Friday, August 1, 2014

Because... Hitler!

I was behind another car in traffic the other day when I took notice of a bumper sticker. It read:
This year will go down in history. For the first time a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future!

— Adolf Hitler, 1935
First off, what a terrible quote for a bumper sticker. The lettering was so small that there was no hope anyone would have been able to read it if not for bumper-to-bumper traffic. But the troubles certainly don't stop there... 

Ah, the old Hitler card. Don't like something? No problem! Just compare it to or say that Hitler liked it and there you go. Instant vilification. Gun control? Hitler liked gun control, therefore gun control is always evil; and leads to genocide... Or, you know... Something like that. Classic guilt by association ad hominem.

But what about the facts? First off, it's very much worth mentioning that there is no record that Hitler actually said the quote attributed to him. Secondly, it would make no sense if he did say it.

• After World War I, the allied treaty all but banned public gun ownership by the Germans.
• 1919/1920: German citizens are ordered to turn in their weapons.
• 1928: Gun prohibition ends, but strict registration is put in place.
• 1933: Hitler becomes chancellor of Germany.
• 1935: This is the year of the 'quote' yet nothing happens in regards to gun control.
• 1938: Hitler passes gun regulations that did as follows...
          -Removed gun restrictions.
          -Deregulated the sale of rifles, shotguns, and ammunition.
          -Expanded the number of people exempt from needing a permit.
          -Extended permit duration.
          -Lowered permit age from 20 to 18.
          -Illegal for Jews to have guns.

So despite what the quotes claims of a Hitler that walked into a Germany with guns everywhere, and took them all away, pretty much to exact opposite is what actually happened. Lets see then... This bumper sticker's argument was Hitler = gun control, so gun control is bad. Since the facts are much different, I suppose conservatives will be happy to agree that since Hitler = guns more available, so gun regulations are good... Right?

Sadly, they would not agree with that, and would rather persist with a double standard. While we're at it, and conservatives are looking toward Hitler for things to be against, let's take a look at a few more of his quotes...
I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty
Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord’s work.

-Adolph Hitler, Speech, Reichstag, 1936

 My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a
fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded
by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and
summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest
not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian
and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord
at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the
Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight
against the Jewish poison. 
-Adolf Hitler, speech in Munich on April 12, 1922

I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so
-Adolph Hitler, to Gen. Gerhard Engel, 1941

Those are just a small sampling of the several instanced of Hitler being vocal about his Christian faith, as well as justifying his acts as the lord's work.

So let's take our 'conservative logic'  a step further. If Hitler agreed with something, it has to be intrinsically bad. Okay... Well Hitler was a vocally professed Christian. So I guess that means the Christianity is also evil by the 'Hitler test'... Looks like that one didn't go as they planned either.

-Brain Hulk

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

A world government

The Jehovah's Witnesses dropped by again and left a little pamphlet in the door. This one was a bit different from the ones they usually leave though. The paper they left behind this time plainly stated, "A World Government. Why do we need one? Is it possible? Who is qualified to rule?" It then offered that I could hear the answers at a free public event at FedEx Field.

Not being one to drive into that mess of a gathering, I instead elected to look online to see what I could find. What I found was surprising. The JW's are now openly supporting the prospect of a world government. Unreal!

This is surprising to me because JW's are Christians. And the Bible actually warns of the adoption on one world rule as a sign of the end times. So this leads me to ask two questions.

1) Are they unaware of that prophecy?
2) Are they aware, but are actually trying to hurry along the end times?

Option one would show a breathtaking amount of ignorance of the book they supposedly follow. And the second would quite simply be sick! No, I don't think that a world-wide government would actually cause Jesus to descend from the sky, but what if they do?

To anyone with much sense, I would think that the end times as described in the Bible should be considered a bad thing. Terrible suffering and destruction everywhere, even if the believers are somehow left unaffected. To wish something like that would happen, and soon, sounds sick and uncompassionate to me. To additionally try to actively force this to happen only serves to ramp up the disgust factor for me. Well, so much for your friendly neighborhood JW's. It seems they've boarded the express train to crazy town...

-Brain Hulk

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The wizard of Nod

I think a fair number of us have looked at the Biblical land of Nod and left with plenty of questions. Questions like, where did the people of Nod come from? Where they simply decedents of Adam and Eve that were not mentioned in the Bible? But if that's the case, that means that the entirety of the world would have to have been populated by way of a massive amount of incest. Something that would have led to the result of a ton more people with physical and/or mental shortcomings and abnormalities.

...and poor Seth. Everyone always seems to forget about him.
When posed with the premise of the Earth being populated by way of incest, I've had theists tell me that the people of Nod were created by God separately of Adam and Eve. While this may take care of the Bible's first incest problem, it goes on to raise another one.

If Nod was populated by people that were not from Eden, they couldn't have eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Likewise, if they weren't the children of Adam and Eve, they wouldn't be 'infected' with original sin.

While Cain did father children with women from Nod, what about those that didn't father children with him or his decedents? The people of Nod not being children of Adam and Eve leaves open the possibility of a lineage not effected by original sin.

So literal Christians are left with a choice to make. Either the Earth was populated by a level of incest that doesn't match the world we see, or original sin may not be as universal as typically taught. 'Sinful' reproduction with genetic ramifications, or the possibility that that there are those without the very original sin that Jesus supposedly died to cleanse. Choose wisely.

-Brain Hulk

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Missing the point

It turns out that someone replied to the letter I wrote to my local paper. Tom Berry's the name, and missing the point is his game...
An interesting letter was published in the July 12 paper about the Bible not being without error. I suggest that nitpicking his edition of the Bible that bats are birds may be misleading him.
Tom doesn't seem to understand the point being made. Pastor Jerry Cooper wrote into the paper to claim that the Bible is without a single error. I wrote in to point out that his claim was false. I was not mislead or nitpicking. Simply pointing out that the Pastor's claim was obviously false.
Perhaps before jumping to conclusions one needs to study the original script. After all, there are scores of revisions to the book, and it has been translated into hundreds of languages. It just might be possible that something could be lost or misinterpreted along the way.
Yes, there are many versions of the Bible. And perhaps the whole bat/bird issue could be a mistranslation. But I noticed that Tom ignored my other examples. 'Creation' being done in the wrong order seems less likely to be a translation issue, and being so very wrong about the nature, location and size of stars... Also claiming that to be a translation problem seems to be a bit of an ask.

What more, if one wants to claim that these things weren't translated correctly, what if the same is true of Mary being a virgin, Jesus performing miracles, or the parting of the Red Sea? One should be wary of the implications of their own argument.
Also consider that if one can’t prove something is true, that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Maybe we’re just not smart enough or have enough information yet to figure it out.
True, but shouldn't we at least reserve belief until we have a reasonable idea of what we are talking about first?  
On a related topic, the belief that, “The time to believe something is true is not when it is simply claimed to be true, but when it can actually be shown to be true” is asking for 100 percent certainty, a rare thing indeed.
I'd say that interpretation is taking things a bit far. I'm not asking for 100% certainty, but reasonable evidence that supports the claim. There really is no such thing as 100% certainty, but we can build a strong case in favor of the veracity of a claim or idea. I'd rather believe something is true when it can be shown to be true beyond a reasonable doubt, rather than just because the claim was made, or I like the claim.
I am reminded that our commander in chief made a claim in the Rose Garden not long ago that the discussion is over on global warming/climate change/climate disruption. His claim does not mean it’s over. Maybe he’s just not smart enough or does not have enough information yet to figure it out.
When the president stated that the discussion is over on climate change, what he was saying is that it is as much a scientific fact as gravity. Sure, science is always open to correction or revision. But as of now, all the evidence supports the truth that climate change is real, and it is here.

-Brain Hulk

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Monday, July 28, 2014

God and evil

This week Billy Graham answers a letter from a reader concerned about her health, and shows how poorly he knows his holy book in the process...
DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: My doctor just called to say I need to go back to the radiologist for another X-ray because something suspicious showed up on the first one. But I can’t face going back. I’m so frightened that I might have breast cancer. I know that’s stupid, but I can’t help it. Why is God doing this to me? — K.K.
KK's fear is understandable. But it's a fear that must be faced, because if the worst is true, simply running away will only make things worse.
DEAR K.K.: Elsewhere in your letter you mention that you’ve been following your doctor’s advice to have an X-ray every year, and I commend you for this. God gave our bodies to us, and he wants us to do everything we can to take care of them.

What exactly is it you think God is doing to you? Perhaps you’d answer by saying he’s giving you cancer, but that isn’t true. First of all, you don’t even know if you have cancer, and you won’t know until it’s been confirmed by further testing. But know that cancer is an evil disease, and God isn’t the cause of evil.
Well, the Bible says otherwise... In Isaiah 45:7, God has this to say:
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
Here we have Billy Graham saying that God doesn't create evil even though God plainly says that he did. So if we are going to pretend that the Bible is at all reliable, Billy is wrong and KK would be justified in thinking God gave her cancer.

We live in a world where things go wrong, and God may permit them to happen, but he isn’t to blame for them. The Bible says, “God cannot be tempted by evil” (James 1:13).

Read more here:
Ignoring the fact that we just showed that God straight up claimed evil as his creation, there's another issue. God can't even be arsed to give a damn about evil. Oh, he could take care of the problem of evil (as defined by believers), but he simply chooses not to act at all. So much for being an all loving god.
But let me suggest what God may be doing to you, and that is sparing your life. What if this is cancer, but it remains undetected and untreated? You know the result, and God doesn’t want that to happen. Your fear is understandable, but God doesn’t want you to be paralyzed by fear.
Personally, I'd say that it's KK's doctor that's trying to save her life. You know, the guy or gal that's doing the tests, and utilizing their expertise to try and help KK. God helping those with cancer would look something more like no one ever getting cancer, or everyone's cancer suddenly disappearing. Go ahead and give the credit to God if you want, but I'll go ahead and give the credit to the physicians and surgeons that actually deserve it.

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Black and White

Through the years I have run across people that think so much differently than I do. I'm not talking just about religion or political differences, but a fundamental difference on what they find to be a satisfying or acceptable answer or explanation.

You see, I like to be as accurate and detailed in my answers as I can. Meanwhile, other people want everything to be black and white. As simple (vague) and answer, the better for some... That may work for them, but I view the world in shades of grey. I've had employers that only seemed capable of flat yes or no answers. But the questions that are asked were rarely answered so simply. There are nuances and details that make neither yes or no to really be an accurate reply. Yet, this is all they find acceptable.

Not one to willingly forfeit accuracy, I will avoid the use of these flawed replies if a more accurate option is available. What is wrong with 'possibly' or 'most likely' and then stating the variable(s) you are concerned could reverse an affirmative or negative declaration?
A: Is the machine fixed?
B: I'm not sure, it's working now.
A: So it's fixed...
B: Maybe. It wasn't working, and now it is. Everything was done exactly the same both times. So either there's a variable I'm missing, or it fixed itself.
A: It's working. So it's fixed. How did you fix it?
B: As I said. Everything was done the same as it was when it didn't work and did work, but it's working now. So we'll see how it goes. If I can repeat the problem/solution, then we'll know.
A: So it's fixed for good then?
B: ... *bangs head on wall*
An accurate portrayal of reality: Usually, it's somewhere in
the middle...
Also, why are 'I'm not sure', or I don't know' discarded as acceptable answers? I'll be asked A question that I don't know the answer to, and will say as such and then offer the my gut feeling or what is usually the case, but that I'll have to check the facts. Yet, I find myself faced with only the binary options of 'yes' or 'no'. What is wrong with being honest and accurate?
A: Can we put this info on a plaque this small?
B: I'm not sure. I'll have to lay it out and see it that's too small.
A: Can we do it?
B: I think so, but it will be pretty close. Let me lay it out to see.
A: Yes or no?
B: Probably, but I can't say for certain at that size without checking.
A: Yes or no?
B: ... *wonders if I'm speaking another language*
Those are quite simplified examples, but when speaking with someone seemingly incapable of understanding variables or detailed explanations, I'm often left at a loss for words. I'm dumfounded that before me stands a grown man, that wishes to converse at the level of a grade schooler. Sorry, but I refuse to eschew accuracy in favor of faulty simplicity.

It's odd that these same people also always seem to take things the wrong way. Say they offer a solution to a problem. I may agree or I may notice a problem with the proposition. Yet pointing out this flaw is somehow viewed as a reactionary shooting down of anything they would have said. Um, no... Offer a good idea, and I'll gladly accept it. But if there's a problem or potential problem I'm not just going to ignore it only to result in a waste of time and money.
A: What if we do 'X'?
B: That almost sounds like it would work, except for the fact that 'Y' will cause 'problem Z'.
A: What if we do 'X2'?
B: We tried that already and it didn't work.
A: What if we did 'X3'?
B: That would actually cause more problems because of 'Y2' and 'Z2'.
A: At least I'm offering solutions! You just keep shooting them down!
B: ... *At this point I'm thinking "chill dude, me pointing out where physics or geometry defy your 'solution' is not me trying to pick a fight..."
I feel that looking at everything in such a black and white manner is good for no one. So it's no surprise that this thinking has permeated politics and religion. It's not news to anyone that many conservatives view liberals as the enemy, and vice versa. You're either with the party, or you're against it. Likewise, some believers feel that you are either with God or against him. This line of thinking only goes to divide and cause undue conflict. Often there is a middle-ground where people can compromise on an issue. But in a strict black and white world, this potential for cooperation is lost.

I feel that similar dangers are at risk when condensing conversation to only two polar opposites. Sometimes that may work, but often times things aren't quite that simple. Some may enjoy that illusion of black and white simplicity, but I will pick the accuracy of a world painted in shades of gray any day.

-Brain Hulk

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

The problem of evil

Based on this title, you probably think I'm going to talk about the classic problem of evil. But I'm actually going to talk about an article from Christian Today that actually claims it's us atheists that face the bigger problem with the problem of evil. Seriously? Oh well, let's see what they have to say...
Lots of people, when asked why they don't believe in God, will say something like, "Because there is so much evil in the world".
You know what, I have a suggestion... How about if Christian Today doesn't  simply purposely create a premise on which to base their entire article, and instead do some real research?

I must say that I've heard very few atheists say that they are atheists because of how much evil there is in the world. I have heard atheists say that the existence of evil made them doubt the whole part about God being all love. But that's pretty much it. After all, there being evil wouldn't disprove God, it only goes so far as to show that if he does exist, he just doesn't give a shit.

You see, most atheists are non-believers because religion hasn't satisfied the burden of proof, or because it just didn't make any logical sense. Not off to a good start David Robertson...
It wasn't the case for me. One of the reasons I became a Christian was studying the horrors of the Holocaust. I visited Auschwitz for the first time last year. It was so upsetting. If there is no God, then to me, this world is hell. What's often used as a reason to not believe in God can be used as a reason to believe.
So David was afraid of reality and retreated to a religion to tell him that it will all be okay and that Jesus will fix the world... someday. Sorry, but belief due to fear is not impressive.
I think that all of us have a sense of evil and a sense of good – I don't think that morality is relative. The modern mantra of "It's true for you but not for me" is false. There really is such a thing as good and evil. To me this truth actually leads to God, rather than away from God.
It matters not that David  doesn't believe morality is subjective. The simple fact it that any way you slice it, it is... Even if you claim morality comes from God. He changes his mind from time to time in the Bible, so that's subjective as well. But looking at morality, we can see that we crafted it and it evolved along with us. We are social creatures that poses empathy (well, most of us). But I go into more detail on that here.

Some things are pretty much universal to us because we are the same species and have gone down the same evolutionary road. But there are still plenty of exceptions from one morality to another. And sorry, there simply being 'evil' doesn't necessitate a god. 'Evil' or 'bad' is simply a term that is comparative to something that is 'good'. Evil is our interpretation, not an actual thing.
So here's the problem of evil in a nutshell. We say that God is omnipotent – that he is all powerful, so he could destroy evil. We say that God is good, so he would want to destroy evil. So then atheists will argue, that because evil exists, a good omnipotent God cannot exist. Otherwise, he would stop evil. It's a simple
argument, but for many people it is devastating.
Yes, it's simple and easy to understand. God as defined by some Christians is contradictory at its core. When you present a God that is all-powerful and all-loving, and than state the existence of evil, you are left having to choose.

1) God either isn't all powerful and can't stop evil.
2) He isn't all loving  but is all powerful and chooses not to stop evil that he could stop.
3) God isn't all powerful or loving.
4) There is no God.

So why is it that when so many believers are shown this that they stridently refuse to believe that their definition of their god is necessarily flawed?
We shouldn't shelter Christians from arguments like this. Some of our young people grow up in churches where they are not asked to think about these things, and we try to protect them.
And they do this because history is showing that education, thinking and questioning are things that usually end up being quite bad for religious faith. Sorry, but if education and thinking are your enemies, that really should tell you something...
So the first time they come across a problem like this, everything gets blown apart and they lose their faith.
Oh no! The kids might actually see logic and recognize it for what it is! *gasp* But let's not be too dramatic. Most don't stop believing just like that. The majority will simply be left with a seed of doubt. A seed that might blossom into a beautiful tree of self discovery, or might be stamped out by religious friends and family should they get a whiff.
That doesn't need to be the case. There are lots of contradictions within this argument, especially when compared to the attitude of many atheists today.
Um, how...? We don't claim to have a super-powered hero that has promised to lock up Captain Evil for his dastardly deeds.
Atheists such as Richard Dawkins claim that evil doesn't actually exist. In his book, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life Dawkins writes: "In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference."
Talk about not understanding what one is reading. The subject of the book should have been a hint. River Out of Eden is about evolution. Dawkins is not saying that atheists don't believe in evil but that evolution doesn't, as it works with total indifference. I sure hope that this wasn't the bedrock this article was built upon. If so, David wasted probably a couple hours writing an article that is a total waste of time.
So for this kind of atheist thinking, there is no evil. There is no purpose. Nothing, but blind, pitiless indifference.
 Congratulations! David wasted any time he spent penning this piece!
Sometimes I ask God why such terrible things happen in the world. I get upset. But I would be in the pit of despair if I thought that the universe had no purpose, no good and no evil, and it all happened for no reason at all.
Doubling down on the belief out of fear and not actually understanding what you are talking about I see...
If you are a naturalist (ie you believe that the material world is all that there is), then you have a real problem with the existence of evil. You have to believe:
1) There is no creation, and no Creator.
Close enough I guess. A naturalist could believe in a creator that doesn't violate the laws of nature. But since we haven't found any of those yet, we'll just go with what David said.
2) There is no life after death. No one to answer to. You are a blob of carbon floating from one meaningless existence to another.
Wrong. The lack of an after-life doesn't make life meaningless. Does the lack of an after-after-life make the after-life meaningless to a believer? My life may not have a prescribed meaning, but don't fool yourself into thinking life is meaningless. Even without divine mandate, life is beautiful and full of meaning. And even better, we get to decide what that meaning is!
3) There is no ultimate foundation for morality. It's just something that happens, and has evolved.
Yes, morality evolved. And because if that it fits us rather well. Even better, that allows us to fix mistakes. Something that an absolute objective morality won't allow. So a well reasoned subjective morality that we created is actually a superior one anyway!
4) There is no ultimate meaning in life. We're going on from one meaningless existence to another.
How is this one really any different than #2? Was David desperate to make his list a nice tidy  five items and couldn't think of anything else?
5) There is no human free will. It means I'm programmed to do certain things. It means I can't be held accountable. It means when you stand in front of a judge for raping a woman, you say, "I can't help it, it was my genes". It takes away human responsibility. Part of being human is being responsible. We have an element, at least, of free will.
Wow, David has a real knack for not understanding things. We can be genetically predisposed to be more likely to act one way or another, but unless one has some form of mental illness, there still is a choice to be made. That or the lives we lead make us into the people we become. Sorry, but David's attempt at an over simplified straw-man simply fails.
The problem with the atheist view of evil, is that logically it doesn't make sense. Either you agree that it exists, or you don't. If it does exist, then on what metaphysical basis does it exist? It can't just "be" in a world that is just atoms and molecules.
Here's the thing. Atheists don't claim that there is no evil! We may counter a believers claim of absolute evil that there isn't really an absolute, transcendent evil. But this in no way equates to us not thinking there is any 'evil'. So no, it's David's claim that 'the atheist view of evil' doesn't make sense that actually doesn't make any sense.
Good old CS... Who claimed that Jesus was either
lord, liar, or lunatic. He of course left out that
possibility that Jesus didn't claim to be God or
didn't exist. Something that confine Jesus to be
no more than a simple legend.
I love CS Lewis' view.
I usually don't, as his work on Christianity that is supposed to be aimed at atheists shows a real lack of understanding about atheists.
As he made his journey from atheism to theism, Lewis realised [SIC] that the problem of evil presented more of a problem for atheism than it did for theism. In Mere Christianity he writes:
Yeah, I actually have my doubts about his supposed atheism. I've seen him claim he was an atheist, but never anything more than that. For someone who claimed to have been an atheist, his knowledge of atheism is staggeringly bad. So he either came to atheism from some illogical path, miscategorized himself as an atheist (maybe he was just angry with God), or was lying.
"My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust...? Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies.
Oh, so close! We recognize 'bad' not because we know God, but because we know 'good'. Furthermore, it CS really did have a problem with God due to the problem of evil, it just goes to show that if he was an atheist, he wasn't a logical one. 
"Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple."
Funny... My non-belief stemmed in part from my actually trying to prove God...
It's true. Atheism is way too simple. If you say you don't believe in God because the world is unjust and that there is evil in the world – but you then say there is no such thing as evil, you're contradicting yourself.
Well it's a good thing that we don't say that then, isn't it...
The New Atheist motto "There is no God and I hate Him" doesn't make any sense at all.
David... Please stop making stuff up. Atheism doesn't have a motto, let alone a new one. And if it did, it certainly wouldn't be something as illogical as that!

So lets all thank David for wasting his time and ours by writing about something he clearly doesn't understand. 

-Brain Hulk

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