The Catholic Cool Kid

The Fonz

Matthew Archbold penned an article in the Catholic Register today wherein he professes to have proof that atheism is not a “cool choice.” Given that premise alone, I wouldn’t really disagree with the guy. The decision to embrace atheism or not, if based on whether it’s “cool,” would be a poorly reasoned decision and demonstrate a thought process counter to what most atheists view as rational or based in logic. We, in the United States, appear to have a fascination with celebrity and perceived authority so it’s no surprise that famous, outspoken atheists can have an impact on people’s decision-making processes but I’d argue that if the “coolness” of these people were the sole basis for someone’s atheism then we’re filling a pool with irrational people that will ultimately undermine the rationalist basis for the atheist movement (if you believe there’s a “movement” as such). In order to “prove” that atheism is uncool, Matthew presents eight arguments against the choice. I’d like to break these down and discuss them.

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Skepticon IV: LIVE BLOGGING!

Well, the awesome first day has now come to an end. Tonight is a night of drinking and revelry and tomorrow is another day of godlessness. It’s a great weekend to be an atheist!!

-Jon
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Revival! Goddamn!!
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7:55 PM
Ready for Brother Sam’s Revival!! I love Sam Singleton and always try to get myself to any social event where he’ll be.
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PZ and me (I’ve obviously gained some weight). He’s a very approachable scientist and a very friendly guy.
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PZ looking for Rebecca Watson for a special presentation because of the shit she’s been taking online.
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7:00 PM
Next up, PZ Myers! I always love hearing him speak and am looking forward to a more science-driven talk. What can I say? I love learning!
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6:30 PM
Rebecca Watson is talking about the religious right’s war against women. Her facts on reproductive health and education are amazing. I came back from dinner too late, unfortunately, but she’s really rocking it. I’m glad I didn’t miss her talk!
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Greta!!! That woman just hits home runs every time. Her talk was “Why are you atheists so angry?”
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4:10 PM
Greta Christina is up next. She’s awesome!!
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3:30 PM
I officially don’t like Julia Galef’s talk about rationality and emotions. It’s not that the information isn’t accurate or useful, it’s just that she’s difficult to follow and her voice is wearing on my ears.
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2:00 PM
Dan Barker has taken the stage to talk about his experiences as a pastor who lost his faith and had to eventually come out as an atheist to stop lying to people. He just told an excellent story about how Christianity solves a problem that Christianity creates:

Man: Good news, folks!
Passersby: What’s that?
Man: You don’t have to go into my basement!
Passersby: Huh??
Man: Yeah, I had built a torture chamber down there and I was going to put you guys down there to do all kinds of nasty things, but it’s OK now! I sent my son down there instead so now I’m satisfied and don’t need to torture you anymore.

Given this scenario (which Christians will recognize as their deity’s salvation plan) would you then fall down and kiss the man’s feet for “saving” you? Honestly.
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My buddy Frank showed up just before the panel discussion! I’m bringing new heathens into the movement. 😀
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1:00 PM
After a delicious Jimmy John’s BLT for lunch, we’re getting ready for a panel discussion on how non-believers address and deal with death. This should actually be really good.

Oh, and as a sidenote, Brother Sam Singleton recognizes me on sight! That’s freaking awesome.
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10:50 AM
I have my picture taken with David Silverman by JT Eberhard. Everyone here is awesome!
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David Silverman took the stage first to talk about what atheism is/isn’t. Great speaker with good presence. He’s a fantastic representative.
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10:05 AM
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9:45 AM
The conference is HUGE this year! Last year there was a really good turnout and I had the opportunity to meet a lot of new people but this year the registration table lines are overflowing into the street. It’s so awesome to see so many freethinkers banding together in Springfield.

Of course, Christian protesters and proselytizers have showed up at the doors to try and save attendees. When we walked up to the theatre, a debate was going on about god’s nature. Good stuff.
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9:00 AM
It’s that time of year again! The Midwest is again host to the largest skeptic and non-believer conference in the area. I’ll be live-blogging for two days, so check back here hourly for the scoop!

Skepticon IV

Skepticon has a new, sexy Web site!

Skepticon is an annual skeptics convention set in Springfield, Missouri. Springfield is home to the Assemblies of God and several religious universities (such as Evangel and Drury). The area is affectionately referred to by many locals as the buckle of the bible belt. This is why in the Fall of 2008, JT Eberhard, Lauren Lane, and the MSU Chapter of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster invited PZ Myers and Richard Carrier to the Missouri State campus to criticize belief in god. The event was well-attended and was retroactively dubbed Skepticon.

If you haven’t attended any of the last three years you’re missing out. The convention features big names in physics, biology, and skeptical inquiry and offers a chance for discussion, questions, and schmoozing with smart people. This year, Polaris Financial Planning has offered a $2,800 matching contribution to donations received through Skepticon’s Donations page (PayPal). Take some time to check it out and donate if you can to make this year’s Skepticon better than ever.

“You Weren’t There!”

When did “you weren’t there” become a valid argument against something for which there’s ample evidence? Why are religious people still using this worn-out, ridiculous meme to try and disprove the Big Bang, abiogenesis or evolution? Let me break down why I, personally, think it’s (I’m not going to mince words) stupid.

Your Grandparents
You weren’t there when your grandparents were born, yet you accept it as fact because your very existence testifies to the event necessarily occurring at some point. This, of course, isn’t direct and verifiable evidence because all you have is (possibly) a paper trail and word-of-mouth testimony.

Your Parents
You weren’t there when your parents were born, yet you accept it as fact for the same reasons as above. You accept that there’s sufficient evidence to produce a working explanation of your descent through your parents and grandparents and you really don’t feel the need to question it a whole lot. You’d never really consider arguing with your parents about these things, using the “you weren’t there” rebuttal, would you?

What would happen if you found evidence that shook the foundations of your knowledge as to your origin? What if you were adopted or conceived via artificial insemination? In this case you’d be mistaken that your parents are actually your parents. Would you re-evaluate the evidence and adjust your understanding/beliefs to fit the facts as you know them? Would you do more research to understand why you were originally mistaken? It makes sense that you would.

Conclusion
Having used the “you weren’t there” argument against scientific concept x, why are you doggedly arguing for a god’s creation of the universe, or the Great Flood, or the crucifixion or Armageddon? You realize that you weren’t there, right? You further realize that the authors of the Bible weren’t there either, right? How is it that your rebuttal “works” against science but not against your own unfounded beliefs? Seriously, what’s the deal with that?

Since your creation myths and outlandish tales of huge, supernatural miracles that left no trace behind seem so implausible — and you’ve been given massive amounts of evidence to explain how these things have come about (just do a search and see for yourself!) — why would you not re-evaluate your beliefs and adjust accordingly? I’m not saying you have to blindly accept whatever some scientist(s) says, but you can’t declare yourself informed while ignoring everything that contradicts what you believe. And you certainly can’t justify using “you weren’t there” to refute scientific theories that have withstood harsh scrutiny from the global scientific community and a barrage of purposely ignorant fundies.

Educate yourself! Learn something! Open your eyes to facts!

Oh, You Dirty, Dirty Humans

Genesis 5 is simply a chronology of people getting it on and having babies. Genesis 6:1-8 tells us a very little bit of the back-story leading up to the Great Flood. We’re going to have problems with this story, so let’s dive right in.

Problem 1: Wickedness
So far we’ve learned of two crimes in the history of mankind: disobedience and murder. After the Cain and Abel incident there is no mention of any significant problem with the population of the planet. We can probably assume the humans were doing human-like things and since getting kicked out of the Garden they probably took a few liberties they wouldn’t have before. Nevertheless, god says (out loud to nobody in particular; I suppose he’s just musing), “My Spirit will not contend with man forever…” Genesis 6:5 says, “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” Only evil all the time? Really? If they were having children and raising them, there had to be some love and basic morality. I find this claim to be absolutely stupid. I can’t put it any other way, it’s really just stupid.

There also seems to be a very real lack of specificity as to what these wicked humans were doing, aside from being human. Knowing that these verses lead up to a very drastic act on god’s part, I’d like to know just how horrible you have to be in order to earn that kind of wrath. I get the feeling that this is a lot like a tantrum that a child throws when his sibling is irritating him. It goes something like this:

Child: “Dad! Billy hurt me!”
Dad: “What did Billy do?”
Child: “He hurt me!”
Dad: “Did he hit you?”
Child: “No.”
Dad: “Did he kick you?”
Child: “No.”
Dad: “Did he bite you?”
Child: “No.”
Dad: “What did he do then?”
Child: “He was being mean!”
Dad: “What was he doing?”
Child: “He was being mean to me!”
Dad: “Go away.”

Can you honestly punish Billy for being mean when nobody will tell you what Billy did? Not really. This problem certainly doesn’t undermine the whole story, but it doesn’t give me a whole lot of confidence in god’s judgment when we notice the trend in his crime-to-punishment ratio so far.

Problem 2: Lifespan
In Genesis 6:3, god muses, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.” I find this statement odd because we already learned that man would not live forever when they got kicked out of the Garden. God already knew that man was mortal and he already knew that they weren’t going to live forever. It’s obvious he wasn’t imposing strict limits as to how long man could live but we know they were dying because the Bible tells us that a bunch of people died. So…what’s the problem? And how many people do you know who live to be 120 years old? Not many.

Anyway, prior to this observation humans were living for a gazillion years. OK, not a gazillion but a really long time. Here’s a list of old people:

  • Adam: 930 years
  • Seth: 912 years
  • Enosh: 905 years
  • Kenan: 910 years
  • Mahalalel: 895 years
  • Jared: 962 years
  • Enoch: 365 years (poor guy, god took him early)
  • Methuselah: 969 years
  • Lamech: 777 years

Noah was 500 years old when he started having kids and is said to have lived a total of 950 years. No mention is made post-flood as to how long Noah’s descendants lived. I’m assuming none of them got past 120 years…

Problem 3: Nephilim
Humans were having babies left and right and some of those are coming out female. Apparently the female babies were nice-looking and the “sons of God” took them as wives. They just married any of them they chose! Imagine the audacity! Anyway, these “sons of God” appear to be either angels or the offspring of Seth depending on who you ask. You can read up on it and decide for yourself.

When the “sons of God” had children with the daughters of man, those children were called “Nephilim,” described by the Bible as “heroes of old, men of renown.” They were supposed to be giants who were alive prior to the Great Flood and also afterward (a problem for my next post).

My major problem with the Nephilim is that they seem wholly irrelevant to the story unless god is specifically mad at them. God seems to have major issues with the humans, but this interjection about the “sons of God” mating with human women seems to suggest that it’s these “sons of God” who are the real problem. Perhaps angels were strictly prohibited from having contact with humans, I don’t know. In any case god ought to acknowledge to whom the blame really falls and if the “sons of God” and Nephilim aren’t the issue then I’d really just as soon have them left out of the story. They’re distracting me and my ADHD can’t handle it!

Problem 4: God Admits a Mistake
Genesis 6:6 says, “The Lord was grieved that he had made man on earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” How could a perfect being be grieved that he had done something? He purposely made the humans and knew exactly what was going to happen when he kicked the humans out of the Garden but for some reason he’s surprised at what’s going on? No, I’m sorry, this just doesn’t make sense at all. God showing remorse for his own actions constitutes a mistake, and a perfect being cannot make a mistake. This story’s falling apart.

Problem 5: Over-reaction!
Genesis 6:7 says, “So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.'”

Remember how in the last verse god said he regretted making man? Well, now he’s extending that to every living being on the planet – he’s an equal opportunity regretter. So now the animals are going to suffer because the humans screwed up. Don’t you hate that? It’s like when you lose your recess because that one kid with the B.O. who doesn’t raise his hand yelled out an answer in class! Damn that Stinky McStinkypants! In this story, humans are all Stinky McStinkypantses and the animals are now pissed off that they’re missing recess. Do you still maintain that your god is a just and loving god? I don’t.

Conclusion
What have we learned from this story? That humans were horrible, wicked creatures that all deserved to die with no chance of repentance or vicarious salvation? Well, not really. We never really learned why the humans were so wicked and we’ll learn later on in the Bible (SPOILER ALERT) that god actually does have a plan for redeeming humans without having to destroy them all wholesale.

You want to know what I learned from this story? God flies off the handle at everything! Seriously, it’s like he’s got no self-control whatsoever. Not an attractive quality in an all-powerful deity, wouldn’t you say? So far, the Bible doesn’t have a single story that a level-headed person can read and say, “That makes perfect sense without having to squint or do any kind of mental gymnastics at all!” Not one. Stick around for the Great Flood…

Cain Wasn’t Abel to Please God

Moving on to Genesis 4, we learn about Adam and Eve’s two sons: Cain and Abel. As if the story of the “fall of man” didn’t seem like it was written by an underachieving sixth-grader, we’re now going to dumb things down so all you fourth-graders out there have something to read. As expected, this story has problems and I’ll tell you just exactly what some of them are.

Problem 1: Reproduction
As you may or may not recall from my last blog post, Adam and Eve were damned and thrown out of paradise because they were purposely created too ignorant to understand what disobedience and sin were. Along with being banished, they were commanded to make more of themselves! Yes, that’s right, the most perfect being in the universe was so angry with these two sinners he told them to immediately go out and start breeding like rabbits. I’m not making this up. So Adam and Eve started breeding and popped out two sons: Cain first and then Abel. Presumably, the boys made it to their teens without any more brothers and sisters (or the documentation was pretty shoddy at this point).

Problem 2: Favoritism
Cain was a gardener and Abel was a shepherd. At some point, the boys got to talking and decided to bring the best of their best offerings to god to show him just how much they loved him. Cain, of course, brought fruits and grains in this bundle of healthy, fiber-rich hippie food. Abel, on the other hand, brought leg of lamb and a big tub of lard that would clog the arteries of even a deity who worked out at the YMCA every day…and took Lipitor regularly. I’ll tell you something: god is not a vegetarian. So god, who loves everyone equally, told Abel that his offering was awesome and Cain’s sucked. That’s bound to piss anybody off, right?

Problem 3: Divine Nonsense
Cain was mad. He had put a lot of work into gathering his hippie food for god and got the cold shoulder. So god, in that incredibly sensitive way he has of comforting people, told Cain to suck it up and stop being such a goddamned baby. Not only that, but he told Cain that if Cain did what was right then he’d always be accepted. So…was offering the best of what he had to give not “right?” Silly carnivorous god!

After he imparted that glaring contradiction, he told Cain that sin was crouching at his door (the Bible doesn’t mention that these people had made houses at this point, so I’m not even sure if Cain knew what a door was) and he had to “rule over it.” Cain, at this point, was probably like, “OMG, WTFSRSLY?”

Problem 4: Murder?
Cain asked Abel to go chill with him in the fields and was still so angry (and confused from what god just told him) that he killed his brother.

Now, here’s where things are a little fuzzy for me. Christians keep telling me that our moral code is derived from god’s 10 Commandments and that without them we’d be raping each other and stealing each others’ baseball cards and eating too much. I don’t agree (I will always eat too much regardless), but if we granted them this premise then at this point the 10 Commandments didn’t exist. How is it then that Cain, without a moral code, should have felt guilty about killing his brother or should have been punished as though it were a sin? After all, he was really pissed off. God never told anybody that killing was wrong. In fact, god’s plan was to murder anybody who ate the knowledgeberries. Remember those? What kind of example does that set?

So while this is an issue for Christian sticklers of 10 Commandment-based morality, let’s take a humanist approach and say that we all inherently know that killing other humans is bad. Cain murdered his brother and god found out (again with this “finding out” stuff! Doesn’t god already know this?) and cursed Cain and took away his gardening skills. Bad Cain, no granola for you!

Problem 5: Spontaneous Humans!
God told Cain that he would drive him from his home and he would wander the Earth restlessly (can you restfully wander the Earth?). Cain felt overwhelmed and asked god for mercy because everywhere he went, people would try to kill him.

Wait!

What people? So far as we know, Adam and Eve were the first humans created and when they got kicked out of the garden, they had two sons and one of those was now dead. There are three friggin’ people on the planet. Of whom is Cain afraid?! Nobody knows, not even god, because god told Cain that he’d put a special mark on his forehead so nobody (whoever this “nobody” was) would kill him and Cain started his restless wandering…restlessly.

Problem 5: Sex With Your Sister
Cain went into the land of Nod and made love to his wife.

Wait!

I think I just skipped something, let me see here: Genesis 4:16 says Cain wandered into Nod and Genesis 4:17 says Cain made sweet love to his wife. From where in the frick did this woman come? Where is Nod? How many people lived there? Were they all Cain’s brothers and sisters or were they magically conjured up from dirt? The Bible doesn’t say.

We have to assume that these people were all products of the original mating pair of humans but there’s a problem with that:

Problem 6: Timelines
Adam and Eve had another son and named him Seth. When Seth was born, Eve said that god had given her another son to replace Abel since Cain killed him. It seems to me this is still a fresh wound and this verse would suggest that Seth was born while Cain was wandering. It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that not that much time had passed between Abel dying and Seth being born. However, just for sake of argument let’s call it a full generation (~30 years). If that was the case, then Adam and Eve would not have had time to have enough children between Abel and Seth for them to have grown up, migrated, and started settlements (like the land of Nod). This means that Cain would have entered the land of Nod prior to its being inhabited. Do you see the disconnect, kids? I do.

Conclusion
What have we learned from this story? That god is a meatatarian? No. We’ve learned that god’s purposeful creation of ignorant beings with no moral compass led to the first murder and incestuous relationship ever recorded and that the Bible was unfortunately written before the invention of clocks and calendars.

Now, again, some may argue that this story is allegorical and that we’re merely supposed to learn a lesson about not killing your brother and sleeping with your sister or something but no matter how you slice it, it’s got problems from a moral standpoint.

First, god says he loves us all but he clearly shows favoritism. That’s bad. Second, god purposely created ignorant knuckleheads and never told them not to beat each other to death and was surprised to see that one of the knuckleheads beat the other knucklehead to death. That’s ridiculous. Third, god’s punishments always seem disproportionate to the crime – not only was Cain banished from his home but he was cursed so that he’d never be able to grow any food again for as long as he lived. That’s cruel, although it doesn’t seem to have affected Cain much since he went right out and made whoopee (does anybody say that anymore?) with some spontaneously-generated chick. I’m amending “cruel” to “bull crap.”

Stay tuned for the next installment! New blog time, same blog channel.

A More Perfect Solution

Comments on a recent blog post of mine prompted me to do a thought experiment. Seeing as how the Bible has been fragmented, pieced together, translated, interpreted and altered is there a better way than the written word for god to have disseminated what could be considered the most important information in the history of the world? I think so.

I’m running with the standard model of the Biblical god for this example meaning he is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent and omnipresent. He is perfect and unconstrained by time and space. Consider this:

When a child reaches the age of 12 he or she is considered by god to have the capacity to understand the concept of his existence and Jesus’ sacrifice for their eternal salvation. On each child’s 12th birthday, god visits them in a vision. During this vision, the child is locked in a trance state where no stimuli other than god can be experienced. In the vision, god reveals to each child that he’s their Heavenly father, he created them because he loves them, and that they have the choice to accept Jesus’ gift of salvation. He reveals this in their native tongue without using parables or vague language. When the vision ends, the child is released from the trance state feeling refreshed.

At this point, the child has the choice to use his or her free will to either accept the vision as truth or reject the vision as a delusion. They have the choice to accept the gift of salvation or reject it as nonsense.

Here’s the rub: the vision is the same no matter the culture, language, or dialect of the child. A child in India can compare their vision to that of a child in Zimbabwe, Chile or Canada and the description will be identical. Some will accept this for the miracle that it is and rejoice. Others will consider it coincidence or mass hysteria and dismiss it out of hand. Others may take years to decide what they think but no matter what the message was clear, concise, and cannot be misinterpreted.

Would that not be (at the very least) a better solution than a vague book full of magical stories and parables? It certainly beats the telephone game of the oral tradition.

Here’s the question: what problems do you see with this approach?

I’ll Have the Garden Salad with Damnation Dressing

The Christian story of the “fall of man” is a tale of magnificent power, poor decision-making skills, cunning linguists, and problems…lots and lots of problems. I’ll give you the ones that immediately spring to mind. This takes into account the literature from the Bible in Genesis 1:26-31, Genesis 2, and Genesis 3:1-19.

Problem #1: Ignorance
God creates human beings with free will – although he never gave us a choice as to whether or not we wanted free will or even to be created at all. As Christopher Hitchens says, “Of course we have free will; we have no choice!” What god does not create humans with is the knowledge of good and evil – that is to say, they had no sense of right and wrong and no way to tell if disobedience was a sin – or even what “disobedience” or “sin” were. I doubt their vocabulary included such complex words. They were completely innocent.

Problem #2: Temptation
God creates the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” (sounds like a metaphor, right?) right smack dab in the middle of the ignorant human beings’ living space. This tree produces delicious-looking, aromatic fruit (not apples though, they’re more like “knowledgeberries”) so – of course – god tells the humans not to touch it. In fact, it would probably be best if they didn’t even look at it. Perhaps just forget it’s even there…even though it’s in your living room. Oh, and it’ll kill you.

Problem #3: Clarity
God instructs the humans not to eat the fruit and tells them that the day they eat the fruit they’ll die, right then and there. He didn’t give them a definition of “die” and from everything I’ve heard, the humans at this point had no experience whatsoever with death because everything was perfect in the Garden and nobody ate meat…not even the meat-eating predators. One could argue that telling someone who has never seen or heard of death that they’re going to die doesn’t really have the impact that you’d expect. Anyway (SPOILER ALERT), the point is we’ll see later that god bent the truth on this one because the humans didn’t die the same day they ate the fruit and, in fact, lived on to bear many children.

Problem #4: Outside Influence
God creates a talking, ambiguous serpent and sets it loose in the Garden, fully aware that the paths of the humans and this serpent would cross and that the serpent was a tricky little guy who derived pleasure from messing with people’s heads (or at least, it would seem). Now, one could argue that setting up a scenario like this is a test. I would argue that this scenario is nothing short of a masterful chef’s no-bake recipe for disaster. Either way, it displays a woeful lack of foresight on god’s part.

The talking serpent convinces the woman (oh, of course it’s the woman because they’re weaker than men, right?) to just have a taste of the knowledgeberries because she’s most likely misinterpreting what god is saying and should actually be listening to what his words mean. Now, I don’t know how things worked in the Garden but if I were confronted with an eloquently-spoken Gecko accosting me with persuasive arguments, I’d be inclined to buy his insurance.

Problem #5: Nonintervention
Anyway, the woman exercises her (coerced) free will by eating the fruit and convinces the man that he also misinterpreted what god meant so he eats it as well. God is chilling somewhere else at this point. Maybe he was in the shower or something. Of course when god gets back and finds out (didn’t he already know?) he damns them and all of their descendants for all time. That includes you, bub.

Conclusion
What have we learned from this story? It’s best not to make decisions on an empty stomach, right? No. We’ve learned that god is a sadist who intentionally created humans ignorant so that he could have the pleasure of damning them forever after laughing at their decision to save 30% or more on car insurance (they didn’t even own a car!).

Now, the creation myth is said to be allegorical by some and literal by others but no matter how you slice it, it’s got problems from a moral standpoint.

For one, god gives humans free will but keeps them completely ignorant of right and wrong and therefore the consequences of their actions. That’s pretty bad. To make things worse, he puts the innocent-looking device that will cause their destruction within their arms’ reach. That’s horrible. Let’s not stop there though, because we haven’t yet introduced the cunning serpent who gets created with the powers of speech and convinces the humans (who don’t know right from wrong) that it’s OK to set the doomsday device off. That’s detestable! But wait, there’s more! Next we’re going to damn the humans for making a choice that was a product of their god-given free will combined with their god-induced ignorance. That’s disgusting! Don’t stop there, though. While we’re damning people we may as well extend the punishment out for eternity, applicable to every descendant of the humans without exception. That’s just pure, unfettered evil.

I Have No Soul

I have several problems with the concept of a soul (or spirit, or whatever you may choose to call it). Aside from the argument for lack of evidence, there are issues facing a person who claims that humans have souls that are created by God and that outlive the body on a separate, spiritual plane of existence. I’ll outline these issues as follows:

IF I HAVE A SOUL, WHY DO I NEED A BODY?

This first question stems from the idea that God creates human souls (I’m not sure when) and implants them or attaches them to the fertilized egg at conception so that the bundle of cells becomes a viable human. Never mind that 25% of these “viable humans” will be naturally aborted or miscarried without intervention from humans. What I don’t get is this: God’s ultimate plan for everybody is that their souls reside in Heaven with Him eternally and that we are all happy, healthy, and free of sin. So…why do I need a body? If my soul would be happy in Heaven then why can we not forego all of the formality, suffering, and nonsense and just get right to the end goal? If God cares nothing at all for my body and only wants my soul, then He should have just created my soul in Heaven directly. It’s reasonable, it’s simple, it’s loving, and it accomplishes the goal with zero room for error.

WHERE WAS MY SOUL BEFORE I WAS BORN?

Since we’re assuming that God creates souls, but don’t know when He does it, we might assume that He created my soul a long time ago and was waiting for my parents to find each other and conceive the body into which He would ultimately place my soul. This begs the question(s): how long was my soul around before it was joined to my body, and where was it? If my soul was in heaven with God waiting to be transplanted, then I find it particularly disturbing and despicable that He wouldn’t have just left me there. After all, Heaven is where He wants me to end up, isn’t it?

If my soul was not in Heaven with God, then where was it? What other existential plane is there on which my soul may have sat in wait for a body? The flip side to this question relies on the idea that souls don’t exist prior to being joined with a body and that God creates them at the point of conception (kind of a chicken-and-egg argument, in my opinion). This brings us to my next question.

WHEN DOES GOD CREATE SOULS?

If, statistically, 25% of all pregnancies end in natural abortion or miscarriage then we have to question when, exactly, God is creating these souls. Is there a period of time during which the bundle of cells is under observation and in a probationary period before God deems them worthy of being joined to a soul? If not, and God joins the soul immediately at the time of conception, then why does He deem some souls lucky enough not to have to undergo the suffering of mortality and get a “Go Straight to heaven” card? Is He showing favoritism, or is He just shooting dice with these souls and they happen to hit the jackpot? If these souls were destined to end up in Heaven without having to struggle through life, then why did He bother with their conception (obviously wasted energy and resources for nothing) and bonding of their souls at all? He would have already known where they were going, because they never got to exercise their free will (a central tenet of religions which I find incredibly contradictory).

WHY IS GOD STILL CREATING SOULS?

God presumably knew prior to creating the first human soul that He would have to mourn their poor decisions, deal with sin, and eventually sacrifice His son for their forgiveness. The question then arises: why did God – angry at Adam and Eve for sinning – command them to go out and make more sinners?! To whom does that make any sense at all? Not to me. So perhaps my biggest question is why God is even creating souls at all. If I were in charge, I would have just let the two sinners die, send their souls wherever they needed to go, and call it good enough – an experiment that turned out poorly and from which I can learn a valuable lesson.

WHY DOES MY SOUL NOT DEFINE ME?

If we have non-corporeal souls that outlive us, then whatever defines who we are should be contained in that soul. That is to say, our personality, our compassion, our jealousy and anger and greed should not simply be a product of chemical reactions in our physical brains, but should transcend our bodies on the spiritual plane. If we have these souls, then they would not be affected by drugs, social pressures, local culture, or trauma. Regardless of what was happening to our bodies, we should always be exactly what our soul defines us to be. We know this isn’t the case. Brain trauma sometimes causes an irreversible shift in a person’s personality to the point where – behaviorally – they would be unrecognizable even to their own family. Drugs cause personality shifts and behavioral changes where people will do things and say things they would otherwise never do or say. It can be argued that moving to a different geographical location or immersing oneself in a different culture causes fundamental shifts in behavior and personality as well. We tend to change ourselves to suit our surroundings if we are unable to change our surroundings to suit ourselves.

How could this happen if we have an immortal soul? I don’t think it could, and I have yet to come across an argument convincing me that this question isn’t valid.

IF I HAVE A SOUL, WHY DO I NEED A BRAIN?

Even if my soul doesn’t define my personality, then it is said that it is what gives me life. Religious people often claim that our brains are so complex and amazing, it couldn’t possibly be reduced simply to electrical impulses and chemical reactions – an argument from incredulity. But why, if I have an immortal soul that gives me life, do I need a brain? Why doesn’t my soul do that work? Why isn’t my soul more actively and apparently involved in my living process? This may be the weakest of my problems with the soul concept, but it’s still a problem.

IF ANIMALS HAVE NO SOULS, HOW DO THEY LIVE?

It is commonly accepted and stated as fact in religious circles that only humans bear a soul. Animals don’t have souls and they don’t go to Heaven or Hell. It seems odd then that animals have identical living processes to humans – that is, brains, hearts, digestive systems, etc. Why do we look the same as animals on the inside if we’re so much different? Why are we made up of exactly the same material? This makes absolutely no sense. If humans have souls, then animals must also have souls because we can find no fundamental difference between animals and humans (who, as we all know, are still animals). I find it frustrating to think that any religious person could hold to this idea and even go so far as to construct some type of elaborate defense of this position that defies all logic and reason.

I HAVE NO SOUL.

Given that these questions are never answered, I have to operate under the assumption that I have no immortal soul. As such, I am not in any terrible danger of ending up in Hell and I have no reason to make myself subservient to an oppressive deity on the off-chance I might make it to Heaven. Instead, I’ll act as though this life is the only one I get; that I should be kind to my fellow humans in the hopes that it will propagate to all and we’ll live in peace; that my happiness here on Earth is my ultimate goal, so long as I don’t harm others in my attempts to attain it; that I should not waste a single moment of my life bowing and scraping to an invisible person who doesn’t care about my mortal existence anyway. I’ll just be the best human I can be. Is that so bad?