Where I Come From

There are many things that I have had to bring myself to value the hard way. One such value that was brought to the light through much turmoil is the usefulness of questioning authority. That very phrase in itself is a death wish in some contexts! In America, depending on the context religiously or politically the spectrum usually ranges from ostracism as the extreme all the way over to picking on the odd man out among a group of friends. Should we pretend that such surrounding factors don’t actually influence our present beliefs? On the flip side a community that is filled with acceptance and love, all predicated upon the truth claims of their religion can also highly influence the ultimate position that one takes regarding faith. Why? It is because there is a clear price to pay even when being honest about what we personally believe or doubt.

Around the time I turned 15 years old a new kind of authority was brought into my life. We joined a very different church from what we had ever been involved with before. It was a church that believes in utilizing authority first from the Bible and then transferring its representation into the Pastor and other leaders within the church. So this is essentially what happens within conservative churches that take the Bible and its alleged authority literally, modern people read and study an ancient set of sacred texts and then take it upon themselves to claim that their knowledge has been reasonably bridged with what is called the knowledge of God.

It gives ordinary minds the authority to speak on behalf of almighty God. Why? Well, because salvation through Jesus, it is said, puts these people in connection with the one true God. The one source of all knowledge and truth. To question this basic assumption, at least within contexts that do not value higher forms of critical thinking, is grounds for making your local Pastor wonder whether you should be considered a part of the fold. Now, I do not want to misrepresent the broad spectrum of conservative Christianity when I say this. I have happily met some conservative minds that are far more willing to question the authority of their Pastor as well as the authority of their Bible on a regular basis. The difference for these questioners of authority is that they believe at the end of the day that reality can be reconciled with their Bible.

I am far more appreciative of conservative Christians that value critical thinking. I have seen the difference clearly within my life and among the many people I’ve had the joy of knowing personally. So why do I take it one step further? I have learned, at least with regard to my own honest assessment about the kind of knowledge that I’ve gained, that it is highly presumptuous for me to claim that I have access to the knowledge of God within this world and the modern context that I find myself in. I suspect that the same can be said of the vast majority of religious thinkers today. I could be wrong, but as I have evaluated the kind of knowledge that I possess as well as what many openly admit within their own religious paradigm, I think that a case can be made for a humanity that lacks access to very relevant knowledge that could put the God question to rest.

The difference appears to stem from what kind of methodology one favors as most effective for drilling down on truth claims. Atheism utilizes skepticism as a rather useful tool wherever it is justified. I truly feel empowered to think when I put this cap on. All the best to my readers regardless of what position you take for yourselves!

How Are Beliefs Formed?

How deeply intertwined are our beliefs to our present environments? How deeply influenced is religion by its culture and vice versa? How about what is acceptable and what is fearful? What is good and what is evil? What is dishonest and what is truthful?

Also, where does imprinting usually start the earliest and form the strongest between individuals? It starts within the family. Within a family and its community. I mean think about the factors that surround our beliefs!

Our beliefs have consequences because they are so often intertwined within families and communities that have formed a common bond. A common understanding of the world. To deviate and to challenge former ideas about the world is often met with disapproval, fear, and sometimes hostility.

To challenge our own beliefs and way of thinking is often considered a futile endeavor. For many it seems to accomplish nothing and it causes a lot of turmoil and upheaval in the process. What if human beings were less fearful of change? What if we could adopt a standard that appreciates the capacity of other people to look at the world and our universe differently?

Even in a democratic society there is still much reform to be done within our own lives. This reform stems from the recognition of diversity and being able to step into the shoes of other people.

The Benefits Of A Secular Morality (Part 1)

 

Life itself is a struggle, wouldn’t you agree? From the wealthiest of people to those who are struck by unimaginable suffering and poverty there are many things from which none of us can truly escape the clutches. Even brilliant people can be slaves to habits that ultimately shorten their own capacity to live longer. Many families are burdened by disease and various kinds of sickness in large part because of how they are wired genetically. All of these things of course are summed up in the unavoidable demise of being mortal. It truly is as if we hang on by a thread, a thread that will inevitably come undone at a time we usually do not expect.

I don’t intend to depress you, but I would like to encourage everyone reading this to take a step back and consider that we are all a part of a common tapestry. A common humanity. A morality that is uninformed by our common fate as a human race as well as by the astounding diversity of belief and thought is perhaps a morality that fails to reach its fullest potential. What I’m driving at here is that there is a difference between morality that is informed solely by one’s religion and a morality that is willing to be further informed by the world at large.

I can tell you from experience that I once believed and taught that the Christian Bible is the inspired and inerrant word of God. The supremacy of truth flows like a waterfall from this book, cultivating faith in a living God and flooding out into the world with the good news of the gospel, or so I thought? Yet over time I came to learn that the Bible itself is unapologetically offensive and a stumbling block to many. The writers of this book admit this and yet it is thought that this good news is like a razor that separates the sheep from the goats.

It certainly does separate people from the fold but it took years for me to realize that many who are not within this fold are actually very upright human beings that simply are not convinced of one particular view of God and religion. Is this to their detriment? I used to think it was because Romans 1 teaches explicitly that those who reject the Christian conception of God are suppressing the truth in their unrighteousness. This is harsh and I can tell you that the vast majority of Evangelicals are banking on this doctrine. It explains so much within their worldview and if this idea gets shattered then so does the meaning of the gospel itself.

To that I must respond, it is okay! Yes, it is actually okay to move yourself beyond this kind of understanding. In fact, it is necessary. Not by force, this is not what I’m advocating. I wasn’t forced or persecuted out of my own faith. No, it is necessary to move beyond this kind of understanding as a demonstration to oneself that the truth about the world may very well be most clear outside of such strict exclusivity. It is the nature of the beast of exclusivity itself that works very much like a blindfold. Especially warning verses that say things like, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

This brings me to my next point, is fear a healthy motivator for living a moral life? Whether we like it or not the New Testament itself carries a premise that it is good to fear a wrathful creator. The wrath of this being stems from a holy fervor, a perfect hatred for anything that falls short of the ultimate standard for goodness. Wrapped up within this goodness is the notion that people of other religious temperaments are deserving of punishment and death. Why? Well, for no other reason than that they did not bow their knee to Jesus. Let us not be fooled by the peaceful message that Christianity claims toward the world in the present. In reality it is simply the calm before the storm. It is a mercy that has a timer attached to it. Once the timer gets down to zero Jesus himself will be coming back with a holy vengeance upon his enemies. In the end everyone that was not found in the book of life, simply because they believed differently, will be moaning and wailing in eternal flames. Yes, this is the side of the story that doesn’t get touched upon so much when Christians are doing evangelism in our modern day. Rather, the message of love and eternal life is what comes to sweep one in at first, then over a period of time these teachings about wrath and judgement will begin to settle in as being part of God’s perfect expression of justice.

I think we can do better, don’t you? There is more to unfold regarding the benefits of a secular morality. Don’t go away!

 

Science And The Plausibility Of Religion

The neutrality of the sciences do not seem to indicate or provide a compass as to whether zero, one, or many gods should receive the credit for our origins. Yet in light of such mass variety and contradiction within the religions as a whole there may be good reason to consider that such supernatural explanations are not adequate to provide a satisfactory picture of the true source. This is precisely because they all equally do not provide a bridge from the supernatural (what is unknown) into the natural (everything that can be known thus far).

Then we also must consider the value of a supernatural understanding amidst the overwhelming amount of evidence for evolution not only explaining what happens within species but also within the cosmos! The powers of observation both in the present and leading into the past are creating a picture unlike anything that our human minds have ever fathomed before.

What religion often fails to take seriously is just how far the telescope has peered outward. How about what is equally understood on the molecular level? The science of how light works and functions is enough to bring us to strongly conclude that an expanding universe can be mapped and brought back into a singularity.

Since the speed of light itself takes billions of years and even light years to travel from one part of the universe just to be seen by our world, it really should be of no surprise that we live in a vastly old place. What is more likely? A young universe that contains billions of phantom ghost galaxies that were simply created to look old, or a supremely old universe that is simply unfolding its own story via the processes that have been in place all along? I’m both amazed and perplexed at the whole thing.

The Gospel Reversed

I am about to make a very important appeal to my Christian friends and readers. This is not a message of hate, mockery, or disdain of any kind. In fact this is a message that intends to express the same measure of love and concern that many have for me and my own plight as a human being.

The core concern of many Christians is that the gospel is power. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is said to transform one’s mind and life via the love and mercy of God. It is said that this is perfect justice as well as perfect love. It was necessary for the Christ to suffer so as to blot out our sins and present us to God as a pure and holy people.

The biggest draw for many is that the person of Jesus appears to be like no one that ever came before or after him! In particular his interactions with people and their personal struggles is something that seems to tip off or work as a catalyst to form true and undying faith.

Why should anyone or anything get in the way of that? I mean, this is deeply personal. This is for many the most loving, true, and noble message ever given. I identify with this attitude because it was once my very own. The gospel once made sense to me on an intellectual level and emotionally I had been moved immensely by gaining a picture and literacy of the New Testament unlike I had ever known.

Now, it is at this point that I want to posit a challenge. Is it a dishonest endeavor to question oneself beyond a New Testament understanding of the world? Is it a worthless notion to take a step back and truly evaluate what can be known in this regard? I can assure you that it is for some. However, there is a price in this regard because for those who do espouse an undying loyalty to their doctrine it is even clear to many other more educated Christians that such people are in error.

These folks are in error because they are propagating an untenable position. Such people are claiming to speak on behalf of Jesus and God without even considering that their interpretation of certain passages could be fallacious and not based from knowledge. One of the most arrogant statements I’ve heard said from some Pastors is, “I could be wrong, but I know I’m right.” Such an attitude is an abject demonstration of a lack of concern for the truth. A lack of concern for knowledge!

This is where the rubber hits the road my friends because if one is not able to speak from knowledge personally about a matter, what does this say about their integrity? What does this say about possessing the capacity to change one’s mind based upon the facts? The gospel in reverse is this: Are we willing to follow the facts wherever they clearly lead? Are we willing to suspend judgement as a direct consequence of the personal knowledge that we actually possess in the present? Is it still a joyous thing to treasure the truth in the absence of expectation? Our expectations can run terribly low or terribly high. Are we happy with what is true? Can life still go on if the overwhelming implication is that there is probably no God? Take time to think it through. Take time to be satisfied and content with what is known in the world today. Thank you, and I wish you supremely well no matter what!

Have Some Compassion!

I commend any community of human beings that seek to alleviate suffering in the world. A sense of brotherhood and sisterhood is a rather powerful thing! So I understand that religion is used in this way. I understand that within the fabric of many of these communities rather different people have been unified and motivated toward many expressions of compassion and goodness.

What I also understand is that Jesus is simply not the only motivator for such goodness. There are many flags that we can raise for the sake of compassion but just realize that there exists no superior motivator for doing so. Motivation is often driven by observing other humans that are modeling these acts of kindness.

Sure, maybe we can cite certain Biblical passages and religious sources for getting the ball rolling within some movements, but we have also found evidence for much harm and destruction within neighboring chapters and books. So what do we make of this? How do we reconcile this?

Glossing over injustice and cruelty so as to get to the good stuff is something that just doesn’t sit so well with me anymore. Fight for the good my friends, wherever it is found.

In the near future I plan to explore the benefits of a secular approach in regards to compassion and alleviating suffering. This should be fun!

A Look At Miracles

Ever heard the phrase, “life itself is a miracle?” I’ve heard it a lot! In fact, I used to say it on a regular basis. Many who are respected in Christian Philosophy define a miracle like this: It is an event in which natural causes cannot produce at that time and place, a naturally impossible event that is considered beyond the productive capacity of nature.

Intriguing to think about isn’t it? Are there events that occur within this world that require an unknown source from what is understood naturally? I honestly don’t know. What this really becomes is a discussion about plausibility. So where should miraculous phenomena be ranked in this regard?

I tend to approach it like this. From the get go we are being asked to consider the plausibility or truthfulness of a claim that is by definition the least understood kind of occurrence imaginable. By definition this is considered a fantastic oddity, an anomaly within the world! Something that in all other contexts apart from a supernatural understanding should be rejected outright!

So, what do human beings truly know in this regard? Not a heck of a lot to speak of my friends. Even those who participate in faith healing practices have some pretty big hurdles to overcome when granting the possibility of miraculous phenomena. These folks are unable to:

1) Verify an actual source

2) Discern between rare natural occurrences and what is called a miracle

3) Bridge the gap between their faith (personal confidence about what is unseen) and what is actually known

4) Even if miracles do occur one is not able to confirm or negate which sources are either good or evil, true or false. In example: Christianity teaches that Satan is behind much of the miraculous phenomena that occurs outside of orthodox teaching and belief. Why is such a claim justified if one is not able to confirm the source within their own tradition as well as within all others? These become arguments made from ignorance and not from knowledge.

Stay tuned! I have more to add to my cumulative case for why miraculous phenomena has a very very low plausibility, if any at all? Also, even if such claims do turn out to be true in certain contexts it still may not qualify as evidence for a supernatural realm. If enough evidence is gathered and verified we may end up discovering a very unique ability that stems from our own anatomy. Human beings may have certain capacities, apart from any supernatural understanding that we didn’t even know we had! I think it would be kind of cool, but I’m not getting my hopes up in that regard.

Random song quote: “If I go crazy then will you still call me Superman?”

Are You A Budding Atheist?


Intriguing title isn’t it? Well, it all of course depends on what kind of baggage one attaches to the term Atheist? It has been a label of controversy in certain parts of the world, no doubt! If you are thinking about certain corrupt governments from the past that you suspect were primarily motivated by a lack of religion to commit untold atrocities then I can understand why you are a bit hung up on the issue.

Perhaps the most important question to ask in that regard is: Is it possible for a lack of belief in God to get shoehorned into the wrong regime sometimes? I’d consider it just as likely in the case of religion as well. That is the kind of religion that usually advocates nonviolence. I hope this helps?

It’s a messy world nonetheless but I’ll tell you why I personally don’t mind the Atheist label. At the end of the day it is simply a way of identifying how I think and process information. I don’t claim to know definitively that there is no God, this would then put me into a spectrum in which I’m just being honest about how my lack of knowledge in this regard has rather appropriately led me to doubt and reject many aspects of God belief in the present.

It all depends on how we choose to categorize insufficient knowledge and information at the end of the day. Also, if certain views of God appear problematic logically, maybe it is best to not play the mystery card any longer, know what I mean? Regardless of what kind of label any of us choose for ourselves in the present, I would simply encourage all of my friends and readers to put an appropriate premium on knowledge.

Knowledge is power, and with great power comes great responsibility! Happy truth hunting!

Three Pronged Argument Against Resurrection Belief

1) Lack of knowledge (first granting a resurrection)

Even in light of accepting the resurrection of Jesus as plausible, I can think of at least two factors that counteract the premise that such an event necessitates belief in the Judeo-Christian God alone.

1) The mere existence of a mass variety of competing miraculous claims within the world, many of which contradict one another in regards to defining a God or gods would seem to provide grounds for suspending one’s personal judgement and tendency toward bias.

This is because the consensus of faith based claims by nature do not provide a bridge into our present knowledge. This is key! In other words there is no compass provided in order to make an informed judgement from within any religious context.

Why play favorites? Why be biased toward just one religio-historical set of beliefs?

2) Since Christians widely agree on a closed canon, this implies that since the time of Jesus, God for unknown reasons has decided to no longer provide indisputable public revelation. This lack of public revelation automatically makes the resurrection into an obscure past event. Nothing in the present is able to connect believers and skeptics alike to this miracle. Therefore a wide breadth of time and inactivity would appear to naturally decrease the plausibility of this claim in light of other viable sources of knowledge that are unable to confirm it. Present studies of the world have yet to validate a reliable source of miraculous phenomena.

Also, lack of indisputable public revelation is not open to peer review, hence why religion is so varied between every culture! What is more likely? Religion is vastly varied due to inherent dishonesty about what humans truly know about God deep down, or religion is vastly varied due to a lack of revelation, which by default becomes a lack of knowledge?

Both of these factors indicate an absence of relevant information that could otherwise be availed to us.

2) Nature of the claim (lowered plausibility due to lack of justification).

It would be in the best interest of Theism to provide justification if it intends to survive in an age of scientific inquiry and knowledge. Science is established, its methods are able to sway and debunk previous religious claims and ideas, it does this in the face of criticism and critiques toward methodological naturalism.

a) Inability to adequately negate opposing supernatural claims as a basis for belief (inability to distinguish between true and false miracles).

The claim of a resurrection is unable to provide any indication as to what other kinds of miracles are either true or false in nature. Instead it opens the door into a plethora of other possibilities that are equally unaccounted for in the present. Since this is the case, people of other religious perspectives are free to interpret the resurrection of Jesus into their own religious paradigm.

b) Inability to negate opposing views that advocate more than one God

The claim of a resurrection is unable to distinguish between one or many gods. Let’s approach this in another way. The Judeo-Christian God is said to get the credit for Jesus allegedly rising from death. The only problem is that Yahweh has never come around since to take a bow and receive a standing ovation. In other words, it is precisely the fact that silence surrounds this past obscure claim that brings opposing religions and skeptics to question either who deserves the credit or whether anybody is even to be credited in the first place? The resurrection story could just as well be made up! Is anyone familiar with the phrase, “silence speaks louder than words?” If the phone line has been dead for thousands of years, maybe it’s time to hang up, just saying!

c) Inability to negate possible dishonesty (ulterior motives for belief)

The resurrection claim also does not provide any indication as to whether it is a truly honest claim. Instead it appeals to the authority of God within the Judeo-Christian tradition. Why submit to such authority in the midst of mass religious variety and competition? It’s kind of like a line of different car sales reps all appealing to the quality of a similar vehicle that functions or benefits the buyer in much the same way, regardless of their final choice. An Agnostic-Atheist also sees reasons both to suspend judgement and reject many aspects of the sale. The product just doesn’t appear to be very reliable or beneficial in the first place.

3) Resurrection As Intentional Anomaly

1) An event that intends to cultivate belief but defeats its own goal by also inciting skepticism among religious and nonreligious alike.

The extraordinary, or odd nature of the resurrection claim is in itself a reason to pause and take a step back within one’s capacity to discern its credibility. This claim intends to impress the truth seeker into belief by employing the wow factor to a high degree! The God of Jesus has vanquished death and ushered in eternal life! People are simply expected to embrace this belief in spite of the fact that such claims cannot be duplicated. This in itself places a very heavy burden on the truth seeker. In fact it brings the truth seeker to one of two choices. Either suspend judgement due to a lack of relevant knowledge on the matter, or ignore the need to reason objectively and actively get to the bottom of where our knowledge stops.

Skepticism becomes justified because resurrections are by nature abnormal occurences in the world. Even if the claim appears plausible in light of its historical context. It becomes an anomaly. How wise is it to bank on obscure and irregular claims?

2) An event that breeds confusion rather than consistency.

Finally, it must be pointed out that there are clearly better alternatives for establishing the knowledge of God in this world. I and many skeptics would accept a form of Theism in which God intervenes clearly and indisputably among all cultures. To call this expectation unrealistic would seem to defy the necessity of any previously assumed revelation from the Judeo-Christian God. Since the Bible itself acknowledges that God’s public intervention was needed in the past then it only follows that it is still needed now. If this need is not currently being met in the world then it is either neglect on the part of an existing God, or it is likely a dead line that is unable to cultivate knowledge and belief. If this is the case then it is especially justified to suspend judgement and employ skepticism as a useful tool.

Thank you again for considering my observations and arguments!