Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Faith Defined

Religion is man's way of controlling a potentially chaotic universe. It wasn't until the Voyager 1 spacecraft took the picture commonly known as the "pale blue dot", that man began to truly realize how insignificant they were in the grand scheme of things. In the Milky Way galaxy alone there are over 1 billion stars just like our own. That means nearly a billion solar systems that could potentially be just like our own in a collection of uncountable other galaxies that make up the universe we live in. A pale blue dot indeed. Everyday scientists from all over the world watch our galaxy and others and observe any number of events. They see solar systems destroyed by stars gone super nova. They witness the reformation of stars and their solar systems from previously dead stars. They view the ultra destructive force that are black holes literally ripping tears in space and time as they suck up planets and implode stars. And they observe any number of meteors and comets on their ultimately destructive paths. All of these events are well documented, narrated on audio and video, and written about by thousands of qualified scientists, historians, and documentarians. Yet there are legions of people who look at these events and chuck it up to the all powerful and intentional actions of an all knowing supernatural force- simply called God.

Faith can be defined as two things when used in reference to religion. It is defined as the limited lifespan view and unimaginative mind of someone who takes the most illogical reason for existence as indisputable truth. Religion is very good at appealing to these two things- people have a limited concept of time and they take the easiest answer to explain the most complex things. When many people look at the world around them in their present time they think to themselves they can't imagine any other explanation than that something had to create this. They equate the creation of a house with the creation of the universe- it exists therefore someone had to make it. People since the beginning of rational thought processes have used this very simple explanation because they did not understand the complexity if their surroundings. They didn't understand the cause of death and disease. They didn't know why it rained and what lightning was or what caused natural disasters. In primitive times this made sense, but now we know better than to use such benign explanations. Most people, religious and not, are even able to admit some form of limited micro evolution (what ever the heck that is) but draw the line at humans. Yet in this day and age when we know what causes most things in our immediate surroundings- we still cling to the concept of some omnipotent creator.

Atheists usually allow themselves to get sucked into the First Cause argument which the religious always have the trump card. We can always point to the Big Bang but they always point to the Big Guy and on that accord they make sense (in an irrational way). So let me postulate something more fantastic and far more rational than "G O D dunit". The concept of infinity has over time driven men to murder and suicide (at least when trying to prove it) but all of us have some limited idea of it. The religious have a very good concept of infinity aptly named eternity. Our understanding of infinity on the number line (remember that thing) is that numbers never end nor do they ever begin because they are infinitely negative and positive. Time can be considered in much the same way; it has no end nor does it have a beginning- it will and has always existed.

Best guess estimates of which there is very little support for, is that the universe as we know it is 14 billion years old. However, we also know that solar systems constantly destroy themselves (through super novas) and rebuild themselves (through intense gravitational pulls on dead star matter which form new stars and planets). We also know that things that become to hallow and expanded collapse in on themselves (think a cake). Finally we know that our galaxy and potentially the universe is expanding and will some day collapse (so the theory goes). We know what happens when stars collapse and there is no reason to doubt that the collapse of an entire galaxy wouldn't cause a similar albeit far more cataclysmic event. Such an event would result in the complete destruction of the universe and essentially a reboot of the entire system. When a star dies it collapses in on itself into a dense ball of energy and then explodes- a mini bang of sorts. The collapse of the entire universe would in effect be a Big Bang.

There is no reason to doubt that the expansion and collapse of the entire universe hasn't happened before. Nor is their a reason to suspect that it hasn't happened an infinite amount of times. This concept if thought about, isn't that hard to imagine. A much tougher concept is the idea of this universe being one of many universes stacked on top of one another. We know that outside of our planet there is the expansiveness of space. There is nothing that says there isn't anything outside of the expansiveness of space.

So what is all of this postulation leading to. The concept and idea of a creator is to neat and to limited to what we know about the universe. Religion is purely emotion and it plays on it. It isn't rational by any definition of the word and it doesn't provide any beneficial answers to help us advance our limited understanding of the greater universe. Through a series of seemingly random events we have been given the ability to invent and shape our environments. No other living being can do what we can do and it is imperative that we embrace that and work towards true human progress. God and religion is limiting and once most people are freed from its shackles, we can really begin to move forward. One day the legacy of religion will be that it stunted and even tried to prevent human progress. Until then we must try to recognize what religion truly is and work to break free from it.

My Religion is Better Than Your Religion

The most effective tool against the monstrosity that is organized religion is the division within itself. Christianity in particular suffers from a large amount derivation due to a large number of sects and cults. So not only does mainstream Christianity (Evangelicals and Catholics) have to fight against secular society and other large religious factions, it is also embattled on the inside. My favorite pro-Christian book is Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century in which much of it is dedicated to the denunciation of off-shoot Christianity and its "false and misleading beliefs"- as if all beliefs in the supernatural aren't false and misleading.

Absolute belief in one religion often deteriorates into "my religion is better than your religion" and each large religious faction donates much of its energy, time, and resources on the conversion of one another. Christians are especially committed to this and produce literature on what to say to other religions to denounce their beliefs in favor of their own. The author of the aforementioned book, Hank Hanegraaff, devotes much of his sizable organization on apologetics, evangelism, and conversion of the lost and uninformed. Its a ludicrous and somewhat entertaining plight to listen to as I often do on my local Christian station. Anyone who nicknames themselves the Bible Answer Man, is bound to be full of it. It is in the divisiveness that the rational and logical person is most easily able to denounce all religion.

The separation between the three main religions Judaism, Islam, and Christianity and their plight against one another provides a perfect avenue to discredit them. In the end their arguments boil down to simple childish banter- my book says my God is better than your God. There is no other basis to make such arguments against one another. They take a book, no matter which one, and compare and contrast one another and try to discredit the opposition. Such a debate tactic is a logical fallacy to the nth degree and could never prevail in a rational, sound discussion. But therein lies the premise, that religion is neither rational nor sound. The premise, that a super powerful, all knowing being created all that we see and rules over it, is already an argument that lacks a drop of reason and is thus unprovable- especially when pitting it against an opposing equally absurd argument. The attempt at conversion becomes even more ludicrous when interfaith conversions are attempted such as a Baptist trying to convert a Jehovah's Witness using their prospective book.

 In the end, the argument for any type of organized religion is a demonstrable act in itself. This belief (and I do hate to use the word) that I hold is grounded in a view that has taken years to put together. It was probably after the 9/11 attacks that I started looking at religion as a whole instead of the realm of just Christianity. While I claimed Catholic I was never an astute believer and I never felt comfortable talking about God or Jesus. After comparing the main religions and then reading about the evolution of religion throughout history, I began to realize that nothing was quite right about any of it. Then I started studying biology, evolution, and astronomy, and I began to see a much broader picture of the Universe, the laws by which it operated, and the role that humans played in it. Since then, it has never been a doubt in my mind that religion is the answer to nothing but man's need to feel in control of his life- in this life and beyond.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Considering the Bible

Atheists often try to argue against the Bible in order to convince Christians that their contrived belief system is, for a lack of better words, bullshit. I am pleading with all those that take such a plight to please cease and desist. By arguing against the credibility of the Bible you are in fact doing the one thing you are trying to put an end to- you are giving it legitimacy. No matter what you say or how you discredit the writings found in the Bible a believer will always be able to counter your argument and present you with a better formed and well thought rebuttal. In the end you look foolish and ignorant of the thing you are trying to disprove. Even if you have read the Bible and taken every possible academic class on the history and legitimacy of the text, you will always fail to use it against someone who believes in it.

The only course of action when presenting your viewpoints to a Christian or any other religious person is to remove their book from the debate. If you take any sacred text into account when arguing your point against someones belief you loose before the discussion began. Instead, you have to remove anything that lacks genuine veracity from the argument. Meaning, the Bible is only one of a countless number of sacred texts that claim the same thing just along a separate line. Many religions and spiritual movements believe that their sacred texts are divinely or supernaturally inspired (click here for a complete list). At this point you should try to move the conversation into a well researched discussion on historical facts. Just be aware that people who are firm believers have equipped themselves with rebuttals to these arguments as well but anyone who has the ability to research and learn can easily debunk these.

For a well researched and documented look and the historical accuracy and rationale behind Christianity, read this article.

Fact based arguments are the weakest link in the religious persons arsenal for affirming their beliefs. These arguments will never win them over but you can hope that supplying credible researched information can plant a seed of doubt. Peeking the curiosity of someone who may already have doubts is the most effective way to help them towards the path of real, tangible truth. Don't expect anything less than that.

The Fallacy of the New Athiest Plight

Once upon a time Atheists really could care less about the plights of Christians or other religious groups. Atheism was simply a disbelief in the supernatural and that was the end of the story. As Ultra Conservatism took hold in the 1990's and into the 21st Century, Evangelical Christians gained entry into a gateway in which they could really push their agenda into politics. With this new found visibility in the American political spectrum came a renewed sense dogmatism and sense of fervor for the supposed word of God. All of a sudden pastors and reverends who had maintained a large congregation but found little acknowledgment in the media spotlight, were finally able to get their message easily disseminated into the larger public. Thus enters the more or less dogmatic Atheist who adopted their own hyper anti-Christian agenda.

To this day many Atheists find this overwhelming need to push this agenda on anyone espousing anything except malicious fervor for the supernatural. They start with rationality and follow this failed attempt by arguing against the Bible, followed by personal attacks against the resistant but often cordial Christian whose rebuttal is always Jesus, the Bible, and their faith. The idea that you can somehow denounce the supernatural with a rational argument is ludicrous. No manner of theory, scientific knowledge, or quote mining is going to change the mind of someone who has been convinced that the Earth was made in 6 days (with a day of rest) and that a man named Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead. Secondly it is impossible to argue against the Bible by pointing out its inconsistencies, fallacies, misguided literal translations, or its complete lack of historical corroboration. Finally, ad hominem attacks are never effective and only make the arguer look desperate and foolish.

Atheists feel like they have to discredit those who do not believe what they believe. The fact is that this is not necessary nor is it a prerequisite for undermining the foundations of religion. Religion and its reverence for things lacking logic is its own undoing. You can always point people in a positive direction and say "look at this and if you still believe what you believe, then so be it", but nothing else beyond that is effective. See, the faithful no matter what flavor of religion they adhere to- have one fundamental argument that, in their eyes, discredits everything. They believe in something and if not of the right aptitude, there is nothing that can change that. This fundamental argument is also their weakness because belief in no way, shape, or form, reflects reality. You can believe what ever you want to believe but it doesn't change what really is. Only tangible things exist- those things which are rational, logical, and grounded in reality. Belief is not tangible nor does it conform to the bounds of reason. No argument exists that can transition irrational thought into rational thought and any attempt to do so is forfeit.

Please Atheists, stop trying to argue the religious into submission- it will not work. Anyone who has ever transcended the walls that controlled their thought processes, has only ever done so through self discovery. Truth is readily available to anyone who seeks it but unfortunately truth is subject to our conceptions and often misconceptions. Real truth not wrapped in ideologies and false promises, is verifiable through facts and provable by way of processes- anything else is subject. It is this tangible path towards truth that brings people to reality. This is the way it has to be for convincing people through words never leads to anything other than what was left behind.

A Call To Truth

Pragmatism is the philosophy of considering practical consequences and real effects to be vital components of meaning and truth. The definition of pragmatism and my feelings towards things outside the bounds of reality and rationality has forced me to pick up the pen (or in this case, the keyboard) and begin to voice the very strong opinions I have. Oh yes, I have opinions and while they are spread across a wide spectrum, nothing makes me more enticed to write than the ideology of religion.

I am an Atheist or so I guess I am forced to call myself. I prefer no title or box to fit inside of but for practical purposes I guess I must squeeze into this pigeon hole. I detest titles and descriptors for the simple fact that they force feed you a certain line of beliefs and values. I am adamantly opposed to established religions first and foremost because they prescribe an absolute belief system that must not be violated. They rob people of true and honest free choice and freedom itself. If you are a true believer, as opposed to a habitual quasi-believer, then your religion has walls that must not be violated or bounded. This is no more evident in the fact that while some 91% of Americans believe in a Christian God and Jesus Christ, only 40% or so feel the need to go to Church on the "Christian Holidays" and only 29% go regularly ( Religious Tolerance ). Religious belief itself is a boundless wall and while the majority of Americans aren't ardent believers, few dare to doubt the existence of God.

As I am pragmatic, I feel that a revelation of T R U T H (as defined in the English language and not by religion) and a complete view of the consequences and real effects of religious dogma, will drive the 60% or so of Americans sitting on the fence towards rationality and reality. In an age when the fallacies of religion are easily uncovered and knowledge is at the fingertips of anyone who is willing to discover it- I refuse to believe that fables and supernatural deities can continue to maintain their stranglehold on a more-or-less educated population. This is why I am here, not to spin rhetoric or entice people but to be a source of information and helping hand towards the light of true freedom.