religion – Page 7 – The Wayward Willis Podcast

Is Religion Camera Shy?

I’m trying to put together a one-on-one interview series with people of all different faiths and so far I’ve contacted two Christian pastors, a Mormon, a Buddhist, and the administrator at the Jewish temple in Springfield. I let them know that I’m not interested in debate but want the opportunity to ask some probing questions about their religion(s) and give them the chance to give as detailed answers as they want. In every case, I was told that they’d be happy to talk to me but would not be willing to be recorded either on video or audio. What gives?

I’m wanting to discuss their religion in a candid, open format with no argument or ridicule and none of them are willing to go on record? What good is a religion if you’re secretive about it? How do you expect other people to understand you and your beliefs if you’re not willing to open up to an audience? This would be a great opportunity to dispel some misinformation, explain some myths, and relate to people why you believe your religion is based on truth. I just don’t get it.

I’m wondering how I can get believers to open up and help me with my educational project. I’m really hoping to someday be able to gather a representative sample of the world’s religions and put together a nice series of videos that can bridge some gaps. I just don’t understand why there’s so much resistance.

Where should I be looking?

God Made You Wrong

I’ve been involved in some discussion about circumcision and recently read a review of a TV show on “Praying the Gay Away.” Discussion on either of these topics can get pretty heated but there’s kind of a theme to it all. In either case there’s this strange kind of admission by theists that god made a mistake when he made you. That is, you either have more penis than he wanted you to have or you’re attracted to people to whom he’d rather you not be attracted. Doesn’t anybody find this odd?

In the Old Testament god laid out his provision for slicing up infants’ penises for some reason even though god supposedly creates each male in the womb and adds the foreskin to the little guy. If god finds the foreskin to be such a problematic piece of anatomy why didn’t he just omit it in the design? What’s with the genital mutilation? And why has our society come to accept that it’s anything other than an archaic, barbaric, religious practice and made up lame excuses as to the usefulness of circumcision in hygiene, AIDS prevention, and fertility? How come none of these people making these excuses would advocate elective cosmetic surgery of any other type on infants? That’s what circumcision is, after all.

The struggles of a homosexual in resolving his/her identity with his/her religion seem to be illustrative of the most painful mental torture one could undergo. You realize that your attraction to the same sex is not a conscious decision so you must have been made that way but you realize that your god hates it when you entertain your natural desires. In order not to displease your god you must deny your nature – which, presumably, he instilled in you when you were created. Yet there are religious homosexuals out there struggling on a daily basis to suppress their true selves in favor of pleasing an intolerant deity. Why??

When you say that god needs you to remove your foreskin or that he’s not OK with you being attracted to the same sex, you’re admitting that god makes mistakes! Not just one or two mistakes, but millions and billions of them! Is your god perfect or not? Is your god loving or not? Seems to me the best way to resolve this conflict is to admit that it’s your own personal bias causing these dilemmas and that your god is imaginary. Get on that, m’kay? Thanks.

Actually, consider this: instead of your god having made you wrong…maybe you made your god wrong.

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?

Legislating School Curriculum?

Kentucky State Senator Joe Bowen has resurrected a bill that was killed last November that “sets the foundation” for offering Bible classes in Kentucky schools. Admittedly, nothing prevents public schools from offering comparative religion courses now. This begs the question as to why the state government would feel the need to even introduce such legislation in the first place.

I can think of one answer: Bowen is a Christian who feels that the current school curriculum is too secular and that Kentucky children are being led astray from core Christian principles. This is another push by religious zealots to have their view spread to everyone by any means necessary.

Now, to be perfectly clear, this bill would not require that all Kentucky schools offer a Bible class as a requisite to obtaining a high school diploma. The classes would be electives and that, I think, is their only redeeming quality.

First question: why isn’t Bowen pushing for Qur’an classes? Why not Bhagavad Gita classes? Or Buddhavacana classes? The answer is obvious. Bowen doesn’t want to educate children about world religions. He wants them to learn about his religion.

Second question: since when does the State Senate dictate school curriculum? Isn’t that the job of the school board? Kentucky’s department of education organizational chart is here (PDF). It steams me that the state government (even though it’s not my state) is wasting time and resources fighting battles in which it shouldn’t be involved.

Third question: aren’t there Sunday School classes every Sunday in Kentucky churches? If a child wants to hear about the Bible in a classroom setting they already have ample opportunity! Keep your religion in your church and we’ll keep logic and rational thought in the schools.

Can we please stop our lawmakers from spreading this kind of arrogance and ignorance across the entire country? Please, people, let’s do something about this!

Using the first link (“resurrected a bill”) you can vote in the news channel’s poll. Not that it’ll mean anything, but go vote this down. As of the time of this posting there’s an overwhelming majority voting YES for these antics.

Bowen photo courtesy Facebook.

Complexity Does Not Equal Intelligence

Disclaimer: I’m not a scientist, but I did once stay at a Holiday Inn Express.

Intelligent Design (ID) or as I prefer to call it, Incompetent Design, advocates have stated that the universe, the Earth, and the human body are so complex they couldn’t possibly have “just happened” or evolved. The Irreducible Complexity argument fails to take into account a very elementary concept: fewer moving parts mean fewer points of failure.

It’s representative of a very basic and fundamental flaw in reasoning that a person could look at the human body and think it’s been designed by some being of incredible intelligence outside of space and time as we know it. Had the human body been designed (by a being more intelligent than a high-schooler), we should expect to see the fewest possible parts serving the maximum possible purpose. We should not expect to see vestigial or redundant organs and bone structures or organs that are inferior to other examples in nature that serve the same purpose.

When you then attribute this work to a god who is said to be perfect and all-knowing then you have huge hurdles to overcome. If this god knows everything and doesn’t make mistakes, then why does it appear that the human body has undergone major overhauls and gone “back to the drawing board” several times? The design of the human body certainly doesn’t indicate any kind of special creation over any other animals on the planet as we have much the same structures and mechanisms that every other living being has except some of ours don’t work as well. We’re susceptible to all sorts of diseases and conditions that make our bodies frail and lead to devastating failure. This isn’t the mark of an expert craftsman.

This is a ridiculous argument for IDers to make and I don’t know why they continue to do it. I’m talking to you, Demski and Craig. Quit it!

“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…

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?

God’s Cosmology

I was unaware until this morning that the only reason we have days is because god is bringing them to us.

I wonder, from where is he bringing these days? Is there a day warehouse and every morning god walks the rows and rows of shelves looking for just the right day that he can bundle up in his arms and bring to me? Is the day he brings to me different than the day he brings to other people? If so, I find that very odd. It really appears that everybody is having the same day, albeit in different time zones.

See, the thing is, up until now I was under the impression that each day was the result of the Earth’s rotation on its axis and its orbit around a huge ball of nuclear fusion that we call the sun. I suppose that could still be the case and the reason all of that is in place is because god brought it to us. But then why not say, “God brought you the sun. Make the most of it?”

My point is this: if we know of a natural explanation for phenomena such as days, nights, and seasons then why can’t we forgo all of the superstitious, magical stuff and enjoy them for what they are? I’d love to reach a point where comments like this (and the ensuing “Amens”) are relegated to history and we can all laugh about how we used to believe in invisible beings.