Friday, January 30, 2015

World's Greatest Challenge

DEAR REV. GRAHAM: I'm writing an essay for my high school social studies class, and our assignment is to write on what we think is the greatest challenge facing the world today. What would you say it is?
-- R.T.
I've seen this question asked of Billy Graham before, and my answer remains the same. Climate change is the single greatest challenge facing the world today. Nothing else has such far reaching consequences and is so ignored in a dire time for action. But the truth is, it may already be too late...
DEAR R.T.: Obviously, our world suffers from a long list of problems and challenges today, some of which are new, although others have been with us as long as the human race has been on this earth. Poverty, war, racism, addictions, economic and social injustice, ecological disasters, famine, disease -- the list is almost endless.
That's an odd list.

Poverty: The Catholic church with all its riches and holdings is not doing anywhere near what it could do to help curb poverty. Many other churches simply make mega-pastors rich and do next to nothing for the community. Purveyors of the prosperity gospel actually prey on those in a dire financial state rather then help them. Then there's the fact that the most conservative of US politicians also tend to be the most religious, while thumbing their noses up at those in need. So please excuse me if I don't see belief as a magic wand of human goodness.

Racism: Why would Billy actually include that in this list? The Bible condones racism for crying out loud!

Addictions: Yes, addictions can be bad. But does that seriously deserve a place on a list of the top problems facing the entire world?

Economic and social injustice: Again, these are things that the most religious of politicians in the USA don't think are a problem. Typically they just imply that those that are poor are just lazy and don't deserve any help. And when it come to social justice they (and many churches) actively fight it. We saw plenty of this throughout the last couple years in regards to marriage equality.

Ecological disasters: This prospect also doesn't seem to bother those same politicians as long as there is money to be made...

Famine: This is a problem that will only get worse if climate change continues to be ignored.

Disease: Again, our most conservative politicians are making this worse as well with their default anti-science stance.
But beneath most of these is a far deeper problem, and that's the problem of the human heart. 
And as you can see, believing in Christ does not magically make one's 'heart' any better than another.
This is why we need Christ...
But here's the thing. Following the Bible can cause some of the very problems Billy listed, as well as many others. It's far from some perfect moral text.

So no, not enough people believing in Christ (or Zeus, Allah, Buddha, Krishna, etc)  is not the worlds greatest problem. I would argue that too many people being fundamentalist in their religion is a bigger problem. But for me, climate change is still the deadly elephant in the room that everyone just seems to be happy ignoring...

-Brain Hulk

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

New Town, New Church?

Dear Rev. Graham: We moved across the country last year, and our family got so busy we just stopped going to church. Besides that, we like having our weekends to ourselves. You'll probably try to talk us into going back to church, but why should we? We don't really miss it. — Mrs. L.H.
If you don't miss it, I say don't go. And that's my advice for believers and nonbelievers alike. After-all, the Bible seems fine with believers that don't attend...
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
-Matthew 6:5-6
So if the Bible is okay with a believer worshiping from home, what's the problem?
Rev. Graham: Some time ago, a doctor told me about a patient of his who refused to take his blood pressure medicine because, he said, he didn't feel like he really needed it. A year later, he suffered a serious stroke.
Um... How is this relevant at all?
Tragically, the same thing can happen to us spiritually. We get preoccupied with other things … life seems relatively stable … nothing is happening that we don't think we can handle, and as a result we don't feel like we need God. But in reality, we do need Him, and eventually our spiritual poverty will catch up with us.
Sigh... This is such a flawed analogy. First, we know that heart conditions are real. We don't know that the threat of the salvation of the human soul (something that hasn't been shown to exist) is even a real threat. We can detect heart issues. We can prevent them. We can cure them. But the eternal threats posed by religion are no more than empty claims. Claims that are held up by no proof and defy logic itself.

So stay home if you want. Don't believe if you don't. As far as the facts are concerned, neither puts you at any risk.

-Brain Hulk

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Every Sin?

Dear Rev. Graham: Is there a list anywhere in the Bible of all the sins God won't forgive? I know I've probably crossed the line with some of them, and God will never forgive me. I never used to worry about things like this, but I do now. Maybe it's too late. — Z.S.
Is there a list? No. But it is in there...
Rev. Graham: No, there's no such list in the Bible, and the reason is because God is willing to forgive every sin we've ever committed, if we'll only turn to Him in repentance and faith, and put our trust in Jesus Christ.
Um, Billy... I don't know how to say this, but there is one 'sin' that God supposedly won't forgive.
Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.
-Mark 3:28-29
So I guess I know the Bible better than Billy, or is he just trying to paint a rosy picture? One thing for sure is that this proves that the god of the Bible is not all-forgiving.
There's only one sin that God cannot forgive, and that is the sin of unbelief. Turn to Christ and trust Him alone for your salvation.
Make up your mind Billy! First there's nothing God won't forgive, then there is... Guess he's just following the self contradictory example of the Bible.

But let's think about this for a second. God will forgive rape, murder, genocide and all other manner of horrible horrible things. But the one and only thing he won't is a victimless crime? How can believers not be appalled by that idea? That the most important thing to their deity is not being a good person, but blind obedience... It's the kind of action you'd expect from one seeking no more than blindly loyal thought slaves, rather than one with genuine interest or hope for human improvement...

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Beauty and Purpose

I've seen this picture online a bit recently that appears to come from a book call Hallmarks of Design...

The laughable argument being made here is that things can not have unintended uses or causes. I find the claims as to what is logical in this excerpt quite laughable indeed. Where is the logic or proof that peacock feathers' main purpose is to please man? Is is not more logical that the main use is to attract peahen, as the large tail is integral in courtship? If pleasing humans is the main use, then the fact that there are people that are unimpressed by peacocks (they do exist) surely causes that claim problems.

But back to the claim that the evolutionary explanation mean's that the beauty is not there for us... In short, things only have their intended purpose. But we all know that isn't true.

Pizza was intended to be enjoyable for people to eat, yet a cat I had absolutely went bonkers for it. The microwave oven was an accidental product of the development of radar. WD-40 was originally intended to be used as a wing deicer, rather than a penetrate oil to get rusted bolts loose. Champagne was a mistake. Coca-Cola was originally intended as a medicine for crying out loud! Today it is regularly enjoyed as a refreshing drink, and can also be used to clean rust, battery cables, toilet bowls, and a list of other uses that is longer than my arm.

We are surrounded by unintended uses and what some would call life hacks all the time. Something which makes this books argument all the more absurd.

-Brain Hulk

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Who is Ben Carson?

I've been seeing a fair number of bumper stickers in my home state of Maryland that read 'Ben Carson 2016'. I have never heard of him and I finally remembered to look him up online. It turns out he's a neurosurgeon and has a website where he posts political opinion pieces (he's also appeared on Fox News...).

The very first thing I saw on his website left me shaking my head. There is a banner advertising his book that reads, "We each need to take an active role in changing the course or our nation if we are to live up to the motto 'one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.'"

Wait... so people want him to run for president and he doesn't get the motto right? That's not the motto, or even a motto at all. It's just the end portion of the most recent version of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Then I saw a story he wrote about the Navy/hotel Bible issue...
Many people in this country were shocked when the U.S. Navy recently announced the removal of all Bibles from military hotels under their control. This was in response to pressure from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a well-known atheist group.
I know I was shocked. The Navy agreed to follow the law without too much of a fight? *gasp* Usually when it comes to Christian privilege, the status quo has been Constitution be damned.
The surprise is not the hypocritical stance of the Freedom From Religion Foundation,
Hypocritical? How?
but rather the fact that an established bulwark of American strength and patriotism caved to a self-serving group of religious fanatics.
Religious fanatics? Ben knows he's talking about atheists, right?
This last sentence may seem out of place if you don’t realize that atheism is actually a religion. Like traditional religions, atheism requires strong conviction. In the case of atheists, it’s the belief that there is no God and that all things can be proven by science.
Sigh... So people want this guy to run for president when he doesn't even know what the hell an atheist actually is. Atheism is not a religion. 
Religion (noun) the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.
Maybe Ben missed this point, but atheists have no gods! Also, conviction doesn't matter. People have strong convictions about all kinds of things that aren't religions.

Also, atheism isn't necessarily the belief that there is no God, but the lack of belief in God. That means that you can either believe there is no God, not be sure about God, or not even be aware of  the concept of God and still be an atheist.

Finally, atheists don't have to believe all things can be proven by science. While it is true that many atheists are scientifically minded, a reliance on science is not a requirement of atheism.
It is extremely hypocritical of the foundation to request the removal of Bibles from hotel rooms on the basis of their contention that the presence of Bibles indicates that the government is choosing one religion over another.
How exactly? Because I'm not seeing it.
If they really thought about it, they would realize that removal of religious materials imposes their religion on everyone else.
No... No, it's not. The lack of Bibles does not equate to promoting atheism. What it equates to is not playing favorites. What would be hypocritical is if the FFRF was demanding that the Bibles all be replaced with books promoting atheism. So it seems that Ben also doesn't realize what hypocrisy is...
Some atheists argue that there should be a library or cachet of religious material at the check-in desk of a hotel from which any guest could order a Bible, Torah or Koran for their reading pleasure. No favoritism would be shown through such a system, and those who reject the idea of God would not have to be offended.
That would actually be a pretty great idea. Though Ben is missing the point when he mentions people being offended. He does realize this has nothing to do with offense and everything to do with the
Constitution, right?
This is like saying there shouldn’t be certain brands of bottled water in hotel rooms because there may be guests who prefer a different type of water or who are offended by bottled water and think that everybody should be drinking tap water. The logical answer to such absurdity would, of course, be that the offended individual could bring his own water or simply ignore the brand of water that he does not care for.
I seriously had to shake my head after reading that terrible attempt at an analogy. He throws in more of the same 'offense' BS as he continues to seem oblivious to the main issue here. Last time I checked, the Constitution didn't have a clause or amendment declaring that the United States government shall not establish a preference for one bottled water above all others. It does however promise not to promote one religion above all others.

So if Ben really is planning to run for president, I sure hope he bothers to try and learn the basics on issues before he goes and opens his mouth...

-Brain Hulk

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Billy: Contridicting the Bible

Q: My husband and I love each other very much, yet we're both very stubborn and end up fighting far more than we probably should. Recently, I realized that we were setting a bad example for our children, but what can we do? We can't change our personalities. -- Mrs. J.Y.
Parents that argue can certainly set a bad example. But that doesn't mean that their kids will follow that example. Some kids will, but there are also those that will look at that bad example and vow not to follow that example.
A: Perhaps you can't change your basic personalities, but with God's help you certainly can knock the rough edges off them! And I hope you will, because not only will it help you be a better example to your children, but you'll also learn to actually enjoy each other's company.... The most important step you can take, however, is to submit yourselves to Jesus Christ, asking Him not only to forgive you but also to come into your lives and change you from within...Then make it your goal, with God's help, to serve one another and humbly help each other.
Um... How is submitting yourself to Jesus' example a good thing for someone that is trying to save their family? After-all, he had this to say in Luke 12:51-53
Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.
Sounds to me that Mr. and Mrs. JY are already following that example...

Q: I just added up all the credit card slips from our Christmas spending, and I'm really depressed. It's going to take all year to pay them off. I don't know why I'm writing, but how did we get in this mess? God must be very disappointed in us. - Mrs. F.J.
I feel that many are feeling the same way right now. One easy solution is to do what my family did, and keep the gifts down to a minimum.
A: I suspect many feel the same way you do this time of year. It's far too easy today to spend more than we meant to spend around Christmas, without even realizing it.But debt can be like a heavy chain wrapping itself around us, burdening us and taking away our freedom.
Okay, fair enough. I can agree with this so far.
What should you do? First, take practical steps to pay off your debts, and the sooner the better, since interest rates on credit cards can skyrocket out of control. Make a realistic budget that not only limits your spending but includes repaying the money you owe, and then stick to it. It might even be a good idea to lock up your credit cards and use them only in emergencies.

But the most important thing you can do is to ask God to teach you his lessons through this experience.
This was actually decent advice until the last line. But since Billy Graham think this is a Christian nation, and that we should see what God has to say about debt, let's do that...
At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel any loan they have made to a fellow Israelite. They shall not require payment from anyone among their own people, because the LORD's time for canceling debts has been proclaimed. You may require payment from a foreigner, but you must cancel any debt your fellow Israelite owes you.
-Deuteronomy 15:1-3
In short, if you have debt with 'your own people' it will expire after seven years. The lesson here  isn't a good one. If we were a truly Christian nation, and you owe an American bank a pile of money, just drag proceedings on for seven years and you're Scot free. That's obviously not the way things work in the USA, nor should a book that suggests taking advantage of those lending you money be looked up to.

So while Billy did give some good advice, he had to go outside the Bible in order to do so.

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Russia: Tea Party Utopia

Russia has a problem with vehicle accidents. In 2012 about 28,000 were killed in crashes. This is part of the reason dash cameras are so ubiquitous in Russia. In a move that Russian officials claim was to make their roads safer some new regulations were passed.

It cited certain medical conditions that would bar people from being allowed to drive. And to be honest, some conditions should keep people from getting behind the wheel. But then it goes on to ban those with certain prolonged, chronic, prolonged, serious 'behavioral disorders' from being eligible to drive.

The regulation then references the World Health Organization's ICD-10 F60-69. Those listed
disorders are as follows:

Specific personality disorders (F60)
• Paranoid personality disorder
• Schizoid personality disorder
• Dissocial personality disorder
• Emotionally unstable personality disorder
• Histrionic personality disorder
• Anankastic personality disorder
• Anxious [avoidant] personality disorder
• Dependent personality disorder
• Other specific personality disorders
• Personality disorder, unspecified
Mixed and other personality disorders (F61)

Enduring personality changes, not attributable to brain damage and disease  (F62)
• Enduring personality change after catastrophic experience
• Enduring personality change after psychiatric illness
• Other enduring personality changes
• Enduring personality change, unspecified
Habit and impulse disorders   (F63)
• Pathological gambling
• Pathological fire-setting [pyromania]
• Pathological stealing [kleptomania]
• Trichotillomania [unable to resist pulling hair out]
• Other habit and impulse disorders
• Habit and impulse disorder, unspecified
Gender identity disorders (F64)
• Transsexualism
• Dual-role transvestism
• Gender identity disorder of childhood
• Other gender identity disorders
• Gender identity disorder, unspecified
Disorders of sexual preference (F65)
• Fetishism
• Fetishistic transvestism
• Exhibitionism
• Voyeurism
• Pedophilia
• Sadomasochism
• Multiple disorders of sexual preference
• Other disorders of sexual preference
• Disorder of sexual preference, unspecified
 Psychological and behavioural disorders associated with sexual development and orientation (F66)
• Sexual maturation disorder
• Egodystonic sexual orientation
• Sexual relationship disorder
• Other psychosexual development disorders
• Psychosexual development disorder, unspecified
Other disorders of adult personality and behavior (F68)
• Elaboration of physical symptoms for psychological reasons
• Intentional production or feigning of symptoms or disabilities, either physical or psychological [factitious disorder]
• Other specified disorders of adult personality and behavior
Unspecified disorder of adult personality and behavior (F69)

Okay, there's obviously a lot going on here. But let me ask... What about being a pathological gambler, pulling one's own hair out, being asexual or being a voyeur makes one a bad driver?

Obviously pedophiles and necrophiliacs are engaging in disgusting acts and should be punished for their crimes. But how does barring them from driving translate to better road safety?

Similarly, arsonists and kleptomaniacs are breaking the law in those acts and should face the repercussions for those crimes. But are they all bad drivers?

And who cares if someone has a fetish? Unless one mixes fetishism and exhibitionism by having sex on the hood of a moving car, I fail to see how they are impacting road safety one bit just because they enjoy a specific something in the bedroom.

Then there's the big one that's getting all the headlines. Banning transgendered Russians from driving. Personally I question it even being included on the WHO's list. Seemingly so many agree that the WHO is expected to meet this year and remove it from the list of disorders. Obviously if you were to ask what causes the most accidents the answer wouldn't be 'transgender people'. Cell phones and alcohol would be much higher on the list or replies. So that causes us to ask, why just reference
F60-69 as they did?

Was it laziness, and they didn't realize what was in there? Where they hoping that no one would notice it was included just like the many riders included in American legislation? Or was this done on purpose as the next step in Russia's recent battle against homosexuality and everything else the Putin doesn't personally consider 'normal'?

Obviously how this can even be enforced is troublesome as well. Is it up to the officer's discretion? Does a history and warning have to be proven first? Whatever the case, the regulation is largely absurd.

-Brain Hulk

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