Posts Tagged 'God'

Defining Atheism, for the Sake of my Sanity

I’m sick of people misrepresenting what the word “atheism” really means, so I’m going to spell it out here and refer back everytime someone spouts nonsense about what atheism is. It bothers me to no end when people say that atheists believe this and that, because “atheism” doesn’t describe what beliefs someone has, all it says about someone is what beliefs they don’t have.

Theism = The belief in a god or gods

And just like apolitical means without political association, asexual means without sex, or asymmetrical means without symmetry…

Atheism = Without the belief in a god or gods

That’s it! If you ask someone: “do you believe in god?” and they say: “no”, they’re an atheist, simple as that.

Oh, FYI, saying “I don’t believe in ___” is not the same as saying “I believe ___ can’t/couldn’t exist”. Got it?

Being an atheist just means that you don’t believe in any gods. People who describe themselves as atheists can believe in ghosts, goblins, hell, heaven, unicorns, psychics, leprechauns, Santa Claus, they can believe the Earth is flat or there are aliens living on Venus, they can be tyrants or saints, they can be any type of person you can imagine, as long as they don’t believe in any gods.

All you can deduce when someone tells you they’re an atheist is that they don’t have any god beliefs.

One more thing: there’s no need to bring the word “agnostic” into this definition. Theism/Atheism is a true dichotomy, meaning if you’re not a theist you’re an atheist. There’s no need to pretend that “agnostic” is a middle ground (it’s not, gnostic/agnostic deal in knowledge, where as theism/atheism deal specifically in god belief), because atheism is a spectrum from the people who don’t really believe in god but would be easily convinced, to the people who assert that there’s no such thing as god and it’s not possible for a god to exist.

Really, the only important parts of this whole post are the bolded parts, the rest is just me imagining to possible objections to my definition. If you object to the bolded parts I’ll be doing this:

Likely followed shortly by this:

Update 2 – Jesus Camp Kids, Where Are They Now?

A long time ago I posted a couple of unsatisfyingly vague blog entries on what I could find out about where the kids from the documentary Jesus Camp are today. Based on the amount of people that get here by Googling “Jesus Camp where are they now”, this is something that a lot of you are interested in, including myself.

Personally, I was hoping to find out that the reactions to the movie made them question the beliefs they were brainwashed into. Unfortunately, today I found this video of Levi O’Brien, which shows that the camp leader Becky Fischer’s brainwashing worked, at least in his case.

EDIT: I obviously wasn’t paying close enough attention when I watched the video – this is actually Levi’s brother Luke.

If you don’t remember, Levi is the boy with the rat tail who started preaching at a young age. The video I linked to shows Levi preaching. His preaching style matches that of Becky Fischer in the movie perfectly…it even sounds like he slips into speaking in tongues at one point, though he might be scatting? Can’t be too sure…

It doesn’t say it on the video, but a bit of quick research tells me this was filmed in July, 2009 at the Kingdom of Light Conference, which I believe is put on by Kids in Ministry International. He’s 17 in the video.

In case you can’t watch the video, here’s my transcript. It was hard to hear at parts, so I tried to get it as close as possible to what he actually said:

It says in the Bible “the kingdom of God”, that’s how it starts out, and we know the kingdom of God, “God is light”, so the kingdom of God we could call it the kingdom of light. It says the kindom of light is an ever-increasing kindom.
Right? So you can get the light. You ask Jesus into your heart, you get the light, right? But then, look at this, it’s up to you. It is an ever increasing kindom, but it’s up to you how bright your light is. I want my light to be so bright. You know really I hate this line “this little light of mine”, I hate that line, it’s in Samantha’s song but then she says “it can grow” or something like that so I’m not putting that song down, I love that song, she wrote that song, isn’t that great? I love that song.
But “this little light of mine”, why I hate that song is because we can choose to have a little light. It’s up to us how bright our light shines. So this little light of mine, it’s up to me how bright my light is. I can have a little light if I want to. Just a little light, I can be saved going to heaven, but if I only want a little light you know what? That’s all God will give me. You just want a little light? I’ll give you a little light. But it’s an ever increasing kingdom, which means it never stops how bright your light can get, boys and girls. It never stops how bright your light can get. Which means it can get brighter and brighter and brighter. Just ask, just ask God I want to be brighter today than I’ve ever been before. Ever been before.
You know what lets stand up I’m getting pumped up. I’ll have Emily come play piano. I want to be brighter than I’ve ever been before, right? Isn’t that the way it is? If that’s you just get up here right now. I want to be brighter, I want to be brighter than ever before.
I gave you my light, and I say let me go! I want to be bright! And God I make a statement right now, I won’t turn back, I’ll keep getting brighter! Amen! [theaudience is repeating after him throughout this prayer]
Jesus! Thank you, just praise Jesus right now. We thank you God, we thank you God that you gave us a light, you gave us a bright light. I’m just going to pray, see what God wants us to do right now. Shoobeedoobeedoobeeshweebeedoobee…Jesus! Jesus! You know what? Just keep this in your hearts, keep this in your hearts. And tonight, tonight I believe there’s going to be an explosion tonight. It can be exploding you right now but lets wait until tonight. Keep that in your hearts. I believe God wants us to go out and pray for everybody right now. I guess it’s close to break time it’s like 12:10, but tonight it’s going to explode. We can get brighter and brighter, it’s an ever-increasing kingdom. God bless you guys, thank you.
And guess who walks up on stage at the end? None other than Becky Fischer herself.
I don’t get what he’s trying to say…God is light so the kindom of God is the kingdom of light, but he wants us to try to get a bigger and bigger light so does that mean we’re claiming more and more of God to ourselves? And if a little light will get me into heaven, why be so greedy? Why would I need more? Maybe get a little light and then stop spending time demanding more light from God? And I guess he doesn’t mean literally “light”, but what does he mean? I don’t understand…but making sense and preaching don’t generally go hand in hand.

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’

Debate: Atheism is the New Fundamentalism

I just finished watching this debate live online, and it was a lot of fun!

I had a bit of a hard time following the actual debate because I was also reading the #iq2atheism Twitter feed at the same time, but I’m going to post my brief take on the debate now, and when the recording of the debate is posted I’ll try to go into more detail. (follow me on Twitter @EnlightningLinZ)

The motion was “Atheism is the New Fundamentalism”.

Arguing for the motion: Richard Harries (former bishop of Oxford), and Charles Moore (former editor of the Daily Telegraph)

Arguing against: Professors Richard Dawkins and A C Grayling

The arguments for the motion were pathetic. They didn’t even argue for the motion. They didn’t define fundamentalism, nor did they provide examples to show why they think atheists are fundamentalists. Instead, it was just a run of ad hom attacks against Dawkins and atheists in general, as well as several uses of Godwin’s Law.

Grayling was a teddy bear, whose main point was that he was also a-pixie and a-father Christmas, but only needs to speak on his a-theism because of the influence of religion in the world. How is that fundamentalist?

Dawkins was, unless I missed it, the only one to actually define “fundamentalism”, and with his definition alone destroyed the motion. I can’t remember exactly what the definition he used was at this point (should have taken notes!), but I’ll be sure to talk about that in my follow-up post on the debate.

Dawkins made his case very effectively, but there were a couple of moments that stood out in the twitter feed.

One was his quoting of Vic Stenger: “Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.”

The second was his response to the question “Are you saying that there may be a God?”…

Dawkins: “There may be a leprechaun.” Which prompted me to do this…

Happy Blasphemy Day!

Jesus Christ, it’s my first Blasphemy Day as  an atheist!

Although technically, when you’re an atheist every day is blasphemy day! The spirit of the day is to push the idea that religion should not be above criticism. All ideas should be criticized, and religion shouldn’t be exempt from this, especially since it permeates almost every part of society.

I was thinking that I would celebrate by posting all kinds of blasphemous images and phrases, jokes poking fun at religion, etc. But what would that accomplish? Protesting the idea of blasphemy shouldn’t be about mudslinging, it should be about eliminating the protective shielding that people have put around faith. So instead I’ll just briefly summarize my world view, which is in itself blasphemous.

I believe that all religions are fairy tales made up to comfort people and to provide easy answers to tough questions that haven’t yet been answered by science. Faith is not a virtue, and will not lead us to any truth. I have seen no evidence that would lead me to believe that there is a god, but if there is one then he’s either a huge jerk or an incompetent idiot. A god is not a prerequisite to finding beauty and meaning in life, and as I see it, life, the universe, and everything is more incredible when you don’t give credit to a sky fairy for popping it into existence. I’m thankful for every second I have of this life, because once it’s over, it’s either over or I’m going to hell for not worshiping an egotistical, jealous maniac who lives in the clouds.

Ray Comfort Compares Himself to Oskar Schindler

Bananaman Ray Comfort has cooked up his most recent scheme as an attempt to brainwash students into thinking that creationism is a legitimate alternative to evolution before they start their education. He is concerned that too many students lose their faith in the course of their university education…is that supposed to be a bad thing?

So Comfort has defecated on inserted his own introduction into Darwin’s On The Origin of Species containing all of his made up crap arguments about why evolution is wrong, and he’s giving away free copies on university campuses on November 24th.

Origin of Species Ray Comfort

He obviously thinks that this is some noble cause and that he’s going to be saving lives (or, I suppose, souls) by doing this as evidenced by his words in the September 22nd Way of the Master newsletter:

Recently, I watched a (clean) version of the movie, “Schindler’s List.” Schindler used his wealth to purchase 1500 Jews from Nazi death camps. At the end of the movie, he broke down in tears because he wasted much of his wealth on vanities, and said, “I could have saved more!”

I can’t help but think of this when it comes to what we are doing.

He then goes on to brag about how he’s giving $10,000 of his own money to the project and to ask people to donate their time and money to this deceitful venture.

Get over yourself Ray Comfort. Oskar Schindler was actually saving lives. What he did was dangerous and helped people, and it’s an insult to Schindler to pretend that Comfort’s mission is in any way comparable to someone who risked their life to help others. All the bananaman is doing is lying to students about science and hoping that some of them are gullible enough to believe him.

PS: I’m disturbed by the idea of a “clean” version of Schindler’s List. In my opinion if you’re going to watch a movie about the Holocaust it should disgust you, anger you, and freak you out.

I wonder if Comfort reads a “clean” version of the Bible…

Can Your Beliefs About Religion make it Across This Intellectual Battleground?

The Philosophers’ Magazine has an interesting little test to see how reasoned your beliefs about religion are.

Give it a try: Battleground God

I suggest you try the test before reading my results below.

I was awarded this:

It’s given to about 46% of people who complete the test, because I didn’t take any “hits”, and only “bit one bullet”.

Here’s what it said about me:

You have been awarded the TPM medal of distinction! This is our second highest award for outstanding service on the intellectual battleground.

The fact that you progressed through this activity without being hit and biting only one bullet suggests that your beliefs about God are internally consistent and well thought out.

A direct hit would have occurred had you answered in a way that implied a logical contradiction. The bitten bullet occurred because you responded in a way that required that you held a view that most people would have found strange, incredible or unpalatable. However, because you bit only one bullet and avoided direct hits completely you still qualify for our second highest award. A good achievement!

The question I bit the bullet on was this one:

You answered “True” to questions 6 and 13.

These answers generated the following response:

You stated earlier that evolutionary theory is essentially true. However, you have now claimed that it is foolish to believe in God without certain, irrevocable proof that she exists. The problem is that there is no certain proof that evolutionary theory is true – even though there is overwhelming evidence that it is true. So it seems that you require certain, irrevocable proof for God’s existence, but accept evolutionary theory without certain proof. So you’ve got a choice: (a) Bite a bullet and claim that a higher standard of proof is required for belief in God than for belief in evolution. (b) Take a hit, conceding that there is a contradiction in your responses.

I chose option a, because I feel that the evidence for god would have to be exceptionally strong to convince me. If I were asked the question again though I would probably have to change my answer. The evidence for evolution is so good that an equivalent standard of evidence for god should be enough to convince me, and I hope would convince me that there’s a god.

As far as I know, no scientific theory has “certain, irrevocable proof.” I’m pretty sure that proofs only exist in mathematics. My logic faltered there, but I know that I should hold the same standards of evidence for anything that I hold to be true.

Religious Email Forwards

Like most people, I hate getting email forwards. But some annoy me more than others, and some just insult my intelligence. I got one of these the other day and I have to wonder if the people that send them are actually reading what they’re forwarding on to their friends.

The subject line in this email was “I love the message,” but I didn’t see anything about the message that was worthy of my love:

Concentrate on this Sentence

‘To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did.’ When God takes something from your grasp, He’s not punishing you, but merely opening your hands to receive something better. Concentrate on this sentence… ‘The will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you.’ Something good will happen to you today; something that you have been waiting to hear.

This is not a joke; someone will call you by phone or will speak to you about something that you were waiting to hear. Do not break!

Send it to a minimum of 2 people… JUST DO IT!

What a load of crap.

The will of god will never take me where the grace of god won’t protect me? Bullshit. You mean I’ll never be in too much trouble because god will always get me out of it? Pfft, talk about wishful thinking. Is the person that wrote this email living under a rock?

The thing that really gets to me about this email, though, is that it makes such vague claims about what will happen when you forward it on that if anything good happens that day people will take that as evidence of their god. That’s called confirmation bias, “a tendency to search for or interpret new information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions and to irrationally avoid information and interpretations which contradict prior beliefs.”

The person who sent me this email is one of the sweetest people I know, so I know her intentions were good. I just wish people would actually read and think about things like this before passing them on.

Grand Canyon Pereidolia

When we were in Vegas for The Amazing Meeting 7, we went on a day trip to the Grand Canyon. At one point I noticed a rock formation that looked like a statue:

God...or James Randi...or Moses...or Charles Darwin...or rocks...

God...or James Randi...or Moses...or Charles Darwin...or rocks...

One of the Many Reasons I Don’t Get the Appeal of Religion

I’m sitting on my balcony right now getting ready to watch some fireworks (Happy Canada Day!) and I’m in awe of the beautiful moon. It’s shining more brightly than any of the street lights down below.

If you just think about this for a minute. 150 million kilometres away there’s a giant ball of gas that is burning so hot and radiating so much light that during the day today it burned my skin, and now it’s illuminating our night because it’s being reflected off of an orbiting ball of rock.


As I stare at the moon I can’t help but think that believing a god blinked it into existence diminishes its magnificence. I think it’s way cooler and it makes me feel way luckier to be here when I consider that, as the evidence shows, our existence here is simply the result of random chance.

What do you think?


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