Saturday, March 30, 2013

Gay Is Not the New Black?

It's tough to recall a time where I've seen more attention paid to the issue of gay marriage than the past few days. Everyone has an opinion about the topic, and our friend here, Voddie Baucham, is no exception. He authored the article Gay Is Not The New Black all the way back in July of last year, but I've seen it posted on many Facebook walls within the past few days. Apparently it's being heralded as a finely written essay that puts all of the hippie notions of gay marriage to rest. Not surprisingly, I disagree. Enough so that I've awoken from my year-long slumber on this blog to actually take the time to give my two cents and demonstrate why - point by point - his arguments are loads of rubbish. Without further ado: my response in standard format.

It's hard to deny that homosexual marriage appears to be a foregone conclusion in America. This is a frightening prospect not only for those of us who understand marriage to be a testimony of the relationship between Christ and his bride, the church, but also for all who value the family and its contribution to the well-being of society and human thriving.
At least he leads off with something we both can agree on. Homosexual marriage will be legalized soon - whether in the upcoming months or in the years ahead. However, he immediately jumps right into the conflated notion of religious marriage and legal marriage. This is an often overlooked distinction, even among gay rights activists, but it's a distinction that must be made. A legal marriage is in no way related to Jesus, as Voddie suggests, since any Muslim, Jew, or even atheist can obtain a marriage license. That license is a legal statement affirming the union of two people in a meaningful legal sense and for legal purposes down the line. There's no precondition requiring the pair entering the union to procreate, start a family, or even contribute to human thriving. It's just a legal document.

This legal document, not the religious ceremony or religious acceptance, is what I mean when speaking of "gay marriage" (or simply, a marriage between two people of any sex) from here on out.

The idea that same-sex "marriage" is the next leg in the civil rights race is ubiquitous. One of the clearest examples of the conflation of homosexual "marriage" and civil rights is Michael Gross's article in The Advocate, in which he coins the now-popular phrase "Gay is the new black."
Isn't it obvious why this is, though? Black people were treated unfairly solely based on their skin color. Gay people are treated unfairly solely based on their sexual orientation. It's not too much of a stretch to make the analogy work. Unfortunately, that link is now unavailable, so I can't ascertain for certain what his quote meant in context. However, I'm pretty confident that Voddie's understanding is close enough to the real intention that there's nothing worth quibbling over here.

Unidentifiable minority

The first problem with the idea of conflating "sexual orientation" and race is the fact that homosexuality is undetectable apart from self-identification. ... There is no evidence that can confirm or deny a person's claims regarding sexual orientation.
It's not clear why he thinks this should matter and I'm not sure why it would be at all relevant to the issue of gay marriage. We don't currently require that both a man and a woman be "confirmed straight" before they're allowed to take their vows. Why would this be any different in the same-sex scenario?

Moreover, the homosexual community itself has made this identification even more complicated in an effort to distance itself from those whose same-sex behavior they find undesirable. The Jerry Sandusky case is a prime example. Sandusky is accused of molesting numerous young boys during and after his tenure at Penn State. However, try placing the label "homosexual" on his activities and the backlash will be swift and unequivocal. "Pedophiles are not homosexuals!" is the consistent refrain coming from the homosexual community, media, academia, and the psychological/medical establishment.
Right, because homosexuality has nothing to do with pedophelia. No matter, Voddie seems to be speaking with more authority than the psychological/medical establishment and academia here, otherwise why would he bring it up? I've never heard anyone say, as he quotes, that no pedophiles are or could be homosexual. If he thinks that is what the gay community is claiming then he is sorely misunderstanding the conversation.

Whether Sandusky was actually a homosexual or not is irrelevant to whether he molested children. It seems like the implication this paragraph is trying to make is either that homosexuality is somehow connected to pedophilia or that the gay community is denying that any pedophile could be gay. Neither is true, but his bringing it up anyway is at least implicitly giving credence to the ideas. Douche.

Hence, it seems same-sex attraction alone isn't enough to identify a person as a homosexual.
Well it would be pretty close if it wasn't for his gross misunderstanding as seen in the last paragraph.

And what about LUGS in college, or same-sex relationships in prison? How about men who are extremely effeminate but prefer women, or those who once were practicing homosexuals but have since come out of the lifestyle? In short, it's impossible to identify who is or is not a homosexual.
How about... we just let people self-identify? That seems pretty easy to me.

As a result, how do we know to whom the civil rights in question should be attributed?
Everyone. I suppose the alternative would be to only give civil rights to some people? (I think he's missing the whole point of the movement.)

Should a man who isn't a homosexual (assuming we could determine such a thing) but tries to enter a same-sex union be treated the same as a woman who isn't Native American but tries to claim it to win sympathy, or casino rights, or votes?
I feel like this is supposed to be a trick question. The correct answer is "anyone who is currently eligible to marry (under our current laws) may marry anyone else who is also eligible, regardless of either party's gender or sexual preference." However, I wonder if Voddie would protest if I made the same point about Christians and stated that since they are an unidentifiable minority they should not be considered for civil rights.

But this isn't the only problem with the civil rights angle.
No problem here that I can see. One section down - dissected and nullified.

Unalterable Definition

An additional problem with the "gay is the new black" argument is the complete disconnect between same-sex "marriage" and anti-miscegenation laws. First, there is a categorical disconnect. Miscegenation literally means "the interbreeding of people considered to be of different racial types." Ironically, the fact that homosexuals cannot "interbreed" shines a spotlight on the problem inherent in their logic. How can forbidding people who actually have the ability to interbreed be the same thing as acknowledging the fact that two people categorically lack that ability?
Well first of all, his definition is technically wrong, rendering his point moot. All of the dictionaries I used to look this up list marriage, cohabitation, or sexual relations before breeding as actions that would fall under the "miscegenation" category. However, even if the definition was correct, it's still just an argument about semantics. The civil rights movement about interracial marriage had nothing to do with the actual act of breeding and everything to do with love and removing absurd restrictions based on racism. This is a nonsensical argument to me.

Second, there is a definitional disconnect. The very definition of marriage eliminates the possibility of including same-sex couples. The word marriage has a long and well-recorded history; it means "the union of a man and a woman." Even in cultures that practice polygamy, the definition involves a man and several women. Therefore, while anti-miscegenation laws denied people a legitimate right, the same cannot be said concerning the denial of marriage to same-sex couples; one cannot be denied a right to something that doesn't exist.
The definition of marriage used in this paragraph isn't even very clear. Is it between one man and one woman? Between one man and woman A and woman B and woman C? What about other ancient cultures that practiced same-sex marriage, such as Greece and Rome? Why should we use Voddie's definition of "marriage" instead of any other cultures' that were different? Because it would weaken his already weak point.  However, this is again conflating religious marriage with legal marriage. The legal definition can easily be amended even if he thinks his "unalterable definition" of religious marriage can't. "You're trying to redefine [legal] marriage!" isn't even an argument against the gay rights movement. It's the whole point of it.

It should be noted that the right to marry is one of the most frequently denied rights we have. People who are already married, 12-year-olds, and people who are too closely related are just a few categories of people routinely and/or categorically denied the right to marry. Hence, the charge that it is wrong to deny any person a "fundamental right" rings hollow. There has always been, and, by necessity, will always be discrimination in marriage laws.
No one is arguing this. Again, this is the thing we're trying to change. Discrimination, based on rational reasoning, makes sense. That's precisely why we don't let 12-year-olds get married - because we don't think they are old enough to give informed consent. The argument behind prohibiting gay marriage is one of "My [insert holy book here] doesn't like it," "I think it's icky," or "marriage is already defined." Not exactly the finest examples of rational argumentation.

As early as the time of Moses, recorded history is replete with interracial marriages. ... Thus, unlike same-sex "marriage" advocates, those fighting for the right to intermarry in the civil rights era had history on their side.
Appeal to tradition. "This is how things have always been" is neither a valid argument for or against any particular thing.

Fourth, there is a legal disconnect. One thing that seems to escape most people in this debate is the fact that homosexuals have never been denied the right to marry. They simply haven't had the right to redefine marriage.
They have been denied the legal right to be with the one they love, whether that is labeled marriage or something else.

But don't take my word for it; listen to the Iowa Supreme Court in their decision in favor of same-sex "marriage": "It is true the marriage statute does not expressly prohibit gay and lesbian persons from marrying; it does, however, require that if they marry, it must be to someone of the opposite sex."
There it is: not only in black and white, but in a legal decision. Homosexuals haven't been deprived of any right.
No, the decision didn't say that they haven't been deprived of any right; it said that they have the same rights as straight people. No one is denying that - at least, not in any meaningful sense.

Proponents of same-sex-only marriage are technically correct when they say that "everyone has the same [marriage] rights" - they're just missing the point. Everyone also is denied the same rights, with respect to same-sex unions - it's just that heterosexual individuals don't care because they wouldn't gay marry. A sort of "I've got mine, screw you" mentality that isn't unexpected but is rarely called out.

Further, this is asinine logic. [Responding to a block of text I'll omit for brevity.]
 No, it's the simple truth. It's not an argument, just a declaration of the obvious.

Unsustainable Precedent

Perhaps the most damning aspect of the civil rights argument is logical unsustainability. If sexual orientation/identity is the basis for (1) classification as a minority group, and (2) legal grounds for the redefinition of marriage, then what's to stop the "bisexual" from fighting for the ability to marry a man and a woman simultaneously since his "orientation" is, by definition, directed toward both sexes? What about the member of NAMBLA whose orientation is toward young boys? Where do we stop, and on what basis?
The legal age of consent is and has always been part of the equation. That isn't changing with the gay rights movement. However, the movement is neither arguing for legalizing polygamous or pedophilic/ephebophelic marriage, so any attempt to bring them into the discussion is just introducing the slippery slope fallacy.

Homosexual advocates are loath to answer this question. In fact, they are adept at avoiding it (and are rarely pressed on the point).
I hope he's kidding. The people I talk to about the gay marriage issue bring up pedophilia, incest, and bestiality every. damn. time. I can't get them to stop bringing it up. They just can't see how the things could be unlinked. Probably because they aren't willing to.

Voddie goes on to cite Justice Kennedy in Lawrence v. Texas and then Justice Scalia, but I've found the paragraphs vapid enough to not be worth responding to.

Inescapable Confrontation

It is very important for those of us who oppose the idea of same-sex "marriage" to do so not because we wish to preserve our version of the American Dream, but because we view marriage as a living, breathing picture of the relationship between Christ and his church (Eph. 5:22ff), and because we know that God has designed the family in a particular way. 
Likewise, it's very important for everyone to be clear on the difference between the religious and legal concepts of marriage. Voddie's paragraph above is fine enough when referencing the religious definition, but wholly irrelevant to the legal one. Like I've mentioned before, a legal civil union is between two humans (with government recognition) and Jesus need not enter the picture. If Christians really thought that marriage required the Lord's intervention then they would have probably already attempted to institute laws saying that marriages will only be legally recognized if they meet all of the following criteria:
  • Both parties are already Christians
  • The marriage happened in a church 
  • The ceremony was overseen by a priest or pastor
  • Neither party is an adulterer
  • Both parties agree to never divorce (and there would never be any legal means by which to do so unless the biblical conditions were met)
But clearly that hasn't happened. Christians are apparently fine with the status quo. It's just that allowing gays to marry each other is too far and would ruin what is already a perfect "Christian" institution.

While the design of the family promotes human thriving (Gen 1:27-28), the testimony points people to their only hope in this life and the next. As a result, silence on this issue is not an option.
Wait, somehow heterosexual marriage is now correlated to eternal hope? I'm not sure whether I should take this as a subtle implication that "all gays will be damned to hell" or as a claim that because the bible says that a man and a woman get married, and that and heterosexual marriage is popular, then the two are somehow connected and we have the Christian god to thank for that. Consider me unconvinced?

Unfortunately (and quite ironically), many Christians have been bullied into silence by the mere threat of censure from the homosexual lobby. "Oppose us and you're no better than Gov. Wallace, Hitler, and those homophobes who killed Matthew Shepard!" is their not-so-subtle refrain.
Considering I've never heard gay activists compare religious types like Voddie Baucham to Hitler, I'm just going to call Godwin's law on this one. Of course, if it were the case that Christians were actually being bullied into silence, I'd be the first to try to shut that down.

There is no legal, logical, moral, biblical, or historical reason to support same-sex "marriage." In fact, there are myriad reasons not to support it. I've only provided a few.
No logical or moral reasons to support same sex marriage? Small misunderstanding here. That's not how our country works. We're not given rights - we assume all rights unless they're explicitly denied to us. So to the last sentence: I think he needs to provide a few more. And make them legitimate next time.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Epic Plan of Salvation: The Sequel

I don't see why he can't just jump across...
A while back I made a quite sarcastic post lambasting the Epic Plan of Salvation found in the Bible. While I do think it covered a broad range of important points, I'd like to drill down a little deeper and focus on one particular issue: the play between faith/belief and knowledge/understanding. This post will be more geared toward already-believing Christians but will generally be a critique of the theology in general for those who don't fully understand how it works.

Why is that chair empty anyway?
All too often, hardworking Americans are sleeping soundly on a Saturday morning, only to be rudely awakened by two men at their front door carrying Bibles. When the door is opened, what will be the first thing to come out of the evangelists' mouths? Most likely, "Have you accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?" According to most Christians that I am aware of, the doctrine of salvation is the most important bit of theology from the Bible. Everything else pales in comparison to the question, "Are you saved?" But what do they mean by this question? There are many biblical verses with similar (but not always identical) answers. It generally goes like this:

Realize you are a sinner. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

Understand that you are condemned to death. "For the wages [payment] of sin is [eternal] death [in Hell]." (Romans 6:23)

In order to avoid this death, you must "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." (Acts 16:31) "[Jesus is] the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father [gets into heaven] except through [him]. (John 14:6)

So he can't jump across the gap but he's supposed to step
over the cross hump? I say give the man a pole and let him
try his hand at vaulting.
Some explain this as the "ABCs" of salvation: Admit that you are a sinner, Believe in Jesus, and Confess that Jesus is your Lord. The reasons for believing that any of the above verses are actually true are sort of assumed in the bible. Theologically, every single person that has ever lived has sinned and deserves to be tortured in hell forever as their just punishment. (No explanation for this necessary - it's just true according to the bible.) You must believe that Jesus took your punishment on the cross and accepting his sacrifice in your place is the only way to avoid hell and receive eternal life. Once you have done this, you are a True Christian™.

See anything missing from the above paragraph? If you were thinking "good deeds" or "a person's heart or attitude" you were right! (Christians are usually very proud of this. They believe it sets them apart from all other religions.) According to the Bible, it's not about what you've done, only what you believe. Many of you may find this as perplexing as I do - that there is a god who wants to forgive you but can only do so if you believe in this particular religion when it says that God became man and lived a perfect life and sacrificed himself to himself to appease himself for the wrong things that human beings have done to other human beings. Why wouldn't God just forgive everyone, or at least everyone who tried to be a good person? Because that's not how it works. You have to believe these very specific things. Which is usually fine and dandy for those who have grown up in Christian households because they are very aware of how this salvation thing works.

But what about those who have never heard before? What about American Indians who lived long before Columbus came and Catholicism could have spread? They would have had no clue what the right thing to believe was, which means there was no way to to believe in Jesus, which is the only way into heaven. Certainly I am not the first person to bring up this kink in the otherwise simple plan of salvation. Nonetheless, the bible seems to be very clear on the rules and therefore the ignorant seem to be doomed. How do Christians explain this troubling problem?

There are two camps. One takes the position that "Because Jesus is the only way, then by definition any person ignorant of the Scripture must be destined to Hell upon death." This is certainly harsh and therefore does not seem to enjoy support from the majority of the Christian crowd. If it were true, then we can easily see how bad a plan of salvation this is, since the vast majority of people who ever lived probably wouldn't know the exact right thing to believe unless a Christian explained it to them. These billions of people would certainly find themselves surprised to appear in the eternal lake of fire upon their death, especially if they were what we would consider good and kind people. Any god using this method of punishment would immediately be condemned as immoral, cruel, and sadistic by an honest, objective observer.

The other camp (and I make no attempt to argue which viewpoint is the "right" one) believes that in the absence of Scriptural understanding, God will judge peoples' hearts and how they dealt with the general revelation that was provided to them. By "general revelation," I mean any evidence that points to the existence of a god that can be observed by simply viewing nature. (Many Christians - and indeed the Bible itself - argue that we can deduce the fact that god exists by the fact that nature exists [Romans 1:20]. While I disagree with this notion, that's an argument for another day.) I understand this to mean that God will judge these peoples' hearts and if they were "good" people according to what they understood about morality, then they can be allowed access into heaven.

If the second viewpoint is true, then a simple question must be asked: Why use the belief based system for the non-ignorant at all? If it is possible to avoid punishment based on one's actions, then why introduce belief into the equation at all? That just makes it more likely that people will end up damned. If a good person who otherwise would have made it into heaven because of their Scriptural ignorance hears the Gospel, they will immediately enter a spiritual state of doomed-until-further-notice. What if they died before they decided to accept? This reminds me of a portion of a dialogue between a missionary and an Eskimo.

Eskimo: “If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to Hell?”

Missionary: “Not if you did not know.”

Eskimo: “Then why did you tell me?”

Up until now in this discussion, I have generally assumed that people would generally accept the Gospel if they had heard of it and understood it. This leaves out one major portion of the population, however: those from other religions and atheists. It is generally the case that people brought up in a certain religion will tend to stay with that religion even when approached by missionaries from other religions. But what about my case? Specifically, I am someone who grew up with Christianity and believed it up until around 20 years old, and now rejects it as a myth akin to any other religion that has died out. I am fully aware of what the requirements are for salvation according to the Bible, but I reject the truth of the bible out of honesty and education. "Why is this a problem?" you may ask.

Let's assume for the moment that I am both justified in my non-belief and that the Bible is true insofar as it speaks about salvation. I find no reason to believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose again due to lack of historical evidence, but I try to be a good person all the same. There is no reason, theologically, that I should fall under the salvation plan (viewpoint two) of those who have not heard, so I would inescapably be destined to hell. Because I am a good person? No - for as the bible states, even one sin is enough to condemn you to hell forever, no matter at what age that sin was. (Another popular theology is "Original Sin" which basically states that you would still go to hell even if you lived a perfect life, because you inherited the "sin nature" from Adam. Again, not worth discussing in detail but it is relevant in the case that I wanted to somehow argue that I've never done anything wrong, ever.) I would be condemned simply for not believing what I know is not true. This is a plan of salvation that does not factor in what you've done or what you know, it is simply a matter of belief. It rewards blind faith from those who could not possibly know if the biblical stories are true (such as indigenous tribes in Africa) over justified rejection in the case of those who have good reasons not to believe.

This makes sense to me in a religious context, since religions need people to follow regardless of truth. What better way to gain followers than the threat of an eternal fiery torture in hell, when the only thing one must do to be saved is believe the right thing and ultimately assimilate into that religion? What doesn't make sense is how a good, loving, and forgiving god could ever come up with a salvation plan like this. Ignoring the fact that God must have created hell and the rules that condemn everyone to it initially, only a cruel god would reward ignorance over knowledge and faith over justified belief.

The Christian response to this is often either A) You haven't done enough research or you would believe, or B) You are just suppressing (my) god's truth so that you can continue your life of sin. I need only to respond to each of those criticisms by saying that A) I have done more honest research than most Christians I know concerning all kinds of biblical topics, and B) If I really believed that the bible was true and, by extension, that I would be condemned to hell, why would I pretend to disbelieve just so that I could enjoy a short-lived life? Why would I think that any omniscient god couldn't see past my pretending? The fact is that I have no reason to think that the bible is true in any non-trivial way and therefore I have no reason to ask forgiveness from a Jesus I don't think exists. (An aside: why does Jesus want us to ask him for forgiveness instead of us asking forgiveness from those we've wronged? Why are we apologizing to Jesus at all? We haven't harmed him in any way.)

If any Christians are willing to respond, what are your explanations for a plan of salvation that doesn't involve God just forgiving everyone and giving each person a happy afterlife where no one will be wronged again? Why does God reward blind faith over honest research? And what are your opinions on how ignorant non-believers will be handled?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Review of the King James Bible

This Comedy-Fantasy is one of my favorites to read when I'm having a bad day, along with the Monty Python and the Holy Grail transcript! King James is a comedic genius rivaling Ricky Gervais and will surely be remembered as such for generations to come.

The plot follows the antagonistic character God, an angsty old man hungry for power, who becomes bored in his isolation and so creates a magical world where he places a naked man and a woman, but neglects to tell them the difference between right and wrong. He puts a magic forbidden apple on a tree and places a magic snake to tempt the naked people to eat the magic apple, apparently forgetting that he forgot to teach them what it means to be "wrong" about trusting the snake and eating the apple- so they eat the apple, and then the fun really begins!

Follow God through the years as he overcomes obstacles such as figuring out how to kill off the human race, impregnating a married woman, and being generally disliked by the majority of the world's population!

With countless stories about incest, murder, rape, violence, and genocide OK'd by God, The Holy Bible is a laugh a minute! I just love that every hotel I visit already has The Holy Bible laid out for me, where I can easily reach it if I am feeling homesick and need a quick pick-me-up.


The character Satan fill's the role of God's avasary. Satan and God both enjoy killing people- in the end however, with his all-powerful and all-knowing magical powers, God racks up thousands of kills while Satan is barely able to boast a handful!

The next time you find yourself a hankerin' for a Saturday night box office comedy, consider a cheaper alternative. Stay home and read the Bible.

(Courtesy of a great review. And while you're at it, check out the rest of them too. They're all quite funny.)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Were you there?

The Flammarion engraving

I was going to write a completely original blog post this time, free of references to Answers in Genesis and the likes, but this one is just too easy. It is entertaining sometimes to see how many mental hoops Christians have to go through to justify their strongly-held convictions. Let's see what we're dealing with today.

When teaching children, we tell them they should politely ask the question “Were you there?” when talking to someone who believes in millions of years and molecules-to-man evolution.
The first thing that creationists must realize is that evolution is not something that solely happened in the past. We still see all kinds of evolution - even drastic changes within our own lifetimes - and to approach the subject this way is just setting yourself up for failure.

If someone replies by asking the same question back, we say, “No we weren’t there, but we know Someone who was there, Someone who cannot lie, who knows everything, and has always existed. And this One has revealed to us what happened in the past in His history book called the Bible. Are you interested in reading God’s history book to find out what the Word of One who was there tells us about the true history of the world?”
I'm not interested, but thanks for the offer. I've read the book and I don't find its sections pertaining to science and history trustworthy enough to consider authoritative. Consider the image above - this is the image of the world as the people who lived at the time of the Genesis story saw it. The idea back then was that there were multiple layers to the heavens (the first of which being crawled under by the man). This layer was called the firmament - it was like a curtain, it held up the stars, and had windows so that the sun and moon could travel through it and so that rain could fall upon the earth. We can see this view expressed in the Bible in such passages as Genesis 1:6-8 and Isaiah 40:22. This is just one of the many ways that this supposed holy book disagrees with well-established modern science.

It's hard to argue this against Christians, however, because many of them do hold the view that their god is omniscient and cannot lie. It's very odd to me to try to imagine how a person can justify the idea that a person or being both cannot be wrong and would never lie. I mean, how could you ever know? If I claimed that I was infallible, it would only take me being wrong one time before you could be totally convinced that I was a liar. With the Christian god, however, there's a different standard. When science disagrees with what their thousands-year old book says, their book takes precedence. If it said that some people can telepathically communicate with rocks, there would be many Christians who would profess to be able to do so. If it said that putting striped sticks in front of your cattle would make them bear striped offspring, they'd be trying to add that to our science textbooks. If it said we should be cutting parts of little boys' penises off, we'd probably be doing that too. Actually, wait, those last two actually are in the Bible. My bad.

In a nutshell, we have a much better reason to believe what modern science says about our world than the bible for a few reasons. Mainly, because science requires evidence and explanations and creationism just requires faith. Christians have the right to believe that Yahweh created everything in 7 days just like I have the right to believe that the Invisible Pink Unicorn created this world just five minutes ago and implanted our brain with the memories of everything past that time. It doesn't mean that either of our beliefs would be valid. The fact that AiG would appeal to an old book to verify their story instead of everything we already know about the universe automatically forfeits any rights they have to say that their view of history has any academic merit.

And that's why you always use facts.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Were the plagues on Pharaoh because of Abram and Sarai unfair?

Plagues! Boils! Torture! Ice cream! Which one of these things is not like the other?

Sorry, I was looking at that tasty Ninja Turtle specimen from my last post and just had to find a way to fit ice cream into this blog entry as well. Carrying on, today we have yet another relevant newsletter from Answers in Genesis. This time, it's about Egypt and all that fun stuff we read about in Genesis. And you know how much I love talking about morality!
Abraham was married to his half-sister, Sarai, who, at age sixty-five, was still apparently beautiful.
I guess I can let that slide. I mean, if she's smokin' hot and still single at sixty-five then I won't hold half-incest against a brotha.
To protect himself, Abraham persuaded Sarah to lie about her marriage to him and pretend to be his sister.
Now the passage describes the rationale here being, "If I say she's my wife then he's going to kill me and take her for himself." Which is a huge compliment to her since, again, she's rockin' it out at 65 years old. This might be a reaction I would have if I could possibly be killed. Or perhaps I'd just say to Pharaoh, "this is my wife, but if you want her, take her." That way I could not lie and stay alive and acquire servants! This isn't exactly the kind of reaction I'd expect from a man who had supposedly talked to God, though. I mean, if I knew I had a universal superpower behind me that wouldn't let me die I'd probably just grab Pharaoh by the balls and tell him to give me some grain or else.

Somewhat ironic, really, how everyone in the bible who supposedly either talked to Yahweh or witnessed acts that could only have possibly been caused by him seem to still have quite shaky faith. And yet, thousands of years later, I'm chided for being an atheist because there is an "abundance" of evidence? It's almost comical, really.
Unprotected by her husband, Sarah was whisked off to Pharaoh’s harem. In exchange, Pharaoh showered Abraham with riches. Since Abraham didn’t properly protect Sarah, who was the promised mother of a new nation that would bless the whole world, God had to step in.
Well, he didn't have to, necessarily. At least, he didn't have to start right off with violence.  But who am I kidding? That's Yahweh's favorite pastime! He loves this sort of thing. If I were Yahweh, I'd probably just come down to Abraham and give him the "grab-by-the-balls" advice again. But clearly, that's much less fun.

God protected Sarah by sending “great plagues” on Pharaoh and his house.
Hmmm... I...

The Hebrew words translated as “plagues” can refer to sores or wounds and does not require them to be deadly.
Yeah, but knowing Yahweh, they probably were. Just sayin'.
Sarah was kept safe and it seems Pharaoh eventually put two and two together and figured out that the timing and scope of this disease was somehow associated with Abraham’s arrival and that Sarah was Abraham’s wife.
Yeah, just like the destruction of the twin towers were judgments on the gays and the Japanese tsunamis were judgments on the atheists! It's all so crystal clear!
Pharaoh graciously let Abraham keep all the stuff he had acquired in Egypt and summarily sent him away.
Not, I'm sure, until Abraham grabbed him by the balls and demanded that he get to take his stuff with him. Cuz that's how he rolls now.
These plagues on Pharaoh and his house were not so much a punishment as a message, but they are definitely an example of the sins of one person causing others to suffer.
My punching your face repeatedly isn't so much a punishment for your not smiling at me, but rather a message, letting you know that customer service is always important and you won't be getting my business next time unless you ask me how my day was. It's just an example of the wrongs of one person causing... actually, just you to suffer. Really, that's almost more moral, in a way. My punching you, that is. (Metaphorically, of course. I'd never punch you. I actually like you a lot!) After all, I didn't punch your manager or that guy who sits across the room from you. Nope. I only took it out on you.

But God had a different idea, apparently. "PLAGUE THEM ALL! MUAHAHAHA..." Or at least, that's how I imagined it went down. There can't have been that many scenarios since, after all, all that really happened was that Pharaoh took what he thought was a beautiful unmarried woman.
Our cursed world is full of examples of innocents suffering for the sins of others. Drunk drivers, abusive parents, pregnant women on cocaine, thieves, rapists, and murderers are but a few examples of people who cause the innocent to suffer. At least in this case, the suffering was apparently non-lethal and had a clearly-defined purpose.
And all of the examples given are people suffering because of things out of their control. A good driver couldn't anticipate that drunk person coming around the corner at 60 miles/hr in the wrong lane. A rape victim can't always escape her captor and a sleeping person may not wake up until the thieves have come and gone. However, in this biblical scenario, Yahweh would theoretically be in complete control of the situation. It would be completely unnecessary for innocents to suffer for the sins of others. Unless, of course, he wanted it to.

And obviously in this story, he did. Which is especially evil, since the only person who could theoretically be at fault here was Abraham. But did God punish him? Not according to the passage. He never got so much as a verbal reprimand. But Pharaoh and who knows else were inflicted with "serious diseases" without a legitimate explanation. AiG hasn't explained this at all but have merely attempted to lessen the moral judgment on Yahweh.

I mean, look at their last sentence. They say "at least" as if they realize that this was a totally immoral and uncalled for action on their god's part but are saying, "Hey, it could have been worse!" Which, I suppose, is true. But also totally irrelevant. Just try that in court, if you're ever in front of a jury. "Yeah, I killed a man in Reno just to watch him die. But hey, at least I didn't kill two people, amirite?" The 'at least' excuse is somewhat clever, but it will only last until the Canaanites. Or Amalekites, I forget which people groups were slaughtered first.

So what's the moral of the story? That Yahweh doesn't have any. But wait, we already knew that!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

How can AiG defend the Christian faith in today’s world?

In honor of the Easter holiday, I present you another long-awaited blog post! This is almost as exciting as the time I fought that kid for the last Ninja Turtles bar at the ice cream truck. I totally won, by the way. No one gets between me and my sugary snacks.

More relevantly to this entry, Answers in Genesis (my favorite Christian organization for many reasons) has graced my email inbox with yet another answersweekly newsletter - to which I will gracefully respond point-by-point. You're welcome to watch the video, but it is difficult to to me to do a text response to a verbal monologue, so I'll just tackle the outline. That's all that's really necessary anyway. So here it is: How to Defend the Christian Faith in Today's World.


The issue of origins is different to that of developing our technology. When we are discussing origins, we are trying to understand what happened in the past to bring the present into being. When we are developing technology, we are gaining knowledge through our five senses (based on the repeatable test).
Common creationist misconception - that evolution and things that happened throughout history do not still occur today. If creationists think that evolution was supposed to have stopped happening thousands or millions of years ago then that viewpoint might make more sense. It wouldn't mean that we couldn't learn anything about the past, but I might at least see where they're coming from. But that's not how it works. Evolution is still occurring today and we've documented it happening many times both in the lab and in nature. We don't have much reason to think that modern processes that change biological organisms worked vastly differently in the past. I'll say more about this in point 5.


Creationists and evolutionists, Christians and non-Christians all have the same evidence when it comes to the topic of origins. The battle is not the evidence as such, but how one interprets the evidence of the present in relation to the past.
It's not just a matter of interpretation. If it was, we wouldn't expect such a solid consensus on any scientific matter. I can help creationists with one piece of 'evidence' right off the bat though - religious books don't count as evidence. We don't think that man was formed from a clot of blood (says Islam) for the same reason we don't think the world is less than 10,000 years old (says the bible). Belief that a book is infallible sort of skews the 'evidence,' don't you think?


Ultimately, there are only two starting points to develop a way of thinking about the universe—God’s Word or Man’s word.


The two starting points result in two different ways of thinking and thus differing interpretations of the same evidence in relation to the past
Ultimately, there are thousands of starting points to develop a way of thinking about the universe - Mike's word, Jenny's word, the word of ignorant sheepherders from thousands of years ago, credible scientists who actually know what they're talking about, etc. Instead of relying on other people to form our opinions, why can't we start with logic and reason?


The word “science” basically means “knowledge.” We can gain knowledge by observation, which is called operational (observational) science. We can talk about knowledge concerning the past and origins, which is called historical science. Most people don’t understand the difference between historical and operational science. Secularists tend to mix the two together and call it “science,” which is why so many people are easily led astray concerning the truth about origins.
It seems that only creationists make the distinction between historical and operational science. As I've already explained, it doesn't change the way we do science or observe things happening - just the timescale involved. If creationists want to imply that something is much more questionable because  it happened a long time ago without credible eyewitness accounts, let's talk about the bible.

And, as a side note, these 'secularists' they reference consist of atheists, deists, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Mormons, and all sorts of other religions. We like to just call them scientists.


Romans 1:20 is an “intelligent design” verse, but the intelligent design movement is not a Christian movement.
For reference, Romans 1:20:
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Obviously, not everyone agrees that a god exists, that he is eternal, that he is divine (supremely good), or what it even means to use the term 'God.' Obviously, many people like to use the idea of a god to explain mysterious phenomena or things they just don't understand. But I can be no more responsible to believe in a supernatural being because a world exists any more than I can a leprechaun because I found a pot of gold in my backyard yesterday. (I didn't actually, though I certainly would welcome it while remaining an aleprechaunist.)

As for the claim that the ID movement isn't Christian... well, that's an outright lie. Literally all of the members of the Discovery Institute say that the nameless designer is the Christian god. Moreover, in the well-known Kitzmiller vs. Dover trial it was quite clearly ruled that
 For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the religious nature of ID would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child. (Source)

A significant aspect of the IDM is that despite Defendants' protestations to the contrary, it describes ID as a religious argument. In that vein, the writings of leading ID proponents reveal that the designer postulated by their argument is the God of Christianity. (Source)

The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory. (Source)
I'm not sure what kind of stunt they're trying to pull by differentiating themselves from the IDers and vice versa.


Christians have been by and large indoctrinated to believe there is a “neutral” position when arguing about origins, Christian morality, etc. Many have given up their starting point, thus allowing the starting point of Man’s word to overpower the culture.
"Christians have been by and large indoctrinated." I'll just put the period there for maximum truth-factor. The 'neutral' position when discussing origins, morality, or whatever is the position that evidence decides the correct viewpoints and that open-mindedness is a virtue - not the devil's tool.


There is no “neutral” position, and Christians need to once again stand boldly and uncompromisingly on God’s Word. Christians need to honor God’s Word—“Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).
I'm reminded of the parable about the man who built the foundation of his house on the sand. He was happy for a while. I'm not sure why it's so much easier to build on sand than rock, but... whatever. One day a storm came and washed the sand away and the sand man had nowhere to live. Meanwhile the dude who built his house on the rocks was living the high life and probably throwing a party when that storm blew by. At any rate, the point is that if you have a crappy foundation, you're bound to lose it at some point. And I think most rational people would agree that basing beliefs about the way our world works on the writings of ignorant religious men who lived thousands of years ago is a pretty bad place to start. I can't help but think that every time a new scientific discovery comes along and delivers yet another blow to creationism, they keep rebuilding the same house on the same pile of sand.


Christians will continue to lose ground regarding the creation vs. evolution issue in schools, Bible in schools, Christian symbols in public places, abortion issue, Gay Marriage issue, and so on—unless they stop trying to act “neutral” and begin to stand for biblical authority.
As far as I'm aware, there is no real creation vs. evolution debate in science - you're allowed to bring a bible to school, you can erect any kind of Christian symbol you like on your person or your property, and gay marriages are illegal in most parts of the US. They seem to have it mostly their way as it is. The reason they're losing ground on most of these issues is that people are starting to realize that we don't have to run this nation as though it were a theocracy. This is our country, not Answers in Genesis', and we want to live in a world where we don't have to put up with outdated religious oppression. While they're standing for biblical authority, I'll stand for secular humanism and the teaching of science over religious dogma (see 4.6).


The collapse of the Christian worldview in our Western world is related to the fact that the cultures have changed starting points—from God’s Word to Man’s word—and become more consistent in building their worldview on man’s fallible word.
...they say unironically, having the same fallible brain that believes that their particular not-special holy book is the one infallible word of a truthful god.


The Bible makes it clear that hearts and mind change cultures, but many Christians have spent millions of dollars trying to change the culture, which is not working.
And if they spent less money on their extravagant megachurches, pastors, and theme parks and more on food, education, and homes for poor and starving men, women, and children both in the US and abroad, then we'd all be better off.


Christians have by and large allowed the world to capture the hearts and minds of generations of the kids, and they need to be taken back and given the right foundation of God’s Word.
And what a great thing! I really am sick of the indoctrination that kids get both at places like Jesus Camp and generally at home and at church. The problem is that they're not taught to question the religious teachings they're brought up with. It is extremely difficult for most individuals to grow up in a church that teaches that everyone who isn't a part of their religion is a bad person and will be punished for their ways. When they're taught that extraordinary claims in their faith don't need evidence to be believed, they won't stop believing when they find evidence to the contrary. Kids need to be given the right foundation of open-minded rational thinking and if that brings them to religious faith then so be it. But let it be their choice - not their parents'.

And with that, I conclude the always-slightly-too-long AiG response with a bonus picture for those who stayed and read all the way to the end. You're the best!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Does Ken Ham commit logical fallacies?

More Answers in Genesis newsletter fun! Today, we are posed with the question, "Does Ken Ham commit logical fallacies?" And the answer is, "of course he does!" But we already knew that. We've known it for a long time. We've always known it about all modern creationists. Here's the quote in question.
. . . in Ken Ham's lectures I question some of his logic. . . . Ken says,
"If there was a global flood, we would expect to find dead things buried in rock layers all over the earth, and we do find dead things buried in rock layers all over the earth. The evidence is crying out to us that there was a global flood."
. . . doesn't Ken's reasoning represent examples of the logical fallacies: affirming the consequent and reification?
Sometimes it's easier save your breath when fighting a losing battle and simply start moving the goalposts.
It is important to consider the fact that Ken Ham was not debating but lecturing.
Ooooooh, got it. It's ok to commit logical fallacies if you're lecturing. I mean, we wouldn't want those pastors to lose their jobs either!
When lecturing, people tend to use various methods of communication to get their points across and make the audience think about what is being said.
Various methods like logical fallacies, obviously.
In an official debate, the debaters make formal statements, but in a lecture-type setting, we can expect communication devices like rhetorical questions, allegories, and even reification.
And affirming the consequent. And appeals to authority. And appeals to popularity. And on, and on.
The key item we need to recognize when applying these logical fallacies in the real world is that they are mainly applied in formal debates and formal writing. Moreover, if we applied these fallacies like reification to everyday language, we would see people making many “logical fallacies,” and communication would become boring and dull.
It's funny how you focus so much on reification in place of the more glaring affirming the consequent Instead of simply waving away the logical fallacies espoused, perhaps you could actually put forth evidence for things like a global flood. Explain how creationism predicts finding animals at specific rock layers that correspond to ages of the earth that coincidentally match stages in evolutionary development. Explain how your global flood hypothesis is immune to geochemistry, paleontology, or geochronology. Explain where all the water came from and where it went, because you haven't done one of these things yet.
Nonetheless, we should still avoid allegorical or poetic language when making concluding statements about debatable topics—just to make sure we are clearly explaining our point.
Tell that to your god.