Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

Replace with Synonym, Put in Italics

Jerry Coyne and Andrew Sullivan are having a conversation about suffering and religion.

Jerry Coyne writes:

Humans do not have a unique capacity to “rise above suffering.” Every animal rises above suffering. It has to, if it is to live and leave offspring. It’s ADAPTIVE to be resilient!

Andrew responds:

One feels as if one is talking past someone.

Yes, resilience is obviously built into our genetics, but my point was the unique ability to transcend suffering, not just endure it.

Replacing a word with another word isn’t an argument. I don’t know why religious people think this is true (it’s probably one of those transcendent things). But if I were to interpret Andrew’s response, perhaps thinking too deeply about what he was even trying to say, I would respond this way:

In my humble experience, humans respond to suffering in two ways. They either forget their suffering (or more precisely, the reality of the suffering becomes duller over time) or they consciously (or unconsciously) avoid things or thoughts that they know cause suffering. Contrary to pop psychology, consciously recalling traumatic events in order to “deal with them” is incredibly damaging. That’s why PTSD is so insidious. Soldiers with PTSD can’t bring themselves to forget the extreme suffering they went through in the war zone. Their brains won’t let them forget. And that’s some of the most profound suffering I can imagine. I wish Andrew would give an example of someone ‘transcending suffering’ to better know what he meant. The only example he did give (getting over the pain caused by a close friend’s death) is (even if tragic) really not valid. As Coyne notes, and Andrew helpfully ignores, atheists experience the same exact phenomena in response to the death of a loved one. What Coyne doesn’t say, but I think he implies, is that there are bookshelves full of examples of other mammals expressing the same kinds of mourning behaviors that humans express. There are what look to be evolutionary precursors to the kinds of supposedly spiritual or transcendent behaviors that make humans unique. There are also examples of animals which starve themselves to death in response to stress or the loss of offspring.

If I were to guess, I would say that Andrew wouldn’t particularly disagree with anything I’ve written here. And yet he disagrees. But who knows why? I think the one who knows the least about why is Andrew himself. I certainly have no idea.



I know the laws of the Blogoverse dictate that I’m supposed to feign unwillingness before kowtowing unabashedly to a popular controversy–citing, I dunno, journalistic integrity and civic duty? Sadly, I am no such hero. Because I just found this whole episode freakin’ funny. It provided many lulz, many in disbelief, most in hilarity.

Obligatory summary: Scienceblogger P.Z. Myers threatens a cracker. Turmoil ensues. Cracker gets poked with a nail. Epic anti-climax.

Survivors of the massacre

But this thing isn’t just crackers and circuses (see what I did there?). Yes, here’s where I pretentiously tell detractors of the kerfuffle that they don’t understand its subtleties. No, not really. But know that I’m thinking it. And feel scorned, won’t you please, in the process.

Seriously, though, (no not really) the only blameless people in this whole situation are those teasing P.Z. for claiming not to care about the cracker while devoting multiple posts to it. They haven’t yet figured out, poor souls, that web pages can be generated seamlessly via online user interfaces in mere minutes, and need not be coded painstakingly by hand in HTML anymore. And for that they deserve our collective pity. And a free Geocities account.

On a more important note, I get to leave work twenty minutes early today. Who’s jealous?

Pirates, Kitties, and People Talking to CCDs

Honestly, who watches TV anymore when you can watch YouTube instead? Aside from Battlestar Galactica last Friday, I haven’t turned a TV on once in the past three weeks. And here’s another reason to perpetuate that habit.

There’s a bloke on YouTube named Paul Harrison. He’s a former Christian (as of six years or so ago, I believe), and he runs a channel where he discusses his former Christianity, atheism, and intelligent design, and reviews Christian apology books. Take a look see.

Wounds Are Designed for Bleeding

Mike Dunford over at The Questionable Authority writes about the rejection of the Discovery Princetitute blog from He made one excellent point (among many) that deserves to be fondled lovingly. In a totally platonic way, of course. Unless you’re parents aren’t around. Then it’s totally cool. Uh.. anyway.

He writes:

The scientific community’s distaste for the Discovery Institute isn’t caused by intolerance for dissenting views. It’s the effect of the years that the Discovery Institute has spent publicly attacking science and scientists.

Well, this just sums up the problem with the ID movement, and on multiple fronts. This misconception, this idea that everything has an agenda, a clear, directed creative purpose behind it is just factually wrong. It’s obviously wrong. It’s wrong when it comes to evolution. It’s wrong when it comes to criticisms of ID. It’s wrong when you’re talking almost everything. The weather has no agenda behind it (although I suppose most creationists would believe it does). An ant dying accidentally under my boot has no agenda behind it. Follicle bacteria imbibing your dermal sebum has no agenda behind it. “Agenda” simply isn’t a prominent feature of our universe, numerically-speaking. Even if you believe in a prime mover, that’s only ONE process out of the infinitely many processes which has an agenda. I mean, come on.. our beloved, oh-so-perfect species can barely keep its head straight on most occasions. It’s only through GRADUAL, PROGRESSIVE processes that society is enhanced, not perfunctory moral crusades.

Just put the science down for a minute. You’re out of your league. Take a look at your assumptions first. If you want to be a scientist, that’s what you have to do. Once you’ve taken a nice long pilgrimage, oh prodigal son, you can come back and apologize for your wrongdoings. And then you can do all of the cool stuff that scientists do. Peer pressure.. PEER PRESSUREEEE.. DON’T YOU WANT TO BE COOL LIKE US?


More or Less Hit or Myth

When I was a good Christian boy, I was taught a legend that really served as the backbone for the beliefs I was taught to have. Most Christians will immediately identify with this legend, because it’s more or less integral. Without it, you devolve into deism or, heaven forbid, the “Love” god. This legend involves a rumor about Señor Jesus Christ… Romanssexintrigue! (Mostly not the last two.)

It goes like this:

Well, you see, lots of non-Christians wrote about Jesus’ resurrection and miracles, and you see, they have no reason to lie. See? It’s all true!


There are no credible non-Christian sources, whether Jewish in origin or Roman in origin, which describe, from a first-hand account, Jesus performing miracles, including resurrecting. There are plenty of sources talking about the persecution of Christians, and about the crucifixion of Jesus, and about the evangelizing of Christians. None of them describe first-hand accounts of Jesus performing a miracle. Not one.

The classic example Christians usually give is Josephus, who was a Jewish historian. Problem 1: Josephus was born after Jesus had already been crucified. He couldn’t have witnessed Jesus performing miracles. Problem 2: Most historians believe that most of Josephus’ writings on Jesus were fabricated. Assuming they aren’t, it’s quite clear that Josephus could’ve only known about Jesus second or third-hand. And he doesn’t write anything about miracles performed by Jesus’ followers. What we have, in essence, is a “my cousin’s daughter’s friend said.” Not credible in the least.

So we have a situation where Christians write about the miracles of Jesus, but for some reason no one else does.


A Little Perspective

Often times I think religious discussion on blogs suffers from a lack of personal interaction. In my own experiences, such discussion inevitably devolves to a point where I’m just pigeonholed as an atheist robot who only speaks evil, where everything I write is more or less ignored (and I suspect not even read in the first place). That’s why I like videos like the one below. Enjoy.

Blogging Tip #241: Concede, then Harass

Are theists unreasonable and unthinking?

No, theism is unreasonable and unthinking. Most theists have reasons for thinking that a god exists. By my book (that book being the dictionary), that’s the definition of reasonable. Having reasons.

But just having reasons isn’t good enough. That’s the rock in your shoe, theists. You have to have good reasons. And the following aren’t:

You simply feel it’s true.

“Simply” being the operative word.

You were taught that it’s true.

So was I. Your point?

Everyone else believes it’s true.

Well, you’re just a teenybopper for religion, then, aren’t you? You might as well go out and buy an N’Sync album (or whatever the hell kids listen to), put on some Abercrombie & Fitch, and drink Starbucks. It’s all the rage!

Believing it’s true makes you a better person.

Believing I command automobile traffic makes me feel powerful. Those red lights? They stay red at my leisure. Beep beep, bitch.

Believing it’s true gives your life meaning.

You mean the same meaning that 95% of the people on this planet think their lives have? I’m sure it’ll be you God picks to go into heaven, or to reach enlightenment, or to be touched by His Noodly Appendage (ramen). *Cough*

Your society nurtured and rewarded the belief that it’s true.

Your society also used to nurture and reward the belief that women were baby-making maids designed by god to please men.

Disavowing its truth after all this time would make you a hypocrite.

Too late. If you really only profess to believe it, you’re already a hypocrite. You’re also a liar. Which is better? Being a hypocrite and a liar, or being a reformed hypocrite?

If you’re a pastor or minister, and you really don’t believe the stuff, you should feel totally ashamed of yourself. Be a decent human being and tell the truth.

You don’t know what you would do if you didn’t believe it was true.

You’d instantly melt into a mound of gelatinous gunk and slide into the nearest sewer. There, you’d be accosted by horny bacteria waiting and willing to plunder your liquefied form. As they rape your life essence, you’ll slowly descend into the pits of the River Styx, where Britney Spears music is played 24/7. After 4,500 years of “Hit Me Baby One More Time”, Charon, the Styx oarsman, will suck you up out of the river and cook an omelet out of you. He will use sliced ham, chives, and a bit of salt. His cholesterol is high, though, so he might mix in some milk to thin it out. Milk is good. I like milk. Mammals make milk. Not reptiles, though. Are you still reading this?