Christmas Musings

Jeremiah 10:1-4 has been making the atheist rounds recently as another bit of irony for the holiday season. If you’re not familiar with the passage, it’s the one that goes thusly:

10:1 Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:
10:2 Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
10:3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
10:4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.

It’s always entertaining to find these little bits of dissonance between what the Bible teaches and what the “keep Christ in Christmas” crowd believes and practices. Oh, naturally there’s an apologetic to explain this away (‘the passage clearly refers to the making and worshipping of wooden idols which are covered in silver and gold plating,’ (from here. Go ahead and read Jeremiah for yourself; KJV is very different from NIV on this matter), but that really doesn’t make it any less entertaining1.

Nor does it make the practice of putting up a Christmas tree any more Christian. I don’t need to go on about the pagan origins of Christmas, how festivals like Saturnalia and Yule and Sol Invictus got rolled up into Christian traditions over the centuries. Such information is readily available (and I’ve just spent about half an hour Googling it…interesting stuff).

What boggles my mind is the abject ignorance of a great many Christians with regard to all this. Sure, there’s an apologetic for Jeremiah, but I guarantee that most Christians don’t even know the passage, let alone the explanation for why it doesn’t mean what it says. I recently followed a Twitter conversation between Neil Gaiman and some appallingly ignorant Christian, stemming from Gaiman’s promotion of Tim Minchin’s excellent godless Christmas song, “White Wine in the Sun.” The conversation had some real highlights, notably Gaiman’s suggestion that if the word “Christ” puts God in Christmas, than doesn’t the word “Easter” put Oestre in Easter? The obtuse kid apparently misunderstood and thought “Easter” was the name of the person who decided to make Easter a holiday.

And then there’s Garrison Keillor, who has made me decide that Lake Wobegon Days is now several notches lower on my “to-read” list. Somewhere beneath Ender’s Game in the “books written by pompous religious bigots” section of the list2.

All this, plus the litany of “keep Christ in Christmas” bumper magnets I see (year round, like tacky Christmas decorations left up in April) and witch-hunt websites tracking which retail stores dare to prefer an inclusive phrase like “Happy Holidays” when greeting guests, makes me wonder: what the hell is wrong with these people?

Why would you find an event so important that you think everyone should think about it the same way you do, but not care enough to actually find out about its origins? Why do you require underpaid cashiers and greeters to validate your beliefs and customs? Why do you feel the need to exclude people from a celebration?

I just don’t get it. I don’t understand why people would effectively say “this is our party, and if you’re not like us, you’re not invited. And we’re going to trash any party you try to throw, because today is our party day.” It’s silly and petulant; getting upset that the greeter at Wal-Mart said “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” is as asinine as being offended that they said “have a nice day” instead of “happy birthday.” Why is it somehow offensively impolite to not make assumptions about a stranger’s religious beliefs? Why is it so important to dictate how other people conduct themselves in private?

What makes this all the more inane is that it’s the secular parts of the holiday–days off, giving gifts, spending time with family and friends, etc.–the things that are most commonly celebrated, that make the holiday popular and heavily anticipated. Would Christmas be as popular as it is if it only had the Christian religious aspects? If there weren’t these pagan and secular trappings attached to the holiday, it’d be another Good Friday or Ash Wednesday or Rosh Hashanah–significant to the observant, just another day to the rest of us.

And maybe that’s part of the anger–the fear that the little bits of Christmas which actually have something to do with Christ will be somehow supplanted with the secular parts, and so Christ has to be tacked onto the secular parts in order for the religious justification to survive. And there’s really nothing wrong with that; maybe you have an angel on top of the tree instead of a star, maybe you sing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Silent Night” instead of “Deck the Halls” and “Frosty the Snowman,” maybe you watch “The Nativity Story” instead of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”…but I still don’t understand why it matters to anyone what anyone else does on the holiday.

It all seems to come down to what Christmas is “about.” For me, Christmas is usually about family and songs I only want to hear for maybe seven days out of three hundred sixty-five and classic movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Die Hard” and presents and awkward moments in the closet. This year, it was about stupid-induced injuries and a broken-down car and forgetting my hard drive with all the Christmas music on it and a veritable overload of Doctor Who. And a bunch of other things. But it seems like some people can’t quite handle the idea that Christmas has different meanings for different people at different times. They have to find the true meaning of Christmas, for everyone. And their true meaning is “Jesus.” Everything else falls by the wayside, including values like togetherness and inclusiveness, which other people might even associate with that “true” meaning.

Or to put it in terms that even the most myopic, self-absorbed ideologue should be able to understand, there’s room for everyone at the Christmas Inn3.

Happy Holidays, everyone.


1. At the very least, it’s a prime example of how different translations influence interpretation. I defy anyone to read the KJV version and get “metal-plated idols carved out of wood,” though that’s a clear implication in the NIV. The other half-dozen or so versions I looked at varied in between.

2. Ender’s Game is higher largely because I feel somewhat obligated as a sci-fi fan to read it, and because I’m told I’d enjoy it. Also, to be clearer about Keillor, he’s in the subsection of “writers who may or may not be pompous religious bigots, but who write pompous religious bigotry and occasionally pass it off as satire, even when it’s neither funny nor particularly satirical.” It’s a small subcategory.

3. Alternately: “Maybe Christmas isn’t what’s said at a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

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I don’t want to alarm anyone, but…

Okay, I know we’ve all been avoiding the subject for awhile now, but things are getting dire. We can’t go on pretending like there isn’t a problem when there so clearly is. I know you’ve all noticed it, and if we don’t do something about it soon, life as we know it may be radically changed. This isn’t the time for sugarcoating the truth or trying to put a positive spin on things, so I’m just going to come right out and say what we’ve all been too afraid to mention:

The days are getting shorter.

The process has been going on for months, though I think we were all pretty slow to notice. At the start, there was plenty of daylight–I mean, we save it up every year, right?–so what’s a little time off one end or the other. Unfortunately, all those tiny little cuts have quickly added up, and suddenly there’s a lot more nighttime than there used to be. I’ve run some numbers, and it looks like tomorrow is going to be six seconds shorter than today. But that’s just a drop in the bucket, really: according to my projections, by this time next month, the day will be over half an hour shorter. And even that’s not the worst part. Check out my graph:
The darkness is falling!
That’s right: by mid-August of next year, there won’t be any daytime left.

I think it goes without saying that we’re in desperate times here. Unless we do something soon, we’re going to have to face existence without the sun. The consequences to nature and to our way of life would be tremendous: solar power will be a thing of the past; crops will cease to grow, diurnal animals will never wake from their slumber, and so forth. We must do something soon to find out what’s precipitating this quick descent into eternal darkness, before it’s too late.

What can we do in the meantime? Some of the steps are obvious. First, save daylight. Use your experience from countless “daylight savings times” to capture and store as much daylight as possible. Naturally we’ll have to ration it in the long nights ahead, but if we build up our daylight reserves, we may be able to extend normalcy for a little longer.

Second, don’t panic. Panicking won’t get us anywhere. Turn that energy and worry into thought and action. We’re going to need all the ideas we can get to adapt to a sunless world or a world of severely limited daylight. The more minds we have working on this problem, the more chances we have of coming up with viable solutions.

Finally, and this may sound crazy, but stick with me: celebrate. I know, I know, it’s strange advice, but here’s my reasoning: we don’t know what’s causing this problem; it’s possible that there’s some kind of intelligence or awareness behind it. A large, worldwide celebration would demonstrate that we’re not afraid, and just like the way that a small cat puffs up its fur and makes a lot of noise to frighten away a larger dog, our loud, bold celebration might scare off the encroaching darkness. On the other hand, it’s possible that the problem lies elsewhere, in which case our celebration might alert the sun or the source of the daylight of our appreciation for it and desire for its return. Besides, in times of crisis like this, it’s best to band together and enjoy what may be the last few weeks of normal life we have left.

Humans are a smart, adaptable species, and I have confidence that we’ll be able to either solve this problem or make the changes and sacrifices necessary to survive it. But we won’t get anywhere by pretending the problem doesn’t exist, and we need to take action now.

Alphabetical Blasphemy

Since today is International Blasphemy Day, I thought I’d take a few minutes to quickly blaspheme against as many religions as I can think of off the top of my head. So, here goes:

  • Ásatrú: I’m not sure how to feel about Ásatrú. I mean, on one hand, it’s got to suck to have other people casually citing your gods as the silly mythological ones that no one believes in anymore, but on the other hand, you’ve got fucking Thor. Plus, your canon is huge–once you’ve finished the Edda, you can start working on Journey Into Mystery. Even Catholicism doesn’t have regular monthly updates. Or continuity editors, for that matter.
  • Baha’i: I’ve read about Baha’i half a dozen times, but any information about them just kind of slides off my brain. I’m pretty sure their schtick has to do with letting the dogs out.
  • Christianity: I realized today that I’d really like to do a comedy version of the Jesus story. Not “The Life of Brian,” but an actual, accurate adaptation of the gospel stories (inasmuch as you can call any mash-up of those four contradictory stories “accurate”) done in a wacky slapstick style. It occurred to me while reading Jesus, Interrupted that Jesus gets run out of town and stoned quite a few times. I can just imagine the scenes of Jesus and his crew running with huge crowds of angry Jews chasing them with stones and stuff, while Ciaphas (or someone) shouts “JEEEESUUUUS!” in a Mr. Slate/Dean Wormer style. The more I think about it, the better I think it would be. I just need to figure out how to funny up the downer ending. Much as I’d like to, I can’t steal this idea:
  • Deism: Deism is kind of like the bathtub drain of religious belief; it’s almost totally empty, and so many things seem to end up sucked down it. Every major argument for the existence of gods ends up getting as far as Deism and no farther; people who aren’t quite ready to give up religious belief altogether seem to get caught in it like clumps of hair, Antony Flew fell in from the other side of the tub, much though Christians would like to claim that he made it across the Deistic divide; and American government has spent so much time caught in the gutter that it’s started using it for ceremonial purposes.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is “Deism sucks.”

  • Ellinais: All the lameness of Ásatrú, but without the awesomeness of Thor. Sure, Hercules and Zeus are cool and all, but there’s so many also-rans–the Legion of Substitute Olympians like Iris and Eris and Nike and such. I don’t know, I just can’t imagine Odin turning into a golden shower to impregnate someone.

    Oh, and as long as I’ve mentioned Eris, I might as well mention Discordianism. Either it’s a parody religion with its collective head up its own ass, or it’s a real religion based around trying way too hard to be funny. I can’t tell the difference, and I’m convinced that its followers can’t either, and most of them are just playing along so they don’t look like they don’t get the joke.

  • Freethinkers: When people accuse atheists of being smug and superior, this is the kind of stupid bullshit they’re talking about. “Freethinker” is even worse than “Bright” in this regard; it’s effectively calling everyone else a slave-thinker or restricted-thinker. Any organization with cute derogatory terms for everyone in the outgroup has its head way too far up its own ass. Can we please resign this elitist term to the dustbin of history?
  • Gnosticism: Hey, look, an entire religious movement based around being super-special elites who know secret things that make them better than you. It’s the religion equivalent of high schoolers with an in-joke.
  • Hare Krishna: A religion known mainly for hanging out in airports, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (which sounds more like an organization that James Bond would fight against) peaked with a mention in a George Harrison song and had officially jumped the shark by the time they started denying the moon landings on religious grounds. Yeah, let’s teach that controversy. Bald assholes.
  • Humanism: You know, there’s not a lot I disagree with when it comes to Secular Humanism, but something about the tradition kind of squicks me out. I think it’s the adherence to a specific set of ethics, or something. I guess I’m technically a Humanist, but it’s not a term I really use. So, yeah, Humanists…stop being so squicky.
  • Islam: I thought about just putting a crude cartoon of Mohammed here, but then a new thought occurred to me. See, like my “Laugh-In of the Christ” above, I think the life of Mohammed would make a fun movie. See, the Hadith has this bit about Mohammed flying up to heaven on a magic donkey that my brain connected to the end of “Grease,” where Danny and Sandy fly into the sky in their car, and I thought “it’d be awesome to do the story of Mohammed like ‘Grease’!” See, you start it with “Allah (is the Word),” then there’s “Sunni Nights,” “Look at Me, I’m Aisha B.,” and “Madrasah Dropout.” By the end, Mohammed will be all clean-cut and wearing a sweater, and Aisha will be sewn into her leather burqa. I know she’s only supposed to be six years old, but given Hollywood’s proclivity toward casting older people as younger people, I suspect that we might get an actual teenager in the role. I recommend Miley Cyrus.
  • Jainism: You know, if the Jains were serious about their commitment to not killing any living things, they’d all take medication to inhibit their immune systems. You guys are so careful that you sweep bugs out of the sidewalk in front of you and avoid root vegetables since they kill living plants, but what about all those living bacteria that your body’s killing all the time? Bunch of hypocrites.
  • Kemetism: Why resurrect Egyptian mythology as a religion if you’re not going to mummify the dead and build pyramids? Neopagans ruin everything.
  • Libertarianism: Because substituting “the market” for “God” is still a religion.
  • Mormons: Mormonism is religion as done by fanfic.com. It’s a mishmash of Christianity, 19th Century science fiction, Masonic ritual, American patriotism, wish fulfillment, and really awful pseudohistory. “So, this guy discovered some magic stones, which may or may not have been in a breastplate of some sort, then used them to translate a book of golden plates (though the book wasn’t in the room at the time), written in ‘reformed Egyptian’ by Indians who were actually Jews who sailed across the ocean to America, where Jesus went on walkabout once. Apparently, there’s no such place as Hell (but somehow there’s still a devil), so everyone gets into Heaven, but some people get better rooms, and if you’re really good and wear your magic underpants and never drink coffee, you get to be the god of your own planet when you die! Oh, and God is from another planet, which orbits a star called Kolob, and there are Puritans living on the moon! And black people will turn white if they start behaving, and God and Jesus had bunches of wives, but we don’t talk about those things anymore.” Joseph Smith was fucking Harold Hill, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it started as a drunken bet that just got out of hand. In fact, I would be very surprised if it didn’t start as a drunken bet that got out of hand.
  • Newage: Ah, newage, less a religion, more a smorgasbord of stupidity. There is no dumb idea that newage hasn’t adopted, embraced, and woefully misunderstood. If Deism is a shower drain, then newage is the trap pipe underneath that collects all the gunk and detritus that gets past the screen.
  • Objectivism: What kind of cult of personality outlives their personality? One with the personality of a petulant junior high student, I guess. It’s a shame that Ayn Rand and L. Ron Hubbard are both dead; I’d really like to see a definitive decision on which cult leader was the bigger hack.
  • Pantheism: Pantheism saw Deism’s non-interventionist, impersonal prime mover god, and said “that god’s not useless and superfluous enough! I can do better.” And by George, they did at that. Way to set the bar high, Pantheists.
  • Quakerism: The graph of Quaker popularity drops off significantly after the end of the 18th century, and has a short, sharp resurgence in 2003 or so, when everybody took the Belief-O-Matic Quiz and found out they were “Liberal Quakers.” In between, it’s all oatmeal.
  • Rastafarianism: I think if you actually did the demographics, Rastafarianism comprises equally Jamaicans and pretentious college stoners who want to give up shampoo.
  • Satanism: I don’t know what’s worse: that Christians repeatedly get panicked over an effectively nonexistent religion, or that they get panicked over an effectively nonexistent religion that they think is made up of Dungeons and Dragons players and KISS fans. Never has there been a sweatier, hairier nonexistent religion.
  • Taoism: ‘Nuff said.
  • Unitarian Universalism: All the uselessness of Deism with all the boredom of church! UU is the best argument for good atheist meetup groups.
  • Voodoo: The only group who has contributed more easy plot devices to horror movies than the gypsies. It’s almost a shame that no one knows anything accurate about them.
  • Wicca: A fifty-year-old ancient religion made entirely out of pale skin, fishnet sleeves, awkward body fat, pretentious teenagers, and lesbians. No religious tradition in history has ever needed a harder smack with the cluestick.
  • X-Files: I know it’s not a religion, I’m just using it as a handy term for all the conspiracy theorists out there who aren’t adequately covered by the rest of the list. The X-Files was basically “Left Behind” for the Coast to Coast AM crowd. Which explains why the show ended up being totally incoherent, ridiculous, empty, and raising far more questions than it was poised to answer.
  • Yoga: As I understand, this religion gives you the ability to stretch across the screen and breathe fire. And according to the manual, it supposedly allows you to teleport, but that’s, like, 12th-level Yoga or something.
  • Zoroastrianism: Spanish for “the foxastrianism.” Extant since somewhere around 600 BCE, it’s like the little religion that could…worship a god who answers phones on the Enterprise and drives a Japanese car.
  • Everyone else: chances are, you’re too lame or tiny to merit notice. I mean, come on, I picked Kemetism over you? Yeah, sucks to be you. With the exception of Scientology (aka Mormonism with a higher page count): it’s okay, Scientology, someday you’ll catch Nicholas Cage for killing John Travolta’s kid. In the meantime, enjoy being 4chan’s bitch.

And that’s the end of it. Happy Blasphemy Day, everyone!

On Labeling

Mmm...babycakes.I keep running into an issue with labels. It wasn’t long ago that I revised my own from “agnostic” to the more accurate and more useful “agnostic atheist” (in a nutshell, anyway–but this is a topic for a future post). The problem I have is that the relevant parts of my beliefs didn’t change, only what I called myself did. I didn’t have a belief in any gods when I called myself an agnostic, and I don’t have any belief in any gods now that I call myself an atheist. From any objective standpoint, I was an atheist the whole time.

And this is the substance of the problem: the dissonance between what a person calls himself or herself, and what categories a person objectively falls into. These labels are frequently different, and frequently result in various confusions and complications.

On one hand, I think we’re inclined to take people at their word with regard to what their personal labels are. It’s a consequence of having so many labels that center around traits that can only be assessed subjectively. I can’t look into another person’s mind to know what they believe or who they’re attracted to or what their political beliefs really are, or even how they define the labels that relate to those arenas. We can only rely on their self-reporting. So, we have little choice but to accept their terminology for themselves.

But…there are objective definitions for some of these terms, and we can, based on a person’s self-reporting of their beliefs, see that an objectively-defined label–which may or may not be the one they apply to themselves–applies to them.

I fear I’m being obtuse in my generality, so here’s an example: Carl Sagan described himself as an agnostic. He resisted the term “atheist,” and clearly gave quite a bit of thought to the problem of how you define “god”–obviously, the “god” of Spinoza and Einstein, which is simply a term applied to the laws of the universe, exists, but the interventionist god of the creationists is far less likely. So Sagan professed agnosticism apparently in order to underscore the point that he assessed the question of each god’s existence individually.

On the other hand, he also seemed to define “atheist” and “agnostic” in unconventional ways–or perhaps in those days before a decent atheist movement, the terms just had different connotations or less specific definitions. Sagan said “An agnostic is somebody who doesn’t believe in something until there is evidence for it, so I’m agnostic,” and “An atheist is someone who knows there is no God.”

Now, I love Carl, but it seems to me that he’s got the definitions of these terms inside-out. “Agnostic,” as the root implies, has to do with what one claims to know–specifically, it’s used to describe people who claim not to know if there are gods. Atheist, on the other hand, is a stance on belief–specifically the lack of belief in gods.

So, if we’re to go with the definitions of terms as generally agreed upon, as well as Carl’s own self-reported lack of belief in gods and adherence to the null hypothesis with regard to supernatural god claims, then it’s clear that Carl is an atheist. Certainly an agnostic atheist–one who lacks belief in gods but does not claim to know that there are no gods–but an atheist nonetheless.

The dilemma with regard to Sagan is relatively easy to resolve; “agnostic” and “atheist” are not mutually exclusive terms, and the term one chooses to emphasize is certainly a matter of personal discretion. In the case of any self-chosen label, the pigeon-holes we voluntarily enter into are almost certainly not all of the pigeon-holes into which we could be placed. I describe myself as an atheist and a skeptic, but it would not be incorrect to call me an agnostic, a pearlist, a secularist, an empiricist, and so forth. What I choose to call myself reflects my priorities and my understanding of the relevant terminology, but it doesn’t necessarily exclude other terms.

The more difficult problems come when people adopt labels that, by any objective measure, do not fit them, or exclude labels that do. We see Sagan doing the latter in the quote above, eschewing the term “atheist” based on what we’d recognize now as a mistaken definition. The former is perhaps even more common–consider how 9/11 Truthers, Global Warming and AIDS denialists, and Creationists have all attempted to usurp the word “skeptic,” even though none of their methods even approach skepticism.

The danger with the former is when groups try to co-opt people into their groups who, due to lack of consistent or unambiguous self-reporting (or unambiguous reporting from reliable outside sources), can’t objectively be said to fit into them. We see this when Christians try to claim that the founding fathers were all devout Christian men, ignoring the reams of evidence that many of them were deists or otherwise unorthodox. It’s not just the fundies who do this, though; there was a poster at my college which cited Eleanor Roosevelt and Errol Flynn among its list of famous homosexual and bisexual people, despite there being inconsistent and inconclusive evidence to determine either of their sexualities. The same is true when my fellow atheists attempt to claim Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Paine (among others), despite ambiguity in their self-described beliefs. I think, especially those of us who pride ourselves on reason and evidence, that we must be careful with these labels, lest we become hypocrites or appear sloppy in our application and definition of terms. These terms have value only inasmuch as we use them consistently.

The matter of people adopting terms which clearly do not apply to them, however, presents a more familiar problem. It seems easy and safe enough to say something like “you call yourself an atheist, yet you say you believe in God. Those can’t both be true,” but situations rarely seem to be so cut-and-dry. Instead, what we end up with are ambiguities and apparent contradictions, and a need to be very accurate and very precise (and very conservative) in our definition of terms. Otherwise, it’s a very short slippery slope to No True Scotsman territory.

Case in point, the word “Christian.” It’s a term with an ambiguous definition, which (as far as I can tell) cannot be resolved without delving into doctrinal disputes. Even a definition as simple as “a Christian is someone who believes Jesus was the son of God” runs afoul of Trinitarian semantics, where Jesus is not the son, but God himself. A broader definition like, “One who follows the teachings of Jesus” ends up including people who don’t consider themselves Christians (for instance, Ben Franklin, who enumerated Jesus among other historical philosophers) and potentially excluding people who don’t meet the unclear standard of what constitutes “following,” and so forth.

Which is why there are so many denominations of Christianity who claim that none of the other denominations are “True Christians.” For many Protestants, the definition of “True Christian” excludes all Catholics, and vice versa; and for quite a lot of Christians, the definition of the term excludes Mormons, who are also Bible-believers that accept Jesus’s divinity.

When we start down the path of denying people the terms that they adopt for themselves, we must be very careful that we do not overstep the bounds of objectivity and strict definitions. Clear contradictions are easy enough to spot and call out; where terms are clearly defined and beliefs or traits are clearly expressed, we may indeed be able to say “you call yourself be bisexual, but you say you’re only attracted to the opposite sex. Those can’t both be true.” But where definitions are less clear, or where the apparent contradictions are more circumstantially represented, objectivity can quickly be thrown out the window.

I don’t really have a solution for this problem, except that we should recognize that our ability to objectively label people is severely limited by the definitions we ascribe to our labels and the information that our subjects report themselves. So long as we are careful about respecting those boundaries, we should remain well within the guidelines determined by reason and evidence. Any judgments we make and labels we apply should be done as carefully and conservatively as possible.

My reasons for laying all this out should become clear with my next big post. In the meantime, feel free to add to this discussion in the comments.

Reductio ad Shaquillum

I can conceive of a universe which is greater than all possible universes. If there is a maximally perfect being (God), then he would necessarily have made the greatest conceivable universe.

A universe which has Shaquille O’Neal movies in it is necessarily less great than a universe which does not have Shaquille O’Neal movies in it.

Since this universe has Shaquille O’Neal movies in it, I can conceive of a greater universe. Therefore, since this is not the greatest conceivable universe, it must not have been created by a maximally perfect god.

–The Kazaam Cosmological Argument*.


*Okay, all right, it’s an Ontological Argument, so the name’s not accurate, but the pun wouldn’t work otherwise. I tried the other way, but wrote myself into a corner somewhere after “Shaquille O’Neal’s acting career began to exist.” Now, given the quick annihilation of said career, it’s possible that it was just a virtual career, part of normal career vacuum fluctuations…

You might think it’s hysterical

So, Bronze Dog had a recent post riffing on the apparent problems woos have with humor. I think a lot of it stems from lacking a sense of irony and self-awareness, since those are key elements of a great deal of humor, but that’s another post in itself. In the comments, Valhar2000 pointed us to a brief and really lame website called Jokes About Atheists. It’s not just that the humor is not really humorous (although some of the images are funny–I particularly liked the “There is probably no cod” bus), but the website uses Comic Sans as its font. Comic Sans? Really? Yeah, maybe if I were twelve copy-pasting Internet jokes onto my Geocities page, Comic Sans might seem like a good idea. For (presumably) adults to go use it really speaks to the lack of awareness we’re talking about here.

Anyway, among the half-dozen or so “jokes” (which, by the way, make some glaring omissions–where’s the one about the Marine who punched the atheist professor in the face? Or the one where the atheist is eaten by a Christian bear? This site is far from comprehensive) is a list in the style of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You might be a redneck” jokes. It’s an interesting look into what some Christians consider humor, and seemed like some easy post fodder while I continue working on the more in-depth posts (I promise I haven’t quit writing!). Without further ado:

You MAY Be a Fundamentalist Atheist if….

Yep, off to an auspicious start.

…you became an atheist when you were 10 years old, based on ideas of God that you learned in Sunday School. Your ideas about God haven’t changed since.

Converting to Christianity in childhood and never questioning or improving upon your beliefs, however, is a-okay!

Incidentally, I think someone who based their atheism on Sunday School God alone would be a pretty bad (and pretty easily reconverted) atheist. Most of the atheists I know–those in the more skeptical, scientific camp–base their disbelief on the lack of evidence for any god, whether Sunday School or Theology Class, and generally have done some research on the matter. Not that it’s necessary–if Sunday School teachers provided evidence instead of cutesy stories, this wouldn’t even need to be on the list.

…you think Christians are narrow-minded for believing in only one religion, but atheists are open-minded for believing in absolutely none.

I don’t know anyone who thinks either of these things as stated here. I think many Christians are often narrow-minded or closed-minded for refusing to consider other points of view, refusing to acknowledge evidence, and refusing to question their beliefs. Consequently, those who do question their beliefs, acknowledge evidence, and consider other points of view are what I’d consider open-minded. I’ve known lots of open-minded Christians; I haven’t known quite as many closed-minded atheists (except perhaps on political and economic views).

…you think the USA government is a theocracy.

I think there are people who are trying to move it that way, does that count? I think it’s a bad idea to mix religion and government, and I’d like to see a stronger separation between the two. I’d especially like to see a public open-minded enough to see the religious beliefs of political candidates as less cause for concern than policies and platforms.

…you refer to C.S. Lewis as “that traitor.”

C.S. Lewis was an atheist?

…you think George Carlin was the greatest comedian of all time.

He’s certainly up there. Who did you have in mind instead?

…you spend hours arguing that a-theism actually means “without a belief in God ” and not just ” belief that there is no god” as if this is a meaningful distinction in real life.

I don’t know that I’ve spent hours arguing this, but it is a meaningful distinction, whether or not theists want to accept it.

…”thinking for yourself” means adopting an atheist viewpoint.

Thinking for oneself doesn’t mean that one comes to a completely unique conclusion.

By the way, what’s an “atheist viewpoint”?

…you believe that nativity scenes should be banned from public view, but that anyone objecting to pornography only has to look the other way.

I’m not sure if this is more a strawman or a false dichotomy; I don’t know anyone who thinks that “nativity scenes should be banned from public view;” it’s certainly not a point of view of most atheists, even if there are some asshats who might advocate it. Most atheists who have any opinion that even resembles what’s stated here (and many others who value church-state separation) want nativity scenes removed from public property, since the secular government is supposed to remain neutral on matters of religion. There are two ways to enforce that neutrality on state grounds: the first is to allow any religious group to put up any display (within whatever secular guidelines the state sets) on the public land for any holiday. So we could have light-up plastic Jesus and the manger on Christmas, a light-up plastic Buddha for Buddha’s Birthday, a light-up plastic Flying Spaghetti Monster for Talk Like a Pirate Day, a light-up plastic Wookiee for Life Day, a light-up plastic Raelian UFO on August 6th, a light-up plastic angel killing light-up plastic Egyptian children for Passover, and a light-up plastic maypole with light-up plastic naked pagans dancing around it on May Day. If we’re going to allow the light-up plastic nativity scene, then this is the only fair option.

On the other hand, rather than allowing the courthouse lawn to become a constant rotating showcase for every religion’s chosen kitsch, the government could maintain neutrality by disallowing any religious displays on public property, which is the same policy used for political campaign signs, another point of government neutrality. For the government to declare the courthouse lawn (and other public properties) religious display-free zones does not stop religious groups and individuals from using church grounds or their own private lawns to erect their electric shrines. There’s no “barring the nativity from public view.” You could put a nativity on every lawn in town, provided that the owners of those properties want nativities on their lawns. Why is it such a big deal, why is it so necessary to put your decorations on the town’s lawn as well?

…you assert that “faith is believing things which you know aren’t true”.

It’s “faith is believing what you know ain’t so,” and it’s a Mark Twain quote. Get it right.

Incidentally, while this is a nice pithy and humorous phrase, I can’t imagine anyone actually using it seriously. A more serious variation would be “faith is belief without evidence or in spite of evidence to the contrary,” or “faith is the excuse we give to believe things without good reason.” The latter’s pretty close to something Matt Dillahunty is wont to say, the former is just a basic definition of faith as used in this kind of context.

…you think you descended from apes.

I’ll do you one better: I think I am an ape, and a great one at that.

I wonder how Francis Collins, Ken Miller, and every other theist who accepts basic biology feels about suddenly being a “fundamentalist atheist.”

…you get angry if someone implies you’re going to a place that you don’t think exists.

Yeah, it’s a little upsetting to know that there are large swaths of people who think I deserve to be tortured forever because I disagree with them. I don’t get angry about it, I just feel sad that people can have their basic empathy and compassion so twisted and contorted by irrational beliefs. I’m also frustrated that people can look to this sort of improportionate punishment, where actions are equated to thoughtcrime, and where all violations of arbitrary rules result in infinite penalty, and call it “perfect justice” and “merciful.”

…you think marriage is an obsolete fundy institution — except for homosexuals.

This conflates two (possibly three) different positions, I think, which you can see battled out in any Pharyngula thread on same-sex marriage. On one hand are people who think that marriage is a (primarily) religious institution and that the government shouldn’t be bothering with marriage at all, and advocate the replacement or dissolution of civil marriage. On the other hand are poeple who see marriage as a civil institution (or see civil and religious marriage as separate institutions, which is my position), and on that basis see no justification for allowing straights to marry and denying that right to gays. Religious institutions can do whatever they want with their religious marriages, and the government is not required to recognize or endorse religious marriage rites, just as religious groups are not required to recognize or endorse civil marriage contracts. Both positions are reasonable, stemming from different premises on the purpose and benefits of marriage.

…you become upset when a Christian says that not everything in the Bible should be taken literally.

I suppose this might be a sign of an inexperienced atheist debater, but I can’t imagine most “fundamentalist atheists” getting upset by this sort of thing. Now, when a Christian takes an explicitly literalist position (whatever that means), then interprets passages in a figurative way in order to smooth over obvious contradictions and uncomfortable implications, or when a Christian claims that their obviously subjective figurative interpretation of passages is the “literal” interpretation, that’s frustratingly hypocritical. I find it laughable, though, that Christians can claim “not everything in the Bible should be taken literally,” without providing any justification for which passages should be taken literally, and which ones are figurative.

…you call a view held by less than ten percent of the American public “common sense”.

Why use “the American public” here? Is “the American public” somehow the ultimate arbiter of “common sense”? Let me turn this around: Ray Comfort calls Christianity “common sense,” despite the fact that it’s a view held by less than a third of the Earth’s population. “Common sense” is worthless; it’s context- and culture-specific, and it’s certainly not a method of reliably determining truth.

…you have, at least once, phoned, emailed or written the ACLU.

I guess there are no non-American fundamentalist atheists. And I guess all those religious people who have been defended by the ACLU are fundamentalist atheists.

…you’ve ever called a Christian a “Paulian”.

Guilty as charged. Of course, it was in response to Christians who, when faced with contradictions between Jesus’s words and Paul’s words, chose the latter. I guess when I see “Christian,” I assume it means “follower of Christ” or “Christ-like,” not “follower of some guy who never actually met Christ but is apparently more of an expert on Christ’s views than Christ was.”

…you just can’t see any difference between Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, etc, and Osama bin Laden.

Sure I can: Osama has a beard.

…your first inclination when purchasing the Darwin fish for your car was the hope of being offensive.

This only barely makes sense. First, so what? If I want to have offensive decorations on my car, that’s my prerogative. I don’t see how it makes one a “fundamentalist” anything, any more than “My pit bull could eat your honor student” makes the driver a “fundamentalist dog owner,” or a knock-off Calvin pissing on a Ford emblem makes the driver a “fundamentalist Chevy driver.” Second, believe it or not, it’s not just atheists who accept evolution, though it does seem to be primarily Christians (of certain stripes) who would be “offended” by a decoration supporting good science. Third, if my “first inclination” was to be offensive, there are much better car decorations I could have picked. There’s the T. rex eating the Jesus fish, there’s the one where the Darwin fish is fucking the Jesus fish, and there are countless pithy bumper stickers. Incidentally, how many Christians’ first inclinations are to offend people when they pick out bumper stickers like “One Nation UNDER GOD” or “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”?

…you use one or more of the following alternate spellings: GOD-“gawd” JESUS-“jeeezus” “jayzus” “jebus” “jeebers” BIBLE-“bibble” “babble” “wholly babble” “buy-bull”.

Yeah, this is pretty immature stuff, and I’m a little embarrassed when I see other atheists do it (though I am partial to “Jebus,” just for the Simpsons reference). It’s about as childish as “evilution,” “Darwinist,” “DemocRAT,” and so forth.

…you insist that science is completely partial to all ideas, is not dogmatic and researches all possibilities.

Science isn’t dogmatic, that much I will insist. You don’t see Nobel prizes going to people who strongly reaffirmed the status quo and found nothing new or surprising or paradigm-shattering. As far as “partial to all ideas” and “research[ing] all possibilities,” it’s certainly possible for science to do those things, but it’s usually not necessary. Most ideas are, frankly, stupid, and most possibilities aren’t worth the time, effort, and grant funding to investigate. I don’t need to investigate whether or not clouds are really the cast-off tails of giant invisible floating rabbits; the idea has no evidence behind it and contradicts things we already know about the universe–particularly rabbit physiology and cloud formation. Science researches the possibilities that have some probability given what we already know is possible (or given areas where we don’t know what the possibilities are). We don’t need to research those possibilities that are rendered highly improbable or nonsensical by what we already know, unless there’s some evidence that those possibilities may be true. Take homeopathy, for instance: there’s no reason science should investigate homeopathy, because it’s internally inconsistent, it lacks provenance, and there is no physically plausible mechanism for its operation. The only reason science does investigate it is because so many people believe it works, and only science can determine whether or not it actually does.

Point being: science can and will be open to all ideas and has the capability to research all possibilities, but your possible idea needs to be accompanied by a compelling reason for scientists to spend time, money, and effort on the research.

…you think that if schools teach the Intelligent Design theory of creation, they should also teach the “stork theory” of where babies come from.

Only if we’re going with the “equal time” argument for teaching Intelligent Design Creationism, in which case we should be giving “equal time” to any alternate ‘theories’ of accepted science, regardless of how invalidated they have been by the evidence, or how little actual evidence they have supporting them. There are plenty of arguments proffered by cdesign proponentsists; in many cases, equal time being one of them, they open the door wide to teaching all manner of debunked, discarded, and discredited alternate ‘theories’ in classes throughout the curriculum. Hell, Michael Behe himself said that a definition of science which included Intelligent Design would also include Astrology. I guess he must be a “fundamentalist atheist” too.

…you have any “bible contradictions” website saved in “favorites”.

The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible is more than just a “bible contradictions website.”

…you insist on capitalizing “atheist”.

Why would anyone do that? I generally make it a point to not capitalize “atheist.” I don’t capitalize “theist” either; they’re not institutions, they’re positions.

…you think that “Lord of the Rings” and “Harry Potter” are more believable than the Bible.

I’ve given this one some thought, and yeah, I think I have to agree. “Harry Potter” is set in a world that actually bears some resemblance to the real world, and is generally internally consistent. There aren’t large swaths of “Harry Potter” that contradict other parts of the series, and the characters have human personalities and understandable motivations. There are lots of fantastic, impossible elements, to be sure, but at least they make sense in the context of the story. “Lord of the Rings” is even more internally consistent, and the world is far more fleshed-out; while Middle-Earth doesn’t bear much resemblance to reality, the characters’ relationships do. More than that, the magical aspects are generally fairly understated; there isn’t the same kind of flashy wizardry one finds in “Harry Potter,” but a much more subdued magic that one could almost accept as real.

Contrast this with the Bible, which is not only inconsistent with itself, but is inconsistent with the reality it purports to be describing. The characters, when they are given any development at all, often come across as unhinged or disturbed in how their demeanor, statements, and actions change from one scene to another. Jesus, being the character who receives the lion’s share of development in the story, is the best example of this–sometimes he’s inclusive and insightful and patient, other times he’s cursing fig trees for being out of season and being intentionally obtuse so only the right kind of people understand what he’s saying. God is right behind, seeming like an entirely different character from the first half of the book to the second. It’s as though at the start of “Order of the Phoenix,” people had started talking about how loving and benevolent and forgiving Voldemort was. That kind of abrupt, unbelievable diametrically-opposite shift in characterization won’t fly in decent fiction, in large part because of how unrealistic it is. Unless God had an iron rod shoved through his frontal lobes between Malachi and Matthew, his dramatic demeanor change just isn’t believable.

Naturally this is all apples and oranges; neither “Harry Potter” nor “Lord of the Rings” is seriously claimed by anyone to have actually happened, while there are plenty of Christians who look to their favorite novel as an accurate record of history and science.

…you think if a Christian won’t argue when challenged, they are too frightened or can’t answer; but if they do address your arguments, you think it’s a sign that they are “threatened” by your argument.

I can’t respond to this one: I don’t think I’ve ever had a Christian actually address my arguments.

By the way, “threatened” sounds an awful lot like projection to me–as do about half of the rest of these items.

…when someone says ‘God bless you’ when you sneeze, you take it as an open invitation to express your non-belief.

Once you’re stealing jokes from Dane Cook, it’s a real sign that you should stop trying to be funny.

Incidentally, expressing one’s beliefs (or lack thereof) in inappropriate situations or unwanted circumstances, taking any opportunity to bring up their convictions in conversation? Yes, the atheists clearly have that market cornered.

…you have actually calculated the number of people drowned in The Flood you don’t believe.

Can’t say I’ve done the math on this one. It’s really only an interesting figure if you’re comparing God’s death toll with others, or if you’re trying to demonstrate how absurd it is that so many living things could die and no one but the Jews would notice.

…you feel guilty whenever you use the word faith and have decided to remove it from your vocabulary.

Sorry, I look at that word between “word” and “and,” but my eyes just kind of slide off it. Looks like there’s an SEP field at work here.

Seriously, I can’t say that I’ve removed the word faith from my vocabulary, nor do I know anyone who has, nor do I even really know what that would mean. I am a lot more careful with how I use “faith,” and I try not to use it when I actually mean “trust.” It’s the same with “theory,” “believe,” “prove,” and several other words. I care about what words mean, and I try to be as precise as possible when I’m communicating, particularly when it comes to difficult concepts.

…you think religious tolerance does not include Christianity.

I think religious tolerance includes more than just Christianity, despite what so many Christians seem to think.

(This partial list was originally compiled by “GakuesiDon” and “Tekton” and various contributors)

Quoted for credit.

I find it interesting how few of these are actually atheist-specific. I imagine it has a lot to do with the fact that there’s no central atheist doctrine or dogma, which tends to limit how much atheists actually have in common with one another. Consequently, these Christians have to make jabs at science (via evolutionary theory), church-state separation supporters of all stripes, liberal Christians (who I have also seen drawing parallels between Falwell and bin Laden), fundamentalists of other religions (I suspect that a fundamentalist Muslim’s idea of “religious tolerance” might not include Christianity either), people who support the ACLU (which defends believers and nonbelievers alike, contrary to conservative propaganda), and of course a veritable squadron of strawmen. It’s also very specific to American Christianity (and then, to a particular non-literalist-but-still-creationist form of American Christianity), where no thought whatsoever is given to the rest of the world. They posit two camps, one of which is there specific brand of “Christian,” and the other is the “fundamentalist atheists,” who somehow encompass an awful lot of people who claim to be religious.

I’ll admit, I’m tempted to do a “you might be” list of my own, since it would be so easy to turn these around on the believers (and not just Christian ones, either), but I have slightly better taste than that.

Armageddon It

Quick note: I wrote the vast majority of this post back in February. Lest you think I’ve been slacking off on the posting, I’ve actually been writing quite a few…they just take a while. So don’t be alarmed by outdated references or anything, I assure you this was all topical when I wrote it.


So this guy posted a letter to the Atheist Experience blog. No one there seemed to think it was worth any time or effort, but it seemed like a blast to me, so I’m tackling it here. Note, though, that I’m not taking this too seriously.

Armageddon Thru To You

Like I said, I thought this was actually fairly clever and funny. It reminded me of the bit from “History of the World Part 1”:

Torquemada – do not implore him for compassion. Torquemada – do not beg him for forgiveness. Torquemada – do not ask him for mercy. Let’s face it, you can’t Torquemada anything!

Classic.

If you’ve been wondering why it seems like the world around us is unraveling, it’s because the last days as foretold in the bible are now upon us.

I don’t really think it seems like the world around us is unraveling. Things are moderately crappy, largely due to massive destabilization of the Middle East and eight years of Republican financial policies, but unraveling? I think it was Matt Dillahunty on a recent Atheist Experience or Non-Prophets episode who talked about what a lame, wussy position this is. I mean, look at the generation who grew up in the first half of the 20th Century: they lived through the greatest war the world had ever seen, where chemical warfare was common and the bloodshed was horrendous. They lived through a time of great prosperity and widespread debauchery in the 1920s, where legislated morality led to the rise of organized crime and amoral speakeasies. They lived through times of great disease, where polio and smallpox were widespread even in the richest nations. They lived through a Great Depression, which left the vast majority of people in dire financial straits for years. Then another war broke out, dwarfing the previous one, where six million of God’s chosen people were systematically exterminated, and the atom–the very building block of God’s creation–was rent asunder releasing so much destructive power that it was actually a threat to every living thing in the world. They saw the rise of two global superpowers, opposed to one another, each with the power to destroy the world many times over, one thriving on godless oppression and the other on freedom and (supposedly) Christian values. The generation born in 1900 saw all this unfold in their lifetimes, and you can claim, without any sense of irony, that now the world is unraveling? What temporal hubris, what cultural myopia you must have. You think this is bad, talk to a centenarian. Otherwise, this argument looks precisely as arrogant, self-centered, and blatantly stupid as it is.

Just as it was 2000 years ago, many were unable to discern the signs of Jesus Christ’s first coming (Mat 16:3),

Well, it’s his fault; he should have said something, or at least tapped them on the shoulder.

as will many concerning his second coming, which will occur very soon. Yes many have proclaimed a similar sentiment many times in the past, but their errors have no bearing on today other than to lull you into spiritual apathy, and that too was prophesied to occur in the last days.


Translation: “Sure, everyone who ever said this in the past was wrong, but that doesn’t suggest that we’re wrong this time too. This time, there really is a wolf it’s the real last days.”

If you’re not a believer in Jesus Christ because you’re an atheist,

This falls just on the outskirts of “not even wrong.” I mean, I suppose since I’m an atheist, I don’t believe in Jesus Christ as a God figure; belief in him as a historical figure is a separate question and is not necessarily contrary to the definition of atheism. But I think you’ll find that this is backwards; most of the ex-Christian atheists, anyway, have it the other way around: they’re atheists in part because they don’t believe in Jesus Christ. They tested their beliefs and held fast to that which was good, and Jesus didn’t make the cut.

Naturally, being an atheist is a sufficient but not necessary cause for disbelief in Jesus; non-Christian religions share that particular disbelief, and even some Christian sects have beliefs regarding Jesus that could qualify as one or another sort of disbelief (denying his divinity, denying the Trinity, denying that he existed in the real world, and so forth).

consider that the underlying impetus for your disbelief is most likely borne of pride and here’s why:

Pride? I suppose, after a fashion. I’m proud of my ability to use reason to examine the world around me, and it would be a shame to deny those faculties in favor of a comforting delusion.

When we die, if you as an atheist were right, then there is no upside or downside for anyone regarding the afterlife. We will all simply cease to exist
However if we Christians were right about our belief in the afterlife, then we will be given eternal life and you as an atheist will receive eternal damnation

Oh my goodness, you’re right! I’ve never thought of that before! Why, now that you put it that way, in this way that I’ve never heard before in my life, this argument that certainly isn’t old and common enough to have a name, I’m totally convinced. In fact, I’m going to drop down right now and choose to believe in God because otherwise I might face some terrible punishment. Why, that argument is so valid as to be airtight, it doesn’t employ any fallacious false dichotomies, arguments from adverse consequences, or really insultingly stupid theology. Praise Jesus!

Given the choices, the position held by an atheist is a fools bet any way you look at it because the atheist has everything to lose and nothing to gain. It is tantamount to accepting a “heads I win, tails you lose” coin toss proposition from someone.

Yes, I have nothing to gain by not going to church. Except, you know, a life free of unnecessary guilt and anxiety; an additional ten percent of my gross income; sleep time on Sunday mornings; the freedom to associate with whomever I choose; the freedom to make up my own mind on issues in politics, society, and science; meat on Fridays between Mardi Gras and Easter; a worldview that encourages me to focus on matters that affect real people in the real world rather than supernatural matters that affect no one; the knowledge that I should make the most out of every second I have in this life, since once it’s over there’s nothing else; and a mindset free of backward superstitions. Other than that, I’ve got nothing to gain.

And that someone by the way is Satan (see Ephesians 6:12).

Thank goodness he doesn’t exist either.

The only way to explain the attitude held by an atheist is pride, pure and simple.


I have the sneaking suspicion that you haven’t actually considered the other explanations. There are purer and simpler ones, I assure you.

And, of course, there’s no pride involved in presuming to lecture a whole community on their internal motivations for their beliefs, none whatsoever.

The intellectually dishonest and/or tortured reasoning used by atheists to try and disprove the existence of God is nothing more than attempts to posture themselves as superior (a symptom of pride).

As opposed the the intellectually dishonest and tortured reasoning used by Christians to try to prove the existence of God, which is far more than an attempt to posture themselves as superior. Look, if you’re going to do this much projecting, the least you could do is sell popcorn.

And as anyone who has read their bible knows, this is precisely the character flaw that befell Lucifer, God’s formerly most high angel. (Isaiah 14:12-15).

Yeah, Lucifer had the gall to suggest that maybe he could do better than God, who spent the entirety of the Old Testament screwing up and then hitting the global reset button to make up for his mistakes. What a terrible crime. “Hey, I could do that without global genocide. Whoops, guess I’m in Hell now.”

Is it any wonder then why the bible is so replete with references to pride as the cause of mankind’s downfall?

Actually, I’d say curiosity is more often mankind’s downfall in the Bible (Eden, Babel, Lot’s wife etc.), which says an awful lot about the Fundie mindset. Then again, an even more frequent cause of mankind’s downfall is God.

Pride permeates our lives and burdens us in ways that most of us seldom recognize. Ironically, pride is the one thing that can blind someone to things even the unsighted can see.

No, faith can do that too, and more efficiently.

And sadly pride will blind many with an otherwise good heart, to accepting the offer of eternal salvation that Christ bought and paid for with his life.

And pride can likewise blind many to the fallacies on which they base their belief systems, chief among them a sense of personal infallibility regarding interpretations of various holy books and prophetic signs.

In any event, if you’re an atheist, I wish you only the best for every day of the rest of your life because for you, this life is as close to heaven as you’ll ever get,

This is about as close to reasonable as the letter gets. You’re right, this world is the best we can hope for, which means we should do everything we can to make it live up to our hopes. But this is true for everyone, regardless of their beliefs. This world is as close to Heaven as any of us knows we’ll be getting. It is pride of the highest sort to presume that you know who is worthy of Heaven and who is worthy of Hell; your Bible says that only your God can make such judgments. Would you really presume that God agrees with you on the matter of who to save and who to damn? Would you really presume that your understanding of the mind of God is perfect and complete? If so, then I submit that your accusation of pride among atheists is made from a glass house under rocky assault. If not, then shut the hell up, because you’re talking out of your pious ass.

but for believers in Christ, this life is as close to hell as we’ll ever get.

What a deplorable sentiment. Okay, so this world is as close to Hell as you can get. Which makes more sense: waiting it out pouting in the damn corner, or working to make it a better place? The conclusion for atheists and Christians ought to be the same: regardless of what you think lies after, you should be making the most of your time before.

If you’re not a believer and follower of Jesus Christ because you are of another faith, please take the time to very carefully compare your faith to Christianity and ask yourself, why is the bible the only religious book with both hundreds of proven prophecies already fulfilled as well as those being fulfilled today?

If you’re a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, please take the time to very carefully compare your claims to other religions and ask yourself if they aren’t also claiming to have fulfilled and fulfilling prophecy. Then, you might examine whether or not their claims are valid. Then you might examine whether or not your prophetic claims are just as fallacious, vague, self-fulfilling, or interpreted after the fact as theirs are.

No other religion can claim anything remotely close to this fact.

Neither can yours. They all rely on the same silliness as Nostradamus and Astrology. Unless you care to point out specific examples.

Many Christians who are serious students of bible prophecy are already aware of the role and significance of bible prophecy in foretelling end time events.

Yes, and many Trekkies who are serious students of Star Trek continuity are already aware of the role and significance of Star Trek technology in fortelling future technological advancements. What’s your point?

God gave us prophecy as evidence of his divine holiness to know the begining from the end (Isa 46:10). God also believed prophecy to be so important that to those willing to read the most prophetic book in the bible, the Book of Revelation, he promised a special blessing (see Rev 1:3), and this is the only book in the bible that God gives its reader a special blessing for reading. Something to think about.

It’s also the only book in the Bible that reads like “I Am the Walrus.” Something else to think about. Goo goo g’joob.

Also, God didn’t sit down and write the book himself, you know. It’s John (allegedly) who says that the people reading the book will be blessed.

Don’t risk losing Christ’s offer of eternal life by not accepting him as your savior and by thinking that the bible is nothing more than a compilation of unrelated and scattered stories about people who lived 2,000 plus years ago.

But I’ve no reason not to think that the Bible is nothing more than a compilation of loosely related and scattered stories about people who may or may not have lived 2,000-plus years ago.

If you take the time to study (not just read) the bible, you will literally be shocked to learn things you would have never imagined would be revealed in it.

Literally shocked? Like, with electricity? Aside from your misuse of the word “literally,” I agree. I’m often shocked by the things I learn from the Bible, from scientific absurdities to divine atrocities to descriptions of guys with big floppy donkey dicks that ejaculate like firehoses.

Did you know that like parables, God also uses particular months and days in the Jewish calendar, Jewish Feasts and customs, solar and lunar phases, celestial alignments, gematria (Hebrew numerology) early bible events and more as patterns and models to foretell future events?

Wow, a book written by Jews and Jewish offshoot sects employs months and days in the Jewish calendar, Jewish feasts and customs, and Jewish number magic innumeracy numberwang numerology? I never would have imagined! How surprising! And solar and lunar phases, you say? Why, that makes it totally unique among religions, because no other societies thought that solar and lunar phases were significant!

Consider the following interesting facts about the bible that testify to its God-inspired authorship:

“The dedication page says ‘To Me, who makes all things possible'”?

Did you know that in Gen 12:2, God said he would bless Israel?. How else can you explain the grossly disproportionate level of success achieved by Jewish people as a tiny minority in the world, especially after all they have gone through?

Yes, the grossly disproportionate level of success achieved by this tiny minority, totally ignoring also the disproportionate level of suffering they’ve faced. And totally ignoring how social customs and rules in various time periods have contributed to that success–you know, like how after the terrors of the Holocaust, the Allied nations said “these people need a haven,” carved one out, and then gave them alliance and protection in perpetuity thereafter. Or how religious and legal rules in the Renaissance prohibited Christians from lending money to one another or working as bankers, leaving the job (and thus, the stigma of being greedy) to the Jews. None of those real-world things would account for the “grossly disproportionate level of success” achieved by Jewish people as a tiny minority.

And how can you explain the success achieved by the tiny nation of Israel, surrounded by enemies outnumbering them 100 to 1 and yet still they remain victorious in all their wars?

Outnumbered is not outmatched. The Jews have powerful allies and better weapons than their neighbors. If God were protecting them, I think we’d hear of a lot fewer bombed discotheques.

Did you know that as evidence to indicate that Israel is the epicenter of the world from God’s point of view is the fact that languages to the west of Israel are written and read from left to right as if pointing to Israel, and languages from countries to the east of Israel are written and read from right to left, again as though pointing to Israel. Just a coincidence, you say? I think not.

I think not too. In fact, I think that it’s simply false. First, it ignores the origins of these written languages (i.e., that most European and central/western Asian languages developed out of Proto-Indo-European…in Russia). Second, the Earth is spherical; shouldn’t some of these languages be read top to bottom, or bottom to top, by this logic? Shouldn’t Hebrew be a spiral instead of a right-to-left format? Last I checked, Russia was east of Israel, and yet Russian is read left-to-right. I guess it’s because they’re godless commies, right?

Did you know that the six days of creation and seventh day of rest in Genesis is a model for the six thousand years of this age (ending very soon), that is to be followed by a 1,000 year millennial reign by Christ (see 2 Peter 3:8)? Adam was born sometime prior to 4000 B.C., therefore our 6000 years are almost up.

“Did you know that the Bible supports a chronology that we took from a particular interpretation of the Bible?” Great, now try explaining it in light of the real facts–a 13.7 billion-year-old universe, a 4 billion-year-old planet, a two million-year-old species, and so forth. My guess would be, based on your logic here, that we’ve got a good four million years left in “this age” before a thousand years (or a thousand million years?) of reigning Sons of Men (Hallelujah).

Did you kow that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is hidden in the meaning of the Hebrew names listed in the genealogy of the book of Genesis (Research it online)?

What the hell does this even mean? Is this Bible code “word search” insanity? I guess “cherry picking” and “law of large numbers” really mean nothing to you, then.

To deny this was God-inspired, one has to instead believe that a group of Jewish rabbis conspired to hide the Christian Gospel right inside a genealogy of their venerated Torah, which is not a very plausible explanation.

Nope, it isn’t. Which is why we have a more plausible explanation: you’re seeing patterns where none exist, and cherry-picking evidence to fit your claims. And ignoring the fact that the people who wrote the Gospels knew the Old Testament; if there were a correllation, it would say nothing more than that the Gospel writers wrote Jesus’s message according to the Hebrew genealogy. But I think that’s a less likely explanation than the verbal pareidolia one.

Did you know that solar eclipses, which the bible describes as the sun being black as sackcloth, and lunar eclipses, which the bible refers to as blood red moons, have prophetic meaning? Research it online.

I know people have long interpreted eclipses and comets and other cosmic events to have prophetic meaning. I also know people have long believed that thunder came from angels bowling and that volcanoes erupted in anger at receiving too few virgins. Every time I think we’ve made some serious progress as a species, someone comes up to remind me that we’re only a few short centuries removed from thinking that drilling holes in skulls to release the demons was the cutting edge of medicine and that the Earth might topple over if one of the elephants sneezed. Really? Eclipses are prophetic? So, what about people in the regions where the eclipse doesn’t happen (you know, like over half the planet during every solar eclipse), or is only partial? Does the prophecy not apply to them?

I do believe that annular eclipses have prophetic meaning, specifically that seven days after you see it, you’re going to die.

God showed Adam (and us) his plan for man’s redemption through the use of celestial alignments. (research Mazzaroth online)

How does this prove anything about the Bible’s authority or accuracy?

Did you know that much of the symbolism in the book of revelation refers to planetary alignments that will occur when certain events occur as prophesied?

Did you know that much of the symbolism in the Book of Revelation refers to political events happening at the time it was written?

These planetary alignments also explained the birth of Christ, just search out The Bethlehem Star movie on the Internet.

*Headdesk*

Did you know that the references in Eze 39:4-17 and Rev 19:17-21 in the battle of Gog/Magog and Armageddon respectively, in which birds of prey will eat the flesh of the dead in battle from two enormous wars is based on fact? The largest bird migration in the world consisting of bilions of birds (34 species of raptors and various carrion birds) from several continents converge and fly over Israel every spring and fall. Coincidence? I think not.

I’m not going to check out the facts on the bird migration for this; whether or not it’s true is immaterial. Assuming it does happen, what we have are people who are used to seeing lots of carrion-eating birds writing about lots of carrion-eating birds eating carrion. That’s neither amazing nor prophetic, it’s common fucking sense. If I were writing a prophecy about a large number of dead people, and I wanted to include some graphic details, what am I going to write? Bodies rotting, animals consuming them, maybe survivors working to bury or burn the corpses…you know, the things that happen when lots of people die. It’s not prophetic, it’s realistic.

Did you know that Hebrew numerology, also known as Gematria, and the numbers with biblical and prophetic significance are hidden in the Star of David? Google the video called “Seal of Jesus Christ”

Did you know that numerology is bullshit, and that you can cherry-pick numbers from anything to fit any predetermined conclusion?

Did you know that the seven Churches mentioned at the beginning of the Book of Revelation describe the seven stages the Church will go through?

That’s some literalism there. I can’t imagine it would refer to seven churches or anything. Especially since it says “to the seven churches which are in Asia.” Are those seven stages that the church will go through in Asia? So, what’s the significance of the seven Asian locations listed after the colon after “the seven churches which are in Asia,” namely Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodiciea? I suppose those are all metaphors for the different ages that the church will go through, right?

Did you know that you can interpret any text to mean just about anything? It’s true. Search “literary analysis” online.

Holy shit! I just realized that the Seven Dwarfs are metaphors for the seven ages that the church will go through! I’m pretty sure the current one is Dopey.

There are literally hundreds of hidden messages in the bible like these that testify to the fact that the bible was God inspired, and statistically speaking, are all exponentially beyond the likelihood of any coincidence.

The same can be said for every book of sufficient length. I don’t think you understand the words “statistically,” “exponentially,” “likelihood,” or “coincidence.”

You can find them yourselves if you only take the time to look into it. Remember Proverbs 25:2 “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings”.

What does Proverbs say about finding patterns in a matter where none actually exist, or reading into a matter the conclusion you decided ahead of time?

And finally, if you are Catholic, or one who subscribes to the emergent Church or seeker-friendly Church movement, please compare the doctrine taught, advocated or accepted by your Church, with the actual bible, notwithstanding some new-age version of the bible.

“Please compare that doctrine with my Bible, particularly my metaphorical, prophecy-centric, exclusivist interpretation of the Bible.”

And remember that although the bible is often referred to as the living bible, the word “living” was never intended to imply in any way that the bible “evolves” over time to meet, or be consistent with, the standards of man. It’s just the opposite.

Here Lies Tom’s (newest) Irony Meter

b. January 2009 d. February 2009

Requiescat In Pace

“Poor bastard never saw it coming.”

As long as you’re exhorting people to do their own research, why not do a brief search on “Council of Nicaea.” That’s a pretty decent place to start disproving your baldly false claim here.

Well, am I getting through to you?

Not in the way you’d hoped. Also, the pun was better when you didn’t make it explicit.

If not, the answer might be explained in the response given by Jesus Christ in his Olivet discourse when he was asked by his disciples why he spoke the way he did (in parables, etc.) in the book of Matthew 13:10-16. What Jesus said could have easily been paraphrased more clearly as “so that the damned won’t get it”. Why did Christ respond the way he did when asked why he spoke this way? Is there something about pride (the bible says there is) that closes one’s heart to seeing or hearing the messages supernaturally hidden in bible parables, models, typologies, and similes, etc.? That should give you something to think about, but don’t take too long. Time is now very short.

Yes, it gives me something to think about. And what it makes me think is that Jesus was an elitist bastard, and not nearly the kind of orator that he’s made out to be. “I’m going to be intentionally obtuse so only the people who are bright enough to sort through my bullshit and lucky enough to pull out the right message are able to escape arbitrary eternal damnation. To everyone else: sucks to be you!” Some message of unconditional, universal love there. Looks to me like Heaven is a gated community, and the good ol’ boys in charge of the divine housing association don’t want the “wrong sort of people” to get in.

And yet, the people who are most certain that they’re getting in, the ones who are so sure that they’re smart enough to crack the code of Jesus’s opaque message, are the folks like you, Armageddon, who accuse atheists of being prideful and elitist. But despite their pretenses, they also seem unable to notice the blatant logical fallacies, errors of fact, scientific illiteracy, and profound innumeracy on which their interpretation is based. I guess Jesus’s “right sort of people” doesn’t include particularly rational ones.

If it sometimes seems like there are powers at work behind the powers we know, remember what it says in Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” If you study the bible, it will become clearer.

On one hand, I want to bring out 1 Peter 2:13-17 to counter your claim about authorities and rulers. On the other hand, I realize that you’re talking about a supernatural, metaphysical evil, and that the world is somehow tainted by original sin. I suppose if you read the Bible–with a particular sort of bent–that sort of thing might become clearer. It also might not–there are plenty of Bible-believing Christians (probably a large majority, actually) who not only deny your exclusivist gnostic interpretation of the Bible, who not only deny your reading of the book as though it’s nothing more than a newspaper horoscope, who not only deny your mix-and-match ransom letter approach to the text, but who call it out as anti-Christian heresy. I don’t really have a horse in that race, but I can see that they’ve got a point, and even a fool can see how you have to twist, torture, and completely decontextualize most of the book in order to reach the conclusions of Scofield his progeny of Premillennial Dispensationalists. It’s not difficult to see the neo-Gnostic attitude of “I know the real truth, which you can’t know unless I give you the secret True ChristianTM Decoder Ring.” Your “Bible that doesn’t evolve over time to be consistent with the standards of man” explicitly omitted several books that supported that sort of reading, as part of the church declaring that particular attitude a heresy.

But no, I’m sure you’re right. The people who put together the Bible, which you seem to believe is unchanging and perfect, were utterly wrong in describing your sort of interpretation of its teachings as a heresy. I guess God was only inspiring them some of the time.

And by the way, if you are a scoffer, this too was prophesied to occur in the last days. See 2 Peter 3:3.

I love this; I have to remember it when I go to write my books. I’ll just include this in the epigraph: “This is the greatest book ever. This book is so great that people will be in denial about how great it is. After it’s printed, they’ll say that it’s not the greatest book ever, just to mask the fact that they realize it really is the greatest book ever. Just watch, when people say this book isn’t the greatest ever, they’ll just be proving my point that it is.” If I preempt the criticisms of my books and theories and whatnot by acknowledging them and saying they just prove my theories correct, then I insulate myself from any and all criticism ahead of time! It’s a foolproof plan!

Thank you and God Bless you!
Armageddon.thru.to.you (at) gmail.com

You’re welcome, and may the Force be with you!