“If God created the Universe, then who created her?”

Every so often I will see some God issue where God is referred to as a woman. For instance, there’s a Facebook group I recently saw on my feed with the same name as the title of this post, and there are countless other examples where people intentionally use the feminine pronoun. I find it annoying and here’s why. In almost no instance has the writer of such a question had the intention of opening up a discussion or making an important metaphysical point. No, the entire point is simply to needle the religious.

I know the first thing frequent readers are probably thinking is that I commonly needle the religious too, so who am I to talk. That misses a key component: I don’t merely write to bother Bible, Koran, and other holy text thumpers. That may be one goal of mine, but it’s really quite secondary. I don’t think that’s the case when people go out of their way to refer to God as a woman. I think in almost every instance the point is to simply be spiteful. It isn’t a matter of women’s issues or talking about religious perspectives and assumptions. Someone has just decided to be a jerk because they know most religious people care whether or not their particular god is referred to as a man or a woman.

Thought of the day

I saw this on Facebook today:

Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

What a convenient, seemingly never-ending gift-giver God is.

Kinky sex

Two things. First, I am pretty sure this song is about all the kinky sex that God has just discovered.

I presume after an eternity of sexual repression, it must be pretty liberating to be “doing a new thang”.

Second, I’m curious to see how many hits I get from Facebook when I put up a post about kinky sex.

Gov. Perry says President Obama is ignoring Texas

The governor of Texas is complaining that President Obama is paying more attention to Alabama than Texas:

“You have to ask, ‘Why are you taking care of Alabama and other states?’ I know our letter didn’t get lost in the mail,” Perry, a Republican and frequent critic of the federal government, said after addressing a Texas emergency management conference.

President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency for Alabama, where storms — including a tornado that ravaged Tuscaloosa on Wednesday — killed nearly 200 people this week.

Texas actually does get significant federal help in its fire fighting efforts, but I digress. The more interesting question here is, why is Perry only criticizing Obama for ignoring Texas? Shouldn’t he be criticizing God for not doing anything?

Just an awful response

Someone wrote a terrible letter to the editor a few days ago.

We have seen a lot hatred in this decade, and it is increasing by the minute. The problem is that people have completely lost faith in the Lord.

One of these sick people showed his true colors during the Christmas season by actually throwing eggs at my lovely manger. I pray that he sees the light.

Marie-Anne Jacques

Augusta

I’m not going to respond to Jacques’ comments here because I have already written a response letter to the paper. (I will, of course, publish that here once it gets printed.) But to what I will respond is one of the comments to this letter.

People will deny God at all costs in order to not have to face themselves. You can believe that there is no God but it takes more to not believe than it takes to beileve as more than 80% of Americans do believe.

The prophecies in the Bible clearly show that there is a God. There is no other way so many prophecies could be fulfilled unless there is a God. These prophecies that were written thousands of years ago are being fulfilled right before our eyes. Israel wasn’t a nation for close to 2000 years and now it is a nation as prophesied. A one world cuurency leading up to the mark of the beast, a one world religion, a one world government, a one world military, Israel performing sacrifices in the temple again; these are all things being planned right now all over the world fulfilling prophecy. The Bible talks about the sun getting so hot that it will burn people’s skin and on NASA’s website it tells of solar flare ups that are to start in about a year that will scortch the earth and all of our government leaders have built underground dwellings to hide from this onslaught from the sun. All this is foretold by the Bilbe and much more and it could never be foretold unless there is a God who knows the beginning from the end like it says.

Just awful.

That first line is the exact reason I wrote about Christians deep down. It amounts to calling atheists liars. “Why, you just deny God at all costs for your own sake!” No, no, no. Don’t you get it? I don’t believe in your god. In fact, I don’t believe in any god. Please don’t claim that I am just lying to you right now and I really do believe. I don’t. Deal.

And that second line? Aside from ending in a point of gibberish, it is a profound misunderstanding of atheism. I am NOT claiming that I know there is no God. There very well could be. There could also be a teapot in an elliptical orbit around the Sun. But I see no evidence for it. Just the same, you have no evidence for your god.

Oh, but wait. There’s that whole paragraph about how so many prophecies have been fulfilled. Like a global currency. Or a global religion. Or a global government. Or a global military. Right? I mean, right? I think my favorite is the claim of a global religion, if only because the commenter just got done citing that nearly 20% of Americans do not believe in God (the number is lower, but I don’t expect this guy to deal in facts).

If you desire it, truth will come

When in discussions and/or debates with the religious, I cringe before I bring up the point that, yes, of course atheism does lack a certain sort of comfort. Afterall, do people really have no fear of death? But this does not mean that fear ought to motivate one to believe in any sort of god or afterlife. An emotion, no matter how strong, does not make something true. And, frankly, it’s bizarre that anyone would ever try to make that sort of argument. But alas, I’ve encountered it a number of times.

The reason, however, I cringe is that as soon as a lack of a certain comfort is admitted*, the theist jumps up and proclaims, “Aha! So you do desire a god/an afterlife!” But this isn’t so. I certainly do not desire to live with the redneck described in the Bible. But what’s really perplexing is how illogical the theist’s whole point is. You desire X, thus X is true. Or sometimes with some condescension, You desire X, so maybe you ought to reflect on that a little more. The assumptions there are that 1) I haven’t reflected on these sort of issues and 2) all it takes is reflection on a desire to come to believe in a god. The first assumption is obviously wrong and the second shows the theist’s ignorance: I want evidence, not a belief motivated by fear.

Honestly. The logical argument is that people have fear and seek to soothe that feeling; religion makes sense in light of this fact (though it needs far more than that to explain it). The theist, however, then tries to turn logic on its head and say that fear is somehow a sensation put in place by some religion’s god and that’s why we feel it. Such shenanigans completely circumvent the whole giving-evidence-for-one’s-beliefs thing – it is such a nuisance for believers, afterall.

The whole crazy argument is a Field of Dreams sort of fantasy: If you desire it, truth will come.

*I keep saying “a certain comfort” because there is a greater comfort in believing what is true and in enjoying life for the sake of life.

God wasn’t such a good guy

*nor is he.

Infuriatingly silly

Jerry Coyne has a post about why Francis Collins pollutes science with religion. It’s a succinct piece that basically nails Collins for all his silly, childish, superstitious, frankly stupid beliefs.

The most inane and disingenuous part of Collins’s argument is his claim that without religion, the concepts of good and evil are meaningless. (Collins’s slide 5 in Harris’s piece: “If the moral law is just a side effect of evolution, then there is no such thing as good or evil. It’s all an illusion. We’ve been hoodwinked. Are any of us, especially the strong atheists, really prepared to live our lives within that worldview?”) That’s palpable nonsense. Good and evil are defined with respect to their effects and the intents of their perpetrators, not by adherence to some religious code. It is beyond my ken how a smart guy like Collins can make a claim like this, even going so far as to argue that “strong atheists” like Richard Dawkins have to accept and live their lives within a world in which good and evil are meaningless ideas

It’s inconvenient for Collins or any other religiously-driven person to admit that morality is a purely human affair. And really, it’s getting to be a tiresome argument. Explanations abound for how morality could have naturally evolved. That should be good enough to force any reasonable person to admit that, no, morality need not have a god, it need not adhere to the whims of one individual entity, and it definitely is not universal. Our ideas of morality change with the times, with cultures, with known facts, with context. The only real constant is that every human society has developed a moral system. The details within each system may vary wildly – in bin Laden’s, the death of most of America is just – but they are always put within some sort of construct. That does not mean that bin Laden’s version of morality is equal to any other version which may exist. One key component in any moral system is basing premises on facts. That’s the main reason that god-based moral systems tend to fail or be wacky (see inane hatred of homosexuality among, well, almost all the religions). It’s one of the reasons bin Laden’s system doesn’t work and is not equal to mine or yours or most Americans’ or other Westerners’ (or even most Muslims’).

Collins, like most Christians who think they somehow own the moral high horse, despite all the contrary evidence, does not understand that morality is not universal. It is only moral systems. His is broken and can only work because he’s made it malleable to the progression of secular values and understanding. Indeed, if religions weren’t so agreeable to such change, Christianity would be as much a relic as slavery. Of course, that isn’t to suggest that religion so easily moves along with reason. It doesn’t. It usually comes kicking and screaming, forced by the hand of rationality.

There are, of course, also statements made without evidence, including this one: “God gifted humanity with the knowledge of good and evil (the Moral Law), with free will, and with an immortal soul” And this (slide 4): “We humans used our free will to break the moral law, leading to our estrangement from God.” How does he know? What’s the evidence? Isn’t the distinction between the science slides and the faith slides being blurred here?

One thing I’ve been forcing myself to ask myself a lot lately is “Where’s my evidence?” I recently went on a big hike through the 100-Mile Wilderness, the most remote and difficult section of the Appalachian Trail. I recall passing a tree root that had made a sort of rainbow shape. Each end was in the ground, but the middle was up in the air (as opposed to laying against the ground). It was unusual, but I quickly thought “It must have been buried at some point before being exposed, thus causing it to pop up”. I had to stop myself right there. How did I know that? I didn’t. It was a plausible guess, but other explanations were also plausible. It could have grown that way. Another tree could have been there before being removed, long ago, by the Maine Appalachian Trail Committee (MATC). It could just be a brief, weird angle I had making me think it was a root when in reality it was just a fallen branch that appeared buried in the ground. All I had was a hypothesis, and one I wasn’t about to test. I had to settle with “I don’t know” as an answer. Sometimes that isn’t just a temporary answer. Every single claim/question about the after-life that Collins makes deserves a permanent “I don’t know”. He doesn’t have the evidence. As a scientist, he should value that above all else in his work.

But then again, he is a Christian. Religions do not value evidence.

Language

Language is a dicey thing. It’s especially dicey for scientists. Take Einstein for example. He used to use the word “God” quite often. He usually did not mean anything related to the Christian god (or any other god concept). Let’s look at the Einstein phrase “Did God have a choice in creating the Universe?” He wasn’t literally asking if any particular god had a choice. He was asking if the Universe could have come into being in more than one way. Incidentally, the fact that the answer to this question is unknown should throw some light on that awful argument, the “anthropic principle“. Allow me to digress.

The anthropic principle is the creationist delusion that their particular god made the Universe with humans soley in mind. It’s likely the most arrogant concept ever presented. Beside that, it basically says “Humanity (or life in general) is too well adapted to the Universe for everything not to have been made for humans/life”. Humans are evolved to the Universe (at least one, insignifcant part of it that holds no special relevance). The whole argument ignores this fact. Of course, that is the creationist motif: hear no facts, see no facts, speak no facts. What’s more, it’s just an argument from personal incredulity: “The Universe is just too perfect to not be for me! I can’t believe anything else! It’s too much!” Mooks.

But I return. Language in biology can be difficult. In order to popularize the subject, scientists will use personifying terms. “Genes want to replicate”, or “Cuts and bruises want to heal”. There shouldn’t be anything wrong with this. It’s human nature to do this. We call computers stupid or say “the flowers danced in the sun” (for the more poetic among us). Of course, there is a contingent of people who hear these terms and think they are literal. They also happen to often be people who don’t realize the Bible is metaphoric in its entirety and therefore take it literally.

Take the comment section from a recent thread. Not to harp on a particular commenter, but the term “code” is taken wildly out of context. Rather than read for what it is, it is read as being something with intention at its root. Let’s examine.

Biologists may say “DNA codes for the genome”. This is true, but it has no connection to intentionality. What it means is simply that DNA is in one form until it is translated and transcribed into another form. In other words, it goes from being a series of amino acids into a series of proteins and enzymes. This does not require some grand creator or intelligence. It requires a slow, gradual process that provides for plenty of random variation while being governed by a non-random mechanism. Evolution by natural selection fits the bill.

Examining Deuteronomy 22

I was glancing through Deueronomy 22 and noticed a few odd items. The first is that the dual use of an oxen and a donkey while plowing is prohibited by God (22:10). It displeases him. The second is God’s Sarah Palin-like attitude toward rape victims.

23 If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;

24 Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.

I guess God’s rape kit is a handful of stones and a pocket full of hatred.

Here’s the clear interpretation of this: a man who rapes a woman in a city should be stoned to death. Okay, immoral enough reaction in itself, but there’s more. The woman, because she did not scream for help, should be stoned to death as well.

and people claim God is a source of morality? I wonder if the guy even has a clear idea of what constitutes a moral system. Life is not being black & white (as most conservatives think it is, incidentally). Aside from being a rape victim, the woman could have been afraid, mute, gagged, or threatened. God seems to assume by not screaming that the woman liked it. Illogical fella, no?

But, this deity isn’t all evil. He has some empathy for country rape.

25 But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die.

26 But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter:

27 For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.

Since the woman couldn’t scream out for help, she’s in the clear. What if there was a farmer? Shouldn’t the woman have screamed to him? Simply being in a field does not necessarily change the situation. The principle in 22:23-24 seemed to be that the woman had help available to her yet did not seek it. Given that not all fields are empty and devoid of humans, she should have screamed out, even if it was to no avail. It’s almost as if people who lived in highly rural areas where it would be uncommon – in their personal experience – to see a farmer wrote this. Hey, crazy idea! Maybe people did write this fundamental evil? I’d expect God to cover a few more angles. Like, all of them.

So let’s break down what’s important here. It’s perfectly fine for my point to grant that the coming of Jesus somehow changes the immorality we see here. It’s a common tactic of Christians: the Old Testament should be interpreted through the lenses of the New Testament. Okay, sure, whatever. But there still remains the problem that at some point in time, God was telling people to stone rape victims. Even if it is granted that the New Testament changes how we should interpret these words insofar as how we should act now (i.e., we do not stone rape victims because we recognize that as evil), there still remains the problem that God told people to murder women who were raped. He still did these things. God is still guilty of these crimes, even if he corrected his misbehavior down the line.