S1E12: What Even Is Apologetics?

Show Notes

Jon and Logan discuss bananas, assertions, and logical fallacies (not phalluses).

Jon and Logan talk to Matt Dillahunty about debates, magic, and stupid arguments.
https://www.mattdillahunty.com
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Twitter: @Matt_Dillahunty

Jon rants about the apologetics used by 2nd Amendment nuts. “Trigger” warning?

Jon and Logan break down a verse from the Qur’an and learn that unbelievers get chained to giant penises.

Intro music by Austin Colón: http://austincolon.wixsite.com/music
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“True” Tolerance

A lot of people have probably already seen the Focus on the Family’s new Web site, truetolerance.org. This site appears to be a response to public schools’ anti-bullying programs where children are presented with the idea that different lifestyles are not evil. The way they present the information, it’s positioned as though implementing anti-bullying laws against sexual orientation is exactly identical in every way to not-so-subtly suggesting that everybody should choose that sexual orientation. They’re trying to turn kids gay!

Concerned about homosexual advocacy in your child’s school? You’ve come to the right place. TrueTolerance.org helps you respond in a loving and fact-based way. Click the links below for tips on communicating with your school officials.

Check out this PDF!


Teh gayz iz infexus!

In the video on the front page the woman explains that in some classes they even present sexually graphic material to the children. Now, I’m not personally involved in the school systems but I have to seriously doubt the veracity of this statement – unless the “sexually graphic” material being presented is akin to the “sexually graphic” content of sex ed classes. In that case, I’d suspect that it’s presented in a clinical manner to educate, not to indoctrinate. I have a hard time believing that our schools are trying their damnedest to convert the entire school to homosexuality. What would be the point??


Welcome to sex ed, m’kay?

I ran into a similar argument when I was talking to my father some time ago about homosexuality. He told me that homosexuals are recruiting and that they try to get kids as young as possible so they can mold them and turn them gay. I was appalled and felt nauseated. All I could do is tell him that I knew nothing of any homosexual recruiting campaign. I added that since his religion pretty much perfected and perpetuates this sort of tactic, he’s really just projecting. I mean, apart from the church(es), what group of people can you name who starts indoctrinating children straight out of the womb?


Get ’em while they’re young!

Anyway, Focus on the Family sickens me to no end. My parents idolize James Dobson and his hate-filled views on the world, transparently disguised as “family values.” They want to retain their rights to persecute and marginalize groups of people and are attempting to organize their lackeys to petition school districts and governmental representatives with their boilerplate e-mails and “educational materials” so that these anti-bullying laws will be repealed. Just what, do you suppose, Jesus would freaking do?!

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.

There is Noah One Righteous

Genesis 6:9-22 tells the story of Noah and the events leading up to the Great Flood. As usual, I have problems with this story and I’d love to tell you what they are. Let’s get started, shall we?

Problem 1: Corruption
Genesis 6:11 says the Earth was corrupt and full of violence. How corrupt are we talking? Like, invalid block in the hard drive’s boot sector corrupt? Or starting wars in oil-rich countries so you can award government contracts to your corporate buddies corrupt? And how violent are we talking? Like, Tom and Jerry violent? Or slaughtering entire populations of people based on their ethnicity or religious adherence violent? The Bible doesn’t specify, but we’re told that it’s really, really corrupt and really, really violent. In fact, we’re told that “all the people on Earth had corrupted their ways.” Everyone. Every single person was corrupt and had no redeeming qualities. That’s terrible!

But wait! Apparently that was an exaggeration kind of like when your parent comes into your room and yells, “It looks like a tornado came through here!” when there’s really only a pair of pants on the floor and your bed isn’t made.


That’s a messy room!

Anyway, we’ve learned in Genesis 6:9 that Noah is a righteous and blameless man so it’s obvious that not every single person on the planet is bad. God is talking to Noah and says he simply cannot abide the corruption and violence of the people on the Earth anymore and is going to destroy both the people and the Earth because of it. Did you get that? The people are so corrupt, god is going to destroy the Earth. It might just be me but this seems like an overreaction.

Problem 2: Inconsistency
How corrupt is “corrupt?” We don’t even know what these people were doing in the first place. The Bible simply says the Earth was corrupt and full of violence (kind of like today…or any other time in human history).

If god’s problem with the people on the planet was that they were corrupt and violent then why, at various times throughout Biblical history, did he not perform drastic cut-backs in the population when things got out of hand? The Bible clearly indicates throughout the Old Testament that the majority of people on the planet were vile god-haters and only the Israelites were worthy of his love…sometimes. So why wasn’t god consistently wiping out all of the wrong-doers? Did he learn a lesson from the flood? Did he amend his standards for “corruption?” Who knows. Moving on…

Problem 3: Slash-and-Burn
God tells Noah to build an ark to his specifications because he’s going to flood the entire Earth and kill every living thing under the heavens – this includes animals. Do you want to know why I think this is stupid? Because god is supposed to be all-powerful. All-powerful means he can literally do anything. Anything at all. For instance, he could cause only the corrupt and violent humans to fall dead and vanish, leaving only the people who are decent and loving. Let’s say mine is the “scalpel technique” and let’s compare it to god’s “atom bomb technique”:

God’s plan is literally to flood the entire planet with water and kill every single thing that lives (regardless of any redeeming qualities it may have) except for one family (of flawed humans) and a representative sample of animals (excluding dinosaurs) — no mention of plants — who will then repopulate and replenish the Earth at such time the flood waters recede and dry land is once again accessible.

A bit excessive? Definitely. And, as we’ll find out, also very ineffective.

Problem 4: God’s Human Error
God established a covenant with Noah and his family that he would save them from the flood. This includes Noah, his wife, and his three sons with their respective wives. Eight people will be saved. But remember, the only person we know of who is righteous and blameless is Noah. That means god is saving seven corrupt people. Why would god save seven corrupt people when the whole reason for this flood is to rid the world of corruption? I’m sure there’s a great apologetic answer, so I can’t wait to hear it.

Problem 5: Incest
Remember, only a single family is going to repopulate the Earth. This is the second time in the Bible that widespread incest is going to occur. The first, if you remember, was after the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Why do adherents of the scripture gloss over this and deem it OK? It’s not cool to have sex with your brother or sister and there are very good reasons why. What is the deal with the Bible’s obsession with familial sexy time?

Problem 6: Fish
God lays out his plans for taking along two of every kind of bird, animal and creature that moves along the ground (does this exclude flying insects? Why the freak do we still have mosquitoes?!) but completely neglects to mention what will happen to the fish. As you may or may not know, there are two types of fish — fresh-water fish and salt-water fish. Fresh-water fish cannot survive in salt-water and vice versa. When the Earth is flooded, there will be a mixing of water to where the salt-water will be diluted and the fresh-water will be salinated. What, do you suppose, will happen to every single fish on the planet when this happens? Here’s a hint: THEY DIE!

Conclusion
What have we learned from this story? That fish were more resilient in Biblical times? Well, not really. We’ve learned that god doesn’t know how to deal with his problems using reason and compassion. Instead of finding a way to help the humans who were decent and only eliminate those who were genuinely bad, he opted to just snuff them all and kind of, sort of start over. The problem is that god didn’t take into account that the humans he was saving weren’t a whole lot better than the humans we was killing. If that’s not the mark of incompetence, I’m not sure what is.

Of course there are people who believe this is actual history and I don’t know how they force themselves to believe that, but I’m a little more at ease (although not in agreement) with those who say this is just a story to illustrate a moral lesson. What’s the lesson? Don’t be corrupt and violent, I guess. The reason I disagree with both of these groups of people is because I don’t feel this story has a good moral. I don’t feel like it’s a beautiful story of god’s love for mankind that he would spare a family in the midst of squalor and give them a second chance. It’s a story of how god fails at problem-solving, plain and simple. What the hell is his problem?

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…

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 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?