Friday, December 16, 2011

Week 11 - "Christopher Hitchens"

Earlier tonight I found out some sad news. One of the greatest Anti-Theist speakers and activists of our time, Christopher Hitchens, died today at the age of 62. He died from pneumonia, a complication of the oesophageal cancer he was suffering from, at a Texas hospital. This man was one of the people who helped shape me into the atheist I am today, he was one of the first authors/activists I discovered when I started my journey on learning more about life without theism. I can still remember the first video I found on him on youtube, at first I thought he was just a comedian like Bill Hicks or George Carlin, but I watched it anyways. I was pleasantly surprised at how intelligent and eloquently he spoke, in that 5 minute video alone I had learned so much more. Here's the video, it's part 1 of 8 of a speech he gave at D.G Wills Books in California.

I'm therefore dedicating my post this week on Christopher Hitchens, a short biography, videos, achievements, and quotes. He was an amazing man, I am who I am in part because of him, among others, and it's the least I could to to honor his memory. I don't usually get very sentimental about people's passing, but I feel very passionate about this.

Firstly I'm going to post a news article featuring his death earlier today, the complete article can be found at
"British author, literary critic and journalist Christopher Hitchens has died, aged 62, according to Vanity Fair magazine.
He died from pneumonia, a complication of the oesophageal cancer he was suffering from, at a Texas hospital.
Vanity Fair said there would "never be another like Christopher".
He is survived by his wife, Carol Blue, and their daughter, Antonia, and his children from a previous marriage, Alexander and Sophia.
Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter described the writer as someone "of ferocious intellect, who was as vibrant on the page as he was at the bar. Those who read him felt they knew him, and those who knew him were profoundly fortunate souls."

Mr Hitchens was born in Portsmouth in 1949 and graduated from Oxford in 1970. He began his career as a journalist in Britain in the 1970s and later moved to New York, becoming contributing editor to Vanity Fair in November 1992. 

He was diagnosed with cancer in June 2010, and had documented his declining health in his Vanity Fair column.
In an August 2010 essay for the magazine he wrote: "I love the imagery of struggle. I sometimes wish I were suffering in a good cause, or risking my life for the good of others, instead of just being a gravely endangered patient."
Speaking on the BBC's Newsnight programme, in November that year, he reflected on a life that he knew would be cut short: "It does concentrate the mind, of course, to realise that your life is more rationed than you thought it was."
He wrote for numerous publications including The Times Literary Supplement, the Daily Express, the London Evening Standard, Newsday and The Atlantic.
He was the author of 17 books, including The Trial of Henry Kissinger, God is not Great, How Religion Poisons Everything, and a memoir, Hitch-22. A collection of his essays, Arguably, was released this year. 
Radicalised by the 1960s, Hitchens was often arrested at political rallies and was kicked out of the Labour Party over his opposition to the Vietnam War.
He became a correspondent for International Socialism magazine."
Now for some quick cut and paste information on him from wikipedia, before getting on to the more relevant information, that being his lifetime work and achievements. You can find more information, and where I got the information below, by following this link .

"Christopher Eric Hitchens (April 13, 1949 – December 15, 2011) was an Anglo-American author and journalist whose books, essays, and journalistic career spanned more than four decades. He had been a columnist and literary critic at The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, Slate, World Affairs, The Nation, Free Inquiry, and became a media fellow at the Hoover Institution in September 2008. He was a staple of talk shows and lecture circuits and in 2005 was voted the world's fifth top public intellectual in a Prospect/Foreign Policy poll.

Hitchens was known for his admiration of George Orwell, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson and for his excoriating critiques of, among others, Mother Teresa, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Henry Kissinger. His confrontational style of debate made him both a lauded and controversial figure. As a political observer, polemicist and self-defined radical, he rose to prominence as a fixture of the left-wing publications in his native Britain and in the United States. His departure from the established political left began in 1989 after what he called the "tepid reaction" of the Western left following Ayatollah Khomeini's issue of a fatwā calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie. The 11 September 2001 attacks strengthened his internationalist embrace of an interventionist foreign policy, and his vociferous criticism of what he called "fascism with an Islamic face." His numerous editorials in support of the Iraq War caused some to label him a neoconservative, although Hitchens insisted he was not "a conservative of any kind."

Identified as a champion of the "New Atheism" movement, Hitchens described himself as an antitheist and a believer in the philosophical values of the Enlightenment. Hitchens said that a person "could be an atheist and wish that belief in god were correct," but that "an antitheist, a term I'm trying to get into circulation, is someone who is relieved that there's no evidence for such an assertion." He argued that the concept of god or a supreme being is a totalitarian belief that destroys individual freedom, and that free expression and scientific discovery should replace religion as a means of teaching ethics and defining human civilization. He wrote at length on atheism and the nature of religion in his 2007 book God Is Not Great.

Hitchens on Religion:
Hitchens often spoke out against the Abrahamic religions, or what he called "the three great monotheisms" (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). He said: "The real axis of evil is Christianity, Judaism, and Islam". In his book, God Is Not Great, Hitchens expanded his criticism to include all religions, including those rarely criticized by Western secularists such as Hinduism and neo-paganism. His book had mixed reactions, from praise in The New York Times for his "logical flourishes and conundrums"\ to accusations of "intellectual and moral shabbiness" in The Financial Times.\ God Is Not Great was nominated for a National Book Award on 10 October 2007.\

Hitchens contended that organized religion is "the main source of hatred in the world, [v]iolent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children", and that accordingly it "ought to have a great deal on its conscience". In God Is Not Great, Hitchens contends that:

    above all, we are in need of a renewed Enlightenment, which will base itself on the proposition that the proper study of mankind is man and woman [referencing Alexander Pope]. This Enlightenment will not need to depend, like its predecessors, on the heroic breakthroughs of a few gifted and exceptionally courageous people. It is within the compass of the average person. The study of literature and poetry, both for its own sake and for the eternal ethical questions with which it deals, can now easily depose the scrutiny of sacred texts that have been found to be corrupt and confected. The pursuit of unfettered scientific inquiry, and the availability of new findings to masses of people by electronic means, will revolutionize our concepts of research and development. Very importantly, the divorce between the sexual life and fear, and the sexual life and disease, and the sexual life and tyranny, can now at last be attempted, on the sole condition that we banish all religions from the discourse. And all this and more is, for the first time in our history, within the reach if not the grasp of everyone.
His book made him one of the four major advocates of the "new atheism", and an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society. Hitchens said he would accept an invitation from any religious leader who wished to debate with him. He also served on the advisory board of the Secular Coalition for America, a lobbying group for atheists and humanists in Washington, DC. In 2007, Hitchens began a series of written debates on the question "Is Christianity Good for the World?" with Christian theologian and pastor, Douglas Wilson, published in Christianity Today magazine. This exchange eventually became a book by the same title in 2008. During their book tour to promote the book, film producer Darren Doane sent a film crew to accompany them. Doane produced the film Collision: "Is Christianity GOOD for the World?" which was released on 27 October 2009.

On 26 November 2010 Hitchens appeared in Toronto, Canada at the Munk Debates, where he debated religion with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a Roman Catholic convert. Blair argued religion is a force for good, while Hitchens was against it. Preliminary results on the Munk website said 56 per cent of the votes backed the proposition (Hitchens' position) before hearing the debate, with 22 per cent against (Blair's position), and 21 per cent undecided, with the undecided voters leaning toward Hitchens, giving him a 68 per cent to 32 per cent victory over Blair, after the debate.

In February 2006, Hitchens helped organize a pro-Denmark rally outside the Danish Embassy in Washington, DC in response to the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy.

Hitchens was accused by William A. Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Liberties of being particularly anti-Catholic. Hitchens responded, "when religion is attacked in this country [...] the Catholic Church comes in for a little more than its fair share". Hitchens has also been accused of anti-Catholic bigotry by others, including Brent Bozell, Tom Piatak in The American Conservative, and UCLA Law Professor Stephen Bainbridge. In an interview with Radar in 2007, Hitchens said that if the Christian right's agenda were implemented in the United States "It wouldn't last very long and would, I hope, lead to civil war, which they will lose, but for which it would be a great pleasure to take part." When Joe Scarborough on 12 March 2004 asked Hitchens whether he was "consumed with hatred for conservative Catholics", Hitchens responded that he was not and that he just thinks that "all religious belief is sinister and infantile". Piatak claimed that "A straightforward description of all Hitchens’s anti-Catholic outbursts would fill every page in this magazine", noting particularly Hitchens' assertion that U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts should not be confirmed because of his faith.

Hitchens was raised nominally Christian, and went to Christian boarding schools but from an early age declined to participate in communal prayers. Later in life, Hitchens discovered that he was of partially Jewish ancestry. According to Hitchens, when his brother Peter took his fiancée to meet their maternal grandmother, Dodo, who was then in her 90s, Dodo said, "She's Jewish, isn't she?" and then announced: "Well, I've got something to tell you. So are you." She said that her real surname was Levin, not Lynn, and that some of her ancestors had the family name Blumenthal, and were from Poland.His great-great-grandfather was Nathan Blumenthal of Kempen, Prussia, who emigrated to Leicester. In Hitch-22, Hitchens detailed his Jewish ancestry: his matrilineal great-great-grandmother had converted to Judaism before marrying Nathan Blumenthal. According to Hitchens, in 1893, his maternal grandmother's parents were married in England "according to the rites of the German and Polish Jews. My mother’s mother, whose birth name was Dorothy Levin, was born three years later, in 1896." Hitchens' maternal grandfather converted to Judaism before marrying Dorothy Levin.

In an article in the The Guardian on 14 April 2002, Hitchens stated that he could be considered Jewish because Jewish descent is matrilineal.

In February 2010 he was named to the Freedom From Religion Foundation's Honorary Board of distinguished achievers."

He appeared in many television shows since 1984, speaking on his views and opinions about politics, religion, domestic policy, wars, and his work as a journalist. Some TV appearances include (but are not limited to): Frontiers, Everything You Need To Know, Tracking Down Maggie: The Unofficial Biography of Margaret Thatcher, Princess Diana: The Mourning After, Dennis Miller Live (4 episodes), The Trials of Henry Kissinger, Real Time with Bill Maher (6 episodes), Mel Gibson: God's Lethal Weapon, Newsnight (3 episodes), The Daily Show (4 episodes), Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, The Al Franken Show, Confronting Iraq: Conflict and Hope, Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism, Hardball with Chris Matthews (3 episodes), American Zeitgeist, Blog Wars, Manufacturing Dissent, Question Time, Discussions with Richard Dawkins: Episode 1: "The Four Horsemen", Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Collision: "Is Christianity GOOD for the World?", and Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune.

He's published 17 separate books, however he's also co-written, co-edited, and assisted in prefaces, introductions, and forwards for dozens of other books. The list is as follows, and you can find more information on them by following this link
 Sole author
 1984 Cyprus. Quartet. Revised editions as Hostage to History: Cyprus from the Ottomans to Kissinger, 1989 (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) and 1997 (Verso).
 1987 Imperial Spoils: The Curious Case of the Elgin Marbles. Chatto and Windus (UK)/Hill and Wang (US, 1988) / 1997 UK Verso edition as The Elgin Marbles: Should They Be Returned to Greece? (with essays by Robert Browning and Graham Binns). Reissued and updated 2008 as The Parthenon Marbles: The Case for Reunification, Verso.
 1988 Prepared for the Worst: Selected Essays and Minority Reports. Hill and Wang (US)/Chatto and Windus (UK).
 1990 The Monarchy: A Critique of Britain's Favorite Fetish. Chatto & Windus, 1990.
 1990 Blood, Class, and Nostalgia: Anglo-American Ironies. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Reissued 2004, with a new introduction, as Blood, Class and Empire: The Enduring Anglo-American Relationship, Nation Books, ISBN 1-56025-592-7)
 1993 For the Sake of Argument: Essays and Minority Reports. Verso, ISBN 0-86-091435-6
 1995 The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice. Verso.
 1999 No One Left to Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton. Verso. Reissued as No One Left to Lie To: The Values of the Worst Family in 2000.
 2000 Unacknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere. Verso
 2001 The Trial of Henry Kissinger. Verso.
 2001 Letters to a Young Contrarian. Basic Books.
 2002 Why Orwell Matters, Basic Books (US)/UK edition as Orwell's Victory, Allen Lane/The Penguin Press.
 2003 A Long Short War: The Postponed Liberation of Iraq. Plume Books. Originally released as Regime Change (Penguin).
 2004 Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays. Thunder's Mouth, Nation Books, ISBN 1-56025-580-3
 2005 Thomas Jefferson: Author of America. Eminent Lives/Atlas Books/HarperCollins Publishers, ISBN 0-06-059896-4
 2006 Thomas Paine's "Rights of Man": A Biography. Books That Shook the World/Atlantic Books, ISBN 1-84354-513-6
 2007 God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Twelve/Hachette Book Group USA/Warner Books, ISBN 0446579807 / Published in the UK as God Is Not Great: The Case Against Religion. Atlantic Books, ISBN 978-1-84354-586-6
 2010 Hitch-22 Some Confessions and Contradictions: A Memoir . Hachette Book Group. ISBN 9780446540339 (published by Allen and Unwin in Australia in May 2010 with the shorter title: Hitch-22. A Memoir.) ISBN 978-1-74175-962-4
 2011 Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens. Twelve. UK edition as Arguably: Selected Prose. Atlantic.
Sole editor
 2007 The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non-Believer. Perseus Publishing. ISBN 9780306816086

Co-author or co-editor
 1976 Callaghan, The Road to Number Ten (with Peter Kellner). Cassell, ISBN 0-304-29768-2
 1988 Blaming the Victims: Spurious Scholarship and the Palestinian Question (contributor; co-editor with Edward Said). Verso, ISBN 0-86091-887-4. Reissued, 2001.
 1994 When Borders Bleed: The Struggle of the Kurds (with Ed Kashi). Pantheon Books.
 1994 International Territory: The United Nations, 1945-1995 (with Adam Bartos). Verso.
 2002 Left Hooks, Right Crosses: A Decade of Political Writing (co-editor, with Christopher Caldwell).
 2008 Is Christianity Good for the World? – A Debate (co-author, with Douglas Wilson). Canon Press, ISBN 1-59128-053-2.
 2008 Christopher Hitchens and His Critics: Terror, Iraq and the Left (co-author, with other contributions edited by Simon Cottee and Thomas Cushman). New York University Press.
 2010 The Best American Essays 2010 (co-editor with Robert Atwan). Mariner Books.
 2011 Hitchens vs. Blair: Be it Resolved, Religion is a Force of Good in the World (co-author with Tony Blair). House of Anansi Press.
 2000 Vanity Fair's Hollywood, Graydon Carter and David Friend (editors). Viking Studio.
 2005 A Matter of Principle: Humanitarian Arguments for War in Iraq, Thomas Cushman (editor). University of California Press, ISBN 0-520-24555-5
 2008. Christopher Hitchens and His Critics: Terror, Iraq and the Left (co-edited by Simon Cottee and Thomas Cushman). New York University Press.
 2011 The Quotable Hitchens: From Alcohol to Zionism, Windsor Mann (editor). Da Capo Press.
Book introductions, forewords and prefaces
 1997 In Our Time: The Chamberlain-Hitler Collusion, Clement Leibovitz and Alvin Finkel (Authors). Foreword to Paperback Edition. Monthly Review Press.
 1999 A Handbook on Hanging, Charles Duff (Author). Introduction. New York Review of Books.
 2000 Scoop, Evelyn Waugh (Author). Introduction. Penguin Classics Edition.
 2000 Safe Area Goražde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995, Joe Sacco (Author). Foreword. Fantagraphics Books.
 2000 1968: War & Democracy, Eugene J. McCarthy (Author). Foreword. Lone Oak Press.
 2000 Vanity Fair's Hollywood, Graydon Carter and David Friend (Editors). Introduction. Viking Studio.
 2001 Kosovo: Background to a War, Stephen Schwartz (Author). Foreword. Anthem Press.
 2001 The Mating Season, P. G. Wodehouse (Author). Introduction. Penguin Classics Edition.
 2001 Orwell in Spain, George Orwell (Author), Peter Davison (Editor). Introduction. Penguin Classics Edition
 2002 Machinery of Death: The Reality of America's Death Penalty Regime, David R. Dow and Mark Dow (Editors). Foreword. Routledge.
 2002 From Russia, With Love, Dr. No, and Goldfinger, Ian Fleming (Author). Introduction. Penguin Classics Edition.
 2003 Animal Farm and 1984, George Orwell (Author). Introduction. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
 2003 The Adventures of Augie March, Saul Bellow (Author). Introduction. Penguin Group.
 2004 Orient Express, Graham Greene (Author). Introduction. Penguin Classics Edition.
 2004 Hons and Rebels, Jessica Mitford (Author). Introduction. New York Review of Books.
 2004 Brave New World, Aldous Huxley (Author). Foreword. HarperCollins.
 2005 House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende (Author). Introduction. Everyman's Library.
 2007 Our Man in Havana, Graham Greene (Author). Introduction. Penguin Classics Edition.
 2007 Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia, Rebecca West (Author). Introduction. Penguin Classics Edition.
 2008 Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis, Kingsley Amis (Author). Introduction. Bloomsbury USA.
 2008 God: The Failed Hypothesis- How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist, Victor J. Stenger (Author). Foreword to Paperback Edition. New York: Prometheus Books.
 2008 Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Author). Introduction to Paperback Edition. Simon and Schuster.
 2009 First in Peace: How George Washington Set the Course for America, Conor Cruise O'Brien (Author). Introduction. Da Capo Press.
 2009 Ancient Gonzo Wisdom: Interviews with Hunter S. Thompson, Anita Thompson (Editor). Introduction to Paperback Edition. Da Capo Press.
 2009 Certitude: A Profusely Illustrated Guide to Blockheads and Bullheads, Past and Present, Adam Begley (Author), Edward Sorel (Illustrator). Introduction. Crown Archetype.
 2010 Against Religion: The Atheist Writings of H.P. Lovecraft, H.P. Lovecraft (Author), S. T. Joshi (Editor). Foreword. Sporting Gentlemen.
 2010 Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud (Author). Introduction. Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
 2012 Diaries, George Orwell (Author). Introduction. Liverlight.
Hitchens became famous for his scathing critiques of public figures. Three figures — Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger, and Mother Teresa — were the targets of three separate full length texts, No One Left to Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, and The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice. Hitchens also wrote book-length biographical essays about Thomas Jefferson (Thomas Jefferson: Author of America), George Orwell (Why Orwell Matters), and Thomas Paine (Thomas Paine's "Rights of Man": A Biography).

However, the majority of Hitchens's critiques took the form of short opinion pieces, some of the more notable being his critiques of: Jerry Falwell, George Galloway, Mel Gibson, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, Michael Moore, Daniel Pipes, Ronald Reagan, Jesse Helms, and Cindy Sheehan.

Some people, most notably Religionists, speculated that Hitchens may have ended up having a sort of "Death Bed Conversion" like Charles Darwin was (falsely) claimed to have had. In order to fight off the rumors that this may occur, Hitchens made a very clear statement during one interview shortly before his death. You can watch it here:

Some of his best works can be found in his book God Is Not Great: Why Religion Poisons Everything, which can be found in my own personal library collection. He has, however, produced many other solitary quotes, more specifically on religion and (a)theism, such as:

"What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence."

"A true believer... must also claim to have at least an inkling of what that Supreme Being desires. I have been called arrogant in my time... but to claim that I am privy to the secrets of the universe and its creator — that’s beyond my conceit."

"Faith is the surrender of the mind; it's the surrender of reason, it's the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It's our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated."

"Why, if God was the creator of all things, were we supposed to "praise" him for what came naturally?"

"If Jesus could heal a blind person he happened to meet, then why not heal blindness?"

"Religion is man-made. Even the men who made it cannot agree on what their prophets or redeemers or gurus actually said or did."

"The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted."

"Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it."

"Religion ends and philosophy begins, just as alchemy ends and chemistry begins and astrology ends, and astronomy begins."

"Name me an ethical statement made or an action performed by a believer that could not have been made or performed by a non-believer."

My post could honestly span for days, this man has accomplished so much in his short lifetime. The world has lost one of the greatest Atheist Activists of our time. He was a true inspiration and role model, and continued to be one in the face of death. His steadfast affirmation in his beliefs regardless of knowing of his terminal illness is something we Atheists can forever be proud of him for. His legacy is definitely a great one. Cheers to one of the great men who shaped who I am today.

“The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.” ― Christopher Hitchens

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Week 10 - "Random Videos"

This week I'm going to take a break from writing up a lengthy post and just share some videos I've collected recently. Enjoy.

Priest laughs when questioned about his money-making scheme ruining the lives of children

London UK news channel: Jesus Christ has returned! God is on Earth

Priest says Hell is an invention of the church to control people with fear

New Law Protects Christians Who Bully Gay Kids 

 Rick Perry: Strong

Rick Perry defends anti-gay ad 'Strong', says people should not have 'freedom from religion' 

Why Religion causes brain damage

Response from my mom, Week 9 on "The Great Prayer Experiment."

No response from my mom this week.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Week 9, "The Great Prayer Experiment."

Since I don't have very much time to write another blog post right now, I'm going to keep this one short and sweet. This is an excerpt taken from Richard Dawkin's book, "The God Delusion." It discusses in detail, an experiment taken a few years ago in Britain, measuring the actual usefulness of prayer on a scientific level. I'll touch more on prayer and why I personally find it arrogant, selfish, lazy, and pointless, later on when I have more time to write.

"As amusing, if rather pathetic, case study in miracles is the Great Prayer Experiment: does praying for patients help them recover? Prayers are commonly offered for sick people, both privately and in formal places of worship. Darwin's cousin Francis Galton was the first to analyze scientifically whether praying for people is efficacious. He noted that every Sunday, in churches throughout Britain, entire congregations prayed publicly for the health of the royal family. Shouldn't they, therefor, be unusually fit, compared with the rest of us, who are prayed for only by our nearest and dearest? Galton looked into it, and found no statistical difference. His intention may, in any case, have been satirical, as also when he prayed over randomized places of land to see if the plants would grow any faster (they didn't).
More recently, the physicist Russel Stannard (one of Britain's three well-known religious scientists, as we shall see) has thrown his weight behind an initiative, funded by - of course - the Templeton Foundation, to test experimentally the proposition that praying for sick patients improve their health.
Such experiments, if done properly, have to be double blind, and this standard was strictly observed. The patients were assigned, strictly at random, to an experimental group (received prayers) or a control group (received no prayers). Neither the patients nor their doctors or caregivers, nor the experimenters were allowed to know which patients were being prayed for and which patients were controls. Those who did the experimental praying had to know the names of the individuals for whom they were praying - otherwise, in what sense would they be praying for them rather than somebody else? But care was taken to tell them only the first name and initial letter of the surname. Apparently that would be enough to enable God to pinpoint the right hospital bed.
The very idea of doing such experiments is open to a generous measure of ridicule, and the project duly received it. As far as I know, Bob Newhart didn't do a sketch about it, but I can distinctly hear his voice:

          "What's that you say, Lord? You can't cure me because I'm a member of the
          control group? ...Oh I see, my aunt's prayers aren't enough. But Lord, Mr. Evans
          in the next-door bed... What was that Lord?...Mr. Evans received a thousand
          prayers per day? But Lord, Mr. Evans doesn't know a thousand people... Oh,
          they just referred to him as John E. But Lord, how did you know they didn't mean
          John Ellsworthy?... Oh, right, you used our omniscience to work out which John E.
          they meant. But Lord..."

Valiantly shouldering aside all mockery, the team of researchers soldiered on, spending $2.5 million of Templeton money under the leadership of Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist at the Mind/Body Medical Institute near Boston. Dr. Benson was earlier quoted in a Templeton press release as "believing that evidence for the efficacy of intercessory prayer in medicinal settings is mounting." Reassuringly, then, the research was in good hands, unlikely to be spoiled by skeptical vibrations. Dr. Benson and his team monitored 1,802 patients at six hospitals, all of whom received coronary bypass surgery. The patients were divided into three groups. Group 1 received prayers and didn't know it. Group 2 (the control group) received no prayers and didn't know it. Group 3 received prayers and did know it. The comparison between Groups 1 and 2 tests for the efficacy of intercessory prayer. Group 3 tests for possible psychosomatic effects of knowing that one is being prayed for.
Prayers were delivered by the congregations of three churches, one in Minnesota, one in Massachusetts and one in Missouri, all distant from the three hospitals. The praying individuals, as explained, were given only the first name and initial letter of the surname of each patient for whom they were to pray. It is good experimental practice to standardize as far as possible, and they were all, accordingly, told to include in their prayers the phrase 'for a successful surgery with a quick, healthy recovery and no complications.'
The results, reported in the American Heart Journal of April 2006, were clear-cut. There was no difference between those patients who were prayed for and those who were not. What a surprise. There was a difference between those who knew they had been prayed for and those who did not know one way or the other' but it went in the wrong direction. Those who knew they had been the beneficiaries of prayer suffered significantly more complications than those who did not. Was God doing a bit of smiting, to show his disapproval of the whole barmy enterprise? It seems more probable that those patients who knew they were being prayed for suffered additional stress in consequence: 'performance anxiety,' as the experimenters put it. Dr. Charles Bethea, one of the researchers, said, 'It may have made them uncertain, wondering am I so sick they had to call in their prayer team?' In today's litigious society, is it too much to hope that those patients suffering heart complications, as a consequence of knowing they were receiving experimental prayers, might put together a class action lawsuit against the Templeton Foundation?
It will be no surprise that this study was opposed by theologians, perhaps anxious about its capacity to bring ridicule upon religion. The Oxford theologian Richard Swinburne, writing after the study failed, objected to it on the groups that God answers prayers only if they are offered up for good reasons. Praying for somebody rather than somebody else, simply because of the fall of the dice in the design of a double-blind experiment, does not constitute a good reason. Bob Newhart satire, and Swinburne is right to make it too. But in other parts of his paper Swineburne himself is beyond satire. Not for the first time, he seeks to justify suffering in a world run by God:

          "My suffering provides me with the opportunity to show courage and patience.
          It provides you with the opportunity to show sympathy and to help alleviate my
          suffering. And it provides society with the opportunity to choose whether or not
          to invest a lot of money in trying to find a cure for this or that particular kind of
          suffering...Although a good God regrets our suffering, his greatest concern is surely
          that each of us shall show patience, sympathy, and generosity and, thereby,
          form a holy character. Some people badly need to be ill for their own sake, and
          some people badly need to be ill to provide important choices for others. Only in
          that way can some people be encouraged to make serious choices about the
          sort of person they are to be. For other people, illness is not so valuable."

This grotesque piece of reasoning, so damningly typical of the theological mind, reminds me of an occasion when I was on a television panel with Swineburne, and also with our Oxford colleage Professor Peter Atkins. Swineburne at one point attempted to justify the Holocaust on the grounds that it gave the Jews a wonderful opportunity to be courageous and noble. Peter Atkins splendidly growled, 'May you rot in hell.'
Another typical piece of theological reasoning occurs further along in Swineburne's article. He rightly suggests that if God wanted to demonstrate his own existence he would find better ways to do it than slightly biasing the recovery statistics of experimental versus control groups of heart patience. If God existed and wanted to convince us of it, he could 'fill the world with super-miracles.' But then Swineburne lets fall his gem: 'There is quite a lot of evidence anyway of God's existence, and too much might not be good for us.' Too much might not be good for us! Read it again. Too much evidence might not be good for us. Richard Swineburne is the recently retired holder of one of Britain's most prestigious professorships of theology, and is a Fellow of the British Academy. If it's a theologian you want, they don't come much more distinguished. Perhaps you don't want a theologian.
Swineburn wasn't the only theologian to disown the study after it had failed. The Reverend Raymond J. Lawrence was granted a generous tranche of op-ed space in the New York Times to explain why responsible religious leaders 'will breathe a sigh of relief' that no evidence could be found of intercessory prayer having any effect. Would he have sung a different tune if the Benson study had succeeded in demonstrating the power of prayer? Maybe not, but you can be certain that plenty of other pastors and theologians would. The Reverend Lawrence's piece is chiefly memorable for the following revelations: 'Recently, a colleague told me about a devout, well-educated woman who accused a doctor of malpractice in his treatment of her husband. During her husband's dying days, she charged the doctor had failed to pray for him.'
Other theologians joined NOMA-inspired skeptics in contending that studying prayer in this way is a waste of money because supernatural influences are by definition beyond the reach of science. But as the Templeton Foundation correctly recognized when it financed the study, the alleged power of intercessory prayer is at least in principle within the reach of science. A double-blind experiment can be done and was done. It could have yielded a positive result. And if it had, can you imagine that a single religious apologist would have dismissed it on the grounds that scientific research has no bearing on religious matters? Of course not.
Needless to say, the negative results of the experiment will not shake the faithful. Bob Barth, the spiritual director of the Missouri prayer ministry which supplied some of the experimental [prayers, said: 'A person of faith would say that this study is interesting, but we've been praying a long time and we've seen prayer work, we know it works, and the research on prayer and spirituality is just getting started.' Yeah, right: we know from our faith that prayer works, so if evidence fails to show it we'll just soldier on until finally we get the result we want."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Week 8 - Documentary "The God Who Wasn't There?"

I've been too busy this week to post a proper update, and will probably continue to be too busy. I'm two days late posting as it is. Instead of a lengthy post about a choice topic this week, I'm just going to leave a link to a documentary I've watched several times, shedding some light on the Jesus Myth, and the improbability that he even existed.

The God Who Wasn't There: Documentary filmmaker Brian Flemming examines the Bible and discusses the history of early Christianity, raising doubts as to whether the New Testament personage Jesus ever really existed. Flemming examines the similarity of the Jesus story to other savior myths of the time and points to inexplicable gaps in early Christian history that combine to shed doubt on the Bible's Jesus story.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Week 7 - "The Bible, A Moral Compass...?"

The post this week is going to shine some light on certain topics that Christians don't usually like shining lights on, or sometimes even deny completely about the Bible. Christians claim that the Bible is their moral compass, without it they'd be lost and have no direction in life or no idea how to treat others and obey god. What they usually choose to ignore is the nasty parts in the Bible, either by ignoring it completely, claiming that it's "null and void" because it's in the Old Testament and we no longer need to live by those rules, or by misinterpreting what's being said. But the Bible never says to disregard these rules, people do. And if the Bible is the infallible word of god that every person is supposed to follow lest he go to hell, then that makes every single human being on the planet damned to hell because no one follows the Bible completely anymore. 99.999999% of Christians out there cherry pick what they like and don't like, and what they want to follow from the Bible, and ignore the rest. Below, I'm going to list some passages about the actual topics the Bible not only talks about, but fully condones and directs Christians to do. This is definitely not an extensive or complete list, if I were to make one I would be here for a week straight listing everything.


Leviticus 25:44-46 - However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way.

Exodus 21:7-11 - When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl's owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment.

Exodus 21:20-21 - When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.

Ephesians 6:5 - Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.

1 Timothy 6:1-2 - Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them.

Luke 12:47-48 - The servant will be severely punished, for though he knew his duty, he refused to do it. "But people who are not aware that they are doing wrong will be punished only lightly. Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given."

And here are a few quotes from people of the Christian faith throughout history, who also supported Slavery because of what the Bible said...

"[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts." Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America

"There is not one verse in the Bible inhibiting slavery, but many regulating it. It is not then, we conclude, immoral." Rev. Alexander Campbell

"The right of holding slaves is clearly established in the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example." Rev. R. Furman, D.D., Baptist, of South Carolina

"The hope of civilization itself hangs on the defeat of Negro suffrage." A statement by a prominent 19th-century southern Presbyterian pastor, cited by Rev. Jack Rogers, moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

"The doom of Ham has been branded on the form and features of his African descendants. The hand of fate has united his color and destiny. Man cannot separate what God hath joined."  United States Senator James Henry Hammond.

"If we apply sola scriptura to slavery, I'm afraid the abolitionists are on relatively weak ground. Nowhere is slavery in the Bible lambasted as an oppressive and evil institution: Vaughn Roste, United Church of Canada staff.

Human Sacrifice

Genesis 22:1-18 - Take your son, your only son – yes, Isaac, whom you love so much – and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will point out to you."

Exodus 13:2 - "Consecrate to me every first-born that opens the womb among Israelites, both man and beast, for it belongs to me."

Leviticus 27:28-29 - "Note also that any one of his possessions which a man vows as doomed to the Lord, whether it is a human being or an animal, or a hereditary field, shall be neither sold nor ransomed; everything that is thus doomed becomes most sacred to the Lord. All human beings that are doomed lose the right to be redeemed; they must be put to death."

Joshua 7:15 - "The one who has stolen what was set apart for destruction will himself be burned with fire, along with everything he has, for he has broken the covenant of the LORD and has done a horrible thing in Israel."

1 Kings 13:1-2 - At the LORD's command, a man of God from Judah went to Bethel, and he arrived there just as Jeroboam was approaching the altar to offer a sacrifice. Then at the LORD's command, he shouted, "O altar, altar! This is what the LORD says: A child named Josiah will be born into the dynasty of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests from the pagan shrines who come here to burn incense, and human bones will be burned on you."

Deuteronomy 13:13-19 - "Suppose you hear in one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you that some worthless rabble among you have led their fellow citizens astray by encouraging them to worship foreign gods. In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find it is true and can prove that such a detestable act has occurred among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock. Then you must pile all the plunder in the middle of the street and burn it. Put the entire town to the torch as a burnt offering to the LORD your God. That town must remain a ruin forever; it may never be rebuilt. Keep none of the plunder that has been set apart for destruction. Then the LORD will turn from his fierce anger and be merciful to you. He will have compassion on you and make you a great nation, just as he solemnly promised your ancestors. "The LORD your God will be merciful only if you obey him and keep all the commands I am giving you today, doing what is pleasing to him."

And let's not forget that Christianity is a religion formed around one specific human sacrifice, the worship, celebration and glorification of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Those crosses you wear are not a holy symbol. Crosses were used for centuries as an ancient torture device, where thousands of people were nailed upon to die a slow, painful death. It was designed to work alongside gravity, where the sufferer would either bleed to death or die by his bones and organs being crushed under the weight of gravity because of how they were nailed to the cross. And Christians pray to crosses, wear them around their necks, have pictures of them with bloody, suffering Jesus nailed up to it. It's disgustingly morbid. 

Rape/Violence Towards Women

Deuteronomy 20:10-14 - As you approach a town to attack it, first offer its people terms for peace. If they accept your terms and open the gates to you, then all the people inside will serve you in forced labor. But if they refuse to make peace and prepare to fight, you must attack the town. When the LORD your God hands it over to you, kill every man in the town. But you may keep for yourselves all the women, children, livestock, and other plunder. You may enjoy the spoils of your enemies that the LORD your God has given you.

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 - If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her.

2 Samuel 12:11-14 - Thus says the Lord: 'I will bring evil upon you out of your own house. I will take your wives [plural] while you live to see it, and will give them to your neighbor. He shall lie with your wives in broad daylight. You have done this deed in secret, but I will bring it about in the presence of all Israel, and with the sun looking down.' Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." Nathan answered David: "The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die. But since you have utterly spurned the Lord by this deed, the child born to you must surely die."

Exodus 21:7-11 - When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl's owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment.

Zechariah 14:1-2 - Lo, a day shall come for the Lord when the spoils shall be divided in your midst. And I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem for battle: the city shall be taken, houses plundered, women ravished; half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be removed from the city.

See also Judges 21:10-24, Numbers 31:7-18, Deuteronomy 22:23-24, Deuteronomy 21:10-14, Judges 5:30.


Kill People Who Don't Listen to Priests
Deuteronomy 17:12- Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the priest who represents the LORD your God must be put to death. Such evil must be purged from Israel.

Kill Witches
Exodus 22:17 - You should not let a sorceress live.

Kill Homosexuals
Leviticus 20:13 - If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives.

Kill Fortunetellers
Leviticus 20:27 - A man or a woman who acts as a medium or fortuneteller shall be put to death by stoning; they have no one but themselves to blame for their death.

Death for Hitting Dad
Exodus 21:15 - Whoever strikes his father or mother shall be put to death.

Death to Followers of Other Religions
Exodus 22:19 - Whoever sacrifices to any god, except the Lord alone, shall be doomed.

Death for Fornication
Leviticus 21:9- A priest's daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death.

Kill Nonbelievers
2 Chronicles 15:12-13 - They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.

Kill the Entire Town if One Person Worships Another God

Deuteronomy 13:13-19 - Suppose you hear in one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you that some worthless rabble among you have led their fellow citizens astray by encouraging them to worship foreign gods. In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find it is true and can prove that such a detestable act has occurred among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock. Then you must pile all the plunder in the middle of the street and burn it. Put the entire town to the torch as a burnt offering to the LORD your God. That town must remain a ruin forever; it may never be rebuilt. Keep none of the plunder that has been set apart for destruction. Then the LORD will turn from his fierce anger and be merciful to you. He will have compassion on you and make you a great nation, just as he solemnly promised your ancestors. "The LORD your God will be merciful only if you obey him and keep all the commands I am giving you today, doing what is pleasing to him."
Kill Followers of Other Religions.

Deuteronomy 13:7-12 - If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him. Your hand shall be the first raised to slay him; the rest of the people shall join in with you. You shall stone him to death, because he sought to lead you astray from the Lord, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. And all Israel, hearing of this, shall fear and never do such evil as this in your midst.

Kill Women Who Are Not Virgins On Their Wedding Night

Deuteronomy 22:20-21 - But if this charge is true (that she wasn't a virgin on her wedding night), and evidence of the girls virginity is not found, they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her fathers house and there her townsman shall stone her to death, because she committed a crime against Israel by her unchasteness in her father's house. Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst.

Death for Blasphemy

Leviticus 24:10-16 - One day a man who had an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father got into a fight with one of the Israelite men. During the fight, this son of an Israelite woman blasphemed the LORD's name. So the man was brought to Moses for judgment. His mother's name was Shelomith. She was the daughter of Dibri of the tribe of Dan. They put the man in custody until the LORD's will in the matter should become clear. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Take the blasphemer outside the camp, and tell all those who heard him to lay their hands on his head. Then let the entire community stone him to death. Say to the people of Israel: Those who blaspheme God will suffer the consequences of their guilt and be punished. Anyone who blasphemes the LORD's name must be stoned to death by the whole community of Israel. Any Israelite or foreigner among you who blasphemes the LORD's name will surely die.

Kill People for Working on the Sabbath

Exodus 31:12-15 - The LORD then gave these further instructions to Moses: 'Tell the people of Israel to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you forever. It helps you to remember that I am the LORD, who makes you holy. Yes, keep the Sabbath day, for it is holy. Anyone who desecrates it must die; anyone who works on that day will be cut off from the community. Work six days only, but the seventh day must be a day of total rest. I repeat: Because the LORD considers it a holy day, anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death.'

Kill Bad Children

2 Kings 2:23-24- From there Elisha went up to Bethel. While he was on his way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him. "Go up baldhead," they shouted, "go up baldhead!" The prophet turned and saw them, and he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two shebears came out of the woods and tore forty two of the children to pieces.

God Kills the Curious

1Samuel 6:19-20 - And he smote of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of Jehovah, he smote of the people seventy men, `and' fifty thousand men; and the people mourned, because Jehovah had smitten the people with a great slaughter. And the men of Beth-shemesh said, Who is able to stand before Jehovah, this holy God? and to whom shall he go up from us?

Kill Sons of Sinners

Isaiah 14:21 - Make ready to slaughter his sons for the guilt of their fathers; Lest they rise and posses the earth, and fill the breadth of the world with tyrants.

God Will Kill Children

Hosea 9:11-16 - The glory of Israel will fly away like a bird, for your children will die at birth or perish in the womb or never even be conceived. Even if your children do survive to grow up, I will take them from you. It will be a terrible day when I turn away and leave you alone. I have watched Israel become as beautiful and pleasant as Tyre. But now Israel will bring out her children to be slaughtered." O LORD, what should I request for your people? I will ask for wombs that don't give birth and breasts that give no milk. The LORD says, "All their wickedness began at Gilgal; there I began to hate them. I will drive them from my land because of their evil actions. I will love them no more because all their leaders are rebels. The people of Israel are stricken. Their roots are dried up; they will bear no more fruit. And if they give birth, I will slaughter their beloved children."

God Kills all the First Born of Egypt

Exodus 12:29-30 - And at midnight the LORD killed all the firstborn sons in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn son of the captive in the dungeon. Even the firstborn of their livestock were killed. Pharaoh and his officials and all the people of Egypt woke up during the night, and loud wailing was heard throughout the land of Egypt. There was not a single house where someone had not died.

But remember, Thou Shalt Not Kill.

Mass Murder/Genocide

1 Samuel 15:2-3 - This is what the Lord of hosts has to say: 'I will punish what Amalek did to Israel when he barred his way as he was coming up from Egypt. Go, now, attack Amalek, and deal with him and all that he has under the ban. Do not spare him, but kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and asses.'

Judges 20:48 - The men of Israel withdrew through the territory of the Benjaminites, putting to the sword the inhabitants of the city, the livestock, and all they chanced upon. Moreover they destroyed by fire all the cities they came upon.

Zephaniah 1:2-6 - "I will sweep away everything in all your land," says the LORD. "I will sweep away both people and animals alike. Even the birds of the air and the fish in the sea will die. I will reduce the wicked to heaps of rubble, along with the rest of humanity," says the LORD. "I will crush Judah and Jerusalem with my fist and destroy every last trace of their Baal worship. I will put an end to all the idolatrous priests, so that even the memory of them will disappear. For they go up to their roofs and bow to the sun, moon, and stars. They claim to follow the LORD, but then they worship Molech, too. So now I will destroy them! And I will destroy those who used to worship me but now no longer do. They no longer ask for the LORD's guidance or seek my blessings."

Let's not forget the stories of Noah's Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the 10 Plagues in Egypt, among others.

With just that little amount of evidence directly out of the Bible, I don't know how anyone could claim it was a proper tool for teaching their children morality and right vs wrong. To  claim such things not only shows a distinct lack of critical thinking on the part of the reader, but an alarming inability to think for oneself and differentiate from what's truly right and wrong. And the fact that many people claim that the rules of the Old Testament are simply stories or the rules no longer apply is also alarming for many reasons. If they no longer apply, why are they in the rule book for the entire religion at all anymore? If they're just stories, then why do people claim they're rules and to this day still live by them and carry out their message?

"It ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand."--Mark Twain

"Without religion, we'd have good people doing good things, and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." Stephen Weinburg

"In Christianity neither morality nor religion come into contact with reality at any point." - Friederich Nietzsche

"Christianity is the most ridiculous, the most absurd and bloody religion that has ever infected the world." - Voltaire

I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires. - Susan B. Anthony

Few intelligent Christians can still hold to the idea that the Bible is an infallible Book, that it contains no linguistic errors, no historical discrepancies, no antiquated scientific assumptions, not even bad ethical standards. Historical investigation and literary criticism have taken the magic out of the Bible and have made it a composite human book, written by many hands in different ages. The existence of thousands of variations of texts makes it impossible to hold the doctrine of a book verbally infallible. Some might claim for the original copies of the Bible an infallible character, but this view only begs the question and makes such Christian apologetics more ridiculous in the eyes of the sincere man. -- Elmer Homrighausen, Christianity in America

"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfullly as when they do it from a religious conviction" Blaise Pascale

"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."--Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, ch. 2.

The Bible is a book that has been read more, and examined less, than any book that ever existed. - Thomas Paine

Properly read, the bible is the most potent force for Atheism ever conceived. - Isaac Asimov

"If we are to believe the Bible, god created a flood that nearly wiped out all of mankind, taking genocide to epic proportions. Why then is god worshiped and Hitler, who committed genocide on a smaller scale, labeled evil for similar acts?" - Scott Williams

No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means. --George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Response from my mom, Week 6 on "Water to Wine."

I had some time tonight as I had to have a snack before bed so I read your week 6 blog.  There are two comments I have:

1)      there are times in the bible that having wine is ok; it is all relative as to how and when; whether over-indulging and ruining your life or relaxing and enjoying life. 

2)      I disagree about your comment:   "And that's why religion hates science. That's why science and religion can never coexist as two sides of the same coin. Science disproves religion, science destroys the usefulness of religion, and when you're in the business of power and control like religion has been for thousands of years, it's going to piss you off."

            Christians don’t have a problem with science, and I have seen science in a lot of areas and in a lot of studies involving Christianity.  In fact, I believe God created science, and he knows far more than what we have discovered.  Also, there isn’t any reason that he wouldn’t use science in some of his miracles.
 Your comment about how God created science is ignorant and untrue. To believe that statement, you must first believe that God is real at all, which is absolutely absurd to someone like myself. Secondly you must consciously reject the facts and evidence of the contrary WITHIN YOUR OWN BIBLE. In the very beginning of the book, God forbade Adam and Eve to eat of the "Tree of Knowledge" and exiled them for doing so. It's why we have sin in the world, death, disease, why women have pain during child birth, everything is a punishment for human curiosity. Religious leaders have followed suit throughout the years since the Bible was written (by men). Galileo was harassed, and eventually condemned from the church for "heresy" upon his death. . William Ockham, Conrad Gessner, Gregor Mendel, Aristotle, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Charles Darwin, Democritus, Nicolaus Copernicus, the hundreds of thousands of "free-thinkers" murdered during The Dark Ages, The Middle Ages, The Renaissance, etc.

Read more here: and don't say "Oh that's the CATHOLIC church," because for well over 1000 years and up until now even, the Catholic church has been the largest denomination of Christianity and the largest in power, infact most denominations stemmed from Catholicism. Read this again as well, go through the list and see how many scientists, astronomers, philosophers, mathematicians, and scholars were executed because of "heresy" or just because.

- In the early fourth century the philosopher Sopatros was executed on demand of Christian authorities.
- The world famous female philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria was torn to pieces with glass fragments by a hysterical Christian mob led by a Christian minister named Peter, in a church, in 415.
- Already in 385 C.E. the first Christians, the Spanish Priscillianus and six followers, were beheaded for heresy in Trier/Germany.
- Manichaean heresy: a crypto-Christian sect decent enough to practice birth control (and thus not as irresponsible as faithful Catholics) was exterminated in huge campaigns all over the Roman empire between 372 C.E. and 444 C.E. Numerous thousands of victims.
- John Huss, a critic of papal infallibility and indulgences, was burned at the stake in 1415.
- University professor B.Hubmaier burned at the stake 1538 in Vienna.
- Giordano Bruno, Dominican monk, after having been incarcerated for seven years, was burned at the stake for heresy on the Campo dei Fiori (Rome) on 2/17/1600
- Thomas Aikenhead, a twenty-year-old scottish student of Edinburgh University, was hanged for atheism and blasphemy.

Read also this link Anti-Gnosticism in latin literally translates to Anti-Knowledge, anti being against and gnosticism being knowledge.

Read also

Read also
Please, don't try to tell me that science and religion are friends.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Week 6 - "Water into Wine."

One of the great miracles documented in the Bible that Jesus was claimed to perform, was turning water into wine. It was actually the very first documented miracle he decided to do. Instead of healing a sick person, he decided to make alcohol for an after party for a married couple. Seems very savior-like to me. I guess he wanted to start off slow, you know, to build suspense. It would be crazy to start off with a bang and give people zero room for doubt that he was the son of God instead of just an average magician with even average-r parlor tricks. Anyways, disdain aside, this miracle can be found in John 2:1-11. The passage states:
And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:  2And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.  3And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. 4Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. 5His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. 6And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. 7Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. 8And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. 9When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, 10And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. 11This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

Most people, even some non-Christians, do believe this is an impossible feat and therefor must be a miracle, aka an act of God. But was it? Let's ignore the fact firstly, that "Coincidentally, miracles vanish in the presence of video recorders and scientists" as Michael Jensen was known to have said. Let's also ignore the fact that it is a well accepted sin to have vices or indulgences of any kind as a Christian. In several sections, the Bible actually condones drinking.

Leviticus 10:9 - Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations:

Numbers 6:3 - He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried.

Deuteronomy 29:6 - Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink: that ye might know that I am the LORD your God.
Judges 13:4 - Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing:

Judges 13:7 - But he said unto me, Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and now drink no wine nor strong drink, neither eat any unclean thing: for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death.

Judges 13:14 - She may not eat of any thing that cometh of the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing: all that I commanded her let her observe.

Proverbs 20:1 - Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.

Proverbs 31:4 - It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink.

Isaiah 5:11- Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!

Isaiah 5:22 - Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink.

Isaiah 24:9 - They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink shall be bitter to them that drink it.

Isaiah 28:7 - But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.

Isaiah 29:9 - Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink.

Isaiah 56:12 - Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and to morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant.

There are of course exceptions (like alcohol permitted for medicinal purposes... yet condoms are a sin even if they prevent the spread of STDs and AIDS) as well as contradictions, which once again goes to show that the Bible was written by very imperfect, confused humans. Not only does this make you, mom, a sinner (sherry is an alcohol, sorry to break it to you) but it also makes Jesus a sinner. How can the son of God be a sinner? Is the son of God, or God himself, allowed to break his own rules? (Thou shalt not Kill... oh right.)

Moving on. Thanks to science, we have many answers to many previously unanswered questions. We now know the world is round, not flat. We also know that the earth revolves around the sun, and not the other way around. Both of these bronze age beliefs were actually backed up by the Bible, and have since been disproven. We now know that the sun will indeed rise every morning, and it's no longer necessary to sacrifice virgins in order to ensure this natural occurrence. And now, thanks to more and more research, we're even discovering the scientific basis to many things people once believed were "miracles." If you haven't guessed it, the one I'm going to explain today is turning water into wine.

Now, because I'm not a fancy scientist, I'm going to let this 1 minute 42 second youtube video explain this easily debunked miracle.

I know all that is kind of hard to understand, and even harder to believe that people who lived in the desert and rode on camels 2000 years ago had anything like that readily available to them to use as parlor tricks. It's far fetched, yes. But much less far fetched than "God dun it." This is merely the chemical presentation of how it can passably be done in this day and age without the help of any "God." In the end I can neither prove nor disprove the fact that it did or didn't even happen, let alone whether or not it was a true miracle, because the fact of the matter is no one can. The scriptures that told the story of Jesus's life were in fact written approximately 90 years after his death. None of the people writing the scriptures about Jesus even lived during his time, let alone personally knew him or witnessed the events. Plus taking into consideration how many times it's been written, rewritten, retranslated, edited, and put on the chopping block, for all we know, "wine" could have actually been "chocolate milk."

Moving on. Here's another example.

In the end of this video, the person mentions not to drink this, and rightfully so. Like mentioned above, it's a highly chemical example. So again it poses the question; is this a plausible example of something people back in the dirt and camel ages could perform. Maybe not, but there is a more simplistic method of doing this, and creating wine that's also drinkable. It's a simple thing called Oak Aging.

A brief history on these types of barrels...

"Most of us are familiar with museum specimens and replicas of archeologically-recovered clay pots and amphorae from Greek and Roman sites: these clay-based vessels predate wooden containers for storage of wine and other liquid goods. But the existence of straight-sided, open wooden buckets, employing the craft of the cooper, is documented in Egypt as early as 2690 BCE (Before the Christian Era). Fully-closed barrels were first developed during the Iron Age (800-900 BCE), and by the first century BCE were widely in use for holding wine, beer, milk, olive oil, and water.
   As trade and transportation developed, shippers discovered that sealed wooden containers were vastly superior to relatively fragile clay vessels, and the craft of cooperage -- barrel-making -- was launched, developing in direct proportion to the growth of trade. Wooden casks of barrels had largely replaced their clay counterparts by as early as the second century CE .
   The most significant advantages of wooden barrels were, first, their strength: being made of wood and set round with hoops (first also made of wood, later of metal) that bound the joints of the barrels into a double arch; second, the barrels themselves were like wheels and could be easily rolled from one resting place to another; third, it became evident that certain goods - like wine - actually benefited from being stored in wood.
   This third advantage forms the basis for the entire modern cooperage industry, and in fact is the only real reason for its continued existence in a world where stainless steel and non-reactive synthetic materials outweigh all other advantages that barrels ever possessed."

You can read more about oak barrels here...

Basically what could possibly happen, is the residue from wine previously inside these oak barrels remain on the inside of the barrel long after the wine has been removed. By adding some water and swishing it inside the barrel, the wide residue comes off and mixes into the water. There is 31 gallons of water in one cup of wine, so it's completely logical to assume that adding water to the extract left inside the barrel will create... wine. Just as how adding water into a milk jug will create a milky type of water, and in some cases, some people add water to juice (like you) to flatten the taste and make more juice.

And that's why religion hates science. That's why science and religion can never coexist as two sides of the same coin. Science disproves religion, science destroys the usefulness of religion, and when you're in the business of power and control like religion has been for thousands of years, it's going to piss you off.

And in closing, a little video just for funzies.