Friday, April 18, 2014

Biblicaly cursed and blessed

A recent comment Billy Graham made in his column reminded me of a verse in the Bible that contradicts itself. Graham said...
When we give our lives to Christ, God welcomes us into His family and makes us His children forever.
And he also referenced Hebrews 13:5.
Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you
Okay, so by this line of thinking, the majority of atheists should be just fine in his book, right? In the United States (and throughout the world), many atheists were Christians before they were atheists. Many deeply religious and committed... Some even studying to join the clergy. Myself, I was a believer in Christ for many years before I lost my faith in the religion of my youth. But according to Graham, I was welcomed into God's family when I believed, and since he states that this relationship is eternal, Hell shouldn't be a worry if Christianity were correct.

But how does that sit with Mark 3:29?
but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin
I'm guilty of that. So which is it? Will God never forsake me and I am an eternal member of his family? Or is it my blasphemy that is eternal and unforgivable?  But wait... Lets muddy the waters further with Exodus 20:5-6
You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Uh... How can he do both. The promise/threat stated in Exodus isn't possible to fulfill fully. Those
Yup, curses... How does anyone take this book seriously?
that are the first generation to 'hate' him would have had to be born of a generation that is blessed. So the following 1,000 generations are promised the same blessing. But the following 4 are also supposed to be punished as well. So, are at least those four generations supposed to be simultaneously blessed and cursed? My parents believe, so am I automatically blessed? What if I had kids? Would they be blessed or cursed? They would be within 1,000 generation of my parents, but also withing four of myself. So which would it be?

Also, how screwed up is it for a god to curse the children of someone for a 'crime' they didn't commit and were not a party to? What if they believe, but their parents didn't? Are they just out of luck?

Of course none of this is really surprising. The Bible is far from sensical, and is ripe with contradictions, so this example is just one among a sea of many.

-Brain Hulk

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ray Comfort: feeding God

There are few evangelists that are as simultaneously clueless and entertaining as Ray Comfort. And when one of his readers writes him with a question, he doesn't disappoint...
“I'm from Brazil and I really loved the movie/documentary, but Ray I have a question. Atheists [have] an argument…against Christians…: hunger and poverty in Africa, and God is bad with them? What is your opinion?” Felipe Matsuri
Hypocrisy much?
Um... They don't have that phrased quite right. We don't think that God is 'bad with them', we just
point out that if there was a supposedly all loving god, he seems to be displaying this endless love in a rather curious way.
1. As atheists, they have “no belief in a god.” So God doesn’t exist, and therefore didn't let anyone starve.
Wow, he actually got that part right. Maybe this won't be as bad as I thought.
2. For an atheist, a starving child is no big deal, because it's just evolution's “survival of the fittest” in action.
Unfortunately, the cruel truth is that suffering is a very real part of the reality of nature. Some do better, and some do worse. Those that do better are more likely to pass on their genes. But to say that a starving child is no big deal to an atheist is both wrong and offensive. We have feelings. We empathize with those that are suffering and want to help out how we can. Like people of all walks of like, we care. So don't act like atheists see a starving child and think nothing of it. We do care, and when we help, we actually help. Believers may sometimes help, but some simply pray and act like they are actually helping when they're not.
3. Much of the hunger in Africa is political, rather than a social problem. When food is sent for starving people, governments often block its delivery.
True. But that shouldn't be an obstacle at all for a god that's supposed to be all powerful. So he can create the universe and flood the Earth, but he can't defy a small African nation's government or military? Apparently God is less powerful than many of the nations on Earth...
4. Starvation, poverty, disease and death are evidences that the Bible is right when it says that we live in a fallen creation.
Except that he's supposed to be all loving... Anyone that's truly all loving couldn't and wouldn't allow as much suffering as is visible in the world around us if they could help it. And he's supposed to be all powerful too, right? What we are left is another inconsistency in the theology... But what we see is the world we'd expect to find if we truly do live in a fully natural world.
Like I said, Ray's ridiculousness is always good for a laugh.
5. We are the guilty party, and yet sinful atheists (in the ultimate gesture of a delusion of grandeur) stand in moral judgment over Almighty God—when they have no real basis for any morality.
What a load... Guess I was wrong when I briefly thought that Ray might surprise me with an isolated moment of lucidity. Atheists are perfectly capable of morality. While believers may like to pretend that they follow some type of objective morality, they truth is that they don't. We atheists get our morals from the same subjective and societal means that we all do. Morals that are far superior to those in the Bible... A book that has no problem with genocide and slavery.
6. God lets the rain fall on the just and the unjust, and if He withholds rain for some reason, we know that all of His judgments are righteous and true altogether. He never doesn't anything morally wrong. Ever.
I'm guessing Ray meant to say 'He never does anything morally wrong. Ever.' Really? God never does anything morally wrong in the Bible? Advocating slavery? Punishing innocent children for the actions or thoughts of their parents? Demanding the murdering of entire cities? Committing worldwide genocide? Demanding a ritual human sacrifice? The list goes on and on, but if the god of the Bible is one thing, it's certainly not moral.
7. If atheists really care about starving children, they will go to other countries and join the thousands of Christians who are feeding them.
Um... We do. Atheists go overseas, create organizations that help at home and abroad, and donate to existing organizations. Atheists and believers alike help those in need. But when an atheists helps the hungry, it's always by way of food and water, or by donating money to secure as much. And many believers help out in the same way, but some also think they are helping the hungry by sending them Bibles instead of food, or simply preaching to them and praying for them instead of offering actual help.
8. The Bible says we are to love our neighbor (others) as much as we love ourselves. Instead of doing that, most secular governments spend billions of dollars each year creating weapons to kill people.
An interesting complaint, since (at least in the United States) the most religious factions of the electorate, are also the ones that back war and military spending much more swiftly than the less religious. In fact, many Christians backed Bush's Iraq war as a just and glorious holy war. Meanwhile, a non-believer like myself feels it was a war we never should have started.
9. We also spend billions of dollars searching for intelligent life in space; money that could instead be used to feed, house, educate, and clothe the less fortunate.
As if space exploration is worthless... So much of our modern lives owes it's origins to the space program. While it is important to know if we are alone in the universe, space exploration is still important even if we never find other life. We may eventually find ourselves needing to leave the Earth. Either we will pollute it to the point that our home can't sustain us anymore, global warming may one day reach extremes we can no longer cope with, or the eventual expansion of the Sun will force us to move on or die. And isn't criticizing space exploration (something that's actually useful) hypocritical when Christians are wasting at least $70 million on building a replica of the (fictitious) Arc in Kentucky instead of putting that money to noble use.
10. A plane hits severe turbulence. Flight attendants quickly take to their seats before getting food to the hungry passengers at the back of the plane. The atheist is like a man who sees those hungry people, makes an insane leap of logic, and says, “Those people are hungry. Therefore no one made this plane.” Atheism believes that nothing created everything. It is a quiet form of intellectual insanity.
Has anyone else noticed that Ray comes up with the worst, and most flawed analogies that I've ever heard spewed? Lets see if we can actually fix this one for him...

Claims that the banana is the 'atheist's nightmare' because it is
perfect proof of God's design. Doesn't realize that humans
selectively bread the banana into it's current form, which
is nothing like a wild banana.

There is a plane that is crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Some passengers claim that Superman is on board and will take care of all the accommodations. But in the middle of the flight attendants handing out food, the plane hits turbulence and everyone takes their seats. The Christians on the plane would be those that say not to worry, Superman will take care of those that didn't get food yet. Meanwhile, the atheists would be those that hear that claim, but see that those in the back of the plane never got fed. Seeing this, they would doubt that Superman was on the plane (lest he would have helped) or that Superman didn't exist at all.

That would be the more accurate version. I must wonder why Ray feels the need to jump to the unrelated tangent of who made the plane? My guess is that he is knowingly creating a strawman. He makes and absurd statement that atheists don't believe anyone made the airplane to try and also discredit anything else an atheist says. Sad really... Oh, and atheism doesn't say that nothing created nothing. Atheism is simply nothing more than the lack of a belief in gods. But why all this fussing about 'nothing'?

Some believers say that everything had to be created. But then where did God come from? He would have had to come from nothing. They may claim that he's eternal. Technically, that's a bit of a cop out of an explanation, but if the most complicated thing that has been conceived can 'just be' eternal, why not simple energy? Something simple always existing, is far more likely than something complicated after all...

Ray is always good for a laugh. But in that way that he's so wrong that you can't help but shake your head and laugh in dismay at the magnitude of his fail. Sadly, he has fans and followers that eat up his every word (as inane as they often are), and that's troubling.

-Brain Hulk

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Boring Bible?

One of Billy Graham's readers read the Bible and didn't give it a five star review? This ought to be good...
Q: I don't mean to offend you, but I've tried to read the Bible and found it kind of dull. And yet some of my friends find it exciting. What's wrong? Why don't I get anything out of it?
The truth is that this person should be commended. The reason they found the Bible dull is that they read it without preconceived notions. They read it and took it for what it is. An unbiased reading of the Bible will have you finish it realizing just how terrible it is. It's poorly written, full of absurdities and contradictions, has some very dodgy morals, and a hero that comes across as more of a villain. There's a reason that it's said that the Bible is one of the best books to read for creating atheists.
A: In reality, the Bible should be the most exciting book you'll ever read! The reason is, this isn't just another book; it is God's Word, and through its pages God speaks to us. Think of it: The Creator of the universe wants to talk to you!
Citation needed. All other holy books are supposed to be their deity reaching out to speak to us as well. Odin speaks to us, Allah reaches out, Krishna is telling us the way. So try again Billy. There's nothing about the Bible that makes it any more special than any other holy book.
Tell me again which one is the
good guy...
What does He want to tell you? First, He wants to tell you about Himself - who He is, what He is like, and what He has done for you. We can understand some things about God by looking at the world He created, but we only fully understand Him by discovering what He's told us in the Bible.
And read what Thor has done for us. How he sacrificed himself to defeat the great demon serpent. Perhaps we should read about Prometheus and how he brought us the gift of fire and was sentenced to eternal torture for the gift he had given us. Again, tell me why anyone should lend any more
credence to the Bible over other holy books.
But God also wants to tell us He loves us, and the proof is that He came down from heaven in the person of His Son, Jesus, who gave His life for us. This is why the best place for you to begin reading the Bible is in one of the Gospels (I often suggest John), because there you'll discover who Jesus is and what He has done for us. Because of Jesus, "we know and rely on the love God has for us" (1 John 4:16).
 Yes, discover Jesus for who he was and what he did. A man that if he ever existed was so unspectacular that he left no trace of his existence in the whole of recorded history. His supposed miracles... not impressive enough to be recorded by his peers. Him as a person? So well known that none of his peers thought to even record and account his existence or teachings? Yeah... Sounds like he was real impressive... Any book can make great claims of a character, but if you want to argue that the claims are true, you're going to have to back them up with some proof.
Get a modern translation you can understand, and set aside time each day to read through one of the Gospels - perhaps only a few paragraphs at first. As you open it, humbly ask God to make its meaning clear. Most of all, ask God to help you apply its truth to your life, because "Your word is a lamp for my feet, and a light on my path" (Psalm 119:105).
 Ah, yes... The modern translation trick. The thing with modern translations is that they often not only use more modern language, but they change that language in a dishonest way. Sometimes one or two words are changed in a way that changes the very meaning of a verse. This is often used to try and make an ugly verse seem a little less ugly.

You can think of newer and newer translations as a game of telephone. The Bible was written in one language, then translated to another, then it was translated into English. Then it has been translated again and again. Each time things change and likely loose a little something from the original. Remember, when your Bible has the word 'version' right in the title, just how reliable can it be?

-Brain Hulk

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Blood moon

If you're like me, you'll be looking skyward tonight, and hoping that the weather breaks enough for the moon to be visible. At 2:00 AM EST on April 16th, 2014 we will be treated to a total lunar eclipse. The moon will be tinted red, and will actually be the first in a series of four total lunar eclipses in the next 18 months (about 6 months between each). This is called a tetrad of eclipses.

While I'm looking forward to it, some are reacting in a way that sounds more like our cave dwelling ancestors than modern humans. Pastor John Hagee is actually claiming that this tetrad of eclipses signals the end of the world. That God is telling us that the end is coming, and so is he. That sounds like the words of a frightened caveman who was embraced by deep fear and confusion when they saw the moon turn red.

It should be no surprise that Hagee didn't do any homework. There have been nine sets of tetrads in the 21st century alone. Maybe I missed something, but I'm pretty sure that the world didn't end any of those times. Also, on average, there is at least one total lunar eclipse every single year. Yet the world is still here...

Yet another example of a religious fear merchant. He scares his followers with dire statements, and then sells a book to cash in on his empty claims. Will he admit fault when he's proven wrong? Probably not. He'll just stop saying that the verse he's citing was literal and claim that it is to be taken figuratively and just carry on like nothing ever happened. Such dishonesty, and no understanding of astronomy...

-Brain Hulk

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Easter Christians

A reader asks Billy Graham about a friend who's religiosity comes and goes. Let's see how that turns out...
Dear Rev. Graham: I have a friend who doesn’t bother with God or church most of the year, but as Easter approaches she suddenly gets religious -- goes to church, observes Lent and so forth. Do you think she’s a real Christian, or is it all fake? -- Mrs. V.G.
They grow up so fast. Just last week, Billy was the one throwing out the no true Scotsman fallacy, and this time it's his reader. Graham must be so proud of the ignorance he is propagating. Seriously though, it's odd that VG seems surprised by her friend not acting as religious during most of the year, but then acting more devout around Easter and Christmas. Isn't that the standard modus operandi for a rather large swath of the American Christian population?
Rev. Graham: Only God knows your friend’s heart, and whether or not she sincerely wants to follow Jesus and has committed her life to Him. Perhaps a seed of faith was planted in her heart as a child, and as Easter approaches she senses a need to have it grow.
However, the Bible does warn us against simply going through the motions, but not allowing God to touch our hearts and lives. In other words, if Christ means nothing to us most of the year, it may well mean that our faith is not real, and our sudden burst of religious activity isn’t genuine. The Bible says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). 
Don't you just love how Billy likes to assume that Christians that aren't in your face religious 24/7 are just faking it? Hate to break it to you Graham, but as long as VG's friend believes in Jesus as their lord and savior, they are a Christian. It really matters not what her friend does the rest of the year. After all, the Bible says that you shall be saved through faith and not by works. Translation: if you believe, that's all that matter... regardless of what you do.
After all, if we truly understand who Jesus is -- the divine Son of God who died for our sins and rose again by the power of God for our salvation -- how can we treat Him casually? How can we live as if He were unimportant? Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
How can we act as though he's unimportant? Maybe because there's no proof of him being important or even existing. And what of his claims... Many other deities made spectacular claims as well. In fact, others made the exact same claims as Jesus did.
Pray for your friend, that during this Easter season she may come to understand how great God’s love is for her, and respond by giving her life without reserve to Jesus Christ. Pray, too, that as we approach Easter this year you also may see Jesus in a deeper way, and commit your life more fully to Him.
 And since we're talking Easter, pray also to the goddess Eostre. And celebrate Easter for what it is... A Pagan fertility festival that has been stolen and co-opted by Christianity.

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Don't do it!

We all know that person. The one that whenever the topic of marriage comes up they'll start to badmouth the very idea of marriage. I know that when I got engaged, I heard from a few people who's only response was, "Don't do it!"

Invariably, these marriage naysayers have been married, but then it all went wrong and got divorced, or they are stuck in an unhappy relationship. I suppose that it's fair enough that they don't want others to repeat their mistakes. But is marriage really the enemy here? I don't think so. Actually, I think the real concern shouldn't be over marriage in general, but the reasons for wanting to get married. In my opinion, if you want to get married for the right reasons, you shouldn't allow others to stifle that desire.

But what if it does go bad? As Alfred Lord Tennyson once said, "'Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all." I think these are very wise words indeed. Those that were once married and now denounce marriage are focusing only on the negative end. What about the love that they once shared? Why act as though those years were meaningless just because it eventually all came to an end? Are they really suggesting that all things that come to an end are pointless?

I love my wife, and I hope that we grow old together. But should something happen that causes us to go our separate ways, would I regret our marriage? No. Simple as that. These past years have been wonderful. I love my wife and wouldn't trade the time we've had together for anything. While the pain of separation would hurt, those days would still be the the fondest of memories. So why dislike marriage so much? Because it might end?

But is it really?
Or is it just the bonus level?
Not doing something due to impermanence is a terrible standard to go by. Your sandwich won't lastforever, so why bother eating. Your pet will eventually die, so don't bother having one. Your shoes will only wear out, so don't buy any. And you won't live forever, so why bother living at all... As you can see, giving value only to the eternal leaves everything void of value.

So if your marriage fails, don't blame marriage. There were other factors that are actually to blame. Instead, make the most informed choices you can, and focus on the positive. Every cloud does have a silver lining somewhere. I know it sounds cliché, but things are rarely as bad as they seem. Remember the good times, and even the bad as well. For it's the totality of those experiences that makes us who we are.

-Brain Hulk

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hobby hypocrisy

As most everyone knows, Hobby Lobby has taken the fight against women's health to the Supreme Court. They argue that the requirement to cover birth control in the healthcare plans they provide to employees is a violation of religious freedom. It isn't, of course. But they are still demanding a religious exemption. Now... religious organizations, such as churches, are exempt from this requirement due to the religious freedom issues. A church is inherently religious after all.

However, Hobby Lobby is a craft store. Sure, the owners may be religious, but it isn't a religious organization. We should actually hope that the court rules that the owners of a business do not earn the right to project their beliefs on those that work for them. This issue could go much further, but lets focus on just healthcare for the time being...

Okay, so the owners of Hobby Lobby are Christians that have a 'moral' stance against the use of birth control. What they want is the power to tell their employees to conform to their beliefs rather than their own. Hobby Lobby argues that it doesn't want to cover birth control because of their religion. But what if you work for a Jehovah's Witness? If Hobby Lobby got their way, the Jehovah's Witness employer would be allowed to deny coverage of a needed blood transfusion. Give this same power to a Christian Scientist, and your healthcare now only covers prayer and no actual medical care. But why stop at religion. What if a vegetarian boss has a 'moral' stance as well. Congratulations, the treatment of any illness related to the consumption of meat is no longer covered.

But wait... The Hobby Lobby issue gets murkier. The craft retailer offers their employees a 401(k). A plan that invests money into the companies that make birth control devices, emergency contraceptive pills and drugs used in abortion procedures. Oh, and they match employee contributions. Over the years, Hobby Lobby has actually invested millions of dollars in these firms ($73 million since Dec. 2012). So wait... it's okay for them to make money off of investing in birth control companies, but it's not okay that they have to cover that same birth control in their own healthcare plans?

Additionally, Hobby Lobby already used to voluntarily cover birth control in it's health plans, prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Suddenly, they are outraged that they will be required to cover something that they already covered of their own accord? Am I missing something here?

Okay, so Hobby Lobby covered birth control, and even invested in it. Suddenly, the second they are told they have to cover it, they lose their shit and talk about how evil it is to their religious beliefs. I hate when people jump to claiming racism to be the motivation of something when there's no evidence of it. But could this sudden and hypocritical about-face have something to do with the fact that the dark-skinned Democrat that some pretend is a Muslim is the one that said they had to do it the reason? Or is it just because of dirty political games?

Whatever the reason, Hobby Lobby is guilty of committing the heights of hypocrisy.They don't want to cover birth control that they used to cover voluntarily. Oh, and the birth control companies that they are rallying against make them profits off their investments. Sounds to me that Hobby Lobby's real prophet is profit. Do as we say, not as we do, and whatever makes them a buck. Hobby Lobby are clearly hypocrites, and I surely hope they lose their case... for all our sakes.

-Brain Hulk

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