Protect the Children

Today I want to talk about North Carolina, and Rock stars, and transgender people in bathrooms. I know I am a little late to this party, in fact I was going to let it pass by, but I saw this blog from Ben Shapiro this morning and the meme below a short while after, I decided I really did need to lend my voice to it. Here a two other articles I had saved a while back by Matt Walsh and Ryan Anderson

rockstars

While all three blogs cover varying aspects of reactions to North Carolina’s bill, they all touch on how they believe these musicians are hypocritically discriminating against North Carolina in response to North Carolina discriminating against transgender individuals. The key piece these bloggers seem to be missing is that transgender people are people. States are not people. You cannot discriminate against a state. Although I suppose corporations are supposedly people now, so how long before the Supreme Court gets a case about the personhood of states?

Are these musicians practicing discernment in their choice of venue, absolutely, as is their legal right. Say I own a strip club, and I really want the Newsboys to perform at my club. The Newsboys have no legal or constitutional obligation to perform at my strip club. None. The government has no authority to tell me where I have to open my business (they have some ability to say where I can’t open my business, zoning laws and what not) but If I was a Christian business owner, they couldn’t force me to open a store next to a strip club.

I find this argument similar to one a Christian family member used on me, that forcing bakers to sell wedding cakes to homosexual couples would be like forcing a Jewish deli to sell bacon. Excuse me, what? You can’t force a Jewish deli to sell bacon because Jewish delis don’t sell bacon. I also can’t force Wal-Mart to sell me a car because Wal-Mart doesn’t sell cars (at least a no location I am aware of).

Now say Bruce Springsteen was having a concert in Virginia and said that Christians couldn’t buy tickets to his show. That is discrimination on par with a Christian business not selling a wedding cake to a same-sex couple. Come wake me up when that happens, I will happily protest with you.

While I was writing this The Hill posted an article about Ted Cruz’s response to the bill. Cruz apparently argues that his position isn’t aimed at targeting transgender people but rather the “heterosexual pervert.” I wonder if Cruz knows that “transgender” and “heterosexual” don’t discuss the same thing, but that is beside the point. I think it is safe to assume Cruz actually meant the cisgender heterosexual pervert like the one Mike Huckabee admitted to being.

If the fear is 6 year old girls in the bathroom with 42 year old men I’m not sure why Ted Cruz isn’t freaking out about his daughter’s sharing the bathroom with Chaz Bono. If the fear is about sexual predators, then we should focus on legislation to prevent sexual predators, not legislation that would force transgender men into using the Women’s restroom.

Of course we already have legislation that deals with sexual predators. If I walk into a bathroom and just whip out my genitals for all to see, or peep over bathroom stalls, or in any other way harass the occupants of that bathroom that is illegal. It doesn’t matter if it is the Men or Women’s bathroom; or if I am a man or a woman; cisgender or transgender; or heterosexual or homosexual. Mix and match your favorites, it’s still illegal.

I would like to remind the general population of one Jerry Sandusky, what is the NC bathroom bill going to do to protect children from predators like Jerry Sandusky who liked to molest and rape 10 year-old-boys in the shower? It was the Men’s locker room after all, Sandusky had every right to be there. Are we going to ban grown men from having any contact with children next? That seems to be the most logical way to protect children from sexual predators.

This North Carolina law creates more problems than it solves (and that is just in terms of bathrooms, let alone NC’s economy) and does nothing to actually protect children which supporters claim is the primary purpose.

I call Bull Shit.

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Get Your Own Dirt

There is an old joke that goes like this:

The scientist approached God and said, “Listen, we’ve decided we no longer need you. Nowadays, we can clone people, transplant hearts and do all kinds of things that were once considered miraculous.”

God patiently heard him out, and then said, “All right. To see whether or not you still need me, why don’t we have a man-making contest?”

“Okay, great!” the scientist said.

“Now, we’re going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam,” God said.

“That’s fine,” replied the scientist, and bent to scoop up a handful of dirt.

“Whoa!” God said, shaking his head in disapproval. “Not so fast. You go get your own dirt.”

When I was a kid this joke was always told with Satan as the antagonist, but when I Googled “get your own dirt” every single result on the first page had scientists as the antagonist. Seeing as how Christians seem to deny science at every opportunity, whether it be climate change, evolution, homosexuality, or the Big bang, I suppose I really shouldn’t be surprised. Apparently science is the ultimate enemy now, not Satan.

In regards to the Big Bang, my last post, What Banged? To Heck with Peter Heck Part 4 got me thinking about something I had never considered before.

When I first told my family I was an atheist one of the first questions I was asked was “if you think the Big Bang created the universe, where did that matter come from?” The Christians ultimate trump card right? But why exactly do they think they have the upper hand? We know what happened milliseconds after the Big Bang, but we don’t know what happened at the moment of, or immediately before the Big Bang itself. We don’t know if the tiny little pinpoint of singularity quietly popped into existence before exploding into the universe. Or if that little singularity quietly existed for all eternity before, for whatever reason, exploding into the universe.

What I want to know is why the onus on atheists to prove how the universe could create itself out of nothing, when Christians have no more ability to prove that the universe did in fact come from nothing.

If you ever get asked how the universe could create itself from nothing, turn the tables on them, and ask them to prove that it did. There is absolutely no reason to waste time trying to prove how something was accomplished, if it can’t be proven that it has ever actually been accomplished.

So what does it look like, scientifically, for the universe to suddenly pop into existence as a tiny little singularity before exploding in the Big Bang? How did God do it? If the Big Bang is what it looks like when God creates the universe, we can describe that scientifically, so scientifically how does matter spontaneously appear. Now I imagine most theists will blow the question off with a “God is all powerful, he just did it,” but don’t let them get off the hook with that. And this is why.

Verse 1: God creates the heavens and the earth

Verse 2: God says let there be light and there was light

Verse 6: God said let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters                                      Verse 7: And God made (or fashioned) the expanse

Verse 9: God said let the waters be gathered into one place and let land appear… and it was so

Verse 11: God said let the earth sprout vegetation… and it was so

Verse 14: God said let there be lights in the expanse                                                                       Verse 15: And God made the two great lights

Verse 20: God said let there be fish and birds                                                                                Verse 21: so God created fish and birds

Verse 24: God said let the earth bring forth living creatures                                                    Verse 25: And God made the beasts of the earth

Verse 26: God said let us make man in our image                                                                         Verse 27: So God created man in his image.

With the exception of light and plants, Every time God says “let there be” he goes through a second step of actually making or creating that thing.

In Genesis 2 we get a second, more detailed story about the creation of man and woman. We are to believe that God created mankind in the likeness of God himself. But when God, who supposedly has the power to speak things into existence, wants to create the most important thing in the universe, we know that creation process involves shaping man out of dirt. He didn’t speak man into existence, he crafted man out of matter that already existed. When God and Adam are actively considering bestiality, God forms all of the beasts of the field and birds of the sky out of earth, out of matter that already existed (which is weird because the birds at least were supposed to have been created the day before, but that is beside the point). When God goes to create Eve, he changes things up a bit and crafts her our of a rib bone, out of matter that already existed.

Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis teaches that you must use the Bible to interpret the Bible. So in order to interpret Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth.” We need to look at other instances of God “creating” and we see that when God creates, he uses pre-existing materials. That should lead us to believe that in Genesis 1:1. when God creates the Heavens and the Earth, he is also using pre-existing materials.

Is this a legitimate question or am I way off the mark? Let me know in the comments.

What Banged: To Heck with Heck Part 4

We’ve made it to part 4 of the Heck with Peter Heck series, which means we are just about half way done with his 7 part video series. If you are an atheist, I hope my thoughts can help you to dismantle some common arguments and fallacies theists like to send our way. If you are a theist I hope my thoughts will help show you that perhaps Heck’s approach is not the best approach to take when trying engaging with atheists.

With that said check out the video below and let’s dive into part 4.

 

*Sigh* I think we should recap some of the things Heck has said in his previous installments. In part 1 Heck claims there is ample evidence for God. In part 2 Heck argues that the scientific method can neither prove nor disprove an entity who lives outside of Earth’s natural laws, therefore the conversation needs to be a philosophical conversation not a scientific conversation. In part 3 Heck ends with a reiteration that “we have already established that science cannot prove or disprove God.” And now, the entirety of part 4 is about using science to try and prove God.

Excuse me… What?

Heck encourages theists engaging with “God deniers” to “force them to acknowledge the scientific reality that the universe is finite.” In my opinion, this is an entirely fair topic of discussion that atheists and theists should be engaged in. My problem is Heck intentionally, and very thoroughly took science off the table for this discussion on if God is even real, only to throw it back on when he thinks it serves his purpose. The whole thing seems very disingenuous to me. If you say you can’t use science to prove/disprove God, then don’t try to use science to try and prove/disprove God. It is that simple. However since I do think this is a topic worth discussing, let’s go ahead and examine what Heck has to say on the matter.

Heck starts off by complaining that before the general acceptance of the Big Bang, so-called God deniers would generally avoid the difficult topic of how the universe was created by saying it always existed, an eternal universe. Heck doesn’t think this is any more sophisticated than believing in an eternal God who created the universe, but how do those beliefs stack against one another? On the one hand we have a universe we can prove exists (on account that we live in it), but we have an uncertain origin. On the other side we have a proven universe, created by an unprovable entity, who has an uncertain origin. So yes, an eternal universe is a much more eloquent and sophisticated explanation, as opposed to adding an additional unknown in order to solve an unknown.

However, the science does not support an eternal universe, and even the concept of the “big bounce,” the idea that eventually gravity will stop and reverse the expansion of the universe causing it to collapse back in on itself compressing it until it explodes in a second big bang, repeating the processing for all eternity also seems unlikely. Which makes all of this moot.

Since “Einstein and the boys” proved that the universe is finite, Heck believes atheists are in the difficult situation of having to explain how the universe created itself and he wants atheists to answer why that is “acceptable ignorance” to not know what exactly kick started the Big Bang. But Heck ignores that just because we don’t have an answer now, doesn’t mean people are not looking for the answer. “Acceptable ignorance” only happens when you stop looking to educate yourself, for instance if you throw up your hands and say “God did it.” Ignorance is okay, it is okay to say that you don’t know. Ultimately it is the pursuit of knowledge that is important, in 2015 we were able to detect gravitational waves for the first time. An actual ripple in the fabric of space and time! We may never be able “see” the Big Bang, but with our knowledge about gravitational waves, we may now be able to hear it, and learn all kinds of new things.

Speaking of the pursuit of knowledge, you can tell Heck hasn’t actually engaged with any knowledgeable atheists on this subject. I he had, he would know there are well known theories out there, and there are plenty of things someone like Heck would love criticize.

I enjoy this Ted Talk by Brian Greene (given in 2012) on the multiverse. An alternative to the “God did it” solution. If you have the 20 minutes to spare, I highly recommend watching it, and then watching other Ted Talks on the universe, and then just getting lost watching Ted Talks.

http://www.ted.com/talks/brian_greene_why_is_our_universe_fine_tuned_for_life

If you don’t have the 20 minutes to spare right now, the basic premise is our universe is only one of many universes and the reason why life developed in our universe is because our universe spawned just the right conditions for life, whereas most other universes probably wouldn’t be able to support life.

And even though the math seems to support it, and even though many very smart people support it. There are a lot of other smart people who say it is no more verifiable than claiming that God did it (of course we can detect ripples in the fabric of space and time now, so how long before we are able to phase right through it and into the next universe?). So there is plenty there for Heck to pick a part, but instead he chooses to reduce atheists to saying it cannot be understood because it happened a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away, that’s right, star wars. This is called a straw man fallacy. Instead of actually dealing with the theories that have their basis in math and science he reduces the argument to something that he can easily knock down. This is one of the most disingenuous tactic you can use while in an argument with someone.

Heck claims that God deniers have no answer for how the universe came into being, and therefore the most plausible explanation must be “God did it.” Except I just supplied an equally plausible answer that has been around for at least the past four years that Heck could have found for himself if he was even remotely interested in educating himself instead of building Star Wars straw man to knock over.

Someday science will figure out how the universe came into existence. I wonder if on that day if Heck will renounce God, or if he will merely say “well, that’s what it looks like when God speaks matter into existence” and move on.

Bonus*

Over the course of 5 minutes Heck says that Einstein and the boys proved that the universe is finite (the Big Bang) and then he claims that the big bang is just a story, no more scientifically verifiable than an eternal God who said “let it be.” Either the Big Bang is proven or it is not proven. You can’t have it both ways as it suits your purpose. This is just another example of a disingenuous tactic the Heck uses and is encouraging other theists to use.

You Read that Wrong

 

Ken Ham

Earlier today Ken Ham decided to grace Facebook with his presence to defend the inerrancy of the Bible. And for whatever reason it appeared on my Facebook page. I should probably just follow him and get it over with, but something about being “friends” with Ken Ham makes my skin crawl.

As usual the thing that really annoys me is Ken Ham claims that secularists start off with the assumption that the bible has errors. This ignores the fact that many secularists were once adamant believers who only became secularists when they could no longer ignore the gross contradictions within the Bible.

The truth is apologists, pastors and priests love all of the contradictions and ambiguities in the Bible, and the same is true the further up the church hierarchy you go. If the Bible wasn’t full of contradictions, they would all be out of a job. Imagine being able to open a Bible and being able to easily and clearly ascertain the author’s meaning. No need for someone like Ken Ham to teach you how to “correctly” read the Bible. Because of course if someone comes to a different conclusion about the Bible, they obviously are just not reading it correctly.

Think about it, the Catholic Church didn’t stop conducting mass in Latin until 1965. That keeps those who are unlearned, the common folk, if you will, dependent on the church hierarchy for their connection to God. Ken Ham is making the same power play today. Everyone can examine the text for themselves but for some reason it is still necessary for people like Ken Ham to help all the common folk navigate and explain away all of these “supposed” contradictions. No “True Christian” ever wants to read the bible incorrectly obviously.

Google “biblical contradictions” and you will find lists that will continue for what seems like an impossibly long time. My personal favorite is when God brags about freeing the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery in Exodus 20, and then in Exodus 21 God lays down laws for slave ownership (apparently slavery is only bad when it happens to Jews). Even if there are satisfactory answers for every contradiction (I am not very satisfied with this Jewish slavery exception), the sheer amount of ambiguity should be proof against any sort of divine inspiration. It is the editor’s job to make sure that contradictions and ambiguity don’t make it to the final print, so the author’s message isn’t muddled. If the Bible were written today God would be fired as the editor.  The Bible is a perfect example of why it is always good practice to have a second set of eyes to review a text before publication (I don’t do this, which is why days later after I post a blog I’m still finding typos).

The ultimate goal of the God/the Bible is to save as many souls as possible (unless of course it isn’t). How many people have left the faith at least partially due to the contradictions found in the Bible? God, the most perfect editor, had an opportunity to create the most perfect text and without question he failed. For proof look at John 17:20-21, which depicts Jesus praying that all those who read the Bible (who come to believe through the word of the apostles) “be one.” Consider there are over 40 denominations of Christianity today. Some differences between denominations are minor, other denominations handle rattlesnakes. In terms of results this is an example of one of the worst prayers in the Bible. And if God can’t even get a “yes” to his own prayer, about his own church, what hope does anybody else have?

*Edit– I meant to use the above paragraph to highlight that the 40 different denominations all have different views on how to “correctly” interpret the bible. This is an unacceptable outcome for an editor who clearly wanted to produce a clear, unified message as John 17:20-21 states.–Edit*

Do you want more proof? Let’s play a game. Who was at the tomb when Jesus’s body was discovered missing?

Was it a young man sitting in the tomb dressed in a white robe as it is in Mark?

Was it an angel who descended from heaven and rolled the stone back in the presence of the women then sitting on the stone as it is in Matthew?

Was it two men standing inside the tomb in dazzling apparel after the tomb had been discovered empty as it is in Luke?

Was it two angels in white sitting inside the tomb after they had already discovered the tomb empty, left, and came back again with more witnesses, and then after those witnesses left as it is in John?

Perhaps some of the confusion comes from in Mark, Mary Magdalene, Jesus’s mother, and Salome discover the tomb empty, while in Matthew it is just Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary.” In Luke it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and “other women.” And finally in John it was Mary Magdalene on her own.

I personally think the confusion comes from Mark 16:8 “And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

Even supposing the details got muddled in the 40 years before they were written down, any moderately competent human editor compiling this anthology would be able to get the number of angels consistent from story to story, let alone the recurring characters, and they would know that the author couldn’t report information that hadn’t actually been told to anybody.

In terms of consistency and clarity, by any standard of writing, the Bible is far from perfect. But perhaps we should give God some slack, at least in terms of the resurrection story. After all, the whole point is he wasn’t there.

Bitter Water

So, in Indiana (where I live) Governor Mike Pence recently signed a law that banned abortions based on the potential gender, ethnicity, or disability of the fetus. This has spurred the creation of a protest of sorts in the form of “Periods for Pence” a group encouraging women across the state to call, tweet, Facebook, or otherwise inform Mike Pence of the happenings with their menstrual cycle. This has since made the national news circuit. You can read about it here and other places.

Not a perfect segue, but I was thinking about how in this presidential election cycle two GOP (Rubio and Walker) presidential candidates came out as opposed to abortion in all circumstances including rape, incest, and even if the life of the mother was in jeopardy.

I wonder, if those individuals who believe like Rubio and Walker that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances are aware of a rather peculiar ritual described in the Old Testament where a suspicious husband could force his wife (no proof necessary) to take a “magic potion” that of course would do no harm to an innocent woman, but would most likely (the wording is a little obscure, yet still pretty explicit) cause the death of an unborn child for a pregnant women and (or if she wasn’t already pregnant) cause her to remain barren for the rest of her life. See Numbers 5:11-31 for the full text, it is lengthy so I’ve edited out some redundancy and extraneous bits.

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 12 “Speak to the people of Israel, If any man’s wife goes astray and breaks faith with him… 14 and if the spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife who has defiled herself…15 then the man shall bring his wife to the priest and bring the offering required of her, a tenth of an ephah of barley flour…

16 “And the priest shall bring her near and set her before the Lord. 17 And the priest shall take holy water in an earthenware vessel and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water… 19 Then the priest shall make her take an oath…21 

 24 …And he shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that brings the curse, and the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain…. And when he has made her drink the water, then, if she has defiled herself and has broken faith with her husband, the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain, and her womb shall swell, and her thigh shall fall away, and the woman shall become a curse among her people. 28 But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be free and shall conceive children.

The trick with this verse is no one quite seems to know what “her thigh shall fall away” means. The NIV translation seems to be the only one that will directly translate that to “her womb will miscarry.” However, bitter pain, a swelling womb, and something falling away, coupled with an “innocent” woman being able to conceive children seems pretty obvious to me. It is called context clues people. That and the Bible is known for using euphemisms when it comes to discussing genitals.

Take this strange story about God trying to kill Moses in Exodus 4: 24-26. Why God is trying to kill Moses is never explained (it is an entirely random insertion) nor why circumcising an infant and throwing the bloody foreskin at Moses’s feet or penis would make God stop. But at least the penis makes more sense than his feet.

This also completely changes Ruth’s story in Ruth 3:4

The thing I find most interesting is the grain offering. I know even priests have to eat, but step back Planned Parenthood Jewish priests were the original abortion profiteers.

Props to the Awkward Moments Children’s Bible for making me aware of this verse, for some reason it is typically left out at Sunday school. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you definitely need to check them out.

 

 

 

 

Odds and Ends: To Heck with Peter Heck Part 3.5

One of the things I strive for when I write this blog is brevity. I realize I have failed miserably at this. There were many things I wanted to add to Hard-wired that unfortunately were not directly related to the main thrust of Heck’s argument, and my response to that had already dragged on long enough. However, since I had already typed up many of those extra thoughts, I compiled  all of the odds and ends that didn’t find their way into part 3, here in part 3.5.

The first thing I want to address is a line Heck says towards the very end of the video, “If science cannot prove or disprove God, which we have already established…” No, no, no. We need to clear this up before we can dive into anything else. Now Heck claimed that science cannot prove or disprove God, and he said some things that admittedly sounded very good to back up that claim, but he is miles away from proving the claim as true. And as there are actual scientists on who believe that science can prove God, or can disprove God, as well as scientists who I am sure agree with Heck, this claim is far from established. What Heck actually established was that he would not be using science in this conversation. And to be honest I am not 100 percent confident he won’t try to slip in some “science” at some point down the road, but it looks like he kept his word for part 3.

Now that we have that taken care of we can continue.

Right away Heck claims that the only way you or I are ever going to know if God truly exists is if we collect God’s fingerprints, or (nonscientific) evidence for the existence of God, and put them all together to make a rational, reasonable, logical argument for the existence for God. Already I have two major problems. The first, Heck is putting the cart before the horse. He starts with the assumption that God exists, then that we must collect God’s so-called “fingerprints,” which will invariable lead us back to God exists. Heck isn’t collecting objective evidence, he is only collecting fingerprints of God, if Heck’s evidence doesn’t invariably lead back to God then he wouldn’t be calling it a fingerprint. Even if Heck’s arguments are beyond compelling, if he doesn’t examine objective evidence from both/every side, his rational, reasonable, logical conclusions don’t have any bearing at all. Think of it this way. I am on trial for murder. My blood was found at the crime scene, my prints were on the murder weapon, which I owned, and I had a known grudge against the victim, that is some compelling evidence that would give the jury fair reason to convict me. However, if I had plane tickets that demonstrated I was out of the country at the victim’s time of death. Witnesses to account for my exact whereabouts at the time of the victim’s death and surveillance footage to collaborate the witnesses, suddenly the evidence of my guilt is far less compelling. If we only collected evidence for one side, we can’t make a reasonable conclusion, it just isn’t possible.

The second issue I have is there is nothing preventing God from lighting a bush on fire and telling us he exists, or opening a donkey’s mouth and telling us he exists (I think God stole that one from Shrek). God had no problem speaking directly to Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses (with and without burning bush), Joshua, Solomon…  Those are all the Old Testament you say. Jesus post resurrection/ascension appeared to Paul, spoke with him and struck him blind. The Bible ends (Revelations) with a detailed account of a vision from God. The Bible gives no reason why God would suddenly go silent for 2,000 years. But of course he didn’t, it is just the people he “talks” to, and I don’t mean the people who he “works on their heart,” but the people he actually talks to, tells them to do things (like build an ark or murder all of the Canaanites, or shoot up a planned parenthood) we now give those people counseling and medication to fix the chemical imbalances in their brains. I know I just deeply offended many Christians out there, and that isn’t my intention but we know people still “hear voices” whether that is God, or Satan, or aliens, or pick your favorite deity, we know what causes it, and we have some grasp on how to fix/suppress/prevent it, but that is knowledge that wasn’t available in biblical times and so they explained it the best they could.

To try and bolster his Bandwagon Fallacy Peter Heck uses this analogy: “Suppose you are driving down a 4 lane highway for about an hour and every car you encounter tens of thousands of them, right in your face and they are nearing off to the side as you approach what can you fairly, logically, reasonably conclude?” This, admittedly is a pretty good analogy. I think its major flaw though is the fact it is never a single, solitary atheist who is careening the “wrong” way down this highway. In fact according to the Pew research center* an ever growing number of theists are becoming unaffiliated. That is atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular.” So let’s suppose you are driving comfortably down a four lane highway and some idiot comes careening the wrong way towards you. That was weird, but you keep going. Then you see another car and another and another and another all driving down what you consider to be the “wrong way.” And then you start seeing cars who were previously driving what you thought was the “correct way” doing drastic U-turns and following the people you thought were idiots. What can we fairly and reasonably conclude about these people driving the wrong way? Perhaps they know a little bit more about what lies at the end of the road than you do. I don’t know what that something is, maybe it is being tired of being associated with a religion that espouses love out of one side of their mouth and hate, bigotry, and discrimination out of the other. Maybe it is the inconsistencies between what the Bible teaches and what is preached from the pulpit on Sundays, maybe it is the inconsistencies within the Bible itself. Maybe it is being tired of the constant denial of observable science, or maybe it is just the slavery, raping, child murder, genocide and the general blood, death, torture and destruction that God is credited with or commanded throughout the Bible. Whatever it is, we can reasonable and fairly conclude that more and more people are opening their eyes to it and rightly want nothing to do with it.

 

* http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/

Hard-wired: To Heck with Heck Part 3

Hardwired: To Heck with Heck Part 3

Thank you for joining me for Part 3 of the Heck with Peter Heck series. In Part 2 Heck promised us some amazingly simple answers, so without too much ado let’s see how well Part 3 delivers.

The main thrust of Heck’s “evidence” in this video goes like this: Almost everybody in human history has believed in some form of the supernatural, therefore some form of the supernatural must exist. This is what is known as a Bandwagon Fallacy, the logical conundrum of believing in something just because a lot of other people also believe it. To Heck’s credit he recognizes he is using a bandwagon fallacy (because it is painfully obvious), but then asks his viewers to jump off the cliff with him anyways with the promise of more “fingerprints” later. My question is given what we know about the supernatural, should the fact that primitive human civilizations believed in it, and some of those traditions have carried on, bare any weight in whether or not we believe in the supernatural today?

Mythology exists to explain the unexplainable, everything from “what is lightning,” to “why do we hate the people who live over there?” Using mythology to explain geopolitical rivalries has its own problems to be sure, but the problem with using mythology to explain natural phenomena, like lightning, is eventually science can explain it. We know that lightning is caused by an imbalance of electrical charges which eventually results in a spark or a lightning bolt to neutralize the charge. We can scientifically prove and replicate this process. The ancient Greeks, on the other hand, of course believed that the Cyclops (the son of the sea god, Poseidon) crafted the lightning bolts for the sky god, Zeus to use as his weapons. This we cannot replicate. Some Native American cultures believed in Thunderbirds who caused the lightning. Can’t replicate this either. Across cultures there are countless thunder/lightning/storm gods, Yahweh included among them.  Heck seems to be suggesting that because countless people have believed through the ages various supernatural storm gods are the source of thunderstorms and lightning, their belief should be counted as evidence to the existence of at least one of these storm gods and we should at very least be open to abandoning scientific explanations in favor of these lightning wielding deities.

If we allow for the possible existence of these storm gods, where do we draw the line? Do we have to consider Djinn? Fey? Unicorns, werewolves, or vampires as possible realities? Of course Heck wants us to draw the line specifically with his religion and his mythology, because while djinn, and vampires may be ridiculous, a talking snake is totally within the realm of possibility.

At the moment, Heck seems more focused on refuting atheism than actually proselytizing for Christianity (we still have four more videos in this series though), however I don’t think Heck would consider it a win  if I converted to Hinduism in response to these videos. If Heck’s goal is ultimately conversion to Christianity (it may not be, I may be going out on a limb here) his bandwagon fallacy becomes more of a gambler’s fallacy. Say you are flipping a coin and nine consecutive times it lands on heads. It is natural to think that the next time it HAS to land on tails. Of course the previous nine flips have nothing to do with the probability of the tenth flip, but we still feel like we are overdue for a tails. So Heck is trying to use his bandwagon fallacy to convince his audience the supernatural has to be real, and then the next step for any Christian is to point out how all the other supernatural beliefs are wrong therefore Christianity HAS to be right. To me it seems rational that if 99.9 percent of other religions are false, than Christianity is most likely false too. But, even if we don’t go to that extreme, we can still use the bandwagon fallacy to look at religion another way. For instance, we could say that a near unanimity of humans through the entirety of human history have believe in polytheism therefore monotheism must be wrong. Of course just how many people believe in polytheism doesn’t make it true, but it just might be a fingerprint…

When Heck looks at the sheer unanimity of Humans believing in the beyond he hypothesizes that humans are most likely hardwired to believe in the beyond. I agree with this completely, but probably attribute this “hard-wiring” to a different force than Heck does. It is entirely plausible there is something about the ability to believe, or the susceptibility to believe in the supernatural that increased the likelihood of survival, which increases the chances of progeny which encourages the successful passing of that particular trait, via the process known as natural selection (Gasp! Evolution!).

Heck would most likely attribute this hard-wiring to God, which to me seems counter to the “free will” thing that Christians think their God is so particular about. Hard-wiring in this sense implies God has literally encoded into everyone’s DNA the belief in the supernatural. Theists like this concept because it fits their narrative that Atheists know the theist’s specific God exists but are for whatever reason angry with him and choose to reject him. Which I’ve mentioned in previous posts is a major pet peeve of mine.

My life experiences tell me ever since I was a young child I was taught that God and talking snakes were true, but as I became older and able to critically examine my beliefs and draw my own conclusions I began to realize the beliefs I was taught as a child didn’t make any sense to me, despite having a perfectly happy life (Sorry, not angry with any force in the universe that could remotely be considered God-like). Which makes me wonder, supposing that God does exist, and most people are hardwired to believe in the supernatural. Did I get skipped? After all I have no reason to be angry or otherwise not believe in God beyond it rationally not making any sense to me, and plenty of other people who I know are capable of accomplishing critical thinking seem to experience no cognitive dissonance when considering the supernatural. Does God want me to ignore my critical thinking? If so, why did he give me critical thinking? Is it just an extra hurdle I have to jump over, or did I never have any shot at heaven at all? And what kind of god would predestine someone to Hell, by not hard-wiring them to at least believe in the supernatural. If it is just an extra hurdle, what is up with the arbitrary disadvantage? It’s on a whole different scale even from having your entire village wiped out by a tsunami and pretending like it was “good.” To me, this divine hard-wiring brings more questions than answers.

In the end, I find Heck’s bandwagon evidence to be less than convincing. We will have to see what new evidence, and/or fallacies Heck brings to part 4.

Bonus!

I think being hardwired to believe in the supernatural is kind of like being hardwired to have an appendix. Now it is not fair to say that the appendix is a completely useless organ. Apparently the appendix is very good at repopulating the digestive track with good bacteria after a bout of dysentery or cholera and at one point in time that was very important (and can still be in various parts of the world). However in developed countries the appendix is better known for the fact that you can live without it, yet it occasionally likes to burst and potentially kill its owner. Religion, like the appendix may have been necessary at one point in time. Many people still find it beneficial whether through comfort and community. However it is unnecessary for life, and occasionally it likes to burst and kill a few (or a lot) of people.