belief – Page 2 – The Wayward Willis Podcast

Spiritual vs. Imaginary

Believers have long argued for the existence of beings in the “spiritual realm” which affect the physical universe but cannot be physically detected (except in very certain circumstances and with very few exceptions).  This is convenient, of course, because the believer is free to posit whatever entity he or she wishes without having the arduous task of defending that assertion with actual evidence.  What does “spiritual” mean though?  The dictionary defines it as follows:

1. of, pertaining to, or consisting of spirit; incorporeal.
2.  of or pertaining to the spirit or soul, as distinguished from the physical nature.

That doesn’t really tell me much.  If we’re talking about incorporeal things apart from the physical nature, how is this any different from being imaginary or fictional?  Why do we make such a concessionary definition for a word like “spiritual” when the end result is really the same?

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Mind Your Manners

JT Eberhard’s contributor, Christina, wrote today of an article regarding atheist billboards in Colorado and the reaction of a “research fellow” from Focus on the Family named Glenn Stanton.  He calls the billboards “bad manners” because they mock the beliefs of no less than 70% of Americans.  The billboards read as follows:

God is an imaginary friend; Choose reality, it will be better for all of us.

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Whatsoever Ye Ask

As a Christian I believed that my prayers were not only heard by god but that my prayers were important enough to initiate action.  As with any Christian, my basis for believing this was not grounded in reality but in scripture:

John 14:12,13
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

Clearly, the quotes attributed to Jesus define prayer as a sort of tangible, telepathic request which (in Jesus’ name) will be heard and granted if the person praying has even the slightest bit of real faith.  Jesus describes the amount of faith necessary in Matthew 17:20 as a mustard seed (long considered the smallest seed).  That’s not a whole lot of faith, by anyone’s standards.  However, if this amount of faith is attainable why aren’t more prayers answers and more miracles performed/observed?  The answers to these questions don’t come easy (to a rational mind) but I’ll detail the Christian thought process — or, at least, the thought process as I understood it while I was a Christian — and give my best answer.

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Family Ties

One thing religious people cannot stress enough is that they’re all about family.  Their organizations even have names like Focus on the Family and the American Family Association (branded a hate group out of MS).  For the most part I find this to be true so long as everyone’s keeping the faith and maintaining the status quo.  I can say from my upbringing (aside from corporal punishment and having no say in church attendance) that our Christian family was very tight-knit and we spent a lot of quality time together.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was far better than a lot of other families I’ve seen.  Now, to clarify, some of these not-so-happy families I’ve seen are religious as well so it’s not as though they have a corner on the market.  I’m just speaking to the Christian view that family is important.

As I said, religious families are close-knit and happy so long as everyone’s keeping the faith.  They don’t say, “The family that prays together stays together” for no reason.  It’s literally true.  I found this out myself when I started to upset the status quo of my family and I was made to feel like an outcast.  My family’s treatment of me was mild compared to what some people endure at the hands of their religious parents, grandparents, and siblings.

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Lowering the Bar

Whenhen I was a Christian it seemed like everything I saw pointed to the truth of god’s existence.  I had the Bible, my parents’ word, my Sunday School teachers and preachers, any number of books and pamphlets, and nature itself bolstering my faith.  I felt like I had good reason to believe what I did and I didn’t even have to look for evidence: everything was evidence!

That is, until I actually started examining my beliefs and my reasons for holding them.  What I found was not that the evidence for god was strong, but that I was willing to accept pretty much anything as evidence so long as it adhered to my preconceptions.  Those things that didn’t conform to my beliefs were simply ignored without any thought at all.

Christian evidence
Christian? Evidence? Hmmm.
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The “War” on Christmas Begins Anew

Every single year, without fail, controversy will brew and boil over regarding the Christian-hijacked Winter Solstice celebration known as Christmas.  You might ask what kind of petty, childish, arrogant group of non-believers would subject our good, kind, religious society to such ridiculous outbursts of intolerance and hatred.  Maybe you wouldn’t.  Regardless, it may or may not surprise you to know that it’s the religious people themselves who continue to stir this pot and we irreligious people can either react or let them fight it out among themselves.  I choose to react, but only in a limited capacity.  I’ll comment on the religious mindset and attempt to dispel any myths being spread about how I feel toward Christmas.

This year, Ben Stein has written an essay detailing the problem with not saying, “Merry Christmas.”  You might think that not saying something is harmless.  I know I do.  However, Mr. Stein makes it perfectly clear that not greeting people with a, “Merry Christmas” is directly tied to the downfall of society and the destruction of this country.  Let’s begin.

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Respect for Respect’s Sake

I’ve been in a number of debates in person and online where emotions flared and the conversation eventually boiled down to a variant of the following:

Why can’t you just respect a person’s beliefs?

Here’s the problem with that: not all beliefs are created equal and not all are worthy of respect.  The person saying the above is usually emotionally invested in the beliefs I’ve questioned and is usually unable to present any rational reason for a person holding those beliefs in the first place.  What they’re really saying is, “Since I can’t defend my untenable beliefs I really wish you would leave them alone so I don’t feel like I have to!”

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You Can’t See My Balls

There are two men standing in front of you. One is holding a basketball and the other with just open, outstretched arms. The man with the basketball shows you the ball, describes its color and its size and how its shape and hardness change if you add or remove air using a pump (which he also shows you). He dribbles the ball, takes a couple of shots, and then sits down.

The other guy stands up and tells you he also has a basketball but you can’t sense it in any way and no tests you perform will ever reveal the kind of ball that the other man is showing you. He insists, however, that he has one and that it is, in fact, a basketball. He “dribbles” the ball and makes a couple of “shots” which he insists swished – nothing but net! Then he sits down.

basketball

As a theist/creationist you are choosing to believe the guy with empty hands. Sure, he can’t prove he has a ball but he is really nice, seems really skilled with his basketball, and he said it will make you feel happy if you believe him. Further, he promises that if you continue to believe him you’ll have a basketball just like his someday – but he can’t tell you when.

Let’s think about this for a second. In what area of your life, outside of religion, would you willingly accept this kind of scenario? Under what other circumstances could a person convince you to go completely against your senses and your experience of reality like this? You’re probably finding it difficult to come up with something and I don’t blame you. It’s typical for a believer to compartmentalize and show an unusually high degree of skepticism toward everything except their beliefs. Maybe that’s something on which we should work, yes?

I don’t know about you, but I chose to play basketball with real basketballs and it’s been a more enjoyable game.

Credit for concept goes to “speedjunkie13” from Gixxer.com. Used with permission.

More Facebook Hypocrisy

I can’t figure out why something like this is necessary:

Is Jesus going to give you an extra pillow on your bed in the afterlife for re-posting this? Are you going to convert someone to Christianity by declaring you have an invisible friend? Doubtful. And what kind of irks me is that if I were to counter with something like this:

I personally believe in humanity. One Facebooker has challenged all others to put this on their wall. Nietzsche said, “There is not sufficient love and goodness in the world to permit us to give some of it away to imaginary beings.” This is a simple test. If you love humankind and you are not afraid to show it, re-post this…

I would get backlash because I’m voicing a view that is contrary to the forwarded e-mail mentality surrounding the above Facebook post. Is there a reason I shouldn’t post what I’ve written above? Not really, aside from the fact that it’ll be taken as a retaliation against believers who are forwarding this other thing around (which it obviously is). There’s also the problem of some of the Jesus posters being my family members. That would make it a little less comfortable.

The biggest thing keeping me from actually hitting the “post” button is that I’m not a freaking sheep who just forwards crap around for the hell of it. What would either of these Facebook statuses hope to accomplish? What practical use would either of them have? In my mind, none. They’re just a stupid spam message clogging up the news feed when I could be seeing more important things like what color my friend’s baby’s poop was or how good their sushi was at lunch. You know, things that actually mattersilly

Should I post my counter status or not? What do you think?

Religious Rhinoplasty

My religion has a long-standing tradition, mandated by my all-knowing and loving god of giving all newborns nose jobs so that they’re shaped like a perfect little button. My god doesn’t like bulbous or pointy noses and in order for children to get into eternal paradise, they must follow in obedience to my god and have their nose “perfected.” The procedure is outlined in my holy text wherein it is commanded for each child’s nose to be broken with a smooth stone and set in the shape that pleases my god.


“I’m glad god loves me now that my nose is perfect!”

Don’t you dare tell me that this practice violates my child’s free will or harms them in any way! My god loves us and wants the best for us and the children don’t suffer any kind of lasting trauma from the procedure, even though no anesthetic of any kind can be used. In fact, this procedure has very real health benefits by opening up the nasal passages which eliminates much of the risk of sinus infection, mucosal blockage, and deviated septums. I know this because it says so on Wikipedia. You can look it up for yourself, I’m not going to do your research for you.

When I heard that certain groups were lobbying to make my religious practice illegal, I was outraged! Don’t we have freedom of religion here? Aren’t I free to practice my faith without being molested by the government everywhere I turn? As a parent I ought to be able to make the decision as to whether or not I bash my child in the face with a rock. It’s MY choice! Oh, and I want to make sure that my health insurance is going to cover the procedure, OK? Thanks.

If you think this is a stupid comparison, it’s probably because you have stupid beliefs. I’m not going to sugar-coat it.