Tag Archives: Christianity

Poe’s Law, Atheist Humor, and “That” Tweet

Two days ago, we learned that Steve Jobs passed away.

Hero though he is, I’m not going to eulogize him. I mention it merely to provide context for the Westboro Baptist Church family member’s tweet:

Westboro will picket his funeral.He had a huge platform; gave God no glory & taught sin.MT @: Apple co-founder Steve Jobs has died at 56.
@MargieJPhelps
MargiePhelps

Dumb, yeah. Surprising, no. The interesting bit is coming up…

The above tweet was posted via an iPhone. Irony alert! When people started pointing out the hypocrisy, Margie Phelps countered:

http://t.co/4Khk7ygv via @Rebels mad cuz I used iPhone to tell you Steve Jobs is in hell.God created iPhone for that purpose! 🙂
@MargieJPhelps
MargiePhelps

Yup. “Rebels mad cuz I used iPhone to tell you Steve Jobs is in hell. God created iPhone for that purpose!

I don’t need to tell you this is ridiculous, that Jobs’ company created the iPhone, etc.

What I would like to share is the eminent applicability of Poe’s Law.

Poe’s Law

Coined in a forum post, well-liked on Urban Dictionary, and even apparently the subject of academic research, Poe’s Law in the general form is:

Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that someone won’t mistake for the real thing.

Ironically and desperately, Conservapedia unintentionally provides a great example:

Poe’s law is a symptom of liberals [sic] illogical and superstitious thinking.

Right now, you may be thinking, surely Mr. Atheist made up that quote, or took it out of context. It’s so absurd on the face it. Surely no one really believes that?

But as far as I know, the inmates running the asylum that is Conservapedia are very serious, and the above quote is genuine.

But what does this have to do with the Phelps tweet?

My Kind of Humor

Every so often, I make a casual and dry sort of joke, in situations where a man-made tool or option is being overlooked.

For example: Someone near me is frustrated with their computer.

Them: “Why won’t this work? I even tried Control-Alt-Delete.”

Me: “Well, that’s why God gave us a restart button.”

It’s an easy joke. Not terribly funny, perhaps, but it amuses me to imagine someone actually believing God had anything to do with a restart button, or other man-made implements. Heck, even a creationist who believes in free will, a concept so fundamental to Christian theology, should agree God didn’t give us a restart button, or the Buick they drive, or nukes.

Fool Circle

So now it should be clear why I love this tweet. An extreme fundamentalist group member, making the same joke I do, but seriously.

Poe’s Law at its finest.

This is exactly why the hateful things coming out of Westboro do not bother me at all. They’re so far out there, so self-mockingly dense and reactionary and hateful and polemic, that I have to trust the general populace to react with scorn and rejection.

And I hope that that rejection leads some of them to further distrust religion, superstition, and illogic.

“Free Will” Can’t Solve Theodicy.

Recently a Christian named Jordan told me that God had to have created a world with evil, because otherwise we wouldn’t have free will.

Here is my response.

Jordan, you are now implying that the ability to choose evil is more important than avoiding evil, in the eyes of God.

A bold assertion.

And yet a necessary one, probably, if one believes a “benevolent” (when it does not limit the ability of Creation to do evil), omnipotent god exists.

Still, I hold it makes no rational sense at all. We wouldn’t call god “good”, then, should we. We should call him evil-enabling, since that is what — by your own argument — he values more than goodness!

Since when has free will (or the illusion of it) needed the ability to do evil, and since when is free will more important than morality or general happiness? This is why I can never, ever respect theology. Each answer reveals more contradictions and absurdities.

What’s the Harm? Installment #3033: Exorcisms

Exorcisms, which are incredibly still practiced by the Catholic Church and by some Protestant churches, hurt people who are either

  • In need of serious medical or psychological attention, or
  • Gay, and in need of nothing more than being left the fuck alone about their orientation.

I don’t know which is worse.

Craig James has more on this incredible Medieval vestige.

What’s The Harm? Installment #7,582: The Iraq War

I don’t want to write on this topic at length, so I’m just going to leave you a few links to back up this claim:

The costly 2003–2010 US-led Iraq War was largely inspired by Christian beliefs.

  • Al-Jazeera piece claiming the war was at least partially religiously inspired

    Dr Muhammad al-Sammak … says “Most of the US presidents are very religious and George Bush is one of them. They definitely act according to their religious beliefs.

    “For example, the late US president Ronald Reagan predicted in a TV interview that his generation would live to see the Battle of Armageddon. This is very biblical. No person would use such terms unless he was supported by his religious beliefs.”

  • Rumsfield’s daily “Worldwide Intelligence Updates” from the Pentagon often had covers with martial Bible quotes and, at least sometimes, photos of soldiers in prayer. (Easier to send ’em to die if you know their souls are saved, eh?) This story was broken by GQ (Flash slideshow – HTML here) and covered in numerous outlets like HuffPo and the Colbert Report.

  • Consider the way Bush referred to the war on terror as a “crusade” and conflated Iraq, which had no connection to al-Qaeda, with the al-Qaeda terrorists who attacked on 9/11. Well, they’re both Muslim; I can see how Bush could have trouble keeping them straight. </sarcasm>

A Run-In with a Street Preacher

I ran into a street preacher, whom we’ll call Fred, a week ago. He dropped some pretty crazy gems that I just had to share. (Note I’ve tagged this entry with “Responses,” indicating it contains answers to common conversion efforts.)

Starting Off with Atheists in Foxholes

Fred begins by saying something generic and attempting to hand me a flyer for his church. “I’m an atheist,” I say, taking care not to begin with “Sorry” — I’m not going to apologize for my rationality!

“Oh, we’re all atheists!” Fred exclaims, then leans forward: “But if you jump out of a plane, who do you think you’ll be praying to?”

Never mind I’ve been skydiving, no gods involved. I play along. “Perhaps, but it wouldn’t necessarily be your god I was playing to.”

Fred maintains his conspiratorial stance and shares his Secret with me: “Well, there’s only one God, you know!”

“But there’s no proof,” I say.

“Exactly,” Fred says in an attempt at argumentative Aikido. “That’s why it’s all about faith!

Being a guy who attempts to have rational beliefs this doesn’t sit well with me. But at least this guy knows, in theory, that faith a the lack of evidence… or does he:

“But if you look at all the prophecies…”

Not a Real Christian

One of my absolute favorite things to hear Christians say is “Oh, they aren’t real Christians.” (That’s the No True Scotsman fallacy, and for whatever reason, Christians, especially evangelists, love it.)

Our friend Fred doesn’t let me down.

After Fred encourages me to just take the flyer and consider converting, I mention that I was raised Christian, I know the stories, and I’m never converting, and he becomes a bit excited. “What were you raised as?” he asks. “Because I thought I was raised Christian too, but I wasn’t!”

“Catholic.”

“Me too!” Fred shares. “Well that’s something we have in common!”

“If Catholics aren’t true Christians,” I ask, “Tell me, what religion would you have been in, say, 1,000 A.D.?”

Fred didn’t have an answer, but religious fragmentation and the chronologically & geographically determined nature of faith are things I’ve thought about before.

The Loving God’s Hellfire

We discussed theodicy in an amusing way.

“If God loves me, as you say,” I asked Fred, “Why would he make me, knowing I, as a rational thinker, would have to reject Him, causing my damnation? Why would he make so very many people who would just go to hell? Heck, how could Native Americans go to heaven before Europeans came over?” I asked rhetorically.

“Well we have to choose. Do you want us all to be boring automatons?” Fred started. I could see where this was going already. The spectre of “free will” is always used as a counter to the problem of evil.

“Here’s the thing,” I say. “You clearly believe that for us to have free will, we have to be able to hurt each other.”

“Yes.”

“Why is that necessarily true? Wouldn’t a perfect God be able to create a world with free will, without letting us hurt each other?”

Fred isn’t convinced — that isn’t, of course, how our world works, but if you’re an omnipotent, loving creator… “I don’t think so,” Fred says.

“But isn’t that what Heaven is?”

“No, everyone is Heaven is sinless.”

“Tell me, Fred. Are you going to heaven?”

“Yes.”

“Have you ever hurt anyone?”

“Well, I’m sure we’ve all said some things —”

“So are you just going to be an automaton in Heaven, then? Or can you hurt people in Heaven? See how I just made you argue against yourself? It just doesn’t make any sense,” I say, referring to Christianity.

I consider this a slam-dunk argument against typical Christianity, proving my point about theodicy and free will and how a loving, all-knowing, all-powerful god can’t exist in this world. Yet our preacher friend is wholly unfazed, resolute in his mission to convince others that something he knows is unprovable is not only the Truth but also the Only Way.

“The Holocaust was God’s Plan”

“You know why the Holocaust happened? Because the Jews – well, most of ’em – refused to recognize their own Messiah, their own savior,” Fred shared.

I was so shocked by this claim of Fred’s that I have a hard time remembering what prompted it. Perhaps it stemmed from our discussion of why there is evil in the world.

“You know what I think? I think the Holocaust happened because this guy Hitler used the Jews as a political tool,” I counter. Never mind the role the Catholic Church played in this atrocity for now. Never mind that Hitler was a Christian.

“You’re thinking little picture, I’m thinking ‘big picture,’” Fred says.

“Oh, so what then, God leaned down — ” I cup my hands to my mouth and bend forward — “and whispered, ‘Hey, Hitler! Have you heard about these Jews? They’re really pissing me off!”

“Well, no, I don’t believe God talked to Hitler.” Of course not. Hitler couldn’t possibly be a true Christian, could he? It’s cognitive dissonance in action: Fred likes God and Christianity; he hates Hitler, thus he can’t imagine Hitler being Christian or supported by God, even when it logically follows from what he’s just said.

By now I’ve had enough of this offensively uncritical guy. “So God just caused the Holocaust indirectly, with magic? I don’t believe in magic. Have a nice night,” I say, walking off.

“Answers to the 4 Big Questions” — A Light Critique

I recently got into a discussion with a few street preachers.

The conversation was somewhat interesting — not interesting meaning “stimulating,” of course, but interesting meaning “amazing what some people believe.” For example, they told me that Catholics aren’t real Christians. While for some definitions of “real Christians,” they may have a point — the Pope is as different from Christ as humanly possible — absolutely all Catholics consider themselves true Christians.

Anyway, the youngest of the group is, if nothing, a good arguer and convinced me that I could not write off the book he was handing me, Answers to the 4 BIG Questions, simply because Ken Ham was a co-author. (“Ken Ham!?” I exclaimed, thinking of his laughable position on evolution. “That guy is a joke!” Our street-preaching friend noted correctly that my perceptions of Ham did not necessarily merit outright rejection of the book. But it turns out, my hunch was quite correct.)

This book goes off the tracks at step one: Picking four big questions. Without even going into the answers, here are my critiques of the questions themselves:

Question 1. “But doesn’t evolution explain our existence?”

No. No, it doesn’t, and no scientist would say that evolution by itself “explains our existence.” As Carl Sagan famously noted, if one really wanted to make an apple pie from scratch, one would first have to create a universe, fill it with atoms, etc., etc. Evolution is part of “how we got here” but does not and could not explain the whole universe. (Any believers reading should take note that most atheists are — at least intellectually! — fine knowing that science has not explained why the universe exists at all. We don’t feel the need to pretend to know that a mythical being created it.)

Bad question.

Question 2. “How did different ‘races’ arise?”

If that is one of the four biggest questions on your mind, I can only assume you are racist. But Biblical literalists always surprise me, and apparently if God created exactly two people — Adam and Eve — then we should not expect to see so many races, especially without evolution, making Africans, Asians, Native Americans, Europeans and the like a direct challenge to your notion of God.

I remember seeing a question regarding skin color in a science museum as a child. I understand that melanin causes skin pigmentation and is important in resisting sun damage, so with a rudimentary understanding of evolution we might expect populations living in areas with a lot of sun — e.g. Africa, not so much England — to have darker skin.

Not a very perplexing question.

Question 3. “Cain’s wife–who could she have been?”

This is the part where I start laughing. If one takes Genesis as a parable or myth, it’s a pointless question.

But to Biblical literalists, it’s significant. This book actually states that one of Adam and Eve’s other children became Cain’s wife. Of course, this leaves the assumption that one of the first, few humans on the face of the earth decided to run away with the murderer of her own brother to start a thriving family. Then again, the Old Testament is almost always that messed up.

Question 4. Does God exist?

Probably the only question in the book that is legitimately one of the big ones.

Of course, my answer to this question is “depends on how you define God.” The Christian God is a contradiction in terms and probably cannot exists. Some god could possibly exist, but I have not seen proof of this and remain unconvinced. Fair enough, right?

In general — terrible book, terrible questions, and as always, atrocious pseudo-science from the Answers in Genesis people.

Can Christian Faith Ever be Rational?

VJack over at Atheist Revolution recently asked, “Could one arrive at Christianity through rational means?

That actually depends on how you define Christianity.

The select few who call themselves Christians without subscribing to core modern Christian beliefs (the divinity of Jesus, virgin birth, triune God-head, vicarious redemption), taking the Bible as a collection of myths and advice, could have be Christians for rational reasons. Following the Jesus character’s advice regarding how to treat one’s neighbor is a worthy goal. I don’t see any reason why this “Christianity” would be necessarily irrational.

However, anyone who believes in the same God most Christians do — a miracle-working slacker who loves and damns everyone — has a logically impossible belief-set. Heck, I used those core beliefs to prove such a god would be evil. None of it makes any sense. That kind of religion can never be rational.

Christmas with an Atheist

My attitude towards Christmas is as follows:

  • I appreciate the holiday season, as I do Thanksgiving, for the way it brings families together, especially extended families.
  • I tend to resent the forced gift-giving materialism aspect of it, naturally.
  • I object to the efforts of some to try to make the holiday Christ-centric. It’s common knowledge the solstice was chosen as the date for Christ’s birth to ease the (forced) conversion of new Christians.

So what does an atheist like myself do?

  • I celebrate “the holidays” with minimal, practical or thoughtful gift-giving.
  • I wish friends a happy holiday.
  • I don’t freak out or correct anyone who innocently wishes me a “merry Christmas,” not because I am afraid to offend, but because I don’t want to make anyone sorry for the kind act of attempting to spread some cheer! And of course, Christmas is fairly secular for a lot of people, so it’s not like they just wished me a “merry feast day of Our Lady” or some such completely, overtly faith-based thing.

Happy holidays, and make the best of 2010!

Catholic Church “donates” $500K to restrict gay rights

Oh good, another reason for me to hate Catholicism (and Christianity in general):

Of the donations supporting the anti-gay Yes on 1 measure in Maine, 89% ($3 million) came from churches, Christian organizations, and their employees. The Catholic Church alone directly contributed $553,608.27.

Ah yes, Christian charitable giving. Warms the cockles of the heart.

Does anyone care to explain why Catholics think preventing gay couples from happy commitment is worth half a million dollars?

I’ll take a stab at it: Because the Catholics are all about creating guilt for, and instilling control over, the sexual and reproductive nature of, well, everyone. Their dogma is that sex (which they define to include masturbation and oral sex) is only appropriate for married couples attempting to procreate. Gay sex — indeed, homosexuality itself — is a direct challenge to that idea; for if God made men who have sex with men, procreation can hardly be the only purpose of sex, can it?

And then where will the Catholic babies come from, if Catholic couples no longer fear damnation if they use birth control?

Disgusting.

How is it possible for Jesus to learn?

I found the following letter in The Independent:

Letter: The toddler Jesus

John Coutts Tuesday, 30 December 1997

The toddler Jesus

Sir: Glad tidings! Miles Kington has taken up New Testament studies (16 December). But he is way off-target in suggesting that Mary’s Boy Child would have made grown-up remarks at the age of six months. Luke’s Gospel (2:46,52) makes it quite clear that Jesus was a normal child who “grew both in body and wisdom” and asked questions rather than giving answers.

JOHN COUTTS

Gravesend, Kent

The passage in question recounts the story of Jesus going to the temple as a young boy/man and simultaneously learning and debating Jewish theology in an extraordinarily gifted manner. This is weird, because where is that skill coming from? The fact he is God? Then why does he need to learn anything at all?

That is a reason that a baby Jesus is absurd. What was God thinking as he waved his little hands and soiled himself?