What God?

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I have heard in my time many arguments for the existence of God.  From a science perspective we have many variations of the Anthropic principle, which is a very weak tautology.  If humans are well suited to the world, then it must be assumed that it was created for us.  These apologists often base these arguments on some sort of calculation of chance, (The odds of human evolution are some ridiculous number to 1) which is also completely specious and we can go into the specific reasons later.

There’s another argument that appeals to human psychology.  Usually you get this a lot from the likes of CS Lewis who felt that a sense of wonder was, by definition, proof of god.  Which is also pretty specious.  You can live quite wonderful fulfilling lives without the baggage of religion.  Possibly quite better lives than your religious fellows.  Even if this was not true it wouldn’t matter.

One of my  favorite arguments it appeal to the authenticity of the bible.  Perhaps the ultimate tautology.  Well if the Bible says that it’s trustworthy… how could we go wrong.  Generally, claims of Biblical authority are backed with prophesy.  Prophesy is where you chose any two points in time and create an artificial sense of significance between them.  Generally you might have to jigger the math a bit.  A year is equal to a day is a common trick.

Here’s my problem with all of it.  If we assume god to be an all-knowing interactive deity dedicated to guiding humanity, then there are some pretty glaring problems.  One always hates to assume something about god.  How do you know something that is inherently unknowable? But we can certainly evaluate the claims about him. If god is going to deign to give humanity vague and unhelpful clues about the future, why not something useful?  How about forms of government? God says very little about it other than to follow his laws and he’s got your back.  He also begrudgingly tolerates the development of the Israeli short-lived monarchy.  Maybe he wasn’t so tolerant after all. Jesus will later tell the Hebrews to tolerate the Roman empire. God could have let us in on the monarchy or the democracy.  Both innovations in their time would have been terrific advancements and could have halted a tremendous amount of suffering, especially if god set out an orderly progression.

He also makes an extraordinary number of ethical errors.  For example, this was a fantastic time to state unequivocally that slavery is bad but… he didn’t.  Why?  God couldn’t figure that one out?  Speaking of which, genocide would have been another thing to put out there as something you absolutely should NOT do, except that it’s explicitly endorsed by the Bible. My least favorite is something god specifically commanded. Circumcision. There’s no excuse for genital mutilation. Speaking of genitals, some healthier guidelines on healthy sexual expression and the LGBT acceptance would have been fantastic.  Sorry, God drops the ball again.  The treatment of women as second-class citizens is a phenomenal failure that with a few words could have been halted.  Things like being forced to marry your rapist? What the hell god? you have to answer for that. The notion of universal equality was something that took over 17 hundred years from the birth of Christ to develop.  How about tips for world peace? the closest we’ve come is commercial and diplomatic ties are critical but you won’t find that in the Bible.  God couldn’t suggest a more equitable profit sharing arrangements for distributing wealth? This also would have saved untold suffering in the world.

How about medical and technological insights?  It wouldn’t have been difficult for god to weigh in on how to make primitive vaccines, or procedures for quarantining patients with communicable diseases.  Something as simple as soap and water can prevent a tremendous amount of infection. Clean water, boiled water, sewer systems, cleaning trash, developing some infrastructure, all these things would have been within a bronze age level of technology and would have prevented many of the plagues that devastated humanity.  In fact, science is as much a mental discipline as it is a collection of technologies.  That could easily have been communicated to Bronze Age cultures.  Certainly Iron Age cultures came very close to this kind of discipline. There’s any number of facets of psychology, environmentalism, medicine, health, education, and more that god just apparently forgot to mention.

Actually, the more you look at the Bible the more one realizes that god didn’t really know anything more about life and the future or even the past than your average Bronze Age warlord.  In fact, much of the the history, science, prohibitions, legal philosophy is just wrong -as in verifiably incorrect.  If we consider the Bible “useful for instruction” then this instruction must be limited to how to evaluate mythologies.  Clearly thinking critically isn’t on the curriculum.  If the proof for god lies in the bible then we can easily conclude there is no god, or that he has chosen not to involve himself in our lives in this way.  The fact that there are so many ways to have made society so much better that an all knowing god could have imparted and chosen not to, brings to light the ridiculous of a literal interpretation of Christianity.


Why everyone is stupid pt 3: Young Earth Creationism

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Young Earth Creationism (YEC) is the religious belief that the earth was created six thousand years ago (more or less).  The sole justification for this belief is an overly literal interpretation of the Bible.  In fact, the central characteristic of YEC is that they believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible to the exclusion of all other things. YECs believe that sometime around 4000 BC God literally spoke the entire planet into existence over a six day period.  There’s some debate in the YEC community whether or not he spoke merely the entire planet or the entire universe.  Not that it matters, since neither theory is consistent with any of the data we have collected in the last few hundred years about the formation of the solar system or the universe.  YECs know this chronology to be true because it’s in the Bible chapter 1.  Additionally, not only was the world created in 4000 BCE but, if you go by Ussher’s chronology (17th century bishop), the world was then destroyed circa 2300 BCE by Noah’s flood.  Some people might nit pick and talk about technical errors and interpretations but any value set in a literal understanding of the Bible will leave you in a state of intense and profound  stupidity because there’s no way to reconcile any interpretation, no matter how broad,  to the literal Genesis creation myth that makes any sense.

Sometimes you can give a pass to people for ignorance -if people miss the finer points of evolution or cosmology for example this probably isn’t stupidity but ignorance.  But in this case you can’t.  It’s synonymous with believing the earth is flat which is a theory no one has believed since the classical period in Ancient Greece.  Anyone who would believe in a flat earth now would just be an idiot.  YEC is like that.  It’s gone so far beyond the realm of dispassionate debate regarding evidence, it’s in the realm of obviousness.

Pick any “-ology” in the grand litany of “-ologies” and you’ll find not only a preponderance of evidence, but that the entire paradigm falls to pieces if you assume a 10,000 year or less time frame.  Take my personal favorite, Archaeology.  The world is littered with man made stuff that’s literally hundreds of thousands of years old.  Sometimes millions of years old depending on how you want to define “Man made”.  There are whole civilizations rising and falling long before the putative “beginning” of the world.  Do you want to know what happened 10,000 years ago?  That was the beginning (roughly) of the Iron age.  It’s when people started writing down pieces of their lives.  It was the beginning of the world from a whole new metaphorical and intellectual perspective.  The Iron Age was ushered in with changes in climate, agriculture, husbandry, population density, and more.  It was the beginning of many things, but not the literal earth.

YEC are great people.  I’m sure they’re warm, caring individuals, but they’re stupid.  They are so emotionally invested in a bizarre and silly religious belief that they have become willfully blind to reality.  There’s no discussion in any serious circles because the issue is not one of intellect and can’t be discussed intellectually.  It’s an emotional issue.  It’s a religious issue.  But no intellectual process, including the religious ones, will ever be successful when it becomes so completely divorced from reality.    Rapidly the church is becoming the “church of stupid people” and it’s over issues like this.  So yes, YECs are stupid.  Intentionally so, and I fear there may be no cure.