Archive for December, 2009

On Death

I try to act all zen about death, but in all honesty it just sucks.

My husband’s family suffered a tragic loss, a loss that came far to early, this Christmas.

And you know what? It’s absolute shit.

It’s shit that her loved ones have to suffer the loss, it’s shit that her smile won’t light up any more rooms, it’s shit that she won’t get to do all of the things she was so excited about.

I hardly knew her, I only saw her once or twice per year, but that doesn’t make her death any less tragic. I can’t imagine the nightmare the people close to her are going through right now.

I have to stretch really hard to think of anything positive that can come out of this, and I don’t want to. She should be alive right now and it’s unfair that she’s not.

Death sucks.

My Bible

I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, and now that I have a few days off work I finally have the chance. I decided that it might be interesting to look at the Bible I used growing up. Looking at the Bible now is a completely different experience. I used to somehow be able to skim over the nasty parts and pick out the nice stuff, but that’s no longer the case. My personal Bible is full of highlighted portions and the occasional note, so I think it will be fun to have a look at what I used to find worthy of highlighting.

Here is my Bible (you can see it’s very worn and used…it’s been through a lot with me!):

I added the scare quotes to “Good News” after I realized that it was all a bunch of bull.

This Bible is quite a bit different than the more popular translations, and although I had those two around my house I always preferred this one because it was very easy to read. I often have to refer back to the King James though because the differences in the narrative are sometimes quite significant.

Here’s what the forward of this Bible says this about its translation:

The Good News Bible (Today’s English Version) is a translation which seeks to state clearly and accurately the meaning of the original texts in words and forms that are widely accepted by people who use English as a means of communication. This translation does not follow the traditional vocabulary and style found in the historic English Bible versions. Instead it attempts to present the biblical content and message in a standard, everyday, natural English.

My name and the date I got my Bible written in the front cover. I was 9 years old.

I got the Bible in Sunday school when I was 9. I remember being so excited. It smelled awesome and it was my first grown-up book. I hated Sunday school (I always had to rush from art class to get there), but I loved my Bible. I guess they chose such an easy to read translation because they were giving it to young children.

One of the best parts of this Bible is the pictures. I’ll probably be posting a lot of them here. Although I think if my parents would have seen some of the images they wouldn’t have been too happy with me having access to them as a 9-year-old. They were very careful to shelter us from violence. We never had video games in my house, and my parents pre-watched movies and TV shows to make sure they didn’t have violence or sexuality. But this Bible is certainly packed full of images depicting very violent scenes…here are a few of them:

I only had to get to page 11 to see images of animals and people, including frightened children, being drowned by God.

I only had to get to page 11 to see scenes of animals and people, including frightened children, being drowned by God.

Abraham, fully prepared to stab his child.

I'm not even sure why they felt in necessary to draw this image. It's not depicting a story, but rather what could potentially happen to those that reject the Lord.

All of these images are taken from the first 150 pages of my Bible.

Since the people who put this Bible together obviously had no problem depicting violence, I was curious how they would translate some of the more sexually explicit stories into plain English.  An obvious one to look at is the story of Lot and his daughters in Sodom & Gemorrah. In the King James Version, the words for “have sex with” are “to know”,  so it’s pretty vague and easy to gloss over. But I was shocked to see that in this kid-reading-comprehension version this is how the story is told:

Genesis 19:4-8

Before the guests went to bed, the men of Sodom surrounded the house. All the men of the city, both young and old, were there. They called out to Lot and asked, “Where are the men who came to stay with you tonight? Bring them to us!” The men of Sodom wanted to have sex with them.

Lot went outside and closed the door behind him. He said to them, “Friends, I beg you, don’t do such a wicked thing! Look, I have two daughters who are still virgins. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do whatever you want with them. But don’t do anything to these men; they are guests in my house, and I must protect them.”

Wow, what a wonderful story to put into the hands of young children.

Most of the highlighting that I did was from the New Testament, but I found this highlighted in the Old:

2 Chronicles 4:11-14

The writing in blue says “prayer of worship.” I did this after listening to a series of tapes by Pastor Leon Fontaine of Springs Church in Winnipeg. The tapes were basically a workshop on how to pray. He went over different types of prayers and what the Bible says about them. What a bunch of useless nonsense…but I sure prayed a lot more after listening to those tapes. I also started directing my prayers through Jesus…I guess that was supposed to make them work better, who knows.

Before I get on with other sections that I highlighted, I want to post a few of the more entertaining images from this Bible.

Behemoth, from Job 40:15

I love this picture. This is how they decided to depict, in God’s own words, “the most amazing of all [His] creatures!” What a lame-looking monster. The translation notes say that some identify Behemoth with hippos, others with a legendary creature. Lame! C’mon, God, what about Gorillas or Lions or Cephalopods? There are plenty of way cooler creatures than some cow/hippo that eats grass.

I’m not sure why I found this picture so funny, but if God appeared to us like some giant guarding his flock, then I would find him a lot easier to believe in!

The Kiss of Christian Love

That doesn’t look like a Christian Side Hug to me!

Okay on to some of the highlighted sections…

Matthew 6:6 - But when you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you.

The notes in black pen on this page are from after I lost my faith, but perhaps one of the most important passages that led to my loss of faith is highlighted on this page. Matthew 6:6, which tells you not to pray so that people will see how faithful you are, but rather to pray in private so it’s only between you and God. This passage was important to me because I couldn’t stand it when people bragged about their Christianity. I used to pray silently when I was in public, and also every night before bed I would pray as if I was having a conversation with God. I would talk about my day, about the things I was thankful for, about the things I hoped he would forgive me for, and about the people who I wanted him to bless. It was a nice way to gather my thoughts at the end of every day.

But one fateful day at Bible study, the leader of the study decided that he was going to start having different people say the prayer at the end of the discussion. That first time he decided I ought to do it, so he asked me if I would say it. I said no, that I wasn’t comfortable…he kept encouraging me, but since Matthew 6:6 was so important to me I argued with him and said I really didn’t want to. But in the end he talked me into it. The prayer I said made me feel so uncomfortable. I tried to mimic the ritualistic way that others prayed out loud, but it felt so wrong to me. It was completely opposite of the way that I pray, and it was meaningless to me. After that I started going to the study less and less, until I stopped going altogether. I became disillusioned with the faith as I felt that this prayer was blatantly ignoring that passage. I think that that experience at Bible study was what emboldened me to start questioning my faith and to allow myself to lighten up, and have doubts.

Moving along…

When  looking through my Bible to write this post I had a laugh when I saw this highlighted:

Psalm 53

I can just picture my smug, Christian, teenage self highlighting this and thinking “see? Only idiots don’t believe in God!”

Blech I’m glad that self is long gone.

Here’s another passage that troubled me a lot growing up, and that made having faith harder for me even when it was at its strongest:

Mark 11: 24 Prayer of Faith - For this reason I tell you: When you pray and ask for something, believe that you have received it and you will be given whatever you ask for.

This idea that all you needed to do was to have enough faith and you would get whatever you prayed for is awful, in that it puts a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of people who believe that this is true. This caused me a lot of stress because I felt that if I prayed for something and the opposite happened, then it was my fault and that made me feel guilty for something that I had no control over. It even made me afraid to pray for some things, because I didn’t want to be made to feel that my faith wasn’t strong enough.

This post has gotten really long, so I’m going to finish up with the first passage that I ever highlighted in my Bible. It was also the passage that puzzled me most, and probably the one that’s the most familiar to people who don’t read the Bible:

John 3:16

What John 3:16 said to me was that all I needed to do was believe, and I would have my spot in heaven. This confused me because I wondered why there were so many other rules in the Bible if belief is all you really need to be a good enough person to get into heaven. This passage also made me afraid to doubt. What if my faith waffled for a second, and I got hit by a bus? Would I be punished eternally for that? I first highlighted it because I thought that it was a beautiful message that showed how Jesus saved us, but the more I thought about it the more issues it brought up:

-What about people who were never told about Jesus?
-If someone is told about Jesus but doesn’t believe it and is the most charitable person in the world, do they not get to go to heaven?
-Could evil people like Hitler be in heaven if they believe in Jesus?
-Why should I bother being a good person?
-Why shouldn’t I just live how I want to now, and then start believing in Jesus in my old age?

John 3:16 is one of the many examples in the Bible that shows how many holes there are in the whole doctrine. It just doesn’t make sense, and if this  is inspired by a just, loving, omnipotent god, it certainly doesn’t show.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my Bible. I’d love to see other former Christian atheists do similar posts about their Bibles, if you do, please post a link to your blog here, I’d  love to check it out!

Ear Candling with Jessica Simpson

One of the first exposures I had to skepticism was through the Skeptic Zone podcast, in particular the episode about ear candling. It struck a cord with me because ear candles had been recommended to me by a couple of people, but I found out in the episode that it’s actually illegal to sell them in Canada because they’re so dangerous (not to mention completely useless).

Today I was looking at Perez Hilton’s blog to see what the scoop is on poor Brittany Murphy when I saw this video that was tweeted by Jessica Simpson today of her using an ear candle.

It’s actually the first time I’ve ever seen ear candles in action and…wow…I mean it just looks ridiculous, and she’s screaming the whole way through! Seriously you have a candle right over top of your hair, it’s not even relaxing! Even if they did work I would just stick to Q-Tips.

Ear candles are hollow candles that you place over your ear…you light them and the premise is that the heat creates a vacuum that sucks the wax up out of your ears. Here’s what Dr. Rachie has to say about that:

I’m almost embarrassed to tell you that good science from proper scientists and doctors has been wasted testing these things. The seminal study on the safety and efficacy of ear candles was published in the journal Laryngoscope in 1996. The authors were particularly interested in the claim that the candles create a vacuum so they used a pressure device to measure changes in pressure for the duration of the burn. In 20 trials with 2 different candle types, they detected no negative pressure at any point during the trial.

In a clinical trial also conducted as part of this study, 4 people (2 with ear wax and 2 without), the authors reported the candles did not remove ear wax as proposed and in fact, in some cases candle wax was actually deposited in patient’s ears (2).

The authors also conducted a survey of 122 ear nose and throat specialists and found 21 cases of serious injury caused by ear candling. In 6 of these cases, patients temporarily lost their hearing. Other problems reported among the group included, 13 cases of burns, 7 cases where the wax from the candle had blocked the ear canal and 1 case of a punctured ear drum (2).

You can read more about ear candling in Dr. Rachael Dunlop’s blog post on the topic here.

I’m optimistic that this video of Jessica Simpson using ear candles will make people scared of them…but then again, people are silly.

[follow me on Twitter @EnlightningLinZ]

Do All Beliefs Deserve Respect?

I recently had a Twitter exchange while following the #iq2atheism hashtag during this debate (I know, I know, I still have to write my follow-up post). It went as follows:

My tweets will be in Red, and @ohfuckitsdonnie’s will be in Green…festive!:

#iq2atheism You fuckers are just as bad as the religious. You claim to know the truth when in reality you are just as clueless as they are.

@ohfuckitsdonnie #iq2atheism atheists don’t claim to have the truth… They say “I don’t know, let’s look at the evidence”

@EnlightningLinZ That’s ridiculous, you claim you know there is NO God. The concept of God is something that cannot be proved or disproved.

@EnlightningLinZ …to clarify, I do not believe in God and am more or less an Atheist.

Oh and by the way, an Atheist claims they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no god. Which means they are stating they KNOW.

@ohfuckitsdonnie no I don’t claim there’s no God, but I see no reason to think there is one. There’s no evidence.

@ohfuckitsdonnie I can’t know that there’s no god like I can’t know that there’s no Santa or fairies or leprechauns

@EnlightningLinZ Fair enough. I do not believe in any deity, but I believe bleeding heart atheist are just as obnoxious as the religious.

@ohfuckitsdonnie did u see the #iq2atheism debate? I don’t c how u could think the atheists were obnoxious at all compared to the believers

@EnlightningLinZ Because you guys are so quick to disrespect the religious, you go out of your way to tell people their beliefs are stupid.

@ohfuckitsdonnie some beliefs don’t deserve respect, where did this idea that religious beliefs shouldn’t be criticized come from?

@EnlightningLinZ Some beliefs don’t deserve respect? You are a typical, full of your own bullshit breed atheist that…

…give the rest of us a bad name. 1 yaself.

My response to that last tweet was this:

@ohfuckitsdonnie what, you think that all beliefs deserve respect? How about racist or sexist or homophobic beliefs? They have your respect?

@ohfuckitsdonnie many beliefs don’t deserve respect. People should be respected, but not their bogus ideas.

But I think this video (posted @ Skepchick) would have been a better response:

AD: You can’t just describe things as rubbish, you have to treat everybody’s views, whatever they believe, with equal respect.

GIRL: Even idiots?

DAD: Well . . .

Girl: Even people who want to stab you in the eye with a pencil?

DAD: Wuh . . .

GIRL: Even people who want to blow up . . .

MOM: Come on now, you should be in bed.

[Follow me on Twitter! @EnlightningLinZ]

The Problem of Evil – Response to Ep. 1 of The Atheists’s Handbook Podcast

The first podcast I listened to in my effort to expose myself to opposing viewpoints was Episode 1 of The Atheist Handbook, by Paul Timothy Davis. This podcast is by a Christian who is countering many of the arguments that atheists give against the existence of the Christian definition of god.

The Problem of Evil is essentially this: how can there be a loving god if there’s so much evil in the world? Davis names some of this evil: school shootings, 9/11, the holocaust, 3rd world countries, the sex slave trade, suicide bombings, scam artists.

My first complaint is that Davis misrepresents the atheist’s position slightly. He says that atheists as how could there be a god if there is so much evil, but really the question is how can there be a loving, omnipotent god.

The Problem of Evil argument isn’t an argument against the existence of any god or gods, it’s an argument agains the Christian definition of god. From this point forward in this post, when I capitalize “God” I’m referring to the Christian god: loving, omniscient, omnipotent.

Davis breaks down the Problem of Evil into four points:
1. Either God doesn’t care, which means he doesn’t love us.
2. God can’t stop evil, which means he’s not all powerful.
3. God created evil, which means he isn’t good.
4. God chooses not to stop evil, which means it’s his fault.

All of these points mesh with my reasoning as to why God cannot exist.

I think it’s important at this point to give Davis’s definition of evil, which he gives later in the podcast: “Evil is a term we use to describe the actions of humans that result in harm or destruction towards things or people.” (For the record, I do not agree with this definition).

This got a bit long, so I split it up…click below to continue reading…

Continue reading ‘The Problem of Evil – Response to Ep. 1 of The Atheists’s Handbook Podcast’

Opening up to Opposing Viewpoints

Something that I’ve been working on since losing my religion and becoming involved in the skeptical movement is striking the right balance between literature that supports my new outlook, and literature that doesn’t. If you look back at some of my earlier posts (in particular the one about the debunking skeptics website), I’m sure you’ll find examples where I refused or was hesitant to look at something that did not fit into my goal to learn based on reason and science.

It’s not that I was ever afraid of being confronted with something that would force me to change my mind, I’m not, I just felt like it would be a waste of my time. Now that I’ve settled in to skepticism and I’ve honed my critical thinking skills some more I’ve begun to realize that there is value in looking at what people who don’t share my point of view are saying.

I think that one of the worst parts about religion is that it closes people off from exposure to other points of view, and I don’t want to fall into that same trap of just ignoring or dismissing things that don’t agree with me.

So I’m going to do something about it…

I still feel that I have the most to learn from skeptics and scientists, so that is where the majority of my focus will remain, but as a way to routinely expose myself to something else, whether it be the paranormal, faith, cryptozoology, UFOs, and so on, I’m going to use podcasts.

I love podcasts, and I find that it’s the medium through which I absorb information the most effectively. So, I’m going to incorporate a variety of podcasts that hold opposing viewpoints into my regular listening schedule. I’m going to keep a list in the sidebar of podcast episodes that I plan on listening to and blogging about so I can be held accountable, and I’m going to take requests!

I just have three criteria for requests: (1) the podcast should be no longer than 30 minutes; (2) I will need examples of specific episodes you think I should listen to, rather than just naming the series; (3) the podcast episode should be dealing with one topic in particular, rather than a news show or a segmented show. If you’re not sure if the podcast you like fits those criteria, send it to me anyways and I’ll make that call.

Please send me your requests either through the contact form or in the comments on this thread.

This should be fun!

Star Trek Voyager & Religion

I was listening to a recent episode of the Non-Prophets today, and they were discussing an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. Voyager is my favourite Star Trek series, I think that makes me a rare breed, so I’ve probably watched each episode about 100 times, and this got me thinking about some of the themes explored in this series.

In my favourite episode of the series, episode 612: Blink of an Eye, Voyager gets trapped in orbit above a planet where time moves faster than the rest of the galaxy. (Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t seen this episode but want to, you can actually watch the whole thing on YouTube).

The aliens arriving on Voyager. Because of the time difference it appears to them as though the Voyager crew is frozen in time.

To the primitive humanoids living on the planet, Voyager appears as a new star in the sky, and results in earthquakes. Because of the time difference between the surface of the planet and Voyager, the crew is able to watch the society develop from hunter-gatherers, to cities, to great technological advances until they eventually develop space travel.

I’ve always loved this episode from the point of view of someone’s who is interested in history and anthropology, but until I listened to this episode of the Non-Prophets I hadn’t thought about what Blink of an Eye was saying about religion.

It really did a great job of showing how religions develop. When Voyager first appears in the sky, the primitive people have no explanation for why it’s there and how it’s causing the earthquakes, so they make one up. Religion is born! They build an altar, they perform sacrifices in hopes of making the earthquakes stop. Eventually different theories about Voyager emerge. Some are supernatural, some are naturalistic.

Once the humanoids develop science and technology, they begin to explore the reality of what this mysterious earth-shaking star is. They develop radio technology, telescopes, etc. The more advanced they get, the more doctrines of their beliefs are explained away using natural explanations, until they land on Voyager and are able to have the full picture.

It’s easy to see the parallel to our religions. They start as a way to explain the gaps in our knowledge, and the more we learn by exploration and experimentation, the more elements of that original religion fall to the wayside.

Okay it’s late, I have to go to bed now, but if there are any Trekkies out there please leave a comment! I’m able to appreciate the themes in Star Trek more and more every day. Now that I have no religion the secular and humanist themes are becoming more apparent.

Something a Little Personal & Douchebag Campus Preachers

Hello readers, if you stop by here regularly enough you may have noticed that I haven’t been posting lately. This is because of stresses that are going on in my life right now. I have had plenty of time to blog, but I’m having difficulty concentrating so I have a zillion unfinished drafts of posts.

I just want to let you know that I’m going to try harder to focus. I have drafts that I intend on finishing, comments that I will respond to, and a hoax countdown that I will resume. I promise!

So this post isn’t a complete waste, there was an amusing picture posted on Friendly Atheist today:

What an ass, I’m glad those men are making him feel uncomfortable. He should feel uncomfortable. If he thinks that love (or even simply lust) between two consenting adults should be eternally punished he should be ashamed of himself. Do preachers really think they’ll win converts by displaying their bigotry like this? Especially at Yale, which is where this picture was taken.

And serious, WTF, Democrats? Feminists? And these are lumped in with Thieves? What a random assortment of words. I wonder how he narrowed it down. I wonder why gangster rappers, but not gangsters? I wonder why potheads, but not drug dealers?

Thankfully there’s no such place as Hell, because I’m at least 8 of those things.

The Institute for Human Continuity – #84 of 100 Top Hoaxes

You’ve probably heard this crazy rumour going around that the world is going to end in 2012. It’s all a bunch of mildly entertaining nonsense, but it provided the inspiration for 2012, a disaster-porno that came out this year about doomsday.

The movie had a clever viral marketing campaign that has now been revealed as a hoax.

A website for something called the Institute for Human Continuity popped up on teh internets claiming that it’s scientists knew that the world would soon come to an end.

Included on the website was a lottery for determining who would be saved when 2012 came.

When you look at the site now, it states boldly, and over and over again, that it’s a part of the 2012 movie experience. But before the movie came out you had to do some digging to find connections to the movie anywhere on the site.

I read somewhere (though now I can’t seem to find where I read it) that NASA had emails pouring in from worried people asking about the IHC, some who said they would kill themselves so that they wouldn’t have to witness the apocalypse. I hope nobody got too worked up about this hoax, but it is fun to read some of the comments on Yahoo Answers from believers in the 2012 doomsday that were written about the IHC before the hoax was revealed:

there is a saying that goes: tell people the truth they wont believe it anyway. keep your minds and eyes open and watch the signs. the ihc is not a joke. the truth hurts and to most people ignorance is bliss

its for the movie 2012 but when i went 2 the website it looked tooo real, i was freakin out 4 a moment, and i got a ticket just in case

I’ve seen this ad on tv about 2012 (the end of the world?) so i went to the website and i’m not really sure what to think of it. i’m confused and scared cuz i believe all that crap about 2012 lol what you guys think? i mean they are even letting you sign up for a ticket to “survive” i know it sounds stupid and very movie-like but i don’t know.

The Institute for Human Continuity. Its a lottery for survival of course […] they came up with a plan to make a lottery for survival, so that each individual will get a fair chance at surviving 2012. I honestly don’t think its that fair because there are people out there who don’t have computers or TVs, how would they know about this survival lottery?
If you are one of the winners you get 1 boarding pass to safety in space. Sadly it is only one, so you would half to leave your loved ones behind if they don’t win 😦 So I encourage you to encourage you family to sign up for this!
The government it basically hiding all this information from us, finally the word is getting out. They cant be trusted what so ever. Yeah people out there are probably telling you that it wont happen and that 2012 is just bogus, well to be honest i would rather be prepared and aware of it. All i know is that i wont beliving a normal day on the day of december 21st 2012. Its a tragedy really, and its hard to believe that the earth might just be destroyed in only 3 years…
Oh and if your wondering what the tragedys might be, they have predicted 3 events, and might i tell you, the world coming to an end in 2012 is a 94% chance now.
1: Solar Acctivity
2:Crustal Displacment
3:Planet X
I think you should spend time with your family, dont waste your money on stuff that wont give you memories, go enjoy the world, because you might not ever get to see it like it is now, when december 21st 2012 comes.
good luck too you all!

Fortunately these comments are the minority!

Mel’s Hole – #85 of 100 Top Hoaxes

In 1997, a man named Mel Waters began calling into Art Bell’s Coast to Coast AM radio show. He claimed that he had discovered a hole with some unique properties: it was 24 kms deep, it was purposely removed from satellite photos, and it had the ability to resurrect dead animals.

Waters continued to call in and talk about his hole on the radio for years. Many people went in search of the hole, but Mel never revealed the location or any evidence of its existence.

Brian Dunning has looked at Waters’s claims on his wonderful Skeptoid podcast. You can listen to the podcast or read the transcript for the many reasons why Mel’s Hole is improbable, but I like this hoax because it provides a nice example of why the burden of proof is on the person making the claim, Mel, rather than on skeptics to disprove its existence:

Never assume that implausible stories must be true simply because you’re unable to disprove them. You never will be able to, because special pleadings can always be invented to explain away any questions you might raise. What can’t be invented from thin air is verifiable evidence, and its absence in the case of Mel’s Hole speaks loud and clear.

See a list of hoaxes counted down so far after the jump.

Continue reading ‘Mel’s Hole – #85 of 100 Top Hoaxes’

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