Friday, March 6, 2015

Billy Graham: Atheist Nephew

QUESTION: My nephew says he’s an atheist and doesn’t want anything to do with religion or religious people. If someone wants to be religious, that’s their business, he says, but he resents people trying to change him. How can I convince him he’s wrong? — Mrs. G.B.
Sounds to me that Mrs. GB is rather meddling. Why is it a problem if her nephew is an atheist? And why is it so surprising to her that he resents people trying to change him. What if the roles were reversed? Would Mrs GB be perfectly happy with her nephew trying to force her to become an atheist?  Perhaps she needs to think for a moment before issuing silly complaints.

I can't really fault her nephew. No doubt he feels that way due to to believers continuously trying to convert him rather that letting him lack belief in the same way that he's happy to just let believers believe. Personally I think that Mrs GB is being selfish and arrogant. But if she really does want to change his mind there is one way. Prove that her god exists! Just do that, collect her Nobel Prize and destroy atheism in one fell swoop. That should be pretty easy if her religion actually is true...
ANSWER: You probably can’t convince him; from what you say, your nephew is determined to run his own life, and he doesn’t want God or anyone else to interfere.
This absurd little nugget again? So tell me, are Billy (and all other Christians) simply determined to run their own lives and just don't want Krishna interfering? Two can play at that ridiculous little game...
But God can convince him, and that’s why the most important thing you can do is pray for your nephew.
So why the hell hasn't he done it yet? Many of us have been waiting a very long time. But there is another easy way to convince us. Just show us the proof. Prove that God is real and I'll believe. Simple as that. So what are you waiting for?

-Brain Hulk

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Billy Graham: Skepticism

DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: I admit I haven’t been a very good husband, and finally my wife walked out on me a few months ago. It really shook me, and now I’m sure I’ll be different. But how can I get my wife to take me back? She doesn’t believe me when I say I’ve changed. — D.L.
I don't know what DL did, but if his wife doesn't believe he has changed there may be only one way to show he has changed (if he has). Prove it! Show that he's changed...demonstrate it. Not put on an act, mind. That would be dishonest and the charade would eventually be exposed. So it is imperative that the change actually be real before trying to convince anyone.
DEAR D.L.: I don’t know your full situation, of course, but can you honestly blame your wife for being skeptical? You’ve probably told her before — perhaps dozens of times — that you’d change your ways, and yet apparently you never did.
Oh the irony! Billy Graham not faulting someone for being skeptical!? Yet how often does he comment negatively in his columns about atheists who do just that? Like DL's wife, we are skeptical. Like her, we also haven't seen any proof of what it is that we're seeking an answer to. For DL's wife, it's proof that he's actually changed rather than simple claims. For us we want proof that there is a God rather than the same old unfounded claims. So Billy, take a word of your own advice and stop blaming us for being skeptical.

-Brain Hulk

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Billy Graham: 10 Commandments

QUESTION: Why should I follow the Ten Commandments? Maybe they were useful thousands of years ago, but we live in a different world now, and we need to come up with our own rules for living. — W.R.
Correct, this is a different world, but were the Ten Commandments ever that special to begin with?
ANSWER: Have you ever actually studied the Ten Commandments thoughtfully and carefully? (You can find them in Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5.) If you do, you might be surprised how relevant and up-to-date they are, even if you don’t agree with some of them.

In other words, which of them would you do away with, if you could? Would you do away with the commandments forbidding murder, or lying, or stealing? Would you do away with the commandment forbidding greed? I doubt if you’d want to do away with any of these, because no society can be peaceful and harmonious without them.
Commandment forbidding greed? I must have missed that one... Or does Billy think that 'coveting your neighbor's possessions' somehow translates as greed. Sorry, but wanting something doesn't make you greedy. Is Billy suggesting that admiring things is greed? What about those that are needy?
According to Billy, they are greedy since they want for things that they don't have.

True, murder, lying, and stealing are bad things. But how is their inclusion in this list supposed to be revolutionary? These are obvious conclusions that people arrive at naturally. In fact, these truths were known far before the supposed creation of this list of 'divine commands'.

Also, what about the fact that the very god that supposedly handed out the ruling not to kill also commanded and committed murder indiscriminately (according to the Bible)?
Perhaps, however, you’d like to do away with some of the other commandments, such as those that demand we put God first in our lives
I would certainly dump those from the list in a heartbeat. What does it say that four out of this top ten list are concerned only with God and worshiping him? Does this not stink of desperation or a hunger for control? Why the need for such repetition? Does hammering that he is God and that we should worship him really needed if any of it was true? At least it's consistent in a way since space on this list is also wasted on the 'false witness' commandment. Isn't that covered by the 'lying' commandment, rendering it's inclusion unnecessary?
The real issue for you, however, is this: What place does God have in your life?
No, not even close... The real issue here is that for a list that was supposed to have been created by the all-powerful, all-knowing God of everything, it is so shockingly bad. Why was 'don't torture people' left out? What about treating all people with equal rights and dignity? What about denouncing racism and all other prejudices? How about 'thou shalt not rape'? Slavery should be very obvious. God could have expressly disallowed owning other human beings as if they were property instead of condoning it. But he didn't.

Just stop and look at those excluded entries (and others I'm sure popped into your mind) and realize that they were all left out in favor of not working on a Sunday or carving a statue. What does it say about the priorities and nature of a god that thinks that these petty rules are more important than a woman being raped? It sure doesn't leave me with a pleasant impression...

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Atheism Leads to Violence?

Does atheism inevitably lead to violence? Many in the media and in religious circles seem to make you want to think that is the case by the flurry of headlines that followed the tragedy in Chapel Hill. Three Muslim students (Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha) were shot and killed by Craig Hicks.

That isn't the part that has everyone talking though. That honor would go to the fact that Hicks is a self described atheist. As soon as that flash bulb went off the accusations and questions began. Did he kill them because of religion? Is this atheism's fault? Is atheism violent by nature?

The honest truth is that we don't know what Hicks' motivation was yet. There is a history between him and the deceased. But a parking dispute doesn't sound like something to kill over. Yet despite the lack of info, many a believer is pointing at Hicks' facebook page full of atheist pictures and stories just so they can say "See! He did it because he's an atheist!"

Personally I think that's a pretty silly conclusion to jump to, and not just because there's not sufficient evidence. In my opinion I can't see how atheism can be deemed to be what caused this violence. Atheism is not a belief system with a set of rules and demands. It is simply the lack of belief in gods. There's nothing more to it... you just don't believe.

I feel that some believers may feel as though I'm being hypocritical by saying that atheism can't be the cause when there are times where I would say that a particular religion can be considered the cause for some sort of atrocity. I would have to disagree with that claim. That's because where atheism has no holy book, rules, or creeds, religion does. Islam and Christianity both have passages that command the killing of those that don't believe.

The Bible has been used to subjugate woman, oppress homosexuals, justify slavery, and even justify genocide. Through history, there are monsters who have done horrors because they felt they were following the word of the Bible or Qur'an. Their beliefs came from and were justified by the teachings in their holy book. In those cases, I feel religion can be the spark that starts the forest fire. But atheism has no such holy text.

Maybe a potential answer is right at the top of Hicks' facebook page. His header image is none other than one in support of anti-theism. So it would seem that Hicks was more than just an atheist, he was an anti-theist. Anti-theists go further than simply not believing. They actively oppose religion.

Still, even though anti-theists are what many believers would call 'militant atheists', there's still nothing in there that calls for this kind of action. What Hicks did is abhorrent, and I don't know another atheist who would opine otherwise. In fact it has been my experience that atheists as a whole tend to greatly despise and avoid violence. It is possible that Hicks possessed a combination anti-theism and racism or some other prejudice? I could see that causing a perfect storm that could turn violent. But that would also be the case with a racist Christian, so is atheism really to be blamed?

Also, Hicks was also a bit of a gun nut. Why is that small fact being ignored by the conservative outlets that want to blame these killings on atheism? Where are the headlines that read 'Gun ownership leads to violence!' It seems that confirmation bias and sensationalizing wins the day.

Back on the notion that what Hicks did was due to him being an atheist... What about the many Christian murderers? Were they all Christianity's fault because they were Christians? What about the fact that the vast majority of US inmates are Christian? Why is the anomaly of an atheist criminal claimed to be indicative of a larger trend, while the regularity of religious criminals ignored? Surely if one atheist murderer is supposed to prove that atheism leads to violence, then the orders of magnitude more Christian murderers must 'prove' that Christianity leads to violence just that much more.

Obviously Christians will take issue with the notion that their religion is violent due to the acts of individuals. They will point to motive with a Christian killer, just as I suggest we need to learn Hicks' motive in these killings. Now they know how atheists feel about the Craig Hicks story. He does not speak for me, and I feel that what he did was terrible. My heart goes out to the families of the victims of this senseless act.

-Brain Hulk

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Church and Negativity

Is it a good idea to force kids to go to church? Billy Graham sure thinks so...
Q: I had to go to church when I was young, but I always resented it and quit once I got older. Now, I'm married with two small children, and my wife thinks we ought to start going to church for their sakes. But what's to keep them from resenting it like I did? -- M.M.
I'd suggest that MM follows his gut and not force his children to go to church... for their sake. It's my opinion that becoming a member of a religion should be a personal choice. Children should be allowed to grow to an age where they can make a reasoned decision if they want to attend or not.
A: Have you ever asked yourself exactly why you resented having to go to church? Was it because you found it boring and wished you could be doing something else? Or was it because you simply didn't like being told what to do -- no matter what it was? And if you start going to church again, will you have the same feelings?
I ask this because your attitude (whatever it is) will inevitably influence your children. In other words, if you resent going to church, they'll probably resent it also. Never forget, our children learn from our example, for better or worse.
Is that necessarily the case though? MM was forced to go to church, yet he ended up not wishing to attend any longer. His parents wanted him to go, yet he didn't want to after going for a while. According to Billy MM's parents wanting to be there and wanting him to be there would translate into him wanting to be there. That obviously didn't end up being the case. Perhaps the real problem is that MM simply couldn't believe in the religion of his youth any longer.
But perhaps God is trying to get your attention, and He's using this situation to do it. Right now, God means little to you; your disinterest in church is a sign of this. But God doesn't want you to remain a stranger, and I pray you won't.
Or maybe MM realized that the claims of his religion were not rooted in fact, or perhaps the ugly side made it too hard to remain in the fold. But I have to wonder, would Billy be so adamant that MM force his kids to go to church if it was a temple or mosk instead? Somehow I think his advice would change very quickly.

-Brain Hulk

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Monday, February 23, 2015

All Religions Alike?

Some people take a more open stance on religion. They feel that in the end, while competing religions don't seem to agree, they all actually lead to the same place. That is the opinion of one reader, but Billy Graham doesn't agree...
Q: I think it's wrong for any religion to claim that it's the only way to God. In my view, all religions lead to the same place. Don't you think we ought to be more tolerant toward people of different religions? -- S.L.
I agree with SL. People ought to be more tolerant of people simply belonging to a different religion or none at all. He is also correct that all religions are equal... at least in one way. None have met the burden of proof required to prove that their claims are true.
A: Freedom of religion is written into our nation's constitution, and I certainly hope and pray this never changes. Over the years, I've visited countries that don't have religious freedom, and it almost always has led to persecution for those in the minority. Intolerance and religious hatred have no place in civilized society. The Bible says, "Show proper respect to everyone" (1 Peter 2:17).
I fully agree that our freedom of religion and separation of church and state are integral to the success and freedoms we enjoy. Yet while Billy talks in favor of these rights, why do so many like him wish to see them torn down so that they can force their version of their religion on all?
But I respectfully disagree with your view that all religions are alike, and all lead to the same place. Have you honestly ever studied the major religions of the world? If you do, you'll discover they often contradict each other, so how can they all be true? For example, some claim there are thousands of gods and goddesses, but how can that be reconciled with those who believe in only one God? It can't -- not logically.
True, they all can't be true if taken completely literally. The great majority contradict each other. The very act of accepting that one religion is literally true would automatically mean that certain other religions (or all other religions) can't be true.

But I think the point that SL is getting at is that if you don't take every religion 100% literally, they are actually just different paths or interpretations to God/the gods. I don't personally agree with this opinion, but it seems that the actual nature of SL's question was lost on Billy.

And yet there is one way in which all religions are the same... There is no evidence that actually supports them being true!
This is why I urge you to look at Jesus Christ as He is found in the pages of the New Testament. He made a startling claim -- that He was God, who came down from heaven to save us from our sins and give us eternal life.
And why not a different savior or god from some other equally unevidenced holy book?
Was Jesus a liar? No, because He backed up His claim by breaking the bonds of death and coming back from the grave. He came because He loves us, and He knew this was the only way we could be saved. Don't be deceived, but open your heart and mind to Jesus Christ. His words are true: "No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). 
Sigh... Does Billy not realize that the Bible saying it happened doesn't mean that it actually did? The Bible saying that Jesus rose from the dead is no more proof of that that the Qur'an is proof that Muhammad actually rode/flew a winged horse to Heaven.

As Billy pointed out, all religions can't be literally true, but they all can be wrong. And since none are supported by the facts, perhaps that's a little notion he should ponder.

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Stealing From God

David Limbaugh of WND wrote an article on a book called Stealing From God. He props the book up with the lofty claim that it 'skillfully challenges atheists'. But does it? Lets see what his article reveals...
By definition, Christian apologetics deals with defending the faith and, in the process, marshaling evidence in support of Christianity’s truth claims. “Stealing From God” does that, of course, but it does something else, too. It transitions from defense to offense and turns the tables on the atheist community, exposing the brittle foundation on which many of its beliefs (or non-beliefs) are based.
Turns the tables? Brittle foundation? Atheism tends to stem from there being a lack of evidence that there actually is a God. Is this book going to finally do what no other book has done yet and offer actual conclusive evidence of God?
Why would a Christian want to challenge the position of atheists, you ask? Why would one want to attack their arguments? After all, they are just passive unbelievers who mind their own business.
Ego? The call of their church to bring in new members so they can in turn bring more money into the church? Nosy?  Control freak? There's no one single answer to that question really, as those that do evangelize have their own motivations.
In many cases, perhaps most, that is quite true, though Christians have an obligation to spread the good news and offer the reasons for their beliefs to everyone they can, provided they do it with gentleness and respect.
So they'd be cool with Muslims repeatedly trying to get them to convert to Islam?
Please don’t misunderstand; my primary enthusiasm for this book isn’t based on the fact that someone has finally put atheists in their place and forced them to defend their views.
Put us in our place? Defend our views? All we've asked for is evidence! We don't believe in God. What is there to defend? I would ask David for evidence that there is a God if he was here questioning me. But I still don't see what there is to defend. I'm not making a positive claim, I'm just asking David to prove his.
It isn’t about one-upmanship to me or to Turek. This isn’t a game of gotcha, even with aggressive atheists, whom Christians are under a duty to care for as fellow human beings. The book is very respectful.
Wait, it's 'respectful' but you openly admit that there are those that you care for only because you're 'under duty to'... Does David know what respectful means?
I’m excited about this book because I believe that it fills a bit of a hole in the field of Christian apologetics. You see, I have long believed that many skeptics, not just full-blown atheists, shortchange themselves by ending their philosophical inquiry about Christianity when they encounter troubling questions about the Bible or wrestle with disconcerting issues such as the prevalence of evil and suffering in our world.
Um... What!? In my experience, skeptics never end their inquiry. As an atheist I revisit the question of Christianity every single time someone makes a challenge or claims that they have proof. Atheists by and large are open-minded, so we don't tend to just decide there is no God and never give it another thought. We love it when our ideas and thoughts are challenged.  If your beliefs can face these challenges and win, the challenge will only strengthen them. If they fail, you have learned something and can refine your beliefs.

Actually, it's almost always the believers that you will find are set in stone and unwilling to change or reconsider. So who is this book even actually directed toward?
In this largely secular, naturalist, materialist age, many find the Bible’s reported miracles as anti-scientific fairy tales and certain tough passages in the Old Testament as just too uncomfortable to square with Christians’ claim that they worship an all-loving God.
True, the Bible does directly contradict the popular notion  that the Christian god is all-loving and all-knowing.
But I believe that far too many doubters don’t dig much deeper once they discover perceived problems with Christian beliefs and use those difficulties – no offense intended – as an excuse not to believe.
Yes, aspects of Christianity are silly, and even ugly. But it always comes down to the evidence, or lack thereof.  Excuse not to believe? David may say 'no offense intended' but how else is someone supposed to take being implied to be a liar? Additionally, belief isn't even a choice, but I guess David didn't get that memo.
Why wouldn’t they want to believe? Well, some people are comfortable in their lifestyles and believe that Christianity would force them to take inventory and account of themselves. Others may not realize what’s at stake in resolving the question – and don’t let themselves ponder it much further.
It isn't about what we want! If it was about that I would believe in reincarnation... but I don't. Why? For the same reason I'm not a Christian... Lack of evidence. It looks to me that David is reverting into repeating the same old tired and false cliches so many Christian's do. To illustrate how silly this is what if I asked why David wouldn't want to believe in Islam? It must be that he's just comfortable in his lifestyle and is unwilling to take inventory and account of himself. See the absurdity now?
Others, such as college freshmen, shaken from their belief systems by wiseguy atheist professors, are ridiculed into abandoning their beliefs and haven’t the depth of knowledge needed to reinforce those beliefs.
Wow... Resorting to a myth to defend his myth. David must be getting desperate.
I don’t pretend to know all the reasons.
And apparently he doesn't even attempt to figure out the real reasons since he hasn't even mentioned any yet. Show me the evidence!
But I do know, based on my own experience in talking to some atheists and watching others debate Christians, that many atheists haven’t grappled with inherent problems with their own beliefs.
Atheism doesn't actually have any beliefs. In fact, atheism by definition is only the lack of one specific belief... belief in gods. But what is this supposed weakness? Do tell...
Inexplicably – to me, at least – they seem to think that because there are certain troubling questions with Christianity and the present age quasi-deifies naturalism and science, they can go philosophically AWOL and everything will be fine.
Um... No, that's not it at all! Does David still fail to realize why most atheists are atheists? I'm beginning to surmise that there's a lot about this topic that David probably finds inexplicable.
The reality, however, isn’t so simple. The existence of hard sayings in the Bible doesn’t mean that atheism makes sense.
Correct, ugly Bible passages is not a logical path toward atheism. But here's the thing... That has almost nothing to do with why most atheists are atheists. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, most disbelieve because there has yet to be a good and logical reason to believe.
If many of these atheists would apply their considerable mental agility to examining the reasonableness of atheism, they might find that it is much more difficult not to believe than it is to believe in a theistic God.
And how's that? As an atheist I ask for evidence. There is no evidence for the existence of the Christian god or any other. If there's no evidence for God, there's no good reason to believe in God. If there's no good reason to believe, atheism is much easier and much more logical. 
“Stealing From God” saves us much trouble in this inquiry because it lays out, with relentless logic, just how illogical non-belief in God is and, fascinatingly, how atheists actually steal ideas from Christianity to support their own worldview, never drilling deep enough into their own collection of beliefs to realize the egregious contradictions that coexist within them.
Seriously? Because this article has been a very poor representation if it is supposed to speak for this book. And what does atheism supposedly steal from Christianity? And more importantly, does it even matter? So what if atheism did borrow something from Christianity? That wouldn't make Christianity any more true. Christianity stole from the Romans, Christianity stole customs and holidays from the Pagans, Christianity based Bible stories and characters on those from earlier legends and religions... Is the author about to argue that Christianity's plagiarism actually proves the pagan religions of old, in turn disproving Christianity?
“Stealing From God” forces atheists – and other skeptics – out of their comfort zone and into the uncomfortable venue of examining their own conflicting ideas and their flawed presuppositions.
Flawed presuppositions? Such as? If you ask me this all sounds far too much like projection. This also shows the extreme lack of research since this book is challenging atheists to examine our own 'beliefs'... something we already do anyway. In fact, examining our own beliefs is why many atheists become atheists. Most were believers once and dared to examine what we believed. So the very thing that the author is challenging atheists to do can easily lead one away from belief.
Perhaps when they realize the extent to which their beliefs and so-called non-beliefs are resting on little more than shifting sands, they will take a second look at Christianity, whose difficulties will no longer seem nearly so daunting and for which there are satisfactory, glorious, life-giving and life-changing answers.
Sorry, but to me Christianity is the one that seems build on shifting sand. And again the presumption that atheists don't give religion a second thought. There are atheists that wish they could believe. There are those that want to believe.  But they just can't because there's no evidence to support belief. And yes, a Christian can claim that their faith is life-changing. But here's the thing... So will a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.
I hope, in a subsequent column, to share some compelling examples of Frank Turek’s dismantling of atheism. In the meantime, I strongly urge you to buy and read this incredible book.
For David's sake I sure hope that it's far, far better than what this article has offered, because the arguments here were really quite poor. But as I said above, I'm always open to being wrong and learning something. So bring it Mr. Turek, take your best shot!

-Brain Hulk

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