Monday, September 30, 2013

Another form of Christian insincerity

Most Christians oppose gay marriage and gay adoption rights because of their scriptures (and the most prevalent Christian theology that's taught by most denominations.) Not only that, but a good portion of them not only oppose those things, they moreover think that if a country were to accept and legalize them, bad things would happen because that would "anger God."

Of course in most civilized countries, especially in Europe, they can't just go to a government representative and say that. It would be simply ignored as a religious dogma that has no bearing on what the government should do. Therefore these Christians have to come up with some alternative, secular reasons, why gays shouldn't get these rights.

This is another form of insincerity by Christians. Everybody knows the real reason why they oppose equal gay marriage rights, but they have to come up with excuses to circumvent those reasons and invent more "plausible" reasons to protest.

This, in turn, causes them to engage in even more insincerity and distortion. The most common excuse they come up with is "the rights of children to have a mother and a father." They completely ignore the studies that have been made on the subject (whose result has been that there's no significant difference between heterosexual and homosexual parents with regard to the wellbeing of a child), and oftentimes they outright fabricate "thousands of studies" that show the opposite. (Don't hold your breath waiting for them to give the thousands of references. They don't exist.)

When you bring forth the most obvious flaw in their argument, they immediately engage in double-think. In other words, if their argument is that "children have the right to a mother and a father", that would mean that single parents should have no rights to their own children (in the same way as homosexual couples should have no rights to get children.) I have had a Christian literally answer to me along the lines of: "What do you mean? Of course they have rights to their own children!" Seemingly this Christian was completely incapable of seeing the connection between the two arguments, which would have shown a big flaw in his.

It seems to me that most Christians are just repeating this argument like a mantra, without even understanding what they are saying.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Conspiracy theories are religions

I may have mentioned some of this in an earlier blog post, but I find it very interesting how strikingly similar conspiracy theories are to religions. They may not be theistic religions and they may not deal with the supernatural, but otherwise they present most of the same phenomena that religions do.

Many of the people who have converted into them feel the urge to convert others, which is extremely typical of religion. In fact, in some places (especially the United States) conspiracy theorists are more organized, louder and more intrusive than most religions are. They will preach to people on the streets, distribute pamphlets, books and videos, they will go on radio and TV shows, they will organize protests, marches, ad campaigns and so on. They are also strikingly similar to creationists in how they present their arguments, the kinds of argumentative fallacies they use, and what their opinions are about science and the scientific community.

In fact, creationists are not the only striking parallel. Such parallels can be found with many other extremist cults such as scientologists and some of the most extreme denominations of Christianity and other religions, such as the Westboro Baptist Church.

Individual conspiracy theorists will also show striking resemblance to the most avowed religious people. Many times when you watch them eg. on TV shows, interviews, discussion panels and so on, you can clearly see the outright fervor and passion they have for it. (One particular example was outright hilarious. It was a TV show discussing the 9/11 conspiracy theories, and the guests were two of the authors of one of the most popular "documentaries" on the subject, and two people from Popular Mechanics. While the latter two remained completely calm, collected and civil throughout the entire debate, the two conspiracy theorists had really difficult time collecting themselves. They were constantly shaking their heads and clearly showing extreme frustration, so bad in fact that they seemed to have difficulties remaining seated. You could outright see their blatant religious fervor. It was quite amusing to watch.)

It's curious how conspiracy theories seem to have gained enormous popularity during the past decade or so. Before that they were just fringe phenomena believed by an extremely small minority, who were mostly regarded as silly and deluded (if not outright lunatic) by the rest of the population. And this is not just with conspiracy theories that have popped up during the last decade. For example the Moon landing hoax theories have existed since at least the 80's but didn't gain any kind of widespread popularity until well into the 2000's.

One could say that conspiracy theories are one of the fastest-growing religions in the modern world.

I believe that the main reason for this is the popularization and wide availability of the internet, as well as the progress in technology, which has allowed basically anybody to create writings and videos and publish them for the entire world to see. Back in the 80's and long into the 90's only an extremely small portion of the population could ever hope to be able to create such a work and make it widely available. The most that people could hope to achieve was to write a book, which would then usually have a ridiculously small circulation and would mostly be forgotten.

For the past ten years or so, however, anybody can create online "books" and videos with little to no money, using free and cheap tools that were only available for the rich in the past, and with a cheap channel to distribute their work for basically the entire world (which in the past would have required enormous amounts of money.) This has therefore created an outlet for this religion to spread, causing an avalanche effect: The more people read or see about it, the more they will spread the word to others, and so on.

While conspiracy theories resemble in many regards religions, the reason why people believe in them might be slightly different. Most religions appeal to the innate beliefs that people have about their own spirituality (in other words, the instinct that most people have that their consciousness exists independent of their body, that it's separate from it, and that the body is just a conduit that the consciousness uses to interact with the physical world.) They appeal to the worry that people have about what happens to their consciousness when they die.

Conspiracy theories, on the other hand, excite peoples imaginations and their sense of self-importance. They entice people with the prospect of knowing more than others, with being part of a knowledgeable group that's "in the loop" so to speak, that know the innermost secrets of the governments and other organizations they consider shady. It's also a form of pseudointellectualism: It gives them the feeling that they have a special form of knowledge that most other people don't have. On a different tangent, conspiracy theories also appeal to the fear people have of being deceived (which is highly ironic given how deceitful conspiracy theories are.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The two most common excuses for God

Imagine a father who has a child under his care. The father has plenty of food and absolutely no impediment or reason to not take care of his child. Regardless, he just lets the child die of starvation, while simply watching by while the child is withering away, crying and pleading for help. Any sane person would consider this father to be either mentally ill or extremely wicked. Any sane person would certainly agree that this person should be either locked away in a mental institution, or prosecuted for his crime. This is, after all, a perfect example of criminal negligence.

Or imagine another scenario: A father simply watches by while his child is being raped, tortured and beaten to death. The father has no impediment or reason to not interfere and try to help or, at the very least, call a police officer to help. The father sees every gruesome detail of this act, but does nothing to help, not even if his child is asking him directly to help. Again, any sane person would certainly agree that this father is either mentally ill or completely evil, and should be prosecuted appropriately.

A third scenario: A father locks his child in a torture cellar he himself built, and tortures that child for the rest of his life, and the reason he does this is because the child didn't love him enough. Any sane person would again agree that this father is a monster and belongs in a mental institution.

Now consider that according to Christian beliefs, God is doing this all the time: He simply watches people, his own creation, his own "children", starving to death, being raped, tortured and killed, being mutilated by disease and natural catastrophes... and does absolutely nothing to help, even though he's all-powerful and could most certainly do so. Not even if those victims are pleading for help directly from him.

What's worse, not only does God refuse to help those in need, according to Christian theology he will send them to hell to be tortured with indescribable torment for all eternity if they don't love him in the right way.

When you present these problems to Christians, all kinds of excuses will suddenly pop up to defend their god (even if they otherwise would agree with those scenarios I presented above.) It's actually quite ridiculous the lengths to which they are ready to go to defend their own theology.

By far the two most common excuses are "free will" and "Jesus died for us." Yet both of these are complete and absolute non-explanations and make absolutely no sense.

Imagine that the father in the scenarios above is on trial for his crime, and he presents the excuse that he "didn't want to interfere with the rapist's free will." Would any sane person consider that as a valid excuse and exonerate him from his negligence? Of course not. That would be one of the stupidest reasons ever given for not helping those in need.

Or imagine that he presented an excuse like: "But I already helped! I allowed my previous son to die to appease myself, so that my other children would be saved!" Again, any sane person would consider this to be an outright insane argument, and would certainly not absolve the father.

Yet Christians are constantly using these two excuses to absolve their god for his criminal negligence, and they do it with full conviction that these are valid and perfect explanations. And they are so obstinate about them that no matter how you try to point out how nonsensical the explanations are, they will keep repeating them over and over, as if that would somehow make everything alright.

And they have the audacity of claiming that God condemning people to hell for all eternity is the people's fault because it's their "choice." The "it's your choice" argument is one of the most obnoxious ones ever presented. It's basically a sadistic choice. It's exactly the same as if the father told his child "either you love me, or I will torture you in my cellar which I built for that exact purpose, your choice." Again, any sane person would agree that such a person would be a mentally ill monster that should be locked away. Except if he's God, apparently.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Freedom from religion

In the United States, among all the other madness that's going on with regard to Christianity, there's this sentiment going on among some of them that goes like "freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion."

For a long time I was completely puzzled by this, and I'm not the only one. Are they really saying that religion should be forced onto people and that non-religiousness should be banned?

But then I realized what's going on here. Like with so many other things, they are using a different meaning for the concept of "freedom from religion."

You see, when a secularist uses that term, what he means is that religion must not be forced onto anybody. In other words, they must not be forced to belong to nor submit to any church or religious organization, nor forced to attend their events, nor forced to read their literature and so on. They must have the choice of not belonging to nor professing any religion, and that they should be treated equally before the law completely regardless of their religion or lack of, because that's one of the most basic of human rights and freedoms.

However, when these Christians say that "freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion" they mean something different: They think that "freedom from religion" means that nobody has to see or hear about religion anywhere, at any time, in any context. They think that it means that religion should be banned from public display, from TV and the rest of the media, and that nobody has the right to show any religious affiliation or symbolism publicly. In other words, they think that "freedom from religion" means "I don't have to see religion anywhere".

Monday, September 16, 2013

What we are "meant" to do

Sometimes apologists and especially creationists use the silliest of arguments against evolution. One of the silliest ones is the classical "if evolution were true, then it would make it ok to kill the weak and it would justify eugenics."

This is exactly as silly as saying something like "if gravity were true, then it would make it ok to push people off of cliffs" or "if fire were indeed that hot, it would make it ok to burn people with it."

Just because a natural phenomenon happens, or has happened, in a certain way, in no way dictates how we should behave. Natural phenomena do not dictate our morals. In fact, much of our cultural evolution has been all about fighting against normal, "natural" events and conquer them.

There's nothing in nature "guiding" us to do anything in a certain way, nor are we "meant to do" anything in particular. We decide how we deal with our reality as we see fit. If we decide that we should not kill people but instead we should take care of each other, no matter how weak or crippled we are, that's what we can and should do. Our evolutionary history does not dictate any of this. Evolution, and physics in general, is just a completely mindless "automatic" process with no purpose, intent or any kind of "higher meaning" behind it. It just happens. We can make of it whatever we can and want.

Some people who accept evolution are nevertheless quite deluded about it. They often argue how we are "meant to do" this or that because of evolution (or because of whatever natural phenomenon.) Or conversely, how we are "not meant to do" whatever.

Again, this is completely silly. Evolution doesn't "mean" us to do anything. It's just a bunch of natural laws acting on matter and energy. It has no purpose or goal, it just happens. We can do whatever we want with it.

The instinct that many people have that attributes some kind of meaning or intent behind natural phenomena is actually quite deeply ingrained and most probably (and perhaps a bit ironically) a result of our evolutionary past. It's closely related to the concept that there's consciousness behind every phenomenon (which is were the old concepts of there being a "god" for every possible thing comes from.)

Back in the distant past if you saw for example some tall grass moving, it would have been more advantageous for your survival to assume that there was a sentient being (eg. a lion) moving the grass than to think that it was something completely inert (eg. just the wind.) If you assumed that it was a lion, you would flee and have a higher chance of survival. Therefore those whose instinct was to attribute all such phenomena to sentience were naturally selected over those who instinctively did not.

I think this is the root where this whole "we are meant or not meant to do" this or that comes from. We attribute meaning, purpose and sentience to things that have nothing of it.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Holy hallucinations

Many people swear that sometimes, especially when they are either falling asleep or just awakening, they have strongly felt that somebody or something is in the room with them, even though they should be alone (or even if they are with somebody, they feel that a third person or something is there.) This often startles them, and when they awaken, it's gone.

Religious and superstitious people attribute this to spirits, ghosts, demons or other supernatural beings. More rational people attribute them to what they really are: Hallucinations.

Hallucinations are much more common than people realize. They usually happen precisely when a person is just falling asleep or about to awaken. They are very closely related to dreaming, and could be quite sensibly be classified as a type of dream. They are normal and they are in no way indication of mental illness or anything of the sort. Most people have experienced them at least a few times during their lifetimes.

Another form, a rather different one, of hallucination is a strong sense of a great epiphany. The sense that something really deep and fundamental suddenly makes complete sense to you, that you suddenly have a clear understanding of something that's extremely mysterious, unknown, or grandiose. This feeling is often described as "being one with the universe" and other similar things. Sometimes it can be related to something much more mundane or personal, perhaps something that one has been thinking about or something about oneself.

Almost invariably, when the person then awakes fully, they can't remember what that great epiphany was. They just remember the feeling, but not the details. They feel that they had a great answer to something, an amazing understanding of it... and then they just forgot what it was.

Again, this is just a form of hallucination. It's not really that the person understood something or got the epiphany; it's simply that they got the strong feeling that they got it, without actually getting anything. It's not like if they could just at that second write it down or tell somebody, they would have gotten something coherent because there really wasn't anything to say. In actuality it was nothing, just a feeling. In a sense, it could be classified as a momentary delusion caused by the hallucination.

These are some of the sources of such claims, and one of the reasons why some people believe in the supernatural, in having some kind of supernatural senses or powers, or being "connected" to something superior or supernatural.

In reality it's just their own brains playing tricks on them, and them interpreting it as something it wasn't. (As said, this is not indication of mental illness or anything of the sorts. It just happens and it's normal. One should simply realize what they are and take them as such.)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Generalization of credibility

There's a very simple concept that nobody should have any difficulty in accepting: Just because a writing mentions some things that are demonstrably factual, that doesn't automatically mean that everything that's written there is factual.

There's absolutely nothing controversial or strange about this, and it should be quite easy to accept. A work of fiction is the most prominent example: Many works of fiction talk about real places and real events, yet also talk about completely fictional people, events and places. For example, if a book talks about real cities like London or New York, that doesn't give any kind of credibility to what the same book says about, for example, vampires or werewolves.

This is such a simple concept that even a small child ought to understand it. Yet many Christians seem completely incapable of this.

When asked how can we know that what the Bible says is true, they will almost invariable resort to pointing out the few parts of it that are easy to accept. They will point out how, for example, archaeology confirms many of the events and places depicted in the Bible. They will point out things that the Bible says that happen to be true (a good example is the concept of washing hands helping to prevent diseases from spreading.)

For some reason they seem to be incapable of understand the simple concept that simply because a book talks about real places and real events, that doesn't mean that everything that the book claims is true. Yet they use this argument all the time.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Lying as a second nature

It's quite well known among skeptics how much apologists, especially young-earth creationists, lie and how hypocritical they are about it (in other words, while still feigning honesty and sincerity.) However, I got a kind of epiphany of how deeply-ingrained this is in them during a lengthy email conversation with some young-earth creationists recently.

Most apologists, and especially most young-earth creationists, have been brainwashed – and have brainwashed themselves – so thoroughly and so deeply that distorting, misrepresenting, misleading, hiding facts, fabricating facts, rationalizing and outright lying is like a second nature to them. They are so brainwashed into it that they do it willfully and purposefully, yet they still don't realize they are doing it, and convince themselves (besides trying to convince others) that they are being honest, sincere and truthful.

Just as a small example, one of many, quote mining is a very common practice among them, and one which dishonesty is very easy to understand and see. It doesn't require much intelligence and thinking to understand why quote-mining, for example, a big critic of creationism and proponent of the theory of evolution to make him or her sound like they are either supporting creationism or attacking evolution, is quite dishonest.

Even if you heard such a person say something that seemingly goes against everything else they have said previously and afterward, the proper reaction that would show honesty and intellectual integrity would be to ask "what did he mean by that? Am I missing something? Is this perhaps taken out of context? What else did he say in this situation?" In other words, the honest reaction would be to try to find out if they really meant what they seemingly said, or whether it was something else, in order to avoid misrepresenting what that person really thinks.

But that's not how the creationist mindset works. Any utterance, no matter how out-of-context, no matter how disjoint from everything else that person has said, is good enough for them. It doesn't matter what that person really thinks or what they really mean. If it can be used as a weapon against that person in particular and the opposing view in general, it will be used.

While at the same time claiming that sincerity, honesty and integrity are core virtues of Christianity.

And the sad thing is that they don't even see themselves what they are doing. Even if there's a small voice in their mind that says to them something like "hey, perhaps this is not the most honest thing to do", they quiet it and don't listen to it. They don't want to think about it, and subconsciously they maintain a mentality that the end justifies the means, even if it means distorting what others have said (even though they wouldn't admit that even to themselves at a very conscious level.)

They have become so used to this via years of practice and "training" that they have become masters at deceiving themselves. They truly think that they are being sincere, while being blatantly and obviously the opposite.

This is what religion does to people. It distorts their personality, behavior and morality. It makes them do morally condemnable things while still thinking that they are morally pure and superior.

If the god of Christianity really existed, and if he were such a perfect being, I'm sure that he would be shaking his head in sadness seeing these people acting in this way in his name. Even Christians should be ashamed of creationists (even though, sadly, most of them aren't, mostly because of ignorance or a deluded sense of camaraderie and duty towards their "fellow believers.")

There are actually some atheists who were Christians in the past and who started to doubt and to find out how things really work mostly due to being fed up with young-earth creationists. (Many young-earth creationists actually try to "convert" so-called old-earth creationists into becoming young-earth ones, and to some Christians that can be a real eye-opener, but in the opposite direction than the creationists expected.)