Monthly ArchiveAugust 2008
When the dog days of summer come to an end, one thing we can be sure of is that the school year that follows will see more fights over the teaching of evolution and whether intelligent design, or even Biblical accounts of creation, have a place in Americaâ€™s science classrooms.
In these arguments, evolution is treated as an abstract subject that deals with the age of the earth or how fish first flopped onto land. Itâ€™s discussed as though it were an optional, quaint and largely irrelevant part of biology. And a common consequence of the arguments is that evolution gets dropped from the curriculum entirely.
This is a travesty.
It is also dangerous.
Evolution should be taught â€” indeed, it should be central to beginning biology classes â€” for at least three reasons…
Christianity Johnson on 13 Aug 2008
A man prays for rain “of biblical proportions” to disrupt Barack Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver:
From the video:
I know, you might ask, “Why would I pray for that?”
Well, I’m still pro-life, and I am still in favor of marriage being between one man and one woman, and I’d like the next president, who will select justices for the Supreme Court, to agree.
So I am praying for unexpected, unanticipated, unforecasted rain that starts two minutes before the speech is set to begin.
Would it be wrong to pray for rain?
I don’t have any special insights or any special connections. I’m just an ordinary guy who is looking for people – lots of people – who feel like I do to pray for rain.
Now I know that there will probably be people who will pray for 72 degrees and clear skies, but this isn’t a contest.
But if God decides – and it is always up to God to decide – if God decides that rain of biblical proportions would be a good and proper meteorological condition for that evening, we will see it, and we will say that it is good.
And if He decides it’s not really necessary, I’m OK with that. I’ll still trust in his wisdom and I’ll rest peacefully knowing that lots of us offered a humble prayer request.
We learn many things from this video. For example:
1) Christians do pray for specific miracles from God. In this case, the prayer is for a specific amount of a specific weather phenomenon at a specific time and place.
2) Christians do pray to harm others.
3) Christians do actively discriminate against others. In this case, the supplicant specifically wishes to discriminate against anyone who would like to participate in same-sex marriage.
4) Christians do hedge their bets. Whether the prayer is answered or not is OK by this supplicant.
5) Christians do pray in ways that are ridiculous. Somewhere in the world there are men, women and children dying from drought. If you believe in God and you are going to pray publicly for rain, why not pray to help them, instead of praying to harm someone?
Note that if God were to exist and answer prayers as this man believes, then it necessarily means that God is actively murdering all people killed by drought. God, who this man believes to have omnipotent control over the weather, is actively withholding rain from those affected by drought. Why would anyone worship such a murderous being?
Why do Christians behave this way? Why doesn’t common sense lead them to understand that their beliefs, and their behavior, are ridiculous?
If you are a Christian who is beginning to understand that Christian behavior is ridiculous, please visit:
Christianity Johnson on 12 Aug 2008
This article was featured today on Christianity.com in the “Bible Study Tools” section:
The article opens with this paragraph:
In its simplest definition, discernment is nothing more than the ability to decide between truth and error, right and wrong. Discernment is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth. In other words, the ability to think with discernment is synonymous with an ability to think biblically.
The author continues:
Godâ€™s Word provides us with the needed discernment about every issue of life. According to Peter, God â€œhas granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellenceâ€ (2 Peter 1:3). You see, it is through the â€œtrue knowledge of Him,â€ that we have been given everything we need to live a Christian life in this fallen world. And how else do we have true knowledge of God but through the pages of His Word, the Bible?
According to the author, the Bible “provides us with the needed discernment about every issue of life.” Is this true? To find out, let’s take an issue at random and see how well Biblical Discernment works.
The fourth commandment reads, ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.’ Simple enough. And every Christian believes in the 10 commandments. So, what does the Bible tell us to do with anyone who breaks the fourth commandment? The Bible tells us exactly what to do in Exodus chapter 31:
14 ” ‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. 15 For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death. 16 The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. 17 It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.’ ”
18 When the LORD finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.
It is not hard to discern God’s intent. According to the Bible, God spoke these words directly to Moses. We are to kill anyone who works on the Sabbath. ANYONE. That is what the Bible tells us to do.
Did Jesus countermand the fourth commandment or its punishment? No. Here is what Jesus says in Matthew Chapter 5:
18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
So we are to kill ANYONE who works on the Sabbath. In the United States, this means that tens of millions of weekend workers need to die immediately.
This is what happens when we use the Bible to “provide us with the needed discernment about every issue of life.”
So, let’s go back to the first sentence in the article: “In its simplest definition, discernment is nothing more than the ability to decide between truth and error, right and wrong.” Based on the example presented here, any adult with intelligence should be able to discern that the Bible is ridiculous and should be immediately discarded because it is utterly wrong.
Why can’t the intelligent adults who happen to be Christian see something that is so obvious? Why do they not use discernment and discard the Bible because it is so ridiculous? Why do they make excuses for their God instead of accepting reality?
If you are an intelligent Christian who would like to see more examples, you will find them here:
Christianity Johnson on 12 Aug 2008
If you look in the Bible, Jesus doesn’t really ever buy anything. And he repeatedly tells believers to sell everything and give the money to the poor. But Christians today don’t follow Jesus’ teachings, so we have articles like this:
Christianity Johnson on 11 Aug 2008
Any rational person knows that heaven is imaginary. Heaven has all the standard trappings of a fairy tale, and is just as imaginary as Jack’s magical beanstalk or Santa’s flying reindeer. This page goes into some detail:
Here is a quote:
We imagine that we have “souls,” fabricate the concept of “eternal life” and then fantasize a place called “heaven,” complete with streets of gold, calorie-free foods, frolicking virgins and whatever else we can come up with. Christians imagine it so vividly and repeat the fantasy so often that they actually believe it to be reality.
How bizarre can the fantasies get? Fly to Cairo and take a look at the Great Pyramid. There is the pyramid itself — still one of the largest man-made objects on earth. In addition there is the whole mummification process, the disassembled boats, the sacred artwork and so on. All of this was designed to help the pharaoh reach the afterlife. We look at it now and we all know, with absolute certainty, that it was a complete and total waste of time. The Egyptian notion of the afterlife was a fantasy.
The Christian notion of the afterlife is a fantasy in exactly the same way. Heaven is completely imaginary, just like God.
Given this reality, it is amazing to find the following article in a major newspaper:
It contains the following quote:
At a meeting with Sen. Barack Obama recently, the Rev. Franklin Graham asked the presidential hopeful a burning question: Did he think Jesus was the way, or merely a way?
For Graham, — president of the Billy Graham Evangelic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, both based in North Carolina — the answer was critical. Through the ages, Christian evangelicals have affirmed that eternal life is available only through belief in Jesus. This is why they send missionaries around the globe and translate the New Testament into every known language.
For many evangelicals, the exclusivity of Jesus is the linchpin of their faith.
“Anyone who claims to be an evangelical and who says it’s possible to go to heaven other than through faith in Jesus Christ is not an evangelical,” said Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest.
But according to accounts of those who were there, Obama’s response to Graham may be more in line with where evangelicals are today.
“Jesus is the only way for me,” Obama said. “I’m not in a position to judge other people.”
A recent survey of 35,000 Americans showed that 70 percent of Americans and 57 percent of Christian evangelicals believe there are many roads to eternal life.
It is bad enough that we have a huge percentage of Americans who believe in “heaven” and “eternal life”. But we also have a presidential candidate who is openly discussing this fantasy world like it actually exists. It is shocking to think that a potential leader of the free world can not discern the difference between fantasy and reality.
Why wouldn’t the candidate instead speak the truth: “Look, Franklin, I know that you firmly believe in this imaginary place called heaven, but you are completely delusional. It is time for you to put aside childhood fantasies, grow up and start living your life in the real world.”
Will we ever see that day?
Christianity Johnson on 09 Aug 2008
Here is the trailer for “The Bible’s Buried Secrets” – A PBS documentary that will air on November 18, 2008:
The American Family Association has posted this page:
From the page:
The Public Broadcasting System (PBS), probably the most liberal network in America, will present a program this fall that says the Old Testament is a bunch of made-up stories that never happened. “The Bible’s Buried Secrets” says the Bible is not true. It is scheduled to air on November 18.
Archaeologist William Dever said: “…It’s (The Bible’s Buried Secrets) designed for intelligent people who are willing to change their mind. â€¦it will give intelligent people who want to read the Bible in a modern way a chance. If we insist on reading the Bible literally, in 25 years, nobody will read it any longer.”
Among highlights of “The Bible’s Buried Secrets”:
â€¢ The Old Testament was written in the sixth century BC and hundreds of authors contributed.
â€¢ Abraham, Sarah and their offspring didn’t exist.
â€¢ There is no archaeological evidence of the Exodus.
â€¢ Monotheism was a process that took hundreds of years.
â€¢ The Israelites were actually Canaanites.
â€¢ The Israelites believed that God had a wife.
I have often said that PBS should not receive tax dollars. “The Bible’s Buried Secrets” is simply one more reason Congress should stop supporting PBS with our tax dollars. Congress gives PBS hundreds of millions of tax dollars to help support the network.
If the Bible isn’t true, wouldn’t we WANT our tax dollars used to expose the fraud? This seems like a very good use of tax dollars.
Christianity Johnson on 09 Aug 2008
Christianity Johnson on 08 Aug 2008
A nice educational resource:
There is no need to limit it to teachers. Learning about evolution is valuable for everyone.
Christianity Johnson on 07 Aug 2008
Have you ever wondered why religion exists, and why so many people believe in religion? The answer lies in a short story called “Kissing Hank’s Ass”.
If you’ve never seen “Kissing Hank’s Ass” before, it is time to take your first look. If you have seen it, it may be time to look at it again. This story is a perfect encapsulation of the religious paradigm, and helps explain why religion is so powerful. Here is the story in text form:
And video form:
This is the key sentence that drives religion:
“If you kiss Hank’s ass, He’ll give you a million dollars; and if you don’t, He’ll kick the shit out of you.”
The power of this sentence on someone who doesn’t think about it (or on someone who is indoctrinated at birth) is apparent. The person who answers the door has never heard of Hank. Suddenly Hank exists, and Hank is going to either reward or punish. Faced with this choice, the obvious thing to do is to kiss Hank’s ass, since it doesn’t really “cost” anything to do it. If you never question Hank’s existence, then there is no reason not to accept Hank’s existence and kiss Hank’s ass.
To understand why religion exists, note that real religion uses carrots and sticks that are even more powerful than those in the Hank story. The promised reward offered by religion is far better than the $1 million reward in the story. Religion’s promised reward is an eternity in paradise, once you die. And the punishment offered by religion is infinitely worse than a kick in the ass – it is unimaginable suffering for eternity. Since everyone (at least everyone who refuses to think about it) faces a mystery when considering what happens “after death”, Religion has plausibility on its side.
Religion then goes one step further. Religion eliminates the void that would normally follow the death of someone close. That person does not cease to exist – according to religion, he or she lives on in another dimension that is infinitely better than the one we inhabit. And each of us will have the chance to rejoin those who die.
In other words, religion exists and religion hangs on because it is incredibly ingenious in its approach. Look at what religion offers:
1) A gigantic reward (eternal paradise) after death for believing in God
2) A promise that loved ones who die continue to exist and will be seen again
3) A gigantic punishment (eternal hell) after death for not believing in God
4) No real cost for believing in God
5) A big cost (shunning by everyone who believes in God) if you don’t believe in God
The fact that #1, #2 and #3 are all fabrications is irrelevant to a believer, because a believer never questions them. And they are brilliantly put in a place that is thought/assumed to exist (after death), but uncheckable.
The other powerful part of the religious approach is seen in this section of the story:
Me: “So what makes you think He’ll actually give you the money if you’ve never talked to anyone who got the money?”
Mary: “Well, He gives you a little bit before you leave. Maybe you’ll get a raise, maybe you’ll win a small lotto, maybe you’ll just find a twenty-dollar bill on the street.”
In other words, religion hijacks the superstition circuit built into the human brain, and uses it to reinforce belief in God. Everyone has this circuit in their brain, and unless they use intelligence to eliminate the circuit, it has a very powerful influence on behavior. Thus, on a daily basis, a normal, superstitious human being has the belief in God reinforced.
Then religion goes one step further. Religion is a brilliant scam. It adds the part about tithing. This way, if you want to receive God’s full reward, you really do need to give money to God. And God tells you to do it. Since this giving is completely voluntary, it seems like the thing to do.
And then religion adds the “club” aspect. Everyone wants to be part of “the club”. Religion offers membership in the club through its church infrastructure. You can be a part of the God club and spend time with other people too. This aspect does not excite everyone, but it appears that many people enjoy the community aspects of church and the interactions with other people that church offers. In other words, the religious experience looks very much like a low-cost country club. And you now see churches heading more and more in the country club direction, adding sports programs, basketball courts, weight rooms, exercise equipment, spas, etc.
There is nothing else in human experience that is this insidious – nothing that preys so strongly on people who do not think it through. Religion fabricates a paradise that exists only after death, hides the non-existence of that paradise behind the wall of mystery that surrounds death, and then uses the built-in superstition circuit for daily reinforcement of belief. Religion funds itself through voluntary tithes that are required for access to paradise. Then religion layers on the country club aspect. The level of ingenuity here is immense.
There is only one problem. The foundation of religion is a lie, and the side effects of that lie are profound.
Christianity Johnson on 07 Aug 2008
From the article:
A review of White House travel records shows churches and other religious entities paid for close to a quarter of the privately funded trips taken by White House aides since late 2006.
Christianity Johnson on 06 Aug 2008
Each religion harbors its own special kind of insanity, and this article explores the Jewish variety:
Here’s a quote from the article:
One day, two or three of the young rabbis came to me and said, “We realize that we can’t study to be rabbis in the modern world without knowing something about science, so we’d like to ask you some questions.”
Of course there are thousands of places to find out about science, and Columbia University was right near there, but I wanted to know what kinds of questions they were interested in.
They said, “Well, for instance, is electricity fire?”
“No,” I said, “but… what is the problem?”
They said, “In the Talmud it says you’re not supposed to make fire on a Saturday, so our question is, can we use electrical things on Saturdays?”
I was shocked. They weren’t interested in science at all! The only way science was influencing their lives was so they might be able to interpret better the Talmud! They weren’t interested in the world outside, in natural phenomena; they were only interested in resolving some question brought up in the Talmud.
A bunch of primitive farmers were sitting around 3,000 years ago pondering an imaginary being, as primitive people are wont to do. They collected their myths in a book. Those random, hallucinogenic ponderings are still affecting millions of people today, almost always in negative ways.
It is such a colossal waste. The Rabbis in this case could do maximal good for themselves and their followers by declaring all these petty rules to be ridiculous and getting rid of them. Then they could declare the imaginary being to be imaginary and get rid of him. And then they could focus on reality, and do a world of good within their communities.
Christianity Johnson on 06 Aug 2008
Where does morality come from? If you are interested in this question, this article is interesting:
From the article:
Morality is not just any old topic in psychology but close to our conception of the meaning of life. Moral goodness is what gives each of us the sense that we are worthy human beings. We seek it in our friends and mates, nurture it in our children, advance it in our politics and justify it with our religions. A disrespect for morality is blamed for everyday sins and historyâ€™s worst atrocities. To carry this weight, the concept of morality would have to be bigger than any of us and outside all of us.
So dissecting moral intuitions is no small matter. If morality is a mere trick of the brain, some may fear, our very grounds for being moral could be eroded. Yet as we shall see, the science of the moral sense can instead be seen as a way to strengthen those grounds, by clarifying what morality is and how it should steer our actions.
Christianity Johnson on 05 Aug 2008
This article talks about the conservative echo chamber and how it drives stories through the news cycle so effectively:
This article is tuned to the political side of things, but it applies to Christianity as well (since Christianity and conservatism go hand in hand). It makes an interesting read.
Christianity Johnson on 05 Aug 2008
This article probes deeply into delusion:
Do they really? Yes, they really do, despite the massive evidence to the contrary. Thousands and thousands of people see the world this way.
What compels them to ignore all the evidence? What do they gain? The article scrupulously avoids the religious motivation that is sure to support many in their beliefs. But what about the rest?