really exposing anything not already recognized as silly, but it doesn’t matter how many times I see it, the weirdness never jades me.

Obese sex is unnatural

Sex with obese individuals is unnatural, not intended by God, and thus wrong and immoral.

People are naturally attracted to healthy individuals. The obese are definitively not healthy. It follows, plainly and clearly, that any attraction to these people is a sexual perversion. Furthermore, those who are obese are gluttonous and thus sinners.

As a result of these facts, I propose a ban on all marriage to the obese. They harm society through their added burden to the healthcare system. They encourage children to think that obesity is acceptable, even though the Bible clearly bans it. Obesity is a scourge on the world which must be destroyed.

Only things deemed ‘natural’ and ‘intended by God’ can be considered normal, good, even moral. All else must go. It makes me go “Yuck!”


I’ve written in the past about theologians. I want to start calling out the idea of what these people do as what it actually is: literary criticism with a narrow focus.

Whereas most literary critics will have focuses on relatively broad topics – periods in time, styles of writing, etc – theologians focus merely on single books. Granted, the books are often relatively large, but so is War and Peace.

Now, theologians do deserve slightly more credit than I’ve given them. They do have some background on the history of the cultures and societies in which their texts originated. But if that’s what one wants, then why not turn to textual critics? These are people who actually understand what authors (and scribes) were intending while also having a grasp on the history of the cultures and societies.

Theologians enjoy an elevated status in our society. But do they deserve it any more than literary critics of Shakespeare? The answer must be ‘no’.

I’ve taken far too many English courses in my time. I have constantly found myself encountering papers that are wide-open to interpretation. Hell, I made an argument that Utopia was about setting up a true hellhole, not anything glorious. It got an “A”. The argument itself was probably wrong, but Sir Thomas More isn’t around to say otherwise, is he? Theologians take the same liberties. They are free to interpret meaning and intention as they see fit. Is it any surprise that theology moves in conjuction with cultures and societal movements (even if it usually lags)?

In short, theology is certainly nothing more than literary criticism. What’s more, literary criticism shouldn’t enjoy an elevated status, especially when it is so narrowly focused. We can all interpret passages. Theologians are just the literate among us with more (narrow) dedication.

Ad company offers bigotry instead of ad space

The Atheist Foundation of Australia has recently been given a blow. Following in the footsteps of other atheist and humanist organizations, the AFA sought to place ads on the sides of buses, hoping to get their message out to the general public. Unfortunately, one ad company simply refused to allow them ad space without comment.

President of the Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, David Nicholls said: “I am flabbergasted. This is extremely disappointing and a severe blow to freedom of expression in Australia. We are witnessing the result of seemingly paranoid executives interfering with pertinent social comment. This action has thwarted the right to state peacefully and openly a legitimate and timely message without violence.

Australia is going to look provincial and narrow in outlook to the rest of the world because of this decision. The planet is moving to a more enlightened era but apparently, public transport advertising agents in Australia have missed the bus. Isn’t that ironic”

Of course, this is blatant discrimination. The message was in no way profane. It did not violate any regulation of the company, which has been known to publish verses from the Bible. They simply want to quash free speech because, well, they can. I hope Australia has the appropriate laws in place to prevent this stupid biogtry.

One of the possible messages? “Atheism – Celebrate reason!”

Oh no! That’s Thor’s/God’s/Zeus’s/Allah’s Achilles’ heel!

What it means to be a theologian

I found this blog post to be very well written and concise.

To understand the effects of religion on a wider scale, it’s absurd to think that reading a holy book would indicate anything beyond a peripheral understanding of the text itself. For behavioural effects, it’s best to look at neuroscience and psychology. For societal effects, there’s sociology and history. Being an accomplished theologian won’t teach anyone about the influence of religion on society, but the social sciences will and that’s the place to look to.

Now consider the parallel with something I actually do care about: gaming. One might ask the question “what are the wider effects of gaming on the individual and their role in the community?” Now if there was a study that showed a trend of violence among gamers, would it be more pertinent to question the controlling factors of the study or whether the psychologist in charge had ever beaten Quake on Nightmare difficulty? If there was a sociological study showing anti-social behaviour increasing among online gamers, would the controlling factors of the study be under question or whether the sociologist’s World of Warcraft character had reached level 80?

The parallel with gaming is there to show that knowing the content of a subject is not an adequate resource to deal with questions not relating to that content. Knowing the back-story of Zelda universe does not make that person any bit qualified to answer questions on behaviour associated with playing the game. Theology won’t answer questions of individual behaviour, it won’t answer question of the wider social effects of group behaviour and how that has happened throughout history. The best way to study the inquisition is to look at the historical evidence, not the bible.

This really is to what this argument boils down. There is often an attempt to discredit anyone who dare suggest the idea of a concerned or even aloof creator is a faulty one. No, it isn’t good enough to say that the notion of a god doesn’t hold up very strongly under scrutiny; it is necessary that we fully understand the specifics of what man has written concerning this notion.

What does reading the bible actually tell us? It’s like any other piece of literature, it has a message that the author(s) intended. Those who are adept at literary analysis would see even further into the book and be able to understand the authors themselves. But for the layman, the bible is a chance to get immersed in the world of the mythology. They are able to emotionally connect with the characters involved and try to understand the motivations associated therein. In essence studying theology has the academic scholarship of studying Lord Of The Rings.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote a masterpiece in the fantasy genre, it’s influence today is seen transcending literary fantasy and into the pop culture. Admittedly the adaption to the silver screen helped bring it into the consciousness of an otherwise ignorant mainstream, but it’s success still speaks volumes for it’s quality. It doesn’t stop there either, the appendices, and further books all bring Middle Earth to life and give it a complete mythology.

I personally would have chosen All Quiet on the Western Front, but to each his own. Even if it’s the great literary work that is the Bible.

Karl W. Giberson

Every once in awhile, a scientist will come out and say science and religion can co-exist. There will be some press coverage because of the obvious tensions between evidence-based thought and willy-nilly faith. So it comes as no surprise that physicist Karl Giberson is receiving some attention for his recent claim and book that says evolution and God can co-exist. (I presume the man has a longer history in the creationism-evolution issue than what LiveScience seems to suggest, but he evidently has yet to make a big splash.)

Obviously, he thinks one can be a Christian and accept evolution, but these two sets of knowledge “don’t make as much contact with each other as people think,” he said. Many fundamentalists “elevate Genesis beyond what is appropriate.”

Fundamentalists’ spin on the creation story in Genesis “robs it of everything that is interesting,” he said. Instead, readers should recall that the Bible repeats the refrain that God found what he made “good” and looks at the world as good.

It is true that bastardizing such a great piece of literature to literally mean something which is utterly absurd is a crying shame, but that doesn’t suddenly make evolution and religion, especially Christianity, compatible in any meaningful way. At best, perhaps the particular Christian god fully guided the process of evolution, making it mimic precisely what would be expected without any sort of foolish guidance, but that’s a rather superfluous compatibility. What’s more, that can comply to most any concept of a god that humans have had in the past 10,000 or more years. It’s a very non-cromulent way of thinking.

“It makes the world so much more interesting,” Giberson said. “The mystery of God’s existence is a more satisfying mystery than the mystery of how can all this arise out of a particle.”

Despite being a rather subjective claim, it seems difficult to fathom how anyone can honestly believe such a thing. First of all, it’s unclear how a mystery can be “satisfying”. It can be interesting and exciting and all that. Most of the good ones are. But satisfying? It’s when we solve the mystery or at least a piece of it that satisfaction becomes present. And, of course, the only way we can do that for most of the big questions is through the best way of knowing – science.

But what is your evidence, Shermer said, for belief in God?

“I was raised believing in God, so for me, the onus would be on someone to stop me from believing,” Giberson said, adding that “there is a certain momentum that is already there.”

This reminds me quite a bit of the silliness of George Smith. Apparently, an objective look at two sides is out of the question. It is the job of the non-believer to dismantle the long-term indoctrination of the believer. I almost don’t want to explicate on why this is so damn wrong. But I will.

Blind, stupid faith offers nothing of worth to a discussion. Once that argument is presented, any debate falls to shreds because faith is specifically belief without – or even despite the lack of – evidence. Perhaps an argument as to why faith is a bad way of knowing (indeed, it seeks to avoid a knowledge of anything) can be presented, but then one is simply dealing with a stubborn child. Perhaps it is that the onus is to lower one’s self to explaining why faith informs us of nothing.