Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Forgiveness > Permission

We've all heard the old phrase 'it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission'. This phrase will often be offered with a little laugh as it is meant more as a joke. And I agree that it is a funny phrase on the surface. But if you look at is seriously, it's actually really bad advice.

There was a comedian that once said, "I wanted to pray to God for a new bike. But I know he doesn't work that way. So I just stole one and asked for forgiveness instead." A funny joke, but what if everyone took this mindset seriously?

That is why I don't see the concept of Christian forgiveness as a positive thing. It offers no deterrent from doing wrong, because every wrong will be forgiven if you just ask. Maybe that works for you, but it's terrible for society. Other people are still left hurt. Wrongs were still done. The bike was still stolen, money embezzled, lives taken...

So while it is a funny little phrase, it isn't one to be lived seriously. Not if you want to live a moral life and not recklessly hurt others anyway.

-Brain Hulk

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

God and Earthquakes

Somehow Rob Phillips over at the Baptist Press is actually arguing that Earthquakes aren't a problem for God, but that they strengthen the claim there is a God... What!?
The Lisbon earthquake of 1755 changed everything. In minutes, this thriving, affluent city was brought to its knees. Roughly 50,000 people died. The sky turned black. Fires raged. Then tidal waves washed over the port, drowning hundreds more...Later, Voltaire wrote a poem challenging the prevailing view that this was a divine act of judgment...Voltaire did not challenge the existence of God. He simply asked what kind of deity would create a world with such design flaws. It's a question other thinkers of his day dared to ask as well -- a question taken up by today's ardent atheists and carried to the extreme conclusion that God does not exist.
Huh? I don't know who Rob has been talking to, but no atheist I know would claim that Earthquakes prove there is no God. Most atheists will only go as far as citing such events as evidence against the existence of an all-loving god.
The earthquake and tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia in 2004 and similar disasters that struck Haiti in 2010 and Japan in 2011 are more recent examples of what may be described as natural evil. While many atheists concede that moral evil exists in the world, the idea of natural evil seems to prove either that God does not exist or, if He does, He is not a compassionate all-powerful God worthy of worship.
Sounds about right, but he left out all-loving.
Not so fast.
 Really? Where's the problem?
Plate tectonics
Okay... How does that vindicate God any?
In their book "Rare Earth," Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee observe that Earth "is still the only planet we know that has plate tectonics."
You sure about that? Because Mars has plate tectonics and Europa may as well.
They further show that plate tectonics is a "central requirement for life on a planet." It's also largely responsible for differences in land elevation that separate the land from the seas.
But there's more. Plate tectonics recirculates carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and without carbon dioxide we would not have life.
Dinesh D'Souza writes in "What's So Great About God?": "The whole tectonic system serves as a kind of 'planetary thermostat,' helping to regulate the earth's climate and preventing the onset of scorching or freezing temperatures that would make mammalian life, and possibly all life, impossible."
Plate tectonics also aids the formation of minerals deep in the earth and their availability near the surface.
Finally, the tectonics system contributes to the earth's magnetic field, without which earth's inhabitants would be exposed to cosmic radiation.
So, in a sense, we owe our existence to plate tectonics and the earthquakes it produces. Of course, earthquakes often cause great destruction and claim the lives of many people. These are real tragedies that must not be minimized.
That's all well and good, but it doesn't change anything. Claiming that earthquakes are but an unfortunate side-effect of extremely beneficial plate tectonics does not improve the case for God. This actually attests to a natural process rather than a perfect design by a God. For if a god designed plate tectonics and worked in earthquakes as well, then it would be a bad design. He's supposed to be able to do anything, so he could have just omitted earthquakes from the equation if he wanted to.
However, to make the leap from tragic consequences of natural disasters to accusations that God is aloof, petulant or non-existent fails on numerous counts. People die of heatstroke and skin cancer but that doesn't make the sun -- or its Creator -- our enemy. Fires often devastate property and take innocent lives, but without fire many technological advances such as smelting metals would not be possible.
In addition, floods and hurricanes cause tragic death and destruction, but these natural disasters would be impossible without water, without which no living creature could survive.
Sigh... that's nature for you. It is indifferent and can be as devastating as it is beautiful.
It's true that something is wrong with the created order -- and this has been the case ever since the man's fall in the Garden of Eden.
 But when God is defined as being perfect, the nature that we see actually does disprove a 'perfect' god. That's because a perfect deity couldn't create an imperfect creation. Additionally, a perfect god wouldn't be able to make a creation that was even capable of becoming broken. The very claim that Rob uses to try and explain away the problems in the world actually proves that his god can't be a perfect one. Now isn't that embarrassing...

-Brain Hulk

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Trusting foretelling?

A lot of people love to read horoscopes or have their fortunes told. But is that a good idea?
DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: Can some people really foretell the future? I admit I’d like to know what’s going to happen to me, but I’m not sure if I really ought to get involved with a lady near us who claims she can predict the future through cards and things like that. — L.G.
Can people actually see the future? Nope! Every person who has claimed to possess this power and been put to the test has been found to be a fraud.
DEAR L.G.: I strongly urge you not to become involved in anything or anyone that claims to be able to foretell the future. The Bible commands us to avoid anyone “who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens … or who is a medium or spiritist” (Deuteronomy 18:10-11).
Anyone? What about prophesy? The Bible is ripe with those telling of the future to come. It's odd that the Bible tells to avoid those that tell the future, yet uses those telling what is to come to advance God's plan, or to confirm it's veracity. You can't have it both ways, so which is it?
Why is this? One reason is because such things are often frauds, using trickery or mystical mumbo-jumbo to convince people they have special powers and taking their money in the process.
Frauds with no actual powers that are just out to make money? Sounds a lot like faith healers and preachers of prosperity gospel to me...
Occasionally, I’ve read the “predictions” some supposed fortunetellers made at the beginning of a new year and then compared them with what actually happened by year’s end. Very few of their predictions ever came true.
Failed predictions aren't confined to just fortunetellers. Lest we not forget the many failed end-times predictions, and the failed prophesies in the Bible. Even Jesus got it wrong when he claimed he would return within the generation of his disciples.
But I also urge you to avoid occult practices because they could involve you with spiritual forces and powers that may be real but are absolutely opposed to God. Don’t even go near them, for they will deceive you every time and lead you away from God. The Bible strongly warns us against “the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12).
You heard the man. Stay away from those claiming to know the future, including those claiming to have God on their side.

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, October 24, 2014

The problem of idols

Christians being so proud and protective of the Pledge of Allegiance is one thing that hasn't made sense to me. After all, one of the many things that the Bible prohibits is idolatry. And what does the Pledge say?
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United Stets of America.
Pledging allegiance to a bit of cloth, rather than solely to God would fall under the purview of idolatry. But what else does the Bible have to say about it?
You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
-Exodus 20:2-6
No likeness of anything in Heaven: So that means that the painting of God at the Sistine Chapel is against God's demands. The same goes for the prevalent statues of Jesus and Mary. Statues and portraits of saints and popes? Off limits! According to the Bible, a Christian shouldn't even put out their nativity scene at Christmas time.

No likeness of anything on Earth: Now statues of any historical figure or animal are disallowed?

How the Hell is this any different than praying to a golden calf
or a statue of the Buddha?
No likeness of anything in the water: I don't often see statues of fish and marine life. But if you do, God hates it!

You may not bow down and serve them: So every time you see a Christian bowing down before a cross or statue of Jesus, they are acting in defiance of God's command in Exodus.

So here we see Biblical verse saying that the commonplace imaginary of angles, Jesus and the cross, and revering them as many Christians do is actually in defiance of what the Bible has to say on the matter. Not that Christians not actually following the Bible fully is much of a surprise...

-Brain Hulk

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Does belief make you better?

I've often said that being a believer doesn't automatically make you a better person. Take this letter to Billy Graham for example...
Dear Dr. Graham: Will God forgive even the sins we forget to confess to him? At the end of each day, I try my best to remember everything I've done wrong and ask God to forgive me, but I'm sure I must miss something. E.L.
Every single day? So every day EL does so much wrong that he can't remember it all? And to boot, he goes though this every day? Apparently he never learns and simply continues this cycle endlessly. So much for that fabled Christian moral superiority.
Dear E.L.: It's good to look back at the end of each day and ask God to show us how we failed, and then seek his forgiveness.

Sin breaks our fellowship with God, and it's important to deal with our sins at once. I'll never forget the advice someone gave me many years ago: “Don't let your sins pile up; keep short accounts with God.”
"Don't let sins pile up; keep short accounts with God."? Apparently Billy is perfectly fine with Christians doing wrongs regularly, just so long as they also say sorry to God regularly as well... How about the advice to simply try not to do wrong at all? Then again Christianity has always been more concerned with forgiveness than actually following the moral guidelines it so often preaches.

If simply believing, and forgiving your sins to God magically makes your wrongs go away, where is the incentive to behave? If anything is forgiven, then a Christian is free to 'sin' all day, every day and simply say 'sorry' to Jesus. Where is the fairness, justice and morality in this? The person being wronged isn't even the recipient of the apology. A god that forgives anything actually prohibits nothing.

-Brain Hulk

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Doesn't look designed to me

The Earth is perfect. It is so perfect that it is proof that it was designed expressly for us by God. Well, that's how the claim goes anyway. But does that claim really hold water?

The truth is that most of us could think of much better systems to control the nature of our world than the ones we see every day. If the Earth was created expressly for us, why all the variables? Different factors (both natural or man-made) can greatly change the nature of life of Earth. Currently we are causing the Earth to warm. But if everything was created for us by an all-knowing all-powerful god, we shouldn't be able to change the Earth.

The fact that the climate and other systems on Earth are subject natural processes speaks to the Earth being a product of the natural laws rather than a divine creation. Think about it... If I where an all-powerful god, I would not be confined by the laws of nature. If I was creating Earth to be perfect for humans, I would give it a climate that just was. Not subject to being changed by human activity, volcanic activity or impacts from space. A static unchanging climate that is forever perfect for humanity.

Some believers also like to talk about Earth being placed in just the right place in respect to the Sun. They will contend that Earth was placed in the perfect place for us by the almighty God. This is obviously a case of putting the cart before the horse. But the changeability of this relationship is ignored. Earth is close enough to the sun that a large CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) could cause problems here on Earth. But more importantly, there is the issue of the Sun itself.

In about 5 billion years the Sun's core will run out of the hydrogen fuel that it is currently burning and will instead start going to work on it's helium. There's a problem though, this change will cause the Sun to expand into a red giant. This will mean a Sun that is 100-200 times larger than it is now. Earth will be subjected to a dramatic rise in temperature, not to mention an extra heaping dose of radiation. All of this means that Earth is a lifeless wasteland, oceans all boiled dry before the Sun possibly expands enough to eat the Earth and burn it to a cinder.
The distant future of Earth is not a pretty one.

Again, why the reliance of the laws of nature? If an all-powerful God placed the Sun and Earth as they are just for us, surely he wouldn't place a ticking time bomb right next store. Sure, it provides us with life right now, but it will eventually kill everyone and everything on Earth (if we don't kill ourselves first).

So either God is a terrible designer, or the world we see is actually just what it appears to be. A marvelous work of nature, but still 100% natural. No magic required.

-Brain Hulk

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How old

I took a survey not long ago that asked what the oldest thing you owned was. This got me thinking... What is the oldest thing I own.

Is it my fossil of a Megaladon tooth that my cat loves to try to take for himself? It is 1.5-28 million years old, but I have older.

My Baltic Amber is 20-22 Million years old. So that's at about the same range.

There's my Ammonite fossil, but it boasts a hearty range of possibly being 66-400 million years old.

Could it be my tiny fragment of Mars meteor from Northwest Africa 1195? Surprisingly it is only 334-360 million years old.

I also have fossils of Orthoceras and Mucrospirifer. 199-488 million years old and 360-410 million years old respectively.

But then there's the undisputed oldest item that I own. That would be my sliver of the Gibeon meteor. This beautiful piece has been radiometric dated at a staggering 4 billion years old! For comparisons sake, Earth is 4.54 billion years old.

These things are all old to varying degrees, but they are unified by one fact. If the universe was only 6,000 years old as far too many believers think, none of these things should even exist.

Now that I've shared, it's your turn. What is the oldest thing you own?

-Brain Hulk

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